To some readers, this is a shocking title for a posting by a blogger who is sometimes accused of being an antinomian (“against the law”) because, as I wrote last week, I believe that we follow God’s leading in our lives by doing exactly what we want to do, rather than by trying to obey God’s law.
As we saw last week, one of the two indispensable edges of the two-edged sword of the word of God is God’s law, the gospel being the other one. However, this holy, righteous law of God, that David loved so much, has not achieved the task we would expect it to, but just the opposite! “And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death” (Romans 7:10). “For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to God”(Galatians 2:19).
These verses tell us what Paul thought in Romans 7—and what I naturally think: keeping God’s holy, righteous law and therefore being “good” will bring me spiritual life. Actually, these verses tell us that God has used His law for just the opposite purpose—to increase sin in my life (Romans 5:20; 1 Corinthians 15:56) in order to make my death in Christ on the cross actually experiential!
In Galatians 3:23-25, Paul explains very carefully that God has TWO uses of His law, and neither one is to make me a “good” person: “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. “ According to these verses, what are the two uses?
Use #1 – The external use of the law as a “fence” to “guard” me – Once I have an experience with Jesus Christ and am walking by faith consistently, I no longer need a “fence.” The Holy Spirit is living through me and the law is unnecessary externally to guide my conduct because the Spirit is now guiding me (I am “no longer under” the law).
This external use of the law is represented by my parent’s instructions as I am being trained, directives by teachers, employers, coaches, the government, etc.—any legitimate authority in the kingdom of God concerning my external conduct. This external use of the law does not include my internal thoughts and beliefs.
This allows a world filled with fallen sinners who have not yet found an experience with Jesus Christ to coexist without killing one another. On an adult level, the external use of the law is for crimes, not sins. It does not speak to hatred, prejudice, racism, etc. Those are internal sins, not external crimes. This external use of the law is for “what is beneath me,” my life here on the earth.
Use #2 – The internal use of the law as a “tutor” to “bring me to (faith in) Christ.” – That word “tutor” in verse 24 of Galatians 3 refers to the slave in the Roman household who was responsible to insure that a child in the family was delivered safely to the teacher who was educating him. Ths “child-conductor,” as some Bibles translate the word, was like a bodyguard who made sure that the child did not play hooky and skip his lesson and also that nothing happened to him on his way to that lesson.
This slave had a special place of honor in the family, for his role was very important in the child’s growth and development. This role as tutor corresponds beautifully to the internal work of the law in our lives today. The tutor is the law of God, and brings me to Jesus, my teacher, to experience the cross and His forgiveness.
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I might express the results of the internal work of the law in me in this way, using Paul’s metaphors:
“Now that the law, who is my child-conductor, has brought me safely to Jesus Christ, who is my Teacher, my child-conductor is no longer necessary. I am now safely in the presence of my Teacher who now has the responsibility to instruct me and care for me. My tutor has “handed me off’’ to my Teacher, so to speak.
“Oh, my Teacher and my child-conductor are in perfect agreement as they teach and train me; they are saying exactly the same thing, and, if I forget what the Teacher said, my child-conductor is always ready to remind me.
“But the Teacher somehow can bring the lesson to life in a way my child-conductor can’t. I know what my child-conductor said was always right, but I didn’t want to hear it from him, even though I knew I should. However, my Teacher has somehow gotten inside me, changed my “want-to” and made me actually want to do my lessons!
“My child-conductor is still around, and I love him, because he always tells me the truth, but it’s my Teacher who has changed my life.”
So, the law of God is constantly at work in our lives, first, externally as we wield it to guard the kingdom responsibilities God has given us in our families, jobs, and the civil government. Second, it also is indispensable to us internally, as it is our tutor to daly expose our sin by making demands we cannot keep. As I try to keep his impossible demands, it is like a mirror that shows me that “…In me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18) and “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12).
May the law of God do its work in our lives. May we exercise it EXTERNALLY in our kingdom responsibilities, firmly and not harshly, and with compassion and not leniency. INTERNALLY, may our tutor show us the futility of all of our efforts to be righteous. May he bring us to that great Teacher, the lover of our souls..
As we comprehend this, we are learning to relax in the security of His embrace, and believe Him as He whispers in our ear, “I love you, just like you are. There is nothing left for you to do. Rest in My arms and learn of Me, and then you will be effortlessly changed.” Then we can genuinely say with David, “Oh, how I love your law.”