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The Curse of the Law

Galatians 3:7-18



Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham [Gal. 3:7].


God did this for Abraham before the Law was ever given. God did not make the covenant with him because of Abraham's good works. He told Abraham, "I'll do this for you if you believe Me." Abraham said, "I believe You."


God wants your faith to rest on a solid foundation. But, if you come to God, you must come to Him by faith. He has come to the door of your heart. He cannot come any farther. He will not break down the door. He will knock and say, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20). Only you can open the door by faith. When you and I trust Christ as Savior, we are saved the same way that Abraham was saved -- by faith.


And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed [Gal. 3:8].


"God... preached... the gospel unto Abraham." When did He do that? Paul refers to an incident near the end of Abraham's life of faith recorded in Genesis 22. It was after Abraham had offered Isaac upon the altar. Notice God's response to Abraham's act of faith: "And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Gen. 22:15-18). Apparently at this time God preached the gospel to Abraham, because the offering of Isaac is one of the finest pictures of the offering of Christ. Although God spared Abraham's son, God did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all.

The important thing that Paul wants us to see in Abraham's life is that he obeyed the voice of God. Abraham was willing to offer his son when God commanded it, and when God said stop, he stopped. He obeyed the voice of God. He demonstrated by his action that he had faith in God. Again he believed God and He counted it to him for righteousness.


Some people are troubled because they feel that there is a contradiction in Scripture between what Paul says about Abraham and what James says about him. Paul says that Abraham was justified by faith. James says, "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?" (James 2:20-21). However, James goes on to say, "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" (James 2:22). John Calvin said it like this: "Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone." In other words, saving faith is a dynamic, vital faith that leads to works. Faith produces works. This idea of saying that works will save you is putting the cart before the horse -- in fact, some men put the horse in the cart!


So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham [Gal. 3:9].


The word faithful in this verse is "believing" -- believing Abraham. God asked Abraham to believe that He would do certain things for him. God asks you and me to believe that He already has done certain things for us in giving His Son, Jesus Christ to die for us. Faith is the modus operandi by which man is saved today.


For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them [Gal. 3:10].


The important word here is "continueth." I might have a really good day once in a while, but not a perfect one.  Even if I did, what about the next day?  Do you keep the law day and night, twenty-four hours every day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks out of the year in thought, word, and deed? If you are a human being, somewhere along the line you let down. You are not walking on top of the world all the time. When you let down, the law can only condemn you.


They do not give medals for keeping the law in our town. If I had kept every law for twenty years and then stole something or broke a speeding law, I would be arrested. You see, the law does not reward you. It does not give you life. The law penalizes you.  Faith gives you something. It gives you life.


But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith [Gal. 3:11].


Even the Old Testament taught that man was saved by faith. It does not say that anyone was saved by keeping the law. In Habakkuk 2:4 it says that "...the just shall live by his faith."


And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them [Gal. 3:12].


Faith and law are contrary principles for salvation and also for living. One cancels out the other. They are diametrically opposed to each other. If you are going to live by the Law, then you cannot be saved by faith. You cannot combine them. They are contrary.


Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree [Gal. 3:13].


"For it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." This is a quotation from the Old Testament, as we shall see, and is a remarkable passage of Scripture for several reasons. One reason is that the children of Israel did not use hanging on a tree as a method of public execution. Instead they used stoning. Ever wonder why they used stoning as a means of execution? Anywhere you turn there are plenty of stones. Capital punishment in Israel was by stoning, not hanging. However, when a reprehensible crime had been committed, this was the procedure: "And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance" (Deut. 21:22-23). That is, if he had committed an awful crime and had been stoned to death, his body could be strung up on a tree that it might be a spectacle. But it was not to be left there overnight. The reason He gives is this: he is accursed of God -- "that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance."


Christ was "made a curse for us." The question is: When did Christ become a curse? Did He become a curse in His incarnation? Oh, no. When He was born He was called "...that holy thing..." (Luke 1:35). Did He become a curse during those silent years of which we have so little record? No, it says that He advanced " favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52). Did He become a curse during his ministry? Oh, no. It was during His ministry that the Father said, "...This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). Then He must have become a curse while He was on the cross. Yes, but not during the first three hours on the cross, because when He offered up Himself, He was without blemish. It was during those last three hours on the cross that He was made a curse for us. It was then that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him and put Him to grief. He made His soul an offering for sin (see Isa. 53:10).


"Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree." The Greek word for "tree" is xulon, meaning "wood, timber, or tree." Christ was hanged on a tree. What a contrast we have here. He went to that cross, which was to Him a tree of death, in order that He might make it for you and me a tree of life!


That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith [Gal. 3:14].


Israel had the Law for fifteen hundred years and failed to live by it. At the council of Jerusalem, in Acts 15, Peter said in effect, "We and our fathers were not able to keep the law. Why do we want to put the Gentiles under it? If we could not keep it, they won't be able to keep it either." Christ took our place that we might receive what the Law could never do. The Spirit is the gift in this age of grace.


Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto [Gal. 3:15].


Suppose you make a contract with a man to pay him one hundred dollars. Then about a year later you decide you will pay him only fifty dollars. You go to him and say, "Here is the fifty dollars I owe you." The man says, "Wait a minute, you agreed to pay me one hundred dollars." You say, "Well, I've changed that." He says, "Oh, no, you don't! You can't change your contract after it has been made."


Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ [Gal. 3:16].


God called Abraham and promised to make him a blessing to the world. He made him a blessing to the world through Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham. Christ is the One who brought salvation to the world.

The word seed refers specifically to Christ (see Gen. 22:18). Christ said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56).


And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect [Gal. 3:17].


God made a promise, a covenant, with Abraham. When the Law came along "four hundred and thirty years" later, it didn't change anything as far as the promises made to Abraham were concerned. Actually, God never goes back on His promises. God promised Abraham, "I am going to give you this land. I am going to give you a son and a people that will be as numberless as the sand on the seashore." God fulfilled that promise and brought from Abraham the nation of Israel -- and several other nations -- but the promises were given through Isaac whose line led to the Lord Jesus Christ, the "Seed" of verse 16. God also promised Abraham that He would make him a blessing to all people. The only blessing in this world today is in Christ. You may not get a very good deal from your neighbor or from your business or from your church. I don't think the world is prepared to give you a good deal. But the Lord Jesus Christ has been given to you -- that is a good deal! In fact it is the supreme gift which God has made. It is a fulfillment of God's promise that He would save those who would trust Christ.


For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise [Gal. 3:18].


The promise concerning Christ was made before the Mosaic Law was given, and that promise holds as good as though there had been no law given. The promise was made irrespective of the Law.


The question arises: Why was the Law given, of what value is it? Now don't think that Paul is playing down the Law. Rather, he is trying to help the people understand the purpose of the Law.



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