Law and Curse
Paul continues his discourse on the Law and
Gal 3:1-5 NASB
Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ
was publicly portrayed as
This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you
receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now
being perfected by the flesh? (4)
Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?
So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works
miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing
Paul asks the Galatians to think back on
their own experiences, and see if they should return to the Old
Testament Law. The questions are old, but still apply today.
1. Who bewitched you? We
still speak of “spell binding” orators in our day,
and that is a good translation here. We especially
are fond of “who said it.” For most of the sheep of
this nation, a rock star is a high authority. That’s
the sense of this question. If you think it doesn’t
apply, think about such names as Rick Warren, for
2. Did you receive the Holy
Spirit by faith, or by law? Think back; did you
obey your way into receiving the Spirit, or was it
by faith? Your mind was clear when it happened; you
are your own witness to this. So why would you
3. Are you being perfected by the
body, or the spirit? A question worth asking in
this time when we preach that the body is the temple
of the Spirit – and therefore we should join a
health club and eat organic foods. It is an old
4. Did you suffer for the faith
in vain? In those days being a Christian was
dangerous (which is beginning to apply to us today).
These people have suffered for the faith; are you
now saying that such suffering was unnecessary? Will
you throw away the rewards God has promised just to
be comfortable? Is your Christian walk worth
anything beyond talk?
5. Does Christ work by the
Spirit, or by rules and regulations? Search the
Scriptures; you will find no result but the Spirit.
Good works are an effect of the faith, not its
To make his case, Paul now reminds them of
the Old Testament – as witness to the righteousness that comes
Old Testament Witness
Gal 3:6-18 NASB Even so Abraham
BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are
sons of Abraham. (8)
The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by
faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham,
"ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU."
So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse;
for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL
THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM."
Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident;
for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "HE WHO
PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM."
Christ 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"-- (14)
in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come
to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the
Spirit through faith.
Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is
a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it
aside or adds conditions to it.
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does
not say, "And to seeds," as
to many, but
rather to one, "And to your
seed," that is, Christ.
What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and
thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously
ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on
a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a
Faith – Old Testament style
Paul begins with the most esteemed of the
patriarchs, Abraham. This man preceded the Law by about 430
years, from which Paul makes these points:
· Faith came first. The fact
that the Law came later does not nullify faith; God’s
covenants still stand.
· Most particularly, this
faith was intended to benefit the Gentiles as well, for
Abraham was promised that one of his offspring would
bless the world. That someone is, of course, Christ.
Even during the period of the Law, faith
still applied. The prophets testify consistently that “the
righteous shall live by faith.” How so? Right conduct – good
works – are the result of a faithful life. So when God condemned
the Israelites in the Old Testament it was for their hard hearts
– hearts which kept the ceremony of the Law, but not its
essence. A righteous man practices what the Law commands. But
righteousness is hard; self-justification is easy. And we are
Concept of “the curse”
It surprises some that the God revealed as
the one Who is Love would also be the God who curses – but it is
so. When man sins, God curses man. It has been so from the
Gen 3:17 NASB Then to Adam He
said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and
have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying,
'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of
you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.
When the Israelites entered the Promised
Land, they were commanded to assemble and repeat the blessings
and curses of God. Blessing and curse are a part of the Law. A
curse could not just be ignored; it had to be dealt with. It
could only be lifted by an appropriate sacrifice. In the Old
Testament the sacrifice was a specified animal; in the New
Testament, it is Christ.
A covenant is God’s way of dealing with man.
It is sometimes described as a contract, but this is incorrect.
A contract is between two (theoretical) equals. A covenant is a
pronouncement of God concerning how He will deal with man.
That is its main restriction. A covenant may
be superseded, but not amended. So it is with Abraham’s
covenant; the Law did not change it; the promises made to him
still stood. The blessing for all nations was yet to come, but
in the fullness of time Christ arrived.
Significantly, it seems that covenants may
need a mediator – someone to stand between God and man.
· Such a man may be a
prophet. Moses “stood in the gap” for the
Israelites, and turned God’s fierce anger away.
· Such a man may be a
priest. Samuel was such a man, speaking to God for
· Such a man may be a king.
David, at the time of the plague, interceded for the
In our time, Christ is all three. He is the
perfect mediator of the covenant of grace. If you want to build
a bridge from God to man, you must have a foundation on each
side. Only Christ is wholly God and wholly man.
Law and Faith
Gal 3:19-29 NASB Why the Law
then? It was added because of transgressions, having been
ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the
seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
Now a mediator is not for one
whereas God is
Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never
be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life,
then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.
But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the
promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law,
being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
Therefore the Law has become our tutor
to lead us
to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed
yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free
man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in
Christ Jesus. (29)
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants,
heirs according to promise.
Why the Law?
It’s a common question; why should Christians
pay any attention to the Old Testament. In particular, why
should I care about the details of the Jewish Law?
· The Law is a tutor.
Being one of those book collectors who never throws a
textbook away, I justify my attitude by saying, “I might
need to look something up in it.” Just because I passed
the course doesn’t mean I can forget what I was taught.
· Without the Law,
transgression has no meaning. When Christ debated
the Pharisees, this was their common ground. The woman
taken in adultery is condemned by the Law – and forgiven
by the Lord.
· The Law defined both sin
and sacrifice. Thus it gave a clear picture of the
ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The Law also defines the Jews
Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but God is
rather arbitrary with the Jews. He sends Moses with the Law – no
negotiating – and tells them they will obey, or He will act.
Why? Because they are His chosen people.
Note that the Jews had no choice in the
matter. None. God picked them, they did not pick Him. In so
doing, He defines what “my people” means – those who are in
obedience to Him – in short, those who trust Him to keep His
When the time comes, then, that definition
will be extended – the children of God are now those who trust
Paul now ties this back together with an
astounding statement. We, he argues, are baptized through faith.
The physical act alone is no more than a bath. But when we are
baptized through faith, we put on the uniform of Christ – and
become children of God.
Let me explain it this way. When I was in the
army, our platoon had a drill sergeant. One day he went down the
row of men asking, “What color am I?” It was a touchy question
at that time. A lot of pushups were assigned to those who didn’t
know the answer.
The answer? Olive drab – the color of the
uniform. When you’re in the army you can see rank – but not the
person. “Salute the uniform, not the wearer.” If this is true
with the army, how much more should we see it in the church –
where the uniform of Christ covers us all. Christ has broken
down the barriers between man and God – and also the barriers
between man and man. The one who claims Christ as Lord is
brother and/or sister to me.