Sabbath School: Galatians 3:21-25 | E. J. Waggoner


November 3, I900.

(Gal. 3:18-26, R. V.)

“IF the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise; but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise. What then is the law? [Wherefore then the law?] It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid [not by any means]; for if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been by the law. Howbeit the Scripture hath shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all the sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus.”

“The Scripture hath concluded all under sin,” “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The rendering “shut up” is, however, much better than “concluded,” solely because it is simpler. The word “concluded” is borrowed from the Latin, and means “shut up,” but since it is used in so many accommodated senses, the plain Anglo-Saxon equivalent is more expressive. The idea to be conveyed is that of being shut up in prison, as is shown by the words “in ward.”

To the earnest Bible student it will not be necessary to say, Do not become tired of the frequent repetition of the Scripture text, nor of the fact that so few verses are included in each lesson; for be will be glad of as much time and opportunity as possible to meditate upon the sacred words, so that they may unfold their treasures to his understanding. Before studying the verses in this lesson, go over the entire chapter from the beginning, and be sure that you grasp the force of every sentence and every word, and its relation to every other. There is much sweetness in the words of the Lord,--they are sweeter than honey and the honeycomb,--but they often need to be held in the mouth a long time in order that the sweetness may be extracted.


By what means does the inheritance come? 
How did God give it to Abraham?
How sure was the promise made?
What effect could the entering of the law have upon the covenant thus confirmed?
What, then, was the use of the law?
What has the law to do with transgressions?
“By the law is the knowledge of sin.”
For how long a time will the law stand as the revealer and condemner of sin?
Why not longer?
Because after the coming of the Lord and the restoration of all things, there will be no sin to be found in the universe.
In whose hand is the law even when given from Sinai? What does this show?
That even the awfulness of Sinai only emphasizes the abundance of the grace of God, and shows the greatness of God's gift by grace.
Is the law then against the promises of God? 
How, then, does it stand in relation to them?
Under what conditions would righteousness have come by the law?
Can the law make alive?
“The law worketh wrath.” Rom. :15. 
What has the law--the Scripture--done? 
“The Scripture hath shut up all under sin.”
Why hath the Scripture shut up all under sin? Is it to drive them to destruction?
“That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”
In what condition is a man who does not believe?
“Before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up.” “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” John 3:18.
Unto what are the unbelieving sinners shut up?
“Shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” 
What is, then, the office of the law?
“The law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ.” 
What for?
“That we might be justified by faith.”
What takes place when faith comes?
“We are no longer under a tutor.” 
Why not?
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”


  1. The law coming in at Sinai was not as an antagonist to the promises of God, but a faithful ally. The law was contained in the promise to Abraham; for the everlasting inheritance is only the fruit of everlasting righteousness, which is manifested in the lives of believers, because the Holy Spirit of promise writes the law in their hearts, making it their life. The entering of the law, with all the terrors of the day of judgment, show how great is this righteousness, and how utterly impossible it is for anybody to attain to it, and thus gain the inheritance by his own efforts. Thus the law from Sinai works in perfect harmony with the promise, by throwing everybody back upon the sure promise and the oath of God.
  2. “By one man sin came into the world, and death by sin.” Sin is death. We were all “dead in trespasses and sins.” If the law could make alive, surely righteousness would have come by it, and then there would have been no need of the promises of God. But “the law worketh wrath.” It shows the sinfulness of sin, making the offense which seemed trivial, or of which we were ignorant, to abound, to appear just as it is in the sight of God. This is a most useful office. The one who will sharply call our attention to the fact that we are about to walk over a precipice, or to swallow a poison, and thus give us an opportunity to avoid the impending destruction, is counted as our friend.
  3. So the Scripture--the law--hath shut up all men under sin, keeping watch over them, not relaxing one jot or tittle of its claims. We can not break out of that prison; there is only one door of escape, and that is faith in Jesus Christ. The law, instead of requiring men to keep it in order to be saved, as some suppose; will not allow anybody to be saved except by faith in Christ Jesus. The righteousness which is by the faith of Jesus Christ is witnessed to by the law as well as the prophets. See Rom. 3:20, 22; Acts 10:43.
  4. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a pedagogue. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 5:1. The law does not relax any of its claims; but we no longer feel its grip upon us; it no longer holds us in prison, because, seeking its precepts, we walk at liberty. Ps. 119:45. The undefiled in the way walk in the law of the Lord (Ps. 119:1), and the law being in them, it can no more be against them. By faith in Christ we are sons of God, the Spirit bearing witness that we are sons; and so, since we walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us. Rom. 8:4.