Galatians 3:19-24 KJV
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.
Now that Paul has taken a lot of time to explain why grace is the path to Salvation instead of the law, he asks the obvious question. What purpose does the law serve? After all, the law came after the promise to Abraham, which is still good for us today. So why did God give the law to the Israelites? It was not to save them. It was not to redeem them. It was not to justify them. It was not to make them righteous. Paul has disputed all of these things already. What is the purpose of the law?
Paul says that it was added because of the transgressions of the people. The Law was given so people could understand what sin was in God’s eyes. You have to remember that they were among pagan people. Many of the things that God said we’re against his law were fully acceptable to other religions. The pagan religions of the time were all steeped in things that were unrighteous and unholy. They sacrificed babies. They committed sexual acts with multiple partners. They coveted and stole from each other. They had many gods instead of just one. There was no day set aside for them to worship their gods. All of these things were new in the law of Moses. God had to give His law in order for them to understand what was acceptable to Him. When God gives the Ten Commandments it sets the Israelites and their God apart. It sets God apart as very different from all other Gods. In fact, this is how God defines Himself in Exodus 34:6-7
The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation
Notice the attributes: Merciful, gracious, longsuffering, full of goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, holding people accountable. These are attributes that other gods of the time were sorely lacking in. They were all gods of judgement or pleasure. If you did not do as they asked, you could be executed. You had to appease these gods in order to receive any blessing, and the blessings were only temporal and earthly. There was no other god like the God of the Israelites!
One thing we have to understand is that the law was not given to negate the promise to Abraham. In fact, Paul says if there’s any law that could have made people righteous it was God’s law. Look at the things that He says they shall not do! Many of these things were perfectly acceptable to the heathen around them. The truth is that when the Ten Commandments were given they basically put everybody under sin. Why? Because the law defined what sin was. Romans 7:7 says 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. Not just the Israelites, but everyone! It is nearly impossible to keep just the Ten Commandments, never mind the rest of the law. This makes the promise of Jesus Christ necessary. He had to come in order to fulfill the promise that was made to Abraham that the just would live by faith. That faith had to be placed in someone that would fulfill the law so that the law no longer had to be followed. Before faith in Christ came we were kept under the law. But once faith became the answer we were not under the law anymore.
This is where we bring in a discussion of works. The works that we do for God are essential in our continued salvation – they help us grow in Christ. However, they are not needed for the initial salvation that we accept by faith, through grace. If you say we have to have works to be saved, then you are putting us back under the law. If we are still under the law, Christ died in vain. Accepting the sacrifice Jesus paid, and believing He rose from the dead is all that is needed to be saved (Rom 10:9-10). Then we work out out salvation (Phil 2:12) by our works.
Paul now brings in a very interesting term in verses 24 through 25. He talks about the law being a schoolmaster (KJV). Digging a little into the Old Testament times I found that this term schoolmaster was used to describe a servant or a slave in the house. He was assigned to teach the young boys the correct way to live. He was to teach them right and wrong in every way imaginable. He was assigned to that boy until he was old enough to teach himself. And he was never supposed to leave that boy’s side. In fact, the documents I read said the boy could not leave the house without that schoolmaster. He was very similar to a tutor in today’s society except the tutor and boy were figuratively attached at the hip. They should never be separated.
When we have that understanding of what a schoolmaster is, we gain a better understanding of what the law was given for. It was given to keep the Israelites close to God and to teach them God’s ways. They were to incorporate the law into the daily lives. This law was never supposed to leave their side. They had to live by it: eat, breathe and sleep it. They were to carry it out in every fashion and in every form that they could. We can look at a few verses to see how that was instilled in the young men these versus come out of Deuteronomy6:6-8
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
Talk about the law when you sit in your house. Today we watch TV, play video games, text or call friends, search the internet. We do about anything except talk about the word. Do you wonder why our society is on a downward spiral? I am guilty of not being the priest I should have been when my children were growing up. I talked about God and His ways, but not enough. I took them to church faithfully, but church did not always come home with us. After dinner, I was plopped down in front of the TV watching football. I did not do this talking about the law when we were sitting in the house.
Talk about the law when you are walking by the way. Today we shop, play sports, throw a frisbee, watch people – anything but talk about Gods ways. We fail to discuss our society in terms of the word when we take our children out into that world. I am guilty of this as well. We were outside together a lot, and I had plenty of opportunities to explain to my kids what was right and wrong in the society. I explained some, but not enough. I should have talked to them more when we were walking in the way.
Talk about the law when you lie down. My kids said their bedtime prayers. But as they grew older, I stopped going in and praying with them. I stopped asking them how God influenced their day. I stopped showing them God’s word as it applied to that day before they went to bed. I wish I had taken more time to talk about God’s ways before they went to bed.
Talk about the law when you rise up. Morning prayers and praise are essential to me. They are my life blood. They were when I was raising my kids as well, but I was always up very early doing my devotions and prayers – my kids did not see me giving God time during the day. They knew I did, but they did not see it. I did not teach them about the importance of giving God time in the morning. I wish I had been more visible to them with that time in the morning.
Today, we are not teaching our children the law of Moses. We are teaching them about Jesus and His sacrifice for us. We are teaching them the Ten Commandments and various other parts of the law that still apply today. We are teaching them how to have love, peace, joy, mercy, grace and all the other things God wants to bless them with. The charge given in Deut 6:6-7 has not changed. The Word is still a schoolmaster to us, as we are to our children.