Blessed by Faith or Cursed by Law (Galatians Sermon 7 of 26)
December 15, 2013 | Andrew Davis
Faith, Adoption, Purpose of the Law, Blessing of Abraham
Turn in your Bibles to Galatians 3:6-14. You just heard Rick read it very beautifully for us. As we come to this incredible passage of Scripture, my mind goes to an Old Testament passage. This text is rich with Old Testament quotations, one after the other, and Paul is meditating on these. I'm brought to Isaiah 55:8-9, which says there, "My thoughts," this is the Lord speaking to the human race, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, says the Lord. As the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts."
Why do I begin there? Because as I look at the text today, the text testifies that everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ, is mysteriously a child of Abraham. And what I want you to do, is to see in the text, (and understand the significance of it), to help you to see that God willed, in a very mysterious way, a single individual living 4,000 years ago to be the father of our faith. He was living in Ur of the Chaldees at that point, and God called him to leave his country, his homeland, and begin a life of faith, of journeying in faith. And that this man, Abraham, is our father in faith. I want you to understand the significance of that, and that if you are not a child of Abraham, you will get nothing of his inheritance, which is everything in the world. And so it's incredibly beneficial to be an honorary Jew, and that's what we Gentile believers in Christ are. We have been adopted as sons and daughters of Abraham.
Now, about nine years ago, I was on route to a ministry opportunity in Romania, and I was at an airport in Italy, and I saw a group of a certain sect of Jews walking through the airport. And I don't know what it is, I hadn't seen that type of attire in America before. Maybe if I went to certain larger cities I would. But this was a sect of Judaism that took very seriously some aspects of the law of Moses. And they had black hats, and they had long beards, and they had the ear-locks, and they had the flowing robes. And right around that time, I was thinking about, and memorizing, and working on Romans 9-11. And there in Romans 11, it talks about how God has established this incredible olive tree with this root system, and the root system were the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And that I, as a believer in Jesus Christ, am like a wild olive shoot, and I've been grafted into this Jewish tree, and I've got Jewish sap flowing through me now, through that root system. And I thought, I toyed with the idea of going up to these, I don't know, Italian Jews, or something like that, and saying, "I just want you to know that I'm an honorary Jew." And to see how that conversation would go. I think if you went up to an average person in America, who wasn't biblically literate, and said, "You can be an honorary Jew," they would say, "Why in the world would I want to do that?"
And so we would either be rejected by the Orthodox Jews, especially after the events of the 20th century, and the horrors of the Holocaust, rejected. The whole concept rejected out of hand by them. Or from the average non-biblically literate citizen of the US, we would receive a yawn and a question, "What difference would that make? What do I get for being an honorary Jew?" And so my desire today, is to try to make that clear through Galatians 3:6-14. As we come into this incredible plan of God, a plan that no human being could ever have concocted, no human could ever have crafted this, I think about that passage in Isaiah 55, God's ways are not our ways, as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are His ways soaring above us.
I. The Eternity and Unity of God’s Salvation Plan
We come into the incredible plan of God here, and looking down the corridors of time, the eternity, and the unity of God's salvation plan floats to the top here for me. The eternity of it, the fact that this is a salvation plan that was crafted in the mind of God before the world began. It's an eternal plan, it's right on schedule. God knew exactly what He was doing when He crafted this plan. Many passages teach the eternality of God's salvation plan. First Corinthians 2:7 says, "We speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began." The hidden wisdom of God, the secret wisdom of God, and God destined it for your glory and mine before time began. In 2 Timothy 1:9-10, speaking of how God has saved us, and called us to a holy life, not because of anything we have done, but because of His own purpose and grace. "This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. But it is now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus." So, if you're elect, if you're one of the children of God, God gave you grace. In His mind, He gave you grace in Christ Jesus before the world began.
Titus 1:2 speaks of a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. Ephesians 1 says that, "God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ." And then Peter speaks of the same thing, focusing on the death of Christ, on the death of Jesus in our place. 1 Peter 1 speaks of the, "Precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He, [Jesus], Was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last time for your sake." So God had all of this worked out before the creation of the world. As history began, He started to unfold His plan. He knew exactly what was going to happen. The eternality of the plan of God is on my mind here, but also the unity of the plan of God. God has willed to save sinners from all over the world, from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, to save sinners out of their nations the same way. Everybody gets saved the same way. Isn't that incredible?
