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I apologize for the delay in posting this week's study guide. I have been out of town for a few days and pull an Old-Timer's act of forgetfulness. I just forgot to post it before I left town. Pleas forgive my thoughtfulness.
Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Summer, 2018
Study Theme: Why
Are We Here?
What This Lesson Is About:
focus for this week’s study is on dealing with the magnitude of our sin
problem. We should thank God that He gave His only Son, Christ Jesus, to
fix this problem.
Why Are We Even Here?
Why Are We in This Mess?
Why Can’t We Fix It?
Why Did Jesus Come?
What Should We Do Now?
What Happens Next?
We are unable to live up to
God’s holy standard.
God Established a Standard
for Us to Live in Relationship With Him (Deut. 5:32-33)
Sin and Are Incapable of Meeting God’s Standard (Gal. 3:10-12)
Law Gave a Temporary Provision Until Christ (Gal. 3:19a,24-25)
standard for His people is stated in many ways in the Old Testament. God
gave His law to His covenant people to make His expectations clear to
them. Today many of us, including Christians, read or hear the word law
and have a negative reaction. Maybe we think “law” automatically leads
to legalism, which is trying to become righteous before God through our
obedience. The biblical Jews, however, initially had a positive response
to God’s law. God had graciously set them free from captivity in Egypt
and gave them the law codes to guide them. The text from Deuteronomy gives
a concise statement of the value of the law. You might also be familiar
with Psalm 119, which praises God’s law in almost every verse.
texts from Galatians direct our attention to how attempts to obey the law
were never adequate to provide salvation from sin. Paul contrasted two
ways to approach the spiritual mess humans find themselves in. Paul’s
opponents apparently thought obeying the Old Testament law was a valid
solution to the human sin problem. Paul demonstrated that even in the Old
Testament faith in God was the proper way to deal with sin. He used
several passages from the Old Testament itself to demonstrate that people
are saved by faith and not by works. Our study of these two biblical books
will demonstrate that we need God’s grace to fix the spiritual mess we
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
When we consider our spiritual condition in the
light of the Bible, we realize that we can never be totally perfect. God
has given us His holy standard, stated initially in the Old Testament law.
Try as we might, we will always fall short of that standard. Spiritually,
we are sinners and need salvation, but we cannot save ourselves. Most
Christians who understand the need for God’s grace to be saved probably
realize that we live in a society that promotes self-help and
self-improvement, not grace. To admit we need help seems like clear
evidence of weakness to many today. At some point in our spiritual lives,
however, we need to recognize that we’re in a spiritual mess and we need
God’s help. We
cannot fix our spiritual condition by attending a conference, doing more
good deeds, or practicing spiritual disciplines such as prayer or Bible
reading. Studying this session, which draws on both the Old Testament and
the New Testament, will help us see the need for divine resources.
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Established a Standard for Us to Live in Relationship With Him (Deut.
32 “Be careful to do as the Lord your God has
commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right or the left. 33
Follow the whole instruction the Lord your God has commanded you, so that
you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.
Sin and Are Incapable of Meeting God’s Standard (Gal. 3:10-12)
10 For all who rely on the
works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone who
does not do everything written in the book of the law is cursed.
11 Now it is clear that no one is justified
before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith.
12 But the law is not based on faith; instead,
the one who does these things will live by them.
Lessons in Gal. 3:10-12:
No one can fully obey God’s laws.
Relating to God by faith is the alternative to trying to follow the law in
order to gain God’s favor.
Faith in Jesus is the right response to God’s gracious offer of
Law Gave a Temporary Provision Until Christ (Gal. 3:19a,24-25)
Why then was the law given? It was added for the sake of transgressions
until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.
The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be
justified by faith. 25 But since that faith has come, we
are no longer under a guardian,
was the purpose of the law to begin with?
would you explain the two answers Paul gave for the question: “Why
then was the law given” (v.19a)? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Paul
may have anticipated . . . “ and
“Paul offered two . . . “ )
is it that the more we rely on ourselves, the further we move away from God’s
remedy for our sin?
would you explain Paul’s support for the law? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “First, the law . . . “ and “Second,
Paul said . . . “ )
would you explain Paul’s use of the word “Seed” in verse 19a? (See Adv.
Comm., pg. 6, “Paul
noted earlier . . . “ )
would you explain how Paul felt about God’s law? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Paul carefully noted . . . “ )
would you explain how Jesus came to fulfill the purpose and promise of God’s
does the word ”guardian” mean?
would you explain Paul’s use of the word “guardian”
in verses 24-25? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “In
verse 24 Paul . . . “ )
you think the Law has value even though it is not God’s ultimate plan for our
salvation? Why, or why not?
would you answer the ultimate question from this study: “Why can’t humanity fix this mess we’re in?” (See
Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Paul understood . . . “ )
does this question mean to you: “The
more we rely on ourselves, the further we move away from God”?
Why is faith in Jesus’ work on the cross the only way
to fix our spiritual condition and be restored to a right relationship with God?
would you explain God’s plan of salvation to a lost person?
Lessons in Gal. 3:19a,24-25:
The Old Testament law prepared people for the coming of Jesus.
Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament promises such as the promise to
Abraham of a future Seed.
Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection are the basis for our
law spoken about in Deuteronomy and Galatians is likely a reference to the
Mosaic code. For some, the law almost became more important than God.
Perhaps you may recall encounters Jesus had with certain Pharisees who
elevated the law and their adherence to it to the point that they were
blinded to the goodness of God manifested in Jesus. While they were
faithful to some elements of the law, they lost sight of things that were
of greater importance (Matt. 23:23-24).
We may argue that the Mosaic Law is not an issue
for us in our day. Even if that were true, the message of this study still
is extremely relevant. The concept of law can be extended to include any
code of conduct we ascribe to, even one that a person creates for himself.
Anything that we believe or do that implies we can move ourselves into
right relationship with God is a
distortion of God’s Word and is to be condemned as a false gospel.
We rejoice that Christ has come. He made possible
what we could not do for ourselves. He has redeemed us from sin and made
us heirs to the wonderful blessing God pours our lavishly on those who
come to Him in faith.
What are some ways people try to put themselves in
right relationship with God?
Because of this study, how prepared are you to
explain to others the good purposes of of the law but also its
insufficiency in providing for our salvation?
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
God’s Word: Deut. 5:32-33; Gal. 3:10-12,19a,24-25
32 Ye shall
observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not
turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
33 Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.
10 For as many
as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is
every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the
law to do them. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the
sight of God, it is evident:
for, The just shall live by faith. 12 And the law is not of faith:
but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
then serveth the law? It was
added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise
was made; and it was ordained by
angels in the hand of a mediator.
you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not
turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all
the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that
it may be well with you, and that
you may prolong your days in the
land which you shall possess.
10 For as many
as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed
is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of
the law, to do them." 11 But that no one is justified by
the law in the sight of God is
evident, for "the just shall live
by faith." 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them."
Galatians 3:19a (NKJV)
19 What purpose
then does the law serve?
It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the
promise was made; and it was
appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
32 So Moses
told the people, “You must be careful to obey all the commands of the LORD
your God, following his instructions in every detail. 33 Stay on the
path that the LORD your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long
and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.
10 But those
who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the
Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the
commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 So it is
clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the
Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” 12
This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It
is through obeying the law that a person has life.”
19 Why, then,
was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins.
But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was
promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between
God and the people.
(NOTE: Commentary for the
focal passage comes from three sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,”
“Bible Studies For Life Commentary,” and “Matthew Henry’s Commentary On
The Old Testament”/” The MacArthur New Testament Commentary and “and
is provided for your study.)
Lesson Outline — “Why Can’t We
Fix It?” — Deut. 5:32-33; Gal.
God Established a
Standard for Us to Live in Relationship With Him (Deut. 5:32-33)
We Sin and Are Incapable of Meeting God’s
Standard (Gal. 3:10-12)
The Law Gave a Temporary Provision Until Christ
Bible Study Commentary: Deut.
5:32-33; Gal. 3:10-12,19a,24-25
God Established a Standard for Us to Live in Relationship With Him (Deut.
The Book of Deuteronomy consists primarily of
sermons by Moses to the Israelites. God had liberated His people from slavery in
Egypt and guided them through the wilderness for many years. Now they were
camped in Moab, waiting for God’s permission to enter Canaan, the land God had
promised them (Deut. 1:5). In his sermons Moses reviewed this history and
reminded the people of their covenant obligations. In Deuteronomy 5, Moses
reviewed the Ten Commandments, a key component to God’s instructions for His
One of God’s major concerns was that His people be
completely obedient to His commands. The people had already disobeyed God on
their journey. For instance, soon after God first revealed the Ten Commandments
to the people, Aaron, Moses’ brother, violated the commandment against
idolatry by making a gold calf for the people to worship (Ex. 32). So God
rightly insisted that His people not turn aside to the right or the left.
They should comply with God’s instructions without any deviation. If Moses
were communicating to us today, he might use the example of distracted driving.
Legislators today are passing laws against the use of cell phones and other
electronic devices because drivers often become distracted and have accidents.
To change the analogy a little, God’s commands are similar to a divine GPS.
The Israelites could recall that God guided them in the wilderness with a pillar
of cloud and a pillar of fire (Ex. 14:19-25). Like this geographical
guidance, God’s commands would guide the spiritual and ethical lives of the
God used the imagery of His people being on a journey in verse 33.
Follow the whole instruction might also be rendered “walk in all the
way” (NIV). God’s standard was the right way for His people to behave. In
later Hebrew wisdom literature, the word picture of following God’s way and
not deviating from it is often mentioned (Prov. 4:27; 8:20; 9:6).
God gave His instructions for His people in several forms. For instance,
sometimes He stressed they should emulate His moral characteristics. God is
holy, and He expects His people to be holy (Lev. 19:2). His Ten
Commandments included more detailed instructions.
