It seems we barely get used to school being out, and before long, you notice “Back to School Sale” signs in stores. All the supplies are mounted up for easy access. Lists are posted so parents know what to buy. You can even hear the kids groan about having to go back to school. Parents rejoice.
Even in the first century, kids did not like discipline and instruction; therefore, they were placed under the care of guardians. The Greek word used in Galatians 3:24 was “pedagogue.” The KJV translates this as “schoolmaster.” The NKJV translates it as “tutor.” The Greek word means “to lead children,” particularly boys. This schoolmaster, tutor, or guardian was the servant in charge of leading the master’s son to his training. When the child grew up, the guardian was no longer necessary.
According to The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times by Ralph Gower, “Greek children went to school at the age of seven if his parents could afford to pay the fees. He studied basic skills (reading, writing, counting), music (poetry, dance, musical instrument), and physical skills (wrestling, boxing, running, throwing the javelin and discus… At 16, he went to the gymnasium to study literature, philosophy, and politics” (p. 82). (In Russian, high school is still called gymnasium.) The household servant made sure that the child was led to school.
Paul asks a question in Galatians 3:19, “What purpose then does the law serve?…before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” We are no longer under the law. The tutor has served its purpose. We have come to Christ.
No one can keep the law. The Law justifies no one. Even under the New Testament, we cannot hold the standards of the Sermon on the Mount. Though the Jews outwardly kept the commandment regarding adultery, Jesus said even a lustful look was equivalent to adultery. All the law can do is show us how far short we fall. It leads us to Christ where we must cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Paul said that if righteousness came by keeping the law, Christ died for nothing (see Galatians 2:21).
When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Jesus affirmed him as a great teacher in Israel. However, Jesus did not say, “Nick, you just need you to try a little harder to keep the law.” He told Nicodemus that he had to be born again (see John 3:3–5). Although Nicodemus was “the teacher of Israel,” keeping the law was not enough. All the law can do is bring us to Christ.
About the law Paul wrote: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16 NKJV). Notice that we were not reconciled to God through keeping the Law (Torah), but through the cross.
The law can never make us acceptable to God. It can only point out our depravity. It points to our need for a Savior. Christ fulfilled that role. It is not a matter of whether or not you eat bacon, attend church on Saturday, or wear purple tassels on your robe (See Numbers 15:38 NKJV), it is a question of being born again.
Jesus told Nicodemus that if he was not born again from above, he could not enter, he could not even see the kingdom of God. Have you been born again, or are you trying to make yourself acceptable by your own efforts of keeping the Law? Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
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