The verse on which I perched was Galatians 3:24:
Therefore the law [God's law] was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.In this chapter, Paul, himself a Jew, is explaining to Gentile Christians how they could be heirs of God's promises to Abraham, the founding patriarch of the Jewish people.
He asserts here, and elsewhere, that Abraham was God's choice to found a people to save and to bring His salvation to others, was made not because Abraham obeyed God's law. (Which wasn't formally given until hundreds of years later, through Moses at Mount Sinai, anyway.)
Abraham became the heir to God's promises by believing in or trusting his life to the promises of God, however imperfectly he did so. "Abraham believed and God reckoned it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:24).
God's law, holy though it is, cannot make us right with God.
We can't be made right with God by obeying the law and our inborn impulse to sin and "go our own ways." Our sinful nature makes it impossible for us to keep the law in its entirety over the course of our lifetimes or even over the course of a nanosecond.
It's true in all of our lives, as Paul demonstrates in this chapter, that until we meet Jesus Christ, the One Who brings God's promise of a right relationship with God and with others (in other words, peace or shalom with God, with others, with God's creation, and with ourselves), the law serves to curb us from the full expression of our sinful natures.
The Bible says that God's law is written on our hearts. We're born with a sense, however imperfect or fuzzy, of right and wrong. (Read the first few chapters of C.S. Lewis' book, Mere Christianity for a fuller and intriguing exploration of this topic.) God's law is a bridle, a hedge against our sin.
And when we do sin, we offer reasons at least partly rooted in the law of God written on our hearts, to demonstrate to ourselves or others that we're justified in committing the sins we love.
The law is a whip commanding our submission until...relief, Christ comes to us and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we believe in Him.
The law keeps our sin tamped down and teaches us the foolishness and futility of self-reliance until, like cool water to a person dying of thirst, Christ comes to us.
Christ may come to us in a Sunday School class, through the witness of a friend, in the loving service Christians render in Christ's name, or in a Bible study or a sermon, or in other ways Christ might choose.
But however He comes to us, He teaches us that we cannot be made right (made righteous or justified in taking up space in the universe) by our performance of God's rules, by doing good works, but solely by faith, simple moment to moment trust, in Christ and what He has done for us in dying on a cross and rising from the dead on the first Easter.
I am justified by my faith in Christ's perfect goodness, not by trusting my imperfect and always failed attempts to be good.
That is really good news. The best I'll read or hear about all day, every day, for all eternity.
Therefore the law [God's law] was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.