Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 24, 2007
Purpose of the Law
Galatians 3:23-29

            Paul asserted in Galatians 3:19-22 that the Law reveals our sin. For example, in September 2006 my wife and I were driving in an Oregon town. After stopping to do some shopping, I turned back onto the main road through town and accelerated to 35 mph, the last posted speed limit I had seen.  Two blocks down the road, however, a police car drove up behind me with his red lights flashing.  We had no idea what I had done.

Having pulled me over to the roadside, the officer asked if I saw the school speed limit sign of 20 mph.  I assured him I had not.  However, he still asked for my license, registration and proof of insurance, took them and walked back to his squad car.  After a few minutes, he returned to our car with my documents, and said he was letting me go this time because he could not get his ink pen to write. 

As we drove away, my wife and I were thankful to God for this favor.  In my mind, I thought I was innocent.  The reality is, however, that the law pronounced me guilty.  It revealed my disobedience.  But, it gave me no ability to obey its requirements.  

            In a similar sense, the Mosaic Law pronounced people guilty.  The Mosaic Law, however, has the purpose of leading us to Christ: so we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:23-24), and so we may have a faith relationship in Christ (3:25-29).

So We May Be Justified by Faith (3:23-24)

            Verse 23 literally says “before the faith came.”  When “the faith” is used in Scripture, it commonly refers to the body of doctrine known as the Christian faith, referring to Christ and the fullness of His salvation.  Before Christ came, we were “kept in custody” by the Law.  We were guilty prisoners under constant surveillance, until “the faith” was revealed.

            Not only did the Law serve as a guard, it also served as a “tutor,” a pedagogue to lead us to Christ (3:24).  The tutor’s purpose in New Testament times was to supervise a child in all matters of his education, behavior, and physical and moral well-being, until the child reached the age of maturity.  By analogy, the Law does that for people, not leading them to the Law itself, but leading them to justification by faith in Christ.

So We May Have a Faith Relationship in Christ (3:25-29)

            Once people trust Christ as Savior, they are no longer under the tutorship of the Law (3:25).  Because of our new relationship in Christ, we can submissively live according to His righteous standards as mature.  The depth of our relationship is explained in 3:26-29.

            We are “sons of God” (3:26).  This refers to our position in Christ, being those who possess all the privileges and responsibilities which adulthood brings.  An earthly illustration is when a businessman makes his son a full partner in his business.

            Next, we are “baptized into Christ” (3:27a).  Some refer this to Holy Spirit baptism which places a believer into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).  Others refer it to the obedient act of water baptism which publicly identifies a person with Christ. In either case, the personal relationship is intimately close.

            Then, we are “clothed” with Christ (3:27b). “In ancient times a Roman lad wore the toga praetexta, a toga with an elaborately embroidered purple hem. When the boy reached manhood he put off this sign of immaturity and put on the white toga.  Thus, under law, a person could never merit the clothing of spiritual sonship.”

            Next, believers are “one in Christ” (3:28).  Paul’s emphasis in this verse is on our oneness, not equality.  Before God, racial distinctions (Jew or Greek), societal distinctions (slave or free), and sexual distinctions (male or female) are not relevant.  Earthly distinctions do exist, but in our position with God we are one in Him.

            Finally, in a triumphant conclusion, believers are “Abraham’s offspring” (3:29).  Christian Gentiles become spiritual “heirs according to the promise” through faith, just as Abraham had faith (3:6-7).  Abraham lived, was justified, and died before God gave the Law.  To him promised blessings were given.  Coming to Christ in faith brings those promised blessings to each one who believes (3:8-9).  What a glorious Gospel is ours to share.  (Larry Overstreet)

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