Lately I’ve been studying through the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia. Paul says a lot in a few pages, mostly warning these people, who had started a life of faith, NOT to start trying to keep the Jewish law on top of it. I’m sure they must have been confused… what is “religion” if not living according to a code of conduct? Does God call his own law a bad thing?? Wasn’t Jesus a Jew??
Well, as Paul explains, God has a place for the law, and a place for faith. He gets down to the nitty-gritty in Chapter 3 and the beginning of Chapter 4. The Law “was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (3:24). He compares us to a child, heir of the whole estate but “subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father” (4:2). In effect, it’s no different from being a slave.
The way he explains it, people are prisoners of sin (3:22), and the law is like the bars that hold us there (3:23). No one can fully obey the law (in every action, every word, every thought) but we can’t break away from it either. It’s just there, showing us how imperfect we are.
But when Christ came, faith was revealed and we could place our trust in him. He justifies those who trust him, and we are no longer under the supervision of the law (3:24-25). We become part of the covenant that God made with Abraham centuries ago (3:6-9), where God promised to bless those who, like Abraham, believe him.
As I grappled with these concepts, I began to picture a man in a jail cell, throwing himself against the bars again and again, unable to justify himself by his own efforts. Exhausted and bruised, he finally gives up and, by faith, just asks for forgiveness. When he does, God’s grace transforms the prisoner into a butterfly, who can fly out between the bars at will.
The bars are still there, but now the prisoner is free. God’s grace has transformed him into a creature that the bars were never meant to contain.
I hope this picture is useful to you, and would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Thanks for reading,
This week I am linking up with Jen at Soli Deo Gloria.
All quotes are from the New International Version of the Bible.