>Prisoner of the Law
>Galatians 3:21-25 reads (with the emphasis belonging to myself for this post):
“Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”
There seems to always be a struggle in reconciling the relationship between the law and grace through faith. The questions arises again and again, “If the law could not save anyone, what good was it?” Of course, at some points Paul points out that the law helps us to understand just how sinful we are, and leads us to the need of a Savior, but at the same time makes our sins more sinful by removing our potential plea of ignorance.
The above passage, though, seems to give one more little glimpse into the role of the law. It jumped out at me a couple of days ago when I realized that it actually says we were held prisoners by the law, locked up by the law until faith was revealed. Of course the Bible says again and again that we were prisoners of sin, which is clearly a bad thing, but I had never noticed that we were once prisoners of the law. The law is always considered to be a good thing in Scripture. What does this mean to say that we were prisoners of the law?
It occurred to me (which I believe was inspiration from the Holy Spirit) that being in prison is not necessarily a horrible thing. It is clearly not the best thing, but it is also not the worst. Consider the modern penal system:
We place criminals in prison partly to punish them, but also to keep them from committing any more crimes. If we could somehow instantly reform them we would not have the need to keep them imprisoned for so long, although we still might for a while for purely punitive measures. If we have no way to reform them, though, the best option we have is to restrain them so that they might not do their worst again.
We, as humans, were in a similar situation. We were depraved sinners, constantly acting out the wickedness stored up in our hearts. For so long, there was really no means of reform. There was nothing that could change us internally from our criminal and sinful state and so we were given the Law as a means to restrain us from our wickedness. The Law was powerless to reform us, it was helpless in regards to making us into good and righteous people, but it was an effective external restraint that held us back from doing our very worst, or at least made it clear when we crossed the boundary lines.
When Christ came, we were able for the first time to be released from the prison of the Law, because there was now One who could reform us. We no longer were in need of the external restraints because One who could heal us internally had come.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”