Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Note 2 at Ro 3:19: Paul had conclusively proven that both Jews and Gentiles were sinners (see note 1 at Ro 3:9) and therefore incapable of saving themselves through their own works of righteousness. They both needed a savior. Here Paul began to reveal that the means of that salvation is through faith in Jesus the Messiah and not through people's moral goodness.
Note 3 at Ro 3:19: This very clear statement by Paul comes as a complete shock to most Christians. Christianity as a whole has embraced the Old Testament Law, and most Christians have never thought that the Law was not intended for them. However, Paul was saying that the Law was given to the Jews. The purpose of that Law was to produce guilt (see note 4 at this verse); therefore, those who deny their guilt before God can profit from its condemning effect (2Co 3:9 and 1Ti 1:9). But Christians who embrace the Old Testament Law (not everything that is in the Old Testament is Law) as God's gift to them have misunderstood its purpose.
That is not to say that we as Christians should reject the Old Testament as God's holy Word--God forbid. It certainly is God's Word and is, therefore, profitable for doctrine, reproof, etc. (2Ti 3:16). However, it needs to be interpreted in light of the New Covenant. Jesus didn't only set us free from the curse of the Law (Ga 3:13); He also set us free from the Law itself (Ro 4:16, 6:14-15, 7:4-6, 8:2; 2Co 3:7; Ga 2:19, 3:24-25, 4:21, 5:18; Eph 2:14-15; Col 2:14; 1Ti 1:9; Heb 7:18-19, 8:7-13, and 10:8-9). A desire to live under the commands of the Old Testament Law is a return to bondage and a misunderstanding of our New Covenant in Jesus (see note 2 at Lu 9:55, note 1 at Lu 16:16, and note 6 at Lu 19:8).
Note 4 at Ro 3:19: Here Paul began to make a series of radical statements. They were radical because the Jews of his day, just like many church people of our day, thought that the Law of God was given so that they could earn their salvation through keeping it. That wasn't its purpose. The Law was not given for the purpose of producing justification (Ro 3:20, 28, 4:13; Ga 2:16, 3:11, 5:4; and Tit 3:5).
The Law was given to kill (2Co 3:7) and condemn (2Co 3:9). The Law strengthened sin (1Co 15:56) and made sin come alive (Ro 7:9). The Law gave sin an occasion against us to deceive us and work all manner of lust in us (Ro 7:8 and 11). In short, the Law strengthened our enemy, sin, not us.
Why would God give us something that strengthened our enemy? It's because sin had already beaten us, and we didn't know it. Mankind was deceived into thinking that although we weren't perfect, surely our sins weren't that bad. We really were pretty good people, and the outcome would be "okay." The only thing wrong with that thinking is that God doesn't grade on a curve. It doesn't matter if we are better than someone else. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Ro 3:23), and the wages for sin (any sin) is death (Ro 6:23).
Jas 2:10 says, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." If we commit any sin, we are guilty of them all. It's similar to breaking a window. It doesn't matter how big a hole is made in the window. If it's broken, the whole window has to be replaced. If we break even the slightest command, we are guilty of breaking them all.
So God had to break the deception that people had fallen into, of thinking they were surely good enough to be accepted by God. The way He did this was to give the Law. It made sin and its lust come alive in people. To those who would receive it, it became obvious that if this holy perfection of the Law was what God demanded, people could not be saved by their own goodness.
That was the point that God wanted to make, and that was the point that Paul was making here. No one can be saved by keeping the Law, because all have sinned and come short of the Law's perfection (Ro 3:23).
Therefore, the Law stripped people of every excuse and made them guilty before God. The Law gave them knowledge of just how sinful they were and removed any deception of them ever being saved because they were such "nice guys" in comparison to others. As Paul said in Ga 3:23, "But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed." The Law took away every hope of salvation except faith in a savior. That was the purpose of the Law.
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