Luther's Commentary on the Epistle
to the Galatians(1535)
From the Project Wittenburg Website
[Translated by Theodore Graebner (Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1949. This text was prepared by Laura J. Hoelter
for Project Wittenberg by Robert E. Smith and is in the public domain.
You may freely distribute, copy or print this text.]
The Twofold Purpose of the Law
VERSE 16. Now to Abraham and his seed
were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as
of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
The word testament is another name for the promise that God made unto
Abraham concerning Christ. A testament is not a law, but an inheritance.
Heirs do not look for laws and assessments when they open a last will; they
look for grants and favors. The testament which God made out to Abraham did
not contain laws. It contained promises of great spiritual blessings.
The promises were made in view of Christ, in one seed, not in many seeds.
The Jews will not accept this interpretation. They insist that the singular
"seed" is put for the plural "seeds." We prefer the interpretation of Paul,
who makes a fine case for Christ and for us out of the singular "seed," and
is after all inspired to do so by the Holy Ghost.
VERSE 17. And this I say, that the
covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law which was
four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should
make the promise of none effect.
The Jews assert that God was not satisfied with His promises, but after
four hundred and thirty years He gave the Law. "God," they say, "must have
mistrusted His own promises, and considered them inadequate for salvation.
Therefore He added to His promises something better, the Law. The Law," they
say, "canceled the promises."
Paul answers: "The Law was given four hundred and thirty years after the
promise was made to Abraham. The Law could not cancel the promise because
the promise was the testament of God, confirmed by God in Christ many years
before the Law. What God has once promised He does not take back. Every
promise of God is a ratified promise."
Why was the Law added to the promise? Not to serve as a medium by which
the promise might be obtained. The Law was added for these reasons: That
there might be in the world a special people, rigidly controlled by the Law,
a people out of which Christ should be born in due time; and that men
burdened by many laws might sigh and long for Him, their Redeemer, the seed
of Abraham. Even the ceremonies prescribed by the Law foreshadowed Christ.
Therefore the Law was never meant to cancel the promise of God. The Law was
meant to confirm the promise until the time should come when God would open
His testament in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
God did well in giving the promise so many years before the Law, that it
may never be said that righteousness is granted through the Law and not
through the promise. If God had meant for us to be justified by the Law, He
would have given the Law four hundred and thirty years before the promise,
at least He would have given the Law at the same time He gave the promise.
But He never breathed a word about the Law until four hundred years after.
The promise is therefore better than the Law. The Law does not cancel the
promise, but faith in the promised Christ cancels the Law.
The Apostle is careful to mention the exact number of four hundred and
thirty years. The wide divergence in the time between the promise and the
Law helps to clinch Paul's argument that righteousness is not obtained by
Let me illustrate. A man of great wealth adopts a strange lad for his
son. Remember, he does not owe the lad anything. In due time he appoints the
lad heir to his entire fortune. Several years later the old man asks the lad
to do something for him. And the young lad does it. Can the lad then go
around and say that he deserved the inheritance by his obedience to the old
man's request ? How can anybody say that righteousness is obtained by
obedience to the Law when the Law was given four hundred and thirty years
after God's promise of the blessing?
One thing is certain, Abraham was never justified by the Law, for the
simple reason that the Law was not in his day. If the Law was non-existent
how could Abraham obtain righteousness by the Law? Abraham had nothing else
to go by but the promise. This promise he believed and that was counted unto
him for righteousness. If the father obtained righteousness through faith,
the children get it the same way.
We use the argument of time also. We say our sins were taken away by the
death of Christ fifteen hundred years ago, long before there were any
religious orders, canons, or rules of penance, merits, etc. What did people
do about their sins before these new inventions were hatched up?
Paul finds his arguments for the righteousness of faith everywhere. Even
the element of time serves to build his case against the false apostles. Let
us fortify our conscience with similar arguments. They help us in the trials
of our faith. They turn our attention from the Law to the promises, from sin
to righteousness; from death to life.
It is not for nothing that Paul bears down on this argument. He foresaw
this confusion of the promise and the Law creeping into the Church. Accustom
yourself to separate Law and Gospel even in regard to time. When the Law
comes to pay your conscience a visit, say: "Mister Law, you come too soon.
The four hundred and thirty years aren't up yet. When they are up, you come
again. Won't you ?"
VERSE 18. For if the inheritance be of
the law, it is no more of promise.
In Romans 4:14, the Apostle writes: "For if they which are made of the
law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect." It
cannot be otherwise. That the Law is something entirely different from the
promise is plain. The Law thunders: "Thou shalt, thou shalt not." The
promise of the "seed" pleads: "Take this gift of God." If the inheritance of
the gifts of God were obtained by the Law, God would be a liar. We would
have the right to ask Him: "Why did you make this promise in the first
place: 'In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed'? Why did
you not say: 'In thy works thou shalt be blessed'?"
So much is certain, before the Law ever existed, God gave Abraham the
inheritance or blessing by the promise. In other words, God granted unto
Abraham remission of sins, righteousness, salvation, and everlasting life.
And not only to Abraham but to all believers, because God said: "In thy seed
shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." The blessing was given
unconditionally. The Law had no chance to butt in because Moses was not yet
born. "How then can you say that righteousness is obtained by the Law?"
The Apostle now goes to work to explain the province and purpose of the
The question naturally arises: If the Law was not given for righteousness
or salvation, why was it given? Why did God give the Law in the first place
if it cannot justify a person?
The Jews believed if they kept the Law they would be saved. When they
heard that the Gospel proclaimed a Christ who had come into the world to
save sinners and not the righteous; when they heard that sinners were to
enter the kingdom of heaven before the righteous, the Jews were very much
put out. They murmured: "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast
made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day."
(Matthew 20:12.) They complained that the heathen who at one time had been
worshipers of idols obtained grace without the drudgery of the Law that was
Today we hear the same complaints. "What was the use of our having lived
in a cloister, twenty, thirty, forty years; what was the sense of having
vowed chastity, poverty, obedience; what good are all the masses and
canonical hours that we read; what profit is there in fasting, praying,
etc., if any man or woman, any beggar or scour woman is to be made equal to
us, or even be considered more acceptable unto God than we?"
Reason takes offense at the statement of Paul: "The law was added because
of transgressions." People say that Paul abrogated the Law, that he is a
radical, that he blasphemed God when he said that. People say: "We might as
well live like wild people if the Law does not count. Let us abound in sin
that grace may abound. Let us do evil that good may come of it."
What are we to do? Such scoffing distresses us, but we cannot stop it.
Christ Himself was accused of being a blasphemer and rebel. Paul and all the
other apostles were told the same things. Let the scoffers slander us, let
them spare us not. But we must not on their account keep silent. We must
speak frankly in order that afflicted consciences may find surcease. Neither
are we to pay any attention to the foolish and ungodly people for abusing
our doctrine. They are the kind that would scoff, Law or no Law. Our first
consideration must be the comfort of troubled consciences, that they may not
perish with the multitudes.
When he saw that some were offended at his doctrine, while others found
in it encouragement to live after the flesh, Paul comforted himself with the
thought that it was his duty to preach the Gospel to the elect of God, and
that for their sake he must endure all things. Like Paul we also do all
these things for the sake of God's elect. As for the scoffers and skeptics,
I am so disgusted with them that in all my life I would not open my mouth
for them once. I wish that they were back there where they belong under the
iron heel of the Pope.
People foolish but wise in their conceits jump to the conclusion: If the
Law does not justify, it is good for nothing. How about that? Because money
does not justify, would you say that money is good for nothing? Because the
eyes do not justify, would you have them taken out? Because the Law does not
justify it does not follow that the Law is without value. We must find and
define the proper purpose of the Law. We do not offhand condemn the Law
because we say it does not justify.
We say with Paul that the Law is good if it is used properly. Within its
proper sphere the Law is an excellent thing. But if we ascribe to the Law
functions for which it was never intended, we pervert not only the Law but
also the Gospel.
It is the universal impression that righteousness is obtained through the
deeds of the Law. This impression is instinctive and therefore doubly
dangerous. Gross sins and vices may be recognized or else repressed by the
threat of punishment. But this sin, this opinion of man's own righteousness
refuses to be classified as sin. It wants to be esteemed as high-class
religion. Hence, it constitutes the mighty influence of the devil over the
entire world. In order to point out the true office of the Law, and thus to
stamp out that false impression of the righteousness of the Law, Paul
answers the question: "Wherefore then serveth the Law?" with the words:
All things differ. Let everything serve its unique purpose. Let the sun
shine by day, the moon and the stars by night. Let the sea furnish fish, the
earth grain, the woods trees, etc. Let the Law also serve its unique
purpose. It must not step out of character and take the place of anything
else. What is the function of the Law? "Transgression," answers the Apostle.
