Galatians 3:19

The Law, we are told, was "added because of transgressions." This cannot mean that it was instituted to restrain transgressions - the normal object of Law - since that assertion would be opposed to the main drift of the apostle's argument; nor can it signify simply that the Law was added to reveal transgressions, or this would be more directly stated; nor certainly can it mean that the Law was intended to produce transgressions, to serve as an instrument of sin - a purpose which would be more diabolical than Divine. Probably St. Paul's meaning is that the Law was intended to convert sins into transgressions; i.e, to give to amorphous and almost unconscious wickedness a definite form, so that it could be seen, handled, chastised, and cured (Romans 7:8, 9).

I. SIN IS NATURALLY OBSCURE. It spreads through the soul as a rank malaria, felt in its evil effects, but not clearly seen and known. We feel ourselves to be ailing, but cannot lay our fingers upon the seat of the disease. Just in proportion to its internal character it is dangerous; yet in the same proportion it is vague and beyond our reach. It is darkness and death - things vast, shapeless, without definition, mere blank negations. Nothing is more erratic than an unenlightened conscience. A spiritually ignorant person cannot tell when he sins or how far his guilt extends. He is like a blind man groping among pathless wilds, stumbling and falling he knows not how or where.

II. LAW CONVERTS VAGUE SIN INTO DEFINITE TRANSGRESSION. It does not simply reveal the hidden sin, as the acid develops the photograph and as the daylight lays bare the ugly ruin. It gives to sin a new form and character, as the chemical re-agent precipitates a solution. It compels the diffused sinfulness to crystallize into sharply defined offences, The force of the tide is not seen till the wave breaks against the shore. The current of evil is strong, but unrecognized, till it meets a Law and dashes over it in wild assault. Sin lurks in our hearts and creeps through our lives as a formless spirit of evil. Then a Law is declared, "Thou shalt not steal," or, "Thou shalt not kill." Sin meeting this directly breaks the Law. Now, it is a clear offence, a definite, chargeable transgression, capable of being brought home to the criminal.

III. THIS CONVERSION OF SIN INTO TRANSGRESSION IS FOR OUR ULTIMATE GOOD. At first it looks cruel, if not immoral. It seems like God tempting us. But God does not send the inducement to sin. He only sends the forbidding Law, which gives form to the sin already present.

1. Thus Law becomes an external conscience. By means of it we know how far we have fallen.

2. It becomes an occasion for the Divine chastisement which we need in order to be brought to repentance.

3. It prepares us to receive the gospel by rousing us from the slumber of indifference, making us see how evil and how helpless we are, and so urging us to seek redemption from the curse of Law in the grace of Christ. - W.F.A.

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of trasgressions. &&&
Of what use, then, is the law, if (as you assert) it is not simply a codicil to — a substitute for — God's promise to Abraham? "It was added." Not being a part of the original scheme, but made necessary on account of the hardness of men's hearts, it came in as a sort of marginal addition or parenthesis in the dealings of God with the Jews. The moral atmosphere was changed. In circumstances of amity the promise had been given, God speaking to Abraham as a man with his friend; in circumstances of discord, with suitable accompaniment of hailstones and coals of fire, the law was promulgated and enforced. The function of the law was to assist as an ally: to be subsidiary to the promise, and help towards its fulfilment. This it did by revealing men's deeds to them in their true light — showing them their own sinfulness in the sight of God, and their own inability to do anything towards mending matters — a necessary preliminary to their attainment of that faith which would lead them to embrace the promise. The law, again, was merely a temporary, enactment; its work would be done when He Should appear to whom the promise had been made. Still further: the provisional nature of the law may be perceived, if we consider the manner of its promulgation. "It was ordained through angels in the hand of a mediator." Direct had been God's communication with Abraham when He gave the promise; but at the giving of the law He delivered His decrees to angels, and the angels entrusted them to a second intermediate agent, viz., Moses. Now the existence of a mediator (or go-between) implies duality, separation, disunion; whereas a promise is a simple direct transaction requiring no such intervention. If there had not been discord, at the time of the giving of the law, a mediator would have been out of place; he would have had no business there at all. There was discord at that time; and for that reason Moses was appointed to mediate. But this, instead of proving that the law is antagonistic to the promise, proves exactly the contrary, for — "God is one." If the law had been intended to annul the promise, it would necessarily follow that God had changed His mind, His dealings with the children of Israel through Moses would contradict His dealings four hundred and thirty years before with Abraham. Such a thought cannot for a moment be tolerated. The Lord our God is one Lord; with Him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He is ever one and the same; and the eternal principles upon which He acts can never alter. However different and opposed to one another His various dispensations towards mankind may at first sight appear, a secret thread of harmony runs through them all. His unity of purpose is expressed from first to last, in unity of plan. He will justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision by the same faith — in Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham, to whom the promise was made. Now it is easy to see in what sort of relation the law stands to the promise. The work of the law is a work of discipline. It presents to view the sterner side of the Divine character; it shows God frowning at sin, and holding aloof from the sinner; it teaches man that by no effort of his own can he regain that communion with his Maker which was forfeited at the fall. But if that communion is not regained, man is lost — hopelessly lost for ever. Is there no other means of recovering the forfeited possession, and of once more enjoying the privilege of basking in the light of the Divine countenance? Yes, there is; and surely the law has been a most useful and valuable institution, if it has led men to ask that question. The promise, given hundreds of years before the law, still remains in force. Nothing can abrogate it — seeing that God is one and the same both in essence and in will. If in the time of Abraham He was willing to justify by faith, He is willing to justify by faith now, and He will continue in the same mind to the end of time and throughout eternity. Thus is the law our pedagogue, taking us by the hand, and leading us back over rough and devious paths to that earlier promise which was made to Christ the true seed of Abraham, and, in Christ, to all who believe.

