“Wherefore then serves the law? It was added because of transgressions . . . and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator” (Gal. 3:19).
This statement in Gal. 3:19 is identical in substance with that by Stephen in his last words to the Sanhedrin, as they were about to stone him to death, when he said, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers; who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:52, 53).
This expression by Stephen, that the law was received, “by the disposition of angels,” and the expression in Gal. 3:19, that the law “was ordained by angels,” are identical; for Stephen’s word translated “disposition,” and Paul’s word translated “ordained,” are the same Greek word precisely, with simply a variation in tense. Stephen’s word is diatagas and Paul’s word is diatageis.
Now, what law could it be which, whatever else might be included, was pre-eminently the law referred to by Stephen when, in connection with the law that they had not kept, he charged them with being murderers? What law is it, which pre-eminently is not kept by a murderer? —It is the law of God—the Ten Commandments, one of which says, “Thou shall not kill.” And when the same identical word is used in Gal. 3:19, in the same identical connection, then what law alone can be referred to as pre-eminently the law there referred to, whatever other laws may be included? To have any other than the same law in both places would be simply to do positive violence to the plain scripture in its whole connection. And since there can be no possible question as to what law is pre-eminently the one referred to by Stephen, there can likewise be no question as to what law is pre-eminently referred to in Gal. 3:19, when the same identical word is used as was used by Stephen, and in the same connection and in the same sense precisely.
What, then, is the thought expressed in the words “the disposition of angels,” “ordained by angels”? The root of the two words used by Stephen and Paul is diatasso, which signifies “to arrange, ordain, establish”; “to set in order, and draw up an army” on parade, or “in battle order.” Thus, the specific statement in the two passages is that at the giving of the law referred to in the two places, the angels were drawn up in a grand array, as a king disposes his army, or a general his troops; and that, in the presence of this grand array of the angels of God, the law in question was given by the hand of a mediator.
As was presented in a former study: Since there is but “one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” Christ is unquestionably the Mediator in whose hand this law was ordained. And the scene is touched in Deut. 33:2; “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.” From his right hand went forth this “fiery law” in the writing upon the tables of stone, and also in the work of making the tables of stone upon which the law was written by the hand of fire. For “the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables” (Ex. 32:16).
And when those original tables had been broken by Moses, although Moses hewed out a second two tables like unto the first, he was required to take up these tables into the mount; and there, Moses says, the Lord again “wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the Lord spoke unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the Lord gave them unto me. And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the Lord commanded me” (Deut. 10:4, 5).
Thus the law of the Ten Commandments was given, in the most complete sense, by the hand of the “one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5); and no other law was given. Other law was given by word, or by inspiration, to Moses, which he wrote with his hand; but no other law than that on the tables of stone was given in or by the hand of the Mediator. From his “hand” went forth that “fiery law”; and from that hand went forth no other law. And when from that “right hand” went forth that “fiery law,” then thousands of saints were present. These ten thousands of saints (or “holy ones,” R.V.) were the grand and glorious array of angels ordained, disposed, set in order, by the heavenly King, to behold and to do honor to this wonderful transaction of that most wonderful occasion.
Even Christian people have never yet truly discerned the majesty and glory of the giving of the law at Sinai; and that majesty and glory are only the true measure of the importance of that event. “There were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud:” “mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly:” “the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder:” “the voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook” (Ps. 77:18). —And from the midst of that glorious and terrible scene, when “the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness” (Deut. 4:11), “the Lord spoke . . . out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice,” the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:22), “and he added no more.” And “all the people that was in the camp trembled,” and “entreated that the word should not be spoken [added] to them any more.” And then, with his hand of fire, “he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto” Moses.
“The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place” (Ps. 68:17). “The angels, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, surrounded the people of God as they were assembled around the mountain, and were all above them; thus making a great living tabernacle, from which every evil angel was excluded, that not one word that was to come from the voice of Jesus should be altered in any mind, nor one suggestion of doubt or evil to a soul be made.”
Thus when the law was delivered at Sinai, the glorious Lord and all the people were surrounded with the heavenly host of angels, disposed, ordained, arranged in orderly array. Four-faced and four winged cherubim, six-winged seraphim, and bright angels in glittering golden chariots—all these by the thousands upon thousands accompanied the Majesty of heaven, the Mediator, as in love there went forth from his hand to sinful men his great fiery law of love. (Deut. 33:3). Then at the giving of the law of God, the Ten Commandments, at Sinai, there certainly has been no more majestic scene since the creation of the world. And this is the only law ever given by the hand of the Mediator.
How can there be any question or doubt that this is the law of Gal. 3:19 that was added because of transgressions, and that was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator?
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | March 6, 1900]