With the words of Scripture, we again ask, “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?” (Galatians 3:21). Our automatic answer is, “Yes.” Of course, the Law is contrary to the promises of God. Law and faith, law and grace, are opposed. The answer of the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, stuns us. “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be!” We misunderstand the Law. We forget God gave the Law to His people after He redeemed them from bondage in Egypt. Obedience to the Law is, therefore, not a way of salvation. Paul explains. “For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.”
We misunderstand the Law in another way. The statues and judgments God gave to Israel involved many moral stipulations. That Law also included a complex but important sacrificial system. Leviticus 18:3-4 reminded the people. “You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the LORD your God.”
To keep the statues, to perform God’s judgments, to live in accord with them meant taking both the moral stipulations and the regular sacrifices seriously. These sacrifices and offerings did at least two things. They reminded the people of their guilt. They pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Pious Israelites would, therefore, strive to live by the commandments of God. Realizing their weakness and failure to meet God’s standards perfectly, devout Israelites would make use of the sacrifices prescribed by God and seek God’s forgiveness. Doing and living God’s Law (Leviticus 18:5) included this recognition of sin. Doing and living God’s law involved receiving forgiveness by faith in the benefits of the sacrifices pointing to Christ.
An expert in the Old Testament Law confronted Christ and asked the Savior what he needed to do to inherit eternal life (Luke 10:25-29). Christ asked this lawyer how he read the Law. The lawyer quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,” and Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Christ commended the man and said, “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:28). Jesus either quotes Leviticus 18:5 or alludes to the doing and living spoken of there. The lawyer is of a legalistic mindset. He wants to justify himself (Luke 10:29). Jesus proceeds to tell the story of the Good Samaritan to expose the lawyer’s lack of love and his need for the sacrifices that point to the Savior standing before him.
This lawyer should have known that the Law was not a way to gain right standing with God. This lawyer should have known the Law points to Christ through its sacrifices and ceremonies. Like him, we quickly jump on the legalistic bandwagon with this so-called expert in the Old Testament Law. We must remember God gave His Law to us as redeemed people. God designed His Law as a standard of life within the redeemed community. The sacrifices of the Law pointed men and women to Christ. Doing and living remind us of our duty. Doing and living also involve recognizing our failures and sins, receiving Christ, and relying upon Him.