Summary: Christ frees us from the bondage of the Law to live for him.
The Journey of Faith
Introduction: The Fourth of July which we celebrated this past week is a reminder of how precious our national freedoms are. They must always be protected from those who would take them away, as well as from those who would cheapen them by irresponsibly abusing them. Galatians has been called “The Epistle of Christian Liberty”. In it, the apostle Paul defends the Gospel against people who were attempting to put Christians back under slavery by forcing Gentiles to submit to Jewish ceremonial practices. In the course of his letter, he must also attack the possible counter-argument that the Gospel promotes disobedience to the law…but what does this mean for you and me?
Imagine two people: let’s call them Jay and Andy. Jay tries to live a good life, and do all the right things. On the outside, everthing looks fine. He’s a model citizen and a pillar of the church. But on the inside he is a ball of nerves. He wonders how much longer he can keep up appearances. He wonders why he still feels so empty.
Andy was raised in a Christian home and knows all about God—but lately he’s wandered away. He’s become more concerned about “keeping up with the Joneses” and keeping up with the bills. Church has become less important, and God no longer is a part of his daily life. He’ll get around to it sometime…just not now.
Are you like Jay or Andy? Or maybe a little like both? Both have gone down different paths… paths that have led them away from God. How can they get back on the right track? It was for people like these that today’s text was written. In order to better understand the text, it might be helpful to think about it as series of snapshots—“before and after” pictures, if you will, of God’s plan.
Verses 23-24 The “before” picture—the law was given to prepare us for faith.
The law was a prison, in which God’s people were locked up under protective custody. I once met someone who had committed a crime just so he could go back into prison. In prison, at least he had food and a place to sleep. The prison door kept his problems out. The tragedy was that it also kept him in. As long as he was in prison, he could never become all he was meant to be.
The law was a “pedagogue,” a servant who strictly supervised children for their parents, leading them to and from school. We live in a country of two-income families where daycare is commonly used. Many daycare centers are excellent facilities. Their necessity seems to be a fact of life. However, I hope you would still agree that they should never be full substitutes for the care and attention of child’s own parent.
The law, as a prison and as a pedagogue, has a limited and temporary purpose. Does this mean that the law is bad? Not necessarily! God’s overarching purpose in all he does is that we might be justified by faith. To this end, God gave the law so we could:
1. Be protected, to some extent, from serious harm as a result of our sinfulness.
2. Be led to Christ by becoming aware of just how sinful we really are.
(Example: A farmer must plow and till the soil as a necessary step in preparation—but simply plowing in itself will not grow a crop! God, in rebuilding our lives, must first demolish our sinful pride and self-righteousness.)
Verse 25 Transition: (“but”) since faith has come, the law can no longer justify us.
As Christians have studied the Bible, they have come to understand three purposes for God’s Law.
1) It is a CURB—to some extent it externally limits sinfulness in the world and in our lives.
2) It is a MIRROR—it shows us our great need for salvation from our own sinfulness.
3) It is a GUIDE—it helps us Christians to serve God as a grateful response to his love for us in Christ.
The Law, as we can see, is useful; but it doesn’t save us in itself. Now the Law is part of God’s revelation. It included the Ten Commandments given through angels to Moses on mount Sinai, and it agreed with our human conscience—but it didn’t contain everything God wanted us to know. It was given to prepare us for something better. If all we’ve been doing is trying to live under the law, it’s no wonder that we’re spinning our wheels in our Christian journey. God’s plan was that we would be saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, apart from the works of the law! This is the Gospel—also a revelation from God… a saving, life-giving revelation.