This is a partial quote of what the apostle Paul said to the Galatians in 3:23-25. The Bible tells us that the writings of Paul are hard to be understood without proper background information (2 Peter 3:16). What was Paul talking about when He said “after faith has come”?

Galatians 3:23-25
“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”

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First our background information is:

Faith existed since Adam and Eve.
Faith existed under all the Old Testament.

Hebrews 11:4
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous…”

Hebrews chapter 11 goes into lengthy discussion about all the faith that saved the Old Covenant believers.

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We can conclude based on this background information that Paul wasn’t saying there wasn’t faith under the Old Covenant.

Paul is describing the differences between the two covenants.

The Old Testament believers were “kept under the laws” of the Old Covenant which governed the earthly sanctuary (animal sacrifices and later the Levitical priesthood) including all the carnal ordinances of that administration of the Everlasting Covenant, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must always remember that everyone who was saved from Adam until the last soul is saved, was/is saved “by faith” in the blood of Jesus Christ which is called “the blood of the Everlasting Covenant” (Hebrews 13:20), “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

But after Jesus has come, we are justified “by faith” in the Son of God under A DIFFERENT administration, but the SAME GOSPEL, called the Everlasting Covenant. We are justified “by faith” in His blood sacrifice under the New Covenant, we are justified by Christ’s ministry as our high priest, and we believe in His Everlasting Covenant of salvation and His forgiveness of our sins as we come to Him daily in confession and repentance like He taught us to do in the Lord’s Prayer.

After Jesus (our faith) has come, we perform the laws governing the heavenly sanctuary not the laws of the earthly sanctuary. We live under “the ministration of the Spirit” being “the new and living way” instead of “the ministration of death” that was under the Old Covenant.

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

The laws that governed the Old Covenant sanctuary system taught the Old Testament believers about the severity of their sin and brought them to Jesus Christ (their coming Messiah) by keeping those sacrificial laws by faith that Jesus would come just as God promised, those were the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant.

They were saved “by faith” even before Jesus (our faith) came, and they were also required to continue to keep those Old Covenant laws (schoolmaster) governing that covenant until Jesus came to end the Old Covenant administration of the Everlasting Covenant (the gospel). That was accomplished at the Lord’s Supper and with the rending (tearing) the veil in the earthly sanctuary at His death. Jesus establish the New Covenant administration of the Everlasting Covenant in His own blood.

Hebrews 9:10
“Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, IMPOSED ON THEM UNTIL the time of reformation.”

Hebrews 8:13
“In that He saith, A New Covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”

The Old Covenant was governed by laws for being justified (forgiven) and the New Covenant is governed by laws for being justified (forgiven). One of the laws that existed under both covenants was “the law of faith”. Every Christian knows in order to be saved (forgiven/justified) we must have faith in Jesus Christ. Without faith we can’t be saved, that’s God’s law governing His Everlasting Covenant (the gospel).

The apostle Paul was referring to the Old Covenant time period when he says, “we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed”.

Without background information it would be easy to assume that he was saying that under the Old Covenant they were “under the law” (saved by the law) and not living “by faith”. It would also seem like he’s saying that now under the New Covenant the opposite is true and that now we are living by faith and saved by faith instead of being subject to God’s laws.

But as students of the word of God, we know that’s just not possible and that’s not what he’s explaining to the Galatians because Paul also instructed the Romans and the Galatians that no one (no flesh) has ever been justified (forgiven and saved) by the works of the law.

Romans 3:20
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall NO FLESH be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

Galatians 2:16
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall NO FLESH be justified.”

When Paul who was a Jew says, “even we have believed in Jesus Christ” he is saying that even the Jews under the Old Covenant knew they were saved “by faith” in their coming Messiah and not by the law.

Abraham was saved, justified/forgiven by faith.

Romans 4:1-2
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.”

The other thing we know is that no one could or can be saved without FAITH in the blood of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 11:6
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God MUST believe that He is, AND that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

Abel was saved (justified/forgiven) by faith.

