Galatians 3:10-14 The fruit and gifts of the Spirit are precursors to a glorious and blessed life.
Galatians 3:10-14 The fruit and gifts of the Spirit are precursors to a glorious and blessed life.
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 13 Christ 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 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
The purposes of the Law in addition to serving as a guide, defines the standards of righteous behaviour. The Law also makes sin explicit and indictable thus posing as a deterrent against sinful behaviour (see Romans 5:13). However, the primary reason God called Moses to establish the Law is to set up a judicial system of animal sacrifices on earth to forgive sins. This is in anticipation of Christ, the Lamb of God being sacrificed for the sins of the world. With this system in place, Christ’s sacrificial work becomes judicially effectual. The sacrificial system is like railway tracks that must be laid before setting the train on it. Without this judiciary system, no covenant can be ratified, and humanity can never be justified through Christ’s sacrifice. When Jesus’s sacrificial work on the cross is accomplished, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled and its usefulness comes to an end. But the Law that has ceased to be useful, if not abolished quickly becomes a curse for those who hang onto it. The Law brings fear of failure, it stifles creativity and hinders the anointing of the Spirit. But the Christ’s death brings an end to the curse freeing believers to live in the Spirit’s virtues and power. Today’s devotion teaches us: The fruit and gifts of the Spirit are precursors to a glorious and blessed life.
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”
The text is better rephrased as, “For as many who rely on the works of the law are under a curse.” The Judaizers were referencing Old Testament text that threatens to curse anyone for not following the Law. The context suggests two passages the Judaizers might be citing:
Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them. Deuteronomy 27:26a
So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord. Leviticus 18:5
Here, Paul counters the Judaizer’s claims by saying that those who continue to observe the religious laws and rituals have placed themselves under a curse. Paul appeals to the Galatians who favour the Judaizer’s arguments because they are ignorant of the Law’s full requirements and consequences should they fail to fulfil it. And if they accept the Judaizer’s proposal, they are obligated not just to a few legal requirements, but to “all the things written in the book of the law to do them.”
That said, the main contention between Paul and the prevalent Jewish attitude concerns the fulfillability of the law. While the Jews see the Law as fulfillable, Paul asserts that humanity is dead in trespasses and sin… and hence, incapable of fulfilling all the law (Now that no one is justified by the Law before God). And by committing to the Law, they are setting themselves up to be cursed. And the curses that range from incurable diseases to total national annihilation are listed in Deuteronomy 28:15-68.
Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.”
But, how did this discrepancy between Paul and the Jews arise? The Jews see the Law as fulfillable but Paul disagrees and sees it as unfulfillable. This discrepancy arises from the way the requirement of the Law is interpreted. The Jews see the Law merely as a set of religious rules to be fulfilled and are unconcerned with the underlying motives and virtues. They see the Law’s purpose is to cleanse the outside of the cup, but not the inside. For the Jews have for centuries harboured that attitude towards the Law. However, both Jesus and Paul see the Law as the command to cleanse the inside of the cup and the outside will be clean as well (Matthew 23:26). Jesus vehemently rebuked the Jews for harping on the fine details of the law (tithe mint and dill and cummin) while neglecting weightier matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Matthew 23:23
Paul reinforces his argument with the words of prophet Habakkuk: the righteous shall live by his faith/faithfulness towards God as opposed to living by a set of rules (see Habakkuk 2:2-4). Faith/faithfulness is a virtue that evince righteousness. God, through prophet Isaiah rebuked the Jews for distorting the original purpose of the Law,
And so the Lord says,
“These people say they are mine.
They honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
And their worship of me
is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. Isaiah 29:13 (NLT)
Jesus reiterated Isaiah’s words to the Jews of His time,
‘This people honors ME with their lips,
But their heart is far away from ME.
‘But in vain do they worship ME,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Matthew 15:8-9 (NASV)
Indeed, the Jews have distorted the Law and the Law, under their stewardship has become the precepts of men.
What about faith? Faith is faithfulness to God and the values He stands for. The original purpose of the Law is to serve as a guide so that people can live out their faith/faithfulness to God in a meaningful way. Unless men repent and turn their hearts towards God and practise justice and mercy and faithfulness, they will not find righteousness regardless of what they do.
However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”
The Law is antithetical to faith (the Law is not of faith) as seen in the below comparison:
- Faith leads to righteousness, but the Law leads to curses
- Faith encourages dependence on God, but the Law encourages dependence on self
- Faith is God-centred, but the Law is man-centred
- Faith forgives the sinner and regenerates the heart, but the Law exposes sin and curses the sinner
The premise of the Law: God revealed Himself exclusively in the Law and man has his relationship with God only in his relationship to the Law. The aim of the Law is to do all that is written in it so that man may be approved and blessed by God.
God — Law — Man (performance by following rules)
The premise of faith: God revealed Himself through Christ and man has his relationship with God only in his relationship to Christ. The purpose of Christ is to show man who God is so that man may be transformed and be reconciled to God. The onus lies on man to repent and to depend on Christ to sanctify him towards a blessed life.
