Galatians 3: “Protective Custody”

Lets be clear before we dive in today: God despises sin, and not just sin, God despises disobedience, unlawfulness, rebellion, and stubbornness alike.


  • Psalm 5:4 (NLT) O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness;
        you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked.
  • Hosea 9:15 (NLT) 15 The Lord says, “All their wickedness began at Gilgal;
        there I began to hate them.
    I will drive them from my land
        because of their evil actions.
    I will love them no more
        because all their leaders are rebels.
  • Amos 6:8 (NLT) 

    The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his own name, and this is what he, the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, says:

    “I despise the arrogance of Israel,
        and I hate their fortresses.
    I will give this city
        and everything in it to their enemies.”

At multiple points along life’s journey, God has been confronted with the reality that His people are far from Him because of their sin. As the prophet Isaiah shared with the people of Israel: Isaiah 59:2 (NLT) It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.
    Because of your sins, he (God) has turned away
    and will not listen anymore.

In one of the most stunning declarations from God, while Moses is on Mt. Sinai God declares that He has had enough with the disobedient, stubbornness, and the rebelliousness of the Israelites: Exodus 32:9-10 (NLT) Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. 10 Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.” 

A Vengeful Blood-Thirsty God

I’ve had many conversation with people who declare that they don’t like the God of the Old Testament. They claim He’s too harsh, judgemental, angry, and blood-thirsty. Blood-thirsty is my favorite description that people have against God. As if God is patrolling earth in search of his “next victim.” In those moments I find myself thinking, “well, yeah!” Of course he’s going to be harsh, angry, and certainly judgmental… He’s God! I wouldn’t be a very good Father if I never corrected my son for doing something wrong.

I’m not sure when we started to believe that God can or should tolerate a little sin, but the reality is, God can’t have anything to do with sin, so wherever sin runs rampant, God run’s rampant. STAY WITH ME…

Now that we have somewhat of a baseline understanding of God’s loathing of sin and authentic desire to destroy sin, lets jump to Galatians 3.

Protective Custody

Galatians 3 is all about the debate between the “Way of Faith” versus “the Way of the Law.” In it, Paul is declaring that the law is powerless to save. He fights this battle on many fronts because there were still insurgent groups of Judaizers who claimed that you needed to keep the whole law in order to be saved. It’s true what they say, “some habits die hard.”

Paul continues by explaining what the real purpose was for the law and how we got to that point. Basically, Paul indicates that the law was used to reveal the sin of the people. He continues however to share that the law was also used to hold off the wrath of God. This is how we get to Galatians 3:23-24 (NLT) 23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.

“Under guard” and “protective custody” are both Greek words that aren’t ment to represent keeping someone in but rather to keep someone or something out! Meaning, we were placed, as Paul says, in protective custody not for fear of what we would do, but in fear of what God would do with us! The law was put in place like foster parents protecting a child in protective custody. When we read that the law was our guardian we have to ask the next question, guardian from who/what? Keep reading: it (meaning the law) protected us until we could be made right with God through faith (meaning Christ).

Then we get to verse 25 (NLT) 25 And now that the way of faith (i.e. Jesus) has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

This for me gives a whole new understanding of being made right with God through Christ! It also helps us today to understand the great lengths God has gone through to protect, love, shelter, and care for His people. What an awesome and powerful God we serve today!