The Book of Galatians
James J. Barker
CURSED BY THE LAW AND SAVED BY
- Many people
think they can be saved by keeping the law. For example, the Seventh-Day Adventists
teach salvation by a mixture of law and grace.
- The SDA put out a
deceptively titled publication, Saved By Grace. In this tract, it says, "Christ says
to every man in this world what He said to the rich young ruler: If thou wilt
enter into life, keep the commandments, Matthew 19:17. In other words, the
standard for admission into heaven is a character built according to the ten
specifications, or commandments, of God's Law" (Charles T. Everson, Saved
- Does the Lord say to
every man in this world what He said to the rich young ruler, "If thou wilt
enter into life, keep the commandments?"
- Our Lord did not say that
to Nicodemus. Or to the woman at
- Our Lord was
not telling the rich young ruler that he needed to keep the law in
order to be saved.
Our Lord used the law
to show him that he needed to be saved.
- The law is like a mirror; it cannot save us (cf. James
1:22-25). The law reveals to us our need to be saved.
- Our Lord was testing the rich young ruler. He
was using the law to produce conviction of sin in the man’s heart. This
is the purpose of the law. The law convicts; the Gospel
- The rich young ruler was under the delusion that he
could get to heaven by keeping the law. Therefore, our Lord used the law
to show him how lost he really was.
- The man thought that he had kept the law perfectly
(Matthew 19:20). This proves he knew very little about the law (cf. Gal.
- "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and
yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
- Spurgeon said “the rugged way of works was set before
him; not that he might attempt to win eternal life thereby, but that he might
perceive his own shortcomings, and so feel his weakness as to look for
salvation by some other method.”
- On the other hand, there
is another extreme to be avoided. Many churches minimize the law and ignore
the law. This is also unscriptural. Consider these
- "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the
prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Matt. 5:17).
- "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy,
and just, and good" (Romans 7:12).
- "But we know that the law is good, if a man use it
lawfully" (I Timothy 1:8).
- "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16).
- From these (and many others) Scriptures we see that
it is wrong for Christians to minimize or ignore the
- Then, on the other hand, there are some others who
mix the law with grace. This too is wrong. Consider these
- "Therefore we conclude that
a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans
- "And if by grace, then is
it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works,
then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work" (Romans 11:6).
- "For by grace are ye saved
through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works,
lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
- Those who teach that it is not necessary for
Christians to preach the law or to obey the moral law of the OT are guilty of
antinomianism. This word comes from two Greek words, anti (against) and
nomos (law). Those who teach
that Christians are under the law are guilty of legalism. Paul’s epistle to the
Galatians was written to refute this false doctrine. As I have stated, the theme
is "the vindication of the Gospel of the grace of God" (Scofield Bible).
- Tonight, as we continue in our study of this great
epistle we will see that a man who attempts to please God by keeping the law is
cursed by the law.
THE LAW CANNOT SAVE SINNERS; THE LAW CAN ONLY CURSE
SINNERS (GAL. 3:10).
- Notice that the
Bible does not say, "For as many as have broken the law are under the
curse…" but rather, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under
the curse" (3:10).
- In other words,
all who seek to obtain favor with God on the basis of obeying the law are under
the curse of God, i.e. they are condemned to death.
- As most of you
realize, this is the exact opposite of what the world believes. Any time a
celebrity dies – it doesn’t matter if he or she was an immoral movie star, or a
perverted rock and roll singer, or a corrupt politician, the world says: "Oh, he
is in heaven now!"
- Why do they say
this? Because they say his good deeds supposedly outweighed his bad deeds.
- But what does the Bible have to say about this?
- "He that believeth on him is not condemned:
but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in
the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).
- Nothing about
good works. If you believe in
Jesus you are not condemned. If you
do not believe, you are condemned already.
- The world hates
this. Paul refers to this in
Galatians 5:11 as "the offence of the cross."
- John 3:36 says,
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and
he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth
John 5:12 says, "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the
Son of God hath not life."
- In Galatians 3:10, the apostle Paul is quoting Deut.
27:26. Both the Old and New Testament teach that "Cursed is every one that
continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to
- It is not enough to keep the law for a day or a month or
a year – the Word of God says "continueth."
- Can anyone do this? The children of Israel agreed to do
it (cf. Ex. 24:3, 7, 8). But they failed to keep God’s law; they disobeyed God
willfully, continuously, and shamelessly (cf. James
- It is not enough to keep most of the law. Notice the
words "in all things" (Gal. 3:10). The law demands complete
- You can live in Queens County or Nassau County (New
York) for 50 years and never break a law. But do not expect the mayor or some
other official to present you with an award. But if you get caught one time
driving over the speed limit or driving without a seat belt, brother you are a
law-breaker and will get a ticket.