And that He's been working this out from 4,000 years ago. Even before that, by faith in the promise of God, that ultimately is Jesus Christ, sinners are justified. So that means that every Old Testament saint was saved the same way as every New Testament saint, and everyone that's ever been saved from sin. We've all been saved the same way. Hebrews 11, that faith chapter, traces all this out, beginning with Abel and the sacrifice that he offered, right on through, through Enoch's walking with God, through Noah's building the ark, all the way through. And the message, the unified message of Hebrews 11, is that all of those people were justified by faith, apart from works of the law. Same message that we have here in Galatians.
Romans Chapter 4 teaches that both Abraham and David, and therefore, all Old Testament saints, were justified by faith in the promised Christ. Basically, Old Testament saints looked ahead, based on the Word of God, looked ahead to a Christ who hadn't even been born yet, the same way we look back to a Christ who's already ascended to Heaven. And neither they nor we can see Him with our own eyes, we're justified the exact same way. So we have the eternality and the unity of the plan of God. Now, the Apostle Paul is giving here a powerful answer to the false teachers that were troubling the Gentile Christians in Galatian churches. He's giving a powerful answer to the Judaizers. These were Jewish people who would come in after Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches in Asia Minor, and they'd preach the pure Gospel, Paul and Barnabas did, they established healthy churches, and then they left.
And then in come these Judaizers, these false teachers, who were trying to blend the work of Christ with the law of Moses, and said, "This is the recipe for human salvation, the work of Christ on the cross plus your obedience to the law of Moses. If you do these two things, you will be saved." And no doubt, these Judaizers were very intimidating to Gentile Christians. They came with a raft of Old Testament Scriptures. They came with clear precepts, line upon line from the laws of Moses. And these neophytes, these Gentiles who had very little knowledge of the Jewish religion, had no ability to refute them, they could not answer them. They were helpless, and they needed a defender, they needed a champion, and that was the Apostle Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.
And he steps in, it's left to a Jew. Paul is a Jew, and he's able to marshal, as he does here beautifully in this section that you heard Rick read for us, one Old Testament Scripture after another to prove his basic point, sinners are justified by faith alone, and not by works of the law. And that's what he's trying to prove. The Judaizers were intimidating people, who are misusing these Old Testament Scriptures. Paul knew them better than they did. He knew the scriptures and he said, "You're just not looking closely enough." And so he taught plainly from the Old Testament, justification by faith alone. And this is incredible encouragement to us, who read centuries later about all of this.
We come to the Book of Galatians, and we as believers in Christ, can be assured and encouraged about our salvation. And we can know that our sins are truly forgiven, not by our works, but simply by faith in Christ. And we are free from condemnation by the law. We are free from all fear of condemnation, we are done with that, because Christ has become a curse for us. And we are, in some mysterious way, adopted sons and daughters of Abraham, and we stand to inherit what Abraham stood to inherit. And we will sit at table someday in the Kingdom, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because of the work of Jesus Christ. Now, we have to prove all of this from Scripture, these assertions. We have to make it clear, and so Paul's going to give positive and negative proof from the Old Testament Scriptures, that these things are so.
Now, he has already, in Galatians 3:1-5, appealed to their experience, the Galatians' experience with the Gospel. You remember, we talked about that last time? Look again in Verses 1-5, Galatians 3:1-5, he says there, "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before your very eyes? Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you. Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to be perfected by human effort, by the flesh? Have you suffered so much for nothing, if it really was for nothing? Does God give you His Spirit, and work miracles among you, because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" And so he's going back to their experience, "You remember how it was when I came to your town, and I preached Christ crucified, and as you heard, you didn't do anything? You didn't go out and obey anything. You just heard, believed, and the Holy Spirit was poured out on you, you remember?"
