What’s it all about? Paul asks and answers the question, “What is the purpose of the Law?” First, the Law was given to reveal the sinful nature of man. Second, the Law served as a temporary custodian until the arrival of the Messiah. Now that Jesus Christ had established the New Covenant through his death and resurrection, the era of the Law had passed away.
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. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian (Galatians 3:19-25 ESV)
So what? We must understand that obedience to the Law (good works, religious rituals, etc.) cannot save (justify) us. Furthermore, we must not depend on our own perceived ability to adhere to certain moral standards or legal codes as a means of salvation. Instead, we must profess that we are not under the Law but have been saved (justified) by faith in Jesus Christ.
Questions from the Text:
1. What is the role of the Old Testament in the life and practice of Christians?
2. What is the role of the Law in the life and practice of Christians?
Paul and the Law: One of the most difficult aspects of understanding Paul as a whole is understanding how he viewed the Old Testament laws. There are a few clear points. First, Paul does not believe that anyone can earn God’s favor through attempting to keep these laws (Galatians 2:16; 3:21). Second, Paul does not believe that the law is therefore useless. It has a unique ability to show us how far short we fall from God’s ideal (Galatians 3:19; Romans 6:7). It restrained human depravity until the advent (arrival or incarnation) of Christ (3:23–25). Thus, the Old Testament law is like a double edged sword: It cannot be used for our justification, but it restrains human depravity; It cannot be obeyed perfectly, but through disobedience, we are made keenly aware of our need for a savior.
3. How does the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ set Christians free from the Law (3:24-25)?
Now, what? Since we are not saved (justified) through observing religious rules or law codes, we must not depend upon our own perceived merit (good works) for salvation. Instead, we must profess faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only way we can be justified.
It is easy to measure ourselves against others, especially those who are living immoral lives. Our salvation, however, is not the result of us being any better (or worse) than anyone else. All of humanity are equally condemned apart from Christ. Therefore, we must not measure ourselves against others. Instead, we must view others, like ourselves, as needing God’s grace.
Small Group Questions – Scripture: Hebrews 8:1-13
1. Did Jesus serve as a temple priest during his earthly ministry? Why or why not?
2. What is the significance of Jesus’ role as the heavenly high priest?
3. How is Jesus’ role as a priest different from that of the Old Testament priests?
4. What are the primary differences between the Old and New Covenants?
5. How should Christians interpret and apply the Old Testament?