Even God’s law was powerless?

When the Galatians began slipping back to trying to attain their goal by human effort in Galatians 3:3, Paul asked them in verse 5, “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

Answer? God gave his Spirit when they believed what they heard. So what was it they’d heard? Verse 14, that Christ “redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” What they’d heard from Paul was the promise God made to Abraham, that one day, because of Jesus Christ’s death, the Spirit would be given to us. And what would the Spirit do? Deal with our nature, Galatians 5:16: “Live by the Spirit,” Paul wrote, “and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

This was the miracle the Galatians had experienced. It was the incredible change in their nature, from the typical self-centred mess of verses 19-21 to the fruits of the Spirit in verse 22. The change was so noticeable that of course they knew when the miracles of the Spirit had begun.

Had all their strict obedience to the law created this remarkable change in them? No. Nor had it changed the Israelites, either. It had proved a key point, though, that “the law was powerless…in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,” Romans 8:3. Our nature, with all its self-centred desires and passions, is so powerful that even the law can’t change it. And that’s the lesson of the Old Testament, that there’s nothing we can do about our sinful nature. We can try our best to be good people by willpower, self-discipline and strict religious rituals, but none of it works in changing our sinful nature.

But what the law (and all human effort and ritual) was powerless to do, “God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering,” verse 3. Jesus’ sacrifice broke the back of our nature, by taking our nature upon himself and nailing it the cross, and in so doing “condemned sin in sinful man.” And he did that “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according the sinful nature but according to the Spirit,” verse 4.

No longer would we be driven by our nature, or be dependent on what’s in our nature to attain our goal of obeying God’s law. Christ died so we could depend entirely on his Spirit to enable us to keep God’s law.