(J. Henry Burn, B. D.)


1. To reveal sin.

2. To convict of sin.

3. To warn respecting its punishment.Consequently we should examine ourselves by the law.

(1)When any one sin is forbidden, all sins of the same kind are forbidden.

(2)A negative commandment includes the affirmative.

(3)Every command must be understood with a curse.

(4)Look particularly to the first commandment, which forbids the first motions of our heart against God; and to the last, which forbids the first motions of our heart against man.


1. Particularly: till Christ should come in the case of the Jews.

2. Generally: till God has revealed His Son in us, before which the law, although abrogated as a dispensation, has still a condemning power.


1. Guilty man could not have received it direct.

2. It was therefore given(1) by angels (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Acts 7:53).

(a)They were attendants on God at the time of its delivery.

(b)They were witnesses and approvers of its delivery.

(c)Perhaps its commands were uttered by angels (Hebrews 2:2).(2) By the instrumentality of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:5).

3. Learn then

(1)to reverence it,

(2)to fear to break it,

(3)to repent of breaking it,

(4)to look for shame and confusion in the case of impenitence in the presence of God and the angels.

(W. Perkins.)


1. To restrain and limit transgression.

2. To bring to light transgressions.

3. To convince of transgression.

4. To prepare men to seek and receive the mercy of God in Christ.


1. It is a rule by which they are to be governed.

2. It serves to warn and guard them against the commission of sin.

3. To make them grateful for the privileges they enjoy.

4. To keep them in close dependence on Jesus.In conclusion: the final judgment must be administered in accordance with the provisions of the law.

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

I. THE LAW WAS LIKE A TORCH carried into the dark crevices and cellars of human nature that it might reveal the foul shapes that lurked there, and rouse man to long for a righteousness which it could not itself confer.

II. In the process of doing this, THE LAW AGGRAVATED THE VERY EVIL IT BROUGHT TO LIGHT: the presence of a Divine rule which forbade the indulgence of human passion had the effect of irritating those passions into new self-asserting activity (Romans 7:7). In the absence of the law, the sinful tendency had been inert, "but when the commandment came sin revived and I died."

III. NOT THAT THE LAW WAS ANSWERABLE FOR THIS RESULT. In itself it was holy, just, and good; the cause lay in the sinful tendency of fallen human nature.

IV. SO THE LAW INFLICTED ON THE CONSCIENCE that was not fatally benumbed an OVERWHELMING CONVICTION THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS in the way of legal obedience was A THING IMPOSSIBLE; and was very far from furnishing a man with a real righteousness, of making him what he should be, correspondent to the true ideal.

V. THIS CONVICTION PREPARED MEN FOR A RIGHTEOUSNESS which should not be the product of human efforts, but a gift from heaven; a righteousness to be attained by the adhesion of faith to the perfect Moral Being, Jesus Christ, so that the believer's life becomes incorporate with His, and man becomes such as he should be, viz., "justified by faith."

(Canon Liddon.)

The law acts as a surgeon does when he takes the film from the eye of the blind.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A steam-engine at work in a manufactory is so quiet and gentle that a child might put it back. But interpose a bar of iron, and it cuts through as though it were so much leather. Introduce a human limb — it whirls round, and the form of man is in one moment a bleeding, mangled, shapeless mass. Now, observe, it is the restraint that manifests the unsuspected power. In the same way law discovers the strength of evil in our hearts. Not till a man has felt something resisting the evil does he know its force.

(F. W. Robertson.)

I.To prepare the way for the gospel.

II.To constitute a period of probation.

III.To bring us to Christ (ver. 24).

IV.To guide us in the path of holiness.

V.To vindicate the justice of God in the punishment of sinners.

(J. Lyth.)

As, when a king is angry with a subject, the king's son marries the daughter of the subject, and brings him into favour with the king again: so, when God the Father was angry with us, Christ married Himself to our nature, and now mediates for us with His Father, and brings us to be friends again; and now God looks upon us with a favourable aspect. As Joab pleaded for Absalom, and brought Him to King David, and David kissed Him; so doth Jesus Christ ingratiate us into the love and favour of God. Therefore He may well be called a peacemaker, having taken our flesh upon Him, and so made peace between us and His angry Father.

