“There is none righteous, no not one.” No one is good enough. Regardless of effort, or intention, or desire, there is no person who can ever perfectly obey the law of God. Even if at the surface level, they were able to set enough barriers to obey the law externally, the reality is that internally they would still violate the law. By nature and action, every human being is a law-breaking sinner. And this is a grave reality, since anyone who seeks to find acceptance with God through their good works, has chosen a method of acceptance that is sure to fail them. Paul explains in Galatians 3 that those who seek to justify themselves before God by doing good works are not ever going to be justified, rather instead of being declared righteous, they will be declared “cursed” or condemned.
However, Paul further explains that mankind is not left without hope in that cursed and condemned state. Even though we could not un-curse ourselves by obeying the law perfectly, Jesus came and after living perfectly and sinlessly offered himself as a curse for us to save us from our condemnation. In Galatians 3:13, Paul writes, “Christ has redeemed us.” The word “redeemed” literally means “to buy back, or purchase.” Jesus spent his righteousness life as a payment for our unrighteous, cursed life. Paul continues by explaining that he did this so that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to all the nations of the world.
With Christ as a substitute for us, we now have access to the covenant (or promise) that Abraham had received. Others would argue, “Then why was there ever a law given if we weren’t supposed to obey it fully to receive the acceptance of God?” In response to this point, Paul says in verses 16-18, “When men make covenants, they keep them and never change the guidelines and agreements in the covenant. If God made a covenant, it only stands to reason that no matter what the future held, He would continue to abide by the guidelines of the covenant he had made.” The covenant that Paul is talking about is the one that God made with Abraham, whereby God declared Abraham righteous because of Abraham’s faith. When God gave the law, 430 years after making a covenant with Abraham, He was not revising the covenant and adding works to the faith He had expected from Abraham. Rather, God was still holding the descendants of Abraham to the same covenant standard that He had originally given, namely, faith.
Paul’s point was that acceptance with God has always come through faith, and works has never been a method of receiving God’s forgiveness and being declared righteous. Those who were the Judaizers argued that the Christians departed from the true religion that God had instituted. Paul’s argument showed that the Judaizers who followed the law to gain the acceptance of God were actually the ones who had departed from the details of the Abrahamic Covenant that God had extended to his people. As believers, we become heirs of the covenant God made with Abraham when we come in faith, believing in the redeeming sacrifice Jesus made for us.
Food For Thought: What argument does Paul give for why the law was not a change to the covenant that God made with Abraham?