3:19-25–Paul Explains the Purpose of the Law




VERSE 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.”

         “Wherefore then serveth the Law?”
         Literally: “Why then the Law?”  

         What then was the purpose of the Law?  If the Law does not annul the Abrahamic covenant, and cannot give salvation on its observers, then why did God give it? This was a very natural objection, and must arise in the mind of any Jew who had paid attention to Paul’s reasoning.  He says it was something that was added. The Law discovers sin.  It was not to check sin, neither was it to create sin; rather it was to discover sin.  Paul explains it this way in Rom. 3:20–“By the Law is the knowledge of sin.”  Many sins were not seen to be sins at all till the Law threw its light upon them.  Thus, the purpose of the Law was to awaken conviction of sin in the heart and to make men feel their need of a Savior.

         “It was added because of transgressions”
         Literally:  “It was added for the sake of transgressions.”–In order to set upon already existing sins the stamp of positive transgression of Law. 

         On account of transgressions, or with reference to them.  The meaning is, that the Law was given to show the true nature of transgressions, or to show what was sin.  It was not to reveal a way of justification, but rather it was given to display the true nature of sin; to deter men from committing sin; to declare the penalty for sin; to convince men of sin and to be in preparation of the work of redemption through the Redeemer. This is the true account of the Law of God as given to apostate man, arid this use of the Law still exists.
         Also, note the article “the”– the transgressions, summing them up in one mass. The Law was given to reveal, not remove, sin.  It was not given to keep man from sin, because sin had already come.  It was to show man himself as being a natural, ugly, crude sinner before God.  Any man who is honest will look at himself in the light of the law and see himself guilty.  It was not given to prove that all men were sinners, nor was it given as a standard by which man becomes holy.
        Many people think that a man becomes a sinner when he commits a sinful act; that he is alright until he actually commits sin.  But this is not true.  It is because he is already a sinner, that he commits an act of sin.

         “Till the Seed should come”
         Literally:  “Until the Seed should come”–That is, the Messiah, to whom the promise particularly applied (see v. 16). The Law was to be in force till the advent of the Messiah.  After that it was to cease.  This shows that the “Seed” refers to Christ.  This shows that it means that the Law was temporary.  It was given for the interval between the time of Moses until the time of Christ.  “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). 

           “it was ordained by angels”
         Literally:  “Having been ordained through angels.”–The word rendered as “ordained,” usually means, “to arrange; to dispose in order;” and is commonly used with reference to the marshalling of an army.

         In regard to the sentiment here, that the Law was ordained by angels, The O.T. makes no mention of the presence of angels at the giving of the Law; but it was a common opinion among the Jews, that the Law was given by the instrumentality of angels, and arranged by them; and Paul speaks in accordance with this opinion.

         BY ANGELS: better rendered, through angels.”  The tradition of the giving of the Law through angels appears first in Deut. 33:2.  In the later rabinnical schools great importance was attached to this tradition, and it was not without influence in shaping the doctrine of angelic mediation which formed one of the elements of the Colossian heresy.
        The ministry of angels was certainly used in giving the Law; (see Psa. 68:17; Acts 7:53; and Heb. 2:2); but they were only instruments for transmitting the Law, while Moses was the mediator between God and the people (Deut. 5:5).
“in the hand of the mediator”
Literally:  “in a mediator’s hand”–That is, under the direction or control of a mediator.  To be in the hand of one is to be under that one’s control; and the idea is, that while this was done by the ordering of the angels, or by their disposition, it was under the control of a mediator. This  seems to imply more than this; that the Mediator, here referred to had some jurisdiction or control over the Law thus given; or that it was subject to Him, or with reference to Him.

“Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is 

        “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one”
         Literally:  “But the Mediator is not of one, but God is one”—The conception of a mediator does not belong to an individual considered singly.  One is not a mediator of his single self, but he is a mediator between two contracting parties.  In this case, between God and the people of Israel, thus differing from Christ, who is called the “Mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24).  The New Covenant, the Gospel, was not a contract, but a deliverance The very idea of mediation supposes two parties.  The Law is of the nature of a contract between God and the Jewish people.  The validity of the contract depends on its fulfillment by both parties.  Hence, it is contingent, not absolute.
        As a mediator signifies a middle person (a go-between), there must necessarily be two parties, between whom the mediator stands, and acts in reference to both, as he is supposed to have the interests of both equally at heart. Job refers to such a mediator as a “daysman” (Job 9:33).

         “For He is not a man, as {I am, that} I should answer Him, {and} we should come together in judgment”
          “Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, {that} might lay his hand upon us both” (Job 9:32-33).        

         “but God is one.”
         He is the one God, the God of the Gentiles as well as the God of the Jews.  That this is Paul's meaning is evident from his use of the same words in other places (I Tim. 2:5): “for there is one God, and one mediator between God and man; that is, there is only one God and one mediator for the whole human race. 

“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 law.”

         “Is the Law then against the promises of God?” 
         Literally:  “Then is the Law against the promises of God?”–Paul now heads off the next possible question that the Jews might raise–“Is the Law of Moses to be regarded as opposed to the promises made to Abraham?”  

