Can You Break the Law?
If I jump off a building, am I breaking any law? Yes! The law of gravity. And really I won’t break it…it will break me.
The question arises: Why was the Law given, of what value is it? Now don't think that Paul is playing down the Law. Rather, he is trying to help the people understand the purpose of the Law. He shows the Law in all of its majesty, in its fullness, and in its perfection. But he shows that this very perfection the Law demands creates a hurdle which you and I cannot get over in order to be accepted of God. The law was given that we might recognize that we are lost, so God can then swoop in and save us!
Now listen to Paul as he talks about the purpose of the Law.
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator [Gal. 3:19].
Paul says it was something that was added. It was added because -- or better still -- for the sake of transgressions.
"Till the seed should come" -- that little word till is an important time word. It means the Law was temporary. The Law was given for the interval between the time of Moses until the time of Christ. "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). It is very important to see that the Law was temporary "until the seed should come" -- and that Seed is Christ.
The Law was added "because of [for the sake of] transgressions. It was given to reveal sin, not to remove sin. It was not given to keep man from sin because sin had already come. It was to show man himself as being a natural, ugly, crude sinner before God. Any man who is honest will look at himself in the light of the Law and see himself guilty. It was not given as a standard by which man becomes holy. You would never become holy this way, because, first of all, you can't keep the Law in your own strength.
Many people think that man becomes a sinner when he commits a sinful act, that he is all right until he breaks down and commits sin. This is not true. It is because he is already a sinner that a man commits an act of sin. A man steals because he is a thief. A man lies because he is a liar. I find myself guilty of lying -- although I blame it on others. I leave my house in the morning and the first person I meet says, "My, what a beautiful day!" And I say, "Yes, it is" -- when truthfully it is dismal. I lie about it. Then he asks, "How are you feeling today?" Well, to be honest, I don't feel well, but I say, "Great!" Right there in the first few seconds I have lied twice! It's just natural for us to be that way. Some of us commit more serious lying than that. Why do we do it? We have that fallen nature. And the Law was given to show that we are sinners, and that you and I need a mediator -- One to stand between us and God, One to help us out.
Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law [Gal. 3:21].
The expression "God forbid" means certainly not. Why? If there had been another way of saving sinners, God would have used that way. If He could have given a law by which sinners could be saved, He would have done so.
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe [Gal. 3:22].
We have seen that the Law brought death -- "The soul that sinneth, it shall die..." (Ezek. 18:20). The Scripture has "concluded all under sin"; therefore all died. What is needed, therefore, is life. We have seen that the Law brings death, which is all that it can do. It is not actually the degree of sin but the mere fact of sin that brings death. Hence, all are equally dead and equally in need. You may not have committed as great a sin as Hitler committed, but you and I have the same kind of nature that he had. In fact, it was Goethe, the great German writer, who made this statement: "I have never seen a crime committed but what I too might have committed that crime." He recognized he had that kind of a nature. It is not the degree of sin, but the very fact that we are sinners that brings death.
Let me illustrate this fact of sin and not the degree. Picture a building about twenty-four stories high. There are three men on top of the building, and the superintendent goes up to see them and warns, "Now be very careful, don't step off of this building or you will be killed. It will mean death for you." One of the fellows says, "This crazy superintendent is always trying to frighten people. I don't believe that if I step off this building I will die." So he deliberately walks to the edge of the building and steps off into the air. Suppose that when he passes the tenth floor, somebody looks out the window and asked him, "Well, how is it going?" And he says, "So far, so good." He hasn't arrived yet. There is death at the bottom. The superintendent was right. The man is killed. Now suppose another fellow becomes frightened at what the superintendent said. He runs for the elevator, or the steps, and accidentally slips. He skids right off the edge of the building and falls to the street below. He, too, is killed. The third fellow, we'll say, is thrown off the building by some gangsters because he is their enemy. He is killed. Now the man who was thrown off of the building is just as dead as the man who deliberately stepped off and the man who accidentally slipped off the building. All of these men broke the law of gravitation, and death was inevitable for all of them. It is the fact, you see, and not the degree. It is the fact that they went over the edge -- they all broke the law of gravitation.
The question is, "Can the law of gravitation which took them down to death give them life?" It cannot. The Mosaic Law cannot give you life any more than a natural law can give you life after you have broken it and died. You cannot reverse the situation and come back from the street below to the top of the building and live. Death follows wherever sin comes. The law of sin knows nothing of extenuating circumstances. It knows nothing about mercy. It has no elasticity. It is inflexible, inexorable, and immutable. God's Word says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die..." (Ezek. 18:20). To Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden God said, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). And in Exodus 34:7, He says that He"...will by no means clear the guilty...." Therefore, all have sinned and by the Law we are all dead. The Law slew us. It is called by Paul a "...ministration of death..." (2Cor. 3:7). It is a ministration of condemnation. The Law condemns all of us.
Can the Law bring life? The Law can no more bring life than a fall from a high roof can bring life to one who died by that fall. The purpose of the Law was never to give life. It was given to show us that we are guilty sinners before God, hopeless, and in need of a Savior.
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed [Gal. 3:23].
Until the Lord Jesus Christ came, the Law had in it mercy because it had a mercy seat. It had an altar where sacrifices for sin could be brought and forgiveness could be obtained. Mercy could be found there. All the sacrifices for sin pointed to Christ. Before faith came, Paul says, we were kept under the Law -- "shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed."
