Tuesday, 5 April 2016
But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Galatians 3:23
To ensure context, the previous verse needs to be included as a point of reference –
“But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.”
Paul’s beginning word of verse 23, translated as “but,” is not the same as verse 22. It is probably better to say something like “and,” “now,” or “moreover” in order to show the original is a continuation and expansion on the thought, not merely another contrast. The word “faith” here relates to the dispensation of grace through faith. In other words, it is speaking of the new aspect of God’s progressive revelation of how He deals with, and reveals Himself to, mankind.
The law was given, and it “confined all under sin.” Using another term to indicate this same idea, he now says that “we were kept under guard by the law.” It is as if those under the law were continuously monitored in the prison of sin. The verb for “kept under guard” is in the imperfect tense. The law held, and continuously held, those under its domain, just as a jailer would do for any prisoner under his control.
The law was given as a means of preventing escape, not as a means of protecting the people. As it says in 1 Corinthians 15:56 –
“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.”
The law then is what bound those under its constraints, holding them fast. It was the guard “by whom those who belong to sin are kept under lock and key – under moral captivity, without possibility of liberation except through faith” (Vincent’s Word Studies). However, the law was not intended as a permanent dispensation, or outcropping, of how God would deal with man. It was intended to last only until a certain point and then end. It was meant that those under it would be “kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.”
Paul’s words may seem distant to us now that we have been in the church age for 2000 years, but they are actually as relevant today as they were when written to the Galatians. Those in Galatia were being told they needed to adhere to the law in order to be pleasing to God. People are still told this today, and the heresy continues on as if Paul’s words have no meaning at all. And even if the entire law isn’t demanded, people are told that if they simply followed certain precepts of the law they would be “more pleasing to God.” This sounds appealing, but it is untrue. The way to be pleasing to the Father is to trust in the work of the Son.
Life application: Why would anyone want to go back to the bondage of the law when we have been freed from it by faith in Christ? Can we please God more than Jesus did? Stand fast on Christ’s finished work and remember the words of the Bible – “Salvation is of the Lord.” Trust in Him and Him alone for your righteousness.
Lord God, I am ever so grateful for each and every blessing that You send my way. And yet, I know I spend more time questioning why the difficult times come. Help me not to gauge Your love for me from the trials and difficulties that I temporarily face. Instead, help me to remember the long-term promises You have in store for us, and to be grateful for what they hold, despite any temporary setbacks. This I pray as I walk through this world of many woes. Amen.