Galatians [3:10-14]

Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)

 Galatians 3:10-14

But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all these commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” Consequently, it is clear that no one can ever be right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” How different from this way of faith is the way of law, which says, “If you wish to find life by obeying the law, you must obey all of its commands.”

Wow. The onslaught continues. Paul now goes so far as to tell the self-righteous, law-keeping “older brothers” (from the “Prodigal Son” story) that they are not only not blessed, they are cursed! How can you tell someone who spends all of their time trying to be good that they are cursed? What a crushing blow that is! The complete opposite of what they are striving for, because they are living the complete opposite of life in the Kingdom.

In God’s kingdom, we live by faith. We are made righteous (far beyond what we could ever hope for) by our faith in the One who is Righteousness. We are made righteous in his eyes by trusting in Him for every part of our lives, our food, our clothing, our drink, our shelter… and our spiritual wholeness. The righteousness is declared not by our efforts, or merits, or by the proclamation of some other person of any societal stature. It is declared before the universe was formed by the One who made it all. Ephesians 1:3 says that in Jesus, we are “holy and without fault in his eyes.” Again, it just has nothing to do with us.

That is so hard to accept. It must. We must have to do something. But the more I read in Scripture, and especially as I just read these words penned by Paul, I only see God saying, “Stop trying so hard!!! It is finished. The work is complete. You are righteous, but not by your own efforts… by your faith in me. Who I am and what I have done, and can do.” Such a difference. The pressure of successes or failures are greatly diminished by the knowledge that God is the one working in us. That the work of salvation is complete, and the process of growth is not powered by our own strength of will and determination and ability, but by his work in us, as we remain in him. (John 15) That is why Paul says, “How different from this way of faith is the way of law.”

The other word that stood out so clearly is “ever”. Ever is a strong word. Ever, never, forever. These are words of completeness beyond our comprehension. They are absolute. And Paul says that, “it is clear that no one can ever be right with God by trying to keep the law.” Ever. No matter how hard you try, or how good you are, you just can’t.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ve heard this all before. You know that your entrance into the Kingdom is “not by works that no one may boast” and that it’s by Jesus’ work on the cross, not your own effort that you are saved. But, if you’re like me, you also persist in this strange notion that you must maintain a level of goodness to retain your position in God’s kingdom. You wouldn’t go so far as to say you need to “earn it”, but you live as though you need to prove you were “worth saving”. Right? I still catch myself trying hard to do things because I want God to think I’m good… I want him to like me.

Duh! HE DOES. How much more does He need to do to show me that?! He gave up being God to be like me so that he could get beaten and mutilated and on top of that bear the guilt of EVERY person who ever lived all the way to his death. And every word he breathes is life and refreshing and true and for me. Plus, I have seen him working in my life, not just in the stories of the Bible. In my life. He has shown me again and again that he loves me not because I maintain some standard of conduct or behavior… just because I am his. He made me, and he loves me.

Shouldn’t that affect my daily behavior and attitude? Yes! That’s what Paul is trying to get through to the Christians from Galatia.

But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Through the work of Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, and we Christians receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.

Besides the recurring theme of being made right with God by his doing not ours, Paul revisits the idea that this “new wine” is for all. Not just the people who currently owned the title, “God’s Chosen People”. The Gentiles are in on this too. For us, it may be better not just to think of blacks in the 60s (as that is almost a distant past). Perhaps it may help us to think of relatively recent stories like Jeffrey Dahmer, who was disgustingly evil, yet received Jesus’ offer of forgiveness before he was executed for his crimes. Or maybe any one of the terrorists who carried out the insidious plot to bring down the world trade center. What if one of them were to humbly realize the love their Father has for them and return to him, being “made holy and without fault” in His eyes in the process? Would you accept that? Could you? Aren’t some people beyond the scope of grace? Aren’t some things too awful to be forgiven?

I believe Paul revisits this idea not only to continue the proof that God wants them to accept the people the Jews previously thought “unacceptable” but also to further reveal the depth of God’s grace. If it’s not about what we do, then it’s not about what we have done. No matter who we have been or what we have done, we are eligible to live the life of freedom that is offered in Jesus. He does not love me any more than he loves Osama Bin Laden. Not any bit more. He does not love Jeffrey Dahmer any less. To say this does not excuse the behavior of men who carry out such gruesome acts against other people, it only points out that God does not have favorites, and it has nothing to do with how good I am.

The law only reveals God’s holiness and my unholiness. It reveals my inability to ever be righteous on my own. Paul says I can’t. No one will ever be made righteous by observing the law. Ever.

So let’s stop trying so hard on our own, and explore together with Jesus the deep waters of the grace and freedom of life in him.

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