God promised the people that obedience would result in His
blessing. If they obeyed God, they would live, prosper, and have a long life
in the land. God regularly noted that the people’s behavior would result
in blessings or divine punishment. For example, in Deuteronomy 27 God told
the people that they would eventually hold a ceremony at two mountains in the
holy land. God enumerated several curses, or pronouncements of divine judgment,
and several blessings that would be based on the behavior of His people in the
The blessings God named in verse 33 will
sound mainly temporal and material to some readers. Sometimes the Old Testament
mentions long life, prosperity, and good health more than the spiritual, eternal
results of obedience. Without oversimplifying the issue, the New Testament seems
to make eternal life, peace with God, and contentment a higher priority in its
discussion of God’s blessings. A dangerous trend today is the so-called
prosperity gospel, which might use passages such as verse 33 as a guarantee
of health and wealth for believers. Paul, for example, certainly experienced
much suffering and adversity in his life. The overall witness of the New
Testament is that Christians who live in a hostile environment may suffer.
God’s standards for His people were high,
but He expected total obedience. If they followed His instructions, He would
bless their lives. Several times in the Old Testament this same call for a total
commitment to God appears. For example, later on, when the Israelites had
conquered the land of Canaan, Joshua reminded them that they needed to make a
clear choice between loyalty to the true God or loyalty to pagan gods (Josh. 24:14-15).
Jesus echoed this either-or kind of choice in His teaching. In the Sermon on the
Mount, for instance, He noted the choice between two gates or roads for life
Today we are not the Israelites hearing Moses
in the land of Moab, but we need to recall the urgency and importance of God’s
holy standard for our lives. This short passage sets the stage for Paul’s
discussion of the role of the law.
Sin and Are Incapable of Meeting God’s Standard (Gal. 3:10-12)
The apostle Paul wrote to the churches in
Galatia about some serious issues related to the Old Testament law. Before his
conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul had been a zealous advocate of that
law, and he knew it well (1:13-14). Now he hoped to clarify for his readers how
the Old Testament law related to the revelation of God’s will in Jesus.
In Galatians Paul focused on the works of the law. The
Greek word nomos or “law” is the basis for some English words we use. For
example, autonomy means to be self-ruled or governed. The larger context for
Paul’s discussion is the different ways “law” might have been understood
in Paul’s day. Paul often used the Greek word rendered “law” for the law
given to Moses and discussed in the Pentateuch, the books of the law. In
Galatians “law” or “works of the law” normally points to the laws given
in the days of Moses. Sometimes, however,
“law” might refer to a larger concept. For instance, in his discussion of
God’s wrath on the Gentiles in the Book of Romans, Paul noted that the
Gentiles did not have the Old Testament law to guide them. But they had an
awareness of right and wrong that made them accountable to God (Rom. 2:12-16).
Paul argued that the Gentiles had some revelation about God and morality, while
the Jews had special revelation. In other words, both Jews and Gentiles had an
awareness of the law.
In Galatians the phrase “works of the law” points to
distinctively Jewish practices that set them apart from other religions and
cultures. One of the main issues in Galatians is the Jewish custom of
circumcision. The agitators who were disturbing the churches in Galatia
apparently insisted that Gentile men who wanted to become Christians should be
circumcised. Paul resisted this requirement (Gal. 2:1-5). Although Bible
scholars debate the exact identity of Paul’s opponents, the issue of
circumcision illustrates a typical legal issue in Paul’s day. Paul’s
opponents may have insisted that becoming a Jew before becoming a Christian was
the normal, right way to approach God. Paul, as the apostle to the Gentiles,
insisted that faith in Jesus was all the Gentiles needed to be saved.
Paul contrasted two approaches to salvation in this letter.
His opponents stressed the need for Christians to obey God’s law, and Paul
stressed the approach of faith in Jesus. Some of Paul’s discussion might
puzzle readers today, but the main points are clear. Paul presumed that his
readers would recall some of Old Testament history. Paul’s opponents
highlighted the laws given in the days of Moses, and Paul pointed to the
importance of faith in the life of Abraham. Abraham was rightly related to God
by his faith in God’s promises several centuries before the law was given. So,
the way of faith has priority over the way of obedience to the law (2:6-9). Both
Jews and Gentiles are saved by faith.
Since Paul was responding to opponents who stressed the Old Testament
law, he often quoted the Old Testament. In verse 10 he quoted Deuteronomy 27:26.
This verse comes from the divine curses to be pronounced on sinners when the
Israelites entered the promised land. Paul’s point was that reliance on the
“works of the law” as a way of salvation inevitably led to being under a
curse. No one was able to meet God’s high standards. Paul developed his
emphasis on the universality of sin in Romans 1–3. There Paul offered
abundant evidence that both Gentiles and Jews were sinners. His conclusion was
the following: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
Still drawing on the Old Testament, Paul quoted Habakkuk 2:4
in verse 11. Paul noted this key verse also in Romans 1:17. God had
responded to the prophet Habakkuk’s concerns about the Hebrew nation being
invaded by an enemy. God told the prophet he needed to live by faith. Paul
typically used the patriarch Abraham as his example of the role of faith. He
stressed that Abraham’s faith relation to God predated the laws given to Moses
(Gal. 3:17). In verse 11, however, he shifted to a later prophet. The
main point, however, is the same. We should approach God trusting in His
promises and His revelation of salvation in Jesus. The way of the Old Testament
law is futile.
In verse 12 Paul quoted Leviticus 18:5 to support
his approach. The context again is his contrast between law and faith; the
law is not based on faith. Jesus had quoted the Leviticus verse in His
discussion with a legal expert right before the story of the good Samaritan
(Luke 10:28). The legal expert with Jesus then tried to “justify
himself” (Luke 10:29). In his letters Paul consistently rejects any
attempt to achieve justification or salvation through human effort. For example,
“And we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith
in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no
human being will be justified” (Gal. 2:16).
Paul’s view of salvation is summarized well in Ephesians 2:8-10.
We are saved by grace through faith for good works. Paul is not opposed to good
works in general or works of the law in particular, but they are not the basis
for our salvation. The good deeds will flow out of our faith relationship to
Some of Paul’s readers might have thought they were doing pretty
well obeying the Old Testament law. Paul’s response, to use a familiar phrase,
would be that “being close” does not count. In a game such as horseshoes
being close might matter, but on the issue of our relation to God we all fail
when we try to approach God by the law
The Law Gave a Temporary Provision Until Christ (Gal. 3:19a,24-25)
Paul’s use of Old Testament quotations and
allusions might mystify some readers today. Paul also quoted Deuteronomy 21:23
to demonstrate that Jesus’ death on a cross meant that Jesus had “redeemed
us from the curse of the law” (3:13). We know that Jesus was crucified on a
Roman cross, so Paul’s use of an Old Testament reference about being “hung
on a tree” might be puzzling to us. But Paul, as a loyal Jew, would have
resisted acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah and Savior because of a passage such
as Deuteronomy 21:23. When Paul met the risen Jesus he eventually realized
that Jesus had suffered and died under the curse of human sin. Jesus was the
innocent sacrifice that provided the basis for our redemption.
Paul acknowledged that he was using a “human
illustration” to make his point about salvation (v. 15). God had made
promises to Abraham, and Abraham responded properly through faith in God. The
law codes were given 430 years later, and they did not annul the covenant
God made earlier with Abraham (vv. 16-17).
Paul may have anticipated that some of his original readers wanted to
ask him about the purpose of the law. If we are not saved by the law, then why
did God give the law in the first place? Why then was the law given? That
question makes sense to readers today as well.
Paul offered two explanations or answers to that question in
verse 19. First, the law was given by
God for the sake of transgressions. Paul gave a similar statement in Romans 5:20.
“The law came along to multiply the trespass.” Paul knew that people sinned
before God gave the laws to Moses. Adam and Eve, for instance, clearly disobeyed
God’s commands. Paul’s point, illustrated in Romans 7:7-11, is that
when the laws were revealed, people knew more about right and wrong. Paul’s example in Romans 7 was
the command against coveting. The law did not cause sin directly, but knowing
the law provided another opportunity for sin.
Second, Paul said the law was given to help humans until Jesus
came to provide salvation. Here again Paul used a Jewish style of argumentation
that might bewilder readers today. Paul noted
earlier that God had made a promise to Abraham about his “seed” (Gal. 3:16).
Paul stressed that the original promise, given in Genesis 12:7, used the
singular “seed” and not the plural “seeds.” Paul explained that Christ
is the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus is the Seed promised to
Abraham. So the Old Testament law had a provisional or temporary role to play in
God’s redemptive plan. The law would not save anyone, but the law prepared the
people for the coming of Jesus.
Paul carefully noted the value of the law, even though it was not
God’s ultimate plan of salvation. If someone asked if the law was “contrary
to God’s promises,” Paul’s response was “Absolutely not!” (3:21). Paul
made a similar comment in Romans 7:7. Paul also said the law is
“spiritual” (Rom. 7:14) and “good” (Rom. 7:16). Later Paul
said “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom. 10:4). Jesus is the
completion and fulfillment of the law. The law could not save people, but it had
a role to play in God’s plan. Jesus addressed the relevance of the law in a
similar way in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:17-20). There Jesus gave
several examples of His interpretation of the law (5:21-48).
In his letter to the Galatians Paul dealt
primarily with the relation of the law to our salvation. Although he discussed
the ongoing relevance of the Old Testament ethical standards in particular
situations, his main point in Galatians was to deal with the salvation issue.
