Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 2:5 and 14 Paul speaks of the truth of the gospel. The word truth in these verses does not mean the doctrine or teaching of the gospel; it denotes the reality of the gospel. Although Galatians is a short book, it affords us a complete revelation of the reality of the gospel. This revelation, however, is given not in detail, but in certain basic principles. Therefore, in this message we shall cover the truth of the gospel revealed in these basic principles.
The first aspect of the truth of the gospel is that fallen man cannot be justified by works of law. In 2:16 Paul says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law.” At the end of this verse Paul declares, “By works of law no flesh shall be justified.” The word flesh in 2:16 means fallen man who has become flesh (Gen. 6:3). No such man will be justified by works of law. Furthermore, in 3:11 Paul goes on to say, “Now that by law no one is justified before God is evident.” In these verses Paul tells us clearly that no one is justified by works of law.
The Seventh-Day Adventists insist on strict observance of the Sabbath. However, they seem to forget that by endeavoring to keep the law with respect to the Sabbath, they make themselves debtors to keep all the commandments. The New Testament says that if we keep all the commandments except one, we transgress the whole law (James 2:10). Romans 7 proves that we cannot keep all the commandments. In verse 7 Paul refers to the commandment about coveting: “I had not known coveting except the law had said, You shall not covet.” Then in verse 8 he goes on to say, “But sin, taking occasion through the commandment, wrought in me coveting of every kind.” The more Paul tried to keep this commandment, the more he failed. This indicates that it is impossible for fallen man to keep all of God’s commandments. How ridiculous it is to go back to the law and try to keep it! We simply do not have the ability to keep the law. As Paul says in Romans 7:14, the law is spiritual, but we are fleshly, sold under sin. Therefore, by works of law shall no flesh be justified.
Since it is not possible for fallen man to keep the law, we may ask why the law was given. It was not God’s intention in giving the law that man should keep it. When God gave the law, He knew that man would not be able to keep it. God’s purpose in giving the law was to use it as a custodian to keep His people until Christ came (3:23-24; 4:2). God’s intention was to use the law as a fold in which to keep His sheep.
Perhaps you are wondering why Christ did not come earlier than He did. Why did He not come at the time of Moses? If Christ had come sixteen hundred years earlier, there would have been no need for the law. Why did He not come before the law was given? The best way to answer this question is to turn to the Scriptures. Romans 3:19 and 20 say, “Now we know that whatever things the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become subject to the judgment of God; because by the works of law no flesh shall be justified before Him; for by law is knowledge of sin.”
In Galatians 3:19 Paul asks, “Why then the law?” In the same verse he answers his own question: “It was added because of transgressions.” The law was given to expose what man is and where man is. The best way for man to be exposed is to cause his situation to be seen in the light of God’s attributes. The Ten Commandments are composed mainly of four divine attributes: holiness, righteousness, light, and love. God is holy and righteous; He is also light and love. If you look into the Ten Commandments, you will see that they embody the divine holiness, righteousness, light, and love. For this reason, the law became God’s testimony. In other words, the Ten Commandments testify that God is holy and righteous and that God is light and love. God used this testimony to expose man. As man stands before this testimony, his sinfulness is exposed.
When the law was given, the children of Israel promised to obey God’s commandments (Exo. 19:8). Before the children of Israel responded in this way, the atmosphere around Mount Sinai was not threatening. But when the people declared that they would keep God’s commandments, the atmosphere changed and became terrifying. God exercised His holiness, and the people were not allowed to approach further. Frightened by the manifestation of God’s holiness, the people asked Moses to go to God on their behalf. This indicates that the function of the law is to expose fallen mankind.
As the law functions to expose people, it keeps them. Thus, the law was used by God as a custodian to keep His people just as a fold keeps a flock of sheep during the winter or during a storm. The time before the coming of Christ can be compared to a winter season. Hence, God used the law as a fold in which to guard the people. In their blindness the Judaizers thought that the law had been given for them to keep. They did not realize that the law was given to guard God’s people in custody. Paul makes this basic principle clear in Galatians 3:23. “But before faith came we were guarded under law, being shut up unto the faith which was about to be revealed.” In verse 24 he goes on to say, “So the law has become our child-conductor unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” These verses reveal clearly that the law functions as a custodian. As it exposed man’s transgression, it guarded God’s people until Christ came.
Now that Christ has come, the law is over. But the foolish Judaizers wanted to go back to the law and try to keep it. They did not realize that the law has a dispensational function. When this function has been fulfilled, the law should not remain any longer. The stubborn Judaizers did not know God’s purpose in giving the law. Therefore, even after Christ came, they held to the law. This is against the basic principle of God’s economy.
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