Standing in the Freedom of the Gospel:
Christ Redeems Us From the Curse of the Law!
This passage describes two ways of relating to God, one way by faith and one way by works, with two corresponding consequences – Gods blessing and Gods curse. Paul is warning the Galatian church and us, that if we veer off the path of faith into works or WR, we are heading the wrong way to the wrong destination. Faith and WOL are two radically different ways of relating to God.
1. Works Righteousness Puts us under a Curse (v. 10-12)
In this passage Paul is drawing a conclusion about 3:1-9 that we are justified by faith and not works. The reason we are justified by faith is because the Old Testament, tells us that all who trust ‘works of the law’ or as we have described it, works righteousness, are under a curse. Remember that Paul uses ‘works of the law’ in a pejorative way to describe Judaizers, Jewish false teachers who required Gentiles not only to trust Christ but also adhere to certain Jewish identity markers - circumcision, Sabbath keeping, and a kosher diet to be justified before God. This amounts mingling faith and works.
Paul then tells us that no one has ever been justified by the law (WOL) because even the Old Testament says the righteous, justified person, lives by faith. It is not just how we are justified but how we live the whole Christian life. Remember, justification is an act of God in which he thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and declares us to be righteous in his sight. This is the beauty of our justification - not only does our justification make us complete and perfect in Christ but every act of faith is now seen through the lens of Christ righteousness. All our frail and imperfect attempts at obedience are seen as righteousness and acceptable and perfect because of Christ’s righteousness.
It is critical that we understand this and pursue Christ by faith, not works because anyone who pursues works righteousness/WOL put themselves under the curse of the law, under God’s curse because it is impossible to obey the law perfectly. We know this from experience and from Scripture. The book of the Law is the Mosaic Law, the Torah, which covered every aspect of Jewish. It is impossible to obey everything in the law perfectly by human will power. If you take that path you put yourself under a curse. A curse is the opposite of blessing. The curse of the law puts us under God’s condemnation and judgment because any form of works righteousness is unacceptable an insult to God. To be cursed is to be rejected by God.
Now that does not mean that Paul does not reject the law completely. The law is not bad in and of itself. Scripture describes the law as good and holy; what makes it bad is misusing the purpose of the law (next section). But the law has a threefold purpose. It is a curb, ordering creation and keeping society from chaos. It is a mirror, showing us our sin and need for Jesus and his mercy and salvation. Last it is a guide, it gives shape to the Christian life.
There is a danger of good, moral people, who have not trusted Christ, who do not have his Spirit empowering them with humility and joy and love by faith who come to church, even believe the statement of faith but seek to work for God in their own effort are therefore under a curse from the law itself. Although there is no hope for any of us unless God in his extravagant love is willing to transfer our death sentence to another and that is exactly what he did, Christ bore the curs for us.
2. Christ Bore the Curse for Us (v.13-14)
Christ bore the curse for us
The heart of the Gospel is 2 Cor. 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. “ Jesus was our substitute – he took upon himself the curse we deserved, took our place and absorbed our punishment. He became sin for us, not that he became a sinner but our sin became his in our place and explains why he cried out ‘my God, my God why have you for forsaken me.’ Jesus, in his humanity, experienced the forsakenness of God to rescue us. To redeem someone means to rescue them from the power of another. So in his death he rescued us, liberated us from both the power of sin and the guilt of sin. Freedom comes because our sinfulness is exposed and forgiveness is experienced in Christ. We are freed from the power and guilt of sin.
Christ Purchased the Promise for us
When he redeemed us the purchase price was his death and he purchased the promise of the Spirit for us. In Christ the blessing of Abraham is summed up as the power of the Spirit in our lives (3:1-5).
Christ offers the Promise by faith
The promise comes by faith not works. When we turn away from trusting our own efforts, works righteousness, legalism etc and trust the all sufficient work of Christ on the cross, we are promised the power of the Spirit in our lives. Paul is pleading with us not to believe that we are justified by legalism or that we live the Christian life by legalism, trusting our own efforts but turn away form ourselves and turn to him daily, moment by moment.