Arthur Pink, February, 1951
It is unspeakably solemn to learn that Scriptural blessings and cursings proceed from the same mouth, yet a little reflection will convince the reader that such must be the case. God is light as well as love, holy as well as gracious, righteous as well as merciful — and therefore does He express His abhorrence of and visit His judgments upon the wicked — as truly as He blesses and manifests His approbation unto those who are well pleasing in His sight. An eternal Heaven and an eternal Hell, are the inevitable and ultimate "pair of opposites."
Plainly is this awesome duality displayed in the natural world, for if, on the one hand, our senses are charmed by the golden sunsets, the flowering gardens, the gentle showers and the fertile fields, on the other hand — we are shocked and terrified by the fearful tornado, the devouring blights, the devastating flood and the destructive earthquake. "Behold therefore, the goodness and severity of God" (Rom 11:22).
From mount Ebal were announced the divine curses (Deu 27) and from mount Gerizim the divine blessings (Deu 28). The one could not be without the other. Thus too will it be in the last Day, for while Christ will say unto His brethren, "Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" Yet unto those who despised and rejected Him shall He say "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into everlasting fire!" (Mat 25:34, 41).
"Cursed is the ground for your sake; in sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life" (Gen 3:17). That was one of the consequences which attended Adam's apostasy from God, a part of the divine vengeance which fell upon him. And as we have recently shown in our articles upon the doctrine of human depravity, because the first man stood as the covenant head and legal representative of his race, the judgment which came upon him is shared by all his descendants. Adam was made the vice-regent of God in this scene — given dominion over all things mundane — and when he fell, the effects of his awful sin were made evident on every hand. His fair inheritance was blasted, the very ground on which he trod was cursed, and so that henceforth it brought forth "thorns and thistles," compelling him to toil for his daily bread in the sweat of his face.
Every time any of us seeks to cultivate a plot of land, the numerous woes it produces, hindering our efforts, supply a very real proof of the divine sentence pronounced in Genesis 3, and evince that we belong to a fallen race.
"Thus says the LORD; Cursed be the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the LORD" (Jer 17:5). A thorough acquaintance with ourselves ought to render the warning of the solemn execration unnecessary, yet sad experience proves otherwise. Have you not sufficient knowledge of yourself — your changeableness and utter unreliability — to discover that "he who trusts in his own heart is a fool" (Pro 28:26)? Then why should you suppose that any of your fellows are more stable and dependable?
The best of Adam's race, when left to themselves, are mournful spectacles of fickleness and frailty, "Surely men of low degree are vanity and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity" (Psalm 62:9).
To seek either the patronage or protection of man, is an affront to the Most High God, for it is putting that confidence in the creature, which the Creator alone is entitled to. The folly of such wickedness is emphasized in "and makes flesh his arm" — leaning upon that which is frail and helpless (2 Chronicles 32:8; Mat 26:41; Rom 8:3).
How the Christian needs to turn this awful malediction into prayer for deliverance from temptation to look unto man for help or relief! Indirectly, yet more powerfully, this verse supplies proof that Christ is far more than man, for if he calls down a divine curse for one to put his trust in man for any temporary advantage, how much more so if he trusts in a mere creature for eternal salvation!
"If you will not hear, and you will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, says the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not lay it to heart" (Mal 2:2). The Lord is very jealous of His honor, and will not share His glory with another (Isa 48:11), and those who lay not that fact to heart are certain to call down upon themselves divine wrath. Those words of Malachi 2:2 were addressed in the first instance unto the priests of Israel. The prophet had been reproving them for their sins, and now he declared that if they would not seriously attend to his expostulations, and glorify God by sincere repentance and reformation of conduct — then He would send a blight upon their temporal mercies.
It is a most signal favor for any man to be called to minister publicly in the name of the Lord, but infidelity therein entails the most dreadful consequences: often are they given up to blindness of mind, hardness of heart, searedness of conscience.
The principle of this malediction has a much wider bearing, applying both to those who hear the Gospel and a nation which is blessed with its light. Who with any spiritual discernment can fail to perceive that Britain, so highly favored of God in the past both spiritually and temporally, is now being visited with this very curse?
"But though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:8). God is very jealous of His Gospel, and this verse should also convince His servants and people of the solemn responsibility resting upon them to preserve it in its purity.
The Gospel of God makes known the only true way of salvation, and therefore any corrupting of the same is not only dishonoring to its Author, but most dangerous and disastrous to the souls of men. The apostle was inveighing against those who were inculcating an impossible mixture of Law and Gospel, insisting that circumcision and compliance with the ceremonial rites of Judaism were equally necessary as faith in Christ for justification.
His was not the language of intemperate zeal, for he unqualifiedly repeats the same in the next verse, but a holy fidelity which expressed his detestation of such error as not only insulted the Savior, but would prove fatal to those who imbibed it. The sole foundation of a sinner's hope, is the merits of Christ. Those who would add to His finished work of redemption by any doings of their own, are headed for eternal destruction; and therefore any who teach men so to do are cursed of God and to be abhorred by His people.
"For as many as are of the works of the laws are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal 3:10). The first part of this verse means: all who count on being saved by their own performances, or rely upon their own obedience for acceptance by God, are under the curse of His Law, exposed to His wrath.
Justification by Law-keeping is an utter impossibility for any fallen creature. Why so? Because God's Law requires flawless and perpetual conformity, sinless perfection in thought and word and deed; and because it makes no provision for failure to comply with its holy and righteous terms. It is not sufficient to hear about or know the requirements of God's Law — they must be met. Thus it is obvious that a law which already condemns, cannot justify; and that any who hope to merit God's favor, by their fickle and faulty attempts to obey it, are woefully deceived.
This statement was made by the apostle to show that every man is under divine condemnation until he flees to Christ for refuge. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us" (Gal 3:13). Here is the glorious Gospel summed up in a brief sentence: The curse has been borne for all those who believe. A way has been opened whereby guilty sinners may not only escape from the curse of the Law, but actually be received in to the favor of God. Amazing grace! Matchless mercy! All who put their trust in Christ, are delivered from the Law's sentence of doom so that they shall never fall under it.
Righteously delivered, because, as the Surety of His people, Christ was born under the Law, stood in their law-place, had all their sins imputed to Him, and made Himself answerable for them. The Law, so finding Him, charged Him with the same, cursed Him, and demanded satisfaction. Accordingly was He dealt with by the supreme Judge, for "God spared not his own Son" but called upon the sword of justice to smite the Shepherd (Zechariah 13:7). By His own free consent, the Lord Jesus was "made a curse" by God Himself, and, because He paid the ransom price, all believers are "redeemed" — delivered from God's wrath and inducted into His blessing.
Reader, you must either by cursed of God forever — or put your trust in Christ made a curse for sinners!
"But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near unto cursing; whose end is to be burned" (Heb 6:8). This is in sharp contrast with the previous verse. The good-ground hearer "brings forth" — the Greek signifying a production of that which is normal and in due season. The graceless profession "bears thorns" — the Greek word connoting an unnatural and monstrous production — worthless "thorns and briers." The one "receives blessing from God," the other is "near unto cursing" — about to be visited with divine judgment. Are you, my reader, bringing forth good fruit, or evil thorns?