For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Just as the works of the flesh and living in the spirit are opposites and mutually exclusive, so are cursings and blessings, and they are directly linked to our subject. Those who do the works of the law are under its curse, whereas those who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
B3.1 Our obligation
In the passages above the thing we must note is that those who are under the law and do not do ALL the things in the law are under its curse, for they have failed to fulfil all the law. This shows the folly of trying to live by the law for none can keep it. Let us think of this in more detail.
The ten commandments are not the whole law, they are its summary; the rest of the Pentateuch gives a more detailed list of them as to what God expected. So if, as many Christians say, we have to keep the Sabbath holy (ie keep it special where we go to ‘church’) then we are obliged to keep the WHOLE of the Sabbatical law; so we mustn’t cook, pick up sticks, mustn’t work (not even for essential services), neither must we travel more than a Sabbath day’s journey, which means that most Christians couldn’t go to church anyway!! Thus the absurdity is immediately revealed, and that’s without mentioning the Sabbath wasn’t Sunday in any case.
There is no getting away from it, if you want to live by the law you have to keep ALL of it and not just the bits you want, leaving out the bits you don’t agree with. The man that does them has to live in them
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
The slightest breach brings immediate guilt and places us under its curse, that is, it condemns us and pronounces the due punishment. And the very thing that pronounces us guilty and passes sentence on us can not then be our saviour! Yet many people try to live justly before God by the very thing that condemns and sentences them!
B3.2 The Curse: its origin
The first mention of a curse is at the Fall. God instructed Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We know what happened, Satan deceived Eve into eating and then Adam was given of the fruit and ate it. As a result the relationship between man and God changed, and God found it necessary to curse the serpent and the ground for Adam’s sake. (Gen. 3:14-19) Two thoughts, related to our studies, come to mind here:
1. The serpent was cursed for tempting Eve, to disobey God.
2. The ground was cursed because of Adam ‘s giving way to the flesh.
This first point reminds us of Paul’s words in Gal.1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. The serpent brought another gospel: that is disobedience to God in order to go after the flesh, resulting in Adam and Eve loosing their communion with God, thus the serpent was cursed by God. What a terrible thing, let this be a warning to all! God will not tolerate any who seek to stumble His people in the way taking them in another direction, away from Himself. Mtt.18: 6-7.
The second point refers to those who yield to such temptations. The temptation was to listen to the flesh, and thereby to walk after it. The serpent tempted Eve on the line of the flesh, appealing to her ambition. Note these two scriptures concerning God’s original purpose and what happened at the fall.
And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
At the Fall Eve had the extra desire to be wise by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (cf I Jn. 2:16), she wanted, by the works of the flesh, to be wise; the voice of the flesh was louder than the command God had given. She decided to do the lusts of the devil, and by giving way to the temptation the consequences, we know all too well, followed, Adam ate and the whole of the human race was plunged into sin, and separation from God resulted. Thus the works of the flesh brought not only death but also the curse.
We see then that by not obeying God (and remember that both Adam and the woman were in ideal circumstances) that the curse resulted. It is interesting to note that God said that he cursed the ground for Adam’s sake.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake (on thy account; Youngs Literal translation); in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Originally the ground is from whence Adam was created (Gen. 2:6-7) and he was placed in Eden to dress and till the ground (Gen.2:15). But now the ground is cursed, man is to labour for his food, and then return to it. It is noteworthy to see that it was the ground and not Adam that was cursed, and it was for Adam’ sake. Having walked after the flesh, Adam had now to live after it, thus echoing Gal. 3:12.
B3.3 The curse of the law
When God gave, what became known as the Mosaic law, He wrote into it both blessings and curses.
And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God…But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:…
Deut. 28: 1-2; 15
Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.
This is a natural consequence of what we have seen already. Obedience to God’s commandments brings blessing and disobedience brings a curse. No one, except Jesus, has ever kept the law 100% perfectly. Nor can any human being do so, for if Adam and Eve in perfect conditions could not keep a simple commandment, how can we keep the whole of the Mosaic law in an imperfect world? So we are all under the curse, this has to be removed if we are to be restored to fellowship with God.
