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.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 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”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
~ Galatians 3:10-14
Paul makes a very surprising statement here for a Jew – he condemns everyone who trusts in the law for their salvation. The term “cursed” means “damned” and “without hope”. As I stated before, the purpose of the law is a guardian (Gal 3:24) that holds up the standard of perfection and merely shows you that you cannot attain it. Even if, for some reason, you were able to cleanse yourself of your Adamic sin nature and live your life from here forward in perfect obedience to the Mosaic law (the ten commandments) – never stealing anything, not even post it notes at work or using your work phone for personal calls – never looking with lust on anyone to whom you are not married – never becoming angry without cause – always content in what you have – always trusting in God alone for everything and always looking at Him alone for all of your sustenance and comfort. If you could do that for every moment of the rest of your life, you’d still have all of the failure of your past that testifies to your guilt against you. You’d merely be meeting the standard, never atoning for your past failures.
Therefore, NO ONE is justified before God by the law. We are justified by God, through His mercy, by His grace, apart from our own doing, and against our will. If left to our own devices, we will brush off God’s salvation that He has provided for us and stand up on our own two feet, grab the tablets of the law in our hands and say with all the strength we can muster, “NO! I will attain this salvation!” It is in our sinful nature to try to do things ourselves and while that can be used for good, when it comes to resting in Christ is breeds religion and legalism by building for ourselves standards that God has not instructed us to build and begin to judge others based on our own imaginary righteousness. Don’t believe me? Listen to 95% of the pastors who preach today – conservative and liberal alike. They inform you that there is X, Y, and Z wrong in the world or with society, that we are somehow the answer to that problem and now we need to DO 1, 2, and 3 to bring this nation back around. How many times have we heard that our nation’s schools are failing, that our economy is crumbling, and that our abortion is the #1 cash crop for the government funded Planned Parenthood? The response is that we need to write our congressmen, take a stand at the voting booths, and pray that God will change this nation. This is nothing shy of legalism. Let’s take a different approach here – how many times have you heard someone on Christian radio state that they read the Bible for 3 hours a day and that God really uses that time to transform their lives and if you spend 3 hours a day doing the same that He will do it for you too? That’s legalism. What about the pastor who tells you that a giving Christian is a real Christian, then takes it one step further stating that if you don’t give a certain percentage of your money to the church then you’re as bad as the tax collectors or blasphemers. That’s legalism. Anytime that you’re told to DO anything outside of trusting in the work of Christ on the cross for your salvation, you’re entering into dangerous waters of legalism.
Jesus has redeemed us, bought us at the cost of His own life, so that we will be free from the bonds of legalism and from adherence to the law. The law existed in the past as a pointer to the Messiah who was to break us free from the condemnation of the law, cleanse us from the guilt and consequence of our sins, and fill us with His righteousness so that we could stand unashamed before the throne of God. That is the blessing of Abraham that we receive through faith in the substitutionary atonement provided by God through Jesus for our good and His glory and the proof of this transformation is provided to us in the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.