Some scholars note that Paul’s rejection of the Old Testament law as the basis
for salvation might have been misunderstood by some of his original readers. If
the law does not save, they thought, then we can ignore the law completely. The
heretical view known as “antinomianism” or “anti-law-ism” was rejected
by Paul when he discussed human freedom in Galatians 5:13-15.1
In verse 24 Paul said the role of the law before the coming of
Jesus was to serve as our guardian. In the Roman world the “guardian” was a
slave that helped a young child. The guardian assisted the child until he was an
adult. The ancient guardians “offered round-the-clock supervision and
protection to those under their care.”2 Paul’s use of the
“guardian” image would have helped his original readers understand the
relation of the Old Testament law to Jesus. The law had its proper role, but it
was never designed to be the full and complete plan of salvation prepared by
God. The law had a subordinate role to play in God’s redemptive plans, but
Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the true basis for our salvation.
Paul understood and explained the essentials of the Christian
life. We are all sinners and need God’s grace to be saved. We are in a
spiritual mess, and we cannot fix it by our own efforts. Some of Paul’s
readers thought doing the “works of the law” would lead to salvation.
Without rejecting the provisional value of the Old Testament law, Paul pointed
us to the salvation God provided in Jesus.
1 R. Alan Cole, Galatians, in Tyndale New Testament Commentary
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 104,152.
2 Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30 in The New American Commentary
(Nashville: B&H, 1994), 265.
Bible Studies For Life Commentary:
Deut. 5:32-33; Gal. 3:10-12,19a,24-25
I. God Established a Standard for Us to Live in
Relationship With Him (Deut. 5:32-33)
Verse 32. Long after sin destroyed humanity’s
original perfect fellowship with God, God established a standard by which humans
were to live in relationship with Him. Following their exodus from Egypt, the
Israelites encountered God at Mount Horeb (Sinai). With Moses as a mediator, God
gave the Israelites His standard—the law.
After forty years of wandering in the
wilderness, most of the generation of Israelites who had experienced the exodus
from Egypt had died, and their children prepared to enter into the promised
land. Before they embarked, however, Moses addressed them and reminded them of
the covenant they had made with God.
God had given them detailed instructions on
how to live in covenant relationship with Him. Moses reminded the Israelites
that they were to be careful to do as the Lord
your God has commanded you. In Hebrew,
Moses’ admonition to be careful to do is
a combination of two words. The word shamar
carries the idea of keeping watch or guarding something, while the word asah
means to do or obey. Used in relation to God’s instructions, this pair of
words emphasizes a serious responsibility. This is what Moses wanted to
emphasize—being diligent to obey what the Lord
your God has commanded. God’s commands included more than just the Ten
Commandments. They include all of God’s laws, commands, statutes, ordinances,
and instructions found in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and
It was a common Hebrew literary technique to repeat
a phrase (though using different words) to emphasize the importance of an idea
or concept. Moses did this in the second part of this verse when he commanded
the people not to turn aside to the right or the
left—they were not to deviate from what God had said. Proverbs 4:25-27
pictures a traveler on a journey walking down a path—only by paying attention,
avoiding distractions, and staying on course would the traveler reach his
Verse 33. Moses again reminded the Israelites of the
centrality of God’s words for their lives. He noted they were to follow
the whole instruction God had given them; partial obedience was not
acceptable. The word follow
translates a Hebrew word that literally means “to walk.” It pictures someone
walking behind a leader. In this case God’s instruction would provide expert
leadership for them.
Every aspect of the Israelites’ future in
the promised land was dependent on their obedience to God. Only by obeying what
God had commanded would they live, prosper, and
have a long life in the land you will possess. They would neither survive
nor thrive if they turned away from God’s instructions.
Moses would not accompany the Israelites into
the promised land because of his sin at Meribah (Num. 20:6‑13). Thus his words to the Israelites were
spoken more from a teacher’s perspective (frequently using the second person
plural—“you” and “your”) rather than including himself in the
exhortations he made to the people.
II. We Sin and Are Incapable of Meeting God’s Standard
10. Though God’s commands
give the standard for living in relationship with Him, our sinful human nature
prevents any of us from living up to His standard. Writing about 1500 years
after the time of Moses, the apostle Paul clarified this as he wrote to
believers in the church in Galatia.
Certain false teachers (often referred to as
Judaizers) who had infiltrated the Galatian church claimed that faith in Christ
was not enough for living in a right relationship with God. They taught that
obedience to God’s commands (the law) was essential for salvation.
Most of Paul’s words in his letter to the
Galatians were designed to refute the claims of the Judaizers. Paul didn’t
rely on his own arguments, however. He used Scripture to show the true standing
of those who rely on the works of the law, that
is, who trust that their obedience to the law makes them right with God. Paul
frequently referred to the law in his letters; occasionally it was a general
reference to the Old Testament or more specifically to God’s will. Most often
when he used the word (as he did here) it referred to God’s specific words to
Moses (found in the Books of Exodus through Deuteronomy) that instructed the
Israelites on a variety of moral, ceremonial, and civil matters.
For centuries many Jews
(including the Judaizers) thought obeying the law made them acceptable to God.
But Paul noted this was not the case. In fact, just the opposite was true.
Rather than bringing people into right standing with God, the law actually
brought them into opposition with God. Rather than experiencing a blessing, such
people were actually under a curse. A
curse represented more than a future state of suffering and despair
brought on by God’s wrath. It also included the present state of being
separated from God—cut off from everything good that comes from Him.
To support his words Paul referenced
Deuteronomy 27:26, which was originally spoken by Moses to the Israelites.
These words come at the end of a list of transgressions and accompanying curses
that the Levites were to speak to all the Israelites. The verse Paul quoted was
like a summary statement for the whole list—noting the judgment that would be
experienced by everyone who did not continue to do everything
written in the book of the law. God expected and demanded perfection.
Anyone who failed to keep even one of His instructions would be cursed. And
since no ordinary human had perfectly obeyed all of the laws it meant everyone
stood condemned before God.
Paul was not the only one to emphasize this truth.
The apostle James (the half-brother of Jesus) wrote something similar when he
noted, “whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty
of breaking it all” (Jas. 2:10).
Verse 11. Because no human being is capable of
perfectly keeping the law, no one is justified
before God by the law. The Greek word translated justified
was a legal term and referred to a person declared to be in right standing with
another. Paul used this word frequently in Romans and Galatians to emphasize the
status of those who were declared righteous by God, who were in right standing
with Him. Paul noted, however, that it was clear this did not happen by
observing the law—not even by keeping a
portion of it, such as circumcision, which was one of the primary rules the
Instead, the only way a person could come into
right standing with God—that is, be declared by Him to be righteous—was
through trust rather than tasks. Only those who live
by faith are right with God. In verse 11, Paul was quoting from the
Old Testament Book of Habakkuk. The prophet Habakkuk was a contemporary of
Jeremiah and ministered some time in the late seventh century BC. He
dialogued with God (actually he asked a lot of questions of God) about why God
had not punished the wicked people of Judah and why God would use the wicked
Babylonians, whom Habakkuk considered worse than his own people, as His
instrument of judgment.
The verse quoted by Paul, Habakkuk 2:4,
is God’s answer to Habakkuk’s questions. In its original context, the verse
emphasized how God’s people were to live in the face of both injustice in
their own land and with the threat of invasion by the Babylonians. They were to
live by faith, even when things didn’t make sense. This was not just a word
for the Jews of Habakkuk’s day, however. It
is also a statement of how God’s people (whether Jews or Gentiles) of any time
period are to live—by faith in God.
Paul quoted this verse in
his writings (also in Rom. 1:17) as God’s confirmation for the basis
of righteousness, which only comes through faith. Paul explained the nature of
this faith more fully in his letter to the Romans:
now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by
the Law and the Prophets. The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus
Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented him as an atoning
sacrifice in his blood, received through faith ... God presented him to
demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be righteous
and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:21-26).
The Christian rejects the notion that
righteousness before God can be earned, instead trusting completely in the
atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for his or her sins. By faith, the believer
receives the perfect righteousness of Christ and is reconciled to God. The
believer stands justified before God, both now and forever.
True life, a right relationship with God, only comes by faith. In
addition, those who have a right relationship with God will continue to live by
Verse 12. Paul noted the
law is not based on faith. When a person bases his righteousness on faith
he is trusting in what God has done through Jesus Christ; he is believing in God
alone. In contrast, the law is based on doing rather than trusting. When a
person bases his righteousness on keeping the law, he is depending on his
deeds—what he does by his own efforts.
Paul referenced Leviticus 18:5 to support his argument. The
one who does these things will live by them. These
things refers to the works of the law (Gal. 3:10). The law is a
system of obedience—based on what a person does.
Obeying the law is the ongoing, never-ending way a person must continue to live.
Even though this is a futile effort for sinful human beings (Rom. 3:23), it
is the only alternative for those who reject the way of faith.
III. The Law Gave a Temporary Provision Until Christ
Verse 19a. The law was only a temporary provision until
Christ came. Since law and faith are mutually exclusive, and since it is
impossible for sinful people to obey the law completely, it would be natural to
wonder about God’s intention for the law.
Paul asked the question the Galatians might have been asking at this point as
they read his letter: Why then was the law
given? Did it have any value?
Some may have thought
Paul wanted nothing to do with the law, since he argued so forcefully against a
works-based righteousness and clearly taught a justification that came through
faith alone. A number of years later he would be directly accused of teaching
against the law (Acts 21:28). However, Paul was not against the law; but,
he had come to understand God’s purpose for giving it in regards to salvation.
Paul noted the law was
just a temporary provision given to humanity. From the time of Adam until the
time of Moses sin was a reality in the world, as evidenced by the continual
death of people during that period. Unlike Adam, however, people did not die
because they violated a specific command of God. (Paul emphasized this in Rom. 5:13‑14.) Death was a reality
because people continued to sin and everyone had a sinful nature—it was passed
down from Adam, person by person through countless generations, like a genetic
This was true even after God established His
covenant with Abraham. Thus, God acted during the time of Moses to clarify His
standards. He added His laws to the
covenant for the sake of transgressions.
When God gave the law, it provided a definite boundary for human behavior.
