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Why Then The Law?, Part 1

August 15, 2010 Pastor: John Fonville Series: Galatians

Scripture: Galatians 3:19–3:22

Why Then the Law?

Part 1


Text: Galatians 3:19-22


August 15, 2010




If the Law does not justify why did God give the Law?

If the Mosaic Covenant was not able to impart righteousness or give life, then what purpose did it serve?

Why was it necessary for God to give the Law?


“…we reply with Paul that the Law does not pertain to justification. But by this we are not asserting that the Law is nothing, as they immediately infer: ‘If the Law does not justify, it was given to no purpose.’ No. The Law has its proper function and use; but this is not the one that our opponents attribute to it, namely, that of justifying. It does not belong to the Law to be used for justification; therefore we teach that it must be separated from this as far as heaven is from earth. With Paul we say that ‘the Law is good, if anyone uses it lawfully’ (1 Tim. 1:8), that is, if anyone uses the Law as Law. If I define the Law with a proper definition and keep it in its own function and use, it is a very good thing. But, if I transfer it to another use and attribute to it what should not be attributed to it, I distort not only the Law but all theology,” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 26, pp. 306-307).




I.     The Law was added to Reveal Sin. v. 19a


Civil Use: God gave the Law to restrain evil.

Normative Use: God gave the Law to show believers how to live.

Pedagogical Use: God gave the Law in order to accuse, convict, curse, condemn and kill.

Q. From where do you know your sins and misery?

A. From the law of God. [1] Rom. 3:20

Question 3, Heidelberg Catechism


“The Law was given to man in addition to the promise in order to bring about within his heart and mind an awakened sense of guilt. A vague awareness of the fact that all is not right with him will not drive him to the Savior. Only when he realizes that his sins are transgressions of the law of that God who is also his Judge and whose holiness cannot tolerate such digressions…will he, when this knowledge is applied to his heart by the Holy Spirit, cry out for deliverance,” (William Hendriksen, Galatians, p. 140).

“The law is like a mirror. In it we contemplate our weakness, then the iniquity arising from this, and finally the curse coming from both- just as a mirror shows us the spots on our face,” (John Calvin, Institutes, 2.7.7.).


“This is the primary purpose of the Law of Moses, that through it sin might grow and be multiplied, especially in the conscience…Therefore the true function and the chief and proper use of the Law is to reveal to man his sin, blindness, misery, wickedness, ignorance, hate and contempt of God, death, hell, judgment, and the well-deserved wrath of God,” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 309).


Why is such a strict purpose of the Law necessary?


“For man, blinded and drunk with self-love, must be compelled to know and to confess his own feebleness and impurity. If man is not clearly convinced of his own vanity, he is puffed up with insane confidence… Likewise, he needs to be cured of another disease, that of pride, with which we have said that he is sick. So long as he is permitted to stand upon his own judgment, he passes off hypocrisy as righteousness…But after he is compelled to weigh his life in the scales of the law, laying aside all that presumption of fictitious righteousness, he discovers that he is a long way from holiness, and is in fact teeming with a multitude of vices, with which he previously thought himself undefiled,” (John Calvin, Institutes, 2.7.6.).


“The sin of presumption of righteousness is the dregs of all the evils and the sin of all the sins of the world...this sin, each man’s presumption of his own righteousness, peddles itself as the height of religion and sanctity, because it is impossible for the nonspiritual man to judge rightly about this issue. Therefore this disease is the highest and greatest empire of the devil in the whole universe…the snare by which the devil captures all men and holds them captive…,” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 307).


“Therefore the proper and absolute use of the Law is to terrify with lightning (as on Mt. Sinai), thunder, and the blare of the trumpet, with a thunderbolt to burn and crush that brute which is called the presumption of righteousness,” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 310).


“Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?,” (Jeremiah 23:29).




Let us love and sing and wonder,

Let us praise the Savior’s Name!

He has hushed the law’s loud thunder,

He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame.

He has washed us with His blood,

He has brought us nigh to God.


Let us wonder; grace and justice

Join and point to mercy’s store;

When through grace in Christ our trust is,

Justice smiles and asks no more:

He Who washed us with His blood

Has secured our way to God.

John Newton, Let Us Love And Sing And Wonder


© John Fonville

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