By Robert Halsey Pine
“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’ But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, ‘Whoever does the works of the law will live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,’ or it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’ “ (Galatians 3:1-14 NRSV).
It is not enough that we follow and obey the law. Whether it is the law as set forth in scripture or the law of society, these are not complete in and of themselves. The law as given to Moses does not save us but reminds us of our sinful nature and our need for redemption. This was made clear at the very beginning when Adam was unable to obey the law set forth, and demonstrated to God the weakness of His creation. God wanted us to have free will, but he also knew the nature of His creation, that it was a work in progress.
Abraham is our example of the way to overcome that which we are imperfect to uphold. Living by the law does not bring us to righteousness. We will fail. It was the faith of Abraham in God’s promise to him that, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed by you,” that we are descendants of Abraham believing as he believed. The promise of being saved by faith rather than by the works of the law brought Abraham into righteousness and prepared us for the coming of God through Christ Jesus to teach us and forgive us of our sin. The law points out the error of our ways. Our faith saves us.
St. Paul asked the Galatians (3:5), “Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” I know that in my life my blessings have not come out of any kind of perfection on my part. It has been when I have become so helpless in getting my life right and have abandoned myself to God that I have been blessed with the Spirit and God’s miracles. The law has cursed me, but my faith has saved me.
The thought of God sending His Son Jesus to be cursed by being hung on a tree, all for the forgiveness of my transgressions overwhelms me. It helps me to focus on God in faith and to know that complete surrender to Him should be my goal. It is He who saves me and no other.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.