Previously: Safeguard your investment in your children, part thirteen
Previously in the Torah series: Law or Torah?
Has not Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law? YES!
But we must parse out Paul’s logic used in this section in Galatians, in order to understand some of these verses which seem contradictory to other verses of Scripture. Since we know that God’s word never contradicts, when we find a seeming contradiction, it means our understanding is incomplete.
So, here is the passage in question:
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” Christ 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”– in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 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! 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 (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 — 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 the sign of circumcision (the sign of the Abrahamic covenant) and then kept the whole Law (the Sabbath is the sign of the Mosaic covenant) in order to be accepted in God’s sight, in order to receive salvation. That the point of contention was about justification can be proven by seeing how many times Paul clarifies it:
Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in–who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery– to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. Galatians 2:4-5
(What is the truth of the gospel? That righteousness is of faith!)
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:15-16
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:10-11
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. Galatians 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 a man. With this understanding, we can clarify Paul’s meaning in Galatians 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 a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, [justification by] the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” Christ 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”– in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
So what is the curse of the Law from which Jesus Christ has redeemed us? Is it obedience to the Law that is the curse, or something else?
To be continued …
Update: continued in The curse of the Law, part two