“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” – Galatians 3:24
We are on the verge of closing out yet another school year here in this part of America. Tomorrow, the L’Anse area schools will be done for the year and next week the Baraga schools will be done as well. During the past year, many young minds were educated in the subjects they need to know to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Many reams of paper and computer digits were burned up as the “youts” of the U.P. had their rapidly forming “skulls full of mush” (HT Rush Limbaugh) filled with readin’, writin’, and arithmetic by a dedicated team of teachers.
A school teacher in this sense is a kind of guardian. Their job is to help guide and impart the wisdom of the ages into young minds so that someday those children can take their appointed place in the world as helpers, guiders and providers in their own right. Protection of the children placed under their care is a huge part of an educator’s job. After all, how is a child ever going to reach their full potential if harm comes to them? They will never be able to rightly use the freedoms they will be handed as adults if they do not have the skills or wisdom needed to use them productively.
The law of God acts for us in the same way.
The law was given by God for two distinct uses:
(1) Protect us from evil
(2) Show us our need for God; to point out our need for a Savior
The first use of the law helps us function and live in a fallen world. It protects us by placing a restraint on the forces of chaos, destruction, and death that seek daily to devour us. Sometimes, these evil forces are external (outside of us) and sometimes they are internal (inside of us; after all, we are sometimes our own worst enemies are we not?). But in either case, God has written His law on the hearts of all men and we all know intuitively that there are limits we should not exceed (and do so only at our great peril). Almost all people universally understand and acknowledge this use of the law – Christian or not.
The second use of the law is not so easily understood. It is the constant accusation that resonates ceaselessly in our hearts that we have fallen short of our humanity. God created us human beings to perfectly love Himself and our neighbors – 100% perfectly, selflessly and endlessly. But we have fallen into sin in that the perfect love we owe God and neighbor has been turned inward to self. We love ourselves and, most of all, our choices and deeds above all things. We are natural self-lovers and self-trusters above all else. This is the original sin of Adam & Eve and it is replicated in us their descendants in the flesh in endless variations. God’s law in this regard serves as mirror on our souls that reflects back to us the reality that we are in bondage to sin and can’t free ourselves as we constantly trespass against it in thought, word, and deed.
God’s law was never given or meant to be a way to make ourselves righteous or holy, rid ourselves of sin, or as a “how-to” guide to find and domesticate divinity. In short, the law cannot save us. It is merely a guardian to safeguard us until we are ready to be free.
Christ is the one who came to free us from our sin – from our bondage to self. When Paul wrote these Words to the Galatians, he was pointing out the new reality of our existence as baptized Christians: Our salvation comes from the Crucified One alone not the law. We are saved by the promise of forgiveness of sins spoken to us by the One who has authority over all things. We no longer need to view the law as a way for us to self-justifying our lives because we have been given Jesus as a sheer gift of God’s grace and love. We now have the unconditional promise of eternal life – no ifs, ands, ors, buts, or maybes attached – given to us as a gift in the hearing of the Gospel of Christ. You are no longer under the law – you are free indeed because the Son Himself has set you free.
School is out. Christian, you have graduated. Enjoy your freedom and your summer! Amen.