Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 4
May 13, 2012
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
1901 ASV Translation:
23 But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
- I. Being Kept Under Law.
- A. Paul's use of "we" is instructive since it refers to himself and the Galatians who were Gentiles for the most part.
- 1. The Scriptures (of the Law) "enclosed" all under sin (3:22). This is an inclusive "all": Jews and Gentiles. Those "having not the law are a law unto themselves" (Romans 2:14) so that, in a sense, it is impossible to be "without the law". The actual communication of the Law to the nation of Israel was an historic explication of what men already had "written upon their hearts" (Romans 2:15) so that all it actually did was clarify and make inescapable what men already knew in a general sense. Since man's first recorded response to "guilt before God" was to blame someone else, it is obvious that one of fallen man's greatest needs is to be unable to blame someone else. Thus, "the Law" made man's sinful reasoning and behavior explicit.
- 2. Paul's "kept under/kept in ward" is a term that indicates an action of (sometimes military) anticipation against some form of loss. The idea of potential loss is paramount and the thrust of the word is that whoever stands to lose has taken preemptive action to attempt to prevent it. There is no particular action involved in the word itself; it only indicates whatever the one likely to sustain loss thinks will mitigate the possibility.
- a. At stake is Paul's perception of "law" as a way to "keep under": it is a perception of man being "lost" to God by means of an effective block to repentance (since, by that means, men can be reclaimed by God).
- b. God's method of "bringing to repentance" is two-fold: making "guilt" inescapable; and "being kind" to the guilty (Romans 2:4).
- c. Undergirding this entire mindset (God contemplating "loss" and taking steps to mitigate it) is the reality of the dominating impact of "Promise" upon human history: God has words to keep and whatever He has to do to keep them, He will do. Specifically, in order to make of Abraham "a great nation" (Genesis 12:2), God simply must "keep in ward" those who are to make up that nation. Additionally, in order to make Abraham a "father of nations" (Genesis 17:4), God simply also must "keep in ward" those who are to make up those nations. Sin is the threat under the Justice of God and redemption is the solution under the Grace of God. How far "Grace" will go to maintain the integrity of God is revealed by Paul's New Testament doctrine of the election of grace (Romans 11:5) made plain by the concept of names of individuals written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8 and 17:8).
- B. Paul's concept of "the coming of the faith".
- 1. The "problem" as Paul presents it is that "the faith" that will be used to keep the promises was too indistinct and undeveloped prior to the arrival of the Christ Who was to be crucified.
- 2. In the light of the many who were "justified by faith" in the "indistinct period", the issue is: to what extent had "the faith" not already come and to what extent was it a future event?
- a. Abraham was justified by "the faith", and all those who followed in his train did so by the same "faith".
- b. What was the idea of Paul's "until the faith should come"?
- 1. The answer seems to come out of the same idea that drove Paul's sense of the function of the law. The Law made explicit what men already knew but were too adept at rejecting so that they needed a far greater "clarity" than what was written upon their hearts. In the same way, the way of justification was present in the days from Adam to Malachi, but its "clarity" was deficient for apprehension by most of those who were "under sin" and severely antagonized by their view(s) of God.
- 2. The "faith" that "should come" was a more fully developed explication of truths revealed and known for centuries, but dismissed by men whose antagonism toward God kept the blinders on.
- C. Paul's Conclusion: the Law is a "Child Leader" that Moves "Beloved Children" to Christ.
- 1. Clearly, Paul considers "humanity" as "in serious need of a conscience". The Law is completely unnecessary for the person sensitive to Love, but humanity has lost its sensitivity. The plague of Sin is its ability to completely turn a person's attention inward so that self-serving thinking is reflexive, profoundly locked-in, and oblivious to others.
- 2. Behind the entire scenario is the desire of God "to justify" human beings so that they may be qualified to participate in "the Kingdom of His dear Son" (Colossians 1:13).