Why then serves the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made…
The Law, we are told, was "added because of transgressions." This cannot mean that it was instituted to restrain transgressions - the normal object of Law - since that assertion would be opposed to the main drift of the apostle's argument; nor can it signify simply that the Law was added to reveal transgressions, or this would be more directly stated; nor certainly can it mean that the Law was intended to produce transgressions, to serve as an instrument of sin - a purpose which would be more diabolical than Divine. Probably St. Paul's meaning is that the Law was intended to convert sins into transgressions; i.e, to give to amorphous and almost unconscious wickedness a definite form, so that it could be seen, handled, chastised, and cured (Romans 7:8, 9).
I. SIN IS NATURALLY OBSCURE. It spreads through the soul as a rank malaria, felt in its evil effects, but not clearly seen and known. We feel ourselves to be ailing, but cannot lay our fingers upon the seat of the disease. Just in proportion to its internal character it is dangerous; yet in the same proportion it is vague and beyond our reach. It is darkness and death - things vast, shapeless, without definition, mere blank negations. Nothing is more erratic than an unenlightened conscience. A spiritually ignorant person cannot tell when he sins or how far his guilt extends. He is like a blind man groping among pathless wilds, stumbling and falling he knows not how or where.
II. LAW CONVERTS VAGUE SIN INTO DEFINITE TRANSGRESSION. It does not simply reveal the hidden sin, as the acid develops the photograph and as the daylight lays bare the ugly ruin. It gives to sin a new form and character, as the chemical re-agent precipitates a solution. It compels the diffused sinfulness to crystallize into sharply defined offences, The force of the tide is not seen till the wave breaks against the shore. The current of evil is strong, but unrecognized, till it meets a Law and dashes over it in wild assault. Sin lurks in our hearts and creeps through our lives as a formless spirit of evil. Then a Law is declared, "Thou shalt not steal," or, "Thou shalt not kill." Sin meeting this directly breaks the Law. Now, it is a clear offence, a definite, chargeable transgression, capable of being brought home to the criminal.
III. THIS CONVERSION OF SIN INTO TRANSGRESSION IS FOR OUR ULTIMATE GOOD. At first it looks cruel, if not immoral. It seems like God tempting us. But God does not send the inducement to sin. He only sends the forbidding Law, which gives form to the sin already present.
1. Thus Law becomes an external conscience. By means of it we know how far we have fallen.
2. It becomes an occasion for the Divine chastisement which we need in order to be brought to repentance.
3. It prepares us to receive the gospel by rousing us from the slumber of indifference, making us see how evil and how helpless we are, and so urging us to seek redemption from the curse of Law in the grace of Christ. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
WEB: What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made. It was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator.