Justification and the Law
Paul changes his topic from Abraham to the strict requirements of the Law given to Moses. Here, we can see the erroneous and faulty theology of the Judaizers. Trusting in observance to the Law which
characterized the Pharisees in Jesus’ day is useless. What Paul is emphasizing here is that self-effort to obtain right standing is only a road to damnation. Today we will see what does the Law do and is
it applicable to us Christians now?
Illustration 1: How Were People Saved During the Time of the Law?
Men have always been saved by faith in God’s Word (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 4:1-8; Heb. 11:7). People in O.T. times did not understand completely about how Jesus Christ would come to earth and die for their sins, but when they believed in the things God told them, they were saved by their faith in God’s Word (Heb. 11).
Men have always been saved on the basis of Christ’s blood and death (Rom. 3:25). There is only one reason our holy God can forgive man’s sins, and that is because Christ paid the penalty for those
sins. Therefore, believers of all ages have been saved on the basis of Christ’s bloody death, even though they did not necessarily fully understand this salvation (1 Pet. 1:9-12). The O.T. animal
sacrifices did not remove sins, but only looked forward to Christ (Jn. 1:29; Heb. 10:1-4).
I. What the Law is (Gal. 3:10-12)
A. When the Bible speaks of the law, it usually refers to the law given to Moses. This law is recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, and is often called the “law of Moses” (Jos. 1:7-8; Lk. 24:44). It is also called the “law of the Lord” (Isa. 5:24).
B. What Does the O.T. Law Require? Gal. 3:10 speaks of a two-fold requirement:
a. Continual obedience, and
b. Obedience in all things. (Deut. 11:22; 27:26; Jas. 2:10). This is why no man can have righteousness through the law; as sinners we cannot fulfil its high demands.
C. The Law could not justify; it could only condemn. Paul quoted Deut. 27:26 to show that the Law demanded perfection and that a curse was attached to failure to keep any part of it. Breaking of only one command even once brings a person under the curse; and since everybody fails at some point, all are under the curse. The idea that
a person can gain divine acceptance by human effort is therefore totally wrong.
Quoting the Old Testament again, Paul showed that even during the dispensation of Law, legal obedience was not the basis for a justified standing before God…because, as the Prophet Habakkuk wrote, “The just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4).
D. Some may reason out that it takes faith even to obey the Law, so Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5 which says “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgements: which if a man do, he shall live in them”: Law says, “Do and live!” but grace says, “Believe and Live!” Paul’s own experience (Phil. 3:1-10), as well as the history of Israel (Rom. 10:1-10), proves that Works’ righteousness can never save the sinner, only faith righteousness can do that.
E. The Judaizers wanted to seduce the Galatians into a religion of legal works, while Paul wanted them to enjoy a relationship of love and life by faith in Christ. For the Christian to abandon faith and grace for Law and works is to lose everything exciting that the Christian can experience in his daily fellowship with the Lord. Below are the lists of things which the Law cannot do.
1. It cannot justify (Acts 13:38-39; Gal. 2:16).
2. It cannot redeem (Rom. 3:24-31; Gal. 3:13-14).
3. It cannot give an inheritance (Rom. 4:13-14).
4. It cannot control sin in man (Rom. 7:7-23; 8:2).
5. It cannot free from sin and death (Rom. 8:2).
6. It cannot free a sinner from condemnation (Rom. 8:1-4).
7. It cannot bring righteousness (Rom. 8:4).
8. It cannot impart the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:2).
9. It cannot free from the curse (Gal. 3:10,14).
10. It cannot impart grace (Gal. 5:4).
11. It cannot enable a man to obey (Heb. 7:18).
12. It cannot make perfect (Heb. 7:19).
F. The law was intended to demonstrate man’s helpless sinfulness (Rom. 3:20, 7:13) that he might be saved by Christ.
II. Salvation through Christ (Gal. 3:13-14)
A. The word “redeemed” means to purchase a slave for the purpose of setting him free. It is possible to purchase a slave and keep him as a slave, but this is not what Christ did. By shedding His blood on the cross, He purchased us that we might be set free. The Judaizers wanted to lead the Christians into slavery, but Christ died to set
them free. Salvation is not exchanging one form of bondage for another. Salvation is being set free from the bondage of sin and the Law into the liberty of God’s grace through Christ.
