“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.” (Gal. 3:19)
There is a lot in this verse and not all of it is self-explanatory. In fact, it might be best to consider the last part of the verse with verse 20. Think for just a minute about what Paul is saying. He has spent considerable space in his letter explaining why the gospel is superior to the law. He has made the point that the promise made to Abraham based on his faith was superior to the law. He has pointed out that the first covenant was superior to the law and that the law was a temporary covenant.
The obvious question that would be asked then is “Why the law?” Why give the ten commandments and the rest of the law that dealt with various types of sinful activity since the said law would be powerless to make its followers righteous? Paul’s answer may at first seem strange to us. We may have been operating under the perception that the law was there to make forgiveness of sin possible but that is not at all what Paul is telling us.
The law was added because of transgressions. Its purpose was to point out how wrong sin was and how impossible it was to remove it by works or law keeping. The law demonstrated how pervasive sin is and how limited men are to take care of it once it has invaded their life. Sin brought death. That is how it was at the beginning and that is how it was under the law. There was no escape under the law other than being able to keep the law perfectly. That could not be done.
Paul will later connect the giving of life (associated with promise) with the law and point out that the law could not grant life. If the law were a life giver rather than a death bringer then one could find righteousness under the law. But, Paul is explaining, righteousness was obtained by faith before the law was ever given. The law was a meaningful step toward the coming of the one who would bring righteousness to the faithful.
Because life was bound in the promise and not the law then the law was only in effect until the promise was fulfilled. Jesus was the subject of the promise and once His covenant was ratified then the law was dismissed. Its purpose was over with. It had done what it was given to do and now one greater than Moses was here. The one greater than Moses brought a covenant greater than Moses, the covenant of promise, i.e. salvation by faith in the God who came to earth.
Task for Today: Believe that the promised one and the one of the promise has come. Believe that he brought grace and mercy with Him and that His coming was to set you free from the slavery of law and of sin. Shout “Hallelujah! I’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.” Trust in faith, the saving faith of obedience, the kind of faith that brought righteous to Abraham.