Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:23-26
I’m still thinking about this idea of loving the Law. It’s totally contrary to typical Christian thinking. As followers of Christ we are brought up very anti-law, and for good reason. We’re pro-grace! We love Jesus and the truth that we can’t earn our salvation. We know that the gospel message has nothing to do with merit. And so, as I said in my last post, it feels somewhat anti-Jesus to have any positive feeling for the Law.
And yet, Paul is making a great case here in Galatians 3 for why we should love the Law. Not as a means for our salvation—that’s never going to happen! But we should love the role it played, the purpose for which it was given to us in the first place.
First, Paul told us it was given to show us our sinfulness. Essentially God wanted us to see how much we need him. And now Paul is saying that the Law was given before Christ came and was crucified as a means of protecting us. Can that be right? I mean, obviously it is; these are Spirit-inspired words. But what does Paul mean? It can easily feel like the Law’s only function is to make us feel like failures. We just can’t ever follow it completely.
I think what Paul is pointing out is the reality that God didn’t give the Law because he thought we could earn our way to him. He never had any sort of delusion regarding our abilities toward holiness under our own power. But giving us the Law gave us the clear expectations. Even if we couldn’t follow it rightly, we at least now knew where the standard was. We knew what God expected and what he wanted. The Law makes right and wrong clear and distinct. The Law, even as much as God’s people failed it, still gave them a goal and helped them not to wander too far away from God’s ways. Without it they would not have even known what God expected. Their own depravity would have pulled them even further from the Lord. The Law helped protect them from their own destructive behaviors.
We still have rules to follow today. The Law is not gone—in the sense that God’s standards are still his standards. We are still called to obedience. The difference is that we aren’t dependant on this law to get us to God or make us right with God. Instead, it’s an act of obedience. And these rules—the Law of God—is a gift.
Instead of seeing rules as God’s way of being the cosmic buzz-kill who simply doesn’t want us to have fun and likes to say “Don’t do” a little too much. We should start seeing God’s rules as the guidelines for a life lived in freedom and abundance. The rules aren’t the rules simply to oppress us. They are meant to protect us…from ourselves. Our sinful selves are full of destructive tendencies. Destructive to ourselves and pretty much everyone around us. God’s laws for our lives are meant to help steer us clear of this destructive propensity.
Loving the Law, it’s not the most natural thing for us. But maybe, if we start seeing it as God’s gift meant to help, we might just begin to embrace it. We are saved by grace, without question. But God’s rules give us a sense of how this grace-life should be lived out. It’s something we should learn to love.