Galatians 3:19. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
Two advents are being described here:
- The advent of the law – arriving by God through angels to Moses. “The man who does these things shall live by them” (Gal. 3:12 quoting Lev. 18:5). Good luck with that.
- The advent of the offspring – arriving from God the Father, by God the Spirit, as God the Son, announced by angels. “The righteous will live by faith” (Gal. 3:11 quoting Hab. 2:4).
Two advents. Both involving angels. Both from God. Both perfect. And yet very different.
The law was added.
The offspring is eternal.
The law our tutor.
The offspring our brother.
The law to teach sin.
The offspring to teach salvation.
The law to increase the transgression.
The offspring to forgive the transgression.
The law to bring condemnation.
The offspring to bring righteousness.
The law for slave-making.
The offspring for son-making.
The law to point to the promise.
The offspring to fulfill the promise.
The law over the offspring.
The offspring out from under the law.
The law cursing.
The offspring becoming the curse for us.
The law as works to be done.
The offspring as a promise to be believed.
The law making us dead to the law.
The offspring making us alive to God.
The law producing death.
The offspring giving life.
The Descent From Mount Sinai (1481), Cosimo Rosselli (1439-1507).
Why two advents? Why both law and gospel? Because the sin inside of us would never allow us to understand the advent of the offspring (Jesus) without first the advent of the law. The law had to come alongside the promise of the offspring in order to awaken our hearts to our great need for his life.
Sadly, many remain blind to the law’s true purpose. Whenever the law is read a veil covers their hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:14-18. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The law, which is meant to turn our heart’s gaze to the glory of the Lord Jesus, becomes the false glory that we can’t seem to take our eyes off of. Why? Because we always default to law keeping. If your reading this and thinking “I don’t turn to the law over Jesus,” then you’re probably not very self- aware or law-aware.
Christmas is one big mine-field of law keeping. Gift giving laws. Decorating laws. Family holiday laws. Hallmark Channel movie find your soulmate and live happily ever after laws. And just the general soul crushing law of having to live up to the “Christmas Spirit” (thank you Charles Dickens). Oh and New Year’s resolution laws are just around the corner.
But the good news is that God’s angelic Law from Mount Sinai and all of the little laws that surround us every day serve a greater purpose – to point us to the grace of God in the indwelling life of Christ. The internal “law of Christ” that guides our lives by faith in our union with the offspring who has granted to us all of God’s promises in him.
What laws do you find yourself trying to live up to this Christmas? Can you see how they are increasing your transgressions (like pride)? How can all the laws of this season point you to Christ and his indwelling grace and love?
His law is love and his gospel is peace.