What is the Purpose of the Law? Part 1

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There are several different types of laws used to govern people: civil laws, Ecclesiastical law, natural laws, and even some unwritten cultural laws. Each one has a jurisdiction that it applies to. They also have a consequence. Did you break any laws this morning? How does it make you feel when you knowingly break the law?

In Galatians chapter 3, Paul is giving an explanation as to why the Old Testament Law (also known as the Torah) was given in the first place.

What is the purpose of the Law?

Paul gives this clear presentation with 5 points explaining why they have the Torah (aka the Law). Paul is referring to the 613 commands given in the first five books of the OT. It seems this is Paul’s main argument in the book of Galatians. He is answering an implied question, if we don’t need the law to be saved, then why do we have it? What I have here are five principles pulled from the text explaining why the Jews have the law and by implication everyone.

Principle #1 God has always worked exclusively through grace (faith)

Galatians 3:5-14

Paul is answering his question from 3:2, where he asks how they received the Spirit. We receive the Spirit of God through faith not through the works of the law.

He then connects it to the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 was that ALL NATIONS would be blessed. The Gospel was not exclusive to the Jews; even Abraham had to come by faith.

God has always worked through grace by faith, and this same method is how the Gentiles can come to receive this promised Spirit. They don’t need to become Jewish converts! I don’t think we get how revolutionary this was to the Jewish mind. God was extending His blessing to those outside of the Jewish people!!

Paul then references several passages in Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Habakkuk to make the point that we are all under a curse, and it is through Jesus Christ that the curse is taken away and the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles and all can receive the Spirit through faith. His logic goes like this:

  1. Deuteronomy 27:26 “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” The Law is like the “sword of Damocles.” Do you know the story? Have you ever heard the phrase, “you don’t want that hanging over your head”?

The fable of Damocles and Dionysius. “There is an ancient story from 45 BC about the king of Syracuse in Sicily named Dionysius. Dionysius was an iron-fisted tyrant of a king with many enemies, and he was fearful of being assassinated. So fearful that his bedchamber was surrounded by a moat, and only his daughters were allowed to shave his beard with a razor.

The story goes that one day a flatterer named Damocles came along and told the king how grand and blissful his life must be to live in such luxury and have his every wish granted at his command. The king became annoyed and asked Damocles, “Since this life delights you, do you wish to taste it yourself and make a trial of my good fortune?” Damocles couldn’t believe his luck and quickly agreed. He was seated on a gold couch and served rich food, and servants began to grant his every wish.

As he was beginning to enjoy his good fortune, Damocles noticed that the king had hung a razor-sharp sword by a single strand of horsehair just over his head. From then on, Damocles could not enjoy the king’s food and life of ease. He soon excused himself, for he had decided he no longer wanted to be so fortunate.”

Damocles learned that it simply is no fun enjoying a life of bliss when you have the apprehension of death hanging over your head. The law is like that. One wrong step and we are cursed; the only way we can have life is to follow it in its entirety. Paul quotes Lev. 18:5, “the man who does them shall live by them.”

  1. Justification comes by faith, as we read in Habakkuk 2:4.
  2. Christ took the fall/curse for us, because He was hanged on a tree, Deut. 21:23.
  3. So, we can receive the promised Spirit through faith. Aka, the blessing of Abraham.

God has always worked through grace; even Abraham had to have faith in God to receive the grace of God’s favor. So it is today; there never was a law that, if obeyed, would bring God’s favor. He always has and always will work through faith…the just shall live by faith.

Come back next week to finish the rest of this blog post on the Law.
-Tony High

Read Part 2 here!