“But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:22)
Paul teaches us here that one of the purposes of scripture is to “shut us up.” Now, while we might love to apply that to someone we know, we need to understand what it really means.
The Bible word for “shut up” here means “to enclose, to shut up completely on all sides.” It was used in Luke 5:6 of a net which “enclosed a great quantity of fish.” It means to trap or surround.
Thus Pauls tells us that the purpose of the Old Testament scripture was to “trap” us — or rather to help us understand that we were trapped, in sin. Romans 11:32 uses the same word more directly, saying: “For God has SHUT UP all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.” This Galatians 3 passage shows us HOW God has “shut us up” — by the conviction of sin which comes through the scriptures.
For example, when they read the “Golden Rule,” which summarizes the ethical demands of the Old Testament Law, any sensitive person will realize that they have NOT in fact always treated others the way they want to be treated, or loved their neighbors as themselves. They have fallen short. This conviction then leads the person to understand that they need a Savior, which God has provided in Jesus.
ONE of the reasons why many people today are not convicted of sin, is that they have not read or heard the word of God. Since they do not know what His word actually says, most are thus “blissfully ignorant” of their actual sin. They imagine themselves to have some kind of personal relationship with God — but it is indeed imaginary. It is not based on the truth of word of God. They are in fact well short of Him, but they will never know it until they are convicted of the truth — which Paul tells us here, comes through reading or hearing the scriptures.