The law is might be the most misunderstood part of God’s word. What is its purpose? Did God change the purpose of His law? Can the law bring about salvation? Can the law condemn us to death? Did God make a mistake with His law? Does His law contain His eternal truths? We will try to answer some of these questions and more when we attempt to uncover what Paul is trying to tell us in Galatians 3:10-14 (Part 3). This blog is about His law, but this led to a comparison of faith leading to obedience of His law, as opposed to using the law as a measurement for salvation. Two very different scenarios.
Applying the law without faith, with men supervising us because we want salvation, Paul calls ‘works of law.’ Applying the law because we accept God’s instructions according to our own individual understanding of His perfect will because we know God’s word is true, this is faith. It is important for us to understand the antithesis of us applying the law without faith, is not that we do not apply the law at all, but we apply the law with faith according to our own individual understanding of His word. The decision to not practice the law at all would be the same as us walking willfully in sin, which Paul calls the wages of death (Romans 6:23). Therefore, I will use this time to re-state our original problem.
The original problem is we are quick to understand the picture of His grace, as a gift to those of faith. We are not so quick in understanding the picture of faith that must lead us to us applying His law, in our own understanding of His perfect will, as the prerequisite to us receiving His gift of grace. The Bible does not paint for us a picture of grace that equals salvation. The Bible paints for us a picture of grace given to those who are of a certain required picture of faith that equals salvation. Many of the stories in the Bible lead to either a picture of His love, mercy, or grace, or a picture of how our faith should or should not look. Therefore, our analysis of His word will usually contain both.
3:10: For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.’
The central theme for (Part 3) is the curse of the law. Paul could have said we are all cursed and destined to die, except for the grace of God. “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, to perform them.” This statement begs the question why would we die for breaking the law if we never agreed to keep the law in the first place? The answer to this question lies in us understanding God’s first judgment on the world, the flood. In Genesis 6:5-7, we are told: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’” The entire world would die because of the self-centered evil ways guided by their sinful flesh, except Noah. Romans 2:12, tells us: “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law.…” Our destination is death, the results of the sinful flesh of our natural man.
The Instructions of Our Sinful Flesh
The ways of our sinful flesh that led to God’s judgment on the world in the flood are the same ways of our flesh inhabiting us today. God’s judgment of the world hovers over those who today in walk in the instructions of their same sinful flesh. However, God in His goodness and mercy established for us a clear path to escape our impending death. A faith and trust in Him and His statutes leading us to break the bondage of our sinful flesh. A faith unto obedience was always our pathway, now it is a clear pathway revealed to the entire world. In His mercy, God gave the entire world a clear path to escape death with His two ‘Blood Ratified’ covenants, designed to break the bondage of our sinful flesh. God gave these covenants to Israel first and the gentiles second. They are the “Abrahamic Covenant,” our covenant of faith, given to Abraham in Gen. 15 and the “Covenant of Commandments” given to Israel on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20). Together they are faith which leads us to His instructions.
Our faith is the critical factor in trusting God and His instructions. His covenants and laws are to help us recognize and then break the bondage of our sinful flesh. More on the covenants in my next blog. For now, it is enough to know God gave us a way to escape death. These ‘duly established’ covenants differ from His law. God gave us His law for four reasons: 1. As a ‘guardian,’ which includes the enforcement arm of the law (the Levitical Priesthood) to help us keep His instructions, the “Covenant of Commandments,” because the people lacked the faith and trust in God to walk in them. People needed proof that His laws worked before they would recognize them as truth. 2. To expose the bondage of our sinful flesh for what it is, death. 3. After recognizing our sinful flesh for what it is, we can make a stand against our sinful flesh to break its hold over us. 4. To lead us to the arms of our savior.