Because of the law, it would be evident to everyone what was acceptable and what
wasn’t—no one could claim ignorance. Thus they would know specifically when
they had done wrong and violated one of God’s commands. As a result, they
would recognize they were guilty and stood condemned by God.
This was only a temporary measure, however, until
the full revelation of God came in Jesus Christ. The law was valid until
the coming of the Seed or offspring God
had promised to Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). Earlier in this
letter Paul identified Christ as the seed who came to fulfill God’s promise
to Abraham (Gal. 3:16). This promise refers to the blessing that would be
available to all people (Gen. 12:3; 22:18)—the salvation made possible
because of the sacrifice of Jesus and the righteousness that is available to all
through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Verse 24. In this verse Paul introduced a concept that
would have been familiar to his original readers. Paul first noted the
provisional nature of the law as a guardian.
The Greek word paidagogos (from
which we get the English words “pedagogue” and “pedagogy”) can refer to
a teacher. While some interpreters have presented the
law as having an educating function, Paul’s usage of the word carried a
different meaning. In ancient times many wealthy people utilized a paidagogos
to guard and correct their young boys starting at age six. A trusted slave was
given the responsibility to supervise the behavior of a boy until he reached
adulthood. Rather than a teaching function this slave primarily gave oversight
to the child’s moral upbringing. He pointed out wrongdoing and usually was a
strict disciplinarian, often using a stick or other harsh methods to bring a
straying child back into line. There was no escaping the supervision of this
guardian—he was a certainty until the child came to maturity.
Paul emphasized that the law was just such a moral
supervisor/guardian for us. There was no escaping its oversight. Paul noted not
only the law’s disciplinary function (pointing out wrongdoing) but also its
temporary nature, which continued until Christ
came and we no longer needed a guardian. Not until Christ took on Himself the
curse of the law through His sinless death and subsequent resurrection could
humans be justified by faith. Even so,
only those who actually trust in the justification that comes through what Jesus
Christ has done will be in a right relationship with God.
25. Writing and ministering some twenty years after the
resurrection of Christ, Paul emphasized the certainty that faith
has come. Paul was not saying that people living in the Old Testament era
were somehow justified by keeping the law. All were justified by faith, as Paul
demonstrated using Abraham as the example (Gal. 3:6). However, “What
Abraham glimpsed from a distance, we have seen up close; what he beheld in
figures and types, we have received in fulfillment and reality.” 1 Faith has
come in the sense that the long-awaited Messiah promised in the Old
Testament, has come. Because Christ has come, Paul could rightly conclude that
we are no longer under a guardian.
Through faith in Christ we are released from the control, discipline, and
oversight of the law which pointed us to Christ and are free to live as full
sons and daughters of God (v. 26). We do this on the basis of faith,
trusting in the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who paid
the penalty for our sins.
SOURCE: Bible Studies For
Life Commentary; Leader Guide; Senior Adults; One LifeWay Plaza; Nashville, TN
Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Old Testament:
And Hence He
Infers The Obligation They Were Under To Obedience (5:32,33)
infers a charge to them to observe and do all that God had commanded them, v.
32,33. Seeing God had shown himself so tender of them, and so willing to
consider their frame and gratify them in what they desired, and withal so ready
to make the best of them,-seeing they themselves had desired to have Moses for
their teacher, who was now teaching them,-and seeing they had promised so
solemnly, and under the influence of so many good causes 750and
considerations, that they would hear and do, he charges them to walk in all the
ways that God had commanded them, assuring them that it would be highly for
their advantage to do so. The only way to be happy is to be holy. Say to the
righteous, It shall be well with them.
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians 3:10-12,19a,24-25:
Proof from the Old Testament
For as many as are of the works of
the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does
not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them."
Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The
righteous man shall live by faith." However, the Law is not of faith; on
the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them." (3:10-12)
The Judaizers also strongly
advocated the necessity of keeping the Mosaic Law in order to be saved.
But here again, simply the sequence of Old Testament events should have shown
them the foolishness of that belief. Abraham not only was declared righteous
about 14 years before he was commanded to be circumcised, but more than 500
years before God revealed His law to Moses at Sinai. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and
countless other Hebrew believers lived and died long before the written law was
given by God.
Just as the Judaizers and their
Galatian victims should have known that justification is by faith and not
circumcision, they should also have known it is not by the Law. Therefore
after showing what faith can do, Paul now shows what works cannot
do. As in verses 6-9, his argument is based on the Old Testament.
In his defense before King Agrippa
in Caesarea, Paul states the scriptural foundation of all his preaching and
teaching: "Having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying
both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said
was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of
His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to
the Jewish people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:22-23).
The ancient rabbis were so
absolutely convinced that salvation could only be earned through keeping the law
that they tried to prove God had somehow revealed His law even to the patriarchs
and other saints who lived before Moses and that those people found favor with
Him because they kept His law. Because they could not bring themselves to
consider limiting the supremacy of the law, the rabbis sought instead to
reconstruct history and the clear teaching of God's Word.
But Paul turns the tables on them
again. "Don't you realize," he says, "that as many as are of
the works of the Law are under a curse?" That question would have
utterly perplexed the Judaizers, who would have responded vehemently, "We
know no such thing. How can you speak such foolishness?" "Have you
forgotten Deuteronomy, the last book of the Law?" Paul asks, in
effect; "for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not
abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them'"
(see Deut. 27:26). A curse is a divine judgment that brings the sentence of
The apostle's emphasis in the
quotation was on the requirement to abide by all things. In other words,
the fact that those who trust in the works of the Law are obligated to
keep all things in the law without exception, places them inevitably under
a curse, because no one had the ability to abide by everything the
divine and perfect law of God demands. Paul confessed his inability to keep the
law even as a devout Pharisee. He testified that "this commandment which
was to result in life, proved to result in death for me" (Rom. 7:10). Even
as a believer he said, "I myself with my mind am serving the law of God,
but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin" (Rom. 7:25) If men proudly
insist on living by the law it will curse them, not save them, because they
cannot possibly live up to it.
The legalistic Jews had "a zeal
for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God's
righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject
themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for
righteousness to everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:2-4). Consequently, they
unwittingly placed themselves under God's wrath rather than His blessing,
because they could not live up to His law and they would not
submit to His grace.
Paul reminds his readers again of
more teaching concerning God's way of justification: Now that no one is
justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The righteous man shall
live by faith," quoting this time from Habakkuk 2:4. The passage from
Deuteronomy proves justification cannot be by the Law, and the
passage from Habakkuk proves it must be by faith. The ways of law
and faith are mutually exclusive. To live by law is to live by self-effort and
leads inevitably to failure, condemnation, and death. To live by faith is
to respond to God's grace and leads to justification and eternal life.
Quoting another Old Testament text
(Lev. 18:5), Paul again turns Scripture against the Judaizers by showing them
that salvation by works and salvation by believing are mutually exclusive: However,
the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live
by them." God's written law itself marks the danger of trying to live
up to its standard, which is perfection. If you are relying on works of the law
as your means of salvation, then you have to live by them perfectly.
Pointing up that same truth in the
Sermon on the Mount, Jesus destroyed the very foundation of legalistic Judaism.
Because God's standard is perfection, He said; "You are to be perfect, as
your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). And He had already made
clear that God's standard of perfection is inner virtue and perfection, not
simply outwardly respectable behavior. To those who piously asserted they had
never committed murder, He said, "Everyone who is angry with his brother
shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,'
shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,'
shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell" (Matt. 5:22). And to
those who claimed they had never committed adultery, He said, "Everyone who
looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his
heart" (v. 28).
Whether consulting the texts in
Deuteronomy, Habakkuk, or Leviticus, the message is the same: perfection allows
no exceptions, no failure of the smallest sort. To break the law in one place is
to break it all, "for whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one
point, he has become guilty of all" (James 2:10). No wonder the Holy Spirit
inspired Paul to write that "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh
be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3:20, kjv).
A ship that is moored to a dock by a
chain is only as secure as the weakest link in that chain. If a severe storm
comes and causes even one link to break, the entire ship breaks away. So it is
for those who try to come to God by their own perfection. They will be lost and
The Inferiority of the Law—3:19a:
Why the Law
then? It was added because of transgressions,
After showing the superiority of the
covenant of promise, Paul shows the inferiority of the covenant of law—first
in regard to its purpose, then in regard to its mediator, and finally in regard
to its accomplishment.
Why the Law
then? It was added because of transgressions, (3:19a)
In light of Paul's convincing
argument up to this point, the obvious question would be, Why the Law then?
If salvation has always been by faith and never by works, and if the covenant of
promise to Abraham was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, what purpose did the Law
Paul's answer is direct and
sobering: It was added because of transgressions (parabasis,
stepping over the boundary). The purpose of the law was to demonstrate to man
his total sinfulness, his inability to please God by his own works, and his need
for mercy and grace. The Law... was added to show the depth of man's transgressions
against God. It was given to drive him to desperate guilt and the awareness of
his need for the Deliverer.
As the apostle explains a few verses
later, the law was a "tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified
by faith" (3:24). The impossible demands of the law were meant to compel
men to recognize their violation of God's standards and to seek His grace
through faith in His Son. When a man looks at the law he sees that his living is
more than simply wrong; it is sin, an offense against the holy God, before whom
no sinful person can stand. The law shows men their violation of the will of
God, who rules the universe and holds them accountable for their sin.
The covenant of law is long past,
but the moral demands of the law have not diminished, having neither begun nor
ended with the Mosaic covenant. That is why preaching the moral, ethical
standards of the law today is still imperative in driving men to Christ. Unless
men realize they are living in violation of God's law and therefore stand under
His divine judgment, they will see no reason to be saved. Grace is meaningless
to a person who feels no inadequacy or need of help. He sees no purpose in being
saved if he does not realize he is lost. He sees no need of forgiveness by God
if he does not know he has offended God. He sees no need to seek God's mercy if
he is unaware he is under God's wrath.
