by John Lowe
Israel was God’s great experiment. Israel thought that they could keep the law. There was no way they could be convinced of the greatness of their sin. So God gave them a law; a perfect law, a holy law, a just law. Then He planted them in a sheltered land and drove out their enemies for them. He sent them godly priests and prophets, and kings. He gave them a ritual and the oracles, and a perfect law and said, “Now see what you do.” Under the most promising circumstances and blessings which no other nations ever enjoyed, He left them for fifteen hundred years under the law, but—NO SALE. God has now proved that no one can be saved by the law, since the experiment of Israel under the most blessed and beneficial conditions failed utterly and completely. Does God have to test it on the rest of the world? Certainly not! He has proven that “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” The law cannot provide salvation from sin, but it does bring the knowledge of sin. Now I am sure you will better understand the words of Paul: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3.20).
And then, when Israel showed itself to be helpless, and by their failure had established the perfection and justice of God’s law, Jesus came to show us the way of redemption. He paid the penalty of the broken law and suffered its condemnation and death and now offers to impute to everyone who believes on Him, His own perfect righteousness by faith.
The law, therefore, was demonstrational. It demonstrated by the experiment of Israel “that no flesh could be justified by the deeds of the law in the sight of God.” Paul says in Romans 7 that the law was added to make sin “exceedingly sinful” by showing its true nature of rebellion against God. Note, it was “worship of the law” that led Israel into a self-righteous religion of works, the result of which was the rejection of Christ (Rom. 9.30-10.13).
Then this was the ministry of the law, but this ministry ended at Calvary. Today the awfulness of sin can be seen best at Calvary instead of at Sinai. At Calvary we see the awfulness of sin, but also God’s remedy for sin. The law could show us our danger, but it could not show us the way out. One glimpse of Calvary will do more to convict the sinner of his sin than all the thunderings of the law.
The End of the Law.
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.
The law was given for a period of time to provide rigid training to prepare us for the grace of God. And so Paul says “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3.24).
The word “schoolmaster” may be translated as “pedagogue” (educator, teacher, schoolteacher, instructor, tutor, lecturer). Among the Greeks and Romans certain persons, often specially trained servants, were given custody over the children in a home, and were responsible for their training and preparation for taking their places of responsibility as mature sons in the home. This training was often rigid and severe, so that when the child reached maturity as an adult he would be ready to take his place, and honorably meet the claims and responsibilities of sonship. When the child became an adult, he was released from his “taskmaster,” his training period ended, he takes his place as a son, and now serves the father—not by restraints or threats of punishment and discipline, but voluntarily and willingly. The period of the law reaching from Moses to Christ, was a time of education and training to prove that we could not earn our salvation, but must receive it by grace. And so Paul says that the “law was up to” or “until” Christ, that we might be justified by faith. “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3.25). No language could be plainer than this. The law was our schoolmaster “up to” Christ, but when He came, we were no longer under the schoolmaster. We now have another teacher, even the Spirit of Truth. Jesus said of Him: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16.12, 13). The Holy Spirit came to reveal truth which the apostles were not ready to receive before Pentecost. This was reserved for the special revelation given to the apostles, Paul in particular. Before Christ came, revelation was in type and shadow. The Old Testament saints could not see what we see. The Old Testament saints since Moses were under the bondage of the law—the New Testament saint is in the liberty of the grace of God. In the Old Testament, the believer though an heir was an infant, while today we have received the standing as adult sons. This is something Paul asserts in Galatians 4: “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world” (Gal. 4.1-3).
The Old Testament saint was a babe, immature, not realizing the glory and fullness of his future inheritance. He was like a little child who, although heir to millions by virtue of relation to his father, is totally ignorant of the great wealth he is heir to, and would be made happier with a nickel than the promise of millions. A child cannot comprehend the meaning of a “million.” It means nothing to him, but a nickel or a dime—he is perfectly satisfied with that. So the Old Testament saint lived in the shadows, saw things indistinctly and dimly. But today under grace the shadows are gone and we have the full revelation of our sonship.
The law has performed its purpose; the Savior has come and the “schoolmaster” is no longer needed. It is tragic that the nation of Israel did not recognize its Messiah when He appeared. God eventually had to destroy the temple and scatter the nation, so that today it is impossible for a devoted Jew to practice the faith of his fathers. He has no alter, no priesthood, no sacrifice, no temple, and no king—“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim” (Hosea 3.4). All of these have been fulfilled in Christ, so that any man—Jew or Gentile—who trusts Christ becomes a child of God.
The law cannot change the promise, and the Law is not greater than the promise. But the Law is not contrary to the promise; they work together to bring sinners to the Savior.
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