What does Galatians 3:19 mean?
ESV: Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
NIV: Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.
NASB: Why the Law then? It was added on account of the violations, having been ordered through angels at the hand of a mediator, until the Seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
CSB: Why, then, was the law given? It was added for the sake of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come. The law was put into effect through angels by means of a mediator.
NLT: Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.
KJV: Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
Verse Commentary:
This is a complicated and important verse in Galatians. Paul has been building a strong case for why the law cannot save us from our sin (Galatians 3:10–12). Instead, he teaches that God has always intended Christ to be the ultimate means of our salvation (Galatians 3:13–14). Now he asks the obvious question: "Why then the law?" In other words, what's the point? Why did God create and implement this complex collection of rules and regulations for His people Israel?

Paul's answer is that the law was added "because of transgressions." This is from the Greek word parabaseōn, a word which can mean "breaks, violations, breaches," or more simply as "sins." One purpose of the law may have been to show the Israelites what actions were sinful so they could avoid them. God, in His grace, gave them the law to show His own standards for their right and wrong behavior.

Paul may also mean something else by the phrase "because of transgressions," however. It's true that the law showed the Israelites God's standard for right and wrong. More than that, though, the law showed the Israelites that they wanted to do what was wrong and were unable to obey God's standard perfectly. Or, as Paul put it in Romans 5:20, "the law came to increase the trespass." God instituted the law, in part, to show the Israelites, and all of us, just how sinful we really are. Only sinful people know they need to be saved from their sin; the law convinces us of how much sin we have to be saved from.

In addition, Paul writes that the law was always meant to be temporary. It was added for God's people 430 years after God's promise to Abraham and his offspring (Galatians 3:17) and only meant to be applied until that one, specific offspring, Jesus, showed up to receive the promise as Abraham's ultimate descendant (Galatians 3:16).

Paul also says the law was put in place "through angels by an intermediary." This phrase can also be confusing, and is explained in better detail by Paul in the following verse.
Verse Context:
Galatians 3:15–22 begins with Paul making a legal argument about God's covenant with Abraham. This arrangement remained in place even during the later covenant of the law of Moses. Paul follows this by describing what the point of the law really is. It was given both to show what is sinful, and to show how sinful we are. By the law, we learn that we are not able to keep to God's standard and must be saved in another way. That other way is through faith in Christ. Once He arrived, this salvation was available to all people, including non-Jewish Gentiles.
Chapter Summary:
Paul indicates the Galatian Christians are foolish for believing they need to follow the law of Moses to be right with God. He offers three specific arguments to support this. First, they received God's Spirit in a powerful way after believing in Jesus, but before doing any works of the law. Second, Scripture itself shows God's blessing coming by faith, and His curse coming by the law. Christ paid the price of that curse on the cross. Third, God's covenant with Abraham is like a legal document, and it cannot be revoked.
Chapter Context:
In Galatians chapter 2, Paul declared that we can only be justified—''made right with God''—by faith in Christ and not by following the law of Moses. In chapter 3, Paul offers three arguments for why that is true. He argues from the Galatians own experience, from the Scriptures themselves, and from the legal standpoint of a covenant contract. Finally, Paul answers what the law is for if it cannot save us from our sin. In part, it reveals our sinfulness and convinces us of our need to be saved by faith in Christ. The following chapter will expand on what it means to be an ''heir,'' spiritually.
Book Summary:
Galatians is sometimes called “a short Romans” for its similar themes of justification and sanctification through faith. A group of Christians known as “Judaizers” were preaching a gospel of legalism, rather than grace. Paul’s main purpose in writing the letter to the Galatians was to reiterate the true nature of the gospel: we are justified (made righteous) and sanctified (made more Christlike) through our faith in Jesus Christ alone. This letter was probably written shortly before the church elders in Jerusalem issued their official refutation of the Judaizers, commonly called the Jerusalem Council.
Accessed 4/22/2024 4:11:08 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.