Tuesday 1st August, 2017 – Sabbath School Lesson

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The Purpose of the Law

In Galatians 3:19-29 Paul makes multiple references to “the law.” What law is Paul primarily referring to in this section of Galatians?


Some, believing that the word until in verse 19 (ESV) indicates that this law was only temporary, have thought the passage must refer to the ceremonial law, because the purpose of that law was fulfilled at the cross and thus came to an end. Though this makes sense by itself, it does not appear to be Paul’s point in Galatians. While both the ceremonial and moral law were “added” at Sinai because of transgression, we will see by considering the following question that Paul appears to have the moral law primarily in mind.

Why does Paul say that the law was added? And to what was it added? Compare Gal. 3:19 and Rom. 5:13, 20.


Paul is not saying that the law was added to God’s covenant with Abraham, as if it were some sort of addendum to a will that altered the original provisions. The law had been in existence long before Sinai (see tomorrow’s study). Paul means, instead, that the law was given to Israel for an entirely different purpose. It was to redirect the people back to God and the grace He offers all who come to Him by faith. The law reveals to us our sinful condition and our need of God’s grace. The law was not intended to be some kind of program for “earning” salvation. On the contrary, it was given, Paul says, “to increase the trespass” (Rom. 5:20, ESV); that is, to show us more clearly the sin in our lives (Rom. 7:13).

While the ceremonial laws pointed to the Messiah and emphasized holiness and the need of a Savior, it is the moral law, with its “Thou shall nots,” that reveals sin, that shows us that sin is not just a part of our natural condition but is, indeed, a violation of God’s law Rom. 3:20; 5:13, 20; 7:7, 8, 13). This is why Paul says, “Where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15, ESV). “The law acts as a magnifying glass. That device does not actually increase the number of dirty spots that defile a garment, but makes them stand out more clearly and reveals many more of them than one is able to see with the naked eye.” — William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Exposition on Galatians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1968), p. 141.

Monday 31st July, 2017 – Sabbath School Lesson.

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Faith and Law (Rom. 3:31)

Paul has argued strongly for the supremacy of faith in a person’s relationship with God. He has repeatedly stated that neither circumcision nor any other “works of law” are a prerequisite to salvation, “because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16, ESV). Moreover, it is not the works of the law but faith that is the defining mark of the believer (Gal. 3:7). This repeated negation of the works of the law raises the question, “Does the law have absolutely no value, then? Did God do away with the law?”

Because salvation is by faith and not by works of law, does Paul mean to say that faith abolishes the law? What do the following texts tell us? Compare Rom. 3:31 with Rom. Rom. 7:7, 12; 8:3 and Matt. 5:17-20.


Paul’s argument in Romans 3 parallels his discussion about faith and law in Galatians. Sensing that his comments might lead some to conclude that he is exalting faith at the expense of the law, Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?” (ESV). The word translated as “overthrow” in Romans 3:31 (ESV) is katargeo. Paul uses the word frequently, and it can be translated as “to nullify” (Rom. 3:3, ESV), “to abolish” (Eph. 2:15), “to brought to nothing” (Rom. 6:6, ESV), or even to destroy (1 Cor. 6:13). Clearly, if Paul wanted to endorse the idea that the law was somehow done away with at the cross, as some people today claim he taught, this would have been the time. But Paul not only denies that sentiment with an emphatic no, he actually states that his gospel “establishes” the law!

“The plan of justification by faith reveals God’s regard for His law in demanding and providing the atoning sacrifice. If justification by faith abolishes law, then there was no need for the atoning death of Christ to release the sinner from his sins, and thus restore him to peace with God.

“Moreover, genuine faith implies in itself an unreserved willingness to fulfill the will of God in a life of obedience to His law. . . . Real faith, based on wholehearted love for the Saviour, can lead only to obedience.” — The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 510.

Think through the implications if Paul did, indeed, mean that faith nullifies the need to keep the law. Would then, for instance, adultery no longer be sin, or stealing, or even murder? Think about the sorrow, pain, and suffering you could spare yourself if you merely obeyed God’s law. What suffering have you or others gone through totally as a result of disobedience to God’s law?