The Instructions of God
People throughout the ages have had common misunderstandings about His law. Somehow the law was how we were, in times past, saved and now because of Jesus’ sacrifice we receive salvation by the grace He gives to those who have faith. The law has never been our pathway to salvation. His people have always received salvation the same way, God’s grace given to those who have faith (Ez. 18:21-23). We saw in my last blog, the same way Abraham received redemption is the same way we receive redemption (Romans 4:16-24). Through grace given to those who have an Abrahamic like faith in God, His word, and His instructions. We could say those in generations past received their salvation same as us because Jesus’ paid our debts before the foundations of the world (Rev. 13:8).
Why did Jesus come when He did? Here are four of the many reasons He chose the time He did to reveal His life and sacrifice to us. First, He came to fulfill every word in the law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17). Second, to be our new ‘guardian’ to lead us into following His Covenant of Commandments (what I call His Salvation Covenant) (Gal. 4:2). Third, to reveal to us the truth of His grace and the sacrifice He made on our behalf (John 1:17). Fourth, to usher in the New Covenant foundation, to fulfill Exodus 19:5 and Deuteronomy 18:15-22 so we can have a one-on-one relationship with God walking in His statutes in true faith and love (Jer. 31:31-34, EZ. 36:22-28).
3:11-12: Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’ However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, ‘HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.’
Paul tells us in no uncertain terms ‘no one is justified by the law.’ The law itself cannot be our pathway to salvation for many reasons: 1. If we are keeping the law for justification or salvation, then we are no longer doing it simply because it is true. If we are trying to earn our salvation this has to, by necessity, put us back under men’s authority, so as to be sure we walk in some measured exactness. To walk without faith and therefore not under Jesus as our high priest requires us to be under another as a guardian or a manager (Gal. 4:2). 2. We already deserve death. God gave us His law so we could recognize the ways of death and to break the bondage of our sinful flesh. We are born in bondage therefore salvation on our own is unattainable (Job 5:7, Gal. 4:3). Only genuine faith has the power to transform us to make us into His image. Without transformation, there can be no justification. Keep in mind that we are not justified without the law either. It is and will always be faith unto obedience. The law alone cannot make us perfect (Hebrews 7:11). The law alone is powerless. God, in His wisdom directed us first to the Abrahamic Covenant, the one thing that has the power to make us want to walk in His instructions. It is only through our faith we receive the power of transformation causing us to apply His law in the deepest parts of our souls. It is through this faith that we receive His instructions, His laws, and His commandments in excitement and in love, causing His statutes to penetrate the hardest strongholds of our sinful flesh.
Once our faith is secure in Him, then we will desire to seek Him, to understand His word, and to walk in His commandments in the very deepest recesses of our hearts, thus becoming His people and only then escaping death. Everything hangs on our faith. With faith we will follow Him where He wants us to go. Without faith we go where our sinful flesh tells us unless men force us away either by supervision or instruction. As we saw earlier, ‘works of law’ are not faith and do not make us His people. His people must follow Him only because they see Him as truth and His laws as right. In Matthew 23:27, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Genuine faith cleanses us from our insides out, His law becoming the individual measure of our faith, understanding, and maturity in Him, by which we can examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). It is our faith that transforms us into His people willingly and lovingly desiring to follow Him and His commandments.
His word tells as much in Romans 5:1: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are not to have faith for the sake of having faith. We are to have faith because it is through our faith that He re-makes us into His image a Holy and obedient people (1 Peter 1:13-23). Our faith seeks God and His word and makes us obedient to His law when we accept that His whole word is true (Psalms 119:160). The law itself cannot make us obedient. God’s gift of salvation belongs to those who have this ‘born again’ trans-formative faith, as 1 Peter 1:23, tells us: “… for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” Transformed into a seed which is imperishable by the instructions of His word. It is not the law itself that makes us into His image it is our faith in accordance with His law that causes us to be born again or transformed. However, without His law or without us accepting His law as true, there can be no justification or new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This is because there is nothing for our faith to follow that will cause us to walk contrary to and to stand against our sinful flesh, facilitating our transformation or allowing us to become born again into a seed which is imperishable.
