Are we maturing spiritually?
by Michael E. Brooks
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25 NKJV).
My son and I were trekking across Marsyong Pass in the Himalayas of Nepal, at over 12,000 feet above sea level, on a path along the side of a very steep slope. Scott told me later that he looked down at the trail we were on and his foot was against the slope on one side and hanging off the trail on the other.
I looked back to check on him and saw one of the Nepali preachers move up on the hillside above him and take his hand to help steady him. I raised my arms and asked, “Where is my helper?” They smiled and ignored me.
Those Nepalis had accompanied me on previous treks in the mountains. My capabilities were established in their minds, and when I might need their assistance. Scott was a first-timer; they did not yet know his abilities. Therefore they offered help before an emergency developed.
It is habitual among many of us to offer help to children and the elderly, even before it is requested. We know their vulnerabilities. We have experience in what may be beyond persons of those ages.
At the same time, we hold back from offering unsolicited aid to healthy adults. They are expected to be able to handle things for themselves, and if they cannot, to ask.
Paul says the Law of Moses was of that nature. Its prohibitions and commandments were necessary for a people who had barely been introduced to the true God. It set up barriers against defilement, and gave aid to those who desired to be righteous.
But when Christ came, revealing God more perfectly, those who came to know him no longer needed that assistance. They were naturally inclined to follow his will, and to conform to his nature. A written code of ethical behavior is not necessary for one who has that standard engraved in his heart (cf. Romans 8:1).
Paul does not say there is no law in Christianity (see James 1:25) or that there are no limits to a Christian’s moral or spiritual activities. His letters are filled with “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:16-26, etc.).
His point is that when one becomes more mature in faith, behavior is guided by internal nature–that is by the spirit of Christ implanted within the believer (Romans 8:1-12).
The Law of Moses was not God’s “Be all and end all.” It was a tool by which he helped to bring humankind to faith in Christ. It did its job. It was fulfilled and done away with (Colossians 2:14).
No legalistic system can accomplish what the Spirit of Christ can do. By learning to be what he became for us–a perfectly spiritual human–we can find fellowship with him and his Father. His spirit is not implanted within us miraculously, but is acquired by submission and trust.
As we follow his words, and keep our eyes fixed firmly on his example (Hebrews 12:1-2), we will grow to be like him. We will have grown up so that we no longer need a tutor.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).