"Remember how it was when the Spirit flooded into your lives, and you were filled with joy, and filled with confidence, and assurance that your sins were forgiven, and you began to live the Spirit-filled life? You were filled with all of that. Do you remember how it was?" So he's going back to their experience. Now, he's going to say, "How it was for you, that's the way it has always been. Back to the time of Abraham, that's how sinners have always been made right with God." So he's going to give positive evidence from the case of Abraham, and from that, based on how was Abraham justified, he's going to draw a powerful implication, "You, believers in Christ, are children of Abraham." And then he's going to go negative on them the rest of the verse, from Verse 10-14. He's going to talk about what the law cannot do, "It cannot justify, the law can only curse you." And so he's going to show that the law only brings curses, but that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, and so therefore, the implication is you can be free from all curses by faith in Christ, so that's where we're going.
II. Positive Old Testament Proof: Abraham Justified by Faith
Let's look first at the positive Old Testament proof, Abraham was justified by faith. Verses 6-9. Look at Verse 6 right away, "Consider Abraham, he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness." This is the centerpiece of Paul's argument here. He's going to bring in as witness number one, as central evidence, this man Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation. This is brilliant strategy by the Apostle Paul, isn't it? Here are these Judaizers, they're trying to pull rank on these poor Gentile converts, and Paul pulls rank on them, "So let's look at the case of Abraham. You remember Abraham, don't you? Father of the nation. Let's try to find out what he discovered concerning justification." It's just really brilliant here. The Judaizers claim to have all the history, and the logic, and the law on their side, and Paul trumps them all by reaching for Abraham. And so he raises up Abraham as an example, and the awesome assertion he makes here, is that Abraham was justified by faith, and not by works of the law. This is proof.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles, on the Galatians, that was proof of their experience, but it goes even deeper than that. Abraham, centuries before that, was justified the exact same way. The verse begins, in verse 6, ESV has it a little clearer, "Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited, or counted to him as righteousness." In other words, verses 1-5, what you guys experienced, what happened to you, hearing with faith, God forgiving, God blessing, that exact same thing happened in Abraham's life. "Just as," that's how the verse begins, "Just as Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now, this is an incredibly important statement, "Abraham believed God." Now, look at it carefully, it does not say he believed in God, okay? It's true he believed in God, but even the demons believe that there is a God and they shudder. It's a different thing, a higher thing, to believe God. Believe what? Believe what God has spoken, believe the promise. "I believe God when he says this to me." You see what I'm saying?
Now, you have to believe in God to believe God, and so he believed what God had spoken to him, he believed the promise that he had made, he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Now, what does that mean? The words 'credited' are very important for our faith. We believe that righteousness was credited to Abraham's account. He was seen to be, on the basis of faith, righteous in the sight of God. You can't put a price on the value of that. If you are not that righteous, if you are not perfectly righteous, you cannot be with God. It says in Habakkuk Chapter 1:13, [God's] "eyes are too pure to look on evil. He cannot tolerate wrong." If you are not perfectly righteous, you cannot be with God. Perfect righteousness is required, but this is what this statement is saying, that perfect righteousness was credited to Abraham's account on the basis of his faith.
Now, how many of you, I don't want you to raise your hands, but how many of you have anonymous numbered accounts in Swiss banks? I know you're saying, you're saying, "If I had one, I wouldn't be raising my hand here and I have it for that very reason." I don't know that much about them, except for movies that I watch, where millions of dollars get wired to the account, and they find out that the money's there, and then something happens in the movie. Do you realize what kind of righteousness was wired to your account when you believed in Jesus? It's absolutely limitless, perfect righteousness credited to you the moment you trusted in Jesus, and that's what needed to happen, because without perfect righteousness, you can't go to Heaven. And so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned, or credited to him as righteousness. Not only did this happen for him, but he became a paradigm, an example for everyone that would follow. It's the same for everyone.
Now, God's purpose, God's saving purpose was for all nations. From the very beginning, he intended to save all nations. Amazingly, he intended to save all nations through this man Abraham. Now, who was Abraham? Abraham was, by some accounts, it seems, a moon-worshipping pagan living in Ur of the Chaldeans, where we would call Babylon, in that area. And at some point in his life, he heard God speak to him. God called him out of the darkness of paganism and he gave him this statement. He says, and this is Genesis 12:1-3, God said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people, and your father's household, and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse, [Listen] and all peoples on Earth will be blessed through you."