(T. Watson.)During one of the journeys of Queen Victoria, a little boy was desirous of seeing her. He determined to go direct to the castle where she was residing, and ask to see her. He was stopped at the gate by the sentry, who demanded what he wanted. "I want to see the queen," he replied. The soldier laughed at the boy, and with the butt-end of his musket pushed him away, and told him to be off immediately, or he would shoot him. The boy turned to go away, and gave vent to his grief in tears. He had not gone far when he was met by the Prince of Wales, who inquired why he was crying. "I want to see the queen," replied the boy, "and that soldier won't let me." — "Won't he?" said the prince: "then come along with me, and I'll take you to the queen." He accordingly took' him by the hand, and led him towards the castle. On passing the sentinel, he, as usual, presented arms to the prince; and the boy became terrified, and ran away, fearing that the soldier was going to shoot him. The prince soon quieted his fears, and led him past the gates into the presence of her Majesty. The queen with surprise, inquired of her son whom he had there; and, upon being informed of what had taken place, she laughed heartily, spoke kindly to her little visitor, and to his great delight dismissed him with a piece of money. As the prince presented the boy to the queen, so Christ presents us to His Father.

(T. Watson.)

I. Moral — it was brought in to detect — expose — restrain — punish transgression.

II. Preparatory — it prepared the way for the gospel, developing human weakness — pointing to Christ its substance and antitype.

III. Divinely ordained — by angels (Deuteronomy 33:2; Hebrews 2:2) — in the hand of a mediator, Moses.

IV. Temporary — because mediatorial (see vers. 15-22, also Lisco, in loco) — but the promise is everlasting, for God is one.

V. Harmonious with the gospel — it does not propose to communicate righteousness and life — but concludes all under sin.

VI. Conducive to faith — by convincing men of sin — excluding all other hope — shutting them up to the faith of Christ — in whom the promise is given.

(J. Lyth.)

I. In the first place, I will endeavour to define WHAT IS MEANT BY THE LAW OF GOD IS THE ABSTRACT. The simple sense of the term law, and the most general sense, is this — it is that mode by which an agent proceeds. The mode by which the government of a country proceeds to rule its subjects, is called the law of that government. The term will be found to have the same signification when applied to the very highest class of objects — I mean, the government of God: the constant procedure of the Divine will, with respect to any object in any part of His dominions, is called the law of God, in respect of that particular object. While we are upon the nature of the law, let it be observed, chat these modes by which the Divine Being governs either the moral or the natural "world, are not merely arbitrary regulations imposed upon its objects solely with a design to exercise His authority; but, that they are the necessary perceptions of the Divine mind, as to what is proper or benevolent, in regard to each of the objects to which they relate. Whence it follows, that the law of God, in relation to any class of beings in His government (but, in relation to man, pre-eminently) is the result of infinite wisdom and infinite goodness, the Lawgiver Himself being infinitely wise and good. One more remark may be added, which is, that the law of God, being the transcript of His own benevolence and wisdom, proposes and accomplishes the best possible results; promotes happiness to the utmost extent of which the object may be capable. This law may be expressed and promulgated by different modes. God has impressed His laws upon all nature below man. He did not render the obedience of man a matter of mechanical certainty; but the result of free choice.

II. This leads me, secondly, to consider THE MODES WHEREBY GOD HATH PROMULGATED HIS LAWS. These are two. He wrote the law originally upon the mind of Adam in the garden of Eden; and when it was effaced in a great measure by his apostasy, and almost obliterated from the mind of man, through the love of sin, he republished it to the world in the form of the Decalogue on Mount Sinai.

III. Thirdly, to remark on THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF THE LAW, which we must distinguish in perusing the Holy Scriptures. Although all that was republished on Sinai to the Jews, and at all other times, goes under the general term of the law of God; yet, upon close inspection, this law will be found to consist of three kinds, which are clearly distinct from one another. These three kinds of law are, the judicial law, or the state law of the Jews; the ceremonial law, that is to say, that law which prescribed the religious rites and services of the Jews under the Old Testament dispensation; and the moral law, which prescribed their conduct, and our conduct, as men. It has been inferred that the moral law was intended to be perpetual from the very mode of its promulgation. Let not this be dismissed as trifling. Everything in the promulgation of the law was the effect of premeditation on the part of the Divine mind, who doeth nothing in vain. Every part of it had a signification attached to it. The judicial part of the law, and the ceremonial part, were delivered to Moses privately, during the forty days in which he was on the Mount; but the moral law was delivered from the mouth of God Himself, in the presence of the whole assembled camp. The ceremonial part of the law was written in a perishable book; the moral part of the law was written by the finger of God upon two tables of stone, the emblem of perpetuity; and after wards, when the first tables of the law were destroyed by the zeal of Moses, they were restored by the same finger upon two other similar tables. Now, we must be persuaded that every particular in that solemn event of giving the law was the result of design: and that the moral part of the law was intended to be perpetual, seems the most probable meaning of the distinction made in the mode of promulgating the ceremonial and the moral law. But we have conclusive argument to prove the universal obligation and perpetuity of the law. That it is intended to be universal is most evident, because it was only the republication of the law which was imprinted on the mind of Adam in Eden, and which was effaced from his mind by his disobedience. But, as Adam was the head and father of all, and as all that had been prescribed to him first was intended to be taught to all his posterity, we infer that the moral law was intended to be perpetual and universally binding. Again, it is one great requisition of the gospel, that it should be preached to every creature; and that its object should be to testify toward Jews and Greeks, repentance toward God. But, if repentance be required of every creature, it follows that every creature is a sinner. Yet, every creature cannot be a sinner by disobedience to the judicial law, which was only for the Jews as a nation, nor by disobedience to the ceremonial law, which was to cease at Christ's coming. But, by the disobedience of law, mankind became sinners, and consequently, the subject of the gospel must be the moral law; therefore, the moral law is universal. The precepts of the moral law have all of them respect only to the moral character of man, properly so called. They relate not to outward observances — not to the things which go into a man, but to the things which come out of him, namely, the thoughts and intents of his heart. Our Lord said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." This could not be the judicial law, which was to cease with the existence of the Jews as a nation. It could not mean the ceremonial law, which was done away by Christ. This declaration refers to the moral law, and there is ample reason for believing that his assertion should be true.

