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30 September 2020

Neither Jew nor Gentile

SynopsisTo return to the custodianship of the Law is to rebuild the wall between Jewish and Gentile children of GodGalatians 3:26-29.

By Bill Oxford on Unsplash
By Bill Oxford on Unsplash
In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul compares the Law or Torah to a “custodian” or paidagōgos
. The English term “pedagogue” is derived from this noun. Unlike English, the Greek term does not refer to an educator but, instead, to someone with supervisory responsibilities.

A “pedagogue” in the Greco-Roman society was not a tutor but a servant with custodial and disciplinary authority over a child until it reached maturity. Though often a slave, a “custodian” was authorized to administer correction to the future master of the household. The metaphor stresses the minority status of the one under the custodian and the temporary nature of his authority. That function would cease when the child reached adulthood.
  • (Galatians 3:23-25) – “Before the coming of the faith, however, under law were we being kept in ward, being shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that, the law hath proved our tutor training us for Christ, in order that, by faith we might be declared righteous; But, the faith having come, no longer are we under a tutor.” - (The Emphasized Bible).
Paul stresses that, in Jesus, who is the true “seed of Abraham,” a termination point has been reached. All things were confined under sin, just as the Jews were kept in ward under the Law, that is until the faith was revealed through Jesus Christ. The Law guarded the people of God until the faith came. It made them aware of transgression and the need for holiness.

Likewise, the supervisory role of the Law was only to last until the “faith is revealed…the promise from the faith of Jesus Christ given to those who believe.” With the coming of the promised “seed of Abraham,” believers no longer were under the custodianship of the Torah or Law. The analogy emphasizes the temporal aspect and function of the Law. Since the Torah is compared to the “custodian,” to say the heir is no longer under the authority of the custodian is to say the believer is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Legislation.

If the Law was unable to acquit anyone before God, and if it was added after the original Promise and could not modify it, what was the purpose of the law code that Yahweh gave at Mount Sinai?

Ten Commandments -
Ten "Words"
The Torah was given to make clear that sin constituted disobedience to the commandments of God, and it was to be a “custodian” or supervisor for the nation of Israel to guard her until the promised "seed" should arrive. However, by design, this function was temporary and provisional.

In this last section of Galatians, the temporal aspect of the Law becomes pronounced. The Law given at Sinai was an interim stage in God’s larger redemptive program. But now, in Jesus, it has reached its termination point and, therefore, it no longer has jurisdiction to determine who is in the covenant and who is not.

Paul next draws out the social implications of this change of jurisdiction:
  • (Galatians 3:26-29): “For ye all are sons of God through the faith in Christ Jesus; For ye, as many as into Christ have been immersed, have put Christ on: There cannot be Jew or Greek, there cannot be bond or free, there cannot be male and female, for all ye are one in Christ Jesus: Now, if ye are of Christ, by consequence, ye are Abraham’s seed, according to promise, heirs.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
To return to the custodianship of the Law is to rebuild the divisions between Jews and Gentiles, barriers done away with on the Cross of Christ.
This paragraph is pivotal to the Letter to the Galatians. It stresses the oneness of God's people; the old social divisions are wholly inappropriate now that the Promise has arrived. To pressure other believers to pursue a Torah-observant lifestyle is to re-erect the old social , economic, and ethnic barriers, especially, between Jew and Gentile.
A function of the Law was to keep Jews distinct from Gentiles. The arrival of the promised “seed” of Abraham, Jesus, meant there was a new basis for defining and delimiting the people of God. Uncircumcised Gentiles were outside the covenant with Israel and, by definition, not “sons of God.” They could only become members of His people by undergoing circumcision (in the case of males) and, otherwise, adopting a Torah-observant lifestyle.

Moses with the stone tablets
The Lawgiver
But the Law also distinguished between slaves and freemen, and males and females. Women could not fulfill certain requirements of the Law because of their periodic uncleanness due to menstrual cycles. They could not participate 
fully in the worship rites of the Temple where they were restricted to the Court of Women at a further distance from the presence of Yahweh than the men of Israel. Religiously speaking, under the Law, women were second-class citizens. To embrace a Torah-observant lifestyle would restore this inequity.

The clause in Verse 25, “you are all,” refers to Gentile and Jewish believers (Verse 22 - “That the promise should be given to those who believe”). The Scriptures declared that before the coming of the “seed” all things were under confinement, both Jew and Gentile. But now, both are no longer under confinement to either sin or the Law; both are now sons of God “through the faith of Christ Jesus.” And if adoption is through faith, then the children of God did not become so from the "works of the Law," the deeds required by the Torah.

Several times Paul emphasizes the word “all.” Both Jewish and Gentile believers have been made “sons of God” through their oneness with Christ. It is “in Christ” that believers become the true "sons of God" and, therefore,  “Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise.”

This does not mean that ethnicity and gender no longer play roles in the daily lives of believers. However, such distinctions are no longer relevant to a person's right-standing before God or his or her membership in His covenant community. To now return to the custodianship of the Torah is to regress to bondage and social division.

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