“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal 3:23-25)
1. I am Gentile by birth and was never under the Law. The Mosaic Law was given to the Jews. Paul’s several arguments in Galatians are to keep Gentiles from foolishly subjecting themselves to the Law now that they have become believers in Christ. But “this persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.” They themselves had known a form of law in the past, or “elemental things,” those rites and strictures of all pagan religions. Paul makes several poignant arguments to plead with Gentiles not to come back under such bondage by submitting to the Law of Moses.
2. I am not tutored by the Law because faith has come. This means that the time of the New Covenant and the clear preaching of faith in Christ has come, and I have believed in Him! Even if I were under the Law as a Gentile, that time and function of the Law is over for me. Faith has come. I am a son of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
The Jews were those “children” who were in custody under the Law. Promises had been made to them, but they were not fully adopted as sons, experiencing the rights and privileges of sonship. Rather they were under the guardianship of the Law—a tutor to bring them to faith. Those who believed received the blessing of this sonship. In reality, the promises were meant for these Jews alone. As children, those Jews were essentially the same as slaves while under the Law, and did not experience the freedom of sonship, even though they were promised everything. The Gentiles, however, were not children but true slaves, outside of the stated promises. But, thanks to God, many Gentiles also were made sons, though without the special tutelage of the Law. The gospel set both free and made both adopted sons, Jewish and Gentile believers alike. Paul teaches that these Gentiles were the recipients of the promises as well. “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:7).
How important it was for Gentile believers not to foolishly be circumcised and to seek to be justified by the Law. Circumcision really means nothing, but if it is seen as a means of justification, “you have fallen from grace,” (fallen outside the means of the grace that saves). How foolish to go back under slavery to the same unfruitful rituals and legalities like their pagan worship had promoted.
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” (Gal 5:1)