That is staggeringly important. All peoples on Earth, every single people group, every single nation on the face of the Earth, blessed through this man, Abraham. That was God's intention from the very beginning. God was intending to save the nations, to save people, to save Gentiles. Is that relevant to the Galatians? Yes, they're Gentiles. And God was intending to save the Gentiles, the Galatians through Abraham. And so he makes it plain. Look at verse 8 in our text, "The Scripture foresaw... " Interesting expression there. "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announce the Gospel in advance to Abraham. All nations will be blessed through you." He's quoting that Genesis 12:3. God intended to save people from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, through this one nation, the Jews, through this one man, Abraham. And Paul personifies Scripture.
I find that amazing, the Genesis account, "The Scripture foresaw." Isn't that interesting expression? It's like the Scripture could know something in advance. But I think we really know that it's God who is doing the foreseeing. And that God knew, that one day, He would be justifying Gentiles through Abraham. And He announced it in the Scripture, made it plain. I think that's what's going on there. And so notice, he also says, "He announced the Scripture," announced the Gospel in advance to Abraham. Again, the unity of the work of God. It is always only been one message that saves. It's the Gospel that was announced, "All peoples on Earth will be blessed through you." It was the Gospel, and so this saving message came through.
Now, that was just the beginning of Abraham's life of faith. I don't know how God communicated to Abraham. I don't know if it was a still small voice, or an audible voice, or what happened. But I know he heard Him and he began to orient his life that way. And it's hard to trace out exactly what happened from the first calling, and the events of his life. But in due time, at the proper time, he moved to the Promised Land. He went to the land that God showed him and he began to travel in that land as a stranger in a foreign country. He lived in tents and he was not able to settle down there. The land wasn't his yet, and so he was traveling as a stranger in a foreign country. But he was hearing God speaking to him and he was worshipping God.
And he was setting up altars in the Promised Land, and calling on the name of the Lord. And it says that, "Abraham was called God's friend and he had a relationship with Him." And so by faith, he's developing his love relationship with God. At a certain time, he and his nephew Lot, their herdsmen quarreled, and there wasn't enough land for their sheep, and all that. And so they separated, and Lot went down to Sodom and Gomorrah, where he was. And God walked through the land with Abraham, and He said, "Look at this land. Look at the length and the width of it. Look at it. I'm going to give this land to you and to your offspring forever." And so Abraham heard Him say that, and he believed that.
But then came beautifully, Genesis 15, one of the great chapters in the Bible. I've been thinking about Genesis 15 for years. I'll never stop thinking about it. And it's in my mind, as I began this sermon. When it says, "As the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways." That's about what God said to Abraham that night. Abraham decided not to take any of the plunder from the battle with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, and he said, "I don't want any of their filthy money." And then God appeared to Abraham, and said, "Fear not, Abraham. I am your shield and I am your very great reward." I'm what you get. And he said, "Well, if we could have a conversation here. How can you give me anything, because I don't have an heir? And this guy Eliezer of Damascus is my heir. What are we going to do about that? You said, 'I'm going to be the father of many nations.' I'm not seeing that right now. Eliezer's a great guy, alright. I'm sure he'll be excited to get whatever it is I have to give him, but what's happening?"
And God said, "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." And then I don't know if he said, "Come on out and look at the stars," but that's what happened. Imagine him going out of his tent and just looking up at the stars. And as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, there is God in all of His immensity, and it's one of those beautiful starry nights. It must have been, maybe low humidity in a desert area and you can see a lot of stars. "Count them if you can, Abraham. So shall your offspring be." It's a promise. "You're going to have that many offspring. You're going to have that many descendants, like the stars in the night sky." Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited him as righteousness. Now, I actually don't think that's the first time he believed him, but that was a key moment in his relationship and a paradigm example.
The promise spoken, he heard, he believed that it's true. And he was justified on that basis. Isn't it amazing that one of those stars, one of those descendants would be Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of man, who would die on the cross for our sins, for Abraham's sins, Isaac's and Jacob's sins, and give us eternal life? But then God reiterated the promise concerning the land, "And by the way, I'm going to give you that land. I already told you. I haven't changed my mind." He says, "Well, how do I know that I'm going to get it? I'm still a stranger. I'm living in a tent. How do I know?" And that's when they had that awesome covenant cutting ceremony, where he laid out some animal pieces in a path, and a dreadful darkness came over Abraham, and God reiterated the promise, and was very clear, four centuries, that his people would be strangers in a country not their own. They'd be enslaved and mistreated, but God would punish that nation, He'd bring them out with great power, and they would inherit that land. And then a torch, and a fire pot came representing God, and he passed through the pieces, and the covenant cutting ceremony was sealed. In effect, God said, "May I cease to exist, may I be exploded like these animals, if I don't keep my promise to you."