         The purpose of Paul in asking this seems to be to deny that there can be any such clashing or contradiction. He shows what was the purpose of the Law, and then says that its object was to further the plan displayed in the promise made to Abraham.  It was designed to prepare the way for the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. Simply stated, the Law was designed to be subservient to the promise.  The Law and the promise are equally of Divine origin; two distinct parts of the plan of God, with each part having its own distinct purpose to be carried out inside the Divine plan.

         “God forbid”
         Literally in the Greek: “Let not this be.”  The sense is, Let not even be supposed.  This is not the proper effect of the gospel of Christ, and of the doctrine of justification by faith.  The system is not fitted to produce such a freedom from restraint; and if such a freedom exists, it is to be traced to something other than the gospel. 

         “if there had been a law given which could have given life”
         Literally:  “For if a Law had been given which had been able to make alive”–If there had been another way to save sinners, God would have used that way.  If He could have given a Law by which sinner could be saved, He would have done so.  But there just cannot be such.
  The Law of Moses is as good as a law can be. It is pure, and holy, and good. It is not the design to insinuate anything against the Law in itself, or to say that as a law it is defective. But law, any law, could not give life. It is not the nature of law; and man cannot be justified by obedience to it. No man ever has yielded perfect compliance with it, and therefore, no man, can be justified by it. 

“But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

         “the Scripture hath concluded all under sin”
         Literally:  “The Scriptures locked up all under sin.”–That is, it has shut up all under the condemnation of sin; has declared all men, no matter what their rank and external character, to be sinners. Of course, they cannot be justified by that law which declares them to be guilty, and which condemns them, any more than the law of the land will acquit a murderer, and pronounce him innocent, at the same time that it holds him to be guilty. In regard to the meaning of the expression here used, Rom. 11:32. Comp. Rom. 3:9,19.

        All the writings of the prophets have uniformly declared that men are all sinners, and the law declares the same by the continual sacrifices which it prescribes.  All, therefore have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; and, being tried and found guilty, the Scripture hath shut them up-put them in prison, and locked them up, till the time should come in which the sentence of the law should be executed upon them: (See Rom. 3:9-20), and particularly Rom. 11:32, where Paul uses the same metaphor, and which in the note is particularly explained).
         We have seen that the Law brought death—“…The soul that sinneth, it shall die…”  Since we know that Scripture has “concluded all under sin,” therefore, we know that all must die.  What is needed, therefore, is that which will bring life.  The Law brings death, which is all that it can do.  It is not actually the decree of sin, but the mere presence, or even the fact of sin that brings death.  Hence, all are equally dead and equally in need of life.  We may not all have committed as great a sin as, say Stalin or Hitler or Nero committed, but we do have the same kind of nature that they had.
         Can the Law of Gravity, which would bring death if someone fell out of a 10th story window, give life to that person?  Of course not!  Likewise, the Law of Moses cannot give life any more than a natural law can give life after you have broken it and die.  You cannot reverse the situation and come back from the street below and return to the 10th floor.  Death always follows wherever sin comes.  The Law of Sin knows nothing of extenuating circumstances.  It knows nothing about mercy.  It is inflexible and immutable.  In Exodus 34:7, God says that He, “…will by no means clear the guilty.”  The purpose of the Law was NEVER to give life.  It was given to show us that we are guilty sinners before God. 

         Literally:  “the writings;”–meaning the Old Testament; that which began to be written after the time of the promise, at the time when the Law was given.

         Literally: “shut up,”–under condemnation, as in a prison. Has “shut up” all under the condemnation of sin; that is, has declared all men, no matter what their rank and external character, to be sinners.

          Of course, they cannot be justified by that Law which declares them to be guilty, and which condemns them, any more than the law of the land will acquit a murderer, and pronounce him innocent, at the same time that it holds him to be guilty. In regard to the meaning of the expression here used,
          Compare Isa 24:22, “As prisoners gathered in the pit and shut up in the prison.” Beautifully contrasted with “the liberty wherewith Christ makes free,” which follows, (verses 7, 9, 25-26; 5:1; Isa 61:1). Has declared all to be shut up under sin and condemnation, so that there is no way of escape except by faith in Christ.

         ALL:  This is a neuter word in the original Greek, denoting all things collectively; i.e., all men.

         “that  the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe”|
        Literally:  “that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to the ones believing”–That the promise referred to in the transaction with Abraham, the promise of justification and life by faith in the Messiah.

Here we see one prime purpose of the Law. It was to show that men could not be justified by their own works and to show them their need of a better way to attain righteousness. The Law accomplishes the same end now. It shows men that they are guilty; and it does it in order that they may be brought under the influence of the pure system of the gospel, and become interested in the promises which are connected with eternal salvation.

                THE PROMISE:  this refers to the inheritance promised (v. 18).

                 BY FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST:  That which is by faith in Jesus Christ.

 MIGHT BE GIVEN: The emphasis is on “given;” that it might be a free gift; not something earned by the works of the law (Rom. 6:23)

TO THEM THAT BELIEVE: To them that have “the faith of (in) Jesus Christ” just referred to.

