Did you know that a family, civil government, a church, a business, a sports team, a school or university—indeed an organization of any kind—will only be successful to the degree it runs by the principles of the law of God as found in the Bible? This is called the “external use of God’s law.”
However, Paul teaches us in Galatians 3:23, 24 that there is another, very different use of the law, the “internal use of God’s law.” The external use, ordering behavior according to the law, protects or guards us (Christian or non-Christian) from our own destructive actions and also of those around us, since none of us can ultimately keep that law well enough. On the other hand, as we saw last week, the internal use of the law is not to order behavior at all, but to act as a mirror to show us our failure to keep the law, and to bring us to faith in Jesus as our Savior. “Ne’er the twain shall meet” in these two totally different uses.
Paul says that when we come to Jesus and are living by faith, “we are no longer under a tutor (paidagogos – child-conductor)” (Galatians 3:25). The law, acting as a mirror and exposing our sin and thereby showing us our need for a Savior, brings us to Jesus as a child-conductor brings the child to his teacher. So when I am with Jesus, living by faith in His power in me, I no longer need the law to keep me in line.
This is how one might describe how this principle works in his life: “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.
“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.
“However, my Teacher somehow can bring the lesson to life in a way my child-conductor can’t. I know what my child-conductor always said was right, but I didn’t want to hear it from him, even though I knew I should. My Teacher has the skill to get inside me and change my ‘want-to’ and He has actually made me want to do my lessons! My child-conductor is still around to keep me on the straight and narrow, and I love him because he always tells me the truth, but it’s my Teacher who has changed my life.”
So, when we are “living by faith,” the Holy Spirit living inside us keeps the law without us trying to do so at all. Keeping God’s law is natural, spontaneous and unconscious. We only “gum up the works” when we try to keep it by our obedience to it. Let’s see how this works when “rubber meets road” in real life.
“Living by faith” does not mean that since I believe that Jesus is now my Savior and I truly believe that I am saved and bound for Heaven, I am automatically now living by faith. This is like looking at a chair and saying, “I believe that chair will hold me up,” but genuine faith actually sits in the chair; it cannot be exercised standing! “Living by faith” means, as my grandson says, “throwing open the screen door” every morning, attacking the world, knowing that (here’s where faith comes in) no matter how I feel or what I see in my life that is sinful and imperfect, the Holy Spirit is living in me, changing me, motivating me, empowering me to do HIs will today!
I attack the day “in listening mode,” always open and anticipating the Holy Spirit in my heart—not the written law of God—to poke me, prod me, lead me and convict me during the day. He uses circumstances, impressions, and a soundless voice inside my spirit to speak to me. As time goes by, I am learning to hear that voice better, and I discover, sure as the world, my Teacher is saying the same thing my child-conductor is saying—the law of God!
For example, as I was just beginning to learn what I am sharing in this post, after 30 years of preaching, I suddenly saw, for the very first time as I was concluding the Sunday sermon, the arrogance, pride and self-aggrandizement with which I had just preached, and that must have riddled my preaching, completely unrecognized, during all those years. The Holy Spirit. sovereignly, right on schedule, opened my eyes to my sin. I want this to be my first prayer as I attack each day. Prayer #1: “Oh Lord, open the eyes of my understanding that I may see…” (Ephesians 1:18), Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians.
When He does so, Prayer #2 is in order, the prayer of the tax-collector in the temple who went home justified in Jesus parable in Luke 18:13, “Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner.” The sin you have shown me is not my wife’s, my neighbor’s, my enemy’s, my boss’s, my teacher’s, the police’s, etc.; it is mine alone. I repent.”
Many believers with contrite, broken hearts have seen their sin with spiritual understanding (Prayer #1) and have sincerely repented (Prayer #2), but they find Prayer #3 impossible to really, deep in their hearts, pray with conviction. It is the prayer of the demon-possessed child in Mark 9:24—“I believe; help my unbelief!”
We are truly “unbelieving believers;” we believe in Jesus, yes we do, yet we do not believe we are truly, no holds barred, fully forgiven, no matter our sin, known or unknown. How could God really love me unconditionally—trapped in pornography, lust, anger, pride, insecurity, selfishness, etc.—and forgive me fully, no restrictions? But He does. Even though, as David said in Psalm 51:4, “Against You, and You only have I sinned,” He loves me with a love that “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Corinthians 13:5). He looks at my sin and says, “I’ve got that, my child; I’ll take care of it; just trust me.”
May the mirror of law of God do its work in my life, showing me that I am a wicked, rebellious sinner, but may my child-conductor keep showing me the futility of all of my efforts to lick those sins myself, and bring me to that great Teacher, the lover of my soul. May I now relax in the security of His embrace, and believe Him as He whispers in my 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.”