He swore by Himself, He would do it. And Abraham believed all of that, descendants like the stars in the sky, and the land that would be his forever, his and his descendants. That's the faith of Abraham. Now, sometime later, in Genesis 17, God gave him the gift of circumcision. In Genesis 17:4, "Behold my covenant is with you and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations." Very important statement. Thus Abraham was justified as an uncircumcised Gentile, that's the whole key. And Paul makes that point in Romans 4:9-11. He speaks of the blessedness of the Gospel, the blessedness of full forgiveness of sins. And he says, "Is this blessedness only for the circumcised or also for the uncircumcised?" Well, we have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised or before?
I'm pausing for dramatic effect.
Okay, I'm putting a big gap as we're waiting for the answer. Well, when was it? It was before he was circumcised. Ta-da! That's the whole point. He was an uncircumcised Gentile when he received the blessing of justification. It was not after, but before, and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith, while he was still uncircumcised. Judaizers, leave town, you're finished, because Abraham is the paradigm example of an uncircumcised Gentile, who received all of these blessings simply by faith. So where do we fit in? Well, true Jews, true Jews are of the same faith of Abraham, and so is anyone who is of the same faith as Abraham. We are also considered to be, reckoned to be, sons and daughters of Abraham.
Now, the Jews prided themselves in their genealogical descent from Abraham. They were children of Abraham and they talked about it a lot. After the exile to Babylon, when they came back, they were big into genealogies. And you had to prove from your genealogy that you were in the priesthood, you had to prove from your genealogy that you were even a Jew. And if you were of a mongrel race, they didn't want you. They were very zealous about being Jews and the genealogy is very important to them. And so in Jesus' day, when He came, Jesus faced His Jewish enemies who wanted to kill him, they hated Him. And Jesus said, "You are doing the things your own father does," meaning the devil. And they said, "Abraham is our father." Hmm. Jesus answered, "If you were Abraham's children, then you would do the things Abraham did." In other words, just because you are genealogically connected to Abraham, doesn't mean you're actually a son or daughter of Abraham. And so Paul makes this exact same point in Romans 2:28-29, "A man is not a Jew, if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward in physical. No, a man is a Jew, if he is one inwardly. And circumcision is circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, not by the law. Such a man's praise does not come from men, but from God."
In other words, you want to know who the Jews are? Believers in Jesus. Whether they've been circumcised or uncircumcised is immaterial. It doesn't matter at all. What matters is, do you have the same faith as Abraham? And so he says, "Abraham's the father of all who believe, both Jew and Gentile." Romans 4:11 and 12, "So then Abraham is the father of all who believe, but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them." And listen to this, Romans 4:12, "He is the father of the circumcised, who not only are circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had, while he was still uncircumcised." Walking in the footsteps of faith after Abraham, that's how you can know whether you're a child of Abraham or not. Look at our text, look at Verse 7, "Understand then, that those who believe are children of Abraham." And again, Verse 9, "So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham."
III. The Implication: You Can Be a Child of Abraham!
This is the incredible implication of our text today. You can be a Jew. You can be a son or daughter of Abraham. Every single person in this room can be a son or daughter of Abraham, Caucasian-Americans and African-Americans alike can be sons and daughters of Abraham. Asian people, European, Latinos can be sons and daughters of Abraham. Men and women, boys and girls can be sons and daughters of Abraham. Wealthy German businessmen can be sons and daughters of Abraham. Frail, elderly women in nursing homes can be daughters of Abraham. Redneck Nazi skinheads, who have spent years shouting anti-Semitic threats, can be converted and become Jews. It's incredible. This is what it's teaching here. Anyone can be a child of Abraham, by faith in Jesus Christ. And what's required, is not obedience to the laws of Moses. What's required is faith in Jesus Christ. Now, many people would just respond with a yawn to that. Can I just deal with that right now? Let's put it this way. It says very plainly in Romans 4:12 that God has made Abraham heir of the world. Can I speak quite plainly to you? If you're not named in his will, you get nothing.
If you're not named in Abraham's will, you get nothing. He gets it all. Now, you may think, "That's not fair." Take it up with God. God chose Abraham and chose to save the world through Abraham. And if you are a son or daughter of Abraham, you are heir of the world too, and you'll get a piece of the new Heaven, and the new Earth that's coming. By the way, that term "heir of the world" is not found, as far as I can tell, in the Old Testament. He was heir of the Promised Land. It's Romans that says, "Heir of the world." My feeling is, if God gives him that patch of ground and more, he has not violated His promise. He can be generous. If God doesn't give him that patch of ground, He has broken His promise. He's going to give him that plus everything. He is heir of the world. So it is not a yawning matter to be a son or daughter of Abraham. If you're not, you get nothing, but if you are a son or daughter of Abraham, you get everything. You get named in the will, along with Abraham, and so you get the inheritance. You get God as your reward.
You get to have Him in Heaven forever and forever. As He said to Abraham, "I am your shield and your very great reward," and you get to be an heir of the world. Alright, that's positive.
IV. Negative Old Testament Proof: Curses from the Law
What about the negative proof in the Old Testament? Look at Verses 10-14, "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.' Now, clearly, no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith. The law is not based on faith. On the contrary, the man who does these things will 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 hung on a tree." "He redeemed us," Verse 14, "In order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith, we might receive the promise of the Spirit." Now, we've been talking about all the blessings, blessings flowing to us through Abraham.
We can get Abraham's blessings. Well, the Old Testament also speaks of curses, blessings and curses. The law is filled with blessings and curses. Yes, there's a bunch of blessings, but there's even a longer section dealing with curses. And to rely on obeying the law, is to live under a curse, according to Paul. In Deuteronomy 28, it lists blessings for complete obedience, but also curses for disobedience. Listen to Deuteronomy 28:15-19, "However, if you do not obey the Lord, your God, and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you, and overtake you. You'll be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed. The crops of your land will be cursed. The calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks will be cursed. You'll be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. You'll be cursed in the morning and cursed in the evening."
All of these things, the flowing of curses come on those who do not perfectly keep the law. But all of those are a pale shadow of the real curse. And the real curse doesn't happen here on Earth. The real curse is reflected for us in Matthew 25:41, When the judge of all the Earth will say to those on His left, the goats, the unbelievers, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." That's the curse that Paul has in mind here, eternity in hell. Now, the specific curse falls on anyone who fails to obey everything in the law all the time. Look at Verse 10, "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.' "
So here it is, I'll say it in two words. All the law, all the time. Anything short of that, you're condemned to hell. All the law, all the time. It says plainly in James 2:10, "Whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles at just one point, is guilty of breaking all of it." And the law has no provision for covering of sin. All it does is turn on you at that point, accuse you and condemn you. That's all the law can do, it cannot save you. And so as Peter said, It's a yoke, a crushing yoke that neither we, nor our fathers were able to bear. Take a single aspect of it, "You shall not covet.” You shall not set your heart on anything that doesn't belong to you and desire it. Can you keep that law? Can you keep it for a day? Even if you could keep it for a day, it's only part of the law. And could you keep it the rest of your life? And the problem is, you've already broken it, so what are you going to do? By the time you hear about this, you're already a transgressor, you have no hope of salvation by the law, you're under a curse, if you rely on that to save you.
The obvious conclusion is justification cannot be by the law. Verse 11, "Clearly, no one is justified before God by the law. On the contrary, the righteous will live by faith." Isn't that sweet, how Paul can't stay negative for very long? Curse, curse, curse, it's like, "Oh, just cling to this, the righteous will live by faith. Live by faith." Therefore, we have here, in Verses 11 and 12, two ways to live, "The righteous can live by faith," or Verse 12, "On the contrary, the man who does these things will live by them." So you have two ways to live, by faith, by grace, by the Spirit, by the blood of Jesus, or by law, by self-effort, self-righteousness, whatever's good in your own sight, two different ways to live. And one of them leads to life, and one of them leads to death.
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law," [it says], "By becoming a curse for us." What does that mean? He stood in our place, in our place, He became a curse. Notice that word, "He became a curse." What's so significant of that is, just as Christ became a curse, we can become righteous, actually righteous. Jesus was actually cursed for us. How was that? Well, He died on the cross, on a tree. And the Scripture says very plainly, "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." Do you think that Saul of Tarsus was troubled by that verse when he's trying to consider the Messiahship, the Messianic credentials of Jesus? "How could it be? It doesn't make any sense. The Messiah, Son of David, hanging on a Roman cross, His blood shed. How could it be, that this one clearly cursed by God, could be the same one who spoke to me on the road to Damascus?"
I picture this, Paul puzzling it through, blinded by that light, waiting for Ananias to come lay hands on him, waiting to get baptized, praying, saying, "God, answer this for me. I don't understand. Jesus was cursed, right?" "Yes." "He was hung on a tree?" "Yes." "He's cursed, and yet, clearly, He is the Son of God, glorious, radiant, resurrected. How?" He became a curse for me. I deserve to die. He took my place. He's a substitute for me. He became a curse, so I am now free. I'm redeemed from the curse of the law, because Christ became a curse for me.
V. The Implication: You Can Be Blessed, Not Cursed!
And the implication, you also, therefore, as a son or daughter of Abraham, can be blessed and not cursed. Verse 14, "He redeemed us, in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith, we might receive the promise of the Spirit." Now, we're going to talk more about the spiritual life in weeks to come, God willing, but this promise of the Spirit, the very way we began Chapter 3, "The Spirit poured out on us, who are sons and daughters, not just of Abraham, but of Almighty God,"
What application can we take from this? Well, a number of things. First and foremost, I want you to look back at the eternality and unity of God's saving plan, and rejoice in it. God didn't throw this saving plan together at the last minute. He's been planning to save you before the world began. Secondly, see the immeasurable value of being a child of Abraham. He is heir of the world, if you are named in his will, you get everything. You get to be an heir of the new Heaven and new Earth. Have you been grafted into that Jewish olive tree and are you now receiving life-giving sap through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
Thirdly, understand that this blessing only comes to those who have faith like Abraham. Only to those who have faith like Abraham, those are the only true sons and daughters of Abraham. Fourth, understand that this faith is plainly faith in Christ Jesus. Can I make an appeal to you? Trust in Christ. You've come in here today, you're hearing the Gospel, you may never hear it this plainly again. I'm pleading with you, believe in Jesus now, for the forgiveness of your sins.
And now, if I can ask all of you, evaluate your lives now. Are you walking in the footsteps of the faith that Abraham had? John Piper uses an illustration here, and I want to close with this illustration, of an orchestra hall, and the music of the symphony is the Glory of God. And everybody here knows that faith is the pre-condition for entering that hall, and enjoying the music, but some people, we fear, look on saving faith like a ticket to enter the orchestra hall, and listen to the music someday, and if you've got that ticket, you've trusted in Jesus, you can stick that ticket in your pocket, and live however you want, and when the time comes, you can hand over that ticket, and enter the orchestra's hall, and listen to the music, which is the Glory of God. That is a faulty view of saving faith. Instead, saving faith is like an ear for the music, that you're given as a gift. It's not a ticket to get in. It's an ear for the music that you start to hear in your life and you start to love that music.
And you love the music of the Glory of God, and you start to order your life, so you can hear more and more of it, and someday, you get to hear it completely with clear ears, forever and ever. Are you walking in the footsteps of the faith, that our father Abraham had, the Glory of God, fellowship with God, yearning for the things of God? Rejoice and be glad, if that's true of you, because you also, like Abraham, are an heir of the world. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the deep, rich, full truths in Galatians 3:6-14, more than we can fathom in 20 sermons or more. And Father, I thank you that we have become adopted sons and daughters of Abraham, and stand to receive, with Abraham, the inheritance of eternity with God, and citizenship in the New Jerusalem, and a piece of the new Heaven, and new Earth. I pray that you would draw to faith any who hear this message, that they would trust and walk in the footsteps of the faith, that our father Abraham had, while he was still uncircumcised. In Jesus' name, Amen.