Galatians 3:23-25 Fall in love with Christ, not with knowledge
Galatians 3:23-25 Fall in love with Christ, not knowledge
23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
The Mosaic law is introduced to prime the people towards truth and grace so that they may receive Jesus when He comes. Unfortunately, the Jews were fixated with the law. Not only did they not recognise Jesus as the Son of God, they murdered Him because He spoke truth and grace. Paul teaches that the word is essential in that it primes our minds with truth and grace so that we may encounter Christ in the Spirit. Therefore, believers must understand the role of the word as the bridge and faith in Jesus is the goal. Paul says, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” Today’s devotion teaches us: Fall in love with Christ, not with knowledge.
But before faith came,…
“Before faith came…” refers not to the faith of Abraham but specifically to the faith of Christ… “Before faith (of Christ) came…” The patriarchs have been living a kind of moral or generic faith exemplified by Abraham who walks in simple trust and obedience towards God. But faith of Christ is more advanced comprising divine truth and grace which is absent in Abraham’s faith. Abraham’s faith, by virtue of this inadequacy is unable to influence the people towards obtaining the promise. “Death reigned from Adam to Moses” (Romans 5:14) speaks in general of men’s hardened state of heart, incapable of walking in the faith of Christ needed for salvation. Not unless they are tutored under the law for a time, can they be primed to acknowledge Christ’s faith and walk in His truth and grace.
…we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
The Mosaic law is founded on Abraham’s legacy of faith. It is this faith that led men to subject themselves to the custody of the law to prime them towards receiving the promise. The custody of the law subjects men to strict observances of the sacrifices/offerings as well as strict adherence to the 10 commandments/precepts. It is important to note that during this time, the revelation of the faith of Christ was deliberately withheld from the Israelites (…being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed). Why is faith of Christ withheld? Because man’s sinful nature does not allow him to accept the faith of Christ but to reject it. Therefore, man must have their minds primed with values of divine truth and grace prior to the revelation of Christ and his faith… Commitment to the divine truth for holy living and dependence on grace for forgiveness. Indeed, the state of man’s mind will cause him to either accept or reject Christ when He comes.
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
What does the law as our tutor do to lead us to Christ? The law is introduced to develop in men’s minds firstly, the gravity of the truth and secondly, the need for grace.
The element of divine truth for living is framed by the moral component of the law: 10 commandments/precepts. Here, the truth is not just civil, but it is divine holding all men accountable to God by its precepts. Here, the tutor works in meting out punishment and curses according to the stipulations of the law should men disobey. Here, the moral part of the law aims to develop the gravity of holy living and accountability to God.
The element of divine grace is tutored by strict observance of the sacrifices/offerings. Men, to have their sins forgiven, must offer an appropriate sacrifice according to the severity of their transgression. The sacrifices/offerings aims to develop dependence for divine mercy and grace to cover their transgressions. The sacrifices/offering aims to develop the understanding of the merciful God and dependence on His grace.
In the days before the Mosaic law is given, men are not legally accountable to God for their actions. But at the advent of the Mosaic law, men are accountable to God who judges their every move. Through the provisions of the moral law, God rewards the obedient with blessings and punishes the disobedient with curses. And through the sacrifices, people recognise the requisite for divine grace for forgiveness of sins.
Under the law’s tutorage, it is expected of the people who have been practicing the law to recognise Christ as the Son of God who came to fulfil the law (see Matthew 5:17-20). Indeed, the elements of truth and grace in the Mosaic law is realised by Christ’s exemplifying faith: truth and grace (see John 1:17). Indeed, the Mosaic law is not opposed to Christ, but is a bridge to lead us to Christ.
What does it mean to be justified by faith? Justified means made righteous in the eyes of God, and to be adopted as God’s children. The evidence of one’s righteousness before God is the fragrance of truth and grace in the believer’s life. For the righteous ones are being led by the Spirit of truth and grace from within. Romans 8:14 says, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
The purpose of the tutor is to develop within the people the gravity of the truth and the need for grace. “But now that the faith of Christ has come…” signifies the end of the law’s tutorage and the start of tutor-free living (we are no longer under a tutor) led by the Spirit. Here, believers no longer need to make animal sacrifices, for Christ’s sacrifice has once and for all forgiven their sins.
How does the era of faith (of Jesus) differ from that of the era of the law?
In essence, the law influences man from without, but faith of Christ influences man from within. And the elements of truth and grace are now effectively internalised by the indwelling of the Spirit. Thus, believers have a regenerated heart energised by the Spirit of truth and grace.
In the era of the law, men lived like slaves, being constrained primarily by the fear of punishment and curses. In the era of the Spirit, people no longer fear the curses of the law, for the curses have been placed upon Christ (see Isaiah 53:6). Instead, they are called to draw near to God with confidence without fear of retribution, so that they may receive mercy and find grace in time of need (see Hebrews 4:16). Through faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer regenerating and empowering him to live the divine life.
The law is introduced as a tutor to bridge men to the promise of the heavenly kingdom whose culture is truth and grace. The bridge is spartan and restrictive and has none of the glory that the final destination has to offer. But when one comes to the end of the bridge evident by the coming of the Spirit, he must learn to step into the kingdom, and cast off the constrains and the mode of living he is so used to.