(J. P. Denham, M. A.)

St. Paul commences his explanation of the use of the law of Moses, by saying that "it was added because of transgressions." It was added, therefore was not, so to speak, included in the original purpose of God — because of transgressions, not that the law made transgression, but that it was a test whereby transgression might be —

1. Manifested and exposed;

2. Avoided and corrected.Thus we find the use of the law to have consisted in being a witness to God between the patriarchal and the Christian dispensations. It was meant to be a standard of God's righteousness, and thus a means of convincing man of his own unrighteousness. It would appear, then, that the one great object the apostle had in view in this Epistle to the Galatians was to shew the temporary character of the law, and that it only filled a sphere of subordinate usefulness in the economy of the Divine government; and so, by lowering their ideas of its dignity, to exalt their impressions of the higher dignity of evangelical truth, and of the greater necessity of faith in the evangelical promises. And this object we find wrought out in the text, wherein he shows its fleeting character in the assertion that it was only added "until the seed should come." The word "angels" is capable of two interpretations.

1. The word translated "angels," and from which our English word angel is derived, in its simple sense means "messengers." It does not mean necessarily that spiritual and (to us) invisible messenger which we call an angel, but may mean any one entrusted with the performance of another's will, or the execution of a commission. Thus we may take the law in its fullest sense, comprehending the moral as well as the ritual observances enjoined by God, and revealed by Him at various times through patriarchs, lawgivers, prophets, and ready scribes (like Ezra); and suppose these to have been the "messengers" by whom it was "ordained;" or (more literally) "set in order," until the time of the Mediator arrived, when all the ordinances alike of ceremonial and moral law were realized in Him, even Jesus Christ, who fulfilled all righteousness.

2. But I confess that this interpretation, however satisfactory it may appear in itself as explanatory of the meaning of the apostle's words, does not appear to me to elucidate the sense of the apostle upon the point in question. I prefer, therefore, to abide by the second interpretation, which, while it narrows its signification, applies more closely and explains more satisfactorily its meaning. St. Paul, you will bear in mind, was still dwelling on the temporary character of the law. This was the key-note of the whole chant in praise of the superiority of faith. He appears, therefore, in this expression to make a distinct allusion to the giving of the law to Moses, the mediator between God and His people Israel after the patriarchal times had ceased. I conceive hence that the law alluded to in the text was the ceremonial law ordained, or set in order by angelic ministers and conveyed to Moses in the Mount, when for forty days he was permitted to commune with Jehovah, and entrusted to his hands as the mediator appointed by God to convey His will to His chosen people Israel. Now, if, as I believe, this be a correct explanation of the meaning of the apostle, we shall find, on carrying out the idea contained therein, that it has a very important connection with the following portion of the text, "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one." This connection may not at first appear so clear as I hope to make it; but, if I understand the apostle's argument, his meaning was to this effect: "I have shown you the real use of the law, have explained that it was not God's original covenant, but was only intended to fill up a gap, as it were, between the declaration and the fulfilment of the antecedent promise; that during that gap or interval, it was useful in convincing of sin, and thus leading to a necessity of faith, but had in itself no justifying power like the faith already illustrated in Abraham when he believed God and it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now, I have a still farther object in view: I wish to prove its inferiority, both in the mode of its revelation and in the person of its mediator." He wished, I say, to prove the inferiority of the ritual law. First: in the mode of its revelation. The law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. How far superior then must have been that promise which came direct from God Himself. The law was calculated to depress the thoughts to earth by its carnal rites and burthensome observances. How far superior, then, must have been that promise which elevated the thoughts, hopes, affections at once to the throne and mercy seat of God. The law was intended only to have a typical efficacy by shadowing forth good things yet to come. How far superior then in their fulfilment must have been those abiding realities, those spiritual substances which were thus foreshadowed. Second: In the person of its Mediator. The mediator of the covenant of the law was Moses, the servant of God, but the Mediator of the covenant of promise was Jesus the Son of God, and that we may duly appreciate the special, the specific superiority, in this character of the latter over the former, let us consider what was the office of, and what was the necessary qualification for a mediator. A mediator is one who seeks to reconcile differences between conflicting persons. In order to do this successfully between man and man, he must be utterly unbiassed by the prejudices of either, while he must feel a sympathy with the affections of both. In the arrangement of human differences we know by experience that if a person attempts to mediate between two, while all his sympathies are enlisted on the side of one, his office is sure to fail, even if his mediation be not rejected. Therefore, when the apostle says, "A mediator is not a mediator of one," he at once shows the inefficiency of Moses for his office; because, being only man, he could not mediate on the side of Deity. He could convey God's commands to His people. He could even act out God's will in his own person. But not being a partaker of the Divine nature, he could not mediate as a Divine participator in the covenant. But contrast this with the Mediator of the covenant of promise, and regard His immeasurable superiority. Behold the development of the mystery contained in the concluding words of the text, "But God is one!" But while thus congratulating ourselves upon an undeserved, and I trust richly appreciated mercy, it is necessary heedfully to avoid one dangerous error — viz., not to degrade our faith into a mere result of external evidences. The mind and intellect being convinced will not always influence the conduct, will certainly fail to change the heart, and cannot of itself sanctify the will. Holy Scripture tells us that it is "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness."

(Bishop Suffragan of Nottingham.)

1. The law has no organic relation to the promise; was neither a new form of it, nor a codicil to it; did not spring out of it, but was superadded as a foreign and unallied element.

2. The law has functional connection with sin; the promise regards an inheritance.

3. The law was provisional and temporary only: the promise has no limitation of time, and is not to be superseded.

4. The law was given by a species of double intervention — the instrumentality of angels and the mediation of Moses; the promise was given directly and immediately from God's own lips, no one stepping in between its Giver and its recipient — neither angel ordaining it nor man conveying it.

5. The promise, as resting solely on God, was unconditioned, and therefore permanent and unchanging; the law, interposed between two parties, and specially contingent on a human element, was liable to suspension or abolition.

6. This law, so necessitated by sin, so transient, so connected with angelic ordinance and human handling, was an institute later also by far in its imagination.

(John Eadie, D. D.)

Had the law then no purpose? Yes; but its very purpose, its character and history, betray its inferiority to the dispensation of grace.

1. Instead of justifying, it condemns; instead of giving life, it kills; it was added to reveal and multiply, transgressions.

2. It was but temporary; when the seed came to whom the promise was given, it was annulled.

3. It did not come direct from God to man. There was a double interposition, a twofold mediation, between the giver and the recipient. There were the angels, who administered it as God's instruments; there was Moses (or the high priest) who delivered it to man.

4. As follows from the idea of mediation, it was of the nature of a contract, whereas the promise, proceeding from the sole fiat of God, is unconditional and unchangeable,

(Bishop Lightfoot.)

The law was never intended to be the means of conveying life. Its office was to bring home to men the necessity of seeking life elsewhere. It was subservient and preparatory to the gospel. The general reason for which it was given was "because of transgressions."

1. To restrain sin. As a curb. It holds men in check wherever it is known. Without some such restraint this earth would soon become a hell.

2. To reveal sin (Romans 7:7-9). The sediment at the bottom of a pool is there, but its existence does not become apparent until the pool is stirred. The chamber may be full of all that is unseemly and unsightly, but the fact is not known so long as darkness prevails. So the law lets in the light of God's truth upon man's evil heart.

3. To provoke sin (Romans 5:20). The very fact that fruit is forbidden makes it to be more desired. The heart chafes at restraint. Just as a barrier thrown across a stream causes it, however smooth and quiet before, to rage and fret against the new obstruction, if perchance it may sweep it away; so does the law, with its demands, warnings, threatenings, stir up the enmity of the heart, and provoke it to rebel against God.

4. To condemn sin. "the law, when it has once found a man, holds him fast in its grip. It has but two sentences — death or life. It reveals to man his own helpless misery, and leaves him in it.

(Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

Take a bird's-eye view of the works of the law in this world. Lo, I see the law given upon Mount Sinai. The very hill doth quake with fear. Lightnings and thunders are the attendants of those dreadful syllables which make the hearts of Israel to melt. Sinai seemeth altogether on the smoke. The Lord came from Paran, and the Holy One from Mount Sinai; He came with ten thousand of His saints. Out of His mouth went a fiery law for them. It was a dread law even when it was given; and since then from that Mount of Sinai an awful lava of vengeance has run down, to deluge, to destroy, to burn, and to consume the whole human race, if it had not been that Jesus Christ had stemmed its awful torrent, and bidden its waves of fire be still. Apart from Christ and His gospel, the law is nothing but the condemning voice of God thundering against mankind. So it is natural to ask the question in the text; and the answer to that question is —

1. To manifest to man his guilt. Asleep on the edge of the precipice, God sends the law as a messenger to open men's eyes and show them their danger.

2. To slay all hope of salvation by a reformed life. Future obedience can be no atonement for past guilt, even if perfect obedience for the future could be guaranteed, which is far from the case.

