Summary: By faith in Christ we can be redeemed from the curse of the law.
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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
ACCURSED OR BLESSED?
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).
In Deuteronomy 27, the people of Israel are given instructions for a ceremony to be held once they enter the Promised Land. In this ceremony, twelve curses are to be recited. The twelfth and final curse is the one Paul quotes in v. 10.
Paul knew these curses well. He had read them in the book of Deuteronomy, of course, but he had also heard them recited on five memorable occasions. Five times Paul was punished by the Jews for preaching the gospel, and each time he received the standard punishment: “forty lashes minus one” (2 Corinthians 11:24). The synagogue manuals of that time required someone to read out the curses of the law while the prisoner was being whipped. Thus as Paul received the final stripe on his back, he may well have heard the very words that he later quoted to the Galatians: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
The Judaizers were probably using Deuteronomy 27:26 to argue that those who don’t observe the law (circumcision, dietary laws) are accursed. Paul uses Deuteronomy 27:26 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:
• Justification 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).
• 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).