The Divine Purpose in Giving the Law (continued)
8. The law was given to bear witness prophetically and typically of salvation by grace in Christ (Romans 3:21). After showing that the whole world is sinful and guilty before God and that by deeds of law no flesh can be justified in His sight, the apostle proceeds to outline the true way of salvation in Romans 3. He writes, "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets" (Romans 3:21).
The first thing to notice here is that God's righteousness which saves sinners is "without the law". The Greek preposition is "choris", meaning 'apart from" in the most absolute sense. It is used in Hebrews 4:15 where our Lord is said to have been tempted in all points as we are, yet "without sin." Thus, the salvation of the believer is as absolutely apart from the law as the character of the Son of God is apart from sin. Just as sin had nothing to do with Christ, even so the law has nothing to do with the righteousness we receive through Christ.
But on the other hand, if the law could make absolutely no contribution to our salvation in Christ, nevertheless this same law did function as a witness to that righteousness - "being witnessed by the law and the prophets" (Romans 3:21). How did the law bear this "witness"? First, the law bore this witness prophetically. The first great prophecy of salvation in a coming Redeemer is found in the book of the law: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15).
Second, the law witnessed to our great salvation in Christ through types. The entire sacrificial system of the Mosaic law pointed forward to the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. Thus the law spoke clearly and unmistakably of a divine righteousness bestowed by the grace of God on those who simply believe, while at the same time the law could not make the slightest contribution to that righteousness. The correct formula, therefore, is divine righteousness apart from law but witnessed by the law. The law had only the "shadow of good things to come", but "not the very image" of those things (Hebrews 10:1). Let us recognize the value of the shadow, but let us beware even of seeming to put one iota of the shadow in the place of the substance.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 10 - "God's Written Law and Israel")