The Visceral Law

22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 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. – Gal 3:22-25 NASB

The tutor

The law is a tutor that leads us to Christ. Looking to Jesus, we see that He learned obedience through the things which He suffered:

8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. – Heb 5:8-10 NASB

So we learn – we are tutored – through obedience. Martin Luther did not have his breakthrough insight into Romans 1:17 until he had spent years actually trying to adhere to the laws of good monkdom. Augustine did not have his breakthrough insight under the fig tree until he crashed on the rocks of really trying to govern his heart to obey God.

Imagine a father on Christmas Eve, late at night, trying to assemble a bicycle for his daughter. At first he imagines that he can throw it together pretty quickly, no problem. This becomes a very confusing mess, so he takes a few glances at the instructions. But it is still a confusing mess. Finally he takes a very close look at the instructions and tries very hard to follow them step-by step. But he still can’t put it together. Finally, he calls in his wife, and she reads the instructions, looks at what he is doing, and puts the bicycle together for him. He didn’t know his deep deficiency in putting together bicycles and in reading instructions until he really TRIED to put the bike together. So the instructions could be put aside or honored, but the actual task of putting together the bike became a tutor which led him to his wife.

Try Harder

The way that the law leads us to Christ is that it shows us our deficiency. And I don’t think it can really show us our deficiency until we really really try to obey it. We think that not being angry with our brother, keeping watch over our heart, not looking at a woman to lust – how hard could it be? We can do it! So we jump in with gusto and a huge helping of self-confidence, convinced we can love the Lord and love our neighbor just by pure determination. But we do not crash on the rocks of our self-sufficiency and come to our need for mercy and salvation until we really try very hard to actually do the law.

So to those who do not understand the centrality of the cross, of the talk of the blood of Christ, of the strange emphasis on faith instead of works of the law, of the deemphasis of obedience and the emphasis on grace, I say this. It isn’t primarily a theological argument. Go ahead! Obey! Never lust! Never covet! Never murder! Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Truly, I mean business. Just Do It. Be progressively sanctified. Improve. Get to it. Don’t bother talking to me, I am a worm and not a man. Go for it! Serve the poor and heal the sick and visit the orphans. Practice radical hospitality. Get after it. I’m serious. Do it. Love God and love your neighbor sacrificially.

Realizing Your Need

I don’t mean this facetiously either. The law is not going to have as much effect as a tutor to lead you to Christ until you make a whole-hearted serious attempt to obey it. Then you will understand, really understand, that you cannot do it. The law is not practical – only grace is practical. The law was given through angels to Moses but grace and truth were REALIZED by Jesus Christ.

17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. – Jhn 1:17 NASB

The law was not realized by Moses. The law cannot be realized because it isn’t real. It is an ideal. Just as there is no perfect circle in the real world, there is no perfect obedience among humanity except for Jesus Christ – God become man. But you are not going to learn that until you seriously try to tame your wild heart and tell it to practically and genuinely love God and love others. Then, like the tired and frustrated father trying to assemble the bicycle, you will realize that you need mercy. Your pride will eventually be overcome with your need. There is a sense in that even in this you will fail – you will never crash on the rocks of the perfect ideal of the law sufficiently to completely understand your need for salvation. So even in this you will fail. But to the degree that you fail in your attempt to obey, you will learn your need for Christ. It is only when the law has exhausted you that you will seek to enter your rest.

3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. … 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through [following] the same example of disobedience. – Heb 4:3, 9-11 NASB

You will return to the scripture’s emphasis upon Jesus as a Savior and not just a teacher or example, and you will rejoice. You will read Romans 3,4,5 and it will suddenly make so much sense. You will understand viscerally that it isn’t simply that you have sinned. You will understand that you ARE a sinner. You will see that it is good news of great joy that a SAVIOR has been born to us. The law as a tutor will then have led you to Christ.

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  1. This is good, yes the reason many people think they can obey God’s Commandments is purely because they have never tried just once to truly obey them.

    It’s surely true that one cannot honestly run or ask for mercy if they don’t fail at keeping the law.

    This was a great eye opening article again, thanks for sharing this truth! God bless you, Jim

  2. Excellent, Jim! We are often caught in the belief, especially “those in the church,” that the law is the tutor to… the law, striving, improved morality. Paul is clear here, the law is the tutor/ instructs/condemns towards => CHRIST, who is the End of the law for my sake. Great work!

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