“10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
“13 Christ has 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 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Verse 10 says, “Cursed is everyone”, a universal statement. This is a very difficult statement for people to hear.
Preachers are eager to tell the world that God loves them. And that message is welcoming and acceptable. And preachers are also eager to tell the world that God wants to bless them; in fact, that He has endless blessings just waiting to be received. He wants to make them happy, and healthy, and trouble-free, and successful, and fulfilled, and full of personal purpose. That is the message of contemporary evangelical preachers.
But what preachers don’t tell people is that all of them are under a curse by God if they believe that by following the Law they can be saved. Every human being who has ever lived is born cursed, and it is a curse that is permanent and eternal. That is the truth that we see in verse 10. And so they are unfaithful to leave out the truth that essentially makes the gospel so wonderful.
What does it mean to be cursed? To be blessed is to be granted all that is good; to be cursed is to be granted all that is bad. To be cursed is to be despised and doomed, devoted to destruction; that’s the New Testament term. The Old Testament uses three words, and they essentially are synonyms; they mean exactly the same thing. To be cursed is to be assigned to harm, destruction and damnation.
Now the Bible has a lot to say about curses. We do understand that there are curses that men unleash on other men, and they really intend to invoke Satan and demons to do harm. Primitive people have invoked such curses by their magic spells and incantations, and tried to bring the demons that they worship down on the heads of their enemies to either kill them or do them harm.
Curses are a part of the kingdom of darkness. In the Old Testament we see Balaam who is the king of cursers. It was said about Balaam in Numbers 22:6, that whoever he cursed was cursed. So he was a diviner, a sorcerer, a medium who literally transmitted satanic and demonic curses to other people. So curses do exist in the kingdom of Satan, evil men pronounce them on each other.
But we’re not talking about that. What we’re talking about is the cursing of God; and that curse is pronounced on the entire human race. And Jesus said this about that curse, “Do not fear those who destroy the body, but fear Him who destroys both body and soul in hell,” Matthew 10:28. Fear the curse of God. Everyone is under a curse, which means even in the present they are under the curse of God.
How do we know everyone is cursed? Back to verse 10, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to perform them.” The book of the law refers to God’s Word. Any violation of the book of the law, the Word of God, brings the curse. So everyone is cursed, because everyone has broken the law of God. Read Deuteronomy 27:9-26 where all the curses are spelled out.
All the people are affirming the curse of a breaking of any commandment of God. And those are only representative commandments, there are many more; that’s why verse 26 says, “Cursed is he who does not confirm all the words of this law by doing them. If you break this law at all you are cursed. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen,’ thus affirming that curse.
“Disobey Me and you will be cursed.” You know the rest of history. The people that day all said, “Amen, amen, amen,” confirming their obedience, as they had done back in Exodus 24. But as the centuries passed, they turned away from God. They ignored God. They were sexually impure. They made idols and worshiped those idols. They broke every law that God had given.
And every generation was cursed by suffering for their sins. Eight-hundred years later we find them being taken captive by the Babylonians. This is God’s judgment on that disobedient nation. Jeremiah 11:3-4, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed is the man who doesn’t heed the words of this covenant 4 which I commanded your forefathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace.”
The curses come from God as the Babylonians invade the city of Jerusalem, and slaughter the Jews, and take them captive. The northern kingdom is already gone captive; and now the south, Judah and Jerusalem, are taken captive by the Babylonians. The reason is verse 8, “They didn’t obey or incline their ear. They walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart.”
Verse 9-10, “And the Lord said to me, “A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers.”
Jeremiah 17:5, 7 tells us the essence, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.’” On the other hand, verse 7 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope is in the Lord.” If you had trusted the Lord you would be blessed; but you have disobeyed the Lord and thus are cursed.
Curses are given in the Pentateuch in the book of Deuteronomy; but there are curses throughout the Old Testament. There are reiterations of God’s curse on sinful people. There are thirty nine Psalms that pronounced curses. But the psalms are divinely authored and justified. They are just as justified as the psalms that give comfort, because God wants them to know that they are cursed.
Does God find pleasure in this? No. Ezekiel 33:11, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” God cries tears of through the eyes of Jesus, who after pronouncing a curse on Jerusalem wept over Jerusalem. The truth is that everyone is cursed. Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
The truth has been given to us, the law of God is written in our hearts; but all men suppress that truth and behave in unrighteous ways; and the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against them all. The martyrs in Revelation cry out to God, “O Lord, holy and true, how long will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
And in Revelation 18:18 we see the smoke of the final kingdom of Antichrist, the final Babylon. “They were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she is made desolate!’” That’s the destruction at the return of Christ, a destruction of the capital city of Antichrist’s system.
