Gal 3:23-25 “But 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.”
Our God is kind and longsuffering in His purpose. Those whom he has chosen to walk in this kingdom of heaven here have never been left to their own devices. Before we were of sufficient maturity to walk by faith (reliance upon Christ for salvation – see Strong’s), we were kept (to hem in, protect – see Strong’s) under the law. In His love for us, God gives the law to hedge us in until we have grown in grace and knowledge of the truth sufficiently to completely rely on Jesus Christ.
God’s law is used to subdue (shut up) those He calls to be kings and priests (Rev 5:10) until we are able to walk by faith. This faith is revealed after we have been subdued by the law. We first feel our need of salvation when God shows us we are justly condemned under the law of sin and death. Like most young children, at that point we want to fix it ourselves. Again, like most young children, when we insist on fixing (doing) it ourselves we make a mess. The law is our schoolmaster; it tutors us to the understanding that we cannot fix the problem.
In Paul’s day, a schoolmaster was not a principal or director of an institute of learning. A schoolmaster was a trusted servant who was given the responsibility of supervising a son’s activities (since in Paul’s day, daughters were not taught in this manner): the schoolmaster, or tutor, was both guide and guardian (see Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary). The schoolmaster remained with his charge until the son had reached a state of maturity deemed sufficient that he could go about attended only by that which he had learned while under his tutor.
The law is both guide and guardian for us until the faith of Jesus Christ is revealed. It is our constant companion, showing us again and again that we cannot justify ourselves. The law proves to us time and again that we, left to our own devices, will never rise above our sinful nature. The law brings us to Christ by proving to us that He is our only hope. When we finally learn that we have nothing else we can trust in and turn wholly to Him, then we no longer need our schoolmaster.
I am thankful for the law: it prevented me from taking many dangerous paths in my younger days. Oh, but what a joy when my constant companion became my friend, Jesus! How wondrous it was to finally sing with understanding “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness!” What humility it brought when I was made to confess to myself that my condition is beyond my ability to fix. I am so thankful that He has revealed the faith of Jesus Christ.
May God grant us all the joy of walking by faith with our Friend and Elder Brother, Jesus!