John 1:17 states, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (NKJV). There is a definite contrast being drawn in this verse between “law” and “grace” and the reason for this will be clear once we answer your question. We believe there were THREE main purposes in God giving the nation of Israel the law. He gave them the Law:

  1. To TEST THEM to see if they would obey. As the Israelites were traveling through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, God said to them in Exodus 19:4-6: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed OBEY MY VOICE AND KEEP MY COVENANT, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Up until this point, Israel was actually “under grace,” for God was blessing them UNCONDITIONALLY. But now God offers them a COVENANT OF LAW and if they would obey His covenant, He would bless them. In other words, God’s blessing them would be CONDITIONAL. We read in verse 8, “Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do’.” They would learn to regret that decision, for time and time again they disobeyed God’s covenant of Law. In other words, THEY FAILED THE TEST!
  2. To SHOW THEM they were sinners. We just mentioned that Israel agreed to be put under God’s covenant of Law. They did this because they had no idea how SINFUL they were and that because of their sinful hearts, they would be powerless to obey God. Jeremiah 17:9 declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it.” When Israel told God, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do,” they were ignorant of their wicked hearts and their hearts deceived them into thinking they could keep God’s holy law and be righteous before Him. But God knew all along that they would fail to obey Him and yet He gave them the Law to PROVE TO THEM they were sinners. This is seen clearly in Romans 3:19-20: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, FOR BY THE LAW IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIN.”
  3. To PREPARE THEM to receive Christ as their Savior. The same Law that TESTED THEM and SHOWED THEM they were sinners, CURSED THEM. Galatians 3:10 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” The Law is called a “ministry of death” and a “ministry of condemnation” in 2nd Corinthians 3:7 & 9 because it condemned men to death. Those who bowed to this death sentence would have their HEARTS PREPARED to receive the good news of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. We saw that “GRACE and truth came through Jesus Christ.” GRACE means “unmerited favor” and when Jesus Christ laid down His life on the cross to take man’s place in death and judgment He was able to offer men the FREE GIFT of salvation. In love for sinners He was saying, “I will bear the curse of the law for you on the cross and all who believe in Me are saved.” Those Jews who believed on Christ could then claim the promise of Galatians 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” But this promise is for ALL who believe on Christ. We saw in Romans 3:19-20 that the Law has proven the whole world is guilty before God and the next two verses show that God’s salvation is offered to anyone who will believe. Let’s read verses 21-22, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” Has my reader believed in Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior? (228.9) (DO)