Wednesday: The Law as Our Schoolmaster

Reading the TorahIn Galatians 3:23, Paul describes the law as a guarding and protecting force. To what does he liken it in verse 24, and what does that mean? 1


The word translated “schoolmaster” (KJV) comes from the Greek wordpaidagogos. Some versions translate it as “disciplinarian” (NRSV), “tutor” (NKJV),or even “guardian” (ESV), but no single word fully can encompass its meaning. The paidagogos was a slave in Roman society who was placed in a position of authority over his master’s sons from the time they turned six or seven until they reached maturity. In addition to providing for his charges’ physical needs, such as drawing their bath, providing them with food and clothes, and protecting them from any danger, the paidagogos also was responsible for making sure the master’s sons went to school and did their homework. In addition, he was expected not only to teach and practice moral virtues but also to ensure that the boys learned and practiced the virtues themselves.

Though some pedagogues must certainly have been kind as well as loved by their wards, the dominant description of them in ancient literature is as strict disciplinarians. They ensured obedience not only through harsh threats and rebukes but also by whipping and caning.

Paul’s description of the law as a pedagogue further clarifies his understanding of the role of the law. The law was added to point out sin and provide instruction. The very nature of this task means that the law also has a negative aspect, and that’s because it rebukes and condemns us as sinners. Yet, even this “negative” aspect God uses for our benefit, because the condemnation that the law brings is what drives us to Christ. Thus, the law and the gospel are not contradictory. God designed them to work together for our salvation.

“In this Scripture [Gal. 3:24], the Holy Spirit through the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law. The law reveals sin to us, and causes us to feel our need of Christ and to flee unto Him for pardon and peace by exercising repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 234.

When was the last time you compared your actions and words and thoughts to the law? Do it now, comparing them not just to the letter of the law but to the spirit, as well (Matt. 5:28Rom. 7:6). How well do you fare? What does your answer tell you about Paul’s point in this epistle?



Wednesday: The Law as Our Schoolmaster — 2 Comments

  1. if the pedagogue did a lot of the work that parents do in our modern it fair to say...that the law is a parent/Father?

    The law is strict and instructive but yet loving in its motives, as is our heavenly Father.
    Because we are disobedient(sinners), He(the Law) points us to Jesus the Obedient Son saying "He(Jesus) knows how obedience can be accomplished, and He has been disciplined in your place, so that you may stand blameless before me."

    Therefore if you believe that Jesus has done this for you,
    then 1 Pet. 2:21-25 is in effect.

    For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
    Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
    Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed [himself] to him that judgeth righteously:
    Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
    For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

  2. I really liked your comment, Sinbad.

    It reminds me of this scriptural passage written by the apostle John.
    It's a passage with some very strong thoughts in it -- showing that a person truly in Christ can't continue his sinful life. The whole motive is to be more and more like Jesus!
    Quoting from the NLT:

    1 John 3 :1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. 3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.

    4 Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. 5 And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. 6 Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.

    7 Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. 8 But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.


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