The Law has a twofold purpose. One purpose is civil. God has ordained
civil laws to punish crime. Every law is given to restrain sin. Does it not
then make men righteous? No. In refraining from murder, adultery, theft, or
other sins, I do so under compulsion because I fear the jail, the noose, the
electric chair. These restrain me as iron bars restrain a lion and a bear.
Otherwise they would tear everything to pieces. Such forceful restraint
cannot be regarded as righteousness, rather as an indication of
unrighteousness. As a wild beast is tied to keep it from running amuck, so
the Law bridles mad and furious man to keep him from running wild. The need
for restraint shows plainly enough that those who need the Law are not
righteous, but wicked men who are fit to be tied. No, the Law does not
The first purpose of the Law, accordingly, is to restrain the wicked.
The devil gets people into all kinds of scrapes. Therefore God
instituted governments, parents, laws, restrictions, and civil
ordinances. At least they help to tie the devil's hands so that he does
not rage up and down the earth. This civil restraint by the Law is
intended by God for the preservation of all things, particularly for the
good of the Gospel that it should not be hindered too much by the tumult
of the wicked. But Paul is not now treating of this civil use and
function of the Law.
The second purpose of the Law is spiritual and divine. Paul describes
this spiritual purpose of the Law in the words, "Because of
transgressions," i.e., to reveal to a person his sin, blindness, misery,
his ignorance, hatred, and contempt of God, his death, hell, and
This is the principal purpose of the Law and its most valuable
contribution. As long as a person is not a murderer, adulterer, thief, he
would swear that he is righteous. How is God going to humble such a person
except by the Law? The Law is the hammer of death, the thunder of hell, and
the lightning of God's wrath to bring down the proud and shameless
hypocrites. When the Law was instituted on Mount Sinai it was accompanied by
lightning, by storms, by the sound of trumpets, to tear to pieces that
monster called self-righteousness. As long as a person thinks he is right he
is going to be incomprehensibly proud and presumptuous. He is going to hate
God, despise His grace and mercy, and ignore the promises in Christ. The
Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins through Christ will never appeal to
This monster of self-righteousness, this stiff-necked beast, needs a big
axe. And that is what the Law is, a big axe. Accordingly, the proper use and
function of the Law is to threaten until the conscience is scared stiff.
The awful spectacle at Mount Sinai portrayed the proper use of the Law.
When the children of Israel came out of Egypt a feeling of singular holiness
possessed them. They boasted: "We are the people of God. All that the Lord
hath spoken we will do." (Ex. 19:8) This feeling of holiness was heightened
when Moses ordered them to wash their clothes, to refrain from their wives,
and to prepare themselves all around. The third day came and Moses led the
people out of their tents to the foot of the mountain into the presence of
the Lord. What happened? When the children of Israel saw the whole mountain
burning and smoking, the black clouds rent by fierce lightning flashing up
and down in the inky darkness, when they heard the sound of the trumpet
blowing louder and longer, shattered by the roll of thunder, they were so
frightened that they begged Moses: "Speak thou with us, and we will hear:
but let not God speak with us, lest we die." (Ex. 20:19.) I ask you, what
good did their scrubbing, their snow-white clothes, and their continence do
them? No good at all. Not a single one could stand in the presence of the
glorious Lord. Stricken by the terror of God, they fled back into their
tents, as if the devil were after them.
The Law is meant to produce the same effect today which it produced at
Mount Sinai long ago. I want to encourage all who fear God, especially those
who intend to become ministers of the Gospel, to learn from the Apostle the
proper use of the Law. I fear that after our time the right handling of the
Law will become a lost art. Even now, although we continually explain the
separate functions of the Law and the Gospel, we have those among us who do
not understand how the Law should be used. What will it be like when we are
dead and gone?
We want it understood that we do not reject the Law as our opponents
claim. On the contrary, we uphold the Law. We say the Law is good if it is
used for the purposes for which it was designed, to check civil
transgression, and to magnify spiritual transgressions. The Law is also a
light like the Gospel. But instead of revealing the grace of God,
righteousness, and life, the Law brings sin, death, and the wrath of God to
light. This is the business of the Law, and here the business of the Law
ends, and should go no further.
