Standing Fast In The Liberty By Which Christ Has Made Us Free (See 5:1)
THE “NANNY SERVICE” OF THE LAW
Is it important for us to know what the Lord’s apostle wrote in this part of his letter to the Galatian Christians? It was addressed to a specific problem, namely, the threat of the “Judaizers.” These people were tormenting Gentile believers, asserting that faith in Christ is not enough. To be justified and acceptable to God, they taught, it is necessary that certain requirements of Moses’ Law, such as circumcision, be observed.
This may not seem to be a problem for us today. Yet ancient heresies do keep coming, dressed in some more modern garb. If someone tells you that you must obey some religious law (tithing, for example, or observing a Saturday-Sabbath), follow some church custom such as calling yourself Lutheran, or fulfill any human work to qualify for the inheritance of the saints in light, this Scripture can serve you well. It can help keep you in the truth of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone.
When Paul writes about “The Law” here (v. 19), he speaks of that splendid gift once given to Israel by God through Moses on Sinai. It was a legal code that was to govern every aspect of life for the covenant people. This divine revelation defined their religious life. It gave them a perfect constitution of civil law. Its centerpiece was the “Ten Words,” the commandments which taught how their love toward God and neighbor should behave.
With good reason, every pious Jewish patriot would pledge allegiance to this national treasure. Understandably, many who became Christians continued, by choice, to live “kosher” in some matters (See Acts 15:28-29). Yet Paul would not allow, even for a minute, that Gentile believers should be placed under that Law.
Why Not, If It Is So Good?
Our Scripture portion tells us that the Law of Moses did have a place and a purpose for a time, a “supervisory role” (v. 25). That mission was accomplished. That Law is no longer in effect. God has “canceled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).
It is vital to the biblical line of thought to understand that the Law of Moses had only a temporary function and purpose. Important, but only temporary. Speaking as a Jew born under The Law, Paul says that The Law “was put in charge to lead us until Christ that we might be justified by faith” (v. 24, NIV).
The Tough-love Nanny
In Bible times well-off people often had someone who would see to it that a child would get safely to school and back home again. Much like the modern nanny supervising children until mom and dad come home, keeping them out of trouble and enforcing the rules of the house.
During four centuries of slavery in Egypt the family of Abraham got along without a “paidagogus.” When liberated, however, and moving as a populous nation toward occupation of the promised land, Jehovah met them at Sinai. There, through Moses as mediator, the two-party covenant of The Law was established to serve until the promised Seed would come. “Because of transgressions.” Even God’s privileged, chosen people would be prone to sin. If they were to fulfill their destiny as the matrix of the Messiah the nation would have to be kept together with a rigid code of law, a law of “do’s and don’ts” with threats of punishment for sin and reward for good behavior.
Important as this service was, Paul warns against allowing it to set aside the covenant previously established by God with Abraham, thus doing away with the promise. In other words, you can’t have it both ways. Is it your hope to receive life and salvation by doing The Law or by believing the Promise (the gospel)? In his own graphic way, one of our founding fathers in the CLC (Maynard Witt) used to ask whether you are a “Moses lover” or a lover of Christ.
Think About It!
The covenant of promise which God made with Abraham and continues to us in Christ is unconditional. It requires no doing on our part. “Only believe.” That’s why our glorious present and future in Christ is so sure. With Paul we can exult, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of The Law” (v. 25).
“Thanks, Nanny. You did a great job, but we won’t need your services any more. The children are now mature enough to discipline and care for themselves!”
–Pastor Rollin A. Reim