THE LAW OF MOSESBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
Most people who study the Bible believe that the Law of Moses consists of the Ten Commandments and the laws of the sacrificial system, and that this law was canceled when Jesus Christ was crucified.
It has been said that the law God gave to the Israelites through Moses was Moses' law. But was it? Is there a scripture in the Books of the Law that says Moses gave the people his law? No! No such record exists in the Books of the Law. However, there are many scriptures, which show that God gave his law to Moses who then gave it to the people. Therefore, the law that Moses revealed to the Israelites is actually the law of God.
It is impossible to separate the law that God gave to Israel into the law of God and the law of Moses, because they are all God's laws.
Just what were the Laws of Moses? Did Moses make or issue any laws? And if he did, are they binding upon the elect of God today? This study will show that the laws of God cannot be separated from each other and that they were given for the benefit of all humanity.
Moreover, this study will explain what is commonly called "The Law of Moses" and reveal how to worship God in a more dynamic and spiritual way. Moreover, this study will prove that God gave his laws as a complete set of interdependent and interrelated laws, and show that the Law of Moses is the Law of God.
"Now pay attention, Israel, to the statutes and judgments, that I teach you, do them, that you may live and possess the land that the Lord God of your ancestors gives you. You shall not add to the words that I command you, neither shall you take from it, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you. Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land that you go to possess it. Keep them and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, that shall hear all these statutes and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who has God so near to them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?" (vs.1-7 Para.).
"And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day" (Deut.4:8 KJV).
When Moses recited God's words to the nation of Israel, he showed them the will of God concerning how they were to live their lives individually and as a nation. Moreover, the statutes and judgments that many people today believe were done away with are called righteous by Moses.
DID GOD MISJUDGE THE ISRAELITES?
Many believe that God misjudged the character of the Israelites so badly that, after he gave them the Ten Commandments, he had to add the sacrifices nine months later because of the people's sins. But, is this true?
We know that God had over two thousand years to deal with humanity before he presented the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai. By this time, God had already discovered how wicked humanity is capable of being. After all, at the end of nearly two thousand years of human history, he could only find one righteous man—Noah.
The Father knew "from the foundation of the world" (Rev.5:6-12; 13:8) that the Creator God would have to offer his life for the salvation of humanity, Therefore it makes sense that, he would have designed the sacrificial system to point to the coming of the Messiah to redeem humanity.
FROM THE BEGINNING
The first chapter of the Book of Genesis shows that one reason God created and arranged the stars and planets the way he did was to give humanity a means to calculate when to observe his religious festivals and sacred observances:
"Then God commanded, Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from night and show the time when days, years, and religious festivals begin. . ." (Gen.1:14 GNB).
This record clearly shows that, from the time of his creation of humanity, God intended to have them observe his festivals and sacred observances. Remember that the Bible was written for our admonition and instruction in God's way of life. If God had not intended for humanity to observe these special days, why would he have inspired this to be recorded in the Book of Genesis?
ADAM AND THE LAW
Not only did Adam and his family understand the laws of God but they also understood his sacrificial system:
"In process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. And Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering: But for Cain and to his offering he had no respect. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry and why is your countenance fallen? If you had done well, shall you not be accepted? and if you do not well, sin lies at the door" (Gen.4:3-7 Para.).
God did not accept Cain's sacrifice, because in the sacrificial system, only a blood sacrifice can be given for a sin offering. Cain was disobeying God by not offering the correct offering. Abel offered one of his animals and God accepted it, because it was the correct offering. See Gen.4:7; Lev.chp.4.
The writer to the Hebrews also confirms the Genesis record:
"By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaks" (Heb.11:4 KJV).
In the first four chapters of the Bible, there is a very clear record that shows that God intended his festivals and sacred observances to be practiced. The inspired record also shows that the breaking of the law of God constitutes sin (1.Jn.3:4). Moreover, this record shows the sacrificial system of God being practiced.
NOAH AND THE LAW
The apostle Peter tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2.Pet.2:5). And in Genesis 6:9, Noah is said to be a righteous person before God. Noah could not have been righteous before God if he had not understood what God expected of him or what righteousness was. For the inspired record to show that Noah was righteous, it would have been necessary for him to understand and obey God's laws, which define what righteousness is.
In the account of the great flood, God gave Noah instructions concerning clean and unclean animals:
"Of every clean beast you shall take to you by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female" (Gen.7:2 Para.).
Clean beasts could be eaten by Noah and his family as dictated by God's dietary laws concerning what is fit and what is unfit for human consumption. See Lev.chp.11.
Clean beasts were also the only ones that could be offered in sacrifice to God, which is why more clean beasts than unclean ones were needed. See Lev.chps.1-9.
The record shows that the first thing Noah did upon leaving the ark was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God (Gen.8:20). Notice that God was very pleased with these sacrifices and blessed Noah for his obedience (Gen.8:21; 9:1-2).
Noah must have been sacrificing before the flood, because he knew which animal to sacrifice and how to sacrifice it. Adam's family understood God's law and Noah was righteous; therefore, it should be apparent that God's law was in effect and understood very early in human history. It is very possible that God's law was transmitted to Noah by Adam himself, because Adam was still alive fifty-eight years before the flood.
ABRAHAM AND THE LAW
Abraham is called a righteous man by the apostle James (Jms.2:22-24), but what did Abraham do to merit this recognition by James?
Abraham gave offerings and tithes to the priest-king Melchizedec (Gen.14:18), which shows that he fulfilled his duty in respect to this aspect of God's law (Gen.14:20). In Genesis 17:1, God commanded Abraham to be perfect (upright) before him. For one to be perfect (upright) before God, one must obey his laws.
Abraham's test of obedience to God in Genesis 22 shows that he understood and practiced the sacrificial system of God. Otherwise, what God had asked him to do would not have made any sense. Abraham's son Isaac also understood this, which is indicated by his question in verse 7: "Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" God did not allow Isaac to be sacrificed; instead, he provided a clean animal for the sacrifice.
It is evident that Abraham understood and kept all of God's laws. In fact, God promised to bless all nations because of his obedience:
"And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you [Abraham] obeyed my voice" (Gen.22:18 Para.).
In the Bible, there are so many references to people keeping the law of God before the time when it was given to the Israelites that there can be no doubt that God's law existed before he revealed it through Moses to the Israelites who had forgotten it during their time of captivity in Egypt.
THE LAW GIVEN AS A WHOLE
Some people believe that the law Moses gave at Mont. Sinai, was his law and they use the following scripture to substantiate this belief:
"Only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them" (2.Kgs.21:8 Para.).
In this record concerning the giving of the law, God is the authority behind the law that Moses commanded the people to keep. Moses was only acting as God's servant in transmitting God's law to God's people.
A careful study of the scriptures reveals that every law Moses gave to the people was backed up by the authority of God. An example of this authority is found in Leviticus 11:1-2. See also Lev.16:1-2; 23:1-2.
ISRAEL GIVEN THE LAW AT MOUNT SINAI
The account of God transmitting his law to the Israelites begins in Exodus 20:1. The Israelites were camped at the base of Mount Sinai where God spoke to them out of the cloud and fire and gave them the Ten Commandments; however, the people were so afraid that they asked Moses to relay the words of God to them:
"And they said to Moses, Speak you to us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Ex.20:19 Para.).
Deuteronomy 5:4-5, 22-28
The Creator spoke to the people first, not Moses. However, because the people were afraid, Moses' job was to relay the words of God, not his own thoughts or words, but God's words. God proceeded to give the Ten Commandments, which are recorded in verses 6-21. Verse 22 says that God wrote the commandments on tables of stone and added no more:
"The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire. I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to show you the word of the Lord: for you were afraid by reason of the fire, and did not go up into the mount" (vs.4-5 Para.).
"These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice; and it went on no more" (v.22 Jewish Translation).
This verse indicates that God quit talking after he had given them his foundational laws. In other words, there was a break or a pause in what he wanted them to hear. And during this break, the events took place that are described in verses 23-28.
"And it came to pass, when you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that you came near to me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And you said, Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God does talk with man, and he lives" (vs.23-24 Para.).
"Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, who has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?" (vs.25-26 Para.).
"Go you near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak you to us all that the Lord our God shall speak to you; and we will hear it, and do it. And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when you spoke to me; and the Lord said to me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken to you: they have well said all that they have spoken" (vs.27-28 KJV).
The people who heard the voice of God from Mount Sinai were afraid for their lives. So, they asked Moses to be the intermediary between them and God. Moses' task was to listen to what God had to say and report it to the people. Moreover, they agreed to obey whatever God told them to do through Moses (Deut.5:27).
God accepted the request of the people: "They have well spoken" (Deut.5:28). Then told Moses to tell them to return to their tents.
In Deuteronomy 5:31, God commands Moses to come to him and he would speak to him and give him the commandments, statutes, and judgments that he was to teach the people. Moses followed God's instructions. Exodus 21 and 22 record that Moses received the judgments; he received the statutes in chapter 23. In Deuteronomy 5:32, God instructs Moses to tell the people to do everything that he instructed them to do, and to not deviate from what they were told to do.
BACK UP THE MOUNTAIN
Moses went back up the mountain and, while he was there, God gave him what is contained in Exodus 21 through 23. Then, Moses returned from the mountain and relayed all the things that God had told him to the Israelites. He wrote these words in a book (Ex.24:4). Then, he used the blood of a sacrificial animal to seal the agreement with the people for God. Exodus 20 through 23 contains the terms and conditions of the first agreement with national Israel. At this point the Israelites had been given the Ten Commandments, the Judgments, and the Statutes through Moses.
"And the Lord said to Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give you tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that you may teach them" (Ex.24:12).
Here, God tells Moses to come back up the mountain to receive tables of stone, a law and commandments so that he could teach the people. Exodus 24:l8 shows that Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. See also Deut.chp.5.
While Moses was on the mountain this time, God began to tell him more of what he wanted the people to do in relation to their worship of him.
In chapters 26 through 28, God instructs Moses on how to build the tabernacle and the various things that were to be contained in it.
In chapter 29, God tells Moses who the priesthood would be, how they were to be set apart and consecrated to serve him in the tabernacle, how to cleanse the altar of impurity, and how to offer the daily sacrifices.
In chapter 30:6-10, God says that he would meet with the priesthood in the tabernacle when they made their sacrifices.
An important point to remember is that, while Moses was on the mountain receiving the tablets of stone, God also gave him instructions on how and what to offer on the altar. This proves that God was giving the law as a whole, and none of it was an afterthought. The instructions on the sacrifices were given right after God spoke the Ten Commandments, during this forty day period on the mountain.
DOWN AND UP AGAIN
Exodus 32:l5 shows that God gave Moses the two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments and instructions on how to build the tabernacle and conduct the daily services, during his first forty days on the mountain.
Exodus 32:1-6 shows that the people had made a golden calf and were worshiping it. In verses 15-19, Moses sees the people worshiping the calf, he becomes angry and he breaks the tablets containing the law. Moses then returns to the mountain to make an atonement for the people's sin (probably by a sacrifice). See vs.30-31; Deut.9:9-25. In Deuteronomy 9:9-25, we see that, on this second trip up the mountain, Moses stayed for another forty days and nights.
While on the mountain the second time, Moses receives a second set of tablets of stone that contain the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God (Ex.34:1; Deut.10:1). After this, Moses went up the mountain a third time and stayed another forty days and nights (Ex.34:28).
After coming down from his third trip up the mountain, Moses gave the Israelites the instructions that he had received from God. These instructions included the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone, the instructions on how to finance and build the tabernacle that God would dwell in during their journey through the wilderness, and the instructions on the daily tabernacle service, which included the morning and evening sacrifices and the consecration of Aaron and his sons to perform these services. See Ex.chp.35.
THE TABERNACLE AND THE SACRIFICES
In Exodus 36, we find the Israelites following the instructions of God, which were given to them through Moses. Collections were made to build the tabernacle and the things received were more than enough to build the tabernacle (Ex.chps.36-39). In chapter 40, we find that the tabernacle and all the various things contained in it were finished and ready to be erected.
After the tabernacle was erected as God had instructed, God began to dwell in the tabernacle (Lev.1:1).
The tabernacle services began after the priests and all the garments and all of the articles to be used in the tabernacle service had been purified and consecrated. After all of this, the tabernacle sacrifices began on a regular basis. See Lev.chp.9.
God showed that he was pleased with the first service in the tabernacle, because he filled the tabernacle with his glory and consumed the burnt offering (Lev.9:23-24).
Throughout the rest of the Book of Leviticus, God continues to give his law to Israel.
All the things spoken of in the Book of Leviticus are the commandments that the Lord gave to Moses for the children of Israel:
"These are the commandments, that the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai" (Lev.27:34 Para.).
Again, God gave these commandments (laws); they are God's laws, not Moses'. Leviticus 27:34 shows, beyond doubt, that all of the commands spoken by God from the tabernacle in the Book of Leviticus are indeed his commands, not Moses'.
The biblical record has established that the law Moses gave to the people was the complete law of God; however, why was it necessary for God to give his law to the Israelites in the first place?
The following are two reasons that God gave the sacrifices to Israel:
GOD'S SPIRITUAL LAW
It is important to understand the difference between God's physical and spiritual law. Obedience or disobedience to his physical law will bring physical rewards or punishments. Obedience or disobedience to his spiritual law will bring spiritual rewards or punishments. The Ten Commandments are both physical and spiritual laws (Deut.5:29; 30:15-l9; Matt.19:16-17). Note that the penalty for breaking God's spiritual law is the second death (Rom.6:23; Rev.21:8).
In Romans chapter 7, the apostle Paul says that he wouldn't have known what sin was except that the commandment says, "You shall not covet." This shows that, if someone breaks the Ten Commandments, he is a sinner. Therefore, the law reveals what sin is. Paul goes on to say that the law is holy and spiritual. It is spiritual because it applies to things that are spiritual. In fact, the Ten Commandments illustrate the character of God and they are the standard of love that he has set for all of humanity to live by. See Rom.7:7,12,14; 1.Jn.3:4; 5:3.
No Fault with the Covenant
Anyone who makes an honest study of the Bible will discover the first agreement with national Israel included the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1-17), the Judgments (Ex.21-23), and the Statutes (Ex.23:14). In Hebrews 8:8, the writer tells us that God found no fault with his agreement with Israel, but the fault was with the people. Moreover, God found no fault with the conditions of the agreement with national Israel; the people were at fault, not the agreement.
Another key to understanding the relationship between God's law and the Israelites is the fact that everything God wanted them to know after the event noted in Deuteronomy 5:1-29, he spoke through Moses. The things that Moses relayed to the people were the will of God concerning his law. These things were not of Moses, they were of God. It is obvious that, if the children of Israel had not been so frightened of God when he spoke the Ten Commandments, God would have spoken directly to them instead of through Moses.
This study has shown that God intended the law to be given as a whole and he intended the sacrifices to be a part of his law from the beginning. Moreover, as soon as the tabernacle was built, the sacrifices were offered according to the instructions that Moses received from God. It is evident that the laws of God are inseparable, and that they were given as a whole for the purpose of creating a pure people, to reveal what sin is, and to show that humanity would someday have a Savior who would sacrifice his life in order to forgive the violation of the Law of God.
THE ADDED LAW OF GALATIANS 3:19Back to Alphabetical Index | Back to Top | Back to Chapter Index
Galatians 3:19 is the verse that is probably quoted more often than any other in an attempt to prove that the laws concerning sacrifices were not a part of the original law of God:
"What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator" (NIV).
It has been taught for a long time that the 'added law' of Galatians is the sacrificial system, and encompasses all of the other laws God instructed Moses to give to the people. Jeremiah 7:21-22 is often quoted as additional proof of this teaching. But, do these scriptures actually say that the sacrificial system was an addition to the original law?
Both the New International Version and the King James Version of the Bible have translated the Greek word 'prostithemi' as 'added'. However, is this really the meaning that God inspired the apostle Paul to communicate? This study will show that the important meaning of Galatians 3:19 has little to do with the exact translation of the Greek word 'prostithemi', but it has a lot to do with the promises and the covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants. A closer look at Galatians 3:19 will show that the apostle Paul intended something quite different from what most translations of the Bible communicate through their use of the word 'added'.
The Good News Bible:
"What, then, was the purpose of the Law? It was added in order to show what wrongdoing is, and it was meant to last until the coming of Abraham's descendant, to whom the promise was made. The Law was handed down by angels, with a man acting as a go-between."
"Then what about the law? It was added later on to increase transgressions, until the descendant to whom the promise was made should come, enacted through the agency of angels in the person of an intermediary."
"Why, then, was the Law given? It was added to arouse transgressions until the Descendant would come to whom the promise was made. And it was given through angels in the hands of a mediator."
The Living Bible:
"Well then, why were the laws given? They were added after the promise was given, to show men how guilty they are of breaking God's laws. But this system of law was to last only until the coming of Christ, the Child to whom God's promise was made. (And there is this further difference. God gave his laws to angels to give to Moses, who then gave them to the people."
After reading the various translations of this verse, it is apparent that these laws were given to make the people aware that they were sinners, to show them what sin is, and to convict them of their sins. As the Beck translation shows, the law was like a stick with which a trainer stirs up a sleeping wild animal to show how uncontrollable and dangerous the animal really is.
"The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger . . .. Therefore this says the Lord God; Behold, my anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched" (Jer.7:18,20 KJV).
Verses 18-20 show that when the people worshiped the queen of heaven and offered sacrifices to her, God became very angry with them and instructed Jeremiah to warn them that if they would not repent and changes their ways, he would destroy their land.
Jeremiah 7:21 and 30
To fully understand the message Paul tries to convey in Galatians 3:19, we must first understand what God says in Jeremiah 7:21 and 30:
"This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves!" (Jer.7:21 NIV).
The context of Jeremiah chapter seven is one of condemnation of the Israelites for their departure from worshiping the true God and their pollution of his altar with sacrifices to false gods. God tells the Israelites that the sacrifices they offered were not the ones he had sanctioned; these offerings to false gods were theirs—not his—because he had no part in them.
"For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it" (Jer.7:30 KJV).
Because Jeremiah 7:22 is used to support the teaching that the sacrificial law was added after God became aware of the Israelite's proclivity to disobey him, it is important to carefully analyze this verse to see if this teaching has any merit:
"For I spoke not to your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices" (Jer.7:22 KJV).
Although God spoke to the Israelites "in the day" he brought them out of Egypt, he did not speak to them concerning the sacrifices at that time.
The key to understanding this verse is the Hebrew word for 'day' in verse 22 which, is 'yom'. It can mean 'a day', 'a year' or 'some indeterminate period of time'.
The biblical record of the Israelite's exodus from Egypt clearly shows that the day (i.e., period of time) that is referred to in verse 22 cannot refer to the exact day that the children of Israel left Egypt, the day they camped near the Red Sea, or the day they camped at Succoth after crossing the Red Sea.
If a specific day is being referred to in verse 22, it is most likely that the time the Israelites camped at the waters of Marah, which was three days after the crossing of the Red Sea, or the time they arrived at Mount Sinai three months later (Ex.19:1). It is during these times that God offered the Israelites an agreement that contained the Ten Commandments and the condition of obedience to his voice (i.e., obedience to whatever he asked them to do):
"But I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen. . ." (Jer.7:23-24 NIV).
"If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and will do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon you, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that heals you" (Ex.15:26 KJV). See also Ex.chps.19-20.
This study has already shown that during Moses' first forty days and nights on Mount Sinai, he received the sacrificial system of worship. From what God said from Mount Sinai, it should be very clear that he has an overall plan for humanity that includes his whole law—the commandments, judgments, statutes and the sacrificial system. See Lev.chps.1-7.
The law of God does not consist of independent parts; God's law is a system of interdependent laws. Within these laws the way to secure salvation and eternal life is revealed (2.Tim.3:15). It is this whole body of law that will again be instituted after the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God upon the earth. See Ezk.chps.42-46 and our study papers concerning the sacred observances, festivals, and sacrifices after the return of Christ.
GALATIANS 3:19 EXPLAINED
It is important to remember that one reason the present belief concerning Galatians 3:19 came about is that most theologians and Bible scholars understood that the Ten Commandments were not canceled when Christ was crucified. However, they did not clearly understand the eternal nature of God's law and its prophetic relationship to the Messiah. Moreover, they did not know what the law that was to last until the Seed (the Son of God) came was; therefore, they put forth the theory that the added law must have been the sacrificial system and the other laws that God spoke to Moses.
In order get a better understanding of Galatians 3:19 it is necessary to establish the context in which Paul makes the statement about the law that some feel was added:
"Now the promises were made to Abraham and his descendants. . . What I mean is this: the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was introduced four hundred and thirty years after this, cannot set aside this covenant. For if the inheritance depends upon the law, then it no longer depends upon the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham" (Gal.3:16-18 Para.).
These verses show that the context of Galatians 3:19 is within a review of the promises and covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants.
While studying the writings of Paul, notice that he emphatically states that the Ten Commandments are holy, just, and good, and that they are the spiritual part of God's law. See Rom.chp.7.
It is also evident from the scriptures that Paul, the rest of the apostles, and Christ kept the Ten Commandments and other laws of God.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the breaking of the Ten Commandments constitutes sin (1.Jn.3:4), and that the Ten Commandments are not in question in the Book of Galatians. What is in question is the method by which a person becomes justified or declared righteous in the eyes of God—through grace or the law?
The following are two translations of what Galatians 3:19 states concerning the reason God gave the law:
Both of these translations show that the purpose of the law spoken of here is to show people their sins. Moreover, Paul brings out this point when he says, "By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom.3:20).
The most important question to be answered surrounding Galatians chapter three does not concern the exact translation of the Greek word 'prostithemi' ('added' or 'repeated') in verse 3; it concerns the reason that the law was added or repeated. However, if the word added is replaced with 'repeated', a huge difference in meaning is revealed.
We know that God gave Adam and Eve the Ten Commandments and other laws after they disobeyed him and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because both Abel and Cain offered sacrifices (Gen.4:4-7). Moreover, Cain sinned (Gen.4:8), and sin is the violation of any law of God (1.Jn.3:4). Additionally Abraham obeyed God's law (Gen.26:5).
It is very important to understand that Israel's descendants forgot God's laws while they sojourned in Egypt. They had even forgotten which day was the Sabbath. Therefore, God had to show them which day it was by a special miracle (Ex.16). The laws that they forgot included laws that dictated how to establish and maintain a harmonious relationship with God through the sacrificial system. Therefore, at Mount Sinai, God repeated his laws to them for the purpose of showing them what sin is. Moreover, he explained how to perform the sacrificial system in order to remove physical defilement and atone for their sins so that these sins could be set aside and hidden from his view.
Another important point is that, in Galatians chapter three, Paul refers to the law that was a part of the first covenant with national Israel, which would last until Christ came and offered his life as the perfect sacrifice for those who would accept it as having the power to remove their sins and erase the death penalty that hung over their heads as a result of the many times they had violated the law of God.
See our study paper concerning the first and second agreements with Israel and the agreement with those who are called to salvation during the gospel age.
In Galatians 3:19, Paul says something that is understood by very few people. He says that the law would last until Christ came. The question is what law would only last until Christ came?
The Ten Commandments are holy and spiritual (Rom.7:14) and cannot be done away with. Moreover, they were never in question and they were being practiced by the apostles and the early church; therefore, logic should tell us that whatever law would only last until Christ came must have been something other than the Ten Commandments.
It can only be assumed that, Because Paul referred to the first agreement God made with national Israel, whatever law was to last until Christ came concerns the terms and conditions of this first agreement.
When the first agreement with ancient Israel and the prophecies about its cancellation are examined, it can be found that the only thing canceled and changed has to do with the method by which a person establishes and maintains a harmonious relationship with God (i.e., how one obtains justification).
"Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them, says the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer.31:31-33 KJV).
A new agreement was necessary, because the Israelites broke the first one; moreover, the new agreement would become a part of each individual child of God.
CHRIST CANCELS THE FIRST AGREEMENT
"Wherefore when he comes into the world, he says, Sacrifice and offering you would not [don't want], but a body have you prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure.
"Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do your will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin you would not [don't want], neither had pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
"Then said he, Lo, I come to do your will, O God. He takes away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb.10:5-10 quoted from Psalm 40:6-8).
The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Christ was the perfect sacrifice and that, through him, the first agreement was canceled in favor of a far better one. And under this new agreement, a person can be set apart for a holy purpose through his sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin:
"For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb.10:14 KJV).
By Jesus Christ's perfect sacrifice a person is now able to stand before God the Father as a righteous, sinless individual.
The major difference between the terms and conditions of the old and the new agreements with national Israel has to do with the method by which a person becomes justified before God the Father.
Why did the first agreement with national Israel have to end? The first agreement had to end because, in order to be declared righteous in God's eyes under the first agreement, a person had to do all of the things contained in the law:
"And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us" (Deut.6:25 Para.).
Speaking of everyone, except Jesus Christ, Paul said that all have sinned and found to be unworthy of the glory of being able to perfectly keep the Law of God on their own. See Rom.3:23.
As we know, the sacrifice of the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins (Heb.10:4). So, the sacrifices that were offered before the advent of Christ could not take away sins; they were inadequate.
TWO NECESSARY CHANGES
There were two necessary changes that had to be made in the agreement with national Israel in order to fulfill the promises that God had made with the Patriarchs and to accomplish the salvation of humanity.
First, in order for a person to remain sinless before God, there needed to be a perfect sacrifice to atone for sins and to remove the record of these sins forever.
Second, there needed to be a change made in the hearts, minds, and spirits of people so that they would have the desire to keep the law of God.
Both of the conditions for these necessary changes were met by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through his sacrifice, he paid the penalty for the sins of humanity and provided a way for a person to become totally sinless. Because God's spirit-presence can only dwell where there is sinlessness, a person could only become sinless after the sacrifice of Christ, which made it possible for the power of God to transform the sinless person into a new creation, through the placing of the law of God into a person's very being, which causes a change in the heart, mind, and spirit.
This is why a new agreement was necessary. The old method of justification by works was only to last until Christ came, when everyone could be justified (declared righteous) by belief in the perfect atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The events of the Passover and the Day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. canceled the first agreement with national Israel and ushered in a new agreement with all of humanity. This new agreement is a part of the plan of God for the salvation of humanity, which was conceived long before the foundation of the earth and the creation of humanity. See Matt.26:27-28; 1.Cor.11:25.
The method by which people were to be able to establish and maintain a harmonious relationship with God (justification, through the performance of physical works) was only to last until the Creator God himself could come to make the necessary change in the agreement with the Patriarchs, Israel, and the rest of humanity.
GALATIANS 3:21-29 Paraphrased
In verse 21 Paul says that the law is righteous (Ps.119:137-144), but the people failed in their attempt to keep the law, because they were weak:
"Is the law against the promises that God gave to Abraham that we could be justified by our belief in him [Jesus Christ]? Paul answers: God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" (vs.21-22).
Paul explains that the scriptures say that all have failed in their own attempts to keep God's law and to be righteous in his eyes. And the reason for this failure is that God made humans subject to sin so that no one could ever be justified by one's own efforts; therefore, they would have to look to the promise of becoming righteous through faith in Christ.
"But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed" (v23).
Paul said that, before Christ came, we were all held prisoner by the law and were all awaiting death. We were in prison, because the law requires death for the breaking of God's law. Because all people have broken the law, all come under the death penalty. But Christ came and revealed a way to be set free. All a person has to do is believe in the atoning power of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and one can be set free from the penalty of eternal death, because Christ paid the penalty by standing in the place of humanity and accepting their punishment.
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (v24).
The law taught what was right and wrong. But, it also held humanity captive until Christ came so that we could be justified by his blood; thus, we could be justified by faith.
"But after faith came, we are no longer under the schoolmaster" (v25).
After Christ came and revealed how we could be justified by faith in him, we were no longer under the death penalty that the law (the schoolmaster) had invoked. We were acquitted of our crimes and set free, through the redeeming blood of Christ.
"For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (vs.26-27).
After baptism into the Family of God, a person is given the spirit of Christ, which dwells within them; therefore, that person has also been clothed with the life of Christ himself.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, . . . bond nor free, . . . male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you be Christ's [accept him], then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise [the promises that God gave to Abraham]" (vs.28-29).
This study has shown that the sacrifices and the laws that God gave to Moses are the Laws of God, and these laws did not originate from Moses. Moreover, they are not an added law, as the King James Version and several other modern versions of Galatians 3:19 seem to indicate. However, these laws were all given as a whole, each one is dependent on the other, and each one has its place in the plan that God has for the benefit and salvation of mankind.