Galatians 3:19a “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions,….”
Let’s say you have a toddler who has just learned to walk. You know the look: big belly in the front offset by big diaper in the back; their earliest introduction to the properties of physics. You have been working with your toddler so that when you stretch out your arms and say, “Come to daddy,” he comes to you. Your child is in the middle of the room and you are on one side and you stretch out your arms and say, “Come to daddy.” Your child smiles, perhaps giggles, and takes off in the opposite direction.
Cute? Yes. But what has just happened? “Come to daddy” is the law. Wilfulness that is in your child’s heart has now been brought to the surface by your command, “Come to daddy.” This is the work of the Law, to show the sin in our hearts.
Now let’s say that you move across the room, gently pick up your toddler so that you are face to face, and lovingly but firmly say, “Come to daddy.” Your child now begins to cry, even wail.
Cute? No. What has just happened? Now the wilfulness in your child’s heart, which was revealed before, is shown to be truly sinful. By his wailing, your child is saying, “Not thy will but my will be done.” This is the work of the Law, to show sin to be truly sinful.
And this is the meaning of “it was added because of transgressions” in Galatians 3:19. The Law was added to increase our sin by revealing it in our hearts, and to show that it is truly sinful…so that we will throw ourselves on the mercy of God and repent of our sin and believe in Jesus who died to redeem us from the Law.
And this is the ongoing work of the Spirit through God’s word, to continue to show the sin in our hearts so that we can confess it and forsake it and be changed into the likeness of Christ more and more each day. May this be the pattern of our daily life with God.