Christ, the promise, redeemed us from the curses of the law to secure our salvation by making peace between God and man through His blood on the cross.
Galatians 3:10-14: 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.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 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”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (ESV)
Have you ever faced a moral dilemma where you are not sure what the right thing to do is? This past week I got myself into a moral conundrum. I pulled our van out of the driveway, but when I tried to unlock my cell phone to access the GPS, the phone demanded that I confirm I was “not driving” first. While I needed my phone for navigation, I was annoyed that I had to lie to a machine to get control of my own phone. The whole day I thought about it, and it bothered me that a machine was forcing me to comply with something I never agreed to begin with. I know it seems silly but lying to the machine made me feel sinful.
Moral conundrums of all kinds, perhaps not as silly as mine, have the power to take away our peace and make us feel bad, dirty, and sinful. They can make us feel that we are bad Christians or perhaps not even Christian at all.
In moments of moral confusion, what we really need is a reminder of what makes us Christians in the first place. What makes us Christians? In Galatians 3:1-5, Paul says faith makes us Christians. In verses 6-9, he gives Abraham’s example to show that he was justified by faith because he heard the gospel and believed. We, too, are justified and thus saved by hearing and believing the gospel. Finally, in verses 10-14, Paul points to the promise and process of redemption against the legalists and moralists who sought to advocate for the works of the law instead of faith that saves.
When moral and religious conundrums try to take our peace away by making us feel that we are not good Christians or perhaps not even Christians at all and are trying to cause us to rely on good works, we need to rely on what made us Christians in the first place.
Morals and religious activities cannot save us. If that were so, why would God the Son leave His throne, come into this world, empty Himself to become nothing, go to the cross willingly, and suffer the death that we deserve to offer the forgiveness that we do not deserve? Our text says we became Christians by believing the Gospel of grace: that Christ, the promised one, redeemed us to secure our salvation by making peace between God and man through His blood on the cross.
Just as morals and religion had no bearing on the promise to bless Abraham, they have no bearing on blessing all nations through him because believers are redeemed by Christ, not any work of man. Now, what did Christ redeem us from? And what does redemption mean for our daily life in contrast to morals and religious activities?
Redemption from the Law
First, I want you to notice that God’s promise to bless Abraham and, through him, all nations was the promise of redemption from the work of the law that declares us cursed.
Verse 10 says, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse.” Why? As Paul says, “For it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’” Paul is explaining the scriptures with scriptures. Here, he is quoting Deuteronomy 27:26.
When the scriptures explain scriptures, we get to the heart of the matter, but when men explain scripture, they are prone to insert their desires into the Bible and reach false conclusions. The Judaizers were guilty of the latter. In an attempt to condemn those who rely on the law, Paul put the same law before them to challenge them. When people seek righteousness and justification by following the works of law, they put themselves under the curse of the law because no one can do everything the law requires.
In my office, I have my wedding picture. My wife looks great. (I do not look bad, either.) However, if you look at the picture carefully, you will notice the tags on my suit sleeves that I didn’t take off. I knew the tags were there, but I had never had a tux before, and I thought they were supposed to be there, like a logo. After taking many pictures, my wife saw them, took them off for me, and told me that they were not supposed to stay on.
Paul tells the truth that the law was not there to save them but to expose their sins and that they were putting themselves under the curse of the law by keeping the law. But just like the tag on my sleeves, they were leaving it on even after becoming Christians.
The Old and New Testaments do not offer two ways of salvation, one based on human performance to do works of the law and be saved and the other based on God’s performance that He saves, and then we receive righteousness by faith. There is only one way, Paul argues, by faith.
What is the application for us here? In verse 11, which quotes from Habakkuk 2:4, it says, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Church, it is by faith we are saved and by faith we shall live.
Redemption from the Curse
The second thing I want you to notice is that God’s promise to bless Abraham and, through him, all nations was the promise of redemption from the curse itself, for Christ took the curse on Himself to declare us righteous.
Verse 13 says, “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.” This is a quote from Deuteronomy 21:23, where it says, “for a hanged man is cursed by God.”
Those of us who come from Eastern cultures have seen how people live in fear of curses. In every culture there is something that is believed to dispel the curses. If you have ever visited Istanbul, you probably noticed a blue eye amulet hanging everywhere. Even if you haven’t traveled there, the blue eye is gaining popularity everywhere. The idea is that it dispels the curses of the evil eye. However, the curse we are talking about is the curse that is the opposite of a blessing. Only God can remove it and not any works of man. Christ took our curse on Himself.
In verse 13, the word redeemed is translated from the Greek word exagorazō, meaning to buy with a price, to recover from the power of another, to ransom. In the context of our text, Christ purchased us from slavery to sin and the law to set us free from the curse. The payment he paid was by becoming accused. Dying on a tree was a curse in and of itself, but in the voluntary act of going to the cross, God the Son lifted the curse of the law from us to declare us righteous. Believers should never be afraid of any curses because we have been blessed with Christ in us who is our righteousness before God and in this life, the Holy Spirit shields us from the forces of darkness.
What is the application for us here? In verse 12, we see Leviticus 18:5 quoted. “But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’” What we have before us is a choice between doing and believing. Moralists and legalists will argue for doing because the Law says, “Do and live!” but grace says, “Believe and live!” The life that the law offers leads to death because no one can do everything the law requires perfectly. However, the righteous shall live by faith.
Redemption from Alienation
The third thing I want you to notice is that God’s promise to bless Abraham and, through him, all nations was the promise of redemption from alienation to receiving the blessing and the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Verse 14 says, “So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Notice the use of “we.” Paul put himself with the Gentiles. To Jews, the Gentiles were outcasts, referred to as dogs and unworthy of God’s promises to Abraham. But Paul says because of the promise of a blessing to Abraham, through him redemption in Christ has come to all nations.
Jews or Gentiles, we all once were alienated from God and deserved His wrath. How? In Genesis 3, sin entered creation and resulted in the fall of man because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Sin took the shalom, the peace of God, away and exposed us to the just wrath of God. With the pronouncement of the harsh consequences to Adam and Eve, came the promise of a just, but loving God, and the promised redemption.
In Genesis 3:15, we read this, “I [God said] will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This is the first promise of the Messiah, Jesus, the prince of peace who will restore peace between God and man. Satan bruised Jesus’ heel, which resulted in His death on the cross, but Jesus defeated death, hell, and all the power of the darkness and rose again. Now, all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, have peace with God and each other, because Christ, the prince of peace, the promised one, has redeemed us. Church, we receive salvation through faith and the promise of the Spirit to help us live by faith.
For those of us who struggle with moving from becoming Christians to living a Christian life, the solution is not in the works, but rather faith. Faith moved us from death and darkness to life and light in Christ through the power of the Spirit. You cannot claim to be saved by faith and attempt to live the Christian faith only by works.
For those of us who struggle with moralism, legalism, and religiosity because of our pride and trust in our own accomplishments, the solution is to let go of your pride and trust in your own works and put your complete faith in the redeeming work of Christ and to let go of your frustration and guilt of failing as Christians despite your good intentions.
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