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Jul 26, 2015



Passage: Galatians 3:10-27

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Freedom

Keywords: curse, emancipation, faith, freedom, holy spirit, law, redemption


This portion of Galatians 3 deals with the emancipation of every believer in Jesus from the weight and curse of the Law through redemption in Christ.



Galatians 3:10-27

July 26, 2015


INTROWhat comes to mind when I say the word, “EMANCIPATION”??? 

My guess is, different things for different people. If you’re an African-American who is a descendant of slaves brought to this country sometime in the first 250 years of its existence, you probably think of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamations of September 1862 or January 1863. 

            That’s right, “proclamations” plural.  There were actually two Emancipation Proclamations given by Lincoln.  The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862 stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then the Proclamation would go into effect for but just for the roughly 3 million slaves in the rebellious Southern states. Boarder states that had slaves but had not succeeded from the Union were exempted (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware). 

When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. But it was not until the 13th Amendment in December 1865 that all slavery was abolished forever in the U.S.  Meanwhile, over 200,000 blacks had joined the Union Army to fight against the South.

But there is another kind of emancipation that is still practiced today all over the 50 United States.  What am I referring to?  [Emancipation of someone who is a minor, under the age of 18.]  Here are some of the things that happen for/to a teenager when the court declares them “emancipated.” 

  • All parental obligations of financial support, care, supervision and “any other obligation the parent may have by virtue of the parent-child relationships”
  • The teen assumes the right to sue or be sued. (That’s surely freedom in America!)
  • The teen has the “right to work, and earn a living….”

As a parent, I’m wondering, “Who’s getting “emancipated” in this move?”  Sounds to me like the parent!  But, hey, welcome to “freedom” in America! J

We’ll, for the next couple of weeks, we’ll be back in the book of Galatians, chapter 3, where we left off last.  It’s a book all about freedom and emancipation…but thankfully in the biblical sense, not the American sense.  But like freedom from slavery, it’s a freedom that can end up impacting every moment of every day of our lives.  The tragedy is that so many of God’s people never really learn how to exercise that freedom.  They live instead as if they are still beholden to an abusive slave-master. 

Q:  Which kind of emancipated Christ-follower are you?  Are you really enjoying your emancipation or are you still living like a slave on some beautiful Southern plantation?

For a few answers, let’s go to Galatians 3:10.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 

            If you put the emphasis on the word “all” in this verse, you will probably read this passage to mean that a person must keep ALL of the O.T. Law ALL of the time in order not to be cursed by God.  This interpretation focuses on the impossibility of fulfilling 100% of God’s Law 100% of the time. 

            But I don’t think that is what Paul is trying to focus on here.  The O.T. followers of God never saw the Law as the means by which they would be saved or made right with God.  In fact, the Law was all about admitting you were a sinner, agreeing with God, and engaging in visible and verbal acts of confession and repentance through offerings at the Tabernacle or Temple. 

            The point Paul seems to be making centers more around the phrase “rely on the works of the law.” 

Unlike most of our culture who thinks everyone can do whatever they like in life without any eternal repercussions, Paul is speaking to people who understood and accepted that there was a divine nature and thus a divine law coming from that divine nature to which everyone is and will be eternally responsible.  They knew they were sinners.  They understood the Law of God was not about reaching some level of perfect behavior. 

What they assumed is that the one who worshiped God would undertake a full obedience to the Law, an agreement with it, not a moral perfection in it.  Agreement with the Law required all kinds of sacrifices for sin and cleansing from sin.  But it never implied perfection. 

If it were not for Jesus Christ and his atoning death on the cross for our sin, all of us would be bound to a full devotion to the full Law of Moses, just like the Jews in pre-Christ days.  Paul’s whole point is that we’re not under the Law anymore because we’re under Jesus Christ—under his love, his sacrifice, his righteousness, his power, his Spirit and everything that God can share with us and bless us with. 

            Let’s keep reading at vs. 11:

11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 

            Paul is reinforcing that it is FAITH, not the LAW, that makes people right with God.  There are no exceptions.  “No one is justified before God by the law….”

ILL:  I don’t know what kind of family you were raised in but mine was pretty much one of law.  After all, my dad was a lawyer! J  The law around the house was… 

  • keep the stated and unstated laws about acceptable behavior and life will be easier;
  • break the stated and unstated laws and the governing authorities will…get angry, lower the boom, spank you, banish you to your room, scold you or otherwise shame you back into law-keeping.

Good standing was in relationship to good law-keeping.  While not a perfect system, I think it got the job done.  At least I don’t think I’m not too messed up.  But you’ll have to check with my wife for the unvarnished truth.

            This law-keeping mindset also got carried over to our church life as a family.  For 45 years or more, my parents believed that you could actually win God’s favor by keeping His list of rules.  Now, the list was a lot shorter than the whole O.T. Law.  Don’t ask me how they figured they could just sort of ignore the rest.  Maybe since it was just the “Big 10” I always heard about as a kid, they thought that as long as they were going to church on Sunday, not lying (“little white lies” and “courtesy lies” excepted), not committing adultery and not coveting other people’s stuff (which was pretty easy on an attorney’s salary), their good would outweigh their bad and God would more or less be obligated to accept them when life was done. 

            We…along with most of our peers and extended family… really missed what “the Law”…even the Big 10…were all about. 

The Law was never about justifying or making people right before God.  It can’t be clearer from Galatians 3:11—11. “…it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 

FAITH—here’s the big difference.  A law-based life is one of never being right with God…or people, for that matter. You know deep down you don’t quite measure up…or you’re so self-deceived that you convince yourself you’re perfect when you’re really just an arrogant so-and-so.   

But a faith-based life has room for grace, mercy, humility, confession, forgiveness and a host of other gifts of God that only come by faith, not works. 

Vs. 12 continues--12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

Now comes the contrast 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

Verse 13 is tell us HOW we were redeemed from ‘the curse of the law.’  The word “redeemed” is a business or commerce term.  It describes the purchase of something.  It was used of “buying back a captive,” of “liberating a slave through a ransom payment.”  We’re talking emancipation at a price

Interestingly, when Abraham Lincoln first proposed emancipation, he suggested a phased-in process by which slave owners would be compensated monetarily for their slaves from the Federal Government.  Slave states refused.  So instead of getting a payment, they got a war.  Instead of making money, they lost their plantations, their honor, their slaves and their lives in the bloodiest war in American history. 

Abraham Lincoln summarized in his second inaugural speech the price to the nation of failing to embrace freedom via “redemption.”

“The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." [Mt. 18:7]

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." [Psalm 19:9]

[Found at http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres32.html on 7.24.2015]

This passage in Galatians 3 tells us that WE were more than emancipated; we were bought out of slavery to sin when Jesus chose to become a curse for us.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had anyone else “become a curse” for me.   I’ve probably been cursed by others.  But I probably don’t hear it because I’m in the car with the windows rolled up.  But hurling a curse at someone is far different from actually being cursed…actually having the weight of judgment on our bad behavior fall squarely on our shoulders. 

The sad truth of spiritual reality is that we are ALL cursed because of our sin.  We’re all under God’s own judgment, His sworn curse over every act of human rebellion. 

ILL:  We might ‘curse’ the hammer that we just smashed into our finger with a simple “Damn!”  But to have God speak those words over the millions of sins we commit in a lifetime, damning us to judgment and separation from Him…that is a prospect I never want to have to face. 

But that is precisely the “curse” that the Law puts us under IF we are seeking reconciliation and right standing with God based on our own behavior, our own law-keeping.  Jesus Christ paid the redemption fee…the emancipation buy-out… for us—one that no other human being ever could have because of the fact that we’re all sinners caught under the same curse.  But the sinless Son of God bought us from slavery and put himself under the lash of God’s own holy judgment so that God could be true to his holiness and justice while also being true to his love and mercy. 

And WHY would God do that?  Why would the One Being in the universe who never deserved a curse, absorb all the curses due us?  Look at vs. 14 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. 

            Paul speaks of two things here that come to us through the blessed cursed-death of Christ on the cross:

  • The blessings of Abraham” which earlier he clarified as the “righteousness that comes by faith.” Right standing with God, a clean record and an open relationship with God almighty by believing faith. 
  • The promised Spirit.” This too, we are told, is “through faith.” 


  1. How much do we appreciate being “right with” someone? One of life’s most troubling and painful experiences for me is when I know I’ve offended, harmed or wounded someone but I can’t seem to figure out how to “make it right.”  The more that someone means to me, the more it hurts and bothers me.  And I usually need to do something that may be long, hard and painful in order to win that relationship back. 

BUT when that “person” is God himself, it is far more troubling, isn’t it?  The debt is unpayable by us.  But, oh the relief and joy when you experience being made right by a simply act of spiritual embrace—by putting our faith in Jesus Christ rather than some ineffective list of rule-keeping. 

When is the last time you really embraced the righteousness of Christ for you that is by faith? 

How did you praise God for the amazing gift of right-standing before him that had nothing to do with your ability to do any list of rules or expectations, religious or not? 

When and how did you just bask in being right with God because Jesus made you that way as you simply put your trust in Him? 

Or are you like I am so often—measuring my sense of right-ness to God by my ability to do a particular list of good things…or stay away from a particular list of bad things I’m tempted to do. There is little joy or peace there.

