The Reason God Gave the Law was to Show You Your Need for Jesus
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3:2-3).
Discerning the purpose of the law was a big issue in the early church. It’s still a big issue. Some first-century believers, particularly the group gathered in Galatia, struggled to understand the purpose of the law. They looked at it as a means of living the Christian life and embraced it as their rule of life. Paul didn’t bother being delicate when he addressed the situation: “You foolish Galatians…” Ouch! That’s not very nice, but I imagine it got their attention.
He asked them, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3). They went back to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They leaned on their own understanding to determine the purpose of the law. They missed it.
Here’s what we need to know. Law, as a rule of life, rests squarely on the shoulders of human effort. But human effort doesn’t cut it when it comes to living in the newness of life. A quick read through the letter of Galatians shows that the believers relying on human effort were…
- deserting the one who called them (1:6)
- turning to a different gospel (1:6)
- being confused (1:7)
- trying to please men (1:10)
- fearful of others (2:12)
- dividing the body of Christ (2:12)
- hypocritical (2:13)
- not acting in line with the truth of the gospel (2:14)
- setting aside the grace of God (2:21)
- turning back to weak and miserable forces (4:9)
- letting themselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery (5:1)
- using their freedom to indulge the flesh (5:13)
- backbiting and devouring one another (5:15)
Human effort didn’t work out so well for the Galatians. It doesn’t work for us either. To be clear, Paul is talking about applying human effort to the fulfillment of the law–the Ten Commandments and the entire Mosaic covenant–in order to become righteous. Human effort applied to any set of rules or regulations produces the same harmful results.
The law simply served the greater purpose of God’s promise. In additional the Mosaic covenant was a temporary covenant. It was time-stamped to end when Christ appeared. When Jesus arrived on the scene of your life, the purpose of the law was fulfilled in you. That law has given way to the life of Jesus Christ in you. You are connected to him.
You’ve already been released from the law. It has done its work in you. As a result, you “died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another…[Now you] serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:4, 6). That new way of life is a life of faith. It is a life that is led by and empowered by the Spirit of God.