The business of the Gospel, on the other hand, is to quicken, to comfort,
to raise the fallen. The Gospel carries the news that God for Christ's sake
is merciful to the most unworthy sinners, if they will only believe that
Christ by His death has delivered them from sin and everlasting death unto
grace, forgiveness, and everlasting life. By keeping in mind the difference
between the Law and the Gospel we let each perform its special task. Of this
difference between the Law and the Gospel nothing can be discovered in the
writings of the monks or scholastics, nor for that matter in the writings of
the ancient fathers. Augustine understood the difference somewhat. Jerome
and others knew nothing of it. The silence in the Church concerning the
difference between the Law and the Gospel has resulted in untold harm.
Unless a sharp distinction is maintained between the purpose and function of
the Law and the Gospel, the Christian doctrine cannot be kept free from
In other words, that transgressions might be recognized as such and thus
increased. When sin, death, and the wrath of God are revealed to a person by
the Law, he grows impatient, complains against God, and rebels. Before that
he was a very holy man; he worshipped and praised God; he bowed his knees
before God and gave thanks, like the Pharisee. But now that sin and death
are revealed to him by the Law he wishes there were no God. The Law inspires
hatred of God. Thus sin is not only revealed by the Law; sin is actually
increased and magnified by the Law.
The Law is a mirror to show a person what he is like, a sinner who is
guilty of death, and worthy of everlasting punishment. What is this bruising
and beating by the hand of the Law to accomplish? This, that we may find the
way to grace. The Law is an usher to lead the way to grace. God is the God
of the humble, the miserable, the afflicted. It is His nature to exalt the
humble, to comfort the sorrowing, to heal the broken-hearted, to justify the
sinners, and to save the condemned. The fatuous idea that a person can be
holy by himself denies God the pleasure of saving sinners. God must
therefore first take the sledge-hammer of the Law in His fists and smash the
beast of self-righteousness and its brood of self-confidence, self-wisdom,
self-righteousness, and self-help. When the conscience has been thoroughly
frightened by the Law it welcomes the Gospel of grace with its message of a
Savior who came into the world, not to break the bruised reed, nor to quench
the smoking flax, but to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the
broken-hearted, and to grant forgiveness of sins to all the captives.
Man's folly, however, is so prodigious that instead of embracing the
message of grace with its guarantee of the forgiveness of sin for Christ's
sake, man finds himself more laws to satisfy his conscience. "If I live,"
says he, "I will mend my life. I will do this, I will do that." Man, if you
don't do the very opposite, if you don't send Moses with the Law back to
Mount Sinai and take the hand of Christ, pierced for your sins, you will
never be saved.
When the Law drives you to the point of despair, let it drive you a
little farther, let it drive you straight into the arms of Jesus who says:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you
The Law is not to have its say indefinitely. We must know how long the
Law is to put in its licks. If it hammers away too long, no person would and
could be saved. The Law has a boundary beyond which it must not go. How long
ought the Law to hold sway? "Till the seed should come to whom the promise
That may be taken literally to mean until the time of the Gospel. "From
the days of John the Baptist," says Jesus, "until now the kingdom of heaven
suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets
and the law prophesied until John." (Matthew 11:12, 13.) When Christ came
the Law and the ceremonies of Moses ceased.
Spiritually, it means that the Law is not to operate on a person after he
has been humbled and frightened by the exposure of his sins and the wrath of
God. We must then say to the Law: "Mister Law, lay off him. He has had
enough. You scared him good and proper." Now it is the Gospel's turn. Now
let Christ with His gracious lips talk to him of better things, grace,
peace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.
The Apostle digresses a little from his immediate theme. Something
occurred to him and he throws it in by the way. It occurred to him that the
Law differs from the Gospel in another respect, in respect to authorship.
The Law was delivered by the angels, but the Gospel by the Lord Himself.
Hence, the Gospel is superior to the Law, as the word of a lord is superior
to the word of his servant.
The Law was handed down by a being even inferior to the angels, by a
middleman named Moses. Paul wants us to understand that Christ is the
mediator of a better testament than mediator Moses of the Law. Moses led the
people out of their tents to meet God. But they ran away. That is how good a
mediator Moses was.
Paul says: "How can the Law justify when that whole sanctified people of
Israel and even mediator Moses trembled at the voice of God? What kind of
righteousness do you call that when people run away from it and hate it the
worst way? If the Law could justify, people would love the Law. But look at
the children of Israel running away from it."