The purpose of the law was, and is,
to drive men to despair over their sins and to a desire to receive the salvation
that God's sovereign grace offers to those who believe. The purpose of the law
was therefore not wrong, but it was inferior. "The
law is holy," Paul says, "and the commandment is holy and righteous
and good" (Rom. 7:12). But the law merely points to what only grace
The Law as Guardian and Guide—Gal.
the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by
faith. (3:24) (NASB)
Second, the Law has become a
guardian and guide to the Jews and, in a less unique and more general sense, to
A paidagōgos, (tutor)
was not a teacher or schoolmaster proper (kjv) but rather a slave employed by
Greek or Roman families, whose duty was to supervise young boys in behalf of
their parents. They took their young charges to and from school, made sure they
studied their lessons, and trained them in obedience. They were strict
disciplinarians, scolding and whipping as they felt it necessary. Paul told the
Corinthian believers—who often behaved liked spoiled children—that, even if
they were to have countless tutors [paidagōgous] in Christ," he
would be their only "father through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15).
Continuing the contrast of paidagōgos and father, he later asks,
"Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of
gentleness?" (v. 21).
The role of the paidagōgoswas
never permanent, and it was a great day of deliverance when a boy finally gained
freedom from his paidagōgos. His purpose was to take care of the
child only until he grew into adulthood. At that time the relationship was
changed. Though the two of them might remain close and friendly, the paidagōgos,
having completed his assignment, had no more authority or control over the
child, now a young man, and the young man had no more responsibility to be
directly under the paidagōgos.
The sole purpose of the Law,
God's divinely appointed paidagōgos, was to lead men to
Christ, that they might be justified. After a person comes to Him,
there is no longer need for the external ceremonies and rituals to act as guides
and disciplinarians, because the new inner principles operate through the
indwelling Christ, in whom is "hidden all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge" (Col. 2:3). The law in the ceremonial sense is done away
with, though in the moral sense it remains always an intimate friend that one
seeks to love and favor.
Before Christ came, the law of
external ritual and ceremony, especially the sacrificial system, pictured the
once-for-all, perfect, and effective sacrifice of Christ for the sins of
the world. When the perfect Christ comes into the believer's heart, those
imperfect pictures of Him have no more purpose or significance.
In Christ: Freedom—Gal. 3:25:
But now that faith has come, we are
no longer under a tutor. (3:25) (NASB)
The Judaizers refused to relinquish
the ceremonial law even after making a profession of belief in Christ. To them,
trust in Christ was merely added to works of the law. And because they held onto
the bondage of the law, they could not receive the freedom of faith.
Because they insisted on remaining under the tutor, they never
advanced to the care of the Savior.
The law was never intended to be
anything more than a temporary means of showing men their sin and of leading
them to the Savior. Its internal, moral demands left men ridden with guilt; its
external ceremonies (circumcision, offerings, washings, sabbaths, feasts, etc.)
symbolized the need for cleansing from that guilt. Now that faith in
Jesus Christ has come, a person is no longer under the law as a
tutor. He is now out from under the law's symbolism, the law's bondage, and the
law's discipline. The law's purpose has been fulfilled, and the person is no
longer "under law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14). God's moral
standards, however, do not change, and the New Testament reiterates them, and
the power of the resident Holy Spirit in the believer enables obedience to them
(see Eph. 2:10).
As he unfolds the result of being
rightly related to God through faith in Christ Jesus, Paul shows three
aspects of the freedom of that relationship. Those who believe in Him and
thereby become one with Him are sons of God, are one with every other believer,
and are heirs of the promise.
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians: By John MacArthur, Jr.©
1987 by The Moody Bible Institute. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.
The law (Gal. 3:10)—Paul used the Greek word nomos
over one hundred times in his writings. Most often it referred to all of God’s
commands and instructions as given through Moses.
The Seed (Gal. 3:19)—The
Greek word sperma, which means seed or offspring, can be singular or
plural. Paul used it in the singular sense, referring to Christ, who was the
fulfillment of God’s promise.
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Charles W. Draper
Charles W. Draper is associate
professor of biblical studies, Boyce College, a school of The Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
NE OF THE DELICIOUS CONTINUING DISCUSSIONS
in the study of the New Testament is the seeming contradiction between
Paul in Galatians and the Book of James on the proper relationship between law
and faith in the life of the believer. The controversy is not new. The great
reformer Martin Luther, whose life, along with the direction of western
civilization, was changed by his discovery of salvation by grace alone through
faith alone in Paul’s letters, reacted so violently to James as to question
its right to be in the New Testament canon. Luther considered the Book of James
to be an “epistle of straw,” or a more colorful translation, “a right
strawy epistle.”1 Luther understood James to teach that
salvation was secured only when faith was accompanied by works, which he saw as
fully compatible with the abuses of the faithful by the church of his day.l He
rejected James’s argument inth strongest possible terms. Elsewhere he spoke
more kindly of James, but even though he numbered the books of the New
Testament, he placed four at the end of his list (including James) without
is the situation what it seems to be? Did Paul and James have a fundamental,
irreconcilable difference that requires one of them to be wrong? Could such a
grand scholar as Luther have misread James? Can the two he honestly reconciled
without hermeneutical gymnastics? Does the problem call the inspiration of James
inot question? Many have suggested that the answer to all or most of these
questions is yes. Let us look closer for ourselves, to see if the mystery can
give way to clarity.
Galatia believers were being taught that their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord
was not sufficient. Their faith must be supplemented by “works of the Law”
(Gal. 3:2).3 Paul saw the threat this posed and rejected it
vehemently. Salvation came to the Galatians “by hearing with faith” (v. 2).
How could they now believe their own efforts could save them? Paul then appealed
to the life and faith of Abraham, the Father of all the faithful. Even Abraham
was declared right with God because of his faith (v. 6). His faith preceded the
giving of the law (v. 17). Those who are blessed as Abraham was are those who
come to God by faith, not those who trust in works of the law (vv. 7-9). Those
who trust in works of the law are under a curse, because only by perfectly
obeying every detail of the law can one be justified before God, and on one
keeps all the law.
Therefore, those who trust in works of the law have no hope of salvation
(Gal. 3:10-14). God’s promises to Abraham are fulfilled in One, Jesus Christ
and belong to those with faith in Christ, and not those attempting to keep the
law (vv. 15-16). The law was given
to demonstrate the sinfulness of sin and make the necessity of salvation
obvious. “therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that
we may be justified by faith” (v. 24). Once faith in Christ was revealed, the
tutor was no longer needed, “For you are all sons of God through faith in
Christ Jesus” (v. 26). Those who belong to Christ through faith are heirs to
all God’s promises to Abraham (vv. 27-29). Paul followed this line of thought
into Galatians 6, but Galatians 3:1-29 is the core of his reasoning.
reasoning in Galatians is fully consistent with his magisterial arguments in
Romans and forms the foundation of the reformation understanding of personal
salvation. Certainly, scriptural arguments cannot be sustained that would call
Paul’s conclusions into serious question. So what are we going to do with
addressed the subject in James 2—4, but the heart of his argument is James
2:14-26. The issue is stated in no uncertain terms: “What use is it, my
brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save
him?” (v. 14). His first example is the withholding of necessities from the
poor and the needy. Empty concern without meeting the need is dead. That kind of
faith without the accompanying works of righteousness is dead and useless, in
other words nonexistent (vv. 15-17). James posed a though question in 2:18: How
can faith be proven without accompanying works? If the answer is by believing
the truth about God, James said even the demons believe that, and it scares them
so that they tremble (v. 19). James then reiterated that faith without works is
useless, and it is foolish to think otherwise (v. 20). James next made the same
appeal as Paul: to Abraham. Only in James’s version of the same event, Abraham
was justified by works because he followed through with the sacrifice of Isaac
until God stayed his hand, thus demonstrating the reality of his saving faith.
“As a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was
fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as
righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God” (vv. 22-23). Once again
he concluded that “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (v.
24). He added the example of Rahab in Jericho, who was saved because she
protected the spies who came to her house (v. 25). He
closed with the example that just as a spiritless body is dead, “so also faith
without works is dead” (v. 26).
logic and use of Scripture in the context of his argument seems to be
unassailable also. So how can they both be right? Can Paul and James be
reconciled on this issue? I believe they can, and without resorting to a method
that alters or denies what either affirmed. The answer is in the details of both
arguments, and in widening the context of Paul’s argument to include
sufficient material to allow him to complete and apply his own assertions about
the centrality of faith in the believer’s spiritual experience. The apparent
conflict will disappear when both arguments are placed in their full contexts.
In Hermeneutics 101, we often say there are three fundamental features of sound
biblical interpretation: “Context, context, and context.” At times even the
best of Bible students and teachers can benefit from such a reminder.
Look again at Paul’s statements in Galatians 3. The key to understanding
his emphasis is the phrase “works of the Law,” repeated three times (vv.
2,Look again at Paul’s statements in Galatians 3. The key to understanding his
emphasis is the phrase “works of the Law,” repeated three times (vv.
2,5,10), thereafter shortened to “the Law” or “Law.” Works of the law
are acts of obedience to the law believed to have saving merit. Paul’s
passionate and emphatic refutation of this premise leaves no doubt that works of
the law have no part in securing salvation. Does this not slam the door on
James’s arguamrnt and brand it as heresy? Not so fast.
Turn to James once more. Several times in James 2:14-26, James insisted
that “works” are essential to salvation, and constitute the only proof of
the reality of faith. But James did not use the term “works of the Law”
because he was not talking about “works of the Law.” James was talking about
“works,” which are the product of faith, what Paul called “good works”
(Eph. 2:10). Elsewhere other terms are used: “acts of righteousness: (Heb.
