This is the sixth message in a series of studies by pastor Murray McClellan. It is our prayer that you are blessed through his labors in God’s Word.
Demonstrated in the life of Abraham (v. 10-14)
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
The curse of the law.
How is it that a sinner, one who is condemned already (John 3:18), can be “justified…in the sight of God” ? Paul has already pointed out that the patriarch Abraham was accepted only because of faith in the gospel – faith in Christ. He was accounted as righteous, though he was not righteous, on the merits of the Righteous One to come. On the basis of faith in Christ, Abraham was blessed – justified in the sight of God. In this passage, Paul reminds his readers of the curse of the law.
The law itself is holy, just, and good. However, the problem is sinful man.
Only a perfectly righteous man could be justified by the law, for the law would testify to his righteousness. The law would not make him righteous, but would reveal that he is indeed righteous. For the sinner, though, the law reveals his sin and guilt. In fact a sinner heaps up greater guilt when the law is given because he then adds transgression of the law to his sin. Yes, “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.”
In James 3:2, it states, “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man.” It reveals his righteousness. But if a man offends, it reveals a sinner’s heart. Indeed the law is no road for a sinner. If there is to be any blessing for a sinner, there must be an entirely different way – a way more fitting for a sinner. Praise God there is a better covenant and priesthood than that of the law! Jesus Christ the mediator of the better covenant is a High Priest who is “fitting for us.” (Heb. 7:26) He is “the way” to come to the Father (John 14:6).
Both Lev. 26 and Deut. 28 tell of the blessings and cursings of the law. Notice the conditioned blessings. “Now it shall come to pass, IF you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully ALL His commandments which I command you today … all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, BECAUSE you obey the voice of the Lord your God.” (Deut. 28:1-2) (See also v. 9 and v. 13). However, if they did not perfectly obey the law of God, they would be cursed with the cursings given in Lev. 26:14-46 and Deut. 28:15-29:1. As we look upon the history of the nation Israel, we see that they earned the curses and not the blessings. Those curses, promised if they disobeyed, have indeed come to pass. The law can only bring cursings on a sinner.
Our call to the Jew is not, “Oh, you blessed of the Lord,” but, “Come out from under the law and be separate. Flee unto Christ who alone can redeem you from the curse of the law. Like Abraham, believe God! Believe His testimony concerning His Son! Jesus Christ is His beloved Son – hear Him! By faith in Him, you may receive the blessing and the promise of the Spirit.” The Jews believed that the Gentiles were under the curse of God. What self-righteous Jews failed to see was that they were as much under the curse of God as any Gentile.
I have heard dispensationalists declare that since God “literally fulfilled” the cursings upon the nation of Israel, He must “literally fulfill” the blessings. Both are a part of the covenant that God made with the house of Israel. Yes, both are a part of the covenant made with Israel at Mt. Sinai. However, a sinner under the law can only ever inherit its curses. Putting one’s self under the law will never bring blessing, it brings a curse. Being under the law and being under the curse of God go hand in hand. God keeps His covenant with the Jews (and anyone else who puts themselves under a works method of justification), and since they break His commandments, they are cursed. Those under this covenant are condemned.
God keeps His covenant and forever God is keeping His covenant to those unbelieving law-breakers in hell. If a sinner of the Jews or Gentiles is ever to be blessed there must be a new and living way. Oh, how a new covenant was needed! Jesus established just such a covenant and He earned the blessing and bore the curse! Sinners enter in on the basis of faith in Him – His Person and His work. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham.
What glorious news that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” My redemption – my deliverance is based solely on the work and effort of Jesus Christ. I stand delivered out from the curse because He became a curse for me. I stand righteous in the sight of God, not for any effort of my own, but because I am robed in the righteousness that Christ earned as a Man.
Jesus died, hanging on a tree, to show that the curse of God had fallen.
It had fallen on the spotless and unblemished Lamb of God. His blood was shed and poured out in sacrifice. Jesus died as a law breaker, though He was the only one who had ever perfectly kept the law of God. He was cursed of God. He was treated by God as the substitute for those God had chosen to be vessels of mercy to make known and display His glorious grace! Jesus was treated as something He is not that we who believe might be treated as something we are not – righteous! … “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 promised Holy Spirit and the inherent blessings came about through Jesus Christ. The Old Testament Scriptures spoke of promises such as Isaiah 44:3. “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” God proclaimed it and He brought it to pass. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29) Is that not good news! My cup runneth over!
Murray is the lead church planter and Bible teacher at Grace Fellowship Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He and his wife Cheryl have labored in the Gospel for many years despite the many discouragements along the way. Our brother is associated with “InDepth Studies”, the Acts 29 network of church planters, and more recently the uniquely Canadian C2C church planting network. In new covenant circles Murray is a long time contributor to new covenant thought and discussion.