So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24 ESV)
In Galatians 3:24, Paul tells us that the Law of Moses was a paidagogos. The KJV translates this a “schoolmaster,” and the NKJV has it as “tutor,” but I think those give too big a role to the word. Young’s Literal Translation says, “child-conductor,” and the ESV and LEB say “guardian,” which I think gives us a more accurate idea. The Law, in Paul’s mind, was not so much about instruction as it was about keeping the people of Israel out of trouble until the Messiah. “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith,” Paul says.
The Law governed behavior, but God was always looking beyond behavior to the heart. The Law required circumcision of the flesh, but what God desired more than that was “circumcision of the heart.”
Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. (Deuteronomy 10:16)However, the Law could never produce that in us. Yet, what the Law could not do, the Lord Jesus has done in us Himself:
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts. (Jeremiah 4:4)
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)So, what God has always been looking at is the heart. And what He has always been looking for is love — love for God and love for each other. That is what the Law and the Prophets were always pointing us to. Or as Jesus put it, loving God with everything in us and our neighbor as ourselves — all the Law and the Prophets hang on that (Matthew 22:35-40). So when we love, we fulfill what the Law and the Prophets were always calling us to.
In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God promised Israel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” I believe that is what God has now done for every believer in Jesus Christ. He has given us the Holy Spirit, who works in us and causes us to walk in His statutes, and to keep His judgments. How does the Spirit do this? By the fruit of the Spirit — love! And as Paul declares, “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). So the case is not that the Law no longer has significance for us but rather that it is fulfilled in us by the Spirit of God, through the fruit of love.
By the way, I believe that every Gentile believer is “grafted into” the “olive tree” that is Israel (see Romans 11:13-24), so that we receive the Messiah that was promised to Israel, the Spirit that was promised to Israel (for example, in Ezekiel 36:26-27), and the salvation that was promised to Israel. But that is a post for another day.