The Goal of the Law

“Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (vv. 25–26).  

- Galatians 3:25–26

John Calvin says in his commentary that Paul uses the term faith in Galatians 3:23, 25 to denote “the full revelation of those things, which, during the darkness of the shadows of the law, were dimly seen.” Old covenant saints trusted in God’s promises, but they did not see as plainly all the grace and benefits in Christ we are privileged to enjoy in the new covenant. Paul can refer to the coming of Jesus as the coming of faith because the faith present in the hearts of old covenant believers (as compared to new covenant saints) was so dimly informed. Calvin also offers this creative analogy: the old covenant saints started out their journey under the very first crack of dawn; we in the new covenant start out under the bright noonday sun.

Today we define ourselves “in Christ” (v. 26) — as those empowered by His Spirit to share in His resurrected life — not as those under the Law. Not that the Mosaic law is irrelevant to us. Just as the adult does not forget the manners he learned as a child from his paidagōgos, so too must the new covenant believer remember the lessons taught in the old covenant. To borrow one churchman’s illustration, we do not throw away a five-dollar bill just because we have been given a twenty. God’s commandments revealed to Israel are not cast aside altogether with the advent of Christ (Matt. 5:17–20). The Mosaic law cannot condemn Christians, but it can help guide our sanctification as a reflection of the “law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), a concept to be explored in the months ahead.

But as we have seen, God gave the Mosaic law primarily to magnify sin and point His people to the Messiah that they might be justified by faith. In bearing the final covenant curse of exile (Deut. 28), faithful Israelites looked for salvation in Christ Jesus (Luke 2:22–38). Seeing that even the Creator’s chosen could not keep the Law, Gentiles looked to the one God sent to effect their justification. This process continues today for both Jew and Gentile, as the Father adopts all who trust in His Son as His own, for only those who believe on Jesus have the right to become children of God (John 1:12). In Christ we inherit all the privileges that come with being the Father’s children.

Coram Deo

Jesus Christ is the only one with the inherent right to be called the Son of God. In Him, however, we are adopted as children of God, and receive all the benefits that come with that status. May we take that privilege seriously and obey the wisdom that He gives us in His Word. Think today on the incredible privilege it is to be a child of God and endeavor to please Him out of the sheer delight that good children take in obeying their parents.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 2
Hosea 11:1
Matthew 5:9
Romans 8:12–17

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.