Galatians 3:10-14

The Law Brings a Curse
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”

13 Christ has 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”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The Judaizers taught the Law was a means of justification. Paul countered this teaching quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 to show them that while trying to be justified by the law they were actually placing themselves under its curse. Jesus said in John 5:39,40 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” Paul also argues in Romans 10:1-4 that the Jews in trying to establish their righteousness have ignored the righteousness of God. Israel’s desire to be justified through the law could only bring the curse, because no man can keep the law perfectly. Even the Pharisees who kept every minute detail of the Mosaic Law, ceremonial law and traditions of their fathers would not humble their piousness to place their faith in Christ.

The curse is not only the final separation of the sinner from God in hell it is also the current chasm between God and the sinner caused by a violation of His law.

Paul goes on to demonstrate that even perfect obedience to the will not result in justification because the Law was never intended as a means of justification. Obedience cannot pay for sin.

Habakkuk 2:4 states the just shall live by faith. God declares the believing sinner righteous based on the fact that Christ met all the requirements of the law and He Himself becomes our righteousness. Just is a legal term, not an ethical or behavioral term. The statement the law is not faith means that the two principles directly oppose each other.

Christ redeemed all believers. The word translated redeemed in Galatians 3:13 means to buy a slave out of the market place. The believer is bought not only to be Christ’s bondslave, but is bought out of the slave market never to be put up for sale again. The believer is Christ’s permanent possession. Paul paints a vivid picture of Christ’s redemption in three expressions: under the curse (3:10), made a curse for (above) us (3:13), and redeemed us out from the curse (3:13). Christ came above us, between us and the curse. the word translated above is used here and earlier in Galatians to speak of the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death on the cross. The curse of the Mosaic Law came down upon Christ. “The law satisfied its demands  upon the Lord Jesus, and thus thrust Him out of the pale of its legal jurisdiction” (Kenneth Wuest). God acted in Christ for our justification and so we must be in Christ to receive it.

Christ’s died on the cross and became a curse for us in order that the blessing of Abraham, justification by faith, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit could be given to both the Jew and the Gentile. The law separated Jews and Gentiles, but in Christ all believers are united by faith.

Christ became sin for us; not sinful; but bearing the sin of our race, regarded as one vast aggregate. Not merely accursed, but became a curse; bearing the curse of the entire human race. Anathema means ‘set apart for God’s glory,’ but to the person’s own destruction. (A.R. Fausset)

Jesus’ death by hanging on a cross was (and may still be) a stumbling block for the Jews. In the Old Testament after some malefactors were put to death, usually by stoning, he was hung on a stake by his hands to display more contempt for him. He was accursed. Because Christ was hung by His hands and feet the Jews called Him “the hanged one” and Christians “worshippers of the hanged one”. The Jews said He cannot be Messiah, He was accursed.