An Old Schoolmaster

By Royce Frederick

When we hear the word “schoolmaster,” most of us probably think of a teacher in a school house. The word “schoolmaster” in the Bible has a very different meaning. In the Greek society of the first century, when the New Testament portion of the Bible was written, a wealthy family would often have a special servant who led their child to school and back each day. As they walked, the servant would govern the child’s conduct, give him moral guidance, and perhaps talk with the child about his school studies. In the Greek language, this servant was called a paidagogos, or “child-leader.” He was not the child’s actual teacher, but he brought the child to the real teacher.

About 1500 B.C., God began giving His law to the nation of Israel. He gave the law through Moses at Mount Sinai, so God’s law for Israel is often called the law of Moses. It is contained in the Old Testament portion of the Bible. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul tells us that the law of Moses was like a “child-leader” for the nation of Israel. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [Greek, child-leader] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). The law of Moses was designed to bring the people of Israel to Christ. It prophesied about Christ, and it governed the people until the coming of Christ. The law of Moses taught many valuable lessons, but its major work was to be a “child-leader” for Israel, to bring them to Christ, the Master Teacher. When the law of Moses had finished its work, it was removed from governing the people of God: “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster [child-leader]. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:25-27).

The Old Testament is still profitable for our learning (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). It can build our faith in Jesus Christ. But God’s people are not under the law of Moses. Jesus fulfilled that law and removed it when He died on the cross (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:15; Heb. 8:6-13). Now God’s people are under the New Covenant, which Christ revealed in the New Testament portion of the Bible. He governs His people through the “law of Christ,” which is “the perfect law of liberty” (Gal. 6:2; James 1:20).