“Before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:23-26).
It makes me sad to see folks not understand this scripture. It seems to me to be the crux of the whole gospel. We need a condition of mind that we can’t bring ourselves to—surrender to God’s Law. And without surrender we can never renounce sin in order for God to be able to justly justify us.
“What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.” Testimonies to Ministers
, p. 45.
Our justification hinges on
the warfare God must do against our dug in appetite for sin. When we read Jeremiah 30 and 31 we see the same message as Galatians 3. We see the large and long work of God to justify us and to put His Law in our hearts and natures. That’s what we see in Romans 7. By the end of the war, Paul was sold on the Law (Rom. 7:22), even if the war against the Law from within him was still raging. But, because he came to love the Law, he was at the tipping point to salvation, as seen in Rom. 7:25. Jesus delivered him by His body on the cross (Rom. 7:4). Now, the Law was etched into Paul’s heart. And by continuing to look to Christ in the Law (Rom. 8:1, 2), from that time onward he could live the life of faith.
“By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.” Steps to Christ
, p. 48.
But, the devil makes it confusing, so that no one can see the truth. For some, he puts it all in the past, so that, as historical, it is no longer applicable. It was a historical record, a lesson to those Christians of Galatia only. It was only for the apostolic church of the first century.
That does great damage to anyone reading Paul’s letter in the 21st century. It makes the word of God limited in its reach. If it doesn’t apply to me today, on this part of the world, then the Bible is not the true word from the eternal God, for “word of the Lord endureth for ever.” (1Pet. 1:25). Such an interpretation misses the mark. By it Galatians 3:23-26 is corrupted. But, we are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1Pet. 1:23).
We need to rethink such an interpretation. Our resolution should be Paul’s, we “have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2Cor. 4:2).
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isa. 40:8). No time, no distance, no circumstance can alter the intent of God’s word. No one can alter the Bible’s intents; it must alter ours. As we quoted before,
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12).
In other words, Galatians 3 should be written in the present tense, or the near present tense.
“Before faith came [before our conversion], we [21st century Christians] were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [during our wrestling under its conviction and slowly receiving faith] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under [the Law as] a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:23-26).
It is noteworthy that Paul is not only speaking to Jews, but also Gentiles. We see this in his conversation with them. “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.” (Gal. 4:8-10).
Therefore, we can conclude that everyone today can read this text and benefit from it. It applies to the church-goer and the non-church-goer, the professed Christian and the secularist, even the hedonist. No one is exempt from the requirement to “obey...the gospel” (1Pet. 4:17); and no one is excluded from its “blessedness” (Gal. 4:15). Every soul must come and answer before God.
The historical interpretation works for many today who don’t want to be subject to the Law of God, even though Romans 8 makes submission to God’s Law mandatory. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7).
But, they do love the part which says, “After that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster [the Law]. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:25). So, interpreting this historically, the lawless say that the Jews were under the Law during the Old Testament times, and now Christians are under grace and can disregard the Law and live like they please (of course, they must love). But, they can eat anything that doesn’t eat them, etc. They can drink anything the pagans drink, they can speak like the pagans, etc. The only law they are under is the law of love, whatever their personal construal or definition of love may be. It’s good times for all; nobody can tell them what to do! No one can judge their life! Yippee!
But, God is clear on this. No matter how religious you are, if you knowingly betray His Law and turn a blind eye to sin, you are in danger of being cut off from God. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (Prov. 28:9).
And, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Rom. 2:13).
To others, the devil redefines “Law” and calls it the ceremonial law instead of the moral law. Now we are speaking of a group completely on the opposite side of the train tracks from the antinomian ones. Those on the other side are lawless; but these on this side are so law abiding that they are legalists.
These define the Law as the ceremonial Law because of verse 25, “After that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster [the Law].” These folks believe they are guarding the Law by interpreting this verse to mean that it is only about the types and ceremonies that ended at the cross of Christ. Yet, their prophet, leader, and mentor called it both ceremonial law and moral Law, the whole Law of God.
But, the legal mind can’t comprehend a time when we aren’t under the schoolmaster, that is under the Law. Therefore they go no further to investigate, and simply declare that the prophet, leader, mentor was wrong. They don’t have the experience she kept appealing to them to get—the experience
of righteousness by faith.
