“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:23-26)
The world is enslaved to sin. We see this sinfulness increasing every day. The governments which are in place are supposed to protect us from harm, to halt and punish evil. Yet these all are powerless to stop it. The whole idea of state law is to enforce obedience, promote order and protect others from harm. It does this by threatening punishment which engenders fear. Yet in many cases those in government seem to even promote sin. And sin is the real problem that must be addressed. And that is beyond the ability of any government.
Why? Because all human beings are sinners. As such we are slaves to it. We are even slaves to laws of our own making, or those enforced on us by other people, our families, our culture. Many are slaves to superstitions, religious and social taboos, and false gods. What Paul points out here in Galatians is that we believers are slaves to God’s law as well. Why? Because we think we can keep it and try to do so, but fail. Thus we come under its judgment and condemnation resulting in punishment, physical, emotional, and spiritual turmoil and suffering.
In the case of God’s Law fear of His wrath cannot produce love. It is the Love of God that draws people to faith in Jesus. People who are afraid of His punishment may often fall into despair because they cannot or will not change. But many who fear God’s wrath, knowing they deserve it, may be led by the Holy Spirit to plead for His mercy and grace. In that case they will find that He is loving and kind. He will forgive them because of what Jesus has done by atoning for the sins of all mankind by His death on the cross. Because of what Jesus has done those who have faith in Him are not slaves but rather sons of God. As sons they need not fear God’s wrath. Because Christ kept the Law perfectly for us, those who are in Him no longer come under the Law. They are sons, they have their inheritance already, the fullness of eternal life, the absolute guarantee of salvation as well as the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who enables us to walk in loving obedience to the Lord in accordance with God’s will, and reminds us daily of our eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus.