NT, Part 17. Part 10 in our discussion of Galatians.
Imagine your entire extended family enslaved in ancient Egypt for over 400 years. No one has any recollection of what family life was like before enslavement, nor how it should look. You barely know the God who was worshiped by your revered ancestors. And then this God —Yahweh — shows up as promised, frees your people, wipes out the Egyptian oppressors, leads your people into the wilderness, across the sea, and toward the Promised Land.
Yahweh calls your leader, Moses, to the top of a mountain where he receives a set of Laws from God. Upon hearing these Laws read aloud, you are devastated. You didn’t know any of these things were wrong, because you had been raised as a slave with few rights in Egyptian culture, where family incestuous immorality was a given, and bloody sacrifice of humans was often. They embalmed their own, thinking they would live forever among their gods.
The Laws this miraculous God has given your people explain life differently, detailing what is right and what is wrong. Having seen the impact of constant wrongdoing in Egypt, and having seen the death of their firstborn, you want to comply and keep these God-given Laws.
You become obsessed. You memorize them all.
Clearly, the holy standards contained in the Law were already in place within God’s own mind and Person. The Law teaches you about the perfection of God. Yahweh alone is God. He is not a false god from a pantheon of idols created through storytelling and stargazing during ancient times. Rather, Yahweh is the Creator of the universe, a God of holiness and righteousness, a God of action and of absolute truth without any variance or shifting shadows.
And now the Jesus Messiah, God the Son, has come.
The Law reveals the depth of human sinfulness, for no one but Jesus could keep the Law perfectly. It’s impossible for humans to reach this perfect and holy God, Yahweh, without Jesus as our mediator. You, a faithful Jew in Galatia, have accepted this mediator as your Savior, but you don’t know how to adjust, and so you tell others that they must also keep the Law. Surely, they must. You teach your children and all others accordingly.
Yet Paul, the former Pharisee, has written to say you’re wrong.
“Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now BEFORE FAITH CAME, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned UNTIL THE COMING FAITH WOULD BE REVEALED. 24 So then, the law was our guardian UNTIL CHRIST CAME, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But NOW THAT FAITH HAS COME, we are no longer under a guardian” (Galatians 3:21-25 ESV).
There it is, but how do you, a Galatian Judaizer, live it?
Before the Galatians came to Christ, how was the Law a guardian?
The word “guardian” in the original language is “paidagōgós, meaning an instructor or teacher of children, a schoolmaster, or pedagogue. Originally, this referred to the slave who conducted the boys from home to the school. Eventually, the term meant a teacher or an educator.“1.
Paul uses two different words in this letter to illustrate the guardianship of the Law and another word to emphasize its management. The guardian in 4:2, in the original language is “epítropos, a steward in the family household entrusted to act in another’s name or to whose care responsibilities were committed, a tutor.”
Thus, the Law defined sin. Coming out of captivity, the Jewish people needed definition. At that time, adherence to the Law continued to guard both Jews and Gentiles who had converted to Judaism from continuing in sin. This is why many Jewish believers clung tenaciously to the Law, imposing legalist requirements. And yet, while moral laws apply, the laws relating to foods and rituals were also imposed upon new believers by the Galatian Judaizers.
The Law couldn’t perfect them nor us, but it could teach us to recognize right and wrong. The Law didn’t have the power to give life, but rather to emphasize the captivity we find ourselves in because of our sinful natures, which push hard against the Law’s moral parameters. Thus, the Law led us to recognize our need for Christ. Faith in Christ changes everything, providing us with the power of the Holy Spirit to help us live in obedience to God.
Jesus, our Mediator, had fulfilled the requirements of the Law on our behalf, yet the Judaizers still wanted to keep the Law. Why? Because they hadn’t yet utilized the power of the Holy Spirit to resist sin and to grow in holiness.
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian [the Law] 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. 4:1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 4:2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father“ (Galatians 3:25-4:2 ESV).
Guardianship of the Law no longer necessary! One in Christ! No other designation is significant, not tribe, not status, not gender! Incredible!
