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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



Study Theme:  Why Are We Here?

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The 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.




June 03

Why Are We Even Here?


June 10

Why Are We in This Mess?


June 17

Why Can’t We Fix It?


June 24

Why Did Jesus Come?


July 01

What Should We Do Now?


July 08

What Happens Next?



We are unable to live up to God’s holy standard.


Deuteronomy 5:32-33; Galations 3:10-12,19a,24-25





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 (Gal. 3:19a,24-25)


God’s 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.

The 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 are in.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


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.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


God Established a Standard for Us to Live in Relationship With Him (Deut. 5:32-33)

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.








  1.   What is the setting for this study? (See “The Setting”  above.)

  2.   How did Moses remind the people of their covenant obligation with the Lord?

  3.   What did Moses admonish his people to do in relationship to the commands of God?

  4.   Why did God establish a standard for us to live by?

  5.   What words indicate that God expected His people to conform completely to His Word?

  6.   What motivation or outcomes are promised to the faithful?

  7.   What was the reason the Israelites’ obedience was a major concern? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “One of God’s . . . “ )

  8.   If the purpose of God’s standards were to guide the people spiritually and ethically, what was the problem? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “One of God’s . . . “ )

  9.   How would you explain the meaning of God’s command to “follow the whole instruction,”? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “God used the imagery . . . “ )

10.   How would you explain the blessings that come from following God’s instruction? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “God promised . . . “ )

11.   What are some things that distract us from sticking to God’s plan?

12.   What are some things we can do to keep us on track and obedient to God’s commands?


Lasting Lessons in Deut. 5:32-33:

1. God has high and holy standards for the beliefs and behavior of His people.

2. God gave His people specific instructions about all areas of life.

3. God promised His blessings on His people for their obedience.



We 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.

  1.   What is Paul’s focus in this passage?

  2.   To what was Paul referring when he used the phrase the law? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “In Galatians Paul . . . “ )

  3.   How would you explain the Jewish practices that set them apart from other religions? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “In Galatians the phrase . . . “ )

  4.   What is the plight of any who fail to keep the entirety of the law?

  5.   Why is it that no one can fully obey God’s laws?

  6.   What could the law not do?

  7.   How would you explain the two approaches to salvation contrasted by Paul? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “Paul contrasted . . . “ )

  8.   Why did reliance on the “works of the law” result in a curse? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “Since Paul was responding . . . “ )

  9.   How would you explain that “the righteous live by faith and not by the law” to a non-believer?

10.   What did Paul draw from Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 1:17? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “Still drawing on . . . “ )

11.   How would you explain Paul’s support for his approach to salvation by faith alone? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5,  “In verse 12 . . . “ )

12.   How does the need to live by faith show we cannot fix our sin problem? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “Paul’s view of salvation . . . “ and “Some of Paul’s readers . . . “ )

13.   What is the path to being declared righteous before God?

14.   What makes faith in Jesus Christ the right response to God’s gracious offer of salvation?


Lasting Lessons in Gal. 3:10-12:

1. No one can fully obey God’s laws.

2. Relating to God by faith is the alternative to trying to follow the law in order to gain God’s favor.

3. Faith in Jesus is the right response to God’s gracious offer of salvation.



The Law Gave a Temporary Provision Until Christ (Gal. 3:19a,24-25)

19a 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.

24 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,

  1.   What was the purpose of the law to begin with?

  2.   How 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 . . . “ )

  3.   Why is it that the more we rely on ourselves, the further we move away from God’s remedy for our sin?

  4.   How would you explain Paul’s support for the law? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “First, the law . . . “ and “Second, Paul said . . . “ )

  5.   How would you explain Paul’s use of the word “Seed” in verse 19a? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, Paul noted earlier . . . “ )

  6.   How would you explain how Paul felt about God’s law? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Paul carefully noted . . . “ )

  7.   How would you explain how Jesus came to fulfill the purpose and promise of God’s law?

  8.   What does the word ”guardian” mean?

  9.   How would you explain Paul’s use of the word “guardian” in verses 24-25? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “In verse 24 Paul . . . “ )

10.   Do you think the Law has value even though it is not God’s ultimate plan for our salvation?  Why, or why not?

11.   How 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 . . . “ )

12.   What does this question mean to you: “The more we rely on ourselves, the further we move away from God”?

13.   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?

14.   How would you explain God’s plan of salvation to a lost person?


Lasting Lessons in Gal. 3:19a,24-25:

1. The Old Testament law prepared people for the coming of Jesus.

2. Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament promises such as the promise to Abraham of a future Seed.

3. Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection are the basis for our salvation.



  The 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? 

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word: Deut. 5:32-33; Gal. 3:10-12,19a,24-25

King James Version 

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 (KJV)

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.  

Galatians 3:10-12 (KJV)

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. 

Galatians 3:19a (KJV)

19 Wherefore 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.

Galatians 3:24-25 (KJV)

24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.


New King James Version 

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 (NKJV)

32 Therefore 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.  

Galatians 3:10-12 (NKJV)

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.

Galatians 3:24-25 (NKJV)

24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.


New Living Translation 

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 (NLT)

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.   

Galatians 3:10-12 (NLT)

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.”  

Galatians 3:19a (NLT)

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.

Galatians 3:24-25 (NLT)

24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.


(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. 3:10-12,19a,24-25




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 (Gal. 3:19a,24-25)


Advanced Bible Study 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)

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 people.

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 Israelites.

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 future.

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 (Matt. 7:13-14).

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.

II. We 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” (Rom. 3:23).

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 Jesus.

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

III. 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.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

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 Deuteronomy.

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 desired destination.

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. 20:613). 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 (Gal. 3:10-12)

Verse 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 Judaizers emphasized.

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:

“But 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 faith.

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 (Gal. 3:19a,24-25)

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. 5:1314.) 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 deficiency.

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.

Verse 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 37234-0175

Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Old Testament: Deut. 5:32-33

Deut. 5:32-33:

And Hence He Infers The Obligation They Were Under To Obedience (5:32,33)

Hence he 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.

SOURCE: Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Old Testament; Parsons Church Group, A Division Of Findex.Com; Omaha Nebraska

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians 3:10-12,19a,24-25:

Negative 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 condemnation.

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 forever wrecked.

SOURCE: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians: By John MacArthur, Jr.© 1987 by The Moody Bible Institute. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.

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.

Its Purpose

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 have?

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 can produce.

SOURCE: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians: By John MacArthur, Jr.© 1987 by The Moody Bible Institute. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.

The Law as Guardian and Guide—Gal. 3:24:

Therefore 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 all mankind.

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.

SOURCE: 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.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.



Law and Faith

By 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 numbers.2

But 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.

In 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.

Paul’s 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 James?

James 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).

James’s 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.”

Returning 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).

We 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 point.

In 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.

Over 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.

In 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.

Earlier 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. 7:16,20).

Luther 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.                        Bi

1.  M. Luther, Preface to the New Testament, 1522.

2.  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.

3.  All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update.

4.  R.P. Martin, James in Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1988), cv.


“JUSTIVIED” The Meaning

By Steve Booth

Steve Booth 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 Romans

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.”

“Justify,” 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.

Theological Significance

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!”                                   Bi

1.  Schrenk, (dike, justice) in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed.  Kittle, trans. and ed. Bromiley, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 174-225.

2.  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.

3.  Ibid., 724.

4.  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), 727.

5.  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.

6.  Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 80.

7.  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 Romans.  Silva.(dikaiosune, justice), 731.

8.  Paul also lists multiple imprisonments and beatings, three beatings with rods, and one stoning!

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 2016.

The Law God’s Gift to His People

By Terry J. Betts

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

However, when reading these passages one must recognize Paul was speaking to specific situations where certain Jews were attempting to mix works with faith for salvation.  Such 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.

Further, 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.”

The 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.

If 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.

Second, 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).

Third, 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).

Rather 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.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Bi

1.  All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

2.  D. A. Aune, ”Divination” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 971-74.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2010.

The Background of Schoolmaster

By Larry McKinney

Larry McKinney is a Professor of biblical history and archaeology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.


T 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 “didactic” comes.

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 child’s life.

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 means “learning”).

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 fellowship.

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.                                                                                                                                                                                             Bi

1.  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.

2.  See the helpful article by N.H. Young, “Paidagogos: The Social Setting of a Pauline Metaphor,” Novum Testamentum, 1987, 150-176.

3.  Ibid., 165-66.

4.  Ibid., 166.

5.  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.



By Paul N. Jackson

Paul N. Jackson is associate professor of Christian Studies, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee.


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.

Paul’s 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

The 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).

This 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

In 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” (21:28, NIV).

Basically, 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). 

Jesus’ 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.

Romans 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.

While 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.

We 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 of Christ.

Christ’s 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).

Because 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.

Fireworks 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 sacrifice.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Bi

1 Romans 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)

2 Douglas J. Moo, “Romans” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, gen. ed., Clinton E. Arnold, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 23.

3 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 229.

4 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.

SOURCE: 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