“23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” NRSV
Here, in this wonderful passage, Paul lays out the natural progression of faith in God. First, came the Law of Moses which gave the Hebrew slaves a new, unique, and exclusive identity as God’s chosen and holy people through a unique set of behavioral expectations. These expectations defined the peoples’ relationship with God and each other. This relationship existed for thousands of year.
Then, God sent Jesus into the world to establish a new kind of behavioral expectations. Jesus defined them with his life and teachings. Jesus’ life and teachings removed the barriers of exclusivity that Israel enjoyed all those years. Jesus taught that faith, not ethnicity, was the foundation of the peoples’ relationship with God and with each other.
Not only did Jesus’ teachings tear down the walls of exclusion between Jews and Gentiles, Jesus removed the exclusive role of male dominance over women and slaves (and all others). In Christ we are all one, equal in the eyes of God.
Once Paul had his conversion experience his perspective on the Law of Moses changed. He went from being one of its most ardent defenders, to declaring it as both the Jewish peoples’ jailer and disciplinarian. In Christ, God became the God of all who believed that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and choose to follow him.
Paul never stopped believing in the value of the Law of Moses. He just saw it as an appropriate placeholder of behavioral expectations for God’s people until the Son of God appeared to redeem not just a people, but the whole world.
Paul puts an exclamation point on his conversion experience a little later in 5:1 when he declares, “1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
May we stand firm in our faith and freedom in Christ to be the people God calls us to be.
Be a blessing to someone today!