Typewriters, Computers, the Law, and Jesus
By Tracy Jessup
“Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” (Galatians 3:23-26)
In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul uses dramatic imagery to communicate the role of the Law of Moses in bringing people to faith in Christ. He states that the law was a guardian and disciplinarian. According to most scholars, in Paul’s culture, this idea is a reference to a slave or servant who, though not the teacher, was assigned to watch out for the student on his way to school and help with things such as manners, and discipline, and perhaps even schoolwork. This would continue until the child’s “coming of age” (i.e. late adolescence).
In the same way, God’s people were guarded and disciplined by the Law to be able to recognize the revelation of faith in Christ. The law was never meant to justify us before God. Instead, it was to make us aware of our sin and lead us to faith in Christ, who not only kept the Law perfectly but indeed is the fulfillment of the Law.
New Testament scholar Scot McKnight writes, “I often compare the role of the law in history to the role typewriters have played in the development of word processing. The technology and idea of a typewriter were eventually developed into an electronic, faster, and far more complex computer that does word processing. But when typing on a computer, we realize that we are still using the old manual typewriter’s technology. Further, we realize that the computer far transcends the typewriter. Everything that a typewriter wanted to be when it was a little boy (and more!) is now found in the computer. This compares to the law. Everything the law wanted to be when it was young (as revealed to Moses) is found now in Christ and the life of the Spirit. Thus, when a Christian lives in the Spirit and under Christ, that Christian is not living contrary to the law, but is living in the transcendence of the law. It is for this very reason that life lived primarily under the law is wrong.”
McKnight continues, “When the computer age arrived, we put away our manual typewriters because they belonged to the former era. Paul’s critique of the Judaizers is that they are typing on manual typewriters after computers are on the desk! He calls them to put the manual typewriters away. But in putting them away, we do not destroy them. We fulfill them by typing on the computers. Every maneuver on a computer is the final hope of the manual typewriter. ‘Now that faith/Christ has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law’ – but not because the law is contrary to the promises; rather, it is because the law is fulfilled in Christ and the Spirit in a manner similar to the way a typewriter is fulfilled in the technology of a computer. And I am profoundly thankful for both!” (The NIV Application Commentary: Galatians, p. 184).
Our only hope of becoming a child of God (cf. 3:26) and a spiritual descendant of Abraham (cf. Galatians 3:29) is through faith in Jesus Christ – not our ability to follow and keep the Law. In Jesus Christ, God has done what the Law could not do for us and what we could not do for ourselves.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the law that shows us our sin and leads us to faith in Jesus.
Dr. Tracy Jessup serves as vice president for Christian Life and Service and senior minister to the University. He is a graduate of Gardner-Webb with a B.A. in Music and earned his M. Div. degree at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also teaches in the undergraduate department of religious studies and enjoys the opportunity to serve the local church through interim pastorates, pulpit supply, and preaching revival services. he and his wife, Teresa, have two children, Christian and Anna.
Read more Good Christian News from Dr. Jessup HERE.