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The Curse of Galatians 3:10

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” (Galatians 3:10, Joseph Smith Translation)

And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise, grace is no more grace.” (Romans 11:6, Joseph Smith Translation – both of these verses read identically to the King James Version, and are faithful to the Greek text.)

So which is it? Do we achieve worthiness to live with God forever based on our track record of good and bad deeds (“works”), or by grace – the unmerited favor of God? The above scriptures make it clear that both can’t be true. Let’s make it even clearer.

Romans 11:6 teaches that grace and works are mutually exclusive, contrary to LDS teachings that “by grace we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23) (Think about that. How much is “all we can do”? How can we ever know that we have done enough? There lies the curse of Galatians 3:10.)

Romans 11:5 says that God has chosen a remnant of believers, based on grace. Verse 6 says, “And if by grace, then it is no more (Greek ouketi, literally “no longer”) of works, otherwise, grace is no more (same word) grace.” If we are truly put right with God eternally by the unmerited, undeserved favor of God, then there is no longer anything we can do to earn it. If our status with God is based on our performance or worthiness, we no longer have a “standing in grace” (Romans 5:2). In fact, we are then under the curse of Galatians 3:10.

If we try to achieve God’s celestial glory based on our own worthiness, Galatians 3:10 (quoting Deuteronomy 27:26) warns us that we must continue to do everything that is written in the book of God’s law. People who happily think they are living a worthy life that will get them into heaven are only fooling themselves, according to this curse.

Even James, who is famous for his line “Faith without works is dead,” writes, “For whosoever shall, save in one point, keep the whole law, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10, Joseph Smith Translation) It only takes one weak spot to break a chain. It only takes one pinprick to pop a balloon. Likewise, all it takes is one sin to make anyone a lost outlaw in the eyes of God.

The Galatians 3:10 curse applies, even if we subtract the parts of God’s law that were just for Israel (see my book What’s on God’s Sin List for Today? to explore that issue). Take a close look at the New Testament sin lists, which summarize the parts of God’s law that are timeless and universal. Take a look at the Sermon on the Mount, the love commandment (John 13:34), and 1 Corinthians 13. Can you honestly say, “That’s me! That’s how I live”?

If we are truly honest with ourselves, trying to reach God by living a worthy life is a burden no one can bear. We are under a curse if we try to do so. The only way to break that curse is by placing our faith, not in our own goodness, but in Jesus and what he has done to make us “holy and unblamable and unreprovable in [God’s] sight” (Colossians 1:22, Joseph Smith Translation).

Through the cross of Christ alone we are justified (= “just if I’d never sinned”). “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified… I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:16 and 21, Joseph Smith Translation)

So, where do good works belong in the life of a believer? They are a logical response of gratitude. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” (John 14:15) Good works are also diagnostic evidence that a person does have saving faith; that’s the point of James’s words, “Faith without works is dead.” Why would anyone want to trash the tremendous mercy of God shown to us in the cross of Christ?

To live a life of deliberate sin is a living contradiction: “Shall we continue in sin, so that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who have died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) A fornicating Christian, for example, is as much a contradiction as a Muslim hog roast. It doesn’t mean that sin cancels out the forgiveness we have through grace (grace is grace!), but who wants to live as bad advertising for the One who gave his life to save us from an eternity of hell?

Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers; only don’t use your freedom as an excuse for the flesh [as we would say, to “live like the devil”], but through love, be slaves to one another.” Avoiding sin is for our own good, to avoid the pain that goes with sin. Even when we fail, we know that forsaking sin is the only healthy way to live.

So the Gospel of God’s grace, if a soul truly believes, gives him/her a powerful desire to live a life that pleases God. But if we truly believe that we have been saved by grace and not by our own works, we must be careful not to add any additional requirements, like what church we belong to, or the correctness of our beliefs about what is sin, or who is a true or false prophet. When we do add such requirements, we accidently undermine what we claim to believe. The most we can say about false beliefs or immorality in lifestyle is that they conflict with saving faith.

Not even faith is a meritorious act for which we can claim credit for being better than the next person. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that faith is the gift of God, which removes all grounds for boasting. Faith is like grabbing the lifeline thrown to you to rescue you from a flood; the person who grabs the rope is no more “worthy” than the person who doesn’t.

So we have a choice. We have the way of grace: we can receive the free gift of God (Romans 6:23) and rejoice that Christ has made us “holy and unblamable and unreprovable” now and forever. Or we can take the way of law, and try to make ourselves worthy to enter heaven. But that way, according to Galatians 3:10, is under a curse: “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Let Christ take away that curse and give you the joy of being put right with God, now and forever.