Summary: In the following sermon we are going to examine Galatians 3:23-29 to show that believers being no longer under the law but under grace means they have been freed to follow the spirit of God’s commands to be holy as outlined in both the OT and NT.

Law and our Union with Christ

Galatians 3:23-29

Online Sermon:

Now that Christ has come and fulfilled the Law is there any value in knowing and/or obeying the 613 laws of the Old Testament (OT)? The Old Testament with its heavy emphasis on holiness and God’s wrath for breaking His laws led Marcion, a second century heretic, to conclude that the God of the OT not the same God of the NT and therefore the cannon of the Bible should only contain the portions of the New Testament that are free from any OT reference. While eliminating 613 laws to follow is very appealing is it ok to do so considering the OT laws are not evil but represent the “holy nature of God Himself” who does not change (Malachi 3:6)? What did Christ, who frequent quoted the OT, mean when He said He “did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it” and that teaching people to “set aside OT commands would lead to being called the least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-18)? How does one then reconcile Jesus’ teaching with that of Mark 7:18-19 when He says all foods are clean which is an obvious contradiction of OT dietary laws? Just like in Apostle Paul’s day there is much confusion over what does being under the New Covenant mean for a born again believer! In the following sermon we are going to examine Galatians 3:23-29 to show that believers being no longer under the law (Romans 6:14; 7:4-6; Galatians 3:24-26) but under grace (Romans 6:14) means they have been freed to follow the spirit of God’s commands to be holy as outlined in both the OT and NT.

What we were Under the Law (Verses 23-24)

Apostle Paul begins today’s passage using the metaphor of a stern jailer or pedagogue to describe the function of the Law in the OT. In Greek and Roman families of moderate means they would employ an older slave to supervise minor children from the ages of six to sixteen. The pedagogue went everywhere the children went and their ongoing role was not so much to educate, albeit that was sometimes part of their duties, but to “teach good manners, to correct bad behaviour and discipline the misbehaving” so to “bring the children under their authority safely to the time of maturity.” While some pedagogues were loving and kind and seen as parental figures to the children, for the most part they were “very stern and strict, used the rod freely, not to say cruelly, and the conditions of the boys were sometimes no better than that of slavery.” Being ruled by a pedagogue who was “armed with penalties but void of sympathies” often meant that a “free” child had less authority and a harsher life than that of a slave! Upon reaching the age of maturity however, the authority of the pedagogue was dissolved and the child who was now an adult was allowed to go their own way, having obtained the rights and benefits of a heir of their family.

Paul uses the Greek/Roman pedagogue as a metaphor to help explain the purpose of the Law in the OT. Until the coming of faith in Jesus the Law acted like humanity’s guardian, jailor or a strict pedagogue. The Law of the Old Testament essentially reflected the holy nature of God Himself and as such was the key to being righteous and pleasing in God’s sight. To stop our “mouths as to all self-justifying pleas” humanity needed to be told how far they were missing the mark “by turning sin into a willful violation of an already existing Law, namely a transgression.” With its 613 commands and punishments for breaking them the Law was a strict tyrant because it compelled what was contrary and impossible for us fallen creatures to obey because of our sinful nature. Even as God was giving Israel the ten commandments on Mount Sinai He knew they “had already broken it, and that consequently they could not keep its precepts, or claim justification by their conformity to its requirements.” Those under the Law were under a curse (Romans 3:10-14) for the Law could only condemn but not save a person (Romans 3:20; 4:15; 8:3; Galatians 2:17; Hebrews 7:18–19; 10:1). Salvation in the OT was through faith in God (Galatians 3:6) but since the Law was external to a person and weakened by the sinful nature (Romans 8:3) it was insufficient to point them to that faith. The Law then was a jailor or merely a guardian, for to obtain faith in God humanity needed a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) granted through grace and faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Son.

No Longer Under the Law (verse 25)

The role of the Law as guardian and jailor ended upon the atoning sacrifice of the Son. Since the “tree of human nature must be altered first, or the fruit cannot be good,” the Law remained a guardian until faith in Christ enabled “you to accept salvation as a free gift of God – to make you stand and own that you are a sinner, and accept a free, full, perfect forgiveness, according to the infinite grace of the eternal Father.” Jesus’ atoning sacrifice marks a collective coming of age in which grace by faith (Ephesians 2:8), not following the external works of the Law which only lead to condemnation, would be the key to obtaining salvation. Paul’s teaching here is not a form of Antinomianism but instead a sense of rejoicing that what was written on stone tablets, impossible to obey and seen as a jailor, was now written on “the fleshly tablets of renewed hearts” in Christ, the sinless Lamb of God! While believers are no longer under the authority (Galatians 3:19) and letter of the OT Laws and therefore need not obey its external obligations such as circumcision, ceremonial and dietary laws, written upon the believer’s heart is the intent of all of the OT and NT commands for us to obey so that we might be holy as God is holy. God of the OT and God of Jesus in the NT then are one and the same for the commandments of both OT and NT are boundary markers on holy living that are not a burden but a source of great joy (1 John 1:3) to those who believe in the Son! “If you know the hardness of your own heart apart from renewing grace, you thank God every day that you are a believer!”

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