Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Curse of the Law

Galatians 3:13
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Christ purchased our freedom [redeeming us] from the curse (doom) of the Law [and its condemnation] by [Himself] becoming a curse for us, for it is written [in the Scriptures], Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (is crucified);

13-14 Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.

10-14 People who try to observe the taboos and customs are really in a bad way, for society says, "Woe to that man who doesn’t abide by everything prescribed by our Southern heritage and way of life." Yet it is as clear as day that nobody ever got right with God by the traditions, because "God’s man shall stand on his faithfulness." But customs are not based on faithfulness to God but on a strict adherence to the customs themselves. Christ liberated us from the damning effects of the customs by letting them fall on him instead of on us, just as they say, "Whoever gets strung up on a tree is a damned fool." The inner purpose of his doing this was that Negroes might be accorded the dignity of white men in the Christian fellowship, and that we all, by our faithfulness, might receive the assured support of the Spirit.

From the curse of the law - The curse which the Law threatens, and which the execution of the Law would inflict; the punishment due to sin. This must mean, that he has rescued us from the consequences of transgression in the world of woe; [Christ] has saved us from the punishment which our sins have deserved. The word, “us” here, must refer to all who are redeemed; that is, to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

The curse of the Law is a curse which is due to sin, and cannot be regarded as applied particularly to any one class of people. All who violate the Law of God, however that law may be made known, are exposed to its penalty. The word “law” here, relates to the Law of God in general, to all the laws of God made known to man. The Law of God denounced death as the wages of sin. It threatened punishment in the future world forever. That would certainly have been inflicted, but for the coming and death of Christ. The world is lying by nature under this curse, and it is sweeping the race on to ruin.

*Matthew Henry
The apostle [Paul] having reproved the Galatians for not obeying the truth, and endeavoured to impress them with a sense of their folly herein, in these verses he largely proves the doctrine which he had reproved them for rejecting, namely, that of justification by faith without the works of the law. This he does several ways. [below from 2 of Henry’s original 4 points]

II. [Paul] shows that we cannot be justified but by faith fastening on the gospel, because the law condemns us. If we put ourselves upon trial in that court, and stand to the sentence of it, we are certainly cast, and lost, and undone; for as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, as many as depend upon the merit of their own works as their righteousness, as plead not guilty, and insist upon their own justification, the cause will certainly go against them; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them, Gal_3:10, and Deu_27:26.

The condition of life, by the law, is perfect, personal, and perpetual, obedience; the language of it is, Do this and live; or, as Gal_3:12, The man that doeth them shall live in them: and for every failure herein the law denounces a curse. Unless our obedience be universal, continuing in all things that are written in the book of the law, and unless it be perpetual too (if in any instance at any time we fail and come short), we fall under the curse of the law.

The curse is wrath revealed, and ruin threatened: it is a separation unto all evil, and this is in full force, power, and virtue, against all sinners, and therefore against all men; for all have sinned and become guilty before God: and if, as transgressors of the law, we are under the curse of it, it must be a vain thing to look for justification by it. But, though this is not to be expected from the law, yet the apostle afterwards acquaints us that there is a way open to our escaping this curse, and regaining the favour of God, namely, through faith in Christ, who (as he says, Gal_3:13) hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, etc.

A strange method it was which Christ took to redeem us from the curse of the law; it was by his being himself made a curse for us. Being made sin for us, he was made a curse for us; not separated from God, but laid for the present under that infamous token of the divine displeasure upon which the law of Moses had put a particular brand, Deu_21:23.

The design of this was that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ - that all who believed on Christ, whether Jews or Gentiles, might become heirs of Abraham's blessing, and particularly of that great promise of the Spirit, which was peculiarly reserved for the times of the gospel. Hence it appeared that it was not by putting themselves under the law, but by faith in Christ, that they become the people of God and heirs of the promise. Here note, 1. The misery which as sinners we are sunk into - we are under the curse and condemnation of the law. 2. The love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ towards us - he has submitted to be made a curse for us, that he might redeem us from the curse of the law. 3. The happy prospect which we now have through him, not only of escaping the curse, but of inheriting the blessing. And, 4. That it is only through faith in him that we can hope to obtain this favour.

III. To prove that justification is by faith, and not by the works of the law, the apostle alleges the express testimony of the Old Testament, Gal_3:11. The place referred to is Hab_2:4, where it is said, The just shall live by faith; it is again quoted, Rom_1:17, and Heb_10:38. The design of it is to show that those only are just or righteous who do truly live, who are freed from death and wrath, and restored into a state of life in the favour of God; and that it is only through faith that persons become righteous, and as such obtain this life and happiness - that they are accepted of God, and enabled to live to him now, and are entitled to an eternal life in the enjoyment of him hereafter.

Hence the apostle says, It is evident that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God. Whatever he may be in the account of others, yet he is not so in the sight of God; for the law is not of faith - that says nothing concerning faith in the business of justification, nor does it give life to those who believe; but the language of it is, The man that doeth them shall live in them, as Lev_18:5. It [the Law] requires perfect obedience as the condition of life, and therefore now can by no means be the rule of our justification. This argument of the apostle's may give us occasion to remark that justification by faith is no new doctrine, but what was established and taught in the church of God long before the times of the gospel. Yea, it is the only way wherein any sinners ever were, or can be, justified.

*Translations are retrieved from © Copyright 1995-2010 Gospel Communications International
The **following are retrieved from e-Sword  —Copyright © 2000-2012 Rick Meyers All Rights Reserved Worldwide

*King James Version (KJV)—Public Domain/ 1604, King James I of England
*The Message Bible (MSG)—Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995 by Eugene H. Peterson

**Barnes' Notes on the New Testament (Barnes) by Albert Barnes Published in Philadelphia, August 25th, 1832
**Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible written in 1706 by Matthew Henry
**Cotton Patch Version (CPV)—Copyright © 1968 by Clarence Jordan