“What does the apostle Paul mean when he says that Christians are not under the law?”
- Galatians 3:21-25 – The coming of Christ changes our relationship with the law.
- Romans 3:9-20 – Sin is pervasive and universal and brings condemnation to those under it.
- Romans 6:14 – Being under grace and not under the law should not lead to a sinful life.
Key Points and Questions:
1. The Law as a Guardian: Although the law does point out sin, its role is not entirely negative. The law also has a positive role in the life of the believer. Unfortunately many translations fail to note the positive aspects the law has in Galatians 3:23-25. The Greek word translated as “kept” (KJV) in verse 23 literally means “to keep” or “to guard.” While this word can have a negative sense (2 Cor 11:32), it usually has a more positive connotation in the New Testament as “protecting” (Phil 4:7). Which aspect does Paul have in mind? It appears to be both since Paul likens the responsibilities of the law to the duties of the Roman slave, known as a paidagogos, whose job it was to supervise his master’s son. This slave had the positive duties of acting as a chauffeur, a tutor, and a bodyguard, but also the more negative responsibility of disciplining the child if he got out of line.
A. Do you think of God’s law in positive or negative terms? What danger is there in emphasizing one of its aspects to the exclusion of another?
B. What benefits do you have as a Christian that believers before Christ did not have?
2. No Longer Under the Law: If the law’s responsibilities include both negative and positive elements, how then should we understand Paul’s statement that Christians are no longer under the law since faith has come? The context and terminology of Galatians 3:23 indicates that the “coming of the faith” (Gal 3:23) refers to the coming of Christ. Paul seems to be saying that the position of the law in relation to God’s people changed when Christ came. This does not mean that the moral law is no longer applicable—that was never the issue. Christ, however, transcends the law. He is the epitome of all it requires and more (Gal 6:2, 1 Cor 9:21). We do not merely follow a set of rules; we follow Jesus. Jesus removes us from the law’s condemnation, and does what the law could never do, he writes his law on our hearts (Heb 8:10), and makes it possible for the righteous requirement of the law to be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:4).
A. What difference has the coming of faith made in your life. In what way has your faith in Christ changed your perspective of the world, and the perspective of others about you?
B. Paul contrasts being “under the law” and “under grace” in Romans 6:14. What does Paul say in the following verse that illustrates the law continues to have a role in a believer’s life?