Introduction: Last week we faced the legalists’ challenge: “If
righteousness by faith is the right approach, why did God introduce
the law at Sinai 430 years after His righteousness by faith contract
with Abraham?” As we tried to decipher what the legalists were
arguing, we decided that one possible argument is well-known to
American lawyers. When you have two conflicting laws, the newer law
controls over the older law. Sinai came after Abraham! However, to
win this argument, the legalists needed more than just timing, they
needed a conflict between Sinai and righteousness by faith. Let’s
dive into our Bibles to examine Paul’s continuing argument about

  1. The Conflict

    1. Read Galatians 3:21. Is there a conflict between the law
      and righteousness by faith? (Paul says not just “no,” but
      “absolutely not.”)

      1. Have you ever noticed that people sometimes shout to
        cover up being wrong? Is being emphatic with his
        “absolutely not” an attempt to hide a weakness in
        his argument?

      2. Sometimes we miss the forest because we are looking
        too closely at a single tree. How can Paul say there
        is no conflict? Isn’t he writing this letter to the
        Galatians because of the conflict? Didn’t he have
        to rebuke Peter because of the conflict? (See,
        Galatians 2:11-14.) Aren’t we discussing this right
        now because of the conflict?

      3. I can think of ways in which the law and grace are
        opposed. The law says “obey or die.” Grace says
        “believe and live.” In what way does Paul say they
        “absolutely” are not opposed? (The law cannot give
        us life. Paul says the law is useless to give us
        righteousness. Giving us righteousness is not its
        purpose. If the law could save us, then the
        legalists would be right about the conflict and the
        priority of the newer law.)

      4. Let’s slow down just a moment and consider this.
        Don’t the legalists think the purpose of the law is
        to save us? If you think the promise and the law
        have the same purpose, then you should go with the
        law, right? (This makes us examine the underlying
        issue – do the law and the promise have the same

  2. The Purpose

    1. Read Galatians 3:22-23. Paul says we are all prisoners.
      What do prisoners want? (Freedom. Honor.)

      1. Why do we not want to give prisoners freedom?
        (Because they do not deserve it.)

      2. Why do we deserve incarceration? (Because of sin.)

      3. You look like a pretty good group to me! Who is a
        prisoner of sin? (Everyone here. “The whole world.”)

      4. Haven’t we just discovered that Paul’s “absolutely
        no conflict” argument is absolutely wrong? If the
        law makes us prisoners, and grace sets us free, that
        seems like a huge conflict to me!

        1. If we look at the “purpose” question, isn’t the
          purpose of both law and grace to determine
          whether we should stay incarcerated?

    2. Let’s look at a practical example. Let’s say Law A tells
      us that if we are delinquent in our taxes, we can avoid
      any penalty if we either pay our taxes or join a church.
      Law B says that for those who do not pay their taxes the
      penalty is that they have to go to jail. Are those two
      laws in conflict? Lawyers, would a court strike down the
      earlier law? (No, you would not strike down the earlier
      law. Instead, would say that the two could be harmonized
      by declaring that the earlier law created exceptions to
      the general rule.)

    3. Look again at Galatians 3:23. We are prisoners in the
      lockup. Faith comes to visit us. What does “this faith
      came” mean? That you developed some faith? (Galatians
      3:22 refers to “faith in Jesus Christ,” but here it seems
      the reference is to Jesus. When Jesus (“this faith”)
      came, then a jailbreak was possible.)

  3. The Long View

    1. Recall that last week we examined the factual accuracy of
      the legalists’ timing argument: that the law came after
      the promise to Abraham. We discovered that this was not
      true for the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath commandment
      and the murder commandment were clearly known from the
      time of Adam and Eve. Was it just the law about
      sacrifices (the “ceremonial” law) that came later?

      1. Read Genesis 4:3-5. What does this suggest about the
        ceremonial? (It existed. Last week we looked at this
        story to learn that the moral law was already in
        place. Now we see that this story involves both the
        moral and ceremonial laws!)

