Paul has the attention of the Galatians. He’s indicted them as being foolish and bewitched. They have believed men over God, doubted their faith, and trusted in works. He lays out the gospel as promised to Abraham well before the law even came into existence.
In Galatians 3:7-4:7, Paul makes his indisputable case. He tells the Gentiles that they are the sons of Abraham; the heirs of the promise of God. His argument hinges on the fact that God’s whole purpose from the beginning of the very nation of the Jews has been to bless all the nations through them. The Jews had certainly not accomplished this task nor was it their present intention. Clearly, the Jews were not looking to bless the nations, but only to rise up against them, conquer the powers that be – namely Rome – and rule over the world from an earthly throne. This, even, is what the disciples expected Christ to bring about. He sorely corrected them. (Matthew 24:1-2.) Even today many still hold out hope for an earthly kingdom while completely missing the whole point.
So what is the point? What is Paul saying in Galatians 3?
Adam had failed. Israel had failed. The unbelieving world stood condemned. God sent Jesus to fulfill the promises made to Abraham. His first mission was to deliver Israel from the curse of the law and reconcile her to God. In this, he was to be recognized as the rightful king of Israel. Afterward, he set out to accomplish what all of Israel had failed to do – bring blessing to all the nations – not from a corruptible, earthly throne, but from an incorruptible, heavenly one.
Both the deliverance of the self-righteous Jews and the blessing of the unrighteous Gentiles were accomplished in one act – death on the cross.
Death on the cross.
If we truly want to be like Jesus delivering the self-righteous and blessing the unrighteous that they both might become righteous in Christ, threatening with the law will not work. Let me just say that again. Threatening with the law will not work. No. This task of preaching the gospel will require something far more personally painful. It will require death on the cross for us.
The law only condemns; that is it’s function. Paul tells us that the righteous shall live by faith. It takes faith to stop relying on the curse to change men and begin to lay down our own lives for them because we believe the promise. That is, however, precisely what Jesus did. Yes, it hurt. Yes, it was very hard. No, it wasn’t fun. Little wonder why Christ insists we first count the cost of following him.
We can use the law to threaten sinners like ourselves into forced, dutiful obedience without heart change or we can use grace to encourage them to lay down their lives. While the former only requires placing heavy burdens and unattainable standards on others, the latter requires carrying our cross and accepting personal death to this world. We can only encourage others to lay down their lives by laying down our own. One is of Christ; the other is of Satan.
That was Paul’s point. Do not be deceived as Galatia was. The law is a curse and only faith can save.