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith [Gal. 3:24].
This is a remarkable section. Paul is making it very clear here that the Mosaic Law could not save. Romans 4:5 tells us, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." God refused to accept the works of man for salvation. God says that all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). God refuses to accept law-keeping. The Law cannot save; it can only condemn. It was not given to save sinners but to let them know that they were sinners. The Law does not remove sin; it reveals sin. It will not keep you from sin, because sin has already come. Man is actually an ugly sinner in the raw.
In your bathroom is a sink with a mirror above it. That washbasin serves a purpose and so does the mirror. When you get dirt on your face, you go to the bathroom to remove it. Now you don't use the mirror to remove the dirt, do you? If you see a smudged spot on your face, and you lean over and rub your face against the mirror, and one of your loved ones sees you, he will call a psychiatrist and make an appointment to find out what is wrong with you. But, that won't happen because none of us is silly enough to try to remove dirt with a mirror.
Today, however, multitudes of people in our churches are rubbing up against the mirror of the law thinking they are going to remove their sin. The Word of God is a mirror which shows us who we are and what we are -- that we are sinners and that we have come short of the glory of God. That is what the Law reveals. But, thank God, beneath the mirror there is a basin. As the hymn writer puts it,
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains. -- William Cowper
That is where you remove the spot. It is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that cleanses. The Law proves man a sinner; it never makes him a saint. The Law was given, as Paul says in Romans, that every mouth might be stopped and the whole world become guilty before God (see Rom. 3:19).
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster [Gal. 3:25].
"Schoolmaster" is the Greek paidagogos [pedagogue], and it doesn't mean school teacher. Schoolmaster is a good word, but it meant something quite different back in the days of Paul. It meant a servant or a slave who was part of a Roman household. Half of the Roman Empire was slave. Of the 120 million, 60 million were slaves. In the home of a patrician, a member of the Praetorian Guard, or the rich in the Roman Empire, were slaves that cared for the children. When a child was born into such a home, he was put in the custody of a servant or a slave who actually raised him. He put clean clothes on him, bathed him, blew his nose when it was necessary, and paddled him when he needed it. When the little one grew to a certain age and was to start to school, this servant was the one who got him up in the morning, dressed him, and took him to school. (That is where he got the name of paidagogos. Paid has to do with the feet -- and we get our words pedal or pedestrian from it; agogos means "to lead.") It means that he takes the little one by the hand, leads him to school, and turns him over to the school teacher. This servant, the slave, was not capable of teaching him beyond a certain age, so he took him to school.
Now what Paul is saying here is that the Law is our paidagogos. The Law said, "Little fellow, I can't do any more for you. I now want to take you by the hand and bring you to the cross of Christ. You are lost. You need a Savior." The purpose of the Law is to bring men to Christ -- not to give them an expanded chest so they can walk around claiming they keep the Law. You know you don't keep the Law; all you have to do is examine your own heart to know that.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus [Gal. 3:26].
Only faith in Christ can make us sons of God. In this verse the word children is from the Greek huios, meaning "sons."
An individual Israelite under the Law in the Old Testament was never a son, only a servant. God called the nation "Israel my son" (see Exod. 4:22), but the individual in that corporate nation was never called a son. He was called a servant of Jehovah. For example, Moses was on very intimate terms with God; yet God said of him, "Moses my servant is dead" (see Josh. 1:2). That was his epitaph. Also, although David was a man after God's own heart, God calls him "David my servant" (see 1Kings 11:38).
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12).
A Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus, religious to his fingertips, followed the Law meticulously, yet he was not a son of God. Jesus said to him, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). I want to be very plain -- neither your prayers, your fundamental separation, your gifts, your church membership, nor your baptism will ever make you a son of God. Only faith in Christ can make you a son of God.
Jesus didn't consider everyone His child and responsibility. He once looked at a group of religious rulers and said to them, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do..." (John 8:44). Now I did not say that; gentle Jesus said that. Evidently there were some people in His day who were not sons of God. I think the Devil still has a lot of children running around in this world today. They are not all the sons of God! The only way you can become a son of God is through faith in Jesus Christ.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ [Gal. 3:27].
I hope you realize that this verse is not a reference to water baptism. Water baptism is ritual baptism, and it is for every believer. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not of water, and places you in the body of believers. Paul says, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1Cor. 12:13). This means that we are identified, we are put in reality and truth into the body of believers, the church. "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." God sees you in Christ. Therefore He sees you as perfect!
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus [Gal. 3:28].
In this body of believers "there is neither Jew nor Greek." In Christ are no racial lines. Any man in Christ is my brother, and I don't care about the color of his skin. It is the color of his heart that interests me. There are a lot of white people walking around with black hearts, my friend, and they are not my brothers. It is only in Christ Jesus that we are made one. Thank God, I receive letters from folk of every race. They call me brother and I call them brother -- because we are brothers. We are one in Christ, and we will be together throughout eternity.
"There is neither bond nor free." In our day, capital and labor are at odds with one another. Wall Street and Main Street seem to be enemies now. The only thing that can bring them together is Christ, of course.
"There is neither male nor female." Christ does what "women's lib" and NOW can never do. He can make us one in Christ. How wonderful it is!
And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise [Gal. 3:29].
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