Question of the Week: Angels Gave the Law?

On April 12th, 2018, the Mentionables received this question from S. F.:

"Galations 3:19-20:

 

"Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

 

"The heck? Angels gave the law? And what does it mean about a mediator?"

 William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for the question, S.F. here are the answers from the team.

This answer is from Mentionable Network Member Marc Lambert

 Marc is the senior minister at Liberty Hill Baptist Church in Texas, and also the host of the  "Hey Pastor"  podcast and blog.

Marc is the senior minister at Liberty Hill Baptist Church in Texas, and also the host of the "Hey Pastor" podcast and blog.

Angels gave the law?
 
The word angel technically just means “messenger”. Rarely in Scripture do we see God dealing directly with people. His messages and action are most often carried out by angels.

However, since the message itself is from God, it would not be wrong to say, “God said …” even if the thing God said is delivered by angel.

So while we talk about God giving the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, there is no reason to think there were not angels involved. Indeed, the Bible certainly seems to indicate they were.
 
Deut. 33:2 describes God giving the Law to Moses with “ten thousand holy ones”. These “holy ones” are believed to be angels, and not just there to look pretty. Acts 7:53, referring to the past generations of Israelites (see vv 51 & 52), describes them as having “received the Law by the direction of angels.” And in Hebrews 2:2, arguing that the Law is unable to save (because we are unable to keep it), the author refers to The Law as “the word spoken through angels”.

So clearly, according to Scripture, though we often think of God personally dictating a message to Moses, there were angels involved in the giving of the Law.
 
And what does it mean about a mediator?"
 
It could be referring to the angels, but most likely it is referring to Moses. But to understand the point, we have to understand the context of the statement.
 
Book of Galatians is addressing the Church in Galatia who were apparently falling for some teachings that to be Christian you had to obey the Law of Moses, rather than the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith. (Gal 1:6)
 
This passage is comparing “The Law” (the Covenant made specifically with the Israelites through Moses) to the promise made to Abraham directly.
“Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—  just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Gal 3:5-6)
 
Abraham was saved by faith, not by the keeping of any Law, and His promise was given directly from God, not through angels and a prophet. Thus, Paul seems to be arguing that the greater promise is the one given to Abraham. It was the same message to Abraham as the Gospel which Christ preached: salvation by grace through faith (v8), it was not changed or voided by the Law of Moses (v17), and it was straight from God, not through a mediator (vv 19-20).

Why this last point is important is that in a covenant (contract) where you have two parties, a mediator acts as a go between, and each part has a promise they have to uphold. However, with Abraham, there was no mediation. There was no conditional if/then element to the deal. God declared the promise,  no terns, He would see it done. 

So The Law couldn't save because it was conditional.  And we never live up to the terms. Therefore the Galatians are foolish to think that it could save them.

But the promise given to Abraham was unconditional. That promise being salvation through Christ. And just as Abraham is declared righteous before God, unconditionally, because of his faith, so are those who put their faith in Christ declared righteous before God unconditionally.