Hebrews 11:4
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”

“The just shall live by faith”

Justification, which is the forgiveness of sins, (that brings salvation) can only come by faith. In order for Adam and Eve to receive forgiveness of their sins, they had to have faith in God and that Jesus would come to pay their sin debt. The animal sacrifices for their sins under the Old Testament stood as placeholders (schoolmaster) that only symbolized the blood of Jesus. The blood of animals could never take away sins. Only the blood of Jesus could do that.

Hebrews 10:4
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”

The Old Testament was first to declare that “the just shall live by faith”. It also defined what that meant. Looking at Habakkuk 2:4 it’s identifying unrepentant sin as being the exact opposite of faith.

To be lifted up means to be proud. To have pride is always described in the Bible as being sinful, it never has a positive attribute or application. The first sin that ever occurred was Satan’s sin of pride, and it created horrific ripple effects that will end in the complete destruction of this world written about in Isaiah chapter 24 and Revelation.

To paraphrase this verse in Habakkuk 2:4 would be to say that the unrepentant sin of a man makes him unjust, but in contrast to that, the man who has turned away from practicing unrepentant sinning, who “by faith” lives in daily confession and repentance because he believes God when He says “the wages of sin is death” and when He says He will destroy the wicked, that man is just. That man is justified, forgiven, of his sins and cleansed daily as he continues to live by his faith in God and what He has said.

Habakkuk 2:4
“Behold,
his soul which is lifted up
is not upright in him:
but the just
shall live by his faith.”

Romans 1:17
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

Hebrews 10:38
“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”

No man has ever been justified, forgiven of their sins, by just obeying a law. No law could pay the required sin debt. The law is not alive or human. The law only points out what is sin.

Galatians 3:11
“But that NO MAN is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”

Romans 3:20
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: FOR BY THE LAW IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIN.”

Galatians 3:21
“Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given WHICH COULD HAVE GIVEN LIFE, verily righteousness should have been by the law.”

We can’t be justified and forgiven by just obeying God’s laws alone but not having faith in Jesus Christ.

If it were possible to work for and earn our salvation, then we wouldn’t need Jesus and He wouldn’t have had to die for us. Also people wouldn’t have to believe in God the Father or have faith in Jesus.

That’s why Job says, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” (Job 14:4)

Proverbs 20:9
“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?”

We also can’t be justified by just believing while also continuing to live in unrepentant sinning. James chapter 2 defines saving faith as believing AND obeying, “faith without works is dead”. (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 13:24-28)

Back to Galatians 3:23-25, so what was Paul saying then?

More background information is that Paul was teaching the new Gentile converts about the Everlasting Covenant, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how it operated under the new administration of the New Covenant, “by a new and living way” through the life of Jesus and His daily ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and not by “the oldness of the letter” which was the animal sacrificial system that caused death; also called “the ministration of death”.

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Paul was teaching the differences between the two covenants. It was the same gospel of Jesus Christ, but how the Everlasting Covenant operated was different under both Testaments.

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Paul was having to deal with the controversies that were coming up because the Old Covenant saints (believing Jews) who didn’t understand the differences between the Old and New Covenant operations were insisting and teaching the parts of the Old Covenant that were ended and they insisted those still had to be kept for justification (forgiveness of sins and salvation).

Paul was reasoning, explaining and separating out both covenants to the Galatians.

Galatians 3:23-25
“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”

Faith existed since Adam.

Under the operation of the Old Covenant, having faith in a coming Messiah was combined with obeying and keeping all the carnal ordinances of the offerings for sin (schoolmaster) in order to receive God’s free gift of salvation.

God explained the process of justification (forgiveness) in Genesis as Him “having respect” and then accepting both the offering and the faithful person who was keeping His covenant the way God instructed them to do.

When God had respect and accepted Abel’s offering made “by faith” in the covenant of salvation, the gospel of Jesus Christ, that meant that God forgave Abel of the sin he confessed and repented of. God justified Abel “by his faith” which included his obedience.

Cain tried to change the laws (the covenant) of God by bringing what he wanted instead of what God required. He brought plants instead of the symbolic animal sacrifice. God rejected Cain’s offering and Cain as well. The LORD didn’t justify and forgive Cain’s sins because he didn’t keep God’s covenant as it operated under the Old Testament. This operation was called “our schoolmaster” because it taught us the severity of committing sin.

Genesis 4:3-7
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had RESPECT unto Abel AND to his offering:

But unto Cain and to his offering he had NOT RESPECT. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

And the LORD said unto Cain,
Why art thou wroth?
and why is thy countenance fallen?

If thou doest well,
shalt thou not be ACCEPTED?

and if thou doest not well,
sin lieth at the door.
And unto thee shall be his desire,
and thou shalt rule over him.”

When Paul uses this phrase “before faith came” he means before Jesus Christ came lived a perfect sinless life, died in our place paying our sin debt, was buried, raised again and ascended into heaven to become our high priest who “ever liveth to make intercession” for us and is mediating the New Testament.

He also meant that now we live “by faith” because we have faith in Christ’s sacrifice for us and also His resurrected life. If Jesus had only died for us and hadn’t been raised up from the dead to bring His blood offering into the heavenly sanctuary, then we would still be dead in our sins and without salvation.

1Corinthians 15:17-18
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”

Jesus was “raised again for our justification”.

Romans 4:25
“Who was delivered for our offences,
AND was raised again for our justification.”

Hebrews 9:22-24
“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ IS NOT ENTERED into the holy places MADE WITH HANDS, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us”

Hebrews 7:24-25
“But this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He EVER LIVETH to make intercession for them.”

Hebrews 4:14
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.”

Hebrews 4:15
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

What is the function of a high priest?

It is to bring the commanded and acceptable sacrifice and offer it to God the Father. It is also to pray for and intercede for the repentant sinner who is following (walking after) and keeping God’s covenant of salvation. These things are performed in order to receive God’s free gift of salvation through the process of justification, the forgiveness of past sins.

Under the New Covenant we no longer have to go to a Levitical priest offering the blood of animals so we can receive justification from committing sins (that schoolmaster). Now all we have to do is have faith in the operation of the New Covenant with Jesus Christ mediating, interceding and justifying (forgiving) us when we are following what He commanded us to do.

Our example is the Lord’s Prayer.
It’s a daily prayer.

“Give us this day our daily bread”

“And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.”

We are supposed to daily confess, repent and ask God’s forgiveness of our daily sins. We need to also include King David’s request for God to renew a right Spirit within us; which is what we are asking when we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done IN earth as it is in heaven. We are daily committing to make God’s name holy by reverencing Him and His commandments by doing His will IN our earthly bodies.

After faith has come, Jesus Christ, we are saved by our faith in His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary as our high priest; we are no longer under the schoolmaster of the Old Covenant earthly sanctuary that employed the Levitical priesthood.

Hebrews 7:11-12
“If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was therethat another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? FOR THE PRIESTHOOD BEING CHANGED, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.”

Hebrews 9:9-12
“Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, IMPOSED ON THEM UNTIL THE TIME OF REFORMATION. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

The Old Testament believers were kept under the Old Covenant laws governing the earthly sanctuary including all the carnal ordinances of that administration of the Everlasting Covenant, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must always remember that everyone who was saved from Adam until the last soul is saved, was and is saved “by faith” in the blood of Jesus Christ which is called “the blood of the Everlasting Covenant” (Hebrews 13:20).

Now that Jesus has come, we are justified “by faith” in the Son of God, His blood sacrifice under the New Covenant, Christ’s ministry as our high priest, we believe in His Everlasting Covenant of salvation and His forgiveness of our sins as we come to Him daily in confession and repentance. We perform the laws governing the heavenly sanctuary not the laws of the earthly sanctuary. We live under “the ministration of the Spirit” being “the new and living way” instead of “the ministration of death” that was under the Old Covenant.

Galatians 3:23-25
“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”

Since we know that no one has ever been justified (forgiven) by the works of the law because that takes the blood of Jesus; we need to also recognize and remember that God still required all the Old Covenant believers to obey and keep His laws and His covenant to receive His free gift of salvation. God still requires us to do that too. It’s a conditional covenant as many scriptures point out.

Psalms 37:27-29
“Depart from evil,
and do good;
and dwell for evermore.

For the LORD loveth judgment,
and forsaketh not His saints;
they are preserved for ever:

but the seed of the wicked
shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land,
and dwell therein for ever.”

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