Galatians 3:10-14 “The Curse-Healing Curse”

Posted: September 1, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Biblical Studies, Galatians

Galatians 3:10-14 “The Curse-Healing Curse” by Pastor Rick Hogaboam, Sovereign Grace Fellowship, Aug. 29, year of our Lord 2010

PDF: Galatians 3.10t14 cursehealing curse

Galatians 3:10–14 (ESV) — 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

 

Paul is quoting from several OT texts to juxtapose how one is made right with God.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

Curse?

–          Cursings and Blessings are giving in the law. Deuteronomy includes the stipulations of the Covenant. The law requires perfect obedience. The sacrificial system also makes provision for sin, because it is expected that there will be sin.

Deuteronomy 27:26 (ESV) — 26 “ ‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

–          The problem here is that Israel was never able to obey fully in such a way as to receive the promises. They were subject to judgment. In spite of this, almost all of the prophets speak of a day of blessing beyond the curse when God’s people will be righteous and dwell in perpetual joy, to never be subject to curses ever again.

–          Paul is saying that those who “RELY on WORKS OF THE LAW are under a CURSE”.

–          The emphasis here is the reliance on the “works of the Law”. Since Paul is quoting from Deut., I think he has in mind the totality of the law, even though there were particular emphases in Galatia that Paul is confronting, namely circumcision.

–          The law in itself is not sin, however it does point out sin (Rom. 7). The curse is on us, not the law.

11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

–          Paul here discusses justification (our right standing with God, judicial and relational).

  • It does NOT come from the law in and of itself, meaning just looking straight to the law and seeking to work for it, by means of the law. The problem is with the weakness of our flesh, which means that this huge problem of sin needs to be dealt with in order to obtain any right standing before God.
  • It POSITIVELY DOES come from faith, which is where he quotes from the prophet:
    • Habakkuk 2:4 (ESV) — 4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
  • Paul juxtaposes 1) reliance upon the law as a curse and not leading to justification with 2) the life the righteous have by faith.
  • Now you might think that God is confusing and the whole law and everything is confusing.
    • The law was to be received in faith, and it was for some and not for others. The problem is with those who did not come to faith, but were relying on the law. At some point you need to declare your bankruptcy and appeal to grace and find such provision in the sacrificial system, trusting in faith that this would even lead to something more glorious in all the many prophecies on the coming Savior and Servant.
    • Some came to the law and either denied their bankruptcy, or just placed confidence in the simple outward badges, while neglecting the heart, etc. There is so much scholarship that you will get a headache here. Suffice it to say, I think the disposition of Israel to the law was varied. We see this in Jesus’ ministry and the way people responded to him.
    • Paul deals with the Gentile/Jewish issue quite a bit in Romans, which you should read through to try and get a feel for Paul’s theology on these matters of Jew/Gentile, Law/Circumcision, Justification, Faith, Spirit, etc.

–          Romans 9:30–32 (ESV) — 30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,

  • Paul says here that Israel did pursue a law that would lead to righteousness, but did not succeed because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.
  • The law would lead to righteousness, so Israel though their righteousness were based on works. Why were they wrong? Seems pretty straightforward.
    • Paul here has said the reliance on the law, or the Romans language of “based on works” miss the point. Faith is the necessary requisite to gain right standing with God.
    • We must not also make the error of thinking that Paul is saying that if Israel had faith, they would have obeyed the law perfectly and then reached a justified state. He is not saying that. He is saying that if we have faith, then we find righteousness and can now pursue the law in a righteous way, not relying on it for justification, nor thinking our justification is based on the law, but obeying from a heart of faith that sees the goodness in it, desiring to glorify God, not establishing our righteousness by means of it.  

12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

–          Paul now reveals a level of antithesis between the declaration of the righteous living by faith and the conditional nature of the Mosaic covenant.

–          He quotes from Leviticus:

  • Leviticus 18:1–5 (ESV) — 1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.

–          There is a debate raging in theological circles on how to understand this antithesis that Paul presents. I have already stated how I believe that Paul is clearly establishing that justification is not attained by relying on the law or as if it depended upon the law. Paul also said that Israel would have attained righteousness, which I understand as justification, if they pursued the law by faith, meaning a justifying faith in the promises of God (“just shall live by faith”), which then beholds the law in a justified state.

–          Our inability. God commands in imperative and conditionality things that we can’t perform. Let me make clear that God demands perfect obedience to the law in every aspect, which mind you, speaks to coveting in the heart in the 10th commandment.

–          Paul makes that clear:

  • Galatians 3:21 (ESV) — 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

–          God commands what we can’t render to show us our need for unmerited favor or grace…to seek His grace for acquittal and for pleasing Him in meager sanctification.

–          Need for grace from a qualified lawkeeper. This grace is imparted to us through a lawkeeper, so the Mosaic covenant was subservient to the Abrahamic covenant, the aim of which being Jesus!!! The relationship. Paul will qualify in what ways the Mosaic Covenant and Abrahamic covenant function.  In fact, the Mosaic covenant is a “guardian”, subservient to the Abrahamic covenant of promise, actually serves the aim of the Abrahamic covenant, which is Christ.

  • Galatians 3:16–22 (ESV) — 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

–          Though the Abrahamic covenant and Mosaic covenant work together in one sense, Paul is making distinctions to his Galatian audience to show that the law is subservient to the Abrahamic covenant and points to Christ. They need to be reminded that God is gracious, and that we are justified by faith alone. That is the foundation!!! He will later deal with “Christian” ethics and what our lives should look like. But before we have any conversation about sanctification, we need to be reminded of justification. That is our anchor!!!

–          But the law was also pointing to a future lawkeeper who would display perfect righteousness, and thus be exalted on high…Jesus is this righteous one who fulfills every jot and tittle of the law.  In our union with Him by faith, we share in this reward and His righteousness becomes our righteousness!!!The Mosaic covenant also works typologically to show us how Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, unlike the first Adam. The stipulation for Adam is recapitulated in a sense for Israel in a more robust form with greater prohibitions. We do need a perfect Israel!!! In order to inherit all the eschatological promises of blessing and a renewed heaven and earth, we do need a perfect Israel who will fully satisfy all points of the law. This is where Jesus becomes the Servant of Israel and in solidarity with Israel fulfills all righteousness and lays claim to the renewed heaven and earth. All the demands and conditions God gives His people for blessing are all fulfilled in Christ alone!!! All the promises of blessing in the land of Israel will never be fulfilled to an unfaithful Israel. The conditionality of blessing is fulfilled by Christ. Which is where Paul now moves his letter.

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

  • Deuteronomy 21:22–23 (ESV) — 22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

–          The curse of the law is our inability to fulfill it. those who approached it in faith were made righteous by God’s grace, which was purchased for them in Christ (then future). Paul makes it clear that Jesus vindicates God’s righteousness and perceived neglect of past sins in Christ coming to die and settle all accounts.

  • Romans 3:21–31 (ESV) — 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
  • All have sinned. Some saw this and were saved in the Old Covenant by their faith in God’s provision of grace. Some sought no provision of grace and tried their best to pile obedience on. They were deceived into thinking they were doing pretty good, or in outright denial, or just placed their confidence in identity badges like circumcision.

–          Now that Jesus has come, it is made explicitly CLEAR that the only ground for our justification is Him and Him alone, by no other means. It excludes all boasting. Paul wants the Galatians to rejoice in this great truth. It is why he is so angry in this letter that they would reject this for the Judiazer’s gospel, which is no gospel.

–          There is only a curse if you look to the law. That curse can only be removed from One who became a curse. Jesus hung on the tree of Calvary and there offers us an antidote to our curse.

–          John 3:14–15 (ESV) — 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

–          Jew and Gentile alike are sinners, for all have sinned!!! All need the antidote and Jesus offers freely His forgiveness to ALL who would come to Him!!!

–          The only way to receive the Abrahamic promise is through Christ. You do not come to the Mosaic law and then to Christ, you come straight to Christ and receive the blessings of God.

So that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

–          This is so rich!!! The promised Spirit is that of the New Covenant. That regenerating and adoptive work of the Spirit that makes us children of God, part of this great multitude He promised to Abraham. The Spirit assures us that we belong to Him!!!

–          Galatians 4:6–7 (ESV) — 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

 

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