Galatians 3:24 MEANING

Galatians 3:24
(24) The law was our schoolmaster.--Not quite a satisfactory translation; yet it is difficult to suggest a better. The Greek word is that from which is derived the English "pedagogue." Originally it meant the slave who was placed in charge of a child, and whose duty it was to conduct it to school. The idea is that of moral rather than of intellectual discipline. The care of the "pedagogue" ceased where that of the school-master began, but it was he who had more especially to form the character of the child. Horace notes as a peculiar advantage of his own that his father himself had taken the place of pedagogue to him (Sat. i. 6, 81, 82).

To bring us unto Christ.--The words "to bring us," it will be seen, are supplied. They may be retained, provided that the metaphor is not pressed to the extent of supposing that Christ represents the schoolmaster proper to whom the child is led by the pedagogue slave. The work of Christ as a Teacher is not what the Apostle has in mind. It is rather a higher kind of guardianship, which is to succeed that of the Law, and to which the Law hands over its pupil. Once brought within the guardianship of Christ, and so made a member of the Messianic kingdom, the Christian is justified by faith, he receives an amnesty for his past sins, and is accounted righteous before God. (See Epistle to the Romans, Excursus E: On the Doctrine of Justification by Faith and Imputed Righteousness.)

Verse 24. - Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ (ὥστε ὁ νόμος παιδαγωγὸς ἡμῶν γέγονεν εἰς Ξριστόν) wherefore the Law hath been the keeper of our childhood to keep us unto Christ. With St. Paul, ὥστε, so that, frequently is used to introduce a sentence which is not dependent in construction on the preceding words, but is one which makes a fresh departure as if with the adverbial conjunction "wherefore," or "so then." Thus ver. 9; Galatians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:18, in which last passage it is even followed by an imperative, Γέγονεν differs from η΅ν or ἐγένετο by describing, past action as ending in a result which still continues. The verb γίγνεσθαι frequently denotes "prove one's self, ... act as" (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:7; Acts 1:16; Acts 7:52). The Law hath done with us (says the apostle) the work of a child's caretaker (paedagogus), with an eye to Christ, to whom we have now been banded over. (For the use of εἰς, see note on ver. 23.) Paedagogus has no equivalent in the English language; "pedagogue," "schoolmaster," "tutor," "guardian," are all inadequate, covering each one an area of thought more or less quite different. "Tutor," as the masculine of "governess," comes perhaps nearest; but a tutor to a gentleman's children is generally an educated man, and often of like rank in life with those he is with; whereas a paedagogus was usually a slave - an element of thought probably very near to the apostle's consciousness in his present use of the term. In illustration of this and other points bearing upon this subject, the reader will be interested by a passage cited by Bishop Lightfoot out of Plato's 'Lysis' (p. 208, C). Socrates is questioning a young friend. "' They let you have your own ruling of yourself: or do they not trust you with this, either?' 'Trust me with it, indeed!' he said. 'But as to this, who has the ruling of you?' 'This man here,' he said, 'a tutor. 'Being a slave, eh?' 'But what of that?' said he; 'yes; only, a slave of our own.' 'An awfully strange thing this,' I said, 'that you, freeman that you are, should be under the ruling of a slave. But further, what does this tutor of yours, as your ruler, do with you?' 'He takes me,' said he, 'to a teacher's house, of course.' 'Do they rule you too, the teachers?' ' Certainly, of course.' 'A mighty number it seems of masters and rulers does your father think proper to set over you.'" Teaching, except possibly of the very first rudiments, was not the padagogus's business, but only the general care and superintendence of his charge - taking him to and back from his teachers' houses or the schools of physical training, looking after him in his play hours, and the like. In applying to the Law the figure of a paedagogus, the features which the apostle had in view were probably these: the childhood or non-age of those under its tutelage; their withdrawal from free parental intercourse; their degraded condition probably as being under servile management; the exercise over dram of unsympathizing hardness (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:15, "Though ye have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers"); coercive discipline; the rudimentary character of their instruction (this particular, however, is likewise of questionable application); the temporary and purely provisional nature of the condition under which they were placed; its termination in the full enjoyment of freedom and of participation in their father's inheritance. The clause, "unto Christ," can hardly mean "to bring us to Christ," tempting as this interpretation may seem, in view of the verbal constituent (ἄγω)" bring" in παιδαγωγός, and of the fact that it was one part of the duty of the child's keeper to take him to his school. For there are the following objections to taking it so:

(1) The child-keeper's relation to his charge did not end with his taking him to school, but continued on throughout his non-age;

(2) the function of Christ is not viewed here as instruction;

