Day 10

The Purpose of the Law

from the Galatians reading plan

Galatians 3:19-26, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 10:1-10, Romans 3:21-26

BY Bailey Gillespie

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).

Post Comments (39)

39 thoughts on "The Purpose of the Law"

  1. Bobbie B says:

    I love this thread of comments!

  2. Christina Fowlkes says:

    As I was reading this I was thinking.. Why did we need the law? We needed it because ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, man knew right from wrong, but they didn’t know how to be “right”. In fact, it got so bad God had to destroy everything and start over. He sent us the law as a guide to show us how to be right, to show us how to be Holy in a world full of sin. But the law was just a vessel, an empty cup that had to be filled with the blood of Jesus to actually fulfill its purpose. We went from knowing what good and evil is, to seeing what righteousness requires, to being able to actually attain that righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.

  3. Esther Auz says:

    I sometimes find it really hard to fully understand biblical concepts.
    These readings are so helpful in providing me with understanding.

    So basically – instead of trying to live the law to be righteous (something we could never achieve). Jesus died for us, so if we believe in him, our faith in him has made us righteous, through his sacrifice for us.

  4. Kari says:

    This was incredible, Bailey! Truly a life changing interpretation, for someone that wants to go into the dark field of helping people psychologically. I am so grateful for the women like you who don’t just repeat the same things “Bible scholars” have been teaching us for years. If the word is truly “living and active” as it says, then we shouldn’t always accept the same interpretations. It should mean different things for different times in our lives. This is exactly what you did. I love this.

  5. Audrey Flores says:

    I really related to today’s reading. Wow. Before I was saved 8 months ago my OCD was out of control. Everything had a certain spot at a certain angle. If I was cleaning there was a certain routine in order for things to be perfectly clean. When I read the phrase darkness nourishes I felt immense peace in my heart. I feel that my OCD was helping me to feel safe, secure, and “happy” because I lost hope in something better. When I was barreling to highest anxiety/ darkest depression God revealed Himself and told me to come back home. The story of Nicodemus gives me so much HOPE that I too can leave behind what used to make me feel secure. He will always love and provide for me. And I’m so grateful that the freedom I’ve been seeking all my life is given freely from Him!! Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice and saving me in the process.

    1. Lily Strange says:

      I completely get this. I to have a bit of OCD and when life is out of control at least things can be in order. I am learning to allow God to shed light onto the anxious and dark areas of my life so that I can live in the midst of his presence rather than near it.

  6. Irmgard Henning-de Jong says:

    I have difficulties with ‘darkness nourishes’. I believe that God nourishes and protects us and maybe even molds us when we are in a dark place. Often our faith grows the most when we have a difficult time or curcumstances. But that the darkness itself is nourishing. I don’t know…

    1. Natalie Canler says:

      Okay, so I see your comment is a month old, but I have to comment. Just as the growth of plants (like tomato plants) is determined not by how much light they get, but by the amount of darkness they are in. God uses darkness as a nourishing time in our lives. Tomato plants draw in the nutrients they need during the daylight hours, but it puts those nutrients to work in the darkness. In fact, if they don’t get enough time out of the light, the quality of their fruit is severely affected. There’s a study on this that is a pretty interesting read. God uses that same “darkness” in our lives to help us grow.

      1. Bobbie B says:

        Wow, this is awesome. I’m teaching a women’s midweek lesson tomorrow and this is perfect to share. Thank you!

      2. Bobbie B says:

        Wow, this is awesome. I’m doing a women’s midweek lesson tomorrow and can use some of this in my message. Thank you!

  7. Monica Davis says:

    Wow. What a great read

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