“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law. Therefore we don’t have to keep the law — Christ kept it for us.” Or so goes a familiar — but erroneous — argument!
This false argument takes the form of many Sunday sermons that, unfortunately, lead many professing Christians away from the truth (Jeremiah 50:6).
Let’s examine the key Bible passage around which the whole question revolves, and see just what Paul meant.
What the Bible doesn’t say
The main verse in controversy is Galatians 3:13: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.”
First, let’s notice what this verse does not say:
1) It does not say that if you keep the law you will be under some terrible curse. Just the opposite is true. Satan himself knows that those who keep God’s spiritual law will be richly blessed, and that breaking the law brings a curse upon mankind. Thus the archdeceiver of this world (Revelation 12:9) inspires deceived ministers (II Corinthians 11:13-15) to preach the diabolical lie that keeping God’s law brings a curse.
2) This verse does not say we don’t have to keep God’s spiritual law. The same Paul who wrote Galatians also wrote, “The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). Paul also said that it is not the hearers of the law who are just before God, but the doers of the law who shall be justified (Romans 2:13).
What, then, is the curse of the law?
The penalty for disobedience
Simply stated, the curse of the law is the death penalty for disobedience. Romans 6:23 clearly states, “For the wages of sin is death.” And James 1:15 says, “Sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” And what is sin? Sin is the transgression, or disobeying, of God’s law (I John 3:4)! Now back to Galatians 3:13. Christ became a curse for us in that He accepted the curse of disobedient mankind upon His shoulders.
In Old Testament times, sinners were put to death and sometimes hung on a tree in full view of the people as a testimony that sin brings the death penalty (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). By allowing sinful mankind to crucify Him, the sinless Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the curse (death penalty) of the law. As the latter part of Galatians 3:13 states, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”
Keeping God’s law brings great blessings, and Satan does not want mankind to be blessed. That is why he has deceived mankind into thinking that God’s law, being a curse, was done away.
Stop and think for a moment: What curse befalls mankind for obeying the Ninth Commandment, the one against bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16)? A person who does not lie will have a clear conscience. He will not have to fear being caught in a web of lies and being punished or humiliated in front of others. He will actually be a blessing to other people because they will be able to trust in his word.
What about an individual who never steals (verse 15)? Here is a person who pays his taxes honestly and becomes, in a sense, a blessing to the government because he willingly submits to its laws. His clear conscience enables him to be at peace with himself because he is fair and just in all of his dealings.
Those who obey the commandment that states “You shall not commit adultery” (verse 14) reap many benefits. A couple’s marriage will be preserved and they will grow closer together in mutual trust, love and admiration. The attraction that first characterized their relationship will deepen as the years pass. The romantic experience will be richly rewarding — so unlike the false so-called