The Purpose of the Law - Sermons - Riverside Indonesian Fellowship

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The Purpose of the Law

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by in 2019 ·

Let us this evening be theological. I want to discuss this third chapter of Galatians, which is of great doctrinal importance. Let's put it in the framework of the culture in which we live. We are here to reach this society and this culture. We are here as evangelists, as witnesses, as ambassadors for Christ to proclaim the gospel. We are in a society that is engulfed philosophically, in postmodernism.

First, they believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Everything is relative and everything that we can seek for in life is little more than an existential experience of one's own determination and definition. Secondly, our society is characterized by the term “moral relativism.” There is not only no truth, there is no authority. That is to say, there is no standard. There is no absolute law.

Every individual is his own personal authority and determiner of what is right or wrong for him. Thirdly, our society is caught up in personal freedom. And we could say that simply means no rules. Postmodernism says no truth. Moral relativism says no authority. And personal freedom says no rules. There are no guidelines except those which you yourself choose to adopt for your own life.

And fourthly, our society believes in humanistic atheism, which means there is no judge. There is no truth, no authority, no rules and no judge. Bottom line: you have nothing to which you are accountable. There are no consequences for your behavior except those that are built into it, and you can choose to do whatever you want. You are in charge of your own destiny.

On the other hand, we need to tell this society that there is truth, there is an authority, there are rules, and there is a judge, and every single one of us will have to answer to Him. The Christian message is directly in contradiction to the reigning philosophy of today. They dismiss the idea of God and therefore the idea of accountability or judgment, how are we to approach them?

Salvation is and has always been by faith. We know that because Scripture makes that clear. Habakkuk 2 says, "The just shall live by faith," in the Old Testament. Romans 4:6 tells us Abraham was saved by faith. It says, he believed God. "And it was reckoned to him for righteousness." God imputed righteousness to the account of Abraham because he believed God.

If it is true that salvation is by faith, not by keeping the law, then why did God give the law? Galatians 3:19, "Why the law then?" Why did Abraham need an outward law? When God gave the law, He gave it in a very visible way with an immense set of circumstances that forever marks its importance. On Mount Sinai there was thunder and lightning, and the angels of God brought the law.

The people were told not even to go near the mountain which they could see burning with fire and smoke. This was the Mosaic Covenant. It is a solemn covenant attended by much phenomena to indicate its importance. God put it in place 430 years after Abraham’s Covenant and kept it there for fifteen hundred years while men had to live under the imposing power and curse of the law.

Verse 19 says, “It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.” This was done to develop a necessity for the Redeemer by revealing human sinfulness to the degree that it would create a desperation in men that drives them to the Savior. That's the reason for the Law.

Yes, Abraham had faith, but Abraham was only one man and there were others who had faith, but there was no great dominating entity in itself that would drive men in general to the need of a Savior. There was no great pervasive standard that could drive men to faith in God and drive them to the need of a Redeemer. It went way beyond the personal intervention of God in the life of an individual like Abraham.

Now, as we look at Galatians 3 and come to a better and richer understanding of the reason for the law, just look at three aspects: past, future, and present. The law as viewed from a past perspective, the law as viewed from a future perspective, and the law as viewed from a present perspective. Now, this is going to be a theological study but it's going to yield some practical fruit.

Let's start with the past. Go back to verse 19. There's a key word here that indicates the past to us. "Why the law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator." It was added. The law was an addition. The Mosaic Law completed the covenant with Abraham. Verse 17 says it was, "added 430 years later."

And verse 17 says, "The Law cannot annul the covenant previously ratified by God that it would make the promise of no effect." When you study the Bible, you might wonder, the Abrahamic Covenant comes in Genesis 12 and when you get to Exodus 20 there comes the Mosaic Covenant 430 years later. Does that eliminate the Abrahamic Covenant? Does it invalidate it? No. Now there are two covenants in place.

The covenant with Abraham was fundamental. God promised to bless. God said, "I'll bless your Seed and through Him, I'll bless the nations of the earth." That's why when Paul was teaching the doctrine of justification or salvation, he never went back to the Mosaic Covenant, he always went back to the Abrahamic Covenant. He always went back not to Moses, but to Abraham.

Verse 6: "Abraham believed God. It was reckoned to him as righteousness." Verse 7, "Therefore, be sure that it is those who are faith who are sons of Abraham." When we're justified by faith, we come, as it were, spiritually in the line of Abraham who was saved also by faith. Verse 9: "So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham." Abraham brought blessing. Moses brought cursing.

The Abrahamic Covenant said, "I will bless." The Mosaic Covenant said, "I will curse." Here is my law and you can't keep it and I'll curse you for that. It doesn't change it. In fact, verse 14 says, that "those who are in Christ Jesus receive the blessing of Abraham." When you're coming in Christ to receive salvation, you receive what God promised to Abraham. That's why in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, it says son of Abraham.

So why did God give the Mosaic Covenant. Simply, because the Abrahamic Covenant lacked a sufficient universal emphasis on man's sinfulness. There is really nothing to motivate people to repent. Where is that universal law that calls the whole world to the reality that they are cursed by the violation of God's law and they are desperately in need of a Redeemer and of salvation?

In the Abrahamic Covenant, you have a promise; in the Mosaic Covenant, you have a threat. There was nothing universally thorough in the Abrahamic Covenant to explain man's lost condition and incapacity for self-redemption. There’s nothing in the covenant that brings the curse down on man so that he understands that he is damned. And that is essential knowledge for understanding the meaning of the sacrifice of Christ.

