What Is the Law?

Scott Hoezee

Read: Galatians 3:21-22

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! (v. 21)

These are two confusing verses. Paul has been reframing the purpose of God’s law. He is desperate to clear up any notion that God ever intended that keeping the law is the path to salvation. So much of human life is premised on tit for tat: be good, get rewarded; be bad, get whacked. We think our relationship with God is like that, too. Keep the law, get saved. Break the law . . . we’re toast.

Not true, Paul says. OK, but then why did God give the law? Is it at odds with salvation by grace alone? Does it have no purpose? Should we ignore it? No, Paul says, the law had a purpose: it is supposed to drive us to Christ. The law “imprisoned everything under sin” (v. 22). What does that mean?

In part it means that the law showed us why salvation had to be by grace alone. How? By being like a mirror that showed us how sinful we are no matter how hard we try to live otherwise. Yes, if we could fulfill the law at every moment of our lives, we would be living the life God designed for us. But only a self-deceptive fool could ever believe he was perfect. No, honesty compels us to say that if being perfect is the only way to be saved, we are doomed. Salvation will have to come some other way.

And it has. —Scott Hoezee

Prayer: We are powerless to save ourselves, O God. Praise to you for Christ!