"Why the Law Then?"
Those who come into the church in this day and age have many questions that we can sometimes fail to give the consideration they deserve. They might ask us about things we assume are true, and have not questioned in many years. They might ask us things that we may consider trivial or elementary, and thus have not taken the time to explain. Sometimes they ask us things that make us scratch our heads. When they do, then we must be careful to give them a worthy, and correct, answer.
Sometimes people who come into the church with little prior knowledge of the bible can ask why our bibles are made up of 2/3 Old Testament, when we don't follow it or consider it to be authoritative. While this might sound a bit simplistic, let's not forget that Paul anticipated this question exactly, and provided an apt answer, “Why the Law then?” (Galatians 3:19-22) When he explained that it was added “because of transgressions” so that it might “shut up everyone under sin,” some have understood it to mean that it only existed to produce failure. Corollary passages like Romans 3:19-20 have brought some to believe that God intentionally provided an impossible Law that was only intended to bring about sin.
Does that sound like the God of the bible? Is He described as a Being who only imposes rules so that they will be impossible to follow? What does God tell His own people when He brought about the Law, and can that help us better understand its intent?
“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)
God gave the Law to the people, and expected them to obey it, just as they had vowed to do. Moses had explained God’s expectations to the people, and they had agreed. When they followed His commands, they would have great success, and the world would see His great majesty. (Deuteronomy 4:5-8) The failure was never with God’s law, but with the people who would not follow it.
That failure, however, made it so that those under it knew there had to be a better solution, which God provided in sending His son, Jesus the Messiah. Those who knew God’s expectations would recognize Him as the perfect solution to human failure to uphold God’s good requirements. (II Timothy 3:14-15) Let us thank God for providing success in Christ.