Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

Tom Lowe



The Curse of the Law (3.10-12)


Galatians 3.10-12 (KJV)

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 
11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

Elizabeth Elliott wrote “True faith goes into operation when there are no answers.” How’s your faith this morning?  Do you have a lot of faith?  Do ye have faith like a grain of mustard seed?  How much faith is enough; how much faith does it take to be saved?  I’m afraid that if it took a lot of faith, most people would never be saved.  I was saved when I was nine years old.  I was ignorant of God’s word and I didn’t have much faith, so God gave me more faith and He has been building my faith ever since. Today the message is about faith and the Law of God. Let’s read Galatians 3:10-12, and that will be our text for this morning. (Read text) Let’s look carefully at these verses. Verse 10 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”


The Jews had hundreds of laws.  For example, there was one command that said you should not work on the Sabbath.  They didn’t want to break this law, so they added what was called “fence laws” which were laws meant to help you avoid breaking the laws of God.  No one ever worked harder at keeping the law than the Jews, particularly the Pharisees.  They kept every minute detail of the law and in addition they kept all the fence laws. For example, the command was “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” But that means, of course, that you can’t do any work on the Sabbath. One of the fence laws they adopted said, “you can’t drag a chair across the floor on the Sabbath, because that creates rows in the dirt floor, and you know what that is, that is plowing. It is working. In time this thing they called the Law, consisting of the commandments, dietary laws, inheritance laws, etc., and the fence laws, got out of hand. People forgot which laws were from God and which laws men added. Well, we want to keep it simple, so for our purposes today, when we speak of the Law it is the Ten Commandments; the ten commands that tell us how to live in His world.

Listen as I read verse 10 again: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”The important word here is “continueth.” I would imagine that there was a day in your life when you felt very good, when you were on top of the world and singing, “Everything’s coming up roses.” On that day you walked with the Lord and you didn’t stumble or stub your toe. Then you say, “Well, because I did “such and such, God saved me.” But notice that this verse says, “Cursed is every one that CONTINUETH not in all things which are written in the book of the law.” What do you think about that? Do you keep the Law twenty-four hours every day, seven days a week, and fifty-two weeks out of the year, in thought, word, and deed? If you are a human being, someplace along the way you let down. You are not walking on top of the world all the time. My friend, when you let down, the Law can only condemn you. Only perfect performance could win divine approval under the Law, but since that was not achievable the Law could only condemn a person and cause him to cast himself on God in faith. In James 2:10 it says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

During my seventy-four years, I have met several men who go around saying “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.” I am willing to bet you that if you asked their wives if they were that way all the time, they would tell you, “No, he has his bad days.” We all have bad days, don’t we?

If you are going to put yourself under the Law, and you have a bad day, you are not going to be rewarded for it. Suppose I had kept all the laws of Laurens, South Carolina, which is where I have lived for the last fifteen years. Then I wait at my home for the mayor and city council to come to my home and give me an award for keeping those laws. Let me tell you something, they do not give awards for keeping the law in Laurens South Carolina. If I had kept every law for fifteen years, and then stole something, or broke a speeding law, I would be arrested. You see, the Law does not reward you. It does not give you life. The Law penalizes you. But faith gives you something; it gives you life.

Salvation could never come by obedience to the Law, because the Law brings a curse, not a blessing. The Law demands obedience, and this means obedience in all things. The Law is not a “religious cafeteria” where people can pick and choose. Nobody could ever live by the Law, because the Law kills and shows the sinner he is guilty before God: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3.20).

Someone will say, “But when we are saved, then surely we can keep the Law.” Absolutely not! Because it calls for CONTINUED, UNBROKEN, PERFECT obedience in every single point. One slip and you are guilty. Is there a saint who can say he has ever lived one day without breaking God’s Law? The Bible states that no man lives, and no man has ever lived (except Jesus), who has been able to keep the law of God perfectly. In Psalm 14 David tells us this: “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God” (Ps. 14.2). Here in the next verse is what God has to say that He found as He looked down to see who sought after Him. Here is God’s answer to the question; “Has anyone ever kept all the Law?” God said, “They are ALL GONE ASIDE, they are ALL TOGETHER BECOME FILTHY: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Ps. 14.3). That is God’s opinion of every man, by nature and by birth. That applies to you and to me, for He says that they are “all gone aside” and are filthy in God’s sight. “There is not one righteous, no, not one.” God’s perfect Law condemns us, one and all. These are God’s infallible words, and the same thought is conveyed in the New Testament in verses like this one in Romans: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3.23). 

Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 26.36: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them…” to show that failure to keep the law PERFECTLY brings divine judgment and condemnation. Even one violation of the Law deserves the curse of God. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2.10). This statement by James is clear enough, but let me add this: “All Law has been given by God. We cannot single out one command and say this one came from God and another did not. Just as God is a unity, the Law stands as a unity. Either it is kept in its entirety or the individual is guilty of being a lawbreaker. It may be that he has violated only one single item. Nevertheless he is a lawbreaker.” The proposition that a person can gain divine acceptance by human effort is therefore totally destroyed.


11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 

Even the Old Testament taught that man was saved by faith. It does not teach that anyone was ever saved by keeping the Law. If you can find that someone living back under the Law was saved by keeping the Law, let me know. I have never read of anyone who was saved by keeping the Mosaic Law. As you know, the heart of the Mosaic Law was the sacrificial system. Moses rejoiced that God could extend mercy and grace to people even under the Law. In Habakkuk 2.4 it says that, “…the just shall live by his faith.”

But someone might argue that it takes faith even to obey the Law; so Paul quotes Leviticus to prove that it is by doing the Law, not believing it, that God requires: “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD” (Lev. 18.5). Law says, “Do and live!” but grace says, “Believe and live!” Paul’s own experience (Phil 3.1-10), as well as the history of Israel (Rom. 10.1-10) proves that works righteousness can never save the sinner; only faith righteousness can do that.

The judgment of this verse and verse 12, is, according to scripture, “The just shall live by faith.” Judging from the context, the apostle’s use of this quotation (Hab. 2.4) is intended to stress the truth that one can become just in God’s sight only by faith. On this basis alone can he truly live the life of God? But the Law is not of faith, but of doing, or works, (that is, it does not make faith, but works, the condition of justifying). Therefore, “in,” or “by the Law, no man is justified before God” [whatever the case may be before men—“If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God” (Rom 4.2)]—not even if he could, which he cannot, keep the Law, because the Scripture element and conditional means of justification is faith.

12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

Faith and Law are contrary principles for salvation and also for living. They are diametrically opposed to each other. If you are going to live by the Law, then you cannot be saved by faith. You cannot combine them. They are contrary. Neither has God any arrangement for you to be saved by faith and by Law. You have been saved by one or by the other. If you want to be saved by Law, then you can try it—but I’ll warn you, God has already said you won’t make it. “The law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.”

The Judaizers wanted to seduce the Galatians into a religion of legal works, while Paul wanted them to enjoy a relationship of love and life by faith in Jesus Christ. For the Christian to abandon faith and grace for Law and works is to lose everything exciting that the Christian can experience in his daily fellowship with the Lord. The Law cannot justify the sinner—“Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2.16); neither can it give him righteousness—“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal. 2.21). The Law cannot give the gift of the Spirit—“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?” (Gal. 3.2), nor can it guarantee that spiritual inheritance that belongs to God’s children—“For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise” (Gal 3.18). The Law cannot give life—“Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law” (Gal. 3.21), and the Law cannot give liberty—“Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal. 3.8-10). Why then go back into the Law? 

If you want to know the truth about Christianity and the Law, you can learn the truth by reading Romans 10.4 and believing it. “For Christ is THE END OF THE LAW for righteousness TO EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVETH.” This does not mean that Jesus destroyed the Law. In Matthew 5.17 Jesus tells us He did not come to destroy the Law, nor did He come to destroy the prophets; He came to fulfill the Law—and He did exactly that. He fulfilled every jot and every tittle of the Law. He satisfied the demands of God’s holiness and purity. In the closing hours of His ministry He said, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I HAVE FINISHED THE WORK WHICH THOU GAVEST ME TO DO” (John 17.4). Again, just before He bowed His head on His pulseless chest, He cried out from the Cross, “IT IS FINISHED” (John 19.30). I am not trying to do away with the Law, for the Law is holy and righteous. God has not changed His mind about the Law. He thunders out, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Eze. 18.20). God said that; and He means exactly that; but JESUS TOOK OUR PLACE! And now in this dispensation of grace, when God looks at those of us who are believers, He does not see us…He sees the precious blood that covers our heart. In Christ we are righteous. In Christ we are holy. Out of Christ we are helpless, hopeless, and hell bound. 

Through the Law there never could be salvation; but thanks be to God, he found a way. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the door. He is salvation. Without Him all men are hopelessly lost. The only way you or I will ever stand before God guiltless and hear Him say, “Enter thou in to the joys of thy Lord,” will be through the merit of Jesus, not by our righteousness” (Isa. 64.6).

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3.5).

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