(guest post by my husband, Tim Davis)
I helped all four of our children learn how to ride a bike. The training wheels they used were the old metal branched kind that screwed onto the hub. That way they could be passed on to the next bike as needed.
Yes, those training wheels prevent a lot of scrapes and spills for kids in their crucial learning days.
But we don’t have them anymore.
Some say that once you’ve learned how to ride a bike, you’ll never forget it. At some point, the necessary skill—maintaining balance on two moving wheels—is internalized.
Then the rider is set free to ride through the neighborhood on his own, unencumbered.
The training wheels fulfilled their purpose of aiding in learning to ride a bike, and they are no longer needed.
An undue love for training wheels
Wouldn’t it be strange then, if the neighborhood decided it to be “anti-training wheels” to lay aside the training wheels after a child has internalized the necessary tools for riding? If discontinuing their use is accused of showing disrespect for their purpose?
Maybe some even proposing a policy to insist those training wheels stay on—permanently. What might be the result?
Such a long-term reliance on training wheels could perhaps cause riders to relapse into unlearning their skill, leaning heavily on the extra wheels to keep their balance, forever enslaved to that inherent restraint from the freedom of movement the bicycle was designed for. Maybe the poor kid would even give up on biking altogether.
It seems to defeat the purpose of the training wheels, doesn’t it?
How Paul wrote about those training wheels
Galatia was just such a legalistic neighborhood. After they had received the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, who was fully capable of internalizing the life of Christ in the believer, they returned to the Old Testament Law.
It was the Law that had led the people of God, historically, to Jesus, to the life of the Spirit. And there is no question what Paul thought about their not-so-brilliant idea of returning to spiritual training wheels.
When they returned to the application of the Old Testament Law after they’d received the Spirit of Christ within them, Paul didn’t just rebuke them. He derided them.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
After all, through the Spirit of Christ, in the New Covenant, they had the inner tools to live in freedom.
Yet they were willing to put the “training wheels” of the Law back on, thinking that trying to keep the Old Testament Law would help them stay straight.
Paul called them “foolish.” They were foolish to return to relying upon the “flesh” once they had the “Spirit.” Do you hear that? Paul compared trying to keep the Law to relying on the flesh. All of the New Testament speaks against this.
In fact, Paul told them in Galatians 5:14 that the Law is fulfilled in love. That is, when the purpose of the Law is internalized into love through the Holy Spirit, the Old Testament Law itself is no longer needed.
The fulfillment of the training wheels
For some strange reason, in spite of Paul’s clear words in Galatians, many today still teach that the best way to fulfill the love that Paul talks about in Galatians is to continue to rely on the Law for guidance.
But such a directive undermines Paul’s entire argument in his letter to the Galatians.
We need to understand the meaning of the word “fulfilled” here.
When the Biblical teachers talked about the fulfillment of prophecy, they did not expect to continue waiting for the events to take place. Rather, they would insist that the former anticipation of the events prophesied was completed.
Now, we can enjoy their fulfillment. The fulfillment of the prophecies resulted in a completely new paradigm.
This is the same way in which Paul declared the Law fulfilled in love.
In this way Paul echoed the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. Jesus did not come to “destroy the Law or the Prophets” but instead “fulfill” them.
Interesting that he includes both here—the Law and the Prophets.
Jesus came to fulfill prophecy: the completion of His work and ministry on earth is recorded in the gospels.
He also said He came to fulfill the Law. That is, He brought the Old Testament Law to its completion. This was done through His sinless life, keeping all the Law for us, and through His sacrifice on our behalf, enacting our purification for us.
The entire purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Where is our help?
So where should believers look for guidance to live a life pleasing to God?
To the Law, the training wheels, whose purpose was to point to Jesus Christ?
Or to Christ himself, manifesting in love through the Spirit?
Who should have the last word?
This is Paul’s primary thesis to the Galatians. The Law served its place in history, to show the holiness of God and to lead God’s people to Jesus Christ. Now, Paul wanted them to stand in the faith they initially learned—living and walking in the Spirit. He wanted them to know how to live as believers.
The same is true for us. That same ability is within all believers through the indwelling presence of Christ. Once we’ve learned of Him, why would we return to those things that merely pointed to Him?
The training wheels have served their purpose. There is no more need to lean on the Law.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.