Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Galatians 3:19 - 3:22

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Galatians 3:19 - 3:22


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

Proofs for the Liberty of a Christian from the Nature and Meaning of the Law.

The secondary office of the Law:

v. 19. Wherefore, then, serveth the Law? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

v. 20. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

v. 21. Is the Law, the n, 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.

v. 22. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

The apostle here meets an objection which the opponents might make. If the Law can be of no assistance in the matter of justification, what is its purpose? He shows that the fact of the Law's being without value so far as salvation is concerned by no means renders it useless. it was added on account of the transgressions until the Seed should come to whom the promise had been made, being ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. The Law was added to the communications of God to men, as a companion or servant of the evangelical promises, Rom_5:20. On account of the transgressions it was set forth in addition to the Gospel-promise, by the side of the message of salvation. As the children of Israel grew in numbers, they gradually lost sight of the great prophecy of their spiritual inheritance; they became guilty of various transgressions of the will of God; they were in danger of losing the treasure which had been entrusted to them. And so God gave them the Law to show them their transgressions, to keep alive in them the consciousness of sin, to make them feel the need of a Savior at all times. Such is the supplementary, the ancillary character of the Law; it is to serve for the purpose of working knowledge of sin and of the wrath of God on account of sin This object incidentally gives to the Law a temporary character; it was to serve only until Christ, the promised Seed, came. The ministry of condemnation was to be done away with, 2Co_3:11, for Christ is the end of the Law to them that believe. As soon as Christ occupies the heart of a person by faith, the Law as such has lost its power; it can no longer hurl maledictions and condemnations upon us, and its demands become mere sign-posts to show the way to the service of sanctification. The subsidiary character of the Law is finally shown by the manner of its origin, since it was set forth through angels by the hand of a mediator. The angels of the Lord were His servants on Sinai, in proclaiming the Law; their voice sounded forth in the sound of the trumpet, their power was seen in the quaking of the mountain and in the flames of fire. By means of their service the Lord placed the words of the Law into the hands of Moses to deliver them to the people.

In connection with this plain statement Paul now remarks: But the mediator is not of one: the very term excludes his being the mediator of a single party; but God is one. These two statements may be regarded as the first two members of a logical conclusion, the third member then being: A mediator does not mediate between God. The meaning of the apostle then would be: By giving the Law through the mediator, Moses, the Lord wanted to indicate plainly that the Law should and could have nothing to do with the subject under discussion, the justification of poor sinners. But an even simpler explanation is the following: At the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai God made use of a mediator, Noses. But a mediator, by virtue of his position, is the representative of both parties of a covenant. These parties at Mount Sinai were God and the children of Israel. By using Moses as mediator, God indicated that He was entering upon a covenant with the Israelites under certain conditions. God promised them eternal life, but only on condition of their fulfilling His Law in all its particulars. But it is different with the promise which the Lord gave to Abraham, vv. 16 and 19. God there did not make use of a mediator, but spoke to Abraham in person, face to face. He alone was active in giving His free promise of grace, with His testament of mercy, given absolutely without condition; He acted as one, in the freedom of His divine favor.

A second objection: Is the Law, then, against the promises of God? By no means. People might object that, since there is such a great difference between the character of the two communications of the Lord to men, the one nullifies the other. But that does not follow. God does not contradict Himself. For if a law were given which could have given life, then truly were righteousness out of the Law. If that were the character, the nature, of the Law, not only to demand righteousness, but also to transmit righteousness, if it were able to give spiritual life to such as are in spiritual death, then the order of salvation would indeed have been changed, then both doctrines, the Law and the Gospel, would be advancing the claim of bringing salvation, then we could be justified before God by means of the Law. But there are no powers of regeneration in the Law, it cannot work the new, spiritual life.

The Law thus being excluded as a means of grace, only one thing remains: Rather has the Scripture shut up all under sin, in order that the promise might be given by faith in Jesus Christ to them that believe. What Paul writes, Rom_3:22-23, that there is no difference, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, is amply substantiated in many passages of God's Word, Psa_14:3; Psa_143:2. All men without exception are prisoners under sentence, condemned to pay the penalty of sin; not one there is that can deny his guilt. And since they are all thus in the same condemnation by the sentence and the power of the Law, therefore the purpose of the Law to pave the way for the action of the Gospel may now be realized. Works and merits have been discarded, the Law as a means of grace can no longer be considered: the Gospel-promise is given by faith in Christ to them that believe. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling! The promise is given, faith is given; and faith accepts the promise and thus has forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.