Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Redeemed from the Curse

Part 8 of a series through Galatians

Text: Galatians 3:10-14


Five times in this passage the words “curse” and “cursed” are found. People are fascinated by stories of curses: (1) the curse of King Tut’s tomb, (2) the curse of the Bambino, (3) the curse of the Hope Diamond. In this passage, two curses are mentioned:
  • The curse of the law. In verse 10, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
  • The curse of the cross. In verse 13, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:23: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Several times in the NT the cross is called a “tree” (Acts 5:30; 13:29; 1 Peter 2:24).


Paul shows why blessing comes from faith in Christ, not observing the law:
  1. You’re cursed if you do. If you rely on the law, you are cursed. "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law'” (v. 10; cf. Deuteronomy 27:26). The Judaizers were probably using Deuteronomy 27:26 to argue that those who don’t observe the law (circumcision, dietary laws, etc.) are accursed. Paul quotes the same verse to argue that those who don’t perfectly observe the law are accursed. The Judaizers were focusing on the word “do”; Paul is stressing the word “everything.” God requires nothing less than total obedience to the entire law. James writes, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). In verses 11-12, Paul quotes the Old Testament to show: (1) Justification (being righteous before God) is based on faith. "Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, 'The righteous will live by faith'” (v. 11; cf. Habakkuk 2:4). (2) The law is based on performance. "The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, 'The man who does these things will live by them'” (v. 12; cf. Leviticus 18:5). The performance that the law demands (perfection) is beyond human possibility.

  2. You’re cursed if you don't. If you reject the law, you are cursed. Four philosophies are prevalent in our society: (1) postmodernism: there is no truth; (2) moral relativism: there is no authority; personal freedom: there are no rules; humanistic atheism: there is no judge. But the Bible says that one day, every person unrighteous before the law will have to stand before God. The verdict will be, “Guilty” (Revelation 20:11-15). They will be condemned whether they relied on the law or rejected the law.

  3. Christ became cursed so you won't. If you put your faith in Christ, you are redeemed. "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 tree'” (v. 13). To “redeem” means to free someone by paying a ransom. We were held captive by the curse of the law. A ransom needed to be paid in order to free us. The only acceptable ransom was the blood of the One who was free from the law’s curse—Jesus Christ. He said that He came to earth “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). When Jesus was crucified, He became accursed. He took our sin upon Himself and suffered the punishment we deserved. This helps us to understand why Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Joshua 10:26; 2 Samuel 21:6). This is why "the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath” (John 19:31). “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). Most people thought Jesus was being punished for his own sins. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities” (v. 5). The enemies of Jesus mocked Him, saying, “Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42). They couldn’t believe that the Christ could be accursed. But if Christ had come down from that cross, we would still be under the curse of the law. Martin Luther called this the “fortunate exchange.” Christ became accursed; we became blessed. In verse 14, Paul mentions two blessings that come to us through faith in Christ. "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."


In this passage, Paul mentions two curses: the curse of the law and the curse of the cross:
  • The law shows us that God is holy, but we are sinful.
  • The cross shows us that we are sinful, but God is love.
As the hymn says,

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.


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