3. To show man the misery which will fall upon him through his sin.

4. To show the value of a Saviour. As foils set off jewels, and dark spots make bright tints more bright, so does the law make Christ appear the fairer and more heavenly. How harsh and discordant is the voice of the law with its cure; how sweet and harmonious that of Jesus, saying, "Come unto Me."

5. To keep Christian men from self-righteousness. When we read the law we see our faults as in a mirror. If we would be saved, we must come with nothing of our own to Christ.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Because of transgressions
The "transgressions" on account of which the law was added refer, I apprehend, to the criminal conduct of the Israelites, which rendered the introduction of such a system as the law necessary in order to the attainment of the great object of the covenant about Christ, and justification by faith through Him. This arrangement was first made known in the first promise, but from the prevalence of human depravity it seems to have been in the course of ages almost entirely forgotten. "All flesh corrupted its way on the earth." The deluge swept away the whole inhabitants of the ancient world with the exception of one family, among whom the true religion was preserved. In the course of no very long period, the great body of their descendants, the inhabitants of the new world, became idolaters. To prevent the utter extinction from among mankind of the knowledge of God, and the way of obtaining His favour, Abraham was called, and a plainer revelation made to him of the Divine purposes of mercy, and his decendants by Isaac and Jacob chosen as the depositaries of this revelation, till He should come to whom the revelation chiefly referred. In consequence of the descendants of Jacob coming down into Egypt, they gradually contracted a fondness for Egyptian superstitions, and were fast relapsing into a state of idolatry, which must soon have terminated in their being lost among the nations; and the revelation with which they were entrusted being first corrupted and then forgotten, God raised up Moses as their deliverer, brought them out of Egypt, and placed them under that very peculiar order of things which we commonly term the Mosaic Law — an order of things admirably adapted to preserve them a distinct and peculiar people — and by doing so, to preserve the revelation of mercy through the Messiah, of which they were the depositaries, and to prepare abundant and satisfactory stores of evidence and illustration when the great Deliverer appeared — evidence that He was indeed the Person to whom the hopes of mankind had from the beginning been directed, an illustration rendering in some measure level to human apprehension what otherwise would have been unintelligible. Every person acquainted with the principles of depraved human nature, and with the history of the Jews at and subsequent to their deliverance from Egypt, will see that their "transgressions" rendered some such arrangement as the Mosaic law absolutely necessary, on the supposition that the Messiah was not to appear for a course of ages, and that the revelation of salvation through Him was to be preserved in the world by means of the Jewish people. We are not so much, if at all, to consider the Mosaic law as a punishment for the transgressions of the descendants of Abraham. We are rather to consider it as the means which their transgressions rendered necessary in order to secure the object of their being chosen to be God's peculiar people. To be preserved from being involved in the ignorance, and idolatry, and vice in which the surrounding nations were sunk, was a blessing, at whatever expense it might be gained. At the same time, had it not been for the transgressions of the Israelites, the more spiritual and less burdensome order of things under which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were placed might have been continued, and the law as a distinct order of things never have existed because never needed.

(John Brown, D. D.)

1. To show the people what actions were sins, that they might not fall into them without knowledge and without warning.

2. To restrain them from those sins against the law of nature and the covenant with God, through fear of the punishment which should follow, and thus root out from them those habits of wickedness which they had contracted in Egypt. In both these respects was the necessity of a mediator, a redeemer, kept before the eyes of the people. Their weakness taught them the need of a Saviour, who should strengthen them; the sight of their sinfulness directed them to a Redeemer, through whom they should obtain deliverance from present sin and forgiveness for the past. For the law is. not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners; and therefore, since the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.The inferiority of the law to the covenant of promise which was fulfilled by the gospel is considered in these particulars.

1. The law represses outward transgressions through the fear which it excites; the gospel effects an inward transformation in man by love.

2. Instead of justifying, which is the work of the gospel, the law condemns; instead of giving life, it does but kill.

3. The law was temporary; it was only to continue until the coming of the seed.

4. The law did not come to man directly from the mouth of God as the gospel does, but by the intervention of angels. Until Christ came, man indeed was not brought face to face with God, but the will of the Father was revealed to the world by the ministry of angels. Only in these last days hath He spoken unto us by His Son. The law depended for its fulfilment on the observance of its conditions by the two contracting parties, whilst the promise of God to Abraham is absolute.

(W. Denton, M. A.)

Galatians, Paul
Account, Added, Addition, Agency, Angels, Defining, Details, Effect, Go-between, Imposed, Intermediary, Laid, Later, Law, Mediator, Messengers, Offspring, Ordained, Order, Ordered, Promise, Purpose, Referred, Sake, Seed, Serveth, Sin, Till, Transgressions, Undertaking, Wherefore
1. He asks what moved them to leave the faith, and hold onto the law.
6. Those who believe are justified,
9. and blessed with Abraham.
10. And this he shows by many reasons.
15. The purpose of the Law
26. You are sons of God

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Galatians 3:19

     4111   angels, servants
     5052   responsibility, to God
     5078   Abraham, significance
     5103   Moses, significance
     5698   guardian
     6682   mediation
     8736   evil, warnings against

