The Old Law

The Old Law

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

In Galatians 3.15-20, Paul reminded the Galatians that the old law was never intended to be the ultimate plan. It served one purpose only: to highlight how sinful the human race really was (3.19). It was even given from a distance! God gave it to the angels, then the angels gave it to Moses, then Moses gave it to the people (3.19). Besides being strict and lacking grace, the old law didn’t allow for a personal relationship with God. It was a placeholder until Jesus could enact a much better system. 

Romans 7.5-11 says, “In the past we were ruled by our sinful selves. The law made us want to do sinful things. And those sinful desires controlled our bodies, so that what we did only brought us spiritual death. In the past the law held us as prisoners, but our old selves died, and we were made free from the law. So now we serve God in a new way, not in the old way with the written rules. Now we serve God with a new spirit. You might think I am saying that sin and the law are the same. That is not true. But the law was the only way I could learn what sin means. I would never have known it is wrong to want something that is not mine. But the law said, ‘You must not want what belongs to someone else.’ And sin found a way to use that command and make me want all kinds of things that weren’t mine. So sin came to me because of the command. But without the law, sin has no power. Before I knew the law, I was alive. But when I heard the law’s command, sin began to live and I died spiritually. The command was meant to bring life, but for me it brought death. Sin found a way to fool me by using the command to make me die.” 

The law was in place to show us that we don’t have the ability to meet God’s standard of morality on our own. We didn’t even know that some of our behavior was sinful until God said it was through the law. Once humanity realized that it was helpless to overcome sin, God sent his son to free us from that system and destroy guilt once and for all. Paul reiterated this in 3.21-25 by saying that the law convicted everyone on earth of sin and kept us all prisoner. The law was functionally a strict supervisor, controlling every little aspect of life and punishing violations severely. But it’s no longer necessary (or relevant) because we have the way of faith (3.25). 

“We also know that the law is not made for those who do what is right. It is made for those who are against the law and refuse to follow it. The law is for sinners who are against God and all that is pleasing to him. It is for those who have no interest in spiritual things and for those who kill their fathers or mothers or anyone else” (I Tim 1.9). 

Gary Pollard

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