Knowledge and commitment cannot give life, but Christ can
The tutor seeks to instil knowledge and commitment to the truth by means of the law. It also seeks to instil the requisite for grace and dependence on God for forgiveness of sins. Despite of the law’s tutorage that lasted 1,400 years, the majority of the Jews did not enter into the faith of Christ and missed out on the abundant life of the Spirit. Why? Is the tutor inferior? The answer is No!
The Jews’ focus is not on God nor on Christ, but on knowledge and commitment to the precepts and rituals of the law. That is why they reject the faith of Christ: His identity as God, His teachings and His sacrifice on the cross.
- They reject His identity as Son of God: they are not willing to submit themselves to God.
- They reject His teachings: they reject teachings that they cannot understand or agree.
- They reject His sacrifices: they are self-righteous and do not think they need God’s forgiveness.
Many churchgoers and ministers are repeating the plight of the Jews. Even though verbally confessing Christ as Son of God, they reject Him by following their own desires and ambitions. They twist His teachings to suit their personal convictions and reject teachings that they cannot understand with their puffed up minds. For such depend not on Christ for revelation, but on their own expertise speaking things they have not seen nor understood (see Mark 12:24, John 1:5, 2 Peter 3:16). They reject His sacrifice by portraying themselves as righteous when they are inwardly selfish and corrupt.
The true purpose of knowledge is to bring us to Christ so that we may have a real and intimate relationship with Christ. The pattern of the believer’s communication with Christ can be modelled after the way the 12 disciples relate with Christ in the flesh. Except Christ is now in us communicating and strengthening us continually, something the disciples experienced only after Christ’s resurrection.
Knowledge and commitment is not the goal, but fellowship with Christ is. Knowledge is not divine wisdom, which only Christ can give. Colossians 2:2-3 says,
“…attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Only divine wisdom of Christ can give us breakthrough in the midst of life’s many challenges. Knowledge is the bridge, without which we cannot encounter Christ intimately.
Therefore, when believers read the word, we must set our focus towards the resurrected Christ and commune with Him. When we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (see James 4:8). When the goal of our Christian disciplines is to encounter Christ, our faith comes alive with fresh revelations, miracles and tangible encounters with God and the angels on a daily basis.
Fall in love with Christ, not with knowledge.
Under the tutorage of the law, men come face to face with the commandments. When faith comes, believers come face to face with Christ and experience miracles and abundant living. The knowledge of the law or the bible is only a bridge to faith in Christ. It is only through faith (in communion with Christ) that we truly experience miracles and abundant life, not through knowledge. Paul says, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” (1 Corinthians 8:1b). The below helps us understand if we are making knowledge the goal, or faith.
When men make knowledge the goal:
- They understand the literal meaning of the word. But the word appears dull and lifeless.
- There is no clarity for the present or wisdom for the future despite knowing full well the written word.
- There is a cognitive calmness induced by the word, but there is no overwhelming peace and joy of the Spirit.
- God seems unreal or aloof for there is no direct encounter with God or His angels.
- Prayer seems laborious for there is no immediate working of God’s supernatural power.
- There is a commitment to the commandments but no denial of oneself or death to one’s personal agenda.
When men make faith the goal:
- God speaks directly and the word comes alive.
- There is clarity for the present and wisdom for the future.
- There is unspeakable joy and assurance through the Spirit.
- God becomes real and tangible. There is daily communion with Christ and the angels.
- There is imminent victory over challenges through the direct assistance of angels.
- They give their lives as a living sacrifice through repentance.
That said, without the knowledge of the word, there is no bridge that leads to Christ. Paul tells Timothy concerning the purpose of scripture, which is to instil faith in Christ (communion with Christ), through which he obtains divine wisdom for abundant living,
…from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15
How then, should a believer read the word. Paul provides the processes,
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Scripture: Study the text by reading it multiple times.
Reproof (Observation): Meditate on the text continually and derive doctrinal conviction.
Correction (Truth): Practice self-reflection and derive moral conviction.
Training in righteousness (Application): Derive lifestyle changes to match moral convictions.
From the above processes, it is important to read the word and meditate upon it daily. At the same, we must go beyond knowledge of the text to the right doctrinal conviction, which leads to moral conviction, culminating towards a lifestyle change. The goal of all spiritual disciplines is to commune with Christ and His angels. Only Christ can give us the right doctrinal and moral conviction, and the power to change our lifestyle so that we may live life abundantly. Therefore, if we love the word, even more we should love Christ, who alone deserves our supreme worship.
Are you committed to the word, to the commandments, to the great commission but have little desire or time to commune with Christ? Knowing that Christ is the source of all wisdom and power, our ineffectiveness could be attributed to our misguided love.
Do you find God aloof, and communion with Christ dull? Perhaps, there are persistent desires and habits that are not pleasing to God? As a result, God has distant Himself. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Therefore, let us submit ourselves to God and resist the devil and his sins. As we repent and draw near to God, He will draw near to you. We must no longer be double-minded, but cleanse the works of our hands, and purify the desires of our hearts (see James 4:7-8).
Dear Lord, I desire to encounter you in an intimate and profound manner. I desire to experience your presence and know your mind and your heart. I divorce myself from the sins and pleasures of the world. I resist the evil spirits of lust, envy and pride. Open my heart to know your truth, give me wisdom to know your will and the power to overcome the challenges of life. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.