Galatians 3: The Tutor, the Seed, and what they tell us about the Law

The first verse sets up the crux of the apostle’s argument.  That Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified to the church at Galatia.  Paul begins this way because he is setting up the stage for the simple fact that no one can b e justified by “keeping the law!”  This is the point Paul makes in verse 11.  He writes, “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident.”  The Greek word for “justified” literally translated means “declared righteous.”  One can only be declared righteous by the blood of Christ.  Interestingly, Paul cites the evidence of this right standing with God by the miraculous.  He writes, “Therefore, He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you does He do it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith.”  Additionally, he cites the proof of our right standing before God at the infilling of the Spirit at the time of salvations stating, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith.  Are you so foolish?  Having begin in the Spirit are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (#:2-3)  What was happening in Galatia to make these Christians think that they could only be justified by the keeping of the law?  What was going on that would make them reject the salvation by grace through faith that the apostle preached and which was verified by God by the miraculous?  It was a heresy.

What was happening in Galatia is the same heresy that occurs in Acts 15.  The first few verses of this chapter states, “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren. ‘Unless you are circumcises according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’  Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, the determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this que3stion.” (Acts 15:1-2)  This sets the stage for the Jerusalem council where the entire question of “how does one get saved” gets answered.  The Galatians had been “bewitched” by keeping the Torah as a vehicle of salvation.  Paul clearly rejects this idea, as they did at the Jerusalem council,  by saying that faith is the only requirement for salvation.  In a strange twist of irony, he uses an example from the torah to demonstrate that being “declared righteous” by God is a matter of faith, Abraham being the case in point. (Gal 3:6-9).  Furthermore, he quotes the law to those who are seeking salvation by it by saying that they are under ” the curse” but Christ redeemed us form the curse by His grace setting us free from the “works.”  To put it another way, the curse that all of us deserve because we have all broken the law, was placed upon Him because it is written in the Torah, “Cursed is he who is hanged on a tree.”  Hence, we are declared righteous before God by faith when we believe what He has done and not by the works of the law.  Again, Paul uses an authoritative reference from the Torah to make his point.  That being, that the Abrahamic covenant was given to his “Seed” and this one is Christ.  When the torah was given 430 years later at the Siniatic covenant, it did not annul the first given by God.  So, if the torah is not a vehicle of salvation than Paul and Jesus should both clearly tell us that it is null and void.  But this is not what happens in both of their teachings.

Paul states in Romans 3, “Do we then make void the law through faith?” ( Rom 3:31)  This is what th modern church would have you believe but this is not the teaching of the apostle.  He writes, “Certainly not, on the contrary, we establish the law.” (Rom 3:31) We establish it as the holy and spiritual standard by which we should order our lives.  Paul alludes to this back in Galatians.  He states, “What purpose then does the law serve?  it was added because of transgression.” (3:24)  It was added so that the people of God could discern between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the unholy.  The law was not given to a lost and unsaved people.  It was given to those who had been saved by the Passover blood and baptized in the Red Sea (I Cor 10:1-2)  It was not given to them to “obey and be saved” it was given to them to demonstrate holiness.  It became the temporary vehicle for the expression of eternal love.  Messiah tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.  This is the ultimate expression of the realm of God whose very essence is love.  The law was the earthly manifestation of this “until, the Seed should come to whom the promise was made.” (Gal 3:19)  This Seed, which is Jesus, became the mediator of the “better” covenant.  Paul states, “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been given by the law.” (#:21)  Life only comes from the sacrifice of Christ and the infilling of the Holy Spirit by faith.  The law could not give the Spirit.  The writer of Hebrews alludes to this saying that the blood of bulls and goats could not change the heart of the believer.  The law could not do this.  Therefore, the law was a “tutor” showing us the standards of holiness and love until Messiah could come and manifest those to us and equip us with the ability to stand righteously before God by faith, not by the law.  The law cannot cause one to be born again.  The law simply points out where all of us “fall short.”  However, simply because we “fall short” does not mean that the standards of love and holiness given by God at Siniai simply cease to have a role in the life of a believer.  It continues to have a place but not for salvation.  Thus Paul writes, “Now that faith has come we are no longer under a tutor.” (3:25)  Obviously, this is not a reference to God changing His standards of holiness.  It means that the heart change that every believer experiences by the Spirit releases us from the need for a tutor.  The Spirit now guides us into all truth.  However, the holiness of the law still remains.  Jesus validates us when He says, “Heaven and earth will pass away but the law will remain.” (Matthew 5:18)  My old teacher used to say, “Well, we still have heaven and will still have earth, so we must still have law.”  Jesus also says, “do not think that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets, I have not come to destroy it but to fulfill it.” (Matt 5:17)  Well, the church will have us believe that to fulfill means that He has destroyed it, but this is not the essence of the Greek.  The word translated fulfill is the Greek word “plereo” which means to “Fill up.”  It is the same word that Paul uses in Eph 5:18 when he says, “Be filled with the Spirit.”  Jesus is saying that He came to give the law is rightful place, to fill it up, to establish it.  To demonstrate to the universe the principles of love that are embodied in the law.   He was the living example of the love that is described in the law.  Thus, He filled it up and so should we, being imitators of Him.  Our walk with God has precious little to do with adherence to external principles, it has to do with love.  How much am I loving God?  How much am I loving my wife, family, neighbors, and coworkers.  Am I being the external living revelation of the love that is described in the law.  If not, I should be having been justified by faith, filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, witnessed and participated in the miraculous, and tasted and seen that the Lord, He is good.

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