“Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law”
Paul raises yet another question about the law. If the preceding verses are true, does this imply that the law and promise are in conflict?
Is the law then against the promises of God?
Did God give the law to frustrate grace? Paul makes explicit what the Galatians were thinking. They thought that Paul disparaged the law in his previous arguments.
It is inconceivable to think that the promise and the law are in conflict. God gave both the law and the promise but for different purposes. God is not at war with Himself!
For if there had been a law given which could have given life,
The purpose of the law is not to give life, but to can show the conditions for salvation. The purpose of the law is to show us our sin and the purpose of grace is to save us from sin.
No external rule can internally impart eternal life. The words “could have given life” mean to make alive, cause to live. This is a causative term. The law cannot cause life. It cannot produce eternal life.
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4).
truly righteousness would have been by the law
The word “truly” expresses what is actual as opposed to apparent. Hypothetically, if law could give eternal life, then it can give us the righteousness of God. The Greek “if” in the first phrase [“if there had been a law…”] answers this hypothesis– it is not true.
The difference between grace and law is not apparent to the legalists. There is a fundamental difference between the two. The law does not pretend to give eternal life so there is no conflict between grace and law.
Grace and law are not in conflict with one another because they serve two different purposes. It is not the purpose of law to produce eternal life. Grace is no more opposed to law any more than the surgeon’s scalpel opposes healing.
The law cannot give eternal life, only grace can do that.
The law demands perfect righteousness but it cannot give eternal life. It did not have the wherewithal to give that life. Some people look in a mirror but they do not profit by what they see because they do not wash their face! Law simply proves to us that we are sinful. It cannot make us accept the grace of God.
We obtain eternal life not by the law, but through the righteousness of Christ.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (Romans 3:20-22).
God gives eternal life to those who trust in Christ’s death to obtain forgiveness for sin.