B. Paul’s reference to a “tree” relates to the cross on which Jesus died (Acts 5:30; 1 Peter 2:24). He was not stoned and then His dead body exposed; He was nailed alive to a tree and left there to die. But by dying on the cross, Jesus Christ bore the curse of the Law for us; so that now the believer is no longer under the Law and its awful
curse. “The blessing of Abraham!’ (justification by faith and the gift of the Spirit) is now ours through faith in Jesus Christ
III. Faith and promises came before the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:15-18).
A. “Brethren… Through it be but a man’s covenant.” (Gal. 3:15) Paul uses an illustration from the custom and practice of man. When “a human contract has once been confirmed,” it cannot be changed or tampered with in any way. “Both parties can by agreement cancel a contract, but not otherwise.” It is unlawful to add fresh clauses.
What about those who want to “add” to the gospel today? God’s Word has the answer:
1. Gal. 1:8-9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
2. Rev. 22:18-19 Revelation 22:18-19 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his
part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
B. “Now to Abraham and his seed… thy seed, which is Christ.” (Gal. 3:16) The promise to Abraham uses “sperma” as a collective substantive and applies to all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, as Paul has shown in verses 7 – 14, and as he knew full well.
Here Paul uses a rabbinical refinement that is yet intelligible. The covenant with its promises was made to Abraham and his seed. The promises were spoken on several occasions (Gen. 12:3, 7; 13:16; 15:5; 17:7). The promises were to the “seed,” as well as to Abraham, and hence did not terminate with his death.
C. From Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (Ex. 12:40) to the giving of the Law at Sinai, the Law actually came 645 years after the initial promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:4, 21:5, 25:26, 47:9). The promise was repeated to Isaac (Gen. 26:24) just before he went to Egypt – 430 years before the Mosaic Law was given. The term “confirmed” in verse 15 means “ratified”. Once God ratified the covenant officially, it had lasting authority so that nothing and no one could annul it. The Abrahamic covenant was unilateral (God made the promise to Himself), eternal, (it provided for everlasting blessing), irrevocable (it will never cease), unconditional (in that it depends on God not man), but its complete fulfilment awaits the salvation of Israel and the millennial kingdom
of Jesus Christ.
D. In verse 18, Paul is telling that there is no middle ground between Law (works) and promise (grace); the two principles are mutually exclusive ways of salvation (Rom. 4:14). An inheritance is something granted, not worked for, as proven in the case of
IV. What Is the Christian’s Relationship with the O.T. Law? The Bible says Christians are dead to the law (Rom. 7:1-4). What does this mean?
1. The law does not control the Christian’s life (Rom. 7:1-2). Christ is our new husband, and He controls our lives through the New Covenant. While the eternal principles of morality reflected in the law of Moses are respected by the Christian, our rule in life is not the law of Moses but the life of Christ as revealed to us in the N.T.
2. The law cannot condemn the Christian (Rom. 7:3). The Lord Jesus Christ took our condemnation upon Himself on the cross!
3. The Christian serves Christ through the Spirit, not through his own power and wisdom (Rom. 7:6).
Illustration 3: Out of Love
A husband and wife didn’t really love each other. The man was very demanding, so much so that he prepared a list of rules and regulations for his wife to follow. He insisted that she read them over every day and obey them to the letter. Among other things, his “do’s and don’ts” indicated such details as what time she had to get up in the morning, when his breakfast should be served, and how the housework should be done.
After several long years, the husband died. As time passed, the woman fell in love with another man, one who dearly loved her. Soon they were married. This husband did everything he could to make his new wife happy, continually showering her with tokens of his appreciation. One day as she was cleaning house, she found tucked away in a drawer the list of commands her first husband had drawn up for her. As she looked it over, it dawned on her that even though her present husband
hadn’t given her any kind of list, she was doing everything her first husband’s list required anyway. She realized she was so devoted to this man that her deepest desire was to please him out of love, not obligation. Source unknown
We can conclude from what we have learned from above that one can never be saved by the works of the Law and those who are trying are doomed to fail. Only true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can save us. Will you put your faith in Christ now? You should before its to late.