It’s not uncommon for some of Disney’s classic love stories to tell a story of a person who was under a curse and then got rescued by their true love.
This is the testimony of sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Beast, from Beauty and the best. These princesses and prince were without hope, until their lover often through heroic acts freed them.
Here’s a funny question. How many of these lovers after being delivered from a curse would have happily and knowingly put themselves back under a curse? Sound crazy? (This could be a new ABC series).
Sadly this is what was going on in the lives of the Galatians. Let me explain. The believers in Galatians were under the curse of sin and in bondage to paganism. While under this curse and in bondage they were rescued by Jesus, through the preaching of the gospel by Paul.
While these Galatians were living happily ever after with Jesus Paul says these believers were seeking to return to a curse. Paul in Galatians 3:1 asked them, Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?
The believers in Galatia were being bewitched by the Judiazers to not trust in the gospel alone for salvation, rather they were being instructed to also keep the law of Moses to be made righteous.
As we will see Paul says this is foolish because the law brings a curse. Rather than return to a curse These believers were to stay focused on Jesus and His amazing grace.
As we continue with Paul’s defense of the gospel of grace we’ll focus on two things;
1. Don’t be bewitched to turn from the love of Christ to the curse of the law.
2. Keep your eyes on Jesus who bore our curse so we could have a relationship.
First in verses 10-12 we see a warning not to be bewitched to turn from the love of Christ to the curse of the law.
Last week we saw that Paul used 6 six logical questions to show the Galatians through their salvation experience that were not to seek salvation by the law.
Paul now in verses 10-14 uses six Old Testament scriptures to show that these believers were not to seek salvation by the law.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; 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.”
Let’s begin by defining the law that Paul is talking about in this passage. The word law is used a couple of different ways through out the scriptures.
The most common way as seen in this passage is referring to the law that God gave Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai. The law includes the 10 commandments but there is more then just the Ten Commandments. The law is given from Exodus 20 to the end of the book of Deuteronomy.
Rabbinic Judaism has divided these teachings up into 613 commandments, both positive and negative. These laws have also been divided up into ceremonial, legal and moral laws.
It is important to point out that, while breaking the law up into three divisions of ceremonial, legal and moral is helpful for study, we must still look at the law as one unit.
James 1:10 says, For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
Paul in Galatians 5:3 says, And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.
Also Paul here in verse 10 points to what Moses said in Deuteronomy 27:26 which says that the curse of the law comes on all those who do not do all the law.
Some religious groups falsely want you to believe that Christians are under as Paul calls it the works of the law, yet they only point to various laws that you at to keep.
They point to various the various dietary laws and the Sabbath. But they forget about the other 611 commandments. They forget about the laws of cleanness and uncleanness. They forget that three times a year all males must go to Jerusalem for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Failure to do so is sin.
You can’t pick and chose which law you will keep and will not keep. If you are going to seek to be made righteous by keeping the law then, the Bible teach you must keep all them perfectly.
If I fail to keep the law then I am under the curse of the law. In some cases in the Old Testament this meant capital punishment. For all sins Paul says the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), that is eternal separation from God in hell.
The first warning we get from this passage is do not turn to the law for salvation, you can’t keep it. In order to keep it perfectly you must be perfect like Jesus. Failure to keep the law puts you back at the place where Jesus saved you from.
11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
Paul goes on and says that even the righteous believers in Old Testament understood that no one could keep the law perfectly and be justified by it. Justification by faith alone is not a New Testament teaching. Last week we saw that Abraham before the law was saved by faith alone.
Now Paul points to the testimony of the prophet Habakuk in Habakuk 2:4. Habakuk knew that no one could stand righteously in the sight of a Holy
God, on the basis of keeping the law. Those who are righteous are such by their faith in God.
King David also said this in Psalm 32. Paul in Romans 4:5-8 says,
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8Blessed is the man to whom
the LORD shall not impute sin.”
Isaiah who also lived under the law also said this in Isaiah 64:6 that all our good works are like filthy rags in the eyes of the Lord.
The context of this passage in Isaiah was that Israel was going through the motions of keeping the law but their hearts were far from God. Isaiah points out that it is not the works of the law that please God, it is the heart and faith behind the works. God wants a heart that is surrendered to Him, by grace through faith alone.
Our second warning is to think Biblically. While a teaching sounds appealing and spiritual, we must judge how it lines up with the Bible. If the Bible teaches other wise then reject that teaching. If the Bible is silent and it is a liberty issue then fall back on the principle of word.