- Why is that? Because the law only penalizes
law-breakers, it does not reward those who keep the
- Harry Ironside used to use this illustration: a man fell
off a cliff and as he was going over he grabbed onto a chain that was fastened
to a tree stump. The chain had ten links. Ironside asked this question: how many
links would have to break before the man would fall into the abyss below?
- The obvious answer is one. The law is like that chain.
To unsaved person: the law is like that chain. You have broken God’s law and the
Bible says, "The soul that sinneth it shall die" (Ezek. 18:20), and "The wages
of sin is death" (Rom. 3:23).
- So you are falling off the cliff and unless you repent
you will fall right into that horrible pit the Bible calls
- No one can keep the Ten Commandments. And even if one
could, that still wouldn’t be enough, because there are over 600 laws in the
five books of Moses and all of them would have to be
- With the exception of true Bible Christianity, all
religions are based upon works – Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, all of the
cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, etc.
THE LAW CANNOT JUSTIFY SINNERS; WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY
FAITH (GAL. 3:11, 12).
- Paul has
already established that the law cannot save sinners. It curses
- Next, he
repeats what he already explained in chapter 2, that we are not justified by
works, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (3:11; cf.
is that act of God whereby He declares righteous all who believe in the Lord
Jesus Christ. Note that we are declared righteous the moment we believe
- We are not
made righteous. Justification should not be confused with
- Once again,
Paul goes to the OT to strengthen his argument (3:11; cf. Hab. 2:4). Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in
the NT (cf. Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:38).
- "And the law is
not of faith…" (Gal. 3:12). The law does not ask men to believe. It does not
even ask men to try and keep the Ten Commandments. The law calls for strict,
complete, and perfect obedience.
- "Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine
ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.
Ye shall therefore keep
my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am
the LORD" (Lev. 18:4, 5).
- "The law is not
of faith…" (Gal. 3:12) – they are contrary principles. The law says: "Do and
thou shall live." Faith says: "Believe and thou shall
- This is Paul’s
argument: The just shall live by faith. Therefore, the man or woman who tries to
please God by keeping the law is not living by faith. Therefore, he or she is
not just as far as God is concerned. Men may hold certain people in high
esteem (e.g. religious leaders like the pope), but God says if they are not
living by faith, they are lost.
- Before moving on to my final point, let me reiterate an
important point: the purpose of the law is to show a sinner what a guilty wicked
sinner he is (Rom. 3:20; 7:7-10). The law condemns. It never saves; it never
- The law is like a mirror that shows us our true lost
condition. Religious people who attempt to please God by keeping the law are
guilty of "frustrating the grace of God" (Gal. 2:21). And if sinners could be
saved by obeying the law, "then Christ is dead in vain" (Gal.
- God did not give the law to save men. God gave the law
to test men and to reveal man’s true condition before a holy
THE CURSE OF THE LAW FELL UPON THE LORD JESUS
CHRIST; THEREFORE HE HAS REDEEMED US FROM IT (GAL.
- To redeem means
to buy back, or to deliver by paying the price. The curse of the law is death.
In other words, the penalty for breaking its commandments is death (Gal.
- Since we are
all hopeless and helpless law-breakers, our prospects would not be very good.
But thank God, the Lord Jesus Christ has delivered us from paying the penalty of
death demanded by the law (3:13).
- He paid the
awful penalty by dying in our place as our substitute. He redeemed us by
shedding His blood and dying on the cross for our sins.
- Beloved, the
dreadful curse of God literally fell upon Him (cf. 3:13; cf. II Cor. 5:21; Isa.
- Apart from the
substitutionary death of Christ on the cross for the sins of fallen mankind,
there could be no forgiveness of sin and no salvation.
- The law taught
that when condemned criminals were hung on a tree, it was a sign of their being
under the curse of God (cf. Deut. 21:23).
- What makes this
Scripture particularly interesting is that the Israelites did not hang people on
a tree as a method of public execution – they stoned people to
- However, when a
reprehensible crime had been committed, the criminal would be stoned to death
and then his body would be strung up on a tree as a public spectacle, as an
example. But it was not to be left there overnight. Otherwise, the land would be
defiled (Deut. 21:23).
- The curse of
the law was real. It took our Lord to the cross. The inflexibility of the law’s
demands is clearly seen in the fact that when Christ took the place of the
law-breaker, He had to endure exactly the same penalty as the most wicked of
- And the fact that our Lord died by being nailed to a
cross underscores the curse of the law.
- Crucifixion was
regarded by the Romans as too shameful and disgraceful for a Roman
- Cicero, the
famous Roman statesman and writer, who was born 100 years before Christ, wrote
these words: "The very name should be excluded from the thoughts, eyes, and ears
of a Roman citizen. It is a crime to bind a Roman citizen, but what shall I say
about lifting him on a cross? No word can adequately describe such a nefarious
- And no words
can adequately describe what our Lord went through when He died on the cross for
the sins of the whole world!
- How then can
anyone imagine that he can please God by keeping the