(3) if this construction had been in the apostle's view, he would have written πρὸς Ξριστὸν or εἰς Ξριστοῦ, as in the εἰς διδασκάλου ("to the teacher's house") of the passage above cited from Plato. We must, therefore, understand the preposition as in the preceding verse, "with a view to." The next clause is the explanation. That we might be justified by faith (ἵνα ἐκ πίστρεως δικαιωθῶμεν); in order that by faith we might get justified. This clause is the most important part of the sentence. Not from the Law was to come righteousness; the Law was no more than introductory or preparatory; righteousness (once more the apostle reminds the Galatians) was to come to us as a free gift through Christ, upon simply our faith, the Law having now nothing to do with us. Hence the emphatic position of the words ἐκ πίστεως. The apostle does not, in the present connection, make it his business to explain in what way the Law was preparatory, which he does in Romans 7; his purpose at present is to insist upon its purely provisional character. What we have here is a description of the relation of the Law to God's people viewed collectively; but we can hardly fail to be reminded, that this experience of the collective people of God very commonly finds its counterpart in respect to the ethical bearing of the Law in the experience of each individual believer. Only, we have still to bear in mind that the apostle is thinking of the Law just now more in its ceremonial aspect than its ethical.

3:23-25 The law did not teach a living, saving knowledge; but, by its rites and ceremonies, especially by its sacrifices, it pointed to Christ, that they might be justified by faith. And thus it was, as the word properly signifies, a servant, to lead to Christ, as children are led to school by servants who have the care of them, that they might be more fully taught by Him the true way of justification and salvation, which is only by faith in Christ. And the vastly greater advantage of the gospel state is shown, under which we enjoy a clearer discovery of Divine grace and mercy than the Jews of old. Most men continue shut up as in a dark dungeon, in love with their sins, being blinded and lulled asleep by Satan, through wordly pleasures, interests, and pursuits. But the awakened sinner discovers his dreadful condition. Then he feels that the mercy and grace of God form his only hope. And the terrors of the law are often used by the convincing Spirit, to show the sinner his need of Christ, to bring him to rely on his sufferings and merits, that he may be justified by faith. Then the law, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, becomes his loved rule of duty, and his standard for daily self-examination. In this use of it he learns to depend more simply on the Saviour.Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ,.... So the words should be read, as they are by the Syriac and Ethiopic versions; for the words "to bring us" are a supplement of our translators, and have nothing to answer to them in the original; and the sense of the passage is, that the law performed this office of a schoolmaster until the coming of Christ; which shows that till that time the church was in its minority, that the Jews were but children in knowledge and understanding, and therefore stood in need, and were under the care of a schoolmaster, the law, by which the whole Mosaic administration is designed. They were taught by the moral law, the letter, the writing on the two tables, with other statutes and judgments, their duty to God and men, what is to be done and to be avoided, what is righteousness and what is not, the nature of sin, its demerit and consequences; but these gave them no instructions about a Saviour, and life and righteousness by him. The ceremonial law gave them some hints of the Gospel scheme, and the way of salvation by Christ, but in a manner suited to their estate of childhood; by sights and shows, by types and figures, by rites and ceremonies, by shadows and sacrifices; it taught them by divers washings the pollution of their nature, their need of the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin; by circumcision, the necessity of regeneration, and the internal circumcision of the heart; by the passover, the daily sacrifice and other offerings, the doctrines of redemption, satisfaction, and atonement; and by the brazen serpent, the necessity of looking to Christ for life and salvation, and by various other things in that branch of the legal economy: but besides the instruction the law gave, it made use of discipline as a schoolmaster does; it kept a strict eye and hand over them, and them close to the performance of their duty; and restrained them from many things their inclinations led them to, threatening them with death in case of disobedience, and inflicting its penalties on delinquents; hence they that were under its discipline, were through fear of death it threatened them with, all their time subject to bondage: even the ceremonial law had something awful and tremendous in it; every beast that was slain in sacrifice was not only an instruction to them that they deserved to die as that creature did; but carried in it a tacit acknowledgment and confession of their own guilt; and the whole was an handwriting of ordinances against them. Moreover, the law being called a schoolmaster, shows that the use of it was but temporary, and its duration but for a time; children are not always to be under, nor designed to be always under a schoolmaster, no longer than till they are come to a proper age for greater business and higher exercises of life; so the law was to continue, and did continue, to be of this use and service to the Jewish church during its minority, until Christ came, the substance of all it taught and directed to: both the Jerusalem Targum and that of Jonathan ben Uzziel, on Numbers 11:12 use the very Greek word the apostle does here, concerning Moses, rendering the words, as a "pedagogue" or "schoolmaster" bears a sucking child into the land, &c.

That we might be justified by faith; by Christ the object of faith, by his righteousness, which faith looks unto and receives, and not by the law and the works of it; the people of the Jews were in such a state under the law, and the law of that use unto them before the coming of Christ, as above represented, that it might be made manifest, be a clear point, and out of all dispute, that there is no such thing as justification by the law; for how could ever such a blessing be expected from it, when men were kept under it as under a military guard; when they were shut up in it as in a prison, and were treated by it as malefactors, convicted and condemned; and when they were under the discipline of it, as a rigid and severe schoolmaster? this being their case till Christ came, when it ceased to be all this to them, he being the end of it for righteousness, it became a thing self-evident, that justification is only by him and his righteousness, and so the end here mentioned was answered.

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