Before the Galatians came to Christ, how was the Law a manager?
The manager in 4:2 was “oikonómos,” meaning “an administrator, a person who manages the domestic affairs of a family, business, or minor, a treasurer … a house manager, overseer, steward. The manager also had some charge over the sons of a family, probably in respect to monetary matters, thus differing from the epítropoi (Strong’s #2012), guardians or tutors (Gal. 4:2 [cf. Gen. 24:3]).”2.
“When a son is a minor and too young to receive his inheritance, he might as well be a slave. This was the situation of Paul and his fellow Israelites under the old covenant.”3. They were not free, but were slaves to the Law. They were like sons who were under the guidance of the manager and the guardian, both who were governed by their father. Thus, the sons were not yet free men.
Jewish families focused on the education of their sons, and boys typically memorized at least the first five books of the Old Testament, if not the entirety of the OT Scriptures. The Law was a manager, guiding them in how to carry out a pure Jewish lifestyle in every way — ritualistically, domestically, and monetarily.
In this way, the Old Testament Law managed sinful natures, aiming them toward good deeds and repentance. The Law instructed like a guardian, aiming the sons who learned it toward love and good deeds, acting as a schoolmaster and a manager, teaching them truth and how to manage the passions of their human nature.
But now Christ has come. We now have our own copies of God’s Word, Old and New Testaments, and we have the Holy Spirit. To know how God desires us to live, what is right, what is wrong, and how we can enjoy an eternity in God’s presence, we must know what God’s Word says, guided by the Spirit. We must listen and apply it.
Yet, people don’t often know the guidance found in God’s Word nor how to apply it.
Church Attendance is Declining
Only 40% of Americans attend church regularly. These attend approximately twelve times a year. On any given week, only 20% of Americans are present in church. (stats) Sadly, Christian nationalism has polluted the church with false doctrine by tying American Christianity to politics, and purity culture has harmed many others.
However, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is not American, nor is it corrupt. The global church is diverse, comprised of peoples from all over the planet, from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. It is not American, nor is it corrupt. The global church is diverse, comprised of peoples from all over the planet, from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. #Faith #Christianity Click To Tweet
Bible Reading is Declining
In June 2020 a survey found that 34% of Americans have never read the Bible, a reality for the past three years, while the number who do read the Bible increased to 16% who read it every day. (The stats.)
By neglecting God’s Word, we rob ourselves of intimacy with the Lord, removing the subtle and gentle conviction of the Holy Spirit — the Author of Scripture — nudging us toward love and good deeds. We need the Word of God.
The Spread of the Gospel
Before we lose heart over these statistics, let’s consider when the Gospel went out into the world, beginning in Jerusalem and then spreading outward. No one attended church or synagogue outside of the parts of the world where Jewish believers lived. The world was tribal, pagan, a tough crowd.
“And God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us“ (Acts 17:26-27 ESV).
The apostles took the Gospel far and wide. Each died for their efforts, evidence that they were convinced that Jesus was Messiah, and that he had risen from the dead, having seen with their own eyes. They faced far more difficult opposition than we face here in America. We are not yet in danger of execution for sharing the Gospel.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-27 ESV).
“‘You are all sons of God.’ This is the crucial difference between old and new covenant believers; life under the law was slavery; life in Christ is marked by the freedom that comes from being God’s ‘sons.’ Both men and women have the rights of ‘sons,’ because with sonship comes the right of inheritance. The Greek word huioi (‘sons’) is a legal term. “This term refers to the status of all Christians, both men and women, who, having been adopted into God’s family, now enjoy all the privileges, obligations, and inheritance rights of God’s children.” 4.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making it possible for us to become your sons, heirs of your kingdom.
- Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers. A shortened definition of Strong’s #3807.
- Zodhiates, S. (2000). Strong’s #3623
- Partial note on Galatians 4:1-3, ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois, 2008
- Partial note on Galatians 3:26, ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois, 2008.