The Torah Became our Guardian
to Lead Us to Messiah
DIG: In what sense was the Torah temporary? What was the Torah able to do for people? What was it unable to do? What can Messiah do for sinners that the Torah cannot do? How would trying to obey the Torah make a person more willing to receive Yeshua Messiah? How is trying to keep all 613 commandments of the Torah like being held under guard? How does Messiah change all that? What is a paidagogos, and how did Paul use it as an analogy to the Torah?
REFLECT: What does all this discussion of the Torah have to do with you? When are you most tempted to look to your own efforts to make yourself acceptable to God? Is the Torah still valid today? In what sense? What should be your attitude toward Torah? How has the Word of God kept you under protective custody until you could fully understand it? Who was the human mediator that introduced you to Messiah?
Paul compares the Torah and Jewish status to a paidagogos, a guardian entrusted with the care and supervision of a child.
An indignant Judaizer (to see link click Ag – Who Were the Judaizers?) was sure to respond with objections to Paul’s insistence that the Torah would not give the Ruach ha-Kodesh (3:1-5); could not bring justification (3:6-9); could not alter the permanence of faith (3:15-18); but does bring a curse (3:10-12).90 In light of Paul’s convincing arguments up to this point, the obvious question would be why then were the 613 commandments of the Torah added to the promise (see Bl – The Promises were Spoken to Abraham and to his Seed)? If salvation has always been by faith and never by deeds, and if the covenant of promise to Abraham was fulfilled in Yeshua Messiah, what purpose did the Torah serve?
Paul’s answer was direct and sobering: It was added to define and condemn sin, because of transgressions (Greek: parabasis, meaning to choose to sin, to intentionally and willfully disobey) until the Seed [Yeshua] would come – to whom the promise had been made (3:19a). Unless people realized they were living in violation of the 613 commandments of the Torah and therefore under divine judgment, they saw no reason to be saved when Yeshua would come. Grace would is meaningless to a person who does not realize he or she was lost. Such a one would see no need of forgiveness by God if they do not know they had offended Him in the first place. Such a person would see no need to seek God’s mercy if they were unaware that they were under God’s wrath.91
First, the purpose of the 613 commandments of Moshe was not to save, but to make us aware of our sin as clearly as possible. Consequently, you don’t have to wonder if you have sinned or not. Start reading the Torah and it won’t take you very long to discover that you have already sinned.
The Law spiritually is like a mirror physically. When you look into a mirror you may see that your hair is messed up, or that your shirt is on backwards, or that you look fat. But looking into the mirror doesn’t solve the problem, it only tells you that there is a problem. That’s what the 613 commandments of Moses do. The Law doesn’t fix the problem . . . the Law can’t save us. The Law only points to a need for a savior.
Secondly, according to Romans 7, the purpose of Torah was to make us to sin more. Our sin nature must have a base of operation. Torah said, “You shall not,” and our sin nature says, “Oh, yes I will.”
Thirdly, Paul uses the word, “until.” This shows that obedience to the 613 commandments was temporary. While the Abrahamic Covenant was eternal, obedience to the 613 commandments of Moshe was only temporary.
Fourthly, until “the Seed would come.” Once Messiah had paid the price for disobeying the 613 commandments of Moses, the Dispensation of Torah ceased. It was temporary to begin with, but it ended with the Dispensation of Grace.
How was the Torah given? It was handed-down through angels (Acts 7:53) by the hand of a human mediator, Moshe (3:19b). An often heard Jewish objection to the B’rit Chadashah teaching that Jews don’t need Yeshua because they don’t need a mediator between themselves and God. This verse refutes the claim with its reminder that Moshe himself served as such a mediator – as, for that matter, did the priests and the prophets (Hebrews 8:6, 10:19-21; First Timothy 2:5; Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 5:2 and 5).
Therefore, the giving of the Torah through angels wasn’t direct. It wasn’t from ADONAI to Isra’el. It went from God, to angels, to Moses, to Isra’el. But if you go back to where the Torah was given in Exodus you don’t find any mention of angels. It would appear that YHVH was speaking directly to Moses. However, while much of Jewish tradition is unfounded, some aspects of Jewish tradition are true – like the giving of the Torah by the hands of angles. But three times in the B’rit Chadashah we find Torah being given by angels (here; Acts 7:53 and Hebrews 2:2). But that truth was already contained in rabbinical writings before the B’rit Chadashah came into existence. There are many things of that nature that are true in Jewish tradition and confirmed in the writings of the B’rit Chadashah. This is just one example.
Now, while the Torah came through several mediators, God, angles, Moses and Isra’el, the Abrahamic Covenant came through just one mediator. The means by which covenants were ratified in the ancient world was that you would kill animals and then cut them in half, putting the halves in two rows opposite of each other. The two parties making a covenant with each other would walk together between the halves of the animals. Then the covenant was binding for both parties. But something different happened with the signing of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 15. The animals were killed, cut up and placed in the ancient tradition. But Ha’Shem and Abraham didn’t walk through the pieces of the animals together because God put Abraham to sleep. YHVH alone walked through the pieces of the animals, pointing to the fact that the covenant was binding to ADONAI alone. Regardless of what Abraham would do, the LORD was going to keep His end of the promise. Now an intermediary is not for one party alone – but God is one (3:20).
