It was added because of transgressions. It imprisoned everything under sin. It held everyone captive. That’s how Paul, in the latter part of Galatians 3, explained the purpose and the dynamics of the law.
Far from being given as the way to God, the law actually revealed how great the distance men and women had run from God. The commandments of Moses, never able to be a means of justification before God, were more than able to be a mirror of the natural man’s propensity to turn his back on God. And so Paul says to the Galatians, “O foolish Galatians!” . . . having begun by faith why do you now think that you seal the deal by observing the law? That was never the law’s purpose. In fact, “all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse” (3:1, 3, 10).
Instead, the commandments of God had a greater redemptive purpose. They were to act as a temporary guardian.
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.
(Galatians 3:24-26 ESV)
The law was our guardian. Literally the law was to function as a guide of children, a tutor of those who knew no better until they matured in their understanding. My online lexicon says, “Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood.”
Never intended as the means, always intended to show the need. Never the way to righteousness, always revealing the depths of rebellion. Never able to be salvation, very effective in showing our need for salvation. Thus, leading us to the way of salvation–faith in the person and work of Jesus.
Faith in His person. He is Christ Jesus, the promised Messiah. The Offspring of Abraham through whom all nations would be blessed (Gal. 3:16, Gen. 12:3). God’s Son, third Person of the Trinity, come in flesh.
Faith in His work. Manifest in flesh that He might be the Lamb of God come to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). After a life lived in complete and perfect obedience to the law, offered on a Roman cross as the spotless sacrifice for the transgressions–past, present, and future–of all people. His blood shed as the payment for our full and eternal redemption. Dying in humiliation but raised again to life in victory over sin and death.
The law was our guardian until Christ came. It showed us our need until God manifest the solution.
And now, in Christ Jesus, secure as sons and daughters of the God of Creation, we seek to obey the law. Not as a requirement of salvation, but as a response. Not that we rely on the need to obey the law, but that we relish in the thought of pleasing the Father.
No longer our guardian, it is now our grand desire. Having fulfilled it’s role in directing us to Christ, it is now our natural, or supernatural delight because of who we are in Christ.
Thank God for our temporary guardian. Praise God for our everlasting Savior!
By His grace . . . for His glory.