The Expository Files.


 But Now That Faith Has Come

Galatians 3:23-29


"But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:23-29).

Paul wrote the book of Galatians to confirm that salvation is made possible through justification by forgiveness which in turn is by God's grace, and that no one has or will achieve it by living the perfect life that God's righteousness demands. Some were saying that the new Gentile converts to Christ were obligated to keep portions of the Law of Moses to be justified. The Law did not justify sinners; it merely showed them their sin and their need for a Savior; it told them that God would one day provide such a Savior; and it helped them be pleasing to God in the meantime.

Kept in Custody Under the Law
"But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed." (Galatians 3:23).

The human race was beset by sin and in need of a Redeemer. In one sense, the Law was God's way of providing "protective custody" for sinners until Jesus came. The Law instructed, restrained, punished and guarded but it did not save. It did give promise of a coming day of release from custody and freedom.

The Law Has Become our Tutor
"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24).

Paul uses yet another illustration of the role the Law of Moses played in God's plan. The Greek term translated "tutor" or "schoolmaster" would be well known to his readers of that century. The Greek word "paidagogos" (paidagwgon) had reference to a family servant who would become a young boy's "guardian-trainer." He would be in total control of his master's son. His duty was to teach the boy good manners and even to punish him if necessary. He would walk the boy to school carrying his satchel. After school, the tutor would quiz the boy on what he had learned and have him recite his memory work and so forth. When the boy grew to be about sixteen the tutor's work would be over.

Paul says that the Law of Moses had functioned as our "tutor" in this regard. It's job was to lead us to a certain point and that point had arrived. Christ had come so that we might now be justified by faith.

We Are No Longer Under a Tutor
"But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." (Galatians 3:25). Since the tutor Paul has been talking about was the Law of Moses, then this means that we are no longer under that Law. We are not obligated to keep its commandments and are not justified by doing so. However, many of its teachings have been brought over and elaborated upon in the new covenant, the "law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1,2). Those who live by faith keep the commandments of Christ (John 15:10; James 1:22-25; 1 John 2:4,5; 5:2).

It is very important to understand that Paul does not say we are free to disobey Christ's law. How tragic it is to suggest that one may be pleasing to the Lord without doing the things He says (Luke 6:46). Neither God's grace nor our faith override the need to exalt Jesus as Lord of our lives by both our words and actions. It seems fashionable today to rebel, or at least disrespect, all kinds of authority. Unfortunately, many recoil at the notion that one must submit to and give Christ control of his or her life to be saved, but this is exactly what the God of grace demands (Romans 6:16-18).

Sons of God Through Faith
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26).

A great privilege has been given us in Christ. We are sons of God through our faith in Him. This great gift is available to all of all races, nations, genders, social or economic statuses. We do not become God's children in different ways because of these other differences. We cannot be too rich or poor or black or white to be excluded from the family of God if we have faith in Christ Jesus.

To be a child of God is not a privilege to be taken for granted, for it brings with it certain responsibilities. For example, Paul told the Ephesians to "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children..." (Ephesians 5:1). He emphasized in that context that this meant putting away clamor and bitterness and to become tenderhearted and forgiving. He also continued by discussing how God's children are to control their speech and moral conduct and to put away greed and idolatry.

Baptized Into Christ
"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:27). So many today who view baptism as non-essential to salvation call baptism a symbol of salvation, but the Bible never does. One commentator in discussing this verse said it says baptism is "a symbol that one has put on Christ" but it does not say that either. Rather, it makes baptism a part of clothing ourselves with Christ. The Bible says nothing about people who have clothed themselves with Christ who have not been baptized.

We become "sons of God" and we "clothe ourselves with Christ" the same way; by faith in Christ. But this is not a do-nothing faith, it is a trusting response and submission to the Lord's commands. When we are baptized into Christ, it is not an act of faith in ourselves or in our own power to save ourselves, as some charge. It is an act of faith in God and in His power. Paul said, "...having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12). Yes, baptism is essential because it is there that we are buried and raised with Christ as we put our faith in the working of God (cf. Romans 6:3,4).

One in Christ Jesus
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28).

We have already discussed this earlier. The gospel is for all, and all are made one in Christ. But some today, in order to achieve "political correctness" suggests that this passage counteracts others limiting the role of women in the public assembly (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:11-15).

But this passage does not say that all who are in Christ have the same roles to play as disciples. The New testament plainly shows that, for example, the godly husband and father plays a specific role in the home while the godly wife and mother plays another and the two together compliment one another. The godly parent has a different role than godly children. The disciples of the first century who were servants were given specific instructions which did not apply to freemen, and masters were given specific instructions as well. The rich were singled out for instructions that did not apply to others.

The text ends by giving assurance that we are heirs according to the promise given to Abraham if we 'belong to Christ." (Galatians 3:29). God had promised to bless all nations. By His grace we are the children of the promise; sons and daughters of God; and we are on our way home.


By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 4.10; October 1997

 

 

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