What is the purpose of the law for the Christian? (3:21-23)
This is question that is at the very heart of Galatians. First, I think it is good to be reminded of what I think is the primary purpose of the Law: to separate Israel from the nations around them. I think this is why the Judaizers were having so much trouble with what Paul was preaching and teaching, because they had been taught that this is what separated God’s people from the world.
Second, we notice that in verses 21-25 of chapter 3 Paul gives four basic truths about the Law. First, Paul tells us that the law was unable to bring life to people (v. 21). Second, the Apostle compares the function of of law and promise in history (v. 22). Third, is Paul’s explanation of the function of the law (vv. 23-25). Finally, Paul explains that the function of the law has been suspended (v. 25) (pp. 181-84; The NIV Application Commentary: Galatians; Scot McKnight).
Scot McKnight wrote; “I think, then, that while the law has been suspended as a ‘contractual obligation’ or as the ‘covenant between people and God,’ it has not been suspended as a preliminary statement of God’s will, nor has it been suspended as a moral check on all human behavior” (p. 187).
As Christians we understand that because of Christ’s sacrifice that we no longer have to offer animal sacrifices or that we don’t have to go to the Temple to worship God. Yet, we continue to acknowledge that God’s will is revealed to us in the Ten Commandments (although the Sabbath day has been re-interpreted) and the other “moral” commands we find in the Old Testament. In other words the function of the Law for Christians is to be an advisor or a guide. We are not obligated to it, the Law no longer is the boundary marker for God’s people, but it provides us with the knowledge we need to know how to live as God’s people in the world.