christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

the curse of the law

Previously: law or torah

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Gal 3:10-14

Now many people read, “as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse,” and automatically assume it means that anyone who is obedient to the Law is under a curse. However, Paul himself was obedient to the Law at least until he was taken prisoner to Rome (Act 21:17-24)! So let us look into this passage to see what it is really saying.

In the book of Galatians, Paul is contrasting two kinds of people: those who want to be declared righteous in God’s sight by obedience to the commands of the Law (the Torah), and those who receive right standing before God by grace through faith as a free gift. The occasion of this letter was the rise in influence of a zealous sect of Pharisees who had believed in Jesus as the Messiah — the circumcision party (Act 15:1-2) — who were going around to all the churches teaching that no man could be saved or justified in God’s sight unless he converted to Judaism first and received circumcision and then kept the whole Law first, before he could be accepted in God’s sight. That the point of contention was about justification can be shown by seeing how many times Paul refers to it as his topic (emphasis mine):

“And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” Gal 2:4-5

(What is the truth of the gospel? That righteousness is of faith!)

“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Gal 2:15-16

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Gal 3:10-11

“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Gal 5:4

Now Paul is not saying that those who obey the Law are under a curse or have been severed from Christ, but those who seek to be justified by obedience to the Law are under a curse and have been severed from Christ; for we saw that the truth of the gospel which Paul is preserving, is that righteousness (justification) is of faith – to which the patriarchs, Moses, the prophets, and Jesus all attest.

So we can see that Paul, in the above passage and throughout the book of Galatians, is speaking about what it is that justifies or saves a man. With this understanding, we can clarify Paul’s meaning in Gal 3:10-14 so as to make it crystal clear (my clarification in brackets):

“For as many as are of [justification by] the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet [justification by] the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse [brought by having to be justified] of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

So what is the curse of the Law from which Jesus Christ has redeemed us?

Continued: the curse of the law, part two

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