Anyone who has ever become entangled with the government criminal process will understand just how difficult it is to meet all of the demands placed on individuals by judges, law enforcement, and the uncaring underbelly of bureaucracy. Even after serving a sentence of imprisonment there may be some kind of house arrest or limits on movement. There are fines and fees that must be paid endlessly for all the bureaucracy. The individual now also has a record that will follow them around hindering employment or causing grief with any future interactions with law enforcement. To those without strong family support, those without strong motivation to rise above, or even those who have no strong examples on how to move forward it can all seem very self-defeating like it is a trap that one can never be free of. Paul the primary author of the New Testament lived this kind of life of imprisonment at the hands of the Roman government. He uses this firsthand experience of imprisonment and abuse to explain how the law and faith work in the life of a Christian.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. Galatians 3:23 ESV
The laws of God, think the 10 commandments, hang over the head of every person ever born. Murder (hate), lies, theft, and not honoring God our creator to name a few are laws that every person ever born has broken repeatedly. In a past conversation someone told me that as long as we follow the ten commandments all will be good with God. I asked the person to list the ten commandments for me. The person became nervous because they did not know all ten. How can a law we don’t study or know be a law that we can follow to be right with God? Paul tells us that we are under house arrest because of the law. The word he used here actually means “to guard, protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight” (Strong’s G5432). The physical breaking of the law of God imprisons us spiritually. We can’t flee and we can’t get away from it. Living life anyway you want and as the youth of today like to say living “my truth” does not free anyone from the imprisonment of the law. The law is written to prove to us how broken and rebellious we are toward God who created us. The law represents a problem we have with God. We are entangled in this mess without support and without a way forward on our own.
God who is righteous and just in giving the law is also loving and compassionate so he has provided a way to be restored. Paul states we are imprisoned until faith is revealed. Faith is the family support, the lawyer, and the mercy of the judge. Freedom from the law and freedom to be restored in right relationship with God is found in faith. The faith Paul says is revealed to us is found in Jesus Christ. Peter using the same word Paul used to describe our situation under the law uses it to describes faith. Faith is a protective guard that allows us to become unentangled from the defeat of our failure at the hands of the law.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, …, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3;5 ESV
God’s power has provided a guard of faith for salvation. Salvation once received and secured is then guarded not by following the law but by believing and trusting in Jesus who was able to follow the law perfectly. You are God’s creation, he loves you, and God is calling you to be free from the city besieged by the law. Salvation and freedom are available to those who turn their lives over to Christ in faith that he has a better way.