  1. The second thing that Paul tells us comes to us by the curse-bearing death of Christ is “the promised Holy Spirit through faith.”

Paul doesn’t stop here and explain WHAT the Holy Spirit does or WHY that is such a wonderful result of Jesus’ death on the cross. But let’s just pause for a moment and mention some of the wonderfully blessed things the presence of the Holy Spirit in you has produced or given you or blessed you with from time to time.  In your own experience, WHY is the Holy Spirit such a good and gracious gift to you?  What has and does the Spirit abiding in you bless you with? [Open sharing.]

The next paragraph starts in vs. 15 and is essentially an illustration Paul uses to show us that God’s promised blessings have always been given to people based on the faith they exercised, not the laws they kept.  He says…

15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 

We don’t use the term “covenant” very often nowadays.  It usually refers to some real estate agreement that binds you to an association or neighborhood of houses. 

            Perhaps a more familiar term that is really what Paul is talking about would be a “will” as in “my last will and testament.” 

ILL:  When my father passed away about 5 years ago, his will left very clear instructions on what was to happen to his estate.  In essence, it was all left to my mother through various legal instruments.  His primary concern was her welfare. 

            Once he died, his will immediately went into effect.  Thankfully everyone in my family are genuine Christians and we’d all heard Dad tell numerous horror stories as an attorney about how families were just great with each other until someone died and they all started fighting about the inheritance.  So Dad made very sure there would be no fighting in our family.  He did it by teaching us that relationships are more important than money.  And he insured it by drawing up a will about which there would be no questions whatsoever about what he wanted done. 

            Once he drew up that will and signed it, there was nothing anyone could do to change his will. No judge could change it.  No new law could annul it.  No family member could sue to change it.  Nada! 

            This is Paul’s point.  God made a “testament” or “covenant” with Abraham. It was a promise that was given in Gen. 12:2-3 & 17:1-8 that had various components to it like the promise of… 1.) offspring, 2.) blessings for Abraham, 3.) a great name, 4.) blessings or cursing to others based on how they treated Abraham, 5.) the Promised Land, 6.) blessings of Gentiles, 7.) God being God to his people, and 8.) kings descending from Abraham.  It depended on God, not Abraham’s ability to keep some law. 

            Let’s keep reading.

16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

            The language can get a little tough to follow here.  Essentially the distinction Paul is making between the singular “offspring” and the plural “offsprings” is that God was making this promise to Abraham and Christ (vs. 16).  This promise spanned from the time of Abraham to the coming, not of a bunch of people, i.e. Jews, who were Abraham’s offspring but to the coming of Jesus, that one, singular “offspring” that would bring blessing to the Jews and Gentile alike. 

            Just a side note here.  This passage is one of the reasons why we evangelicals believe in what we call “verbal, plenary inspiration” of the Scriptures.  We are simply affirming what Paul is affirming here—that not only did God author and inspire the thoughts and ideas of the Scripture; He directed the very words and grammar of the Scriptures. 

            Paul is making an argument between something as seemingly insignificant here as singular vs. plural.  Yet he does so to clarify that the promises to Abraham about his “seed” or “offspring” were about Jesus Christ, not the whole Jewish nation…because the word is singular, not plural.    

            APP:  So the next time someone tells you that the Word of God isn’t given by God to be interpreted word-by-word, take them to this passage.  We’re just using the same type of interpretive method Paul did. 

But back to the emphasis here.  Paul wants to make the point that the Law of Moses that was added 430 after God made this covenant with Abraham didn’t change that covenant.  It was a by-faith covenant.  He carries that fact forward into the New Covenant or New Testament that Jesus made and makes the argument that this new covenant is also by faith and also unchanged by the Law of Moses. 

O.K.  So now let’s finish up this chapter with the very question Paul asks in vs. 19—So why did God even give the Law of Moses if righteousness comes by faith, not keeping that Law?  Is the Law totally meaningless now or should it still have some influence on us?  And if so, how much?

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions….

This makes it sound like the Law came into existence because sin.  That’s a bit problematic because it makes it sound like sin somehow produced the Law and that the Law of God didn’t exist before sin.  The question is, did God add the law because the people were sinning OR did the people learn that they were sinning because God gave the law?

            I think the meaning that best fits Paul’s whole argument is that the law was added for the purpose of revealing transgressions.

ILL:  We are having a ball having a little kid in our house again.  Our two-year old granddaughter is fun, happy and sweet.  She could charm the skin off a snake. 

            But we’ve noticed that she has a sin nature too.  Now I haven’t seen her parents teaching her how to sin. She seems to come by it naturally. 

Just the other day at the lunch table she asked her mother to do something for her that she needed to do by herself.  Her mom told her so.  So, before you could say “Jiminy Cricket”, she turned to Sandy and asked the same thing.  When she got the same response as her mother had given, she got down and came around to me and asked me to do it for her. 

