Neither Jew nor Gentile

OVERVIEW - Returning to the custodianship of the Law means rebuilding the wall between Jew and Gentile, but “you are all one in Christ” – Galatians 3:26-29

Christian Cross Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
Galatians, Paul portrays the Mosaic Law as the “custodian” or “pedagogue” that supervised Israel “until the seed came,” which is Christ. In Greco-Roman society, the “pedagogue” was a slave with custodial and disciplinary authority over underage children until they reached maturity, even though he was a slave - [Christian Cross Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash].

The metaphor stresses the minority status of the one under the custodian, as well as the temporary nature of his authority. The custodial function ceased when the child attained adulthood.
  • (Galatians 3:23-25) – “Before the coming of the faith, however, we were kept in ward under the law, being shut up until the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that, the law has proved our custodian, training us for Christ, in order that, from faith we might be declared righteous. But the faith having come, no longer are we under a custodian.
In Jesus, the termination point was reached for the “children of Abraham.” All things were confined under sin, just as the Jews were kept under the Law until the faith was revealed in him. The Torah guarded the people of God until the “faith came,” which made them aware of transgression and the need for holiness.

Likewise, the supervisory role of the Law would only last until the “faith was revealed… The promise from the faith of Jesus Christ given to those who believe.” With the coming of the promised “seed,” believers were no longer under the custodianship of the Torah.

The analogy emphasizes the temporal aspect of the Mosaic Law. Since it is compared to the “custodian,” to say the heir is no longer under the custodian is to say the believer is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Legislation. If the Law is unable to acquit anyone before God, and if it was added after the original “Promise,” which it could not modify, what was the purpose of the legislation given at Sinai?

The Torah was given through Moses to teach that sin constitutes disobedience to the commandments of God. It was the “custodian” for the nation to guard Israel until the promised "seed" arrived. But that function was always temporary and provisional.

Here, the temporal aspect of the Law is pronounced. It was given as an interim stage in God’s larger redemptive program. However, with the arrival of the “seed,” it reached its termination point; therefore, it no longer has jurisdiction over who is in the covenant community, and who is not.

Next, Paul draws out the social implications of this change:
  • (Galatians 3:26-29): “For you all are sons of God through the faith in Christ Jesus; For you, as many as into Christ have been baptized, have put on Christ. There cannot be Jew or Greek, there cannot be slave or free, there cannot be male and female, for all are one in Christ Jesus: Now, if you are of Christ, by consequence, you are Abraham’s seed, according to promise, heirs.
To return to the custodianship of the Law means regression to the old stage characterized by division between Jews and Gentiles, a barrier eliminated already on the Cross by the death of Jesus.

The paragraph is pivotal to the letter, for it stresses the oneness of God's people. The old social distinctions are wholly inappropriate now that the “promised seed” has arrived. To pressure other believers to pursue a Torah-observant lifestyle would rebuild the old social barriers, especially between Jews and Gentiles.

Stone Wall - Photo by Daniel Born on Unsplash
Photo by Daniel Born on Unsplash

One function of the Law was to 
keep Israelites distinct from Gentiles. The arrival of the promised “seed” meant there was a new basis for defining and delimiting the people of God. By default, uncircumcised Gentiles were outside the Abrahamic covenant, and, therefore, NOT “sons of God.” They could only become members of the covenant by undergoing circumcision, in the case of males, and otherwise, adopting a Torah-observant lifestyle. Effectively, to cease being Gentiles.

But the Law also distinguished between slaves and freemen, males and females. Women could not fulfill certain requirements of the Law because of their periodic uncleanness from menstruation, and thus, could not participate fully in the Temple worship and rituals. They were restricted to the Court of Women, at a further distance from the presence of Yahweh than men. Religiously speaking, women were second-class citizens. To now embrace a Torah-observant lifestyle would restore this inequity.

The clause, “you are all,” refers to Gentile and Jewish believers - (“That the promise should be given to those who believe”). Before the coming of the “seed,” all things were under confinement, both Jew and Gentile. But now, both groups were no longer confined under either sin or the Law; both are now sons of God “through the faith of Christ Jesus.” And if adoption into the covenant community is through faith, then the Gentile believers in Galatia did not enter it from the works of the Torah, including circumcision.

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

This does not mean that ethnicity or gender no longer play roles in the daily lives of believers, but such distinctions are no longer relevant to one’s right standing before God or membership in His covenant community. To now return to the custodianship of the Law is to regress to bondage and social division within the covenant community.


Popular posts from this blog

Spirit of Antichrist

Unsealing Daniel