by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 3 May 6, 2012 Dayton, Texas
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:
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 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 covenant of "Law"?
B. The duration of "Law" is, according to Paul, "until the Seed should come".
C. The insertion of "angels and a mediator".
D. The most fundamental issue of a "mediator": such cannot exist except in a context of multiple persons' involvement. According to Paul's statement in Romans 4:16, the only way the promises of God can be "sure" is for God to personally underwrite them.
E. The "conflict" between "law" and "the promises".
1. Does not exist. In fact, in Romans 3:31, Paul boldly claims that his doctrine of justification by faith establishes the law.
a. Why, in respect to the Romans, does Paul's question, "Do we then void the Law through faith?", get the response, "God forbid: yea, we establish the Law" while in our Galatians text the same kind of question, "Is the Law against the promises of God?", gets the answer, "God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law"? Granted, the questions are opposites (does faith void the Law? vs. is the Law against the promises?), but they essentially raise the same issue (is there a conflict here?). The answers are instructive.
1) "Faith establishes the Law" is a claim made on the heels of the declaration that "by the Law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). Given this reality, "there shall no flesh be justified in His sight". Thus, "faith" establishes "Law" in that it fully accepts the function of "Law" as a ministry of condemnation. But, full acceptance does not mean that its function is allowed to bring the normal result (an execution of the sentence of condemnation). "Faith" offers a way of justification that allows "Law" to have its impact without having its "result". Law's impact is that it brings a man to guilt (Romans 3:19). "Faith" relieves the guilt by an altogether different means so that the result is forgiveness rather than execution.
2) On the other hand, "the Law is not against the promises" because the point of "the promises" was to bring man to "the inheritance" and if the Law had been able to bring man to life, the inheritance would have been rooted in the righteousness of Law. In other words, since the Law did-not/could-not bring man to life, "inheritance" was not within the purview of "Law" at all. And without this aspect of "a means to inheritance", "Law" cannot be cast in opposition to "the promises". The most that can be said is that without "the promises" man would have no access to "the inheritance". This is not the same as saying that "Law" wanted man to have no such access. In fact, the opposite is true: the Law wanted to force man back to "faith" so that he might gain such access. This is the point of Galatians 3:22.
b. Thus, because "Law" and "the promises" have different functions in respect to God/man/the inheritance, there is no conflict.
2. Can only exist in the minds of those who do not understand the identity and function of "law", nor the identity and function of "the promises".
a. If the "functions" were the same (methods of creating righteous heirs of the Kingdom) there would be conflict. But the fact is that "Law" was imposed late (430 years after Promise) and temporarily (only until the Seed should come to whom the promise was made).
b. At the heart of the issue of "law" are two most fundamental truths: there was no "law" that could make a dead person alive; and the bottom line of "law" is that every man is "under sin" (and, therefore, "dead in his trespasses and sins").
1) Paul admits that "righteousness would be by law" if a law had been given that was able to make alive. What is his rationale here? This: if man is able, he must. Judgment is forever rooted in "Justice" and in "Justice" man is held accountable for what he does. Man is accountable in any case, but the fact that man is incapable of obedience means that the demands for obedience contained in "Law" are going to go begging. Thus, it cannot be that God would make the function of the Law the justification of man. It would be completely foolhardy of God to create a "function" that cannot be accomplished.
2) The next question, then, is this: is man held by "Law" after being made alive by "faith"? In other words, once a man is made "capable", is he, then, supposed to pursue obedience to "Law"? Paul faults the Galatians for saying "yes" to this question in his question to them about changing methodologies in order to live (3:3). Why? The answer is in the reality that being "made alive" did not impart to man a capacity to live under "Law". The reality is this: man was "made alive" by having the Spirit of God take up residence in his body and not by having his own spirit infused with the power of righteousness. There is no point to Paul's doctrine of life by the Spirit if, in fact, man is supposed to live out of his own spirit's capacities.
c. At the heart of the issue of "the promise" is the unstated contrast between "the promise" and "law" (God, Who made the promises, does "make the dead to live" -- Romans 4:17) as well as the stated reality of righteousness being "given" to those who believe that "the promise" was rooted in "the faith of Jesus Christ". The "logic" here is that Jesus Christ is the One to whom the promises were made and, because He believed them, God was integrity-bound to do anything and everything that "fulfillment" required.