Q&A2002Q4F

Galatians 3:19

What is the point of Paul’s statement regarding the law being “ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator”?

By what the apostle Paul says he is primarily underscoring the fact that in view of the way in which the law was given and was “ordained” it should be obvious that by nature it is a different type of covenant from the one that was earlier on “confirmed before of God in Christ” and set forth by God in Abraham’s day. And indeed the law is just that. It is a different type of covenant with a different purpose to it.

As Paul began pointing out from back at verse 15, by all sound principles of jurisprudence the law cannot be looked upon as fulfilling the same purpose as the covenanted promise to Abraham. Nor can the law be thought of as annulling that previously covenanted promise and/or replacing it, nor being something that was later added to it like a ‘rider clause,’ etc. Legally this is impossible. Even man’s own jurisprudence won’t allow it. (And again this kind of recognition and understanding is just what Paul is after, as verses 15ff make clear, in view of the fact that the law was being deceitfully taught as if it was the means for obtaining justification in God’s sight.)

Moreover, by being “ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator” as verse 19 declares, the law is all the more clearly and legally manifest not to be a covenant of the same kind, (and therefore not for the same purpose), as the one which God had already set forth and confirmed 430 years earlier in Abraham’s day. Again, legally speaking by the nature of its ‘ordaining’ the law covenant is manifest to be of a different variety altogether. Therefore its purpose also has to be different, just as Paul sets forth to be the case in the first part of verse 19.

Being “ordained” as it was, the law clearly is a two-party covenant, since a mediator was involved. And also with angels representing God on His side and being the agency through whom He gave the law to Israel, it was clearly dealing with something different from the issue of justification unto eternal life that God had earlier dealt with Abraham about, and had confirmed to him was resident in and confined to the merits of his singular “seed, which is Christ.”

So then since no angels and no mediator were involved in the covenant “confirmed before of God in Christ” in Abraham’s day, the law covenant obviously must be a different type of covenant with a different purpose. And again that’s exactly what it is.

In essence, and simply put, Galatians 3:15-20 is a legal attestation and certification based upon common principles of jurisprudence, (particularly those pertaining to covenant making), that the law covenant cannot be the means by which the Justice of God justifies men unto eternal life. It is legally impossible for it to be so. God’s Justice would have to be unjust, self contradictory, and corrupt for it to be so.

— K. R. Blades