Justified By Faith Unto Obedience
Therefore, Paul tells us “no one is justified by the Law” then tells us in Romans 2:13: “… for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” Paul is not contradicting himself. He is letting us know the law by itself is not our justifier. It is the faith which causes us to keep His law or the faith which causes us to not be hearers only but doers of the law, and when combined with His law works to transform us into His image thereby justifying us. A faith that does not cause us to keep His law is not a faith that will transform us into His people. Exodus 19:5, says it all: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine….” By faith we deny our flesh, making the law the measure of our faith in Him, by which we are able to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). Our faith drives His instructions into every recess of our hearts and minds. Through our obedience to His law we display to the world our testimony that God loves us and His word is true and trustworthy (Rom. 2:24). It is our trust, understanding, and adherence to His law that shows Him we love Him (1 John 5:3). If our claim of having faith does not bring with it the promise of our transformation into His image, according to His instructions, commandments, and laws then our faith is not the same as Abraham’s faith and not a faith that will cause us to receive our credit as being righteous.
At the end of this verse Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5 and Ezekiel 20:11. Leviticus 18:5, says: “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.” His word plainly says His law brings life. Why does Paul say; “the law is not of faith?” Paul best explains what seems to be a contradiction in Romans 10:5-8: “For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: ‘DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).’ But what does it say? ‘THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching….” This is what men do, we try to test who God saves (instead of examining ourselves) by dictating how others are perform a particular understanding of the law, their ‘works of law’. The ‘works of law’ forces men over us as overseers to walk in some universal agreement or in their interpretation of the instructions of the law. This measure of the law stands against faith.
His Law as Our Own Individual Testament of Our Faith
God did not give us enough details of His law to carry out His law with some agreed certifiable exactness. The law is to give each of us individually the opportunity to cling to Him and His instructions as a demonstration of our trust, faith, and love for Him. Only as individuals who want to know His truth for ourselves can we ‘search out a matter’ (Pro. 25:2, Deut. 29:29) to find out His perfect will according to our own understanding. It is only then our lives can reflect a genuine faith, love, and appreciation for Him and His ways. Keep in mind that the Bible only has between 1200-2100 pages. To put that into perspective, U.S. Federal law in 1980 comprised 50 volumes which held over 23,000 pages. Minute details, and still people argue on the exactness of the law. There are about 12,800 printed pages in the Soncino Talmud. All designed by men to control and dictate how we are to carry out His law and attempting to stand in direct interference of our expression of trust, understanding and love for our savior.
This is not how God intended it to be. God designed His law only for His people who trust Him and want to know His will and to express their own individual love and appreciation for Him and His word, in their own individual understanding and relationship. Our faith was intended to lead us to Him in His word so as to establish a special, unique and genuine connection with our creator. It has never been about His law per se but grasping the opportunity to engage, search, love and honor Him and His ways from our own hearts and minds. If your spouse loved strawberry ice cream and you bought them strawberry ice cream for no other reason then wanting to show them you loved them, then the importance is not the ice cream per se but the love and honor being displayed with the act of serving them how they wanted to be served and the demonstration of your understanding of their individual desires. The demonstration of our faith, trust, and love for our God should not be measured by some cold agreement of men, but from the gushing overflow of a heart that truly loves Him and desires to show Him our genuine love, trust, desire to be His.
3:13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE’ — in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
What is the curse of the law? It is the curse of our flesh. We cannot keep His law, because of our flesh, therefore, we cannot keep His Salvation Covenant to escape death. The actual curse of the law is our flesh that wants to walk according to its own law and not in the truth of God’s commandments. Romans 8:3, confirms this: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh….” Not that the law brings the curse, but the law reveals the curse of our flesh. The design of the law is to expose our walking in the ways of our flesh for what it is, a sin that deserves death. Romans 7:13, tells us: “Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.” We must connect the dots walking in His commandments is the opposite of us walking in our sinful flesh. We walk either in His instructions of His word or in the instructions of our flesh, each a reflection of whom we have placed our faith in.
