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Summary: Jesus, being made a curse for us means that by bearing God’s wrath for sinners on the cross, Christ took upon Himself the curse pronounced on those who violated the Law.

October 19, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

Chapter III.A.2.c: The Curse on Christ (3.13)

Galatians 3.13 (KJV)

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

Commentary

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

This verse and the next beautifully summarize all that Paul has been saying in this section. Does the Law put sinners under a curse? Then Christ has redeemed us from that curse! Do you want the blessing of Abraham? It comes through Christ! Do you want the gift of the Spirit, but you are a Gentile? This gift is given through Christ to the Gentiles! All that you need can be found in Christ! There is no reason for anyone to go back to Moses.

Paul quotes Deuteronomy again, “He that is hanged is accused of God” (Deut. 21.33). The Jews did not crucify criminals; they stoned them to death. But in cases where the Law had been shamefully violated, the body was hung on a tree for all to see. This was a great humiliation because the Jewish people were very careful in their treatment of a dead body. After the body had been exposed for a time, it was taken down and buried.

It is written is the common New Testament way (occurs 61 times) of introducing Old Testament quotes.

Christ…was made a curse for us. The question is: When did Christ become a curse? Did He become a curse in His incarnation? Oh, No. When He was born He was born He was called “…that holy thing… (Luke 1.35). Did He become a curse during those silent years of which we have so little record? No, it says that He advanced “…in favor with God and Man” (Luke 2.52). Did He become a curse during His ministry? Oh, no. It was during His ministry that His Father said “…This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3.17). Then He must have become a curse while He was on the cross. Yes, but not during the first three hours on the Cross, because when He offered Himself up, He was still without blemish. It was during that last three hours on the Cross that He was made a curse for us. It was then that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him and put Him to grief. He made His soul an offering for sin—“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isa. 53.10).

Of course, Paul’s reference to a tree relates to the Cross on which Jesus died—“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 5.30). He was not stoned and then His dead body exposed; He was nailed alive to a tree and left there to die. The manner of His death was a great obstacle to faith for the Jews until they realized the curse He bore was for them. But by dying on the Cross, Jesus Christ bore the curse of the Law for us; so that now the believer is no longer under the Law and its awful curse. “The blessing of Abraham” (justification by faith and the gift of the Spirit) is now ours through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Greek word translated redeemed was often used to speak of buying a slave’s or debtor’s freedom. It was customary to purchase a slave and then keep him as a slave, but this is not what Christ did. By shedding His blood on the Cross, He purchased us so that we might be set free. Christ’s death, because it is a death of substitution for sin, satisfied God’s justice and exhausted His wrath toward His elect, so that Christ actually purchased believers from slavery to sin and from the sentence of eternal death—“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4.4, 5). The Judaizers wanted to lead the Christians into slavery to the Law, but Christ died to set them free. Salvation is not exchanging one form of bondage for another. Salvation is being set free from the bondage of sin and the Law into the liberty of God’s grace through Christ.

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