Three times the apostle Paul says that the Law was added to increase sinning.
Now let that statement settle in. To increase sinning. Not stop it. And added. As if tacked-on to God’s program.
Really, the Old Testament and New Testament would have matched up well simply as Promise and Gospel. In the Old Testament, God promised to bless the world; and in the New Testament, we have the gospel—the good news that God is now fulfilling His promises through the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ. Promise, then Gospel. However, over four hundred years after the Promise and well before the Son arrived, God added the Law, which increased our guilt by increasing our sinning (Galatians 3:17-24). Why would God do that? And how fair would that be to the original recipients of the Law?
Suppose you want to help a toddler tie his shoe. Instead of letting you, he insists, “No, I do it!” With a little roll of the eyes, you let him—only knowing that he will fail and that you will eventually need to help him. Sometimes a human being needs to learn of his inability through trying.
God did just that. He let us try to be good. And instead of becoming good, we became worse. “Our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death” and “through the commandment [sin] became sinful beyond measure” (Romans 7:4, 11). The Law increases sin. Not that the Law itself is bad—as with the toddler, the command is good—but the Law stirs up pride and tempts our lusts, and thus, by means of a good thing producing something bad, we learn that we must be the problem. Something is wrong with us. That something is called Sin. It dwells in us and enslaves us, but we are often left unaware of its dominance until a command is given and we prove ourselves utterly incapable of doing good. “Through the Law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). And through the Law comes our appreciation for the gift of forgiveness and life in Christ.
Interestingly, God knew this would happen. God knew His people would fail. After Moses had given his pep talk that is now recorded in the first thirty chapters of Deuteronomy, God rolled His eyes and told Moses, “They will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant” (Deuteronomy 31:20). The Law was never added as a means of life. Theoretically, it would lead to life, if we would obey. But we will not. We will fail.
It is as if God enrolled us in a course and then told us on the first day, “No one will pass.” We may ask, “Why am I taking this course?” But learning can happen through failure, and strength is humiliated in the challenge. Only then will some of us seek Christ.