Jesus Took Our Curse Exposed by the Law
Jesus took our curse and our debts for our lawlessness and bore them for us because He loves us and wants to have open communication with us. That is the complete story. The invitation to be His people. The mystery of salvation is it is a gift to those who are His by a faith that brings them into a personal one-on-one relationship with Him according to His word and our own individual understanding and desire to live inside of His perfect will. We should view our relationship with God considering its future culmination with us living with Him in His presence, in His full glory, for eternity. We cannot do this in the condition we are in, so we must be about preparing ourselves as a bride preparing herself for her bridegroom (Rev. 19:7-9). Therefore, Jesus’ sacrifice covers two things: One, our past sins we repent for (turn away from) (Romans 3:25). Two, our sins we commit in ignorance or what I call our unintentional shortcomings (Hebrews 9:7+11-12). What Jesus did not come to do is to erase our willful sin, which would be the same as giving endorsing our sinful flesh (Jude 1:4). He gave us His law, not by mistake, but so we could have the truth to walk in contrary to our sinful flesh (Hebrews 10:26-31). Outside of His instructions are to walk in our sinful flesh because His truth is inside of His instructions (1 John 3:4). As we have discussed, the law itself cannot help us overcome our sinful flesh. We overcome our sinful flesh only through our faith, our understanding, and our maturity of His word and His laws with the Holy Spirit guiding us.
When our faith in Him is strong enough, our desire will be to seek His perfect will in His word, and in His commandments and then to apply our understanding of His will to our lives as our testament of His love, mercy, goodness, and authority, all against the draws of our flesh. It would only make sense that if God sacrificed Himself to remove our sins in order for us to stand before Him, it would be imperative upon us to stand against the ongoing desires of our sinful flesh. What an awkward moment it would be if when we stood before God cleansed by His blood, we were still holding onto the desires of our old ways. I am not suggesting that this would even be possible because the sins we cling to in our hearts and minds would require our deaths the same as the sins committed in the physical, that we do not turn from. If we are holding onto them, then we would by definition not be repenting of them or turning away from them. I only paint this picture to show how ridiculous it would be for us to think those who claim to be His by faith could think they could walk intentionally outside of His law, that is in willful sin, and still be able to stand before Him in the age-to-come.
People often think they have a myriad of choices with God. However, our options are much more limited than we think. We either listen to God or we listen to men (which includes our flesh), this includes Satan, for the spirit of Satan will always direct us back to our flesh. It is Satan’s only message. God confines us to these two choices. All either walk in His law or walk contrary to His law, which is in our sinful flesh, in the ‘works of law’ which is perhaps even the good we walk in under the teaching or supervision of men, or by faith in God and His ways. God confines us to these two choices. People live with their faith in God, or they live with their faith in men. God confines us to these two choices. His people are those whose faith is in Him, and who walk in His ways according to their own personal understanding of His word with the Holy Spirit guiding them.
Paul says it best in Romans 8:5-8: “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” We cannot think for a minute we can have a faith that does not subject itself to the law of God, it is not possible. If we are not subjecting ourselves to God’s law then we must stand back and examine ourselves for there is something missing either in our faith, in our understanding, or in our maturity in His word. We all are walking according to someone’s instructions. If we claim by faith, to be His then we must walk in His instructions as our demonstration of that faith.
What comes to mind when thinking about God should be His love and His mercy. God only gives us wonderful gifts laid upon His foundation of truth. Anything less stands against everything His word tells us about Him. To think He would give us His law to curse us or condemn us shows a clear lack of appreciation of Him and His ways. This is not something we see in His word, and therefore it is a figment of men’s imagination. Contrary to what many Christians understand about His law or His instructions, God knows the world would stare in amazement if they saw His people of faith walking in His laws and instructions in mass. In Deuteronomy 4:5-8, we are told: “See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD of our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” His word wants us to appreciate His law and to understand that our trusting in His law as His truth is paramount to us having faith in Him. If this is not how we view His law then maybe we need to reexamine our faith and our understanding of His word.
Until next time. Shabbat Shalom.