Aug 14, 2010
In Galatians 3:10-14, Paul makes the contrast between Moses and Abraham insofar as they were types of the Old and New Covenants. In this, he focuses primarily on the terms of these covenants.
(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."
Paul speaks here of Judaism itself as well as the Judaizers in the Church, all of whom "are of the works of the Law." He means that those who depend upon their works, their performance, are under the curse of the Law. Under the Old Covenant, the people vowed obedience, not only at Mount Sinai when the Law was given (Ex. 19:8), but also 40 years later in Deut. 27:26, the verse that Paul quotes above. Deut. 27:26 reads in full,
(26) Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them. And all the people shall say, "Amen."
If we were to write up a list of Israelites who actually performed the requirement of the law, the list would be blank. Not even Moses himself was fully obedient, for he was disqualified from entering the Promised Land.
So the Old Covenant involved the people's vow of obedience, and none of them kept their vow. Their vow was the condition set forth by the Old Covenant by which they would receive the blessing of God, which we know as "justification." Because all of them were disobedient, the law could only curse them (i.e., judge them for sin).
Paul understood this clearly. He knew that justification could come only by the New Covenant established by Abraham and later ratified by the blood of Jesus. So he says in verse 11,
(11) Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for "The righteous man shall live by faith."
Here Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4, another of the prophets, showing that life (i.e., immortality) comes through faith, rather than by one's ability to be perfectly obedient to the law. Paul continues in Gal. 3:12,
(12) However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them."
This is a quote from Lev. 18:5,
(5) So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.
The Old Covenant offered Israel an impossible path to immortal life. All a person had to do was to keep the law perfectly! Obviously, the people did not understand the real implications of this, for they continued to have confidence that if they were zealous enough to keep the law, then they would be justified before God.
(13) Christ redeemed us from the curse [judgments] of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree."
The Law, which was meant for our good (Rom. 7:13), became a curse to us, because it lacked the power to justify sinners. It could only bring down the judgments of the Law upon anyone who was disobedient. But Jesus came to hang on a tree in order to fulfill Deut. 21:23, which pronounces a curse upon those who are hanged on a tree. It was a common form of execution in those days to kill someone and to hang his body on a tree or post (or even on the wall of a town as in 1 Sam. 31:10) as an example to others.
In this way Jesus took the curse of the Law upon Himself, paying its full penalty for the sin of the whole world. . .
(14) in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles [nations], so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
There is no "blessing of Moses," but only "the blessing of Abraham." And because Abraham was to be a blessing to all the families of the earth, the scope of the blessings that come by faith is universal.
This is the eleventh part of a series titled "Galatians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones