"All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”" (Gal 3:10)
This is a fact that is hard to stomach by the pride of man. The religious scoff at it or try to trim the edges off. They say, "but surely Paul must only mean the ceremonial Law," or "surely Paul must not mean everything." They believe, in their delusion, that the ones who are cursed are the ones who are worse than most and that they, if they give enough of a sincere effort to do right and love God, are excused from this. But this is not the case. Those who hold themselves to be apart from religion -which is nothing other than creating a private religion of idols of our own- may say, "Law? I am a moral man, and the curse of God does not scare me. I do not pretend to be great like those religious folks, but I am certainly doing my best to be right." How vainly we lie to ourselves! We flatter ourselves in ways that go beyond number -all to avoid the inevitable conclusion that the God, the only True God, is a God who is holy and requires His creatures to "be Holy as [He is] Holy." What is the standard of holiness, of righteousness? It is not the myth we create in our own mind. It is the Law of God. Cursed is everyone -no exceptions- who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law". There are four observations I wish us to consider.
1. Cursed. What does it mean to be cursed? To be brief, it means much more than being denied God's favor. It means we are the objects of His cursing, His wrath. We are sworn enemies of His holiness. Rather than being blessed, we are cursed. Yes, we live through many material and physical blessings, thanks be to God's common grace among men upon earth, but as creatures before God's throne we are vile, abominable, and the mere presence of a cursed one in the sight of God demands exacting, swift, and thorough retribution and wrath. Yet, I believe, after all of this, that the curse goes beyond this. If we think of the curse that fell upon man in Adam, it was a curse concerning far more than eternal judgment. We are also under a curse in that our hearts are darkened. We are "dead in our trespasses and sins" in comparison to being "made alive in Christ" (Eph 2). We are in bondage to our sin -our wills are bound to corruption and are enmity against God.
2. Everyone. Not one is excluded. All who rely upon their works before God are under a curse because to rely upon our works is to pridefully assume God is our debtor. We can deny this, but it is true: we are good because we expect something in return for it. Perhaps we expect to gain God's favor, or man's favor, or even just to clear our consciences and feel we are doing something good for a change. Many who have battled with societal sins (alcholism, lust, adultery, etc.) take this route in attempt to make themselves feel better for their past mistakes, but it is just heaping lies upon lies. Not a single one is missed -everyone who does not measure up to God's righteous standard deserves pure wrath -not blessing. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."(Rom 3:20) Not a single one is missed.
3. Who does not continue. Imagine, if you will, that we could in fact obey God's Law for a day, or even a week, or even 20 years. Imagine that we obeyed perfectly, not out of malice, pride, trying to save our own skin from the fire of His judgment, but purely and perfectly out of love and gratitude to God -which is the only true fulfillment of the Law. All it would take is one moment of sin, one lie, one moment of ill-motive, of hatred, of jealousy, of false humility, of self-idolatry, of shifting our eyes and our heart away from the Sovereign God for even a moment, and we are under the curse of God. Everyone who does not continue in these things is cursed.
4. Everything written in the Law. What is it that the cursed one does not continue in? Everything written in the Law. There is not one command, one requirement, one prohibition that is overlooked. God revealed it, and it stands forever. Is has been counted that there are well over 600 commands and prohibitions in the Scriptures. We can narrow them to 10, the Ten Commandments, but they can be narrowed even more. The two great commands, according to Jesus, sum up the Law. They are:
‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)
To think that the Law can be summarized in such a way is difficult to grasp, unless we even begin to see what these commands entail. They do not speak of some bare obedience, some legal obedience. They speak of heart obedience -from a heart that is 100% selfless, perfectly loves God, and perfectly loves neighbor. This heart produces the deeds that accompany such love. Truly, do any of us, namely you, my reader, love God with all of yoru heart and soul and strength? Even if we imagine that we love God, can we not also confess that our heart is divided? Our mind is divided? Our soul is still pulled by lusts and desires that we know are wrong? We must confess that even if we have loved God with a great deal of heart, it is not all of our heart. And when it comes to God's Law and the sternness of His requirements, do we love these requirements? Even if God took these requirements and expectations away, would we still love them and wish to do them? Even if they were taken away and we lived in solitude before God, would we, knowing that God looks not upon them and judge us, still love to do them for the sake of loving God alone? We must confess this is not the case.
Lastly in this passage, the apostle Paul emphasizes, in quoting this part of the Old Testament, that all of those who rely upon works of the Law remain under the curse. Why is that? We have already established that the Law puts everyone under the curse of God, for not one single man of the race of Adam continues in all ways with all perfect and all love to do them. But Paul has said this because there is a great salvation. There is such a thing. There is a Savior, Jesus, who came and obeyed this Law without flaw. He did so perfectly, with boundless love for the Father and for neighbor. There was not an ounce of darkness or selfishness in Him, and this is exactly why He could then be delivered up to death, death upon the cross -the death upon the tree which is cursed in the Scriptures- as the spotless Lamb for the sins of all who draw near to God through Him alone -making perfect peace with God's justice. And thus, everyone who believes upon Him and abandons their hold upon their own goodness shall be saved for His sake. Some shall now say, "Yes, this is good, a Savior. With His help I will be favored by God." No, to rely upon our own righteousness in any part nullifies this great grace. This is why Paul still says "all who rely upon obseving the Law". To rely upon any goodness within us, even in the smallest regard, is still to reliance upon self. It is those who rely upon Christ alone, those who see the severity of this curse, how they justly fall under it, and give up upon their own goodness, who are saved because of His obedience to the Law, His atonement through His death for their sins, and His bodily resurrection from the dead in their place. I read a great quote once that I cannot place, but it said something like, "Jesus alone saves, and He saves alone."