11:33), “the peaceful fruit of righteousness: (12:11), or “the way of
righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:21). James’s emphasis os consistent with 1 John
3:7: “the one who practices
righteousness is righteous,” and with Revelation 22:11, “and let the one who
is righteous still practice righteousness.” In other words James said,
“Faith produces works.”
to Ephesians 2:10, Paul said plainly, “For we are His workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand so that we would walk
in them.” In other words Paul said, “Faith produces faithfulness.” This is
not different from James’s emphasis. Nor is James in conflict with the
repeated demands Paul made on believers to demonstrate the genuineness of their
faith: “Therefore I . . . implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the
calling with which you have been called” (4:1), “Only conduct yourselves in
a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27), “so that you will
walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10), and “so that you would
walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you” (1 Thess. 2:12).
may find support for James in more proximate contexts in Paul by simply
following his argument further in Galatians. The parallel argument begun in
Romans 3:19 yields a similar result when followed far enough. In Galatians, as
Paul applied his principle of salvation by faith apart from works of the law, he
made it plain that he was referring to those “who are seeking to be justified
by law” (Gal. 5:4). As he moved to the conclusion of the letter, Paul then
contrasted the “deeds of the flesh” with the “fruit of the Spirit” (vv.
19:25). After enumerating the demonstrable deeds of the flesh, Paul specified
that “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”
(v. 21). Paul next described “the fruit of the Spirit,” which also is
demonstrable and includes “righteousness.” The implication of true faith is
seen in the admonition, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the
Spirit” (v. 25). This statement is the completion of the emphasis that began,
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected
by the flesh? (3:3). The answer is that faith will be demonstrated by the fruit
of the Spirit, including righteousness, which is precisely James’s major
Romans 3:19 Paul began a parallel argument. Again, the terms “works of the
Law” and “Law” are featured, and plainly believers are “justified as a
gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God
displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (vv. 24-25).
“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No,
but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart
from the works of the Law” (vv 27-28). Abraham also is used here as the
supreme example of a justifying faith securing salvation apart from works (chap.
4). The results of justification are developed in Romans 5, and in Romans 6—8
practical implications of being in Christ are explained. These include the
demonstration of the reality of faith by the way one lives, “so we too might
walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). We are told to “now present your
members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification” (v 19).
Believers are united to Christ, so “that we might bear fruit for God” (7:4),
another way of stating James’s premise.
the course of many centuries some have suggested that Paul may have been
reacting or responding to James in his emphasis on salvation by grace alone
through faith alone, rejecting James and branding his emphasis on faith and
works as heresy, or even another gospel. I do not believe that to be the case.
Was Paul familiar with James before he wrote Galatians? Perhaps, although many
scholars would date the two letters in the same time period. Certainly paul
could have known the Book of James by the time he wrote Romans, but even if he
did, there was nothing for him to denounce. Paul had no trouble distinguishing
between works produced by faith and works of the law.
summary, there is an apparent contradiction between James’s assertion that
faith without words is dead and Paul’s affirmation that no one is justified by
works of the law. Many Bible interpreters have claimed that the two positions
are diametrically opposed and that James denied the fundamental nature of
God’s grace in salvation. Luther in particular took great exception to James
and has had enormous influence on the interpretation of James that continues
even now. Often the “conflict” between James and Paul is assumed to be an
irreconcilable fact and is uncritically repeated without close examination. I
believe I have, without resorting to hermeneutical “voodoo,” shows that
Paul’s complete affirmation may be stated “Faith produces faithfulness,”
while James’ affirmation may be stated “Faith produces works.” Both are
saying essentially the same thing.
I asked, Is the situation what it seems to be? Did Paul and James have a
fundamental, irreconcilable difference that requires one of them to be wrong?
The answer to both of these questions is no. Could such a grand scholar as
Luther have misread James? Can the two be honestly reconciled without
hermeneutical gymnastics? The answer to these two questions is, with all due
respect to Luther, yes. Does the problem call the inspiration of James into
question. No, it does not. In fact, the majesty of the Scriptures and their
internal consistency is demonstrated dramatically when both men are allowed to
develop their arguments to their conclusions. Both of them are perfectly
consistent with the Lord Jesus, who said, “If you love Me, you will keep My
commandments,” (John 14:15). James is closely related to the Sermon in the
Mount, in which Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruits” (Matt.
made an offer to anyone who could harmonize these sayings of Paul and James:
“I’ll put my doctor’s cap on him and let him call me a fool.”4
I have accepted the challenge, but I can only hope not to be rightly judged a
fool myself. I retain my awe and reverence for the reformer, even as I disagree
with him about the value of James’s emphasis on faith and works.
M. Luther, Preface
to the New Testament, 1522.
S.J. Kistemaker, James and I-III John in The New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids:
Baker Book House, 1986), 21; R.P. Martin, James in Word Biblical
Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1988), cv.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New
American Standard Bible, 1995 Update.
R.P. Martin, James in Word Biblical
Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1988), cv.
“JUSTIVIED” The Meaning
is academic dean and professor of Greek and New Testament at Canadian Southern
Baptist Seminary, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada.
AUL WROTE TO
THE BELIEVERS IN ROME, “Much more then, being now justified by
his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9, KJV).
What did the first readers understand Paul to mean when he spoke of being
justified? What was the theological
significance of Paul’s words?
In Greek Literature
The Greek word (and the related words from the same root) behind our
English “justified” had a secular usage in ancient times.
For example, a just person was one who fulfilled civic duties and
conformed to social norms.1 Greeks
considered this characteristic to be one of the paramount human qualities.
For Aristotle justice was “the chief of the human virtues . . . and the
most perfect virtue.”2 This
ethical view of the “justify” word group was also closely linked to the
legal view, whereby a just judge would allot to each what was their due.
“Justify” could mean “to do what is right” or “to do justice to
someone” in the positive sense. More
often, however, it had the negative sense “to convict, sentence” as in the
expression “bring someone to justice.”3
An example of this negative attitude occurred when the people of Malta
viewed Paul as a marked man. Though
he had escaped the sea, the pitiless avenging goddess Justice, daughter of Zeus,
would exact her brand of retribution through the viper (Acts 28:4).
So for the ancient Greeks a justified person got what was coming to him,
and most often that was punishment.
In the Old Testament
The apostle Paul, however, tied his usage of the term “justify” more
closely to its Old Testament meaning. There
the word group surfaces primarily in the context of legal matters, though more
often in the positive sense of pronouncing someone righteous rather than in the
negative sense of condemnation as in the secular literature.4
Deuteronomy 25:1 states, “If there is a dispute between men, they are
to go to court, and the judges will hear their case.
They will clear [justify] the innocent and condemn the guilty.”5
The Greek word for “justify” occurs 44 times in the Septuagint (the
Greek translation of the Old Testament) and “almost always with a judicial or
forensic flavor.”6 In
the Old Testament, judgment in light of God’s Law replaces the secular concept
of virtue. The righteous or just
person in the Old Testament was one who lived a God-honoring life in keeping
with His covenantal expectations. God
is also just, and His justice vindicates His people against their oppressors.
Isaiah foreshadowed Paul’s concept of justification in a messianic
passage: “My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will carry their
iniquities” (Isa. 53:11).
In the New Testament “justify” occurs 39 times,
27 of which are in Paul’s letters. Of
these, 15 occurrences are in his letter to the Romans.7
Paul understood that God is the One who always justifies and people are
the ones He justifies. Paul
maintained the imagery of the courtroom by contrasting “justify” with
“condemn” as in Romans 8:33-34: “Who can bring an accusation against
God’s elect? God is the One who
justifies. Who is the one who
condemns? Christ Jesus is the One
who died, but even more has been raised.”
therefore, means to essence to declare righteous or acquit, as when a judge
pronounces a verdict. Some argue
that “justify” also includes the act of making a person righteous, not just
declaring it so. But in Paul’s
usage that could only mean a positional righteousness, because at the point of
justification the process of moral transformation is only beginning.
What then follows is sanctification—the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit
in the life of the believer. On the
other hand the acquittal indeed has real effect.
Justification restores people to a right relationship with God—“since
we have been declared righteous [just] by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom.
5:1). For this transaction Paul can
use any number of metaphors like adoption (8:14,23), set free (6:18), new
creation (1 Cor. 5:17), and redemption (Rom. 3:24-25), all which reflect the
result of having been justified.
For those of us who have not had personal experience with law courts and
trials and punishment, grasping the significance of Paul’s teaching can be
difficult. Perhaps remembering what
Paul experienced can help us understand the apostle’s forensic imagery.
As a faithful Jew Paul was familiar with the legal system based on Old
Testament regulations that operated within the synagogue structure.
In 2 Corinthians 11:24, he described how this scenario was up close and
personal for him. Five times the
Jews found him guilty of some serious crime (perhaps blasphemy for calling Jesus
“Lord”) and gave him 39 lashes.8
Acts tells of Paul’s trials before
the chief magistrates (“promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans
to adopt or practice,” Acts 16:21); in Thessalonica before the city officials
(“acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees, saying there is another
king—Jesus!” 17:7); in Corinth before Gallio the Roman proconsul of Achaia
(18:12); and in Caesarea before two Roman governors, Felix and Festus
(24:1—26:32). Though most often
Paul may have been innocent of breaking any laws, he still heard the verdict,
“Guilty!” Paul suffered much,
especially at the hands of the Jews; and according to tradition, the apostle
eventually faced execution in Rome under Nero.
This, though, is where, at least theologically, the
similarity between Paul’s experience and ours ends.
In our case we are guilty but
declared innocent, which ironically is not a miscarriage of justice.
The charge of culpability is justly brough against us “for all have
sinned” (Rom. 3:23) and “there is no one righteous” (v. 10).
Another, however, has paid the penalty for our
crimes. God grounds our acquittal
not in our own merit, but in the atoning sacrifice of Christ (vv. 24-25; 5:9; 2
Cor. 5:21). God is just in His
judgment, and He justifies those who put their faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).
