The Purpose of the Law
Open Your Bible
Galatians 3:19-26, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 10:1-10, Romans 3:21-26
While reading the Bible, I’m often struck by what it must have been like living under the law—especially after Christ’s ministry on earth. For so long, the world followed an established, works-based system. How could people not be skeptical or disoriented by this new way of thinking? Even if it led to freedom, human nature often returns to what’s familiar if the cost outweighs our own good.
The gospel made it so that salvation was no longer dependent on perfect execution of the law. With Christ, it was all about receiving, not doing. Belief, not effort. Grace.
Talk about feeling your way around in the dark! When you’re used to managing your own righteousness, trading in the safe familiarity of rules for the wild realm of belief sounds foolish at first. I totally understand why they were wary of this “good news.” But the law was never the whole story. The law’s purpose was only ever to serve as a placeholder “until the coming faith was revealed” (Gl 3:23).
In Galatians, Paul describes the law as being our guardian until Christ came. Maybe I just haven’t read that passage in the Christian Standard Bible translation before, but until now I’ve never, ever thought about the law in this way. Truly, how beautiful this is! In our cultural moment, I think it’s easy to condemn ancient God followers (especially the Pharisees) as being resistant to relinquishing their system. But the reason they held the law so close to their hearts was because, at the time, that was the direct path to righteousness. As it turns out, it wasn’t the ultimate path to life, but it had its own purpose to accomplish.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never loved the darkness. Whether it was navigating a dark night of the soul or waking up in the middle of the night to eerie tree silhouettes dancing on the walls, I usually regard darkness as the enemy. However, I recently encountered a new idea: darkness also nourishes, holds, and prepares. I just love this. You can see it in the creation story. Darkness always comes before light, but that doesn’t mean that light renders it irrelevant. It just fills and overwhelms it by its very nature.
I think the law was God’s severe mercy. We couldn’t justify ourselves, and neither could religion, but God didn’t leave us to our own ends. He provided this strange guardian—holding, preparing us until Christ’s death and resurrection fulfilled the law and the prophets.
Now, we have the sweet, sweet privilege of releasing our anxious work and resting in the knowledge that “through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus” (Gl 3:26).