12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “THE MAN WHO DOES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.”
Paul now gets to the heart of how the law is fulfilled. The stress of the law is works obedience as seen in Leviticus 18:5. Paul shows here that adding the requirement to keep the law with believing in Jesus is a contradiction.
The gospel teaches believe and be saved, believe and you will be justified.Yet the law stresses obedience to be righteous? Not just obedience but perfect obedience, the person who is under the law, must continually keep them, they must live by them.
The point of Paul here is either we are justified by our faith, or you are seeking to be made righteous by continual perfect obedience. The two can’t go together. Pick one! As we just saw if you chose the law you are doomed to fail because there is none righteous no not one.
Back to our illustration: With this insight of the law, it would be crazy to be bewitched by false teachers and return to a curse by seeking to be righteous by the law or legalism.
We must be wise and reject false teaching so we can abide in our living relationship with Christ. We don’t want anything to get in between the intimacy an joy that God promised us as the bride of Christ.
Second in verses 13-18 we see that we are to keep our eyes on Jesus who bore our curse so we could have a relationship.
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”),
As we just saw all who break the law are under the curse of the law. All mankind had broken God’s law and therefore have been sentenced to death and eternal separation from God because of our sin. This is the bad new.
Here’s the good news, Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. How did Jesus did Jesus do this?
Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:23 which refers to the fact that under the law their were some cases because of sin that a person was put to death (usually by stoning) and then had their dead body hung up on a tree or stake for all to see the curse that their sin brought.
Paul uses this verse as an illustration of the work that Jesus did for mankind on the cross as a penal substitution. God placed upon Jesus the sins and punishment that we deserved for breaking God’s law.
In this passage we can see three results of Jesus death on the cross.
First those who put their faith in Jesus are redeemed. The word redeemed is an interesting word, it is a Greek word that can mean to buy out of slavery. All mankind because of sin are held captive, we are under a curse with no hope, yet through our faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ we are saved and set free.
We see two more results in verse 14.
14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
The second result that Paul gives for Jesus’ death is that He made Gentile salvation possible. Through the cross Jesus has made it possible for all men to be saved. Christ is the savior of all men especially those who believe.
Third Jesus death, Resurrection and ascension makes the permeant indwelling of the Holy Spirit possible through faith. The Holy Spirit is given to the bride of Christ like a wedding ring, it is to remind us of our future hope.
Paul goes on and answers an objection concerning the fact that the law was given after the promise of salvation to Abraham. If the law was given later does that mean that God replaced that promise with the law?
Paul’s answer is no. He goes on and shows clearly that salvation is by grace through faith alone, just as we saw in the life of Abraham and the other Old Testament believers.
15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.
The point of Paul in this verse is to stress the importance and immutability of the promises made to Abraham. Paul pointed the Galatians to their own culture and laws and says, look covenants made by man can’t be added to or changed once they have been signed and sealed, how much more than the one given by God Himself to Abraham.
The covenant that God made with Abraham is unconditional. This is illustrated in Genesis 15 that God alone passed through the sacrifices.
Not only is Abrahamic covenant unconditional but it is eternal and guaranteed.
16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “AND TO YOUR SEED,” who is Christ.
The promises and blessing that Paul refers to here in this context refers specifically to salvation. Notice Paul points out the promises were not just made with Abraham but also to his Seed singular which is Christ.
Since God made this promise to Abraham and Jesus the promises were guaranteed. Also the spiritual blessing that God promised in Genesis 22:18 would find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.
18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Paul plainly say that the law which came later could not change the promises that God made to Abraham and Christ. The mention of 430 years probably refers to the last time that God passed the promises of Abraham on to Jacob while he was on his way to Egypt. God would have gave Jacob this promise 430 years before He gave Israel the law on Mount Sinai.
William MacDonald says concerning verses 15-18,
“Paul’s argument in this section may be summarized as follows: In Gen 12:3, God promised to bless all families of the earth in Abram. This promise of salvation included Gentiles as well as Jews. In Gen 22:18, God also promised: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” He said seed (singular), not “seeds” (plural). God was referring to One Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was a direct descendant of Abraham (Luk 3:34). In other words, God promised to bless all nations, Gentile as well as Jewish, through Christ. The promise was unconditional; it required neither good works nor legal obedience. It was a simple promise meant to be received in simple faith.”
Nothing could change the promise that God gave Abraham, which was that through Jesus Christ all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
In closing let’s keep our eyes on Jesus so we can continue to enjoy His wonderful love and grace.