The Apostle Paul in Galatians chapter three is building his case for the fact that the law cannot save anyone. This is necessary since after accepting Christ, the Galatian believers placed their faith in a false doctrine that said Jewish circumcision was necessary for Salvation.
By the end of chapter three it’s obvious the law wouldn’t save an individual. So the question now arises, “why did God give us the law in the first place?” The answer Paul gives in 3:24 is God gave the law to be our “schoolmaster” (teacher, tutor) to lead us towards faith in Christ. In other words, the law was meant to teach us that we need Jesus.
It would be quite easy for the Jews to say you could be saved by keeping the Jewish law, or the laws restrictions brought you closer to God. However, it didn’t take long to realize nobody could actually keep the law consistently. No matter how hard a person tried, they would keep failing to reach God’s standard. That continual failure was Gods way of showing them that a Redeemer (Christ) was needed.
Though we don’t keep the Jewish law today, many individuals try to earn Gods favor with a works-based relationship. This means they emphasize outer works (actions) instead of an inner heart change, find their identity in the amount of things that they accomplish for God, and do everything in their own strength.
These works-based relationship with God are bound to teach us our need for Christ just like the law did.
- They teach us that we will never be good enough to teach God’s standard (perfection)
- They teach us that we change God’s standard when we cannot reach it
- They teach us there are parts of our lives that we don’t want others to see or know about
- Along the same line, they teach us our actions don’t match our words (there is hypocrisy)
- They teach us that trying harder just makes the problems of life worse
- And they teach us that we weren’t created to live independently
Each one of these lessons are often learned the hard way after trying and failing many times. But God is glorified in these failures because it’s only after we admit our need of Christ that Salvation, and Sanctification can take place. Also the more we are reminded of our need for Christ, the more we rely upon Him.
One way the Lord has allowed me to volunteer in the local community is doing reading help with children at a school two days a week. Often these children are able to read, but they struggle with confidence in their reading ability since it might be difficult for them. At first many of them are incredibly passive with their reading, doing it with a very quiet almost whispering voice. But over time as they become more confident in their ability reading is something that they love to do. Few things bring greater joy to my heart than seeing a child who was scared of books five or six weeks ago read with confidence.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit uses our failures to teach us over and over again that apart from Christ we can do nothing. I’m pretty sure some of the children don’t look forward to practicing their reading because its painful (and somewhat embarrassing) for them. But the more they read, the easier (and more enjoyable it gets). Just like the child who through repetition and practice strengthens their reading skills, we through the repeated failures of a works-based relationship with God learn to abide in Christ instead of ourselves.