By Bob Hoekstra
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." But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "The just shall live by faith." Yet the law is not of faith, but "The man who does them shall live by them." (Galatians 3:10-12)
In our previous meditation, we considered God's call to live by faith, given through the prophet Habakkuk. "Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). We also looked at the first of three appearances of this quote in the New Testament. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ . . . for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17).The second appearance is given in Galatians, where living by faith is contrasted with living by law.
This contrast between law and faith involves a curse that is related to the law. "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse." The curse is upon those who attempt to establish an acceptable relationship with God based on human works, as measured by God's holy law. The accompanying Old Testament quote explains 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." The curse is that those who choose to live by human performance under the law must always accomplish everything the law commands. Performance of some of the law's demands some of the time is unacceptable. This comprehensive pressure requiring perfect performance may seem curse enough. Yet, the consequences of inevitable failure intensifies the curse. This dreadful consequence can be seen in the reminder of the blessed remedy that God's grace provides. "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')" (Galatians 3:13-14). Those who violate any portion of the law's demands deserve the judgment that Jesus took on the cross.
This gracious provision of salvation through the substitutionary death of Christ reminds us that faith, not law, is our abundant hope. "But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for 'The just shall live by faith.'" Faith involves depending upon the work of another, even Christ. Living by law is not living by faith. It is living by human performance. "Yet the law is not of faith, but "The man who does them shall live by them."
Dear Lord, I praise You for taking upon Yourself the curse of the law that I deserved. My heart exults that the just shall live by faith, not by human performance. Please teach me to live by faith and not by law, Amen.