            While that behavior could be passed off as sophisticated negotiating skills, underneath it’s just plain old rebellion.  Did she know it was rebellion?  I’m pretty sure she did, but in her thinking it was more like “creative communication” or “Parent Pushing 101.”  :)

            If I, say, had given in and broken the clear instruction set down by her mother, not only would I have been in the doghouse with the other two women in the house; my granddaughter would have been rather confused…or at least not really known if what she was doing was wrong or just a negotiable individual preference by different family members. 

            Paul is telling us that God gave Israel the law because Israel, having been living with pagan Egyptians for four centuries plus, needed to be clear about what was “Egyptian Preference Behavior” and what was actually sin.  Thus the Law was given so that God’s people would know what was right and what was wrong for people who wanted to walk with God.  

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions….until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made….  Who was that offspringJesus Christ.  So Paul is saying that the Law was to last a specific amount of time—from its inception at Mt. Sinai to the coming of Christ. 

Let’s keep going.  “…and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

I think we could picture what Paul is trying to say with this diagram.

         God                    God                             God




         Abraham           Israel                           CHRIST

         Life of Faith      Law of Moses            Life of Faith



God dealt directly with Abraham, with Israel through angels Moses, and now deals directly with each person through Jesus Christ. 

Paul continues:  21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

            The Scriptures/Law of Moses made it very clear that everyone was held by the power of sin.  It wasn’t ever going to give people the faith-life we were made for.  But it was a great “jailer” making sure everyone knew sin had a grip on them.J

We continue: 

23 Now before faith came, [I think he is equating faith here with Christ and the life of faith a relationship with Him requires]

we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, [another word picture similar to the jailer/prisoner image he’s already used]

in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 

Paul isn’t teaching universal salvation here.  That is clear by the next verse.

 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 

Some Concluding Questions:

  • So what is the point of the Law of God?
  • Should we be trying to live by it? By all of it?  Some of it?  None of it? 
  • Should we be trying to impose it on non-Christians? Should we be advocating for it in the public square as laws the whole nation should follow? 
  • Or should we just let the culture do what it’s going to do, be as evil as it wants to be and shut up about things like lying, cheating, sexual immorality (sex trafficking, homosexuality), murder, abortion, oppression, abuse, etc?

Well first, we know that the Law of God is given to clarify what is sin.  It’s there to confront us with real clarity about what constitutes sin.  So the Law isn’t meaningless today just because Jesus came. It still clarifies sin.

            In fact, Paul wrote to Timothy later in I Timothy 1:5-11 saying, 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

So clearly the law that speaks to all these issues Paul mentions is still needed for people who would like to deny what God says is “plain to them” both through their conscience and through nature (a la Romans 1).  Significant portions of this Law certainly applies to every person who claims to be a God-follower.  It certainly should inform the church, the people of God. 

            If you got nothing out of the last 3 weeks’ messages about what God has to say about human sexual practices that lead to death and those that lead to life, I hope you heard that without a doubt, for the people of God, all sexual involvement with others outside of that one-man/one-woman husband-&-wife marriage bond is immoral.  It’s sin.  It’s against our God-given, Spirit-led nature even though it may fit our fallen, sinful nature very well. 

I’ll end with an illustration of the Law as it relates to us today 

How many of you are familiar with that technological innovation called a typewriter

What is the relationship between a typewriter and a computer? 

  • Which is better?
  • Why?
  • Why don’t we use typewriters anymore?

But the basic function of typewriters is still evident in computers, right?  If you did away with everything a typewriter did and used, how well would computers serve us? 

The Law of the Old Covenant is the same way.  The life of Christ we are now called to enjoy has elements of the Law.  We’re still called to avoid certain things that God says have always been sin. 

But to make “the list” of sins to avoid the focus of our relationship with God is like going back to the typewriter.  When loving Jesus Christ by faith every day is your experience, you don’t have to go back to pecking manual keys to get the write ink on the paper.  This life we have in Jesus is SO superior to the life under the Law, why on earth would we go back to the law?  You’d only do that if you lost all power/electricity (Spirit enablement?) or if you had never really learned how to use all the amazing benefits a computer can bring. 

            By living life in Christ, we are not putting away the Law; we are fulfilling it to a much greater degree than was ever possible before Christ.  Behind our daily life of faith in Jesus Christ is the Law that could never make someone righteous.  But now, by faith in Christ and the life of the Spirit, we’ve been given a new life…a new heart…a new Spirit.  And it is that life in which the righteousness of Jesus Christ actually begins to shine through our weak, frail and failing bodies.  Let’s let go of the temptation to focus on Law-keeping and embrace the promises of Spirit-living in Christ.