The question naturally arises: why can’t we keep the law 100%? The answer goes back to the Fall, when Adam fell the whole of the human race was plunged into sin. Sin entered and passed upon all (Rom. 5:12-14) Sin became the habit of every human born into this world. We were born sinners to begin with, and can not help but sin. It is our nature to do so. This ‘original sin’ means that under no circumstance could we ever keep the law perfectly. So the whole of the human race stands guilty (condemned) before God.
When Jesus was born into the world He had no sin, for He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was free from the taint of original sin. It was this fact as the Son of man, and the fact that He was the Son of God that made Him the only worthy substitute for us. For when He was crucified He was not paying for His own sin, for He had none, but for the whole of the human race from Adam to the last that will ever live.
B3.4 The Curse: its removal
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
Gal. 3:13 quoting Deut 21:23
We have already come across the idea that Jesus was our substitute and that He paid our penalty. The word redeem here means to ‘buy out’ especially of purchasing a slave with a view to his freedom. We were under the slavery of the Law and Christ’s death has bought us from that slavery. The price? His life – we are bought with His precious blood. ( I Pet. 1:18-19) As a result we are free from the Law, its accusation , condemnation and execution of the sentence. We are FREED from it.
But it cost Jesus very dear, for it meant that He had to be made a curse for us. The sinless one was made sin for us, and by being hanged on a tree he became a curse, He couldn’t be made a curse by any other means. In other words Jesus was our substitute, He bore our curse and as a result we could be set free from the Law and sin.
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
II Cor. 5:21
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself…….. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Who His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
I Pet. 2:24
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
I Pet. 3:18
And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.
I Jn. 2:2
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
I Jn. 4:10
The word propitiation in some of the quotes above is a strange one and needs some explanation. This word is used in the Septuagint Greek OT (LXX) concerning the Ark of the Covenant. On the day of Atonement the blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat to be a covering (propitiatory) and that by this ceremony God was satisfied and forgave the Nation’s sins. So the word means that God being satisfied with the sacrifice.
In the context of the Cross we see that Jesus being the propitiation means that God was satisfied with the price Jesus paid by His death, that is His own life. Thus Jesus’ death was totally vicarious, He was crucified instead of us, He bore our sins in that He took the punishment that was ours, so that we could be freed from it.
Once more we need to realise that Jesus alone satisfied God’s requirements, there was nothing of our doing at all! Nothing we can do can ever satisfy God’s demand for sin, the flesh can do nothing.
B3.5 The Blessing
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Instead of cursing God wants to bless us. However we can do nothing to obtain God’s blessings, favour or benefits, it is all of His grace. We see God’s original purpose with Abraham: He wanted to bless the nations through him. Note that it was to be to the whole world, not just one nation called Israel! That nation was the vehicle through which God was to work out His purposes.
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth (lit.= ground) be blessed.
Two things to note here: firstly it was God who was to bless, Abraham couldn’t bless himself! If God doesn’t bless then we have no blessings. This seems obvious, but how many times in our lives do we do things thinking that by so doing we will find favour with God so that He blesses us?
Secondly, looking at the literal translation, it was the families of the ground that was to be blessed! That which God found necessary to curse in Eden He wanted to work and reverse that curse and bless the nations instead. And this He was to achieve by Abraham’s seed (note Paul’s emphasis on the singular noun) That seed was Christ, thus developing the promise made in Gen. 3:15. Before Adam fell God had the answer! It was Jesus ! For He was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. Rev.13:8.
Abraham did not obtain this promise by working at it, or by thinking it up as a scheme, after a meeting of the elders, and then asking God for approval; no! God gave it by promise, He revealed to Abraham what He was to do. And all this before Abraham was circumcised thus showing once more that it was to be for the whole world and not just one nation.
Just as we inherit the curse by reason of our natural birth, we are ‘in Adam’, so we inherit the blessings because we are found ‘in Christ’ by new birth. By first birth we are born into sin, by new birth we are born out of it. By first birth we are in the flesh, by new birth we are in the Spirit. Jesus has reversed and undone all what Adam did in Eden, and all those who are born again, baptised into Christ, have the curse removed from them and have the blessings instead. We either have one or the other, but not both!