Standing before Him, we hear the verdict pronounced: Not guilty!”
Schrenk, (dike, justice) in Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittle,
trans. and ed. Bromiley, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 174-225.
Silva, rev. ed., (dikaiosune, justice) in New
International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis, 2nd
ed., vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 723-24.
Schrenk, (dike, justice), 212. “Outside specifically theological contexts in
the TO, the word group is used in connection with (i) weights and measures that
conform to the proper standards . . . and (ii) correct sacrifices that have been
offered in accordance with tehprescribed ritual.” Silva, (dikaiosune,justice),
Unless otherwise indicated, all
Scripture quotations are from the HCSB. In the following two verses the guilty
receive the appropriate number of lashes—not to exceed 40.
Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 80.
In Galations 8x; 2x in 1 Corinthians; 1x in 1 Timothy; and
1x in Titus. Luke and Acts have a
combined total of 7 occurrences; 2 are in Matthew; and 3 in James.
The NT contains about 230 occurrences of the wider word group, of which
almost half occur in Paul’s writings, and of these almost half occur in
Paul also lists multiple imprisonments
and beatings, three beatings with rods, and one stoning!
The Law God’s Gift to His People
By Terry J.
Betts is assistant professor of Old Testament interpretation at The Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
AS THE LAW a
blessing or a burden to God’s people when God handed it down to the Israelites
through Moses at Mount Sinai? Some
might think it was a burden since a number of passages in the New Testament
appear to support such a notion. For
instance, Paul wrote, “you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14);
“but now we are released from the law, having died to that which kept us
captive, so that we serve . . . not in the old way of the written code” (7:6);
“all who rely on works of the law are under a curse” (Gal. 3:10); and “the
law is not of faith” (v. 12).1
when reading these passages one must recognize Paul was speaking to specific
situations where certain Jews were attempting to mix works with faith for
an understanding of the gospel is foreign to the writings of both the New and
Old Testament as demonstrated in the life of Abraham (Rom. 4; Gal. 3:1-9).
Moreover, one needs to consider all of Paul’s discussion of the law
such as: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?
By no means! On the contrary,
we uphold the law” (Rom 3:31); “So the law is holy, and the commandment is
holy and righteous and good” (7:12); “we know that the law is spiritual”
(v. 14); “I agree with the law, that it is good” (v. 6); “I delight in the
law of God, in my inner being” (v. 22); and “All Scripture is breathed out
by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for
training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for
every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Other
New Testament passages convey a positive view of the law as well.
the Old Testament writers used only the most positive words and expressions to
describe God’s law. We see for
example, David’s words in Psalm 19:7-11, “The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the
Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring
forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also
than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover,
by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
longest psalm and chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, is a declaration of David’s
desire to keep God’s law and a testimony of the joy and blessings one
experiences when one obeys God’s law. Additionally,
Moses’ last words to the children of Israel as they were about to enter into
the promised land recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy centered on God’s
goodness demonstrated through His giving the law and the promise of a blessed
life to those who would obey it.
the writers of the Old Testament declare the law was a blessing to God’s
people, then it raises the question, “How was the law a blessing to the people
of God?” The law proved to be a
blessing to Israel in at least three ways. First,
the law provided Israel with God’s will and expectations for His covenant
people. Unlike Israel, other peoples
in Israel’s day had difficulty discerning the will of their gods.
As a result, they resorted to divination, the activity of reading signs
and omens as a means of discerning the will of their gods and foretelling the
future. Divination involved several
practices such as the analysis of the liver spots of a sacrificed animal (hepatoscopy),
the communication with the dead (necromancy), the study of the heavenly bodies
(astrology), the mystic reading of water (hydromancy), and the use of a rod,
staff, stick, or arrow in order to gain some direction or information (rhabdomancy).2
The biblical writers clearly instruct
the Israelites that they were to refrain from using such methods.
They did not need these methods since God had given them His law.
Regarding the statutes of the law Moses said, “Keep them and do them,
for that will be your wisdom and understanding” (Deut. 4:6a) and “The Lord
commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good
always” (6:24a). With the law, the
Israelites never had to wonder what was God’s will for His people.
the law was a blessing to God’s people because it provided a way for them to
make the Lord’s name known among the nations.
Just before the Lord gave Israel the Ten Commandments, He stated His
purpose for Israel (Ex. 19:1-6). Through
Israel’s obedience to God’s voice and faithfulness to His covenant Israel
would be God’s treasured possession from among the nations, serving the Lord
as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Through
faithful obedience to God’s law, as a kingdom of priests Israel was to be a
go-between for God and the nations. Moses
spoke to this purpose when later he said, “Keep them [God’s laws] and do
them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the
peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great
nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Deut. 4:6).
Solomon understood Israel’s priestly function.
At the dedication of the temple he urged the people: “Let these words
of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God
day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his
people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know
that the Lord is God; there is no other. Let
your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes
and keeping his commandments, as at this day” (1 Kings 8:59-61).
the law was a blessing to Israel because it revealed God’s character to them.
He is the one true God, and there is no other.
Any image made to depict Him would detract from His glory and majesty.
God’s people should be faithful because He is faithful; be trustworthy
because He is trustworthy; care for the weak because He cares for the weak; and
be holy because God is holy. God’s
law was God’s revelation of Himself, resulting in the people’s knowledge of
Him. Understandably, therefore,
Jesus said He did not come to “abolish” the law but to “fulfill” it,
that is, to show forth its true meaning, confirm it, and bring it to complete
expression (Matt. 5:17-20).
than a burden to Israel, the law was God’s gift to His people and a source of
blessing. God did not deliver Israel
out of Egyptian bondage only to lead them into spiritual bondage.
God’s law provided His redeemed people with instruction for life, with
a means to bring His glory among the nations, and with another glimpse of the
God who had saved them and made them His treasured possession.
All Scripture quotations are from the
English Standard Version (ESV).
D. A. Aune, ”Divination” in The
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley,
vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 971-74.
Background of Schoolmaster
By Larry McKinney
Larry McKinney is a Professor of biblical history and
archaeology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.
FIRST GLANCE the task seems simple
enough: find an English word which corresponds to the New Testament Greek word paidagogos
[PIE-duh-go-GOS]. “Pedagogue” immediately comes to mind, since this English
word is taken directly from the Greek language. Today we think of pedagogues as
teachers, but the New Testament world had an altogether different word for a
teacher, didaskalos [di-DAS-kal-ahs], a word from which our word
Perhaps the use of a distinctive word for teacher explains why no version
of the English bible has used “pedagogue” in Galatians 3:24-25 where the
apostle Paul compared God’s law to a paidagogos.
Instead, we find a variety of words or phrases. For example, the King
James Version and Goodspeed’s translation render the word as
“schoolmaster,” while the New American Standard Bible and
New King James Version use “tutor.” The New
English Bible has “a kind of tutor,” and the Revised Standard Version employs “custodian.”1
A survey of still other versions yields such translations as
“disciplinarian,” “guardian,” “strict governess in charge,”
“attendant,” and “pathfinder.” The only other appearance of paidagogos
in the New Testament is in 1 Corinthians 4:15, and the translations there
are equally as varied.
Why are there so many translation for this single Greek word? A possible
answer may be that our modern culture has no single figure who fulfills a role
comparable to the paidagogos of
Paul’s day. Therefore, a bit of historical exploration helps make the
illustration in Galatians more vivid to the modern reader.
The paidagogos was a well-known
personality in both the Gentile and Jewish communities of the New Testament era.
This individual was usually a trusted servant charged by parents with the
supervision of a child’s daily conduct and activities. Ancient sources reveal
that a child passed to the vigilance of a paidagogos
after the early years of maternal care, or generally at about the age of
seven.2 A child
would remain under the oversight of a paidagogos
until late adolescence. Thus, the servitude of the paidagogos spanned approximately a dozen of the formative years of a
The major role of the paidagogos
was not primarily a teacher of academic subjects. However, tutoring the young
person and seeing that homework was done were incorporated into the list of
regular duties. Additional responsibilities included organizing the child’s
daily activities and assisting with such regular chores as meals and baths. The
ancient writers make it clear that the paidagogos
was a wise older individual who served as a role model for the young person and
thus was an authority who should always be obeyed.
The relationship between a child and a paidagogos could flourish only in an atmosphere of friendship and
mutual respect. Many an ancient writer has offered expressions of praise and
affection towards his or her former paidagogos.3
Evidently a paidagogos sometimes spared a youth
from the discipline of a parent by taking the blame. In such cased the paidagogos
felt that the child’s misconduct was the result of the paidagogos’
own failing. This might explain why certain ancient Jewish sources, such as the
Midrashim (commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures written mostly between the
first and third centuries AD), sometimes cited the paidagogos as being an “intercessor” or “mediator.”4
Each of the aforementioned
facets is important for gaining a clear mental image of this significant
individual whom Paul compared to the law. Bear in mind that the role of the paidagogos
was a temporary one. As a youth approached adulthood, the period of the
guardianship of the paidagogos came to
an end. After that time, the early instruction and influence must bear fruit in
a mature young adult. Herein is yet another salient point for understanding the
illustration of Galatians 3:24-25.
Paul’s comparison of the
law to the paidagogos apparently has
no exact parallel in ancient Jewish literature. However, there are places in the
Midrashim where Moses is presented as a paidagogos
of Israel. Aaron, Miriam, David, and Jeremiah are also thus described.5
To understand why the Jews have viewed Moses as a paidagogos over Israel is not difficult. God had specially charged Moses with a burden of responsibility for the
fledgling and wandering Hebrew people. Moses was likewise responsible for
presenting God’s law to them. Other great Jewish leaders later functioned
symbolically in a similar fashion. Yet Paul’s analogy of thye law itself as a paidagogos
is a singular and most interesting one.
