(173)Thesis:The intention of "Law" was justification by faith.
Introduction:In our last study we saw that there is no conflict between "Law" and "Promise" because they are both serving God's purposes in different ways. This evening we want to wind up our consideration of this paragraph by looking into Paul's concept of the "problem" of "faith" as a divine methodology. Paul's claim is that "faith" was a kind of "advanced concept" that needs a "schoolmaster", or "tutor", to get human beings to embrace it.
What did Paul mean by his words in 3:23-24?
I. Paul's Concept of "the Coming of the Faith".
A. This must be understood in light of Genesis 15:6 and Habakkuk 2:4.
1. It is indisputable that men possessed "faith" both before, and during, the reign of Law in the history of man (Hebrews 11 is the classic text that proves this indisputably).
2. Given the indisputable nature of this reality, how can Paul say that we had to be "kept in custody under the Law" and describe "the faith" as a "coming" revelation?
a. The first part of the answer is revealed by Paul's teaching regarding the true nature of "Law".
1) In Romans 2:15 Paul declares that no one is "ignorant" of the moral content of "Law".
2) In conjunction with that, Romans 3:20 declares that it is by Law that the knowledge of Sin comes.
3) The easiest harmonization of these apparently contradictory concepts is that written Law sharpened the definitions of sins that already exist in the hearts of men.
a. In Matthew 5 there are five repetitious statements by Jesus that fall in line with this claim and explain the reality of "fuzzy definitions".
i. Fuzzy definitions come, Jesus said, when men take the words of God and twist them from their roots and give them false meaning so that those who follow after have an external deceiver that is in cahoots with an internal one.
ii. This, Jesus said, happened after "Law" was given so that if it is true after a greater clarity has been given, it is certainly true before that greater clarity.
iii. What is going on is that the words of God plainly tell us that men have an enormous, and dominating, penchant for "excusing" themselves at the expense of someone else that can be "blamed" (starting with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3).
iv. Our conclusion, then, is that there is a "law written upon the heart" of man, but he only uses it to condemn others and never sees himself in respect to his own guilt so that there needed to be a greater "revelation" of Sin (written Law) that, itself, needed an even greater revelation by Jesus, Himself (Sermon on the Mount).
b. This sharpening of the definitions is what was behind Paul's claim that "by the Law is the knowledge of Sin" and that "Law is a tutor".
b. Given this reality about Law and Sin, all we have to do is apply the same truths to "the faith".
1. If men can make the details of "Law" vague and ambiguous by their sophistry, the concept of "faith" will, as easily, fall under that same kind of sophistry.
2. If "the faith" falls victim to human sophistry, fomented by demons, then men, if they are to ever "believe", are going to need a greater "clarification".
a. This is the reason Paul puts "the faith" into a "coming" category.
b. This is the reason Paul also says of "the faith" that it was "afterwards to be revealed".
c. The particulars of "the faith" have never been "missing"; they have only been ignored, or twisted by self-serving persons who seek vain glory.
II. Paul's Concept of "Being Kept in Custody".
A. The word choice here is a word that means several things.
1. It means that there is someone who sees a potential loss looming on the horizon.
2. It means that the person who anticipates the possible loss takes certain preemptive steps to keep that loss from occurring.
3. In application to Paul's context, God is the One Who anticipates the loss in terms of two big ticket items.
a. The first is the value of human beings: God loves the world.
b. The second is the necessity of divine integrity: God cannot lie and cannot let His words be rendered ineffectual for those who believe Him.
4. In application to Paul's context, the preemptive step that God took in view of the possible loss of human beings and His integrity (His promises require the participation of human beings) was the imposition of "Law" because of the requirements of "repentance that leads to forgiveness" that, in turn, leads to the qualification of human beings to participate in His plans.
a. Fuzzy definitions allow impenitence to stand unchallenged.
b. Clarity erases the "self-excusing" element of anyone who faces that clarity with any real understanding.
c. God imposed the Law to lead men to an awareness of their sinfulness.
d. Then God treated men with kindness even in their sins (Romans 2:4).
c. Then God sent His Son into the world and allowed men to have their way with Him in order to magnify God's love for men so that the "kindness" was intensified to the point of a total inexcusability for anyone who rejects "the faith".
III. Paul's Concept of "Justification by Faith".
A. This is a justification that is completely "apart from Law" and that qualifies men for "the inheritance".
B. This justification was the final objective of "Law".