Training wheels are wonderful things for beginner bicycle riders. Those little outriders prevent many tumbles, tears, and skinned knees. Training wheels grow confidence and allow for some independence. But eventually, the training wheels have to come off. For an older kid to have training wheels is embarrassing. In a way, the Law which Paul speaks of is like training wheels.
Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:24–29, NASB95)
Paul likens the law to a tutor, but the word is actually deeper than that. Perhaps a nanny or an au pair for young children would be a better picture. This is someone that is a moral caretaker until a child comes of age. The purpose of this tutor is to lead us to faith in Christ. But like training wheels, once faith comes, they are no longer needed.
Does this mean that once we have faith in Christ we can ignore the precepts of the Law of Moses? No, but neither are we enslaved to it. Let’s be clear here. The best way to keep the Law, and keep it in the proper place in our practice of faith, is to obey the two commandments – Love God and love others. Jesus said, “The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40, NLT)
Paul then recognizes the sonship which comes through faith. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Think of these two sentences as inward change and outward identification. By faith in Jesus, we are children of God. That’s who we are. In baptism, we take on the family trademark or brand; we clothe ourselves in Christ for all to see. To explore that further, I suggest Colossians 3:1-15.
It may seem that Paul suddenly shifts his focus from the Law to our oneness in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” But to separate these means, we miss an important observation. Each of these distinctions was identified in the Law of Moses. The Law differed in its treatment and punishments depending on if someone was Jewish, not-Jewish, slave, freeman, male, or female. But in Christ, those distinctions are put aside in our love for Him. We are one in Christ. We are all commanded to love God and love others.
Now, this opens up all kinds of arguments over roles, responsibilities, and possibilities. Especially so when we consider the male and female distinctions of Paul’s assertion. But we need to put those aside and begin with the basics of truth – in Christ there is no distinction. In Christ we are all sons of God (including the ladies), and as such, we are decedents of Abraham in a way that is deeper than blood and genetics. And as sons of God, which are decedents of Abraham, we are heirs according to the promise.
I’m not less than a Christian because I don’t have Jewish heritage, nor more of a Christian upon accepting Christ if I do have Jewish heritage. I’m not more or less of a Christian because of my place and station in life. Neither does worldly wealth or power declare God’s blessing or preference on anyone. Neither am I more or less of a Christian because of my gender. Those distinctions in the Law are blown away.
This is where we need some self-examination. Do I consider myself better or special in God’s eyes than anyone else for any reason? Do I use any distinction to raise myself up and put others down in the body of Christ? If we do, then we are breaking the second of Christ’s commandments to love others. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be differences of service; we are all unique in some way. But the gifted teacher is no more important in God’s kingdom than the person gifted in preparing the space for our gatherings. We are truly one in Christ.