We left off on our last post with the question “Why then the law?” Paul asked this because he had already shown that God never intended to save man by the law or through the law–so now he must explain why God initially bound Israel under the law.
Things Law Cannot Do
- Bless (3.10-14)
- Correspond with Faith (3.12)
- Fulfill God’s Promise (3.15-18)
- Give Life (3.21)
- Give Freedom (3.22)
Negative Things Law Does
- Brings a Curse (3.10-14)
- Imprisons Under Sin (3.22)
- Holds Captive (3.23)
Positive Things Law Does
- Defines and Exposes Sin (3.19)
- Brings the World to Christ (3.24-29)
And remember how long God planned for the law to endure: “until the seed should come” (3.19b), until faith came (3.23, 25), “until Christ came” (3.24).
Has the Old Law Been Replaced with a New Law?
A brother argued recently that we are under Christ’s law today (1 Cor. 9.21); therefore, he insisted, while Galatians tells us we are no longer under the law of Moses, Christ brought a new law by which we are saved today if we keep it.
That is a theological theory. I say theory because the Bible never speaks of Christ coming to replace the law of Moses with a new law. This is important! We must speak where the Bible speaks, and if you insist on a universal law switch-up, you must support your position with scriptures which speak to that effect.
Exodus through Deuteronomy lists God’s laws to Israel, a law system like none given other on earth, including moral, civil, and ceremonial precepts. It was obviously written as law.
Come, then, to the New Testament, and search diligently for something similar today. You’ll be hard pressed to find it. Many comb the New Testament looking for laws to extract; they seek to discover a New Law similar to the Old. If God has given a new law similar to the old, shouldn’t we expect to find it clearly defined and stated, just as He did for Israel?
How is the New Covenant contrasted with the Old?
The old covenant is associated with works; the new covenant is associated with faith (Galatians 3; Romans 3.27-28; 4.2-8; etc.). James speaks of the law as a thing which convicts and holds accountable; he contrasts that with a “law of liberty” in which “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2.8-13).
When God speaks of “law of faith” (Rom. 3.27) or “law of liberty” (James 2.12), there is a fundamental difference in type of law as we contrast it with the law of commandments. The law of liberty is not the same kind of law as we find in the Old Testament. The law of faith is not the same kind of law as the Law of Moses. Paul shows this distinction: “the law is not of faith, rather, ‘The one who does them shall live by them'” (Gal. 3.12).
Remember, if there had been a law which could actually give life, then righteousness would have come through the Old Law (Gal. 3.21). The point? Law, as we understand law, cannot save. Period.