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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”—Galatians 3:21–22 (ESV)
Don’t you just love rhetorical questions? That was a rhetorical question! You can’t see my face as I write this, but I’m smiling.
A rhetorical question is a clever language device used to subtly influence a reader or listener. It's a question asked for the effect, not because an answer is actually wanted.
In today’s Scripture, the apostle Paul asks the Galatians a rhetorical question: “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God?” Paul answers immediately, saying, “Certainly not!” Whenever Paul writes, “Certainly not” or “Absolutely not” or “By no means,” you can read it this way: “Don’t be ridiculous” or “Give me a break.”
The law is neither contrary to the promise nor is it able to fulfill the promise. The Galatians had been deceived into believing they needed to adhere to the Law of Moses in order to be saved, to receive life. But as Paul says here, the law can’t give life. In fact, the law can only give you a diagnosis of death.
Remember why the law was given? Galatians3:19 (NLT) tells us it was given “to show people their sins.” The law exposes sin as sin; it identifies that which is in opposition to God’s will and way, it shines a spotlight on our shortcomings and makes our need for salvation evident. Get this: The law was sort of like Mjolnir, Thor’s mighty hammer. Every single one of us who would try to carry it would fail. We’d struggle against it, struggle to lift it, only to find out we’re not worthy.
But here’s the good news: We don’t have to! We don’t need to work to earn our salvation, to have life. Jesus, the great I AM who IS worthy, already purchased it for us by His blood! As believers, we have salvation and life through Jesus Christ.
The law is working in its true purpose when we walk away saying, “Who can actually do this? It’s too hard! I can’t do it on my own.” It’s doing its job when we, like Paul, come to the place where we say, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24–25 NIV)!
Jesus came to do what the law could never do—He came to treat what the law diagnosed; He came to bring us life by taking our death.
DIG: What is the true purpose of the law?
DISCOVER: What does it look like to walk in the life Jesus died to give you?
DO: Join me today in shouting loud and proud that there is life in Christ, our living hope!
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.