Galatians 3:23 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Galatians 3:23, NIV: Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.

Galatians 3:23, ESV: Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

Galatians 3:23, KJV: But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

Galatians 3:23, NASB: But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, being confined for the faith that was destined to be revealed.

Galatians 3:23, NLT: 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.

Galatians 3:23, CSB: Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.

What does Galatians 3:23 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

A group referred to as the Judaizers were attempting to convince Christians in Galatia that they must be circumcised and follow the law of Moses, in addition to believing in Christ, if they wanted to be saved (Galatians 2:4). Paul is writing to explain what is so wrong with this idea (Galatians 3:1).

He is in the middle of describing what the point of the law really was. In the previous verses, he showed that the law cannot give life to people because people cannot keep the law perfectly. It serves the purpose of showing us just how sinful we are once we understand what God would require of us to live up to His standards for righteousness. The law shows us that we cannot do it; we cannot stop sinning!

In this way, the law held Israel—and all those who wanted to be right with God—in a form of captivity. They became aware that they were prisoners of their own sin. That season under the law was temporary, however. Eventually, faith came. More specifically, Christ came and died to pay for the sin we could not escape. Through faith in Him, we can find a way out of captivity under the law. The following verse will reveal that the law served a vital purpose in the history of Israel, but that purpose came to an end when the opportunity to put our faith in Christ was revealed.