Read Galatians 3
I have heard it said far too often that the Old Testament is all about the Law whereas the New Testament in all about grace. The Old Testament encourages “works” whereas the New Testament promotes faith. Painting in such broad brush strokes may reveal some general truths about things, but also may over-generalize the issue at hand.
As Paul is addressing the churches in Galatia, he is not doing so with a copious amount of books and commentaries on the life and teachings of Jesus. At this point, what we know as the New Testament was nothing more than a random assortment of letters and writings by some who were trying to make sense of everything that had happened as was happening in this new found faith.
Interestingly, though, Paul’s Old Testament understanding of who Jesus is and what He came to do is profound and deep. It also directly challenges the broad generalizations that we tend to place Scriptures two testaments.
While it is true that the Law was given to prescribed how to live into the identity that God had given, the reality is that identity that we have from God has always been an act of grace. Living into that identity has always been an act of faith, the so-called “works” a response to their identity.
Paul quotes and references more than a dozen Old Testament passages, all relating the message of the Gospel that has been given since the very beginning, culminating in the coming of Jesus. God makes it possible for us to be reconciled to Him through the work of Jesus. Faith, however, has always been a component of this; works were the result.
Where Israel got it wrong, and where we often do too, is that they thought that it was the works that make us who we are rather than the grace of God.