Proverbs 4 & Galatians 3

Proverbs 4

    Hear, O sons, a father's instruction,
        and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
    for I give you good precepts;
        do not forsake my teaching.
    When I was a son with my father,
        tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
    he taught me and said to me,
    “Let your heart hold fast my words;
        keep my commandments, and live.
    Get wisdom; get insight;
        do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
    Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
        love her, and she will guard you.
    The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
        and whatever you get, get insight.
    Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
        she will honor you if you embrace her.
    She will place on your head a graceful garland;
        she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
    Hear, my son, and accept my words,
        that the years of your life may be many.
    I have taught you the way of wisdom;
        I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
    When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
        and if you run, you will not stumble.
    Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
        guard her, for she is your life.
    Do not enter the path of the wicked,
        and do not walk in the way of the evil.
    Avoid it; do not go on it;
        turn away from it and pass on.
    For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
        they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
    For they eat the bread of wickedness
        and drink the wine of violence.
    But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
        which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
    The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
        they do not know over what they stumble.
    My son, be attentive to my words;
        incline your ear to my sayings.
    Let them not escape from your sight;
        keep them within your heart.
    For they are life to those who find them,
        and healing to all their flesh.
    Keep your heart with all vigilance,
        for from it flow the springs of life.
    Put away from you crooked speech,
        and put devious talk far from you.
    Let your eyes look directly forward,
        and your gaze be straight before you.
    Ponder the path of your feet;
        then all your ways will be sure.
    Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
        turn your foot away from evil.

(Proverbs 4 ESV)

Galatians 3

    O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

    Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

    For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

    To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

    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. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

    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.

    Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

(Galatians 3 ESV)

Galatians 3: In our generation that only wants to talk about grace and love and acceptance and tolerance and political correctness, many of us (even those among the church) have come to believe that God’s Law is too ancient and therefore too irrelevant to even worry about or take too seriously. However, Paul deals with its importance here, and in doing so, he shows us the way in which the Law was first given by God to expose us. God’s Law exposes us as sinners, and exposes the extent to which we sin.  

What do we mean when we say that God gave us His Law to expose us? Paul writes that God gave us His Law “because of transgressions”. What does Paul mean when he says “it was added because of transgressions”? 

An imperfect example from parenting might help: My children were born sinful (as is everyone). As soon as they could move around, they would snatch things from each other, throw fits when they didn’t get what they wanted, and fight with anybody that they felt wasn’t acting in accordance with their desires. 

Now, I didn’t have to teach them any of these selfish behaviors. It just came natural. However, what I do have to teach them is the way in which these types of behaviors are wrong and have very real consequences for themselves and those around them. Although they’re born acting this way, it’s not until I teach them about selfishness, stealing, anger and jealousy that they come to see these specific errors in their own behavior. Not only that, they come to see how often they make these errors and the extent to which they struggle to not be that way. I don’t teach my children about selfishness and anger so that they can now begin to earn my love and acceptance through their obedience; I do so in order to guide them in how to flourish as a human being and to expose the various ways that they hinder this flourishing through their own harmful behavior. 

You see, on one end God’s Law reveals the way in which we were designed to flourish as God’s creation (positive effect), but it also exposes the rebellious nature inside all of us that seeks to do what we want to do over what God wants for us (negative effect). The Law exposes sin and the universal truth that we are in fact sinners. The Law makes our sinfulness plain and obvious.

Elsewhere, Paul writes: 

  • “Through the Law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3). 
  • “Where there is no Law there is no transgression” (Romans 4). 
  • “If it had not been for the Law, I would not have known sin” (Romans 7). 

You see, the Law of God actually gives our sins a name and a category. Paul actually says in Romans, “For I would not have known what it is to covet if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7). 

So God’s Law has a way of taking off the outer shell of what looks like a respectable human being and revealing what a rebellious creature and moral mess we all truly are behind the surface.

Tragically, as long as you think of yourself as being an alright and descent person, you’re going to be deceived by your own pride and overconfidence. You’ll hardly think about the greatness of God. You’ll remain almost indifferent to God’s grace and mercy. And you’ll pay little attention to the promises of God in Christ. God’s Law exposes that we are in fact… sinners.