Eventually, the Dispensation of Torah ended. It did not bring justification. If it were possible to be justified by legalism, then Messiah died for nothing. The very fact that it was impossible to perfectly obey the 613 commandments of Moses made Christ’s death necessary. The Torah did not justify. That wasn’t its purpose anyway (see four purposes above).92 Then, Paul asked rhetorically: Are the 613 commandments of the Torah against the promises of God? Do they contradict each other? Do they say different things? Does legalism offer life through deeds, while the unconditional promises to Abraham offer life through faith? May it never be! For if a commandment had been given that could impart life, certainly righteousness would have been based on the 613 commandments of the Torah (3:21).
But such a thing is unimaginable. Instead, the Scripture had locked up (Greek: phroureo, meaning to keep under lock and key) the whole world under sin (Greek: upo nomon, meaning under the law). The Torah includes both Jews and Gentiles in its condemnation of sin, so that the Abrahamic promise based on the faithfulness of Messiah Yeshua might be given only to those who continue to trust (3:22). Not until people smash themselves up against the demands of keeping the 613 commandments of Moshe perfectly do they recognize their helplessness, and sees their need for a Savior. Not until the Torah has arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced them to death will they be driven to despair in themselves and turn to Yeshua.93
Fifthly, the Torah was to bring us to faith in Yeshua Messiah. Now before faith came, [the Jewish people] were being guarded (Greek: phroureo, meaning to keep under lock and key) under Torah because we are sinners, bound together and the Law doesn’t have the power to set us free. That is why the coming salvation by faith in Yeshua Messiah would be revealed (see the commentary on Hebrews Bp – The Dispensation of Grace). Before the cross, they looked forward to the Savior, as we look back. The Torah was their jailer who held them in protective custody, in order that they should not escape the consciousness of their sins and their liability to punishment (3:23).94
In the ancient world a paidagogos was given authority over the son of his master to guard him from evil, both physical and moral. The paidagogos would actually have been a harsh disciplinarian, and the student was required to obey him. He was not a teacher, but was responsible to bring the student to the teacher. He had total authority over the son until the son reached adulthood, so his authority lasted only as long as the child was a minor. Once the child reached adulthood, his authority ceased to exist. It was a great day of deliverance when a boy finally gained freedom from his paidagogos. Therefore, the Torah became our guardian (Greek: paidagogos, literally a child under development by strict instruction) to lead us to Messiah (see the commentary on Exodus Dh – Moses and the Torah), so that we might be made right based on trusting in the substitutionary death and resurrection of Yeshua Messiah (3:24).
Just as the pedagogue brought the student to the teacher, the Torah brought the Jewish people to the Messiah. And just as the pedagogue was not the teacher; neither is the Torah the means to earn salvation. But now this mature faith has come. When Paul said: we are no longer under a guardian (3:25), he did not mean that the Torah is done away with (see the commentary on Exodus Du – Do Not Think That I Have Come to Abolish the Torah or the Prophets). He meant that we should not look to the Torah or legal conversion to Judaism, as the Judaizers were saying (see Ag – Who Were the Judaizers?), as a means of earning salvation. Salvation is, and always was, through faith for both Jews and Gentiles.
The Gentile believers to whom Paul was writing had already been led to the Teacher of Righteousness. They were already sons and daughters through faith; they had already come to the Teacher. In previous generations, prior to the revelation of Yeshua, there were valid reasons for Gentiles to become Jewish and thus under the Torah. Doing so brought them and their children inside the circle of blessing, protected, and preserved by the Torah along with the rest of the Jewish people until the coming Messiah would be revealed. But now that He had been revealed, conversion under the Torah no longer served that purpose. The Law couldn’t fix their problem. Only the Messiah could save them from their sins.95
Dear Heavenly Father, How Great You are! We love and praise You for giving us Your Spirit to live in us (Romans 8:9). We cannot conquer sin by ourselves. We need Your Ruach. The Torah is like a broom trying to sweep up a dried and hard stain on the floor of our heart, but you have the power to make pure and clean even a scarlet stain,” Come now, let us reason together,” says ADONAI. “Though your sins be like scarlet, they will be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they will become like wool (Isaiah 1:18). Water cleans so much better than a broom, which can only push the dirt aside. The water of Your Spirit has the power to completely clean and defeat the stain of sin. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture says, “out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” Now He said this about the Ruach, whom those who trusted in Him were going to receive; (John 7:38-39a).
Thank You that You live in your children (Romans 8:9) and are always there with us to help us conqueror any temptation. No temptation has taken hold of you except what is common to mankind. But God is faithful – He will not allow you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But with the temptation, He will also provide a way of escape, so that you will be able to endure it (First Corinthians 10:13).
How great that Your gift of salvation is – not only right now with You living in us, guiding us and helping us to please You – but also for a wonderful eternal life with You forever in heaven! It is with deep joy that we love and serve You! In Your holy Son’s name and power of resurrection. Amen