Study Notes

Galatians 3:10-26


We have spent the last few weeks in the book of Galatians, where Paul has been making the point that we are saved by grace, not by the works of the Law. Today, we will be looking at a large section of chapter 3, which demonstrates what the Law was for, why it was given.

3:10 The Curse Of The Law

The first problem with following the Law is that you are obligated to keep every point of it (Paul quotes from either Deuteronomy 27:26 or Jeremiah 11:3). James plainly states this as well, as he writes,

James 2:10-11 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one {point,} he has become guilty of all. For He who said, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY," also said, "DO NOT COMMIT MURDER." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

What this tells us is that legalism not only nullifies the work of Jesus dying on the cross, as Paul said in chapter 2,

Gal. 2:21 "...if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."

... but if you're going to be a legalist, you have to be legalistic about the entire thing, not just pick and choose. Many people make a big issue about the Sabbath. They say that you must go to church on Saturday, not Sunday. Others insist that you must adhere to the dietary portion of the Law, that you cannot eat pork or other foods that are considered unclean. The problem with this is exactly what is written here: if you're going to follow some of the Law, you've got to follow all of it.

You see, the same law that says not to eat pork also says,

Lev. 19:19 ‘...You shall... wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.

In other words, you cannot wear a shirt made of both cotton and polyester. The Law also says,

Lev. 19:27 (NIV) Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

So, haircuts are also out. Do you see how a legalist has no leg to stand on? He tells you, "Don't you know that you should go to church on Saturday, not Sunday?" You simply inquire, "When was your last haircut?" When they say, "Why are you eating that which is not lawful," you can calmly ask, "what are those pants made from?"

If you are going to stand before God based on your righteous adherence to the Law, then you'd better be prepared to answer why you didn't observe every part of the Law. No wonder it's called a curse to be under!

3:11-12 Living By Faith

In Habakkuk 2:4, the Lord told the prophet,

Hab. 2:4 Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.

This was a theme picked up on in the New Testament, being quoted not only here in Galatians, but also in Romans (1:17) and Hebrews (10:38). The fact is that even in the Old Testament, the truly righteous were not those that were following the letter of the Law, but those who were living by faith in God. Those that were trusting in God, were relying on God, and wanted to be pleasing to God were the righteous ones.

The Law, on the other hand, didn't have anything to do with living by faith. When you're under the Law, you live by the Law. And, as we've been talking about for the last couple of weeks, living according to righteous rules doesn't have anything to do with your heart before God. I know plenty of legalistic, religious people that don't have a heart for God, or even a relationship with Him.

3:13-14 Becoming A Curse For Us

Here's where it all falls into place. The Law is a curse on us if we have to attempt to live up to its standard. But when Jesus was crucified, He took the curse upon Himself, according to the Law of God. The Law stated,

Deut. 21:23 ...he who is hanged is accursed of God...

Jesus was hung up on a tree - nailed to a wooden cross. The entire curse of the Law, the demand for righteousness that we can't live up to because we are sinners, was put on His head. 2Corinthians says,

2Cor. 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin {to be} sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus became a curse, was made sin, on the cross. He, in His perfection, took the curse that our imperfection couldn't measure up to. That is how we have been made acceptable, even perfect, before God - we simply have faith in Jesus' perfect sacrifice for us. It is by God's grace through our faith that we have been saved. That blessing was the blessing promised long ago to Abraham, when God said,

Gen. 22:18 "And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

We Gentiles have been blessed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, just as God promised Abraham we would be.

3:15-18 God's Covenant With Abraham

Paul uses the illustration of a contract between men. Even though it is only two sinful men making the agreement, it is lawful and binding once it has been properly witnessed and ratified. It can't be changed or set aside once it is in place.

Well, God made a covenant, a contract, with Abraham. What was it? In Genesis 22, he said,

Gen. 22:18 "And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

What were the circumstances by which God made that promise?

Gen. 22:1-14 ...God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." And He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you." And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." And he said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind {him} a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided."

God had told Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as an offering. At that point, Isaac was as good as dead. For three days, they traveled, the son being dead to the father. A donkey was the transportation to the land of the sacrifice. There are two men going along with Isaac on the same journey of death. The wood of the offering was laid on Isaac, and they walked up the hill. Isaac said, "Um, Dad? Where exactly is the lamb we're going to kill?" And Abraham answered, "God will provide Himself the Lamb." What hill were they on? Mt. Moriah.

Like so many landmarks in history, a few thousand years later, Mt. Moriah had a different name. It was known as Golgotha, or Calvary. And that same mountain where Abraham said, "God will provide Himself the Lamb" was the same mountain where Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, was sacrificed for you and for me. The only Son of the Father, dead three days, who rode to his destination on a donkey, carried the wood of His own sacrifice up that same hill, and was hung there between two men, and was dead for three days.

Abraham gave the place a prophetic name, "In the mount of the Lord it WILL be provided." The name was not what HAD happened there, but what was GOING to happen there later. As Genesis 22 continues, we see the covenant made, the promise given,

Gen. 22:15-18 Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

Paul here in Galatians is saying, "the seed wasn't plural, it was singular. Here God wasn't talking about all of Abraham's descendants, but one Descendant, Jesus Christ. It was through Him that all of the nations on the earth would be blessed. The inheritance isn't based on the Law - that was given 430 years later, and cannot nullify this promise, this contract that was made earlier."

3:19-26 The Law As A Tutor

Why was the Law given at all then? Because man strayed from God. The Law was a mirror that showed how sinful man was. It was a teacher, educating us, showing us just how much we needed God's mercy.

Have you realized yet that you are a sinner? That you have fallen short of the glory of God? God is not holding up that mirror to get you to start working on being perfect, He is showing you how much you need a Savior to pay for your sins.

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