“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” (Galatians 3:24).
Various translations of Galatians 3:24 identify the Old Testament Law as a teacher (CEV), guardian (ESV), custodian (CEB), or guide (AMP) that leads us to Christ. One paraphrase of this verse captures the idea behind this passage in the following manner: “The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for” (MSG).
However, the Law does not merely serve as an external check on inappropriate behavior. We can turn to another Biblical paraphrase to illustrate the internal function of the Law: “…No man can justify himself before God by a perfect performance of the Law’s demands—indeed it is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are” (Romans 3:20 Phillips).
For instance, we might adhere to the external demands of the Law but what about our thoughts, attitudes, and motivations? What do those internal qualities say about our obedience to the Law of God? Consider the following portion of Jesus’ message from the Sermon on the Mount…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that if a man looks at a woman and wants to sin sexually with her, he has already committed that sin with her in his mind” (Matthew 5:27-28 ERV).
Notice that Jesus incorporated the internal desire to commit sexual immorality into the Law’s definition of adultery. This is more significant than it may appear. For instance, a person with an internal desire to engage in an immoral relationship might be restrained by the cultural, social. legal, or professional consequences that could result from acting on that desire. But what would happen if those external restraints were removed? For some, the only thing standing between the internal desire to commit sexual immorality and the outward expression of that desire is a safe opportunity to do so.
We can also look to various forms of social media to illustrate this reality. Unmoderated social media platforms offer an opportunity for participants to express other forms of immorality through personal attacks, hostile criticisms, racial slurs, and malevolent comments. This brings us to another quote from Jesus: “…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matthew 12:34-35).
Therefore, we can use the Law as a tool to gauge our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors and prayerfully seek God’s empowerment to correct those areas where we are falling short.