July 8. "Having Begun in the Spirit, are Ye Now Made Perfect by the Flesh" (Gal. Iii. 3).
"Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh" (Gal. iii. 3). Grace literally means that which we do not have to earn. It has two great senses always; it comes for nothing and it comes when we are helpless; it doesn't merely help the man that helps himself--that is not the Gospel; the Gospel is that God helps the man who can't help himself. And then there is another thing; God helps the man to help himself, for everything the man does comes from God. Grace is given to the man
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity God's Testament and Promise in Christ.
Text: Galatians 3, 15-22. 15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto. 16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17 Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. III

The Universal Prison
'But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.'--GAL. iii. 22. The Apostle uses here a striking and solemn figure, which is much veiled for the English reader by the ambiguity attaching to the word 'concluded.' It literally means 'shut up,' and is to be taken in its literal sense of confining, and not in its secondary sense of inferring. So, then, we are to conceive of a vast prison-house in which mankind is confined.
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Lessons of Experience
'Have ye suffered so many things in vain?'--GAL. iii 4. Preached on the last Sunday of the year. This vehement question is usually taken to be a reminder to the fickle Galatians that their Christian faith had brought upon them much suffering from the hands of their unbelieving brethren, and to imply an exhortation to faithfulness to the Gospel lest they should stultify their past brave endurance. Yielding to the Judaising teachers, and thereby escaping the 'offence of the Cross,' they would make
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Uses of the Law
Yet, pardon me my friends, if I just observe that this is a very natural question, too. If you read the doctrine of the apostle Paul you find him declaring that the law condemns all mankind. Now, just let us for one single moment take a bird's eye view of the works of the law in this world. Lo, I see, the law given upon Mount Sinai. The very hill doth quake with fear. Lightnings and thunders are the attendants of those dreadful syllables which make the hearts of Israel to melt Sinai seemeth altogether
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 3: 1857

A Call to the Unconverted
But my hearer, I am solemnly convinced that a large proportion of this assembly dare not say so; and thou to-night (for I am speaking personally to thee), remember that thou art one of those who dare not say this, for thou art a stranger to the grace of God. Thou durst not lie before God, and thine own conscience, therefore thou dost honestly say, "I know I was never regenerated; I am now what I always was, and that is the most I can say." Now, with you I have to deal, and I charge you by him who
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 4: 1858

The Work of the Holy Spirit
This evening, however, I shall run away from my text somewhat. Having just in a few words endeavored to explain the meaning of the whole sentence, I intend only this evening to dwell upon the doctrine which incidentally the apostle teaches us. He teaches us that we begin in the Spirit--"Having begun in the Spirit" I have already illustrated the whole text sufficiently for our understanding if God the Holy Spirit shall enlighten us; and I shall now, I say, confine myself to the thought that Christians
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 4: 1858

The Curse Removed
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."--Galatians 3:13 THE law of God is a divine law, holy, heavenly, perfect. Those who find fault with the law, or in the least degree depreciate it, do not understand its design, and have no right idea of the law itself. Paul says, "the law is holy, but I am carnal; sold under sin." In all we ever say concerning justification by faith, we never intend to lower
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 57: 1911

Ephesians ii. 8
For by Grace, are you saved, through Faith; and that not of your selves: it is the Gift of God. I Now come to the Second part of that Design, which I have, for some Time, had in View; viz. to examine particularly the principal of those false Pretences, and mistaken Notions, concerning the Terms of our Acceptance with God, by which Men support themselves in their Continuance in their beloved Vices; and endeavour to elude the Force, and arm themselves against the Power, of those plain Texts of Scripture,
Benjamin Hoadly—Several Discourses Concerning the Terms of Acceptance with God

The Critical Reconstruction of the History of the Apostolic Age.
"Die Botschaft hör' ich wohl, allein mir fehlt der Glaube." (Goethe.) Never before in the history of the church has the origin of Christianity, with its original documents, been so thoroughly examined from standpoints entirely opposite as in the present generation. It has engaged the time and energy of many of the ablest scholars and critics. Such is the importance and the power of that little book which "contains the wisdom of the whole world," that it demands ever new investigation and sets
Philip Schaff—History of the Christian Church, Volume I

Light for them that Sit in Darkness;
OR, A DISCOURSE OF JESUS CHRIST: AND THAT HE UNDERTOOK TO ACCOMPLISH BY HIMSELF THE ETERNAL REDEMPTION OF SINNERS: ALSO, HOW THE LORD JESUS ADDRESSED HIMSELF TO THIS WORK; WITH UNDENIABLE DEMONSTRATIONS THAT HE PERFORMED THE SAME. OBJECTIONS TO THE CONTRARY ANSWERED. 'Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.'--Galatians 3:13. by John Bunyan--1674 ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR. This solemn and searching treatise was first published in 1674, a copy of which is in
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

A Case of Conscience Resolved
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

