If Christ has saved me what is the purpose of the law? Saturday, 27th week in ordinary time – Galatians 3:22-29

If Christ has saved me what is the purpose of the law? Saturday, 27th week in ordinary time – Galatians 3:22-29

Let me begin by saying that this text and a couple to follow can be a strain on the brain; so don’t expect to understand it at first reading. I am also presuming that you have read the previous explanations on Galatians this week.

Let’s tackle the issue. Paul who had been a zealous keeper of the Jewish law and traditions encountered Christ on the road to Damascus. It is now his stated position that he was justified by faith alone and what Jesus did for him the law could not do. In traditional Jewish thinking, you’r standing before God was measured by your obedience to the law. To truly be close to God, to be considered sons of God, you had to be extremely observant of the law, just as the Scribes and Pharisees were (Matthew 23). Paul now down plays the importance of the law as secondary to faith in Christ. The Catholic reader is bound to ask a rather valid question; why do we then observe the ten commandments? What then is the purpose of the law?

For Paul, the law was part of God’s plan as a ‘first response’ to sin. The function of the law was to define man’s legal standing before God. The law protects us by showing us God’s heart. It protects us by showing us the best way to live. It protects us by showing what should be approved and disapproved among men. It protects us by providing a foundation for civil law. However, this is the be all and end all of the power of the law. So, to put in another way, the law serves a purpose to help us evaluate sin before God. However, the law is incapable of justifying us, of making us right before God. The law can tell you what you ought not to do and can evaluate your life but the law cannot transform our relationship before God. The law can only tell us what we have done and what is the penalty for what we have done. What takes us further is faith in Jesus and his grace.

Does the law have a place in salvation history? Yes, says Paul, but for a limited function. The function of the law was to prevent, to impede and hold down sin. The Law of Moses can show us clearly our problem and God’s standard, but it cannot give us the freedom that only Jesus can give. But with the coming of Jesus and when we believe in Jesus Christ, we receive righteousness. Righteousness is given to those who believe in Jesus Christ. (verse22) So, with the coming of Christ, the law (Jewish law and traditions) which was secondary, bound by a purpose and inferior; have served its purpose. Now that THE offspring has come, the grace of Christ takes over and we should harken to it.

Before the way of faith, we had no real freedom under the Law; we were, as it were, the law’s prisoners. It acted as a kind of guardian or “baby-sitter” imperfectly showing us the way to God. “Don’t do that… don’t go there…”. Some may then say, why do we still need the law now? Till one makes the surrender of faith in Jesus as Lord one will continue to need the law as a ‘baby -sitter’. While the law remains as a guardian to others who have not accepted Jesus, we do not need its guardianship any more, provided we have made our faith commitment in Christ; then we are children of God. The only law we are under is the liberating law of love for Jesus said, “a new commandment I give you, love one another as I have loved you.” This law of love when lived in the grace of Jesus encompasses all other laws driving us to live a holy life in the presence of Jesus.

If we live by this new law of love then there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, slave or free, male or female for we are all one in Christ and the promise made to Abraham is ours through Christ Jesus. This is an amazing statement. The whole problem among the Galatian Christians is that some wanted to still observe the dividing line between Jew and Greek. Paul writes, In Jesus Christ that line is done away with. When we are in Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek. This does not mean that there are no differences between people. The slave will be a slave and so will be a master. We may still have ‘differences’ but now there is no distinction in Christ. There are differences in role and in function, but none in standing before God through faith in Jesus.

The underlying message for the Galatians is that there is now no need of the Law and they should ignore those who are trying to tell them otherwise. Belonging to Christ in faith is all that is needed. Everything else will flow from that.

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2 thoughts on “If Christ has saved me what is the purpose of the law? Saturday, 27th week in ordinary time – Galatians 3:22-29”

  • Maria Ana da Costa · Edit

    I loved this explanation of the purpose of the law and how that law is now superseded by our relationship with Jesus and the only law of love. Thank you, Fr. Warner, for the detailed explanation. God bless you.

  • Fr. You have explained this most important New Testament teaching so well. I will treasure this for it is clear distinction from what the law of Moses to the Jews and what Jesus Christ has offered us. Truly this forms the heart ❤️ of the New Testament.
    Thank you Fr. Warner for the hard work you put in daily with these priceless reflections…we are truly blessed to have you. May God grant you good health and may your priestly ministry be even more fruitful in the Lord’s vineyard.


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