So in order to grasp the significance of Christ bearing the curse for the sinner and giving the sinner His righteousness, we have to understand the curse. Sinners are in desperate need of forgiveness, in desperate need of someone to die in their place, and someone to provide for them a righteousness they don't have on their own. And those are all the things that Christ provided, right?

So the Abrahamic Covenant had to be supplemented with the Mosaic Covenant in order that men might understand, that there is combination of things that operate in salvation; faith and repentance. You have a lot of Jewish people who believe in God of the Old Testament. The question is whether or not they have repented of their sin. And that's the balancing element of true saving faith.

And that repentance now is connected with an understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. So the Old Testament revelation of salvation is divided into the Covenant of Promise with Abraham and the Covenant of Law with Moses. It is blessing and cursing, blessing and cursing. When you come to Christ, you come with faith in Him as Lord and God and Redeemer and Savior. That is positive.

And you come with a terrible brokenness and a contrite heart and a sense of guilt and wickedness and sin in repentance. That is negative. "The law," verse 21 says, "can't give you life." 2 Corinthians 3:6-7 says, "The law kills." The Mosaic Covenant then reaches its apex in the crucifixion. "As Christ," verse 13, "becomes a curse for us," as He goes to the cross and takes the full wrath of God for our sin.

The summit of the Mosaic Covenant is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as He becomes a curse for us, dying on the cross, feeling the wrath of God for our sin. The summit of the Abrahamic Covenant comes in the resurrection, because we would be blessed, and we would receive life. We received death in Christ on the cross. We received life, rising to walk with Him in newness of life.

Secondly, look at the law with a future perspective. The law in view of the future is insertion. Verse 19, you see there in the beginning of the verse, it was added. At the end of the verse there is the word until. The law as “added” and the law as “until.” It was added in regard to the past. In regard to the future, it is inserted. The word "until" means it has a limit. It's not permanent, it is temporary.

It was only added, "until the Seed should come." The seed is Christ. The whole Mosaic Law with all its ceremonies and its rituals and its priesthood and its sacrifices and all of the rest, was inserted only ‘until.’ Paul calls it a "shadow." And Christ is the substance. “Until” indicates that the law is temporary. The law looks toward Christ and it points toward Him and its fulfillment is in Him.

And I'm talking about the ceremonial aspects of the law; all the sacrificial systems, all the priesthood, all the Sabbaths, all the new moons, all the feasts, all the festivals, all of those things pointed toward Christ. He was the fulfillment of all of those pictures and types and symbols. That's why Romans 10:4 says, "Christ is the end of the law." Christ said that He came to fulfill the Law.

Now the Old Testament also saw a new priesthood. The priesthood had already been transferred from the tribe of Levi to Judah, according to 1 Chronicles 5. The priesthood was transferred from Aaron to the Levites to Judah, and there would come in the end a complete transfer of the priesthood to the One who would come who was a priest after the order of Melchizedek, a priest unto Himself, that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you get a new priest, you get a whole new law. So the external ceremonial system including the priesthood and everything was over when Christ came and died. That's why at the death of Christ, the veil in the temple is ripped from the top to the bottom. And the Holy of Holies is thrown wide open. The sacrificial system is over. Access to God is readily available for anyone who believes.

The Day of Atonement is not necessary, no more Passover celebrations are necessary. You can transform that to the Lord's Table in remembrance of the cross. The old priesthood is gone. Christ is the priest of a new priesthood. And the law is gone as to its ceremonial aspects, its external aspects. So, the law then, the Mosaic Law, as to the past is addition. As to the future, it is temporary.

It is fulfilled at the time Christ came. And that is clear in "until," verse 19, "the Seed should come." And in 70 A.D., the Gentiles came in and destroyed the city of Jerusalem and there has never since been a sacrificial system or a priesthood in Israel again and there doesn't need to be because it isn't in God's plan. It was, with regard to the future, only a temporary insertion.

Now that brings us to the present. How do we view the Law in the present? In the past, it is addition. As to the future, it is insertion. As to the present, it is instruction. What is left is God's moral standards, they haven't changed. They were true before Abraham, they were true in the four hundred and thirty years between Abraham and Moses, and they are still true today.

And we have the benefit of all of them being written down for us, not only in the pages of the Old Testament where God's moral law is clearly indicated, but repeated over and over on the pages of the New Testament. And the Law is now given to us for some very important reasons. Look at verse 21, is the law contrary to the promises of God? No. Here's the first thing the law does. It teaches us that we are sinful.

Verse 22, the scripture has shut up all men under sin. When you read the Word of God, you find there is a standard there and you look at your life, and you recognize that you fall short. Romans 3 says that, "It stops every mouth and makes the whole world guilty." The moral part, which is the revelation of the character of God which has always been true in all eras of redemptive history.

The more we know about the law, the more we violate it, producing guilt and shame, which the Spirit of God can turn into conviction and repentance and drive us to the Savior, verse 24, "that we may be justified by faith." And how does that happen? Verse 13 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us." Christ was cursed for your sins and my sins and He paid the penalty.

Even Abraham was saved by the sacrifice of Christ. Christ died for the sins of Abraham long after Abraham had lived and died. Christ dies for the sins of all those who, under the Mosaic system, repented and believed. Christ died for the sins of those since as well as those before. The Old Testament coverings were symbols of the real taking away of sin that would come at Calvary.

Verse 29 ends it all. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." The Abrahamic Covenant has never been set aside. It was the promise of salvation. And when you come to Christ, you enter into the promise of salvation blessing God gave to Abraham. So there is absolute truth. There is an authority. And that authority is the eternal sovereign God. Let us pray.


© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

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