The Substance of Some Discourse had Between the Clerk of the Peace and Myself; when He came to Admonish Me, According to the Tenor of that Law, by which I was in Prison.
When I had lain in prison other twelve weeks, and now not knowing what they intended to do with me, upon the third of April 1661, comes Mr Cobb unto me (as he told me), being sent by the justices to admonish me; and demand of me submittance to the church of England, etc. The extent of our discourse was as followeth. Cobb. When he was come into the house he sent for me out of my chamber; who, when I was come unto him, he said, Neighbour Bunyan, how do you do? Bun. I thank you, Sir, said I, very
John Bunyan—Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

The Promises of the Christian Home.
"The promise is unto you, and to your children." ACTS II., 39. "Parent who plantedst in the joy of love, Yet hast not gather'd fruit,--save rankling thorns, Or Sodom's bitter apples,--hast thou read Heaven's promise to the seeker? Thou may'st bring Those o'er whose cradle thou didst watch with pride, And lay them at thy Savior's feet, for lo! His shadow falling on the wayward soul, May give it holy health. And when thou kneel'st Low at the pavement of sweet Mercy's gate, Beseeching for thine erring
Samuel Philips—The Christian Home

Retiring Before the Sanhedrin's Decree.
(Jerusalem and Ephraim in Judæa.) ^D John XI. 47-54. ^d 47 The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council [called a meeting of the Sanhedrin], and said, What do we? [Thus they reproach one another for having done nothing in a present and urgent crisis. As two of their number (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathæa) were afterwards in communications with Christians, it was easy for the disciples to find out what occurred on this notable occasion.] for this man doeth many signs.
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Ordinance of Covenanting
John Cunningham—The Ordinance of Covenanting

Letter iv. You Reply to the Conclusion of My Letter: "What have we to do with Routiniers?...
My dear friend, You reply to the conclusion of my Letter: "What have we to do with routiniers? Quid mihi cum homunculis putata putide reputantibus? Let nothings count for nothing, and the dead bury the dead! Who but such ever understood the tenet in this sense?" In what sense then, I rejoin, do others understand it? If, with exception of the passages already excepted, namely, the recorded words of God--concerning which no Christian can have doubt or scruple,--the tenet in this sense be inapplicable
Samuel Taylor Coleridge—Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit etc

Here Therefore These Men Too Evil, While they Essay to Make Void the Law...
9. Here therefore these men too evil, while they essay to make void the Law, force us to approve these Scriptures. For they mark what is said, that they who are under the Law are in bondage, and they keep flying above the rest that last saying, "Ye are made empty [1715] of Christ, as many of you as are justified in the Law; ye have fallen from Grace." [1716] We grant that all these things are true, and we say that the Law is not necessary, save for them unto whom bondage is yet profitable: and that
St. Augustine—On the Profit of Believing.

The Right Understanding of the Law
Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.' Exod 20: 3. Before I come to the commandments, I shall answer questions, and lay down rules respecting the moral law. What is the difference between the moral laud and the gospel? (1) The law requires that we worship God as our Creator; the gospel, that we worship him in and through Christ. God in Christ is propitious; out of him we may see God's power, justice, and holiness: in him we see his mercy displayed. (2) The moral law requires obedience, but gives
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

The Wrath of God
What does every sin deserve? God's wrath and curse, both in this life, and in that which is to come. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.' Matt 25: 41. Man having sinned, is like a favourite turned out of the king's favour, and deserves the wrath and curse of God. He deserves God's curse. Gal 3: 10. As when Christ cursed the fig-tree, it withered; so, when God curses any, he withers in his soul. Matt 21: 19. God's curse blasts wherever it comes. He deserves also God's wrath, which is
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

The Gospel Message, Good Tidings
[As it is written] How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! T he account which the Apostle Paul gives of his first reception among the Galatians (Galatians 4:15) , exemplifies the truth of this passage. He found them in a state of ignorance and misery; alienated from God, and enslaved to the blind and comfortless superstitions of idolatry. His preaching, accompanied with the power of the Holy Spirit, had a great and marvellous effect.
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2

The Impotence of the Law.
HEBREWS vii. 19.--"For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh to God." It is the aim of the Epistle to the Hebrews, to teach the insufficiency of the Jewish Dispensation to save the human race from the wrath of God and the power of sin, and the all-sufficiency of the Gospel Dispensation to do this. Hence, the writer of this Epistle endeavors with special effort to make the Hebrews feel the weakness of their old and much esteemed religion,
William G.T. Shedd—Sermons to the Natural Man

Justification by Faith --Illustrated by Abram's Righteousness
Referring to the chapter before us for a preface to our subject, note that after Abram's calling his faith proved to be of the most practical kind. Being called to separate himself from his kindred and from his country, he did not therefore become a recluse, a man of ascetic habits, or a sentimentalist, unfit for the battles of ordinary life--no; but in the noblest style of true manliness he showed himself able to endure the household trouble and the public trial which awaited him. Lot's herdsmen
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 14: 1868

Adoption --The Spirit and the Cry
The divinity of each of these sacred persons is also to be gathered from the text and its connection. We do not doubt tee the loving union of all in the work of deliverance. We reverence the Father, without whom we had not been chosen or adopted: the Father who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We love and reverence the Son by whose most precious blood we have been redeemed, and with whom we are one in a mystic and everlasting union: and
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 24: 1878

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