SYNOPSIS – To return to the custodianship of the Law is to rebuild the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile – Galatians 3:26-29.
In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul portrays the Law or Torah as a “custodian” or paidagōgos – (Strong’s – #G3807). The English term “pedagogue” is derived from it. Unlike English, the Greek term does not refer to an educator but to someone with supervisory responsibilities. In Greco-Roman society, a “pedagogue” was a servant with custodial and disciplinary authority over a child until it reached maturity.
Though often a slave, the “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 the latter’s authority – His function ceased 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).
In Jesus, a termination point was reached for the true “children of Abraham.” All things were confined under sin, just as the Jews were kept in ward under the Law until the faith was revealed in him. The Torah 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 would only 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,” no longer were believers under the custodianship of the Torah.
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 custodian is to say the believer is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Levitical Legislation. If the Law is unable to acquit anyone before God, and if it was added after the original “Promise” that it could not modify, what was the purpose of the law code given at Sinai?
The Torah was given to teach that sin constitutes disobedience to the commandments of God. It was a “custodian” for the nation of Israel to guard her until the promised “seed” arrived. But that function was always temporary and provisional.
In this paragraph, the temporal aspect of the Law is pronounced. It given as an interim stage in God’s larger redemptive program. However, with the arrival of the “seed,” it has 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 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 means the return to the division between Jews and Gentiles, a barrier eliminated on the Cross.
This paragraph is pivotal to the letter – It stresses the oneness of God’s people. The old social distinctions are wholly inappropriate now that the “Promise” has arrived.
To pressure other believers to pursue a Torah-observant lifestyle would re-erect the old social barriers, especially the division between Jew and Gentile.
One function of the Law was to keep Israelites distinct from Gentiles. The arrival of the promised “seed” – Jesus – meant there was a new basis for defining and delimiting the people of God. Uncircumcised Gentiles were outside the covenant with Israel; by definition, NOT “sons of God.” They could only become members by undergoing circumcision in the case of males, and otherwise, adopting a Torah-observant lifestyle.
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 from menstruation. They 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 in verse 25 – “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 were no longer confined under either sin or the Law; both were 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.
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 any roles in the daily lives of believers; however, 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 in the covenant community.