By Ike T. Sidebottom
The law was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19). Verses 17 and 18 of this same chapter explain that the law was added to the Abrahamic Covenant “four hundred and thirty years” after the confirmation of God’s promise to Abraham, and it continued to the coming of the “Seed,” which was promised to him. It is also clear that the law, which was added, “cannot disannul” the promises of God to Abraham.
The added law covenant was to be in force “till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made.” “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy Seed, which is Christ” (vs. 16). This explains why “Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (Rom. 15:8). “All the promises of God in Him are Yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Cor. 1:20).
The “transgressions” which made the law necessary were taken away by the One who “was numbered with the transgressors” on the cross of Calvary. Thus He became “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4).
The Limits of the Law
The law is limited to a specified period of time, which began exactly four hundred and thirty years after the covenant of promise with Abraham and which ended when Christ shed His “blood of the New Testament.” Even though man has marked the Word of God indicating that the Old Testament closes with the last verse of Malachi and that the New Testament opens with the first verse of Matthew, God declares that such is not the case. “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb. 9:16-17). Therefore the New Testament could not come into force until the death of Christ, its Testator; and the Old Testament could not “vanish away” until the New came into force. We must conclude that the entire life and ministry of Christ, in His first advent, was under the law dispensation, and that His death ended the old covenant and opened the new.
The law is limited to a certain nation. That certain nation is “Israel” whom God bore “on eagle’s wings” out of Egyptian bondage. He also delivered to her, through Moses, His proposition concerning the law and the conditions under which Israel could be made a “peculiar treasure,” a “kingdom of priests” and “an holy nation.” After the children of Israel had heard all the words of God concerning the giving of the law, they all “answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exo. 19:1-8).
The law is limited to a certain ministration, or service. Its ministration is one of condemnation and death. Paul says, “I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, worketh death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might became exceeding sinful” (Rom. 7:9-13). The law slew Paul because it demanded more than he could deliver. For this same reason “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse” (Gal. 3:10).
The Accomplishments of the Law
With the giving of the law “every mouth” was stopped and all the world became “guilty before God.” The mouths of the Gentiles were not stopped by the law but by the threefold testimony of Romans 1:24-28:
- “God also gave them up to uncleanness.” (vs. 24)
- “God gave them up unto vile affections.” (vs. 26)
- “God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” (vs. 28)
The mouths of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah were stopped by the law (Rom. 3:19) because they were the only ones who were under the law. Therefore, after the law was given, both Jews and Gentiles were proved to be “under sin” and neither could open their mouths in their own defense before God.
The law also serves as “our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). This means that the law demands so much that we are forced to turn to a substitute. We look into God’s perfect standard, the law, and we see ourselves far short of the glory of God. We test our flesh under the demands of the law and we find that, even though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.
“What the Law Could Not Do
in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).
Let it be clearly understood that the law which God added is absolutely necessary in the carrying out of His purpose and plan for the ages, yet it has no power, whatsoever, to save or to keep or to perfect the believer. Its usefulness ends when we meet the crucified and risen Christ.