Heirs in Jesus

In Galatians, the Apostle Paul compares the Mosaic Law to a “pedagogue” in its supervision of Israel “until the seed came.” That “Seed” was Jesus. In Greco-Roman society, the “pedagogue” was usually a slave with custodial and disciplinary authority over an underage child until he reached maturity. The minority status of the child and the authority of the custodian over him were both temporary.

Before the arrival of the “Seed,” all things were confined under the dominion of sin, just as the Jews were kept under the Law until the faith was revealed in Jesus. The Law guarded Israel until the “faith came.” Its purpose was to make them aware of their transgressions.

Church at night Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash
[Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash]

Likewise, the supervisory role of the Law would only last UNTIL the “faith was revealed… the promise from the faith of Jesus given to those who believe.” With the coming of the “Seed,” no longer are we under the custodianship of the Law.

  • (Galatians 3:23-25) – “Before the coming of the faith, however, we were kept in ward under the law, being shut up until the faith which should afterward be revealed. So that, the law has proved our custodian, training us for Christ, so that, from faith, we might be declared righteous. But the faith having come, no longer are we under a custodian.

The analogy emphasizes the temporal aspect of the Law. If the heir in the analogy is no longer under the authority of the custodian, then believers are no longer under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic legislation.

However, if the Law could not acquit anyone before God, and if it was added after the “promise” and could not modify it, what was its purpose?

Paul addressed this question (“Why, then, the law?”). It was given to teach Israel that sin constitutes transgression of the expressed will of God. The Law was the “custodian” assigned to guard the nation until the promised "Seed" arrived. The custodial function was always temporary and provisional.

In Paul’s larger argument, the temporal aspect of the Law comes to the fore. It was given as an interim stage in God’s larger redemptive program. With the arrival of the “Seed,” it reached its termination point and no longer determined who was in the covenant community and who was not. Paul highlights the social implications of this change:

  • (Galatians 3:26-29): “For you all are sons of God through the faith in Christ Jesus; For you, as many as into Christ have been baptized, have put on Christ. There cannot be Jew or Greek, there cannot be slave or free, there cannot be male and female, for all are one in Christ Jesus: Now, if you are of Christ, by consequence, you are Abraham’s seed, according to promise, heirs.


Returning to the custodianship of the Law would mean regression to an earlier stage in the plan of Redemption, one that was characterized by division between Jews and Gentiles, a barrier now eliminated through the Death of Jesus.

This paragraph is pivotal to the Letter since it stresses the oneness of God's people. The old social distinctions are wholly inappropriate now that the “promised Seed” has arrived. To pressure other believers to pursue a Torah-observant lifestyle would rebuild the old and now outdated barriers.

One function of the Law was to keep Israelites distinct from Gentiles, and this was by design. The arrival of Jesus meant there was a new basis for defining and delimiting the people of God.

Before his advent, uncircumcised Gentiles were outside the Abrahamic Covenant, and therefore, NOT “sons of God.” They could only become members of the covenant community by undergoing circumcision and otherwise adopting a Torah-observant lifestyle. Effectively, they ceased to be Gentiles and became Jews.

The Law also distinguished between slaves and freemen, male and female. Women could not fulfill certain requirements of the Law or participate fully in corporate worship in the Temple because of periodic uncleanness from menstruation. Women were restricted to the Court of Women at a further distance from the presence of Yahweh. Religiously speaking, they were second-class citizens. To now embrace a Torah-observant lifestyle would reinstitute this inequity.

Cross on mountain - Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash
[Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash]

Paul’s phrase in the passage “you are all” refers to Gentile and Jewish believers (“That the promise should be given to those who believe”). Before the coming of the “Seed” all things were under confinement, both Jews and Gentiles. Now, both groups are no longer under the jurisdiction of sin or the Law; both have become sons of God “through the faith of Christ Jesus.”

Several times in Galatians Paul emphasizes the word “all.” Both believing Jews and Gentiles have been made “sons of God” through his faithful act on their behalf and their faith in what God did in His son. It is “in Christ” that believers become “sons of God” and “Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise.”

That does not mean that ethnicity and gender no longer matter in the daily lives of believers, but such distinctions are irrelevant to anyone’s standing before God or membership in His covenant community. All men and women who are of the “faith of Jesus” are heirs of the covenant promises.

  • Rescued from this Evil Age - (Paul anchored all that God has done in the resurrection of Jesus, which also inaugurated the Messianic Age - Galatians 1:1-5)
  • Justified from Faith - (Paul responds to his opponents by emphasizing the all-sufficiency of the faithful act of Jesus in his obedience unto death – Galatians 2:15-21)
  • Having Started in the Spirit - (The receipt of the Spirit while in an uncircumcised state is irrefutable proof that Gentiles are accepted by God AS GENTILES)



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Limits of the Law