“Wherefore Then Serveth The Law?”

Galatians 3:19

False teachers crept into the Church at Galatia convincing many that they must seek to live by the law, that the believer’s justification and sanctification were not accomplished by grace alone. They were clever deceivers, but deceivers nonetheless. They taught that we must be saved by grace, by faith in Christ, but that we must also keep the law. Their doctrine was an abominable mixture of grace and works. Paul boldly and dogmatically asserted that such doctrine must not be tolerated.

In Romans 11:6, he tells us, If we  add our works to the grace of God, for justification, for sanctification, or for righteousness of any kind before God, then we deny the grace of God altogether and are lost, totally ignorant of the grace of God, without Christ, and without hope before the Holy Lord God.

In Galatians 2:21, having dashed in pieces the notion of mixing law and grace, he makes this bold, dogmatic assertion - “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law (justifying righteousness or sanctifying righteousness), then Christ is dead in vain!” The inspired apostle could not have used stronger language to state his case. He declares that those who teach that righteousness may be obtained before God by personal obedience to the law both frustrate the grace of God and assert that Christ died for nothing!

In Galatians 3:19, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to raise and answer a most practical question. "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.”

Anticipating the carpings of the legalists who would denounce his doctrine, Paul states plainly what the singular purpose of God’s holy was and is. He knew that legalists would come along and say, “If the law has nothing to do with the believer, if it has nothing to do with our justification and nothing to do with our sanctification, if it is not to be used as a rule of life, why was it given? What is its use?”

The law was added because of transgressions. The law of God, (the ten commandments and the legal precepts of worship, civil government, and daily life given in the Old Testament) was never intended to be a means of righteousness, a means of grace, or a means of salvation. It was not given as a code of moral ethics. It was not given as the believer’s rule of life. It was not given as a motive for Christian service. It was not given as a measure of sanctification. It was not given to be the grounds of our assurance. It was not given as a basis for reward in heaven. The purpose of God’s holy law is to identify and expose man’s sin, shutting him up to Christ alone for acceptance with God (Rom. 3:19; 5:20).

Before any man is converted, he must be convinced of his sin and guilt. We preach the holy law of God to convince men of their sin. Before any man is given the newness of life in Christ, he must be slain by the law. The law is God’s deep cutting plow, by which he breaks up the fallow ground of a man’s heart and conscience, and prepares the soil for the gospel. As every farm boy knows, plowing is a difficult, but necessary process.

Don Fortner