“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. ”
The context, in which this text is found, bears careful scrutiny. Two or three points of interest must be observed shall we come to a clear understanding of the Word of God in our text.
There is, first of all, the fact that the apostle begins the chapter berating the church of Galatia because of their folly. Through their lack of understanding, they become susceptible to the bewitching stratagems of false, Judaizing teachers. The apostle apparently is astonished that this could happen so soon after he had preached to them the full counsel of God. It appeared as if some one had hypnotized them, and with some evil power had gained the ascendancy over them. O foolish galatians, who hath bewitched you — before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been so openly portrayed as having been crucified? Don’t you see that if you return to the pernicious doctrines of Judaism, you must of necessity deny the truth that Christ was crucified to save us?
And to get them to see their folly, the apostle appeals to their experience, which is always a powerful argument. That Spirit Whom you received, did you receive Him out of the works of the law, or was it out of the hearing of faith? Having begun by the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
The answers to all the questions asked, must, of course, be negative. Implicit in them is the positive truth that the Spirit of Christ is well able to apply unto us the salvation which Christ crucified has merited for us, and that, too, without any contributions on our part. It is this truth which is most clearly expressed also in our text.
Secondly, also worthy of note is the reference the apostle makes to Abraham. Throughout the immediately preceding context, in the text itself, and even in the succeeding verses, particular reference to this Old Testament saint is made. And the question cannot be suppressed, Why? Was it merely for the reason that Abraham served as a good illustration of a believer who was saved by his faith? Though this is true when considered by itself, this can hardly be the sole reason. Rather, are we to understand that the apostle refers to Abraham because he exemplifies most clearly all the doctrine the apostle had preached to the Galatians. The Jews had always boasted that Abraham was their father, and with him the rite of circumcision began. If the Galatians will not listen to Paul, then by all means let them honor their father Abraham by listening to what he had to say. And what did Abraham say? Did Abraham say you can be saved by keeping the law of circumcision? Of course not! You know better! Abraham believed God, and this faith was reckoned unto him as righteousness. This faith was not another work that Abraham performed, but it was a gift of grace. Moreover, the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Shouldn’t it be plain to you that he understood this blessing would be realized, not in the natural seed that would seek to attain to righteousness by keeping the law, but in the spiritual seed who possessed the faith of father Abraham? If you return to the works of the law, then you should never speak of Abraham as your father again. He disowns you.
Thirdly, it is to be noted that in the immediate context the apostle declares plainly that as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. That cannot mean that there was anything wrong with the law. The law is good. It is good also for everyone who keeps it. But it is also true that since no one can keep that law perfectly, it must curse everyone who continueth not to do all that the law requires. This is not the testimony of Paul, but of Moses, who gave the law. “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
But here is the gospel I preached to you, and which you evidently never clearly understood. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. This He became when He was crucified on the cross.
And why was He made a curse for us? The answer is twofold: that the blessing of Abraham might come unto the Gentiles in Jesus Christ; and that the promise of the Spirit we might receive through faith.
Indeed, we are redeemed with a purpose!
From the curse of the law!
Not are we to conclude that the curse, of which the Word of God speaks, had its origin in the giving of the law. Fact of the matter is, that the curse was there long before the law, as inscribed by the finger of God upon the tables of stone on Mount Sinai, was given. The curse does not begin with Moses, but with Adam. The formal expression of the law did not come until Moses’ day, but the essence of the law was there from the beginning. The heart of the law, its pervading principle is: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength. This law Adam knew, but through the temptation of Satan failed to keep. In the day he sinned, in that day the curse came; and it has prevailed upon him and all his posterity ever since.
The curse is universal in its scope. It descends not only on those who are reprobate in life and walk, but on all those who proceeded from the loins of Adam. They are not only under the curse when they sin, but they are under the curse when they are born.
That curse is just in its application. God is a God of justice when He condemns all that is not in perfect harmony with His holy being and will.
That curse is fearful, for it demands that its object be banished from God’s holy presence. It is temporal, spiritual, and eternal in its application. That curse follows everyone apart from Christ all through his earthly existence, and brings him into eternal desolation.
For those in Christ, God provides the removal of the curse.
The miracle of grace!
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law!
Not merely did He purchase us to make us His own, but He redeemed, ransomed us, through the payment of a price—- a price not paid to the Devil who held us in the slavery of death, but a price that is paid to God Who had imposed on us the curse, a curse demanded by the law of God which had been violated by our disobedience.
The great Substitute redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. The curse which was ours, He removed by becoming a curse in our stead.
On the tree of the cross He bore our curse so as to bear it all away, none remaining. And to remove the curse He must pay the penalty of our guilt, while He Himself in perfect obedience fulfilled all the law for us.
Paradox of the cross!
While on the one hand He declares: In the volume of the book it is written of Me, lo, I come to do Thy will O God; on the other God lays all one curse on His sacred head.
This He could do because He could truly represent us. He is so perfectly identified with us that we are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. As organic and federal Head He is not only appointed to represent us, but He is completely of us. As we were subject to the fire of God’s holy indignation, Christ delivers us from that fire, but Himself is consumed in that flame.
And why did He do it? What was the divine purpose in this substitutionary act?
First of all, that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.
Of the blessing of Abraham the apostle had spoken more than once in the context. He speaks of the faith of Abraham which was accounted unto him for righteousness. Faith, not the works of the law, which justified Abraham, is the gift of grace whereby the believer is united to Christ, in and through Whom is all our righteousness. Faith, which is the living bond connecting us to Christ, in Whom is all our righteousness and salvation, — not our keeping of the law, is our justification. And this great boon God purposed to give not only to Abraham, but to his seed; not his natural seed, but spiritual, as that seed is found in all nations. So it was that through the preaching of the gospel which Abraham heard and believed, this justified saint of the Old Dispensation understood that God would grant the grace of faith that justifies also to the Gentiles, and so all nations would be blessed in him.
But there was more, much more. Father Abraham believed!
He believed that this promise of the gospel, this divine purpose of God, would be realized through the reception of the promise of the Spirit through faith.
This is not another purpose of God connected to redemption, but it belongs to the first. The blessing of Abraham which must come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, is the reception of the promise of the Spirit through faith. At the same time the latter shows how God planned to realize His purpose. The Holy Spirit of Pentecost, as the Spirit of the ascended and exalted Christ, God would send on all who are of the faith of Abraham, applying unto them the redemption they have in Christ.
Glorious purpose of God!
Realized through the Spirit of Christ, not, as the translation has it, — “through Jesus Christ,” but on all who are “in Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is viewed here, not as the mediator through Whom the Spirit works, but as the sphere in Whom the Spirit is given.
Jesus Christ is Abraham’s seed, as the apostle declares in the verses that immediately follow the text. “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.” To Him therefore, first of all, the promise of God pertains. And in Christ, that is, to all who are in the sphere of Christ, — to all who are incorporated in Him, does the promise also pertain.
We receive all our salvation out of Christ, when we are in Him. We receive it of Christ through faith. And faith is not of us to God, but of God to us. Faith does not emphasize what we can do, or must do. But emphatically, what we cannot do, and need not do, — but what God in Christ has done for us.
Given unto us of free and sovereign grace!