Galatians--Part 15--The Tutor and Warden
Aug 23, 2010
Paul tells us clearly in Gal. 3:19 that the Law of Moses was "added" (to the Abrahamic Promise) "because of transgressions." The heirs of the Promise needed training because they were yet minors in their spiritual growth. Like all children, they needed a Father to instruct them in His righteous ways and to teach them what sin was. In Rom. 3:20 he writes, "through the Law comes the knowledge of sin."
In other words, God instructed the heirs to know His mind by way of contrast and by the principle of negativity. "Thou shalt NOT," He said in the same manner of instruction given to Adam in regard to the forbidden tree. We learn from this that worshiping false gods, stealing, murdering, and coveting are all contrary to the mind and will of God. We also learn what the Holy Spirit would write in our hearts and minds through the New Covenant in order to conform us to the image of God and the mind of Christ.
But the Law brings judgment upon sin, for it is only where a Law exists that judgment for its infraction can justly be applied. Paul knew this, for he wrote in Rom. 5:13, "sin is not imputed when there is no law." God only holds us accountable for that which is revealed and legislated. The problem is that because every heir of God has sinned, the Law could only judge him. The Law could never grant him Life. The problem is not that the Law is too righteous, but that man is too sinful.
Let us not blame the Law for our problem. Who in their right mind would desire God to lower the standard of His Will to accommodate our poor abilities? If He had done this, then the Holy Spirit would have to write an imperfect Law upon our hearts, Laws that were substandard, and we would never be found in the image and likeness of Christ. Would anyone want such a meager inheritance?
Yet the fact remains that the Mosaic Law was given "that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God" (Rom. 3:19). First, this tells us that God holds the entire world accountable to the Law, not merely Israel, although those afar off were less accountable. Secondly, this tells us the underlying purpose of the Law.
Father God laid down the Law in order to be able to teach His heirs about His righteous character. That Law, once revealed, made the heirs accountable to it. But the heirs were yet children and imperfect. They were sinners, so God held them accountable and judged them for their sin. In fact, the sin was so severe and persistent that He finally found it necessary to cast off the house of Israel and later to cut off the branches of the "evil figs" of Judah.
Paul's question, in light of these judgments, comes in Gal. 3:21, 22,
(21) Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be. For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. (22) But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe [those who have faith].
The Law "shut up all men under sin" in order to force us to realize that no man could ever achieve righteousness by his own will. His death-ridden nature, inherited from Adam, made it impossible for anyone to perform perfectly from birth. It was God's intent to prove this to us so that we would all be forced to go through the other door of salvation--the Faith door of the Promise given to Abraham.
(23) But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
In other words, the Law arrested us for criminal behavior, and being held in custody under a life sentence, our condition was hopeless until the key of Faith opened the door of our prison.
(24) Therefore the Law has become our tutor ["schoolmaster," KJV] to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.
What has this "tutor" taught us?
1. The righteous character of God, which is our inheritance
2. The sinful character of men
3. The impossibility of sinful men inheriting God's character by his own zealous will and effort
4. That there must be another way to inherit the promise
(25) But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (26) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Indeed, when we have learned the four great lessons from our tutor, we receive the key that unlocks the prison doors and sets us free from the tutor. Does this mean, then, that we are now free to sin? Some have taken this to mean that Faith is a license to sin (violate the Law). We know that this is not what Paul meant, because he condemned such thinking in Romans 6:1, 2, saying,
(1) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin [violating the Law] that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
We were not released from the prison of self-righteous effort just to continue living in sin. Grace did not put away the Law, as if the righteousness of God suddenly changed to allow murder, theft, and covetousness. Far from it. Faith has set us free from the tutor in that we no longer depend upon our own righteous works as a precondition to inherit the promise of God.
Jesus Christ performed the Law perfectly as a sinless man. He did what no other could do. As an "unblemished" Passover Lamb (Ex. 12:5), He qualified as the antitype Lamb that would set us free from the House of Bondage. The original bondage was in Egypt; the greater bondage that God had in mind was the bondage of sin and our self-righteous but feeble efforts to achieve the promise by our own strength.
The Law was not only our taskmaster, but also our promised inheritance. Under the Old Covenant, the Law was a righteous tutor but also our prison warden holding us accountable for our sin. Under the New Covenant, Jesus Christ brings us the promise of the Holy Spirit, who takes that same righteous warden-tutor and places him in our hearts by faith. The Holy Spirit writes the Law in our hearts, giving us the righteous character that we could never achieve by our own strength.
(26) For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.
All of us have clothed ourselves, not with our own filthy rags of self-righteousness, but with the righteousness of Christ. As part of His Body, our righteousness is His, not ours. His righteousness is imputed to us by faith, God calling what is NOT as though it were (Rom. 4:17). The Law's righteous standard has blocked all other avenues by which we might receive the promise to Abraham. We now conduct ourselves in conformity to the will of our Head, Jesus Christ, who not once violated the Law, though He often violated the traditions of men which the priests of His day believed to be the correct interpretation of the Law.
And finally, with the dividing wall discarded, all may now approach God equally, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free man, male or female. God's equitableness and impartiality have been restored. Man's misinterpretations of the mind of God have been corrected. For that reason, Paul concludes, if anyone belongs to Christ (i.e., as His body), that person is an heir of the promise, Abraham's seed.
This is the fifteenth part of a series titled "Galatians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones