Galatians 3:10-18 Christ Redeemed Us from the Curse WC McCarter
We are continuing the thought that we have seen over the past couple of weeks with only a “new stage in Paul’s argument” (Moo, 201). What is it that we have seen but faith versus works of the law? The apostle wants to continue to demonstrate that works of the law will not and cannot justify a person, that is, make them right before God. Paul will use a few OT references to prove his point. The Galatians are those who heard Paul and his companions preach the true Gospel message of grace in Christ Jesus by faith. They believed what Paul said, trusted in the Lord for salvation, and were given the gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Spirit was doing sorts of wonderful miracles among them.
It was not long after Paul left that false teachers came in among the Christian churches in Galatia and began teaching that to be completed they would have to submit to circumcision, dietary laws, and all of the Mosaic Law in the OT. Thus, the Galatians were faced with two paths to ultimate justification: works of the law or faith in Christ. There were two options, but only one would secure salvation. There are not several roads to heaven. There is only one way. The Galatians had to choose their path. One would bring the blessing associated with Abraham the other would leave a person cursed by God. To put it simply, the Galatians were faced with heaven or hell in this moment. They would either find life or death. Which would they choose?
Main Message: The law cannot secure the Abrahamic blessing and actually brings you under a curse.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Cursed by the Law (10-12)
The apostle introduced the blessing associated with Abraham in the previous passage and now wants to show how the Law cannot bring someone into that blessing. All those who are under the law are under a curse. Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27 where Moses says that everyone is cursed if they do not continue in the law. When a person submits to the law as a means of justification before God, then they elect to keep every point of the law perfectly. Therefore, Paul says that all who are under the law are cursed because they do not continue in all of the things which are written in the book of the law. James is very helpful on this point. In 2:10 he teaches, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” You see, you may keep 612 of the 613 commands of the law perfectly but because you failed at the one point, you are then labeled a “law breaker.” To submit to the law is to commit to keeping in completely.
Paul next wants to show that even the OT is clear that law-keeping is not the way to be right in God’s eyes. God said long ago that the just shall live by faith. This quote from the prophet Habakkuk becomes a very important one in Paul’s theology. He utilizes it here in Galatians and also in Romans. If the just shall live by faith and the law is based in performance, then the law is not of faith, and one cannot be justified by religious performance according to the law. This is a very strong argument. The logic here is solid. This apostle who argues against the law as a means of justification is a Hebrew among Hebrews. He has submitted to the law and tried to keep it perfectly, yet even he has abandoned the law as a means of a right relationship with God. He turned to Jesus Christ by faith in order to be called “not guilty” and “free.” If he has abandoned it and can argue this way, then why would the Galatian Christians leave Christ and go to the law? It makes no sense. It will be devastating. They will be cursed.
Redeemed from the Curse (13-14)
In verses 13-14, Paul in effect says, “Listen, the bad news is that under the law all are cursed because they do not continue in all the things that it commands. Yet, the good news is that Christ has redeemed us from that curse.” How is it that He has redeemed us from the curse? Here is the Gospel: Christ became a curse for us. How did He become a curse for us? He laid down His life and hung on a tree for us. The law even says in Deuteronomy 21, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Now, this is hard for us to understand at first, but imagine how difficult it would be for a Jew to believe that Christ secured a blessing even though it appeared that He was cursed by God because He was condemned to death on a tree. The only way to come to a true understanding of the cross is to understand that Christ was not punished for His own sins. He was sinless, but He laid down His life for “us.” He became a curse “for us.” He has redeemed “us” from the curse. As Paul famously says in 2 Cor 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Do not get in your mind that what Christ has done is for everyone without distinction. It is not automatically given to all people. What Christ has done is available to all people but only given to those who access it by faith. Look at what verse 14 says plainly: the blessing and promise come upon the nations in Christ Jesus through faith. You are put into the category of “blessed” through faith in Christ Jesus. You receive the Holy Spirit who is you guarantee of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Paul is telling the Galatians, and I am warning you today, “Do not put yourself in the category of “cursed” by trusting in your on religious performance to save you.
God Gave it by Promise (15-18)
After laying before us the two categories of blessed and cursed, life and death, Paul wants to show us how the whole Bible holds together by the theme and function of the promise of God. The story of salvation is based on the promises of God. Of preeminent value is the promise that God made to Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. The primary covenant that God has made is one of promise. But, the Judaizers might say, what about the law? The law was added to the covenant of promise, right? Paul says that the Mosiac law that came 430 after the covenant of promise does not and cannot annul the promise already made to Abraham. Thus, verse 17 is the key verse of the paragraph that includes verses 15-18.
The apostle starts in verse 15 with a practical example from everyday life. Of course, we are not familiar with all of the legal practices of the first century or before, but I think that point being made is simple. If a covenant is established and confirmed, even if the parties agree to add something to the arrangements, the original premise(s) of the covenant cannot be revoked. If a man’s covenant cannot be set aside, then God’s promises can certainly not be undone no matter what may come later (Stott, 88). In verse 16, which is somewhat of a parenthetical statement (Moo, 228), the apostle wants to argue that the promise made to Abraham was in direct reference to Christ. Paul says that God did not use “the plural ‘children’ or ‘descendants’, but the singular ‘seed’ or ‘posterity’, a collective noun referring to Christ and to all those who are in Christ by faith” (Stott, 88). The promise was to Abraham and his collective “Seed” in Christ who are all linked by one thing: they all approach God and are counted righteous by him through faith. This premise (faith alone) cannot be undone, set aside, or annulled. This is the promise of God.
Conclusion and Christian Application
Thus, we should not only sing, “The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.” We should also sing, “The law behind me, the cross before me; No turning back, no turning back.” All of you who are believers, united with Christ’s death and resurrection, you have come into a right relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t care if you are ten years old or 100 years old. You have been saved by grace through faith. Now, (like the option that was spread before the Galatians) if you turn away from faith in Christ, you are turning away to cursing and death because the just shall live by faith.