The flight of the children of Israel from Mount Sinai indicates how
people feel about the Law. They don't like it. If this were the only
argument to prove that salvation is not by the Law, this one Bible history
would do the work. What kind of righteousness is this law-righteousness when
at the commencement exercises of the Law Moses and the scrubbed people run
away from it so fast that an iron mountain, the Red Sea even, could not have
stopped them until they were back in Egypt once again? If they could not
hear the Law, how could they ever hope to perform the Law?
If all the world had stood at the mountain, all the world would have
hated the Law and fled from it as the children of Israel did. The whole
world is an enemy of the Law. How, then, can anyone be justified by the Law
when everybody hates the Law and its divine author?
All this goes to show how little the scholastics know about the Law. They
do not consider its spiritual effect and purpose, which is not to justify or
to pacify afflicted consciences, but to increase sin, to terrify the
conscience, and to produce wrath. In their ignorance the papists spout about
man's good will and right judgment, and man's capacity to perform the Law of
God. Ask the people of Israel who were present at the presentation of the
Law on Mount Sinai whether what the scholastics say is true. Ask David, who
often complains in the Psalms that he was cast away from God and in hell,
that he was frantic about his sin, and sick at the thought of the wrath and
judgment of God. No, the Law does not justify
Here the Apostle briefly compares the two mediators: Moses and Christ. "A
mediator," says Paul, "is not a mediator of one." He is necessarily a
mediator of two: The offender and the offended. Moses was such a mediator
between the Law and the people who were offended at the Law. They were
offended at the Law because they did not understand its purpose. That was
the veil which Moses put over his face. The people were also offended at the
Law because they could not look at the bare face of Moses. It shone with the
glory of God. When Moses addressed the people he had to cover his face with
that veil of his. They could not listen to their mediator Moses without
another mediator, the veil. The Law had to change its face and voice. In
other words, the Law had to be made tolerable to the people.
Thus covered, the Law no longer spoke to the people in its undisguised
majesty. It became more tolerable to the conscience. This explains why men
fail to understand the Law properly, with the result that they become secure
and presumptuous hypocrites. One of two things has to be done: Either the
Law must be covered with a veil and then it loses its full effectiveness, or
it must be unveiled and then the full blast of its force kills. Man cannot
stand the Law without a veil over it. Hence, we are forced either to look
beyond the Law to Christ, or we go through life as shameless hypocrites and
Paul says: "A mediator is not a mediator of one." Moses could not be a
mediator of God only, for God needs no mediator. Again, Moses could not be a
mediator of the people only. He was a mediator between God and the people.
It is the office of a mediator to conciliate the party that is offended and
to placate the party that is the offender. However, Moses' mediation
consisted only in changing the tone of the Law to make it more tolerable to
the people. Moses was merely a mediator of the veil. He could not supply the
ability to perform the Law.
What do you suppose would have happened if the Law had been given without
a mediator and the people had been denied the services of a go- between? The
people would have perished, or in case they had escaped they would have
required the services of another mediator to preserve them alive and to keep
the Law in force. Moses came along and he was made the mediator. He covered
his face with a veil. But that is as much as he could do. He could not
deliver men's consciences from the terror of the Law. The sinner needs a
That better mediator is Jesus Christ. He does not change the voice of the
Law, nor does He hide the Law with a veil. He takes the full blast of the
wrath of the Law and fulfills its demands most meticulously.
Of this better Mediator Paul says: "A mediator is not a mediator of one."
We are the offending party; God is the party offended. The offense is of
such a nature that God cannot pardon it. Neither can we render adequate
satisfaction for our offenses. There is discord between God and us. Could
not God revoke His Law? No. How about running away from God? It cannot be
done. It took Christ to come between us and God and to reconcile God to us.
How did Christ do it? "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was
against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it
to his cross." (Col. 2:14.)
This one word, "mediator," is proof enough that the Law cannot justify.
Otherwise we should not need a mediator.
In Christian theology the Law does not justify. In fact it has the
contrary effect. The Law alarms us, it magnifies our sins until we begin to
hate the Law and its divine Author. Would you call this being justified by
Can you imagine a more arrant outrage than to hate God and to abhor His
Law? What an excellent Law it is. Listen: "I am the Lord thy God, which have
brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou
shalt have no other gods. . .showing mercy unto thousands . . . honor thy
father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land. . ." (Ex.