“But before faith came, we were kept under the Law, shut up unto the faith which should afterward be revealed.”

   “Before faith came,”
    Literally:  “But before the coming of faith”–Before the Gospel was published. Before Christ, the object of faith, came; or before the way of life through him was clearly revealed.

 This is referring to the system of salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus; i.e., before faith in Jesus Christ who died for us.  Faith here denotes the Christian faith, because faith is its distinguishing characteristic.

         “we were kept under the Law”

Literally: “we were guarded”–Before the faith was revealed we were confined under the Law, as it were in prison, in a state of preparation for the faith that was to be revealed.

We, who were sinners; we, who have violated the Law. It is a general truth, that before the gospel was introduced, men were under the condemning sentence of the Law.

         “shut up unto the faith”
         Literally:  “having been locked up to the faith,” unto the faith-the religion of the Lord Jesus, which should afterwards be revealed.  Here Paul uses the same metaphor he used above. Shut up until the Lord Jesus Christ came, the Law had in it mercy, because it had a mercy seat.  It had an altar where sacrifices for sin could be brought and forgiveness could be obtained.  Mercy could be found there.  All the sacrifices for sin pointed to Christ.

         Enclosed by the law with reference to the full and glorious revelation of a system of salvation by faith. The design and tendency of the Law was to shut us up to that as the only method of salvation. All other means failed. The Law condemned every other mode, and the Law condemned all who attempted to be justified in any other way. Therefore, man was shut up to that as his last hope; and could look only to that for any possible prospect of salvation.

         “which should afterwards be revealed”
         Literally:  “being about to be revealed”–The Law was “added” (see v. 19) in order to do a work of preparation until the gospel was revealed.

“Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster {to bring us} unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

         “the law was our schoolmaster”
         Literally:  “The law has become a trainer of us.”

         The word rendered as SCHOOLMASTER: is the Greek word, paidagogos, (Eng. pedagogue) and it does not mean school master or school teacher, or any such thing as the KJV erroneously renders it.  When a child was born into a wealthy Roman family, he was put in the custody of a servant (slave) who actually raised him. When the little one started school, this servant was the one who got him up in the morning, dressed him, and took him to school.    This is where he got the name of paidagogos.  “Paid” has to do with feet (we get our word pedal from this), and “agogos means, “to lead.”  The word means that he took the child by the hand, and walks him to school.  The pedagogue was incapable of teaching him beyond a certain age, so he took him to school. 
         Now we can see that the paidagogos, (or “pedagogue” in English), is not a schoolmaster, but rather the servant who had the care of the children to lead them to and bring them back from school, and had the care of them out of school hours.  What Paul is explaining by using this metaphor is that the Law did not actually teach us the living, saving knowledge; but, by its rites and ceremonies, and especially by its sacrifices, it directed us to (i.e., led us to) Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  This is a beautiful metaphor, and highly illustrative of Paul’s doctrine.         .

         {to bring us} unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”
         Literally:  {until} Christ, that we might be justified by faith”

         As our paidagogos the Law is in effect saying, “Little fellow, I can’t do any more for you.  I now want to take you by the hand and bring you to the cross of Christ.  You are lost; you need a Savior.  I will now take you to the Savior.”
          The purpose of the Law is to bring men to Christ, not to give them an expanded chest so they can walk around claiming they keep the Law.  You know you cannot keep the Law.  All you need to do is to examine your own heart to know that.  Paul is making it very clear here that the Mosaic Law could not save. The Law is such a tutor; not a schoolmaster, but a guide to lead us to the school of Christ. There we are “justified by faith.”
         God refuses to accept the works of man for salvation.  He says that all of our righteousness are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).  He refuses to accept law-keeping.  The Law cannot save; it can only condemn.  The Law does not remove sin; it reveals sin.  It will not keep you from sin, because sin has already come.  Man is actually an ugly sinner in the raw.    

“But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a school master.”

         “but after that faith is come”
         Literally:  “But faith having come.”–After that is revealed (v. 23) in the New Testament.  When Christ was manifested in the flesh, and the Gospel was preached, we were no longer under the pedagogue; we came to Christ, learned of Him, became wise unto salvation, had our fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life.

         “we are no longer under a schoolmaster:
         Literally:  “We are no longer under a trainer.”  When once brought to Christ we do not need the tutor any longer. We are no longer under him. The Law leads us to Christ, and there its office ceases.
  We are not kept in restraint, and under bondage, and led along to another to receive instruction. We are directly under the great Teacher, the Instructor Himself; and have a kind of freedom which we were not allowed before. The bondage and servitude have passed away; and we are free from the burdensome ceremonies and expensive rites of the Jewish law, and from the sense of condemnation which it imposes.
        This was true of the converts from Judaism to Christianity–that they became free from the burdensome rites of the law; and it is true of all converts to the faith of Christ, that, having been made to see their sin by the law, and having been conducted by it to the cross of the Redeemer, they are now made fre.  Having believed on Christ, He had adopted them as His children and given them in the gospel all the instruction that they needed, so that they now have no further need of the ritual observances of the Law.

Leave a Reply