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Galatians 3:10-14: The Law Brings a Curse

We are all acquainted with people who are not believers but they display all of the characteristics of Christians. They are good people, kind, generous, gracious, loving, humanitarian, generally model citizens, but they have not accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The Bible says that as good as these people are they are under a curse “If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). Why would God curse seemingly good people? Listen to God’s word:

Ecclesiastes 7:20, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.”

Isaiah 64:6 NLT. “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Romans 3:23, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

James 2:10, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

Galatians 2:16, “…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”

Ephesians 2:9,10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

“Paul's argument seeks to drive his opponents into a corner from which there is no escape. ‘Suppose,’ he says, ‘you decide that you are going to try to win God's approval by accepting and obeying the law, what is the, inevitable consequence?’ First of all, the man who does that has to stand or fall by his decision; if he chooses the law he has got to live by it. Second, no man ever has succeeded and no man ever will succeed in always keeping the law. Third, if that being so, you are accursed, because scripture itself says, ‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law by observing them.’ (Deuteronomy 27:26) that the man who does not keep the whole law is under a curse. Therefore, the inevitable end of trying to get right with God by making the law the principle of life is a curse.” –Barclay

“We have the basis for Paul's statement that to be under the works of the law is to be under the curse of the law. The law knows no mercy.

•it tolerates not the slightest deviation from its unyielding demands.

•it exacts the full penalty for every tiny transgression. •it ever condemns and never condones.

•it confronts men like a sheer perpendicular cliff towering thousands of feet into the air, with the demand that men scale it or die in the attempt. Trapped on a ledge, as all men will be sooner or later, there is no way of deliverance save through the grace of God. “ –

Verse 10a: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse…”

Living under the Mosaic Law did not bring blessing it brought a curse. The reason is that to obtain God’s blessing under the Law a person had to keep it perfectly, and no one could. One violation of the law brings the curse of God. “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws” (James 2:10 NLT). The Law is similar to a chain; one must forge every single link securely or it will not support the person who clings to it for salvation.

The Law came with blessings and curses for obedience/ disobedience. In the book of Deuteronomy, chapters 27 and 28, there is a record of twelve curses the children of Israel were to perform when they finally entered the Land of Canaan.

“The Judaizers taught that the law was a means of justification. But Paul shows that the law is a means of condemnation, and that it is the Lord Jesus Who rescues us from its condemnation through the blood of His Cross.”–Wuest

This pictures someone “under the curse” as under a load, a load they cannot carry, a load (of sin) which will eventually kill them and carry them to eternal separation from God! Failure to perfectly keep the law brings divine judgment and condemnation. “Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.” (Deuteronomy 27:26).

Those who have faith are blessed; but those who try to gain salvation by the works of the law are “under the curse.”

“All that the law can do for sinners is judge them, condemn them, and curse them. All the people in the world who think themselves good, all the mere moralists, all those who, however amiable they may be, however excellent and religious they may be, are trusting to be saved by good works, are all under the curse, as surely as the drunkard, or the liar, or the swearer is under the curse. That is all that Moses (the Law) can say to you, and all that the Old Testament can reveal to you. Apart from faith in Christ, all its rites and ceremonies, all its laws and precepts, if you are resting in them, can only land you under the curse, because you cannot continue in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them. You have not so continued thus far, you will not so continue, and nothing but an absolutely perfect obedience to the law could save a man by the way of works. As that obedience is not possible, we come under the curse if we come under the law. Do not look to Moses to bring you into Canaan; that can only be done by ‘Joshua,’ Jesus.” –Spurgeon

“Why then did God give the Law? It was not in order to be a means of achieving salvation. It was to act as a mirror in which we could look so that we could find out the truth about ourselves. It was in order to show us our sinfulness (Romans 7:10). It was to point Israel to the sacrifices, and to point us and the Galatians to the One Who was the one great sacrifice for sin for ever. ‘The Law is our tutor to bring us to Christ’ (Galatians 3:24). It was to make us aware of God’s total requirements. And that was all it could do. It shows us up for what we are, and then it leaves us stranded.” –Peter Pett

Verse 10b: “…for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’”

it is impossible to be justified by the works of the law, since, under all circumstances of obedience which we can render, we are still left with its heavy curse resting on us. “Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.” (Deuteronomy 27:26).

Verse 11: “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for the just shall live by faith.” (this verse is found originally in Habakkuk 2:4)

The truth is, no one is justified by the law of God, no one ever has been justified by the law of God, no one ever will be justified by the law of God. In Romans 3 we read, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20). God did not give the law to save man, He gave the law to test him, to make manifest man’s true condition.