In Revelation 19:1, 3, we get a glimpse of heaven. “A great multitude in heaven upon seeing this cry, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous. Hallelujah, for the smoke rises up forever and ever.” Why? Because we as the redeemed on earth and in heaven desire that God be honored, and that sinners would not be cursed.
Our Lord Jesus was no different. In Matthew 25:41, He said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” But Jesus pronounced curses as well as blessings throughout His ministry. In Luke 11, He cursed the Pharisees and the scribes, the religious leaders of Israel. In Luke 17, He cursed the people who make His children stumble.
We are called to confront people with the gospel of blessing against the backdrop of the reality of the divine curse. We should be heartbroken over the condition of the world. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, neither does our Lord. Jesus pronounced a curse on Jerusalem and said it would be destroyed, and then wept. But because God is holy and just, He must punish sin; and that is why the curse exists.
Now let’s go back to Galatians. There are two curses in this passage. The first one is the divine curse on all men. The second is the divine curse on one man. We’ll look at the first one: the divine curse on all men. It says, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.’” The whole human race is cursed. Why? Because they all are under the works of the law.
In other words, they have the lifetime obligation to obey God, as Israel did. And Israel couldn’t fulfill it. They needed to repent and trust God for righteousness like Abraham. But what happens? People go the way of works. Under the law, they think if they keep some of the law some of the time and do some good things, that’s enough to satisfy God. The problem is they can’t: they sin, they die, and they’re cursed.
It gets compounded, because other religions say, “You can do good works and still please God,” so they believe false religion, and they are doubly cursed. They then follow a religion that says they can do moral works, religious works, sacraments, etc. And that is not possible, so they are cursed. It is really deadly when people say, “Salvation is by faith in Christ plus works.”
Let me make it even more practical. Anyone who believes that works are necessary for salvation has bought into a cursed gospel. Anyone who preaches that is preaching a cursed gospel. And the people who are believing it and preaching it are themselves cursed: cursed by their sin, doubly cursed by their works system, and triply cursed by preaching it.
A new survey by the Pew Research Center came out. A question was asked to thousands of people across America who are evangelical Protestants, and the question is this: “Is salvation by faith alone, or is it by faith and good deeds?” Fifty-two percent of evangelical Protestants said faith plus good deeds. And eighty-two percent of Roman Catholics said salvation is by faith and good deeds.
When we started studying Galatians 3, I said that most churches and most people sitting in evangelical churches across this country are bewitched. Similar to the Galatians who had become bewitched, even though they were true believers. They were buying into the fact that works were necessary. So Paul says in verse 10, “You are cursed if you don’t keep all the law all the time!”
In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, “Be perfect,” How perfect? “As perfect as your Father in heaven.” Listen to James 2:10, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, is guilty of all.” So if you are operating, according to verse 10, in the sphere of the works of the law, and you ever violate one law one time, you’re cursed. And that’s the testimony of Deuteronomy 27:26, “You are cursed.”
Jewish leaders thought they were the spiritual people, they were the righteous people. Our Lord addresses them, and Paul does as well. “You’re not only cursed because of universal sin, you’re cursed because you believe in works, and you’re cursed beyond that for propagating a cursed message.” Romans 4:15 says, “The law works wrath.” If you want to live by the law, you’ll only know the wrath of God now and forever.
Then verse 11, “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Cursed is everyone because of what Scripture says. No one is justified by the Law before God, again, because of what Scripture says, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” And that’s taken out of the prophet Habakkuk 2:4: “The righteous men shall live by faith.”
So in verse 6, Paul quoted Genesis 15:6. In verse 10, he quoted Deuteronomy 27:26. In verse 11, he quotes Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous live by faith.” And somebody might say, “Well, faith and works go together.” No. Please notice verse 12, “Yet the Law is not of faith.” They are mutually exclusive. Romans 4:14 says, “As soon as you introduce works, you void faith.”
On the contrary, verse 12 continues, “The person who practices them shall live by them.” That’s taken from Leviticus 18:5, “You want to live by the Law, then you must keep it.” Then you have to live by them, and you have to be perfect.” But Romans 3:20 says, “By the deeds of the Law no one will be justified in God’s sight, no one.” Everyone is cursed by their works, and no one justified by their works.
As we close, let me just comment on verse 13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.” That’s the gospel, that’s the good news. He bought us, purchased us, freed us, and delivered us. And the good news only has real value against the backdrop of the horrendous reality of the whole human race being eternally cursed without Christ. Let us pray.