Tiago Arrais, PhD, is a district pastor in Santa Fe, NM, USA.


“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’”—Galatians 3:10–12

The previous biblical thought focused on two important concepts found in Abraham’s experience: blessing and election. Both movements from God, contrary to human religion, do not find their goal or end in the one who is blessed or elect. God elects those who respond to His calling to serve others, and every blessing He gives is only a means to bless others in service! So Paul uses the example of Abraham, who believed in God’s Word by faith and shaped his life around the promise, to show how we should live in Christ: only and exclusively by faith in the promises and actions of God. The true Israelites, in all of human history, were not those who objectively “kept all things” (remember Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler!) but those who trusted that the law was a means, a bridge, for us to exercise our faith in God’s provision and action. Without trust and faith, every action, devotion, and work is useless.

In Galatians 3:10–12 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26 to show that anyone who tries to depend on the objective keeping of the law for life is truly under a curse. Why? Because the law was only effective when it led the individual to the action of God: sacrifice. By faith the individual was to trust that the sacrifice presented to God pointed to a future act of God, to the sacrifice of Jesus Himself (as anticipated in Genesis 3:15). So the keeping of the law leads to sacrifice, to death. If one does not believe in the sacrifice of Jesus by faith, and remains under the law, he/she is cursed! For the law requires death.

For centuries, the relationship between law and faith has brought much confusion to Christians, including Adventists. Humanity is drawn to legalism; it is our first instinct when we commit any sin. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit and discovered their nakedness and shame, the very first thing they did was attempt to cover themselves up. Legalism, the attempt to use works to justify ourselves, is the most ancient religious impulse recorded in the Bible! When we fall, we are easily convinced by ourselves and others that the way to deal with it is to cover ourselves up with good actions—as if these good actions could justify us! The story of Adam and Eve helps us understand that only God is able to cover our nakedness. The battle between righteousness by faith and by works is found in the very first pages of Scripture.

So the question is: will you trust in your own works, and eventually find yourself under the curse of the law, or will you allow God to do the work you cannot do? Will you still attempt to follow the law written in stone by your own efforts? Or will you allow God to write the law in your heart, so that by His Spirit and in love you will know how to live in the freedom Christ gives us from the curse of the law itself? May we never forget that the righteous are not those who trust in their own devotion to the law, but those who live by faith in the faithfulness of the God who became a curse so we could live in faith, hope, and love.


“Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”—Galatians 3:11–14

The message of this biblical thought is a continuation of the previous one: the individual who attempts to maintain a relationship with God through objective devotion to the law is under a curse. The law demands sacrifice and, in Paul’s argument, Jesus Himself became curse for us so that we might live in the Spirit through faith alone. If a Christian maintains devotion to the law, the law will still require sacrifice. So either the individual accepts Jesus’ sacrifice, or he will be killed by the letter of the law.

Think about this: The promise to Abraham, the blessing of Abraham, through Jesus, has reached all of us. Now we can live a life of faith, like Abraham! But instead of looking forward in faith to the death of Jesus—like Abraham did—we can look back in faith and trust in His completed sacrifice. So our life becomes a life of faith that sees everything through the reality of a new day, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

For those who believe religious life consists of going in and out of church meetings for a few hours a week, this should be a surprising concept: Through His sacrifice, Jesus frees us toward life—to a life of faith! You might think that a life of faith is one that simply stops every once in a while for prayer, Bible study, or any other one of the familiar disciplines. But a life of faith is a life of faith, where prayer, study, and everything else take on a completely new dimension. Because Jesus became curse for us and died so we could have life, the prayerful life is not one of only words. Henri Nouwen understands that a prayerful life “is not a life in which we say many prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of Him who is the origin and purpose of our existence.” He adds, “To walk in the presence of the Lord means to move forward in life in such a way that all our desires, thoughts, and actions are constantly guided by him.” Jesus saves us to a life of sensibility to Him and, consequently, toward others.

In every circumstance of life—even within our brokenness—we have the opportunity, in Christ, to live a life of faith that not only looks back and trusts in the sacrifice of Jesus, but that also looks forward, with the eyes of Jesus, and sees a new world of possibilities for good, for love, for beauty, for joy, and peace. We see with new eyes our family members, coworkers or fellow students, and even people on the street. We stand before them and before God in a constant awareness of what has been done for us, and consequently of what can now be extended to others. So may you, my dear reader, become the extension of the blessing of Abraham to others—in life, and every day.

Tiago Arrais, PhD, is a district pastor in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.