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Leading Question:

“If God saves people by faith alone, why did he give the law in the first place?”

Key Passages:

  • Galatians 3:15-20: The law must be understood in light of God’s promise to Abraham.
  • Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:1-6: God’s original promise to Abraham did not include the law.
  • Matthew 5:17-20: Jesus did not come to abolish the law.

Key Points and Questions:

1. The Priority of God’s Promise: When approaching the issue of the relation of God’s law to the plan of salvation, it is important we remember the order in which God revealed the gospel. Abraham is the instrument God chose to work through to undo the evil sin had brought in the world. God promised to bless the entire world through Abraham’s descendants. Paul compares God’s covenant promise to Abraham to a person’s final will and testament. It is something that cannot be changed. Since the law played no part in God’s original promise, it would be foolish to conclude that obedience to the law was the basis of God’s plan to save the world.

A. Why is a will an appropriate illustration for the point Paul is making? What other modern illustrations might he have used if he were writing today?

B. What difference does it make for your faith to know that God is not a promise-breaker?

2. Why Was the Law Given? Paul’s answer to this question is ambiguous. It was “added” later than God’s promise because of transgression. What law is Paul talking about? And why exactly was it added? The answer to these questions have led many to mistaken conclusions, including the idea that the law was only a temporary part of God’s plan of salvation that ended with Jesus. In light of the overall context of the passage, Paul’s answers are best summarized as follows:

  • What law? – The law in general, including the moral and ceremonial laws.
  • Why was the law given? – It was given to point out sin (thou shall not), and as a way to show how sin would be dealt with (the sacrificial system).
  • How long was the law added? – It will continue to point out sin until Jesus returns again.

A. One of the jobs of the law is to point out sin. Is it possible to really appreciate the good news of the gospel, if we do not first come to grips with just how bad the bad news is?

B. God’s promise to Abraham and Paul’s letter to the Galatians occurred along time ago. How can we make these events meaningful and relevant in our world today?

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