The Law has no power to make us new or to change our lives, only faith in Christ’s death and resurrection can do that! The Law points us toward God, and exposes us as being sinful. In contrast to that, Paul says that the gospel, the message of who Jesus Christ is and what he has done, is able to save us.

The one verse that transformed Martin Luther’s life and became a central theme to the Reformation is Romans 1:17, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

Martin Luther tried everything to find favor with God. He disciplined himself with prayer, fasting, and ascetic practices, going without sleep, enduring bone-chilling cold without a blanket, and whipping himself. As he later commented, “If anyone could have earned heaven by the life of a monk, it was I.”

“At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.” When he finally began to understand that salvation was not earned, but came as gift from God to everyone who believes, he said, “Woa, you mean the righteousness by which I will be saved, is not mine? When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.” –Luther

Verse 12: “Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’”

“The statement, ‘The law is not of faith’ means that the two principles of law and of faith as a means of justification are mutually exclusive of one another. They are diametrically opposed to each other. Then Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5, “The man that doeth them shall live in them.” –Wuest

Verse 13: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’”

This passage is not teaching that Law is a curse. The curse is the penalty for not keeping the Law. The “Book of the Law” refers to the covenant laws that God made with His people during the time of Moses. The Law can point out where we fail and fall short of God’s will, but it cannot pronounce us righteous; that was not its purpose.

There are 3 Greek words for “redeemed,” 1) agorazo, which means to go to the slave market to buy, 2) exagorazo, the one Paul uses in this verse, to buy a slave from the market-place “…you were bought at a price…” (1 Corinthians 6:20) and 3) lutroo, to set free by the payment of a ransom, “(He) gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us” (Titus 2:14).

Christ bought us back from the slavery of sin, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18,19 NLT).

Christ purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28 ), He gave His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51 ), as the Good Shepherd He laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11 ) and finally demonstrated the greatest love by laying down His life for His friends (John 15:13).

“The atonement is a ransom—that is to say, a price paid. In the present case, the original word is more than usually expressive; it is a payment for, a price instead of. Jesus in His sufferings performed what may be forcibly and fitly described as the payment of a ransom, the giving to justice a quid pro quo for what was due on our behalf for our sins. Christ in His person suffered what we ought to have suffered in our persons.”–Spurgeon

Paul here is referring to Deuteronomy 21:22, “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree…” In ancient Judaism a criminal who was executed, usually by stoning, was then tied to a post, a type of tree, where his body would hang until sunset as a visible representation of rejection by God. It was not that a person became cursed by being hanged on a tree but that he was hanged on a tree because he was cursed. Jesus did not become a curse because He was crucified but was crucified because he was cursed in taking the full sin of the world upon Himself., “…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree…” (Acts 5:30). “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…” (Acts 2:23). “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The Judaizers were misleading the Galatians teaching that Christ had not completely purchased them, and that they had to purchase the rest by their submission to circumcision and other Jewish rites and ceremonies.

Verse 14a: “…that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus…”

Galatians 3:8,9, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘in you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”

Romans 4:3, “And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

The believers in Galatia were very conversant with Abraham’s blessing. After all that’s what Paul’s was arguing in this letter. He was trying to sort out for them who can receive Abraham’s blessing, apart from those who were stirring up trouble and confusion. In essence he is saying that they are children of Abraham by faith. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

“The call of Abraham is an amazing story. It's the story where everything starts, not only for the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, but also for us as Christians. It's the calling of God on a man who would shape human history. Four thousand years later, we can stand in Jerusalem and see the fulfillment of the great blessings promised to Abraham. And if you have faith in Jesus Christ, you are a son of Abraham and are truly blessed.”–

When our Lord took our sin upon Himself, it brought “the blessing of Abraham.” What is the blessing on Abraham? It is very clear that “the blessing of Abraham” could only be fulfilled in Christ“ I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Abraham is our father in faith. Abraham believed God, and because of that God blessed him and made him a blessing to others. And that is a pattern for all of us. As God blessed Abraham, so he blesses us, with one desire in view, that we should be a blessing to others.

Verse 14b: “…that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

A part of Abraham's blessing which Jews and Gentiles can inherit is the gift of the Spirit. If you are a child of God you are child of Abraham, part of your inheritance is the Spirit of God who seals you for eternal life.

Ezekiel 36:27,28, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”

Ephesians 1:13,14, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Ephesians 4:30 NLT, “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”

“Wherever the Spirit of God dwells, the covenant is fulfilled. You have in the Spirit the foretaste of the promised rest; you have the initial stages of the promised perfection; you have the dawn of the promised glory. The Spirit is the earnest of the inheritance till the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” –Spurgeon

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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