God — Faith — Man (love and commitment from the heart)
The Law is sensitive to performance. It rewards full conformance and curses non-conformance. Faith is sensitive to the posture of the heart. It rewards the penitent and curses the proud. The Law encourages self-dependence to obtain righteousness. Faith encourages God-dependence to obtain divine approval. Even though the Law is powerless against sin, those who rely on it are bound by oath to all the things written in the book of the law to do them.
Why is the Law not of faith? In essence, the Law constrains behaviour through external means but is powerless against man’s sinful nature. But faith forgives the penitent and facilitates the transformation of the heart. One who relies on the Law thinks he is righteous because he is prideful and possesses a flawed understanding of the Law. But one who relies on faith depends on God who knows (all things) to justify him.
Christ 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”
The entire human race is under the curse of death even before the Law is given to Moses (see Romans 5:14). However, when the Law came in, sin is made explicit, thus exacerbating the curse upon humanity (see Romans 5:13, 20). However, the Law paved the way for Christ to be that sacrificial Lamb to forgive sins. And Christ, through faith has become our sin, our curse, our death and our wrath of God.
The cross is indeed the true depiction of the curse of the Law. In those days, death by crucifixion (hang on a tree) is a fitting punishment for anyone who is accursed by God and men.
In order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Paul makes the Gentiles the chief emphasis as recipients of the Abrahamic blessing. It is only “in Christ” that the blessing initially made out to Abraham is translated to the Gentiles. How can Gentile believers be assured that they are legitimate recipients of the Abrahamic blessing? It is through the promise of the Spirit; the fruit and spiritual gifts that believers are assured of their righteousness. “Receive the promise of the Spirit” connotes acceptance by God which is entirely by faith apart from any works of the Jewish Law.
The true work of God lies outside the church.
The Jews suppose by their commitment to religious works and rituals will grant them divine approval and blessings. Instead, it grants them nothing but curses, poverty and endless sorrows. Paul warns the Galatian believers not to enter into their error: For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse.
In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus was asked a question by a lawyer “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered his question with another question, “What is written in the Law?” The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus followed up with a parable of the good Samaritan who had compassion on a man who was robbed along a highway. The religious leaders of the day avoided him for fear of defiling themselves. But this despised Samaritan, took the injured man into an inn and nursed him back to health without asking anything in return.
Jesus spoke of the Samaritan as having fulfilled the Law even though he is not religious. The Law is about fulfilling the mission of love in the context of humanity at large. But the Jews see the work of God as being confined within the church. Many churchgoers harbour secret ambitions, they study the word and commit themselves to religious works in hopes of moving up the “ecclesiastical ladder”. Some even made no apologies concerning their motives of their participation in church: personal significance, career and progression. That said, the true work of God lies outside the four walls of the church. The work of God is about sowing forgiveness, tolerance and unconditional love in the family; and to raise up children that are gracious and wise. In the neighbourhood, to speak words of hope and encouragement to people who pass us by; and to look out for those in need. In the company, we uphold the values of justice, mercy and faithfulness in all that we do; to persevere believing that all things are possible with God.
Just as in Abraham all the nations are blessed… A successful church translates the religious activities within the church into a blessing for the world. Many outside the church are looking for hope and empathy in a cold and meritocratic society. God evaluates the effectiveness of a church through the extent the virtues of God is lived out through its members.
The fruit and gifts of the Spirit are precursors to a glorious and blessed life.
The precursor of a blessed life is the promise of the Spirit. How does the promise of the Spirit translate into prosperous and abundant living? The manifestations of the promise are the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit. The fruit relates to wisdom and virtues of Christ and the gifts relates to His power and revelations. One who is led by the Spirit will manifest the fruit and the gifts of Christ resulting in a successful and blessed life. One who is led by the Spirit is virtues-oriented, he has no fear, he is in the element and God gives him success. But one who is led by the Law is performance-oriented, he constantly fears that he cannot meet the expectations. His anxieties hinders his confidence, creativity and most importantly, the anointing of the Spirit.
As a musician, I understand the importance of being in the element. In the middle of a rendition, I am immersed in the flow of the music, not in the technique or specific notes that I will be playing. One who is focused on the individual notes being fearful of making errors is not in the element, and his music will come across as clinical and soulless. Similarly, when we are focused on Christ, being immersed in His love, kindness, goodness, wisdom and His power, there is security. Those who are of the Law constantly fear sudden failure and loss. Therefore, in whatever situations, we must be virtues-oriented… and flow with the Spirit’s love and wisdom, being confident that God is always present to help us succeed.
Do you translate your spiritual piety into works of charity towards others? Your attendance in the church’s worship service, the bible studies, the prayers must ultimately translate into good works in your family, workplace, the community and the missions field.
Are you constantly uptight about your performance and you find it difficult to enjoy what you do? By bearing the fruit of the Spirit, you facilitate the operation of Spiritual gifts in any situation. Through the fruit and gifts of the Spirit you grow in the favour of God and men. Pick one virtue per month and work on it. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and a sound mind (wisdom). Galatians 5:22-23.
Dear Lord, I desire to do the works of charity and be a blessing to my family, church, workplace, community and in the mission field. Cause the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit to overflow in my life. Bless me so that I may be a blessing to the world. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.