Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 1
April 22, 2012
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
1901 ASV Translation:
19 What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator.
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one.
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law.
22 But the scriptures shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
23 But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
- I. Paul's General Argument.
- A. Since covenants do not change and God gave the inheritance to Abraham by a covenant of promise, what is the point of the covenant of Law?
- B. The Law introduces a different, basic identity: an agreement between "two" (whereas the promise was the commitment of "one").
- C. This difference does not constitute an "adversarial" relationship between "Law" and "Promise".
- D. This difference does contain a very real "lesson": all flesh sin.
- E. This "lesson" was necessary until a greater development of "faith" could be put in place.
- F. Thus, "Law" was a "schoolmaster" to move us to faith in Christ.
- II. The Specifics.
- A. What is the point of the covenant of "Law"?
- 1. Paul's question raises the issue of the actual nature of "Law".
- a. It is not as the Authorized Version renders it "Wherefore then serveth the Law?" because Paul's choice of words is an interrogative pronoun. The question is not how the Law "serves" but what is the Law.
- b. At is very heart, "Law" serves the purposes of God, but it does so because of what it is.
- 2. Paul's answer is that the Law is an addition put in place because transgressions exist.
- a. Historically, "faith" was a characteristic of Abraham that did not "pass on" to his offspring. The generations after Abraham became more and more corrupt because "faith" was not an element of their basic outlook.
- b. "Law" was added because there was a need for "transgressors" to see themselves as transgressors.
- c. A salient point about Paul's concept of "Law" is that it was not put in place to control the expressions of Sin. He argued in both Romans and 1 Corinthians that "Law" actually moves men to sin; it does not restrain them. Thus, "on account of transgressions" does not mean "to address the expression of transgression in terms of some form of restraint".
- B. The duration of "Law" is, according to Paul, "until the Seed should come".
- 1. As it turns out, "Law" was implemented 430 years after Jacob moved to Egypt and was in place for something like 1500 years.
- 2. The most obvious question is "what is the significance of putting the Law in place until the Seed should come?".
- 3. It is clear that "Law" was the formal instrument that created the nation of Israel. It is also clear that the creation of the nation was the historical instrument for the production of the coming Seed (maintaining a form of genealogical purity so that the Seed would be "of Abraham" as was promised). The creation of the nation was an integral aspect of the Promise that God would make of Abram "a great nation".
- 4. As a part of Paul's argument, the coming of the Seed was going to have to contain some method for the generation of "faith" (3:24). That "method" involved the imposition of "Law". The point of "Law", according to Paul in other places, was to bring about the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20), to legitimize accountability (Romans 5:13), and to cause offences to abound (Romans 5:20) in the sense of making men aware of Sin's absolute dominion over them. Thus we can see that the imposition of "Law" was to weigh men down with the knowledge of their depravity as a prelude to God's provision of an effective solution to that depravity. That it took multiple generations over 1500 years to accomplish this is an interesting fact, but not a stumbling block. The weight of 1500 years of transgressions prepared the nation, and the world, for the coming of the Seed.