The problem of the law, but the solution of Jesus
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, February 3, 2019
Bryan Loritts writes:
Recently I was sitting in a doctor’s office with one of my young sons, and the nurse wanted to draw blood from him for a test. As you can imagine, he did not want to have blood taken from him. Who does? So he told me, “Dad, I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.”
The nurse said, “Here’s the deal, buddy. We’ve got this numbing spray. We’ll spray the numbing spray on you, and then we’ll stick the needle in you, and you won’t even feel it.”
But my son kept saying, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it.”
Finally I said to the nurse, “Ma’am, I know what I’m about to ask you may be out of bounds, but can you stick me first? Can you do it without the numbing spray? I just need to show my son.”
She said, “Yes, I’ll do it. We’ll keep this between us.”
So I put my son on my lap, and I said, “Watch Daddy.” I rolled up my sleeve and stuck my arm out. Then the nurse stuck me and drew blood. A smile came over my son’s face. Yes, he was still a little nervous, but when he saw that Daddy already went through what he was about to go through, with no numbing spray, he stuck his arm out. It gave him courage.
In the same way, when you find yourself in the midst of hard times, look to the place where they drew Jesus’ blood. Look to the cross, and there you will find rest for your souls.
Today, we are continuing our series on Galatians and we are continuing with the emphasis on Jesus taking our place on the cross and we are saved by faith in Him. No one could keep the law.
The Old Testament law can be explained the following way. I had a professor in a class share: I am going to give you a test and none of you can pass it, but if you fail the test then you fail the course. That is how he explained the books of the Law. In fact, the Bible shares just that. The law just gives us knowledge of our sin (Romans 3:20; 7:7-9). We cannot keep the law.
Romans 3:20 says:
because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
The problem of the law, but the solution of Jesus
Or, to say it another way:
The law curses but Jesus saves.
Let’s read Galatians 3:10-14:
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.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 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”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
The Moody Bible Commentary explains the logic of this passage:
The logic of vv. 10-14 runs this way:
- The blessing of the Law is promised to those who obey it (v. 12, quoting Lv 18:5).
- What Paul left unstated is that the blessing is never actually received. Instead, those who rely on works are not able to do ALL that is WRITTEN IN the law (cf. Rm 3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 6:14).
- Thus, all who rely on law are CURSED (v. 10, quoting Dt 27:26).
- The truth of statement 3 above is confirmed. Since Hab 2:4 says that blessing comes by faith (cf. Rm 1:16-17), it cannot come by obedience to law.
- Through his crucifixion, Christ redeemed (exagorazo refers to buying someone or something out of a dangerous position; cf. 4:5) believers from the penalty of the Law (the curse; v. 13 quoting Dt 21:23).
- Thus the blessing that was promised to Abraham—including the Holy Spirit (cf. 3:2)—comes to all those who have faith, even Gentiles (v. 14).
- Let’s talk about the curse of the law (verses 10-12)
- The verse is saying we are cursed for following the works of the law because we cannot keep them. There is a quote from Deut. 27:26.
- This is a larger section about being justified by faith.
- The point is clear, if we are living under the law we are cursed if we do not keep the whole law.
- Verse 11: the just shall live by faith (Hab 2:4) so no one is justified by the works of the law (this is evident) because no one can keep the whole law.
- David Jeremiah’s study Bible, (page 1626) shares: the law is like a chain that moors ships to a dock. Just as one broken link causes the entire chain to fail, so one transgression breaks the entire law. Since this is an all-or-nothing proposition, no amount of work can save us— only God can declare us just (James 2:10). Paul cites the words of Hab. 2:4 as proof of this truth.
- Gal. 2:16 shares: no one is justified by the works of the law.
- Verse 12: the law is not of faith, the man who does them, lives by them (Lev 18:5)
- David Jeremiah points out (Page 1626 of his study Bible) that Lev 18:5 reminds us we have to keep the whole law and no one could do that but Christ.
- If you practice the law you have to live by the law, rather than living by faith.
- Verses 10-12 are negative about living under the law.
- Verses 13-14 switch to Christ.
- One source points out: if someone really were to fulfill the entire corpus of Pentateuchal law, with its 242 positive commands and 365 prohibitions (according to one rabbinic reckoning), then indeed such a person could stand before God at the bar of judgment and demand admittance to heaven on the basis of his or her performance. Yet where on earth can such a flawless person be found?
- The same source shares: That no one can obey the law perfectly and so receive life on this basis (Lev 18:5) is demonstrated on a national scale by Israelites who, no less than the Canaanites, had polluted the holy land and had been expelled therefrom because of their sin. Thus both of these texts point to Israel’s historical plight and God’s eschatological solution as the context for Paul’s presentation of the work of Jesus Christ.
- Keeping the law is compared to the character of Sisyphus in Greek mythology, they are forever consigned to rolling a huge boulder up a mountain only to have it come crashing down upon their heads again and again.
- Jesus’ solution, Jesus saves (verses 13-14)
- Verse 13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (there is a quote from Deut 21:23)
- Again the idea switches to redemption in Christ.
- Verse 14: the blessing of Abraham has come upon the gentiles in Christ… through faith
- I like the David Jeremiah Study Bible point (on page 1627): “The Judaizers boasted of being sons of Abraham— direct descendants of the father of their faith and thus members of God’s chosen people. But now that Christ has come, all who put their faith in Jesus receive the promise of the Spirit and become spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham.”
- This verse begins with “In order that” and this is a purpose. Christ redeemed us (verse 13) with the purpose that, verse 14: the blessing of Abraham might come to the gentiles, so that, we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
- Christ redeemed us and this means we have the promises of Abraham and this is great!!! This is awesome!!! We have the blessing of Abraham!!!
- I like what one writers shares: Paul was working here with the idea of an “exchange curse” by which the sin, guilt, and hell of lost men and women are placed upon Christ while his righteousness, blessing, and merit are imputed to those in whose place he stands. Luther spoke of this atoning transaction as “a happy exchange.” 
- One writes: Yet Christ emerged victorious over sin, death, and the eternal curse. This he did “for us.” For this reason the doctrine of atonement can never be merely a matter of cool theologizing or dispassionate discourse. For us the Son of God became a curse. For us he shed his precious blood. For us he who from all eternity knew only the intimacy of the Father’s bosom came “to stand in that relation with God which normally is the result of sin, estranged from God and the object of his wrath.”All this—for us! What response can we offer except that of wonder, devotion, and trust!
- In verse 14 Paul summarizes his train of thought in chapter 3 up to this point. There are 2 conclusions: 1) the blessing of Abraham is available to all the gentiles in Christ and 2) that the promise of the Holy Spirit might be bestowed by faith.
- This is an encouraging passage about our righteous status before God.
- Oftentimes we are drained thinking we cannot meet someone’s expectations. In this case we could not keep the law and so God took care of us.
- Isn’t that awesome, God took care of us. Does that encourage you?
- Are you encouraged that though God’s standard is too high for you to reach, he took care of you?
- Jesus’ death paid the penalty for our sins. Here, let me tell you a story. A teenage boy took his new car out for a spin. As he was driving along the highway, he saw flashing lights behind him and quickly pulled over. The cop told him that he had been going 40 miles over the speed limit and he had to take him to court. The boy trudged into the courtroom and saw his father sitting in the judge’s seat. Now the father has a problem. His son is obviously guilty, but he loves his son and doesn’t want to hurt him. The father gives his son a $100 dollar fine for speeding; he has to be just so he can’t do anything else. Then, the father hits the gavel and ends the case. The son is of course very upset, but can you even imagine how the father felt? Then, the father steps down from the bench, takes off his robes, and pays the fine for his son. Just as the father had to sentence his son, God must sentence us. But even as the father paid the fine so also Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross (Romans 4:25). Even though the father paid the fine, the son is still guilty of speeding. Though, Jesus paid the price for our sins, are we still guilty?
- No because Jesus did not only forgive us but gave us His righteousness. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus did more than forgive us. I have another illustration:
- A father and daughter open a joint checking account and as soon as possible the daughter started to spend the money. After the money in the account ran out, she kept writing checks. Of course, these checks bounced, and the bank placed heavy fines on her. Finally, she had a major negative balance and realized that she owed more money than she could pay for. Her father found out and paid back all the money. The bank had put a hold on the account because of the negative balance so the daughter was left without an account to draw from. Then, the father transferred the account into his name only and opened up a new account for her with $1000 in it. Like that story, Jesus transferred our sin to His account and then transferred His innocence to our account (2 Cor. 5:21). Now when God looks at us, He sees us as innocent and worthy of heaven.
- Jesus forgives us and gives us right standing before God.
- We have the blessing of Abraham, we have righteousness before God, we have the Holy Spirit too.
- Isaiah 44:3 shares: ‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants…
- Don’t forget the HOLY SPIRIT.
- We receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.
- In Galatians 5 and 6 Paul will expand on what it means to have the Holy Spirit.
- We do only receive this promise through faith, we must have faith in Jesus.
- There was a famous acrobat and wire walker whose greatest trick was to walk a wire over Niagara Falls pushing a wheelbarrow with 200 pounds of flour in it. He walked to one end and walked back, and the crowd cheered SO loudly for him. He asked the crowd to raise their hand if they thought that he could push an actual man in the wheelbarrow over the falls, and everyone there raised their hand. Then he asked the crowd to raise their hand if they were willing to get in the wheelbarrow, and no one raised their hand. That is faith.
Scot McKnight shares:
I often compare the role of the law in history to the role typewriters have played in the development of word processing. The technology and idea of a typewriter was eventually developed into an electronic, faster, and far more complex computer that does word processing. But when typing on a computer, we realize that we are still using the old manual typewriter’s technology. Further, we realize that the computer far transcends the typewriter. Everything that a typewriter wanted to be when it was a little boy (and more!) is now found in the computer. This compares to the law. Everything the law wanted to be when it was young (as revealed to Moses) is found now in Christ and in the life of the Spirit. Thus, when a Christian lives in the Spirit and under Christ, that Christian is not living contrary to the law, but is living in transcendence of the law. It is for this very reason that life lived primarily under the law is wrong.
When the computer age arrived, we put away our manual typewriters because they belonged to the former era. Paul’s critique of the Judaizers is that they are typing on manual typewriters after computers are on the desk! He calls them to put the manual typewriters away. But in putting them away, we do not destroy them. We fulfill them by typing on the computers. Every maneuver on a computer is the final hope of the manual typewriter. “Now that faith/Christ has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” but not because the law is contrary to the promises; rather, it is because the law is fulfilled in Christ and the Spirit in a manner similar to the way a typewriter is fulfilled in the technology of a computer. And I am profoundly thankful for both!
Bryan Loritts, from the sermon “The Great Exchange,” preached at Fellowship Memphis, in Memphis, Tennessee
The Moody Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 75784-75791). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Scot McKnight, The NIV Application Commentary: Galatians (Zondervan 1995), p. 184