But, the problem comes in that the legalists are so good at showing the fruits of the Spirit, that they can’t bring themselves to believe that they aren’t born of the Spirit. They can’t believe that they don’t have righteousness by faith and are legalists. But, they are legalists as seen by their love to talk about works. And they even slip up sometimes and speak of their own
works, which the most experienced of them know is a no-no, because they know about Hebrews 4:10. But, invariable, eventually, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
They want to live under a schoolmaster, because they have gotten accustomed to a pained conscience, mind, and heart; and they love to have it so. This is a serious condition, just as serious as someone suffering with anorexia. The constitution gets weaker as the appetite grows smaller. And as the food intake decreases, the strength of the heart diminishes. Finally, the heart loses enough strength to stop beating. I realize that it is a terrible illustration, but the spiritual counterpart is even more terrible.
Likewise, the legalists suffer without the bread of life. They never hear a good word from above. Their focus, their hearing is not tuned to Jesus. He said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6). But, the legalists hear, “No man comes to the Father but by good living, and Jesus was just a good liver. Now, He is light-years away and 2,000 years in the past, so we just have to keep up a stiff upper lip and make the best of this lonely life of religion.” But, Jesus also defined coming to Him as knowing
Him. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17:3). Until a good word of Jesus can get in edgewise through all their good works, they are starving spiritually, no matter how they repaint the picture in their own minds. So, they die young, in spite of all their law-keeping.
The truth is, whether or not they slip up and reveal the true legalist living in the heart, their language is still very telling in that they have nothing good to say about the Saviour. Their thinking is still about What
and not about Whom
. They have nothing helpful to offer people, therefore they can’t witness for Him. But, this creates a horrible bind, because the Law (especially magnified in the Spirit of Prophecy) states that they must be a witness to Jesus and give their testimony of what He did to save them. But, He hasn’t saved them, or they would have a testimony! I don’t say this in fun, but in commiseration. For I’ve lived that horrible bind many, many years.
The legalists know all the ropes, but have never tried
the ropes. They have never surrendered their heart to Jesus. This is a fearful and sorrowful and deadly state of affairs. It needs a Reformation.
That is why understanding Galatians 3:23-26 is so desperately essential. We are dying for the lack of knowledge. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” (Hos. 4:6).
It’s time for another John the Baptist. And here’s why: the work of John was to bring the people back to the Law! The LAW
! Before the Messiah with good news would arrive! They had given up on it, and had allowed men to reinterpret it. But, despite its harsh treatment of our sins, we must go back the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible, or we will surely die.
We must let the Law convict us of sin. We must let the Law force us to wrestle and sweat with the Lawgiver. We must sweat with Jesus, the Law incarnate! It’s the wrestling that creates faith. Where there is no sweat equity, there is no faith or life. Wrestling
—of all things—actually equates to time spent with the Saviour! It might not seem like the most favorable setting of time together—a wrestling match! But, if that’s all He has to work with, He’ll certainly make the best use of it. Beside, that’s the most often method of communion that He’s ever had with sinners. We’ve always come for His help after every other gimmick mankind can invent, with the coaching from Babylon.
Yes, we must wrestle until He can get in and knock our hip out of joint. That will wake us up! Talk about cutting through the joints and the marrow! Talk about the word of God being “quick” (Old English for the feeling of a dentist’s drill hitting a nerve)! “Speak; for Thy servant heareth”!
That’s how Jacob knew that God loved Him. He knew that for the God of heaven to draw near, close enough to touch him but not destroy him, then it was good to be with Him. And, thus it will also be how the legalist will know that God loves him or her. But, the cost is time under the Law, in the grip of condemnation, under the rebuke of the Law, for who knows how long before we surrender. But, it pays off real good—eternally, starting as soon as we surrender. And that’s the only way to get eternal life. Yes, it is true that we must see Jesus on the cross, as John 3:16 says. But, that sight will never do us any good until we first are under strong conviction of sin. We must, I repeat, we must go back to the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible, and get convicted. The alternative is deadly spiritual anorexia—“speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” (1Tim. 4:2).
If we will choose to be rebuked and have all of our sins condemned, we will have the faith that we so much long to have. We will have a friendship with the world’s best Friend, who saved us from the Law of God, and from God who stands so opposed to our sin. The Judge chastises our peace like He did His Son in Gethsemane. But, only in order to bring about deliverance from Satan. Only by His strong stance against our sin can we come to Jesus. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me”, Jesus said (John 6:37). Do you want to come to Jesus? It will only happen by coming under the Schoolmaster. But after God has worked faith into you through His Law, then you will come to Jesus with all your brokenness, because you won’t mind feeling naked of self-sufficiency. As Jesus He said concerning those who His Father would carefully hand over to Him, they “shall
come to Me.” “…and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
“After that faith is come, we are no longer under a Schoolmaster [the Law]. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:25).