20:2, 3, 6, 12.) Are these not excellent laws, perfect wisdom? "Let not God
speak with us, lest we die," cried the children of Israel. Is it not amazing
that a person should refuse to hear things that are good for him? Any person
would be glad to hear, I should think, that he has a gracious God who shows
mercy unto thousands. Is it not amazing that people hate the Law that
promotes their safety and welfare, e.g., "Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt
not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal"?
The Law can do nothing for us except to arouse the conscience. Before the
Law comes to me I feel no sin. But when the Law comes, sin, death, and hell
are revealed to me. You would not call this being made righteous. You would
call it being condemned to death and hell-fire.
God does not offend anybody, therefore He needs no mediator. But we
offend God, therefore we need a mediator. And we need a better mediator than
Moses. We need Christ.
Before he digressed Paul stated that the Law does not justify. Shall we
then discard the Law? No, no. It supplies a certain need. It supplies men
with a needed realization of their sinfulness. Now arises another question:
If the Law does no more than to reveal sin, does it not oppose the promises
of God? The Jews believed that by the restraint and discipline of the Law
the promises of God would be hastened, in fact earned by them.
Paul answers: "Not so. On the contrary, if we pay too much attention to
the Law the promises of God will be slowed up. How can God fulfill His
promises to a people that hates the Law?"
God never said to Abraham: "In thee shall all the nations of the earth be
blessed because thou hast kept the Law." When Abraham was still
uncircumcised and without the Law or any law, indeed, when he was still an
idol worshiper, God said to him: "Get thee out of thy country, etc.; I am
thy shield, etc.; In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be
blessed." These are unconditional promises which God freely made to Abraham
without respect to works.
This is aimed especially at the Jews who think that the promises of God
are impeded by their sins. Paul says: "The Lord is not slack concerning His
promises because of our sins, or hastens His promises because of any merit
on our part." God's promises are not influenced by our attitudes. They rest
in His goodness and mercy.
Just because the Law increases sin, it does not therefore obstruct the
promises of God. The Law confirms the promises, in that it prepares a person
to look for the fulfillment of the promises of God in Christ.
The proverb has it that Hunger is the best cook. The Law makes afflicted
consciences hungry for Christ. Christ tastes good to them. Hungry hearts
appreciate Christ. Thirsty souls are what Christ wants. He invites them:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest." Christ's benefits are so precious that He will dispense them only to
those who need them and really desire them.
VERSE 21. For if there had been a law
given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been
by the law.
The Law cannot give life. It kills. The Law does not justify a person
before God; it increases sin. The Law does not secure righteousness; it
hinders righteousness. The Apostle declares emphatically that the Law of
itself cannot save.
Despite the intelligibility of Paul's statement, our enemies fail to
grasp it. Otherwise they would not emphasize free will, natural strength,
the works of supererogation, etc. To escape the charge of forgery they
always have their convenient annotation handy, that Paul is referring only
to the ceremonial and not to the moral law. But Paul includes all laws. He
expressly says: "If there had been a law given."
There is no law by which righteousness may be obtained, not a single one.
Where? First in the promises concerning Christ in Genesis 3:15 and in
Genesis 22:18, which speak of the seed of the woman and the seed of Abraham.
The fact that these promises were made unto the fathers concerning Christ
implies that the fathers were subject to the curse of sin and eternal death.
Otherwise why the need of promises?
Next, Holy Writ "concludes" all under sin in this passage from Paul: "For
as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse." Again, in the
passage which the Apostle quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26, "Cursed is every
one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the
law to do them." This passage clearly submits all men to the curse, not only
those who sin openly against the Law, but also those who sincerely endeavor
to perform the Law, inclusive of monks, friars, hermits, etc.
The conclusion is inevitable: Faith alone justified without works. If the
Law itself cannot justify, much less can imperfect performance of the Law or
the works of the Law, justify.
The Apostle stated before that "the Scripture hath concluded all under
sin." Forever? No, only until the promise should be fulfilled. The promise,
you will recall, is the inheritance itself or the blessing promised to
Abraham, deliverance from the Law, sin, death, and the devil, and the free
gift of grace, righteousness, salvation, and eternal life. This promise,
says Paul, is not obtained by any merit, by any law, or by any work. This
promise is given. To whom? To those who believe. In whom? In Jesus Christ.