The law to which Paul
referred in Galatians is the body of laws contained in those Hebrew Scriptures
which Christians know as the Old Testament. Sometimes the corpus is referred to
as the Mosaic law because its essence was revealed by God to Moses at Sinai.
Already in Paul’s time religious leaders among the Jews had begun placing
numerous interpretation on these laws. The aim of the interpretations was to
assist Jews in applying the laws in their everyday affairs. Over time these
interpretations were written down and compiled, and they have survived in
Judaism as a companion set of volumes to the Mosaic law called the Talmud (which
In the biblical laws and
the interpretations, Jews found regulations which controlled all aspects of
religious and social life. For example, there were rules which prohibited them
from associating freely with Gentiles. Just as a paidagogos was charged with keeping a youth from unhealthy
associations, the law and its interpretations were viewed as a sort of
“fence” designed to keep Jews separate from Gentiles. Such separation led to
exclusivism, and eventually this became an issue which spilled over into the
early church. How were Christians of Jewish extraction to interact with Gentile
Christians? Paul’s analogy of the law as the paidagogos
serves to teach that ethnic distinctions should not be made a test of Christian
In Galatians 3:24-25 in
particular, and throughout the entire epistle in general, Paul has addressed a
change in the historical process through which God has interacted redemptively
with persons. Under the Mosaic law the Jews experienced certain restrictions on
their freedoms similar to those limitations a paidagogos might impose on a child. With the coming of age a yound
person can, and should, bid farewell to the period of the tutelage and
guardianship of the paidagogos. At
that point, life’s most important lessons have been internalized, and they
must then be lived out. The coming of Christ heralded the arrival of spiritual
maturity for those who believe in Him. Therefore, ”we are no longer under a
schoolmaster” (3:25), and each believer is “no longer a servant, . . . but
also an heir” (4:7). In the end “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” for we
are “all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28.
Quotations marked Goodspeed are from The New
Testament: An American Translation by E.J. Goodspeed, Copyright © 1923,
1948 by the Univ. of Chicago, Other translations cited include: The New
King James Version, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers. The New English bible.
Copyright © The Delegates of the Oxford Univ. Press, 1961, 1970.
See the helpful article by N.H. Young,
“Paidagogos: The Social Setting of a Pauline Metaphor,” Novum Testamentum, 1987, 150-176.
See R.N. Longenecker, “The Pedagogical Nature
of the Law in Galatians 3:19—4:7,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological
Society, March 1982, 53-61.
A Word Study
Paul N. Jackson
Jackson is associate professor of Christian Studies, Union University, Jackson,
HIS YEAR OUR NATION
celebrates its 229th year of independence – freedom from the
shackles of servitude and bondage to England.
This celebration of liberation causes me to think of the day I received
Christ and was delivered from the crushing sentence of sin.
I was a 12-year-oldboy at the Venetian Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta,
Georgia in 1968. Also as I wrote
this article, I was preparing a message about the most dramatic biblical example
of liberation – the one Saul of Tarsus experienced on the Damascus road.
That day Jesus unexpectedly intercepted the murderous fanatic and
transformed him into a unwavering herald of the gospel he once tried to destroy.
America’s independence in 1776, my conversion at age 12, and Paul’s
Damascus road encounter are examples of redemption experiences.
conversion event gripped him so deeply that some 20 years later to the church at
Rome he devoted an entire letter to explain God’s redemptive work.1
In this letter we find the word under consideration for this article –
“redemption.” What was the
origin of the word?
Redemption in the Old Testament
theological idea of redemption – of an entity being redeemed – has a rich
heritage. Old Testament writers
described property, animals, persons, and the nation that were all redeemed (or
“bought back”) by the payment of a price.
The concept of a no-cost redemption would have been completely alien to
the people of Israel. Boaz and
Jeremiah, for example, played the role of “kinsman redeemer” involving the
“buying back” of property (Lev. 25:25-28; Ruth 3 – 4; Jer. 32:6-8).
Even though all the first-born males of all livestock belonged to God,
the Old Testament made provisions for buying back donkeys and unclean animals
(ex. 13:13; Num. 18:14-17).
privilege of redemption extended also to individual Israelites.
Each Israelite had to pay a ransom for his life at the time of the
national census. Firstborn sons had
to be redeemed because they belonged to god since the first Passover when the
death angel “passed over” the homes where the lamb’s blood was sprinkled
on the doorposts (Num. 3:40-51). As
another example of redemption, a man would be put to death for his
out-of-control bull goring a neighbor to death, unless an acceptable fine was
paid to the dead man’s family to redeem the owner’s life (Ex. 6:6; Isa.
43:1-4). The exodus event
established an important theological foundation for believers’ later
understanding of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection.
Redemption in the New Testament
the New Testament the idea of “redemption” moves from the material to the
spiritual realm. Luke linked two
“redeeming” events – the Old Testament exodus story that described Moses
delivering the Israelites from physical bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt and the New
Testament exodus story of Jesus delivering humanity from spiritual bondage to
sin and Satan through His death on the cross.
Luke 9:28-36 records that Jesus had a conversation on the mount of
transfiguration with Moses and Elijah concerning His death.
The Greek word underlying and referring to Jesus’ coming death
translated as “departure” in verse 31 (NIV) is exodus.
In this sense, Jesus functioned as a “second Moses” who redeemed from
death to life those who believed in Him. Later
Luke recorded Jesus’ promise of believers’ redemption “drawing near”
the word “redemption” in Romans 3:24 is a term that emerged from the slave
world and meant “liberation through payment of a price.”2 In the
second and first centuries B.C., “redemption” often referred to the
“ransoming” of prisoners of war, slaves, and condemned criminals.
Paul thus presented “Christ’s
death as a ‘ransom,’ a ‘payment’ that takes the place of the penalty for
sins ‘owed’ to God by all people of God.”3 Jesus said, “for
even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his
life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NIV, italics mine).
death is foundational for all redemption talk in the New Testament.
Humans are in spiritual captivity, and the only way we can be freed or
redeemed is if a price is paid for us. This
redemption required nothing less that the death of the Messiah.
3:19-26 is embedded in a section of Paul’s letter in which the apostle
unpacked the characteristics of the gospel of God’s grace.
Some Christians consider the Romans 3 text the most important passage the
apostle worte.4 After Paul in verse 23 proclaimed the whole world,
whether Jew or Gentile, guilty before God because of sin, he used a legal term
“justified” (v. 24) to paint a picture of a courtroom in which God, the
judge, pronounces the guilty sinner innocent.
How can this be? Why do the
guilty go free? Paul indicated the
mode of being made right with God as “freely by his grace,” and then
followed that with the phrase “through the redemption.”
These phrases help explain the costly means by which this acquitting
verdict is made possible.
the Old Testament described people redeemed from serious social situations such
as debt, captivity, slavery, exile, and potential death sentences, Jesus
redeemed us from the greatest threat of all – sin and spiritual death.
Not only did He deliver us from our sins and the curse of the law, but He
also rescued us from all the ill effects of the fall.
In addition, an already/not yet aspect applies to redemption.
All of God’s people are waiting for the “day of redemption” when we
will be made perfect. This includes
our bodies and the whole groaning creation (Rom. 8:18-23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30).
While we are in these temporal, eroding bodies, the Holy Spirit within us
is the seal, guarantee, and firstfruits of our final redemption.
have been redeemed from sin and its lethal effects.
The cost was Christ’s blood (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
The writer of Hebrews echoed the same idea in saying that Jesus
“entered the Most Holy Place once for all . . . by his own blood, Having
obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12, NIV).
In Romans 3:24-25, Paul directly connected this redemption to the blood
redemption carries a final yet huge practical implication for believers.
Christ has undeniable rights over His purchase.
We belong to Him. Jesus has
absolute lordship over the church and each Christian.
Paul reminded the elders in Ephesus that their pastoral care of the
church would be carried out with the utmost seriousness because Jesus purchased
the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
of the huge price Christ paid to buy us back through His death on the cross, we
must exercise discipline and self-control by not becoming slaves to anything or
anybody on this earth, Paul
emphasized that fact to the Corinthian Christians by offering a twofold reason
why they should not engage in sexual immorality: 1) “Do you not know that your
body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?
You are not your own”: 2) “You were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your body”
(1 Cor. 6:19-20). The reality
of our costly redemption prohibits this type of immoral behavior.
can mark the celebration of our country’s political freedom.
But the fireworks fade as the celebration passes.
The cross, however, remains as the enduring symbol of spiritual freedom,
where Christ paid our penalty and we were redeemed by His all-sufficient
sets forth Paul’s “Gospel of Redemption,” and can be outlined as follows:
1. The Need for Redemption (1:18 – 3:20): II. The Provision for Redemption
(3:21 – 8:39); III. The Challenge of Israel within Redemption (chaps. 9 –
11); and IV. The Practical Application of Redemption (chaps. 12 – 16)
Douglas J. Moo, “Romans” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds
Commentary, gen. ed., Clinton E. Arnold, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, New International Commentary on
the New Testament (NICNT) (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,
See Robert H. Mounce, Romans in The New American Commentary (Nashville:
Broadman Press, 1995), 114. Also see
Moo, NICNT, 229-330. Also, this text
in Donald Grey Barnhouse’s Bible had a heart traced over it as he said, “I
am convinced today, after these many years of Bible study, that these verses are
the most important in the whole Bible.” See
D. G. Barnhouse, God’s Remedy, God’s River, vol. 2 (Fincastle, Va:
Scripture Truth Book Co., n.d.),6.
Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 31, Number 4; Summer 2005.
(26,107) What is the Answer To & Where in the
Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: What good king of Judah
was murdered by his court officials?
Answer Next Week:
Last Week’s Question: What Old Testament figure boasted to his two wives
that he had killed a young man?
Answer Lamech; Gen 4:23