I'm posting these ideas as I'm working through my sermon in Galatians this week.
One of the caricatures that we generally present of the Jews is one of justification through Law, and we often go on about the futility of such efforts. However, I'm wondering if that's really a fair representation given the nature of the Covenant in the Old Testament as I see it. First, it seems to me that the Law of Moses was given to the people in order to help them form their character. God is a God of righteousness, justice, and morality. Thus he wants the people to have a representation of his character, even if it is a dim reflection of it. The Law is therefore God's instructions on how the people can best be representations of God's character. Second, it doesn't seem to me as though the people saw the Law as the means to possessing righteousness. I believe the psalms tell us that no one is righteous before God, and our righteousness, therefore pales in comparison to his. Third, God tells us in Amos that he much more values the contrite heart than all of the empty sacrifices of a stubborn, loveless people.
I'd like to make sure that all of these are proper understandings before continuing on to the Galatians. So... am I right thus far?
If so, now we move on to the Galatians. Paul feels the need to say that righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ, and not through the Law. Were the Galatians indeed relying on the Law for their justification? If so, wouldn't that be going farther than the Jews themselves did? Or were the Galatians trying to continue the ethinic/moral distinctiveness that the Law afforded the Jews, and Paul was using this occasion to further expand on a theology of righteousness?
It seems to me that it would be odd for the Galatians to go farther than the Jews ever did. But it also seems odd for Paul to simply use this as a springboard to discuss theology. Is there some other element that I'm missing here?