      2. Read Genesis 7:1-3 and Genesis 7:7-9. Why would we
        see a reference to clean and unclean animals long
        before Leviticus 11 and its reference to animals
        which are “ceremonially unclean” ( Leviticus 11:4)?

      3. Is it possible that the legalists are wrong, and
        that the moral law and the ceremonial law existed
        from the very beginning? If so, why would God do

        1. Paul says that God has a different purpose for
          the law than He does for grace. Does that fit
          into the idea of the moral and ceremonial law
          co-existing from the beginning? (“Absolutely!”
          This shows that God thought the two had a
          separate purpose.)

  4. The Crusher

    1. Read Galatians 3:24. Let’s look closely at the phrase
      “the law was put in charge.” Some translations say the
      law was a “schoolmaster.” I read a couple of
      commentaries which said the Greek refers to a slave who
      is in charge of the master’s sons. Sort of like a
      “nanny” today. Notice that Paul calls us several names
      here. He has already called us prisoners. Now he adds
      “ignorant children,” “small children needing adult
      supervision.” Is that you?

      1. As a practical matter, what is the purpose of a
        child going to school, being raised by a nanny, or
        being tutored?

      2. What did you learn in school? What did you learn
        from your “nanny” (assuming you had one) or your
        parents (assuming you did not have a nanny)?(I
        learned two things in school. First, I learned
        positive lessons that I would need when I got older.
        Second, I learned negative lessons about myself. The
        longer I went to school, the dumber I learned I

        1. If, as we have discovered, God had the promise
          of grace and the requirements of the law
          sitting side by side during the history of
          humans, what is the school teacher, nanny,
          prison-master goal of the law? (Not simply to
          teach us God’s perfect standard, but to crush
          our pride. To teach us that we are not the
          smartest, most obedient people. To teach us
          that humanity in general, and you in
          particular, cannot keep God’s law.)

        2. Read Matthew 5:27-28. Are Jesus and Paul on the
          same track? (Jesus gives us a view of the law’s
          true obligation that takes away our pride.)

    2. Notice that Galatians 3:24 says that the law “leads us to
      Christ.” (The very fact that we are imprisoned by sin
      causes us to seek a way out. The fact that our pride is
      gone, that we realize that we need grace, causes us to
      seek grace. Jesus is the way out of sin. Thus, the role
      of the law is to lead us to Jesus and His promise of

  5. The Freedom

    1. Read Galatians 3:25. “faith has come” – meaning that
      Jesus came to the earth, lived and died in our place, and
      rose to everlasting life so that we could be saved. The
      law lead you, a crushed prisoner of sin, to this great
      source of freedom which you accept by faith. Are we
      together so far?

      1. Let’s follow Paul’s next line of logic. When the
        children grow up, are they no longer under the
        supervision of their elementary teachers, their
        nanny or their tutor? (No.)

        1. What kind of behavior would you expect?
          (Educated behavior! That is why we send them to

      2. What happens if the grown-up child violates the
        rules of the school, the nanny or the tutor?
        (Nothing – in terms of discipline by the school,
        nanny or tutor. But, unless these teachers were
        useless, violating the rule would likely have some
        practical consequences.)

      3. Are we under any supervision now? (If we are right
        that God always held the law and grace before the
        eyes of humans, that means a couple of things:

        1. It has always been God’s purpose for us to
          understand His standard, which crushes our
          prideful thoughts that we can reach His
          standard; and,

        2. Drives us to His (now fulfilled) promise of
          grace. Knowing the full picture is our current
          “supervision.” We both understand God’s
          standard for our life, and want to do anything
          for Him because of His gift of grace.)

    2. Friend, are you filled with the pride that you can earn
      your salvation? That something you can do will earn
      God’s eternal reward? Why not confess your pride today,
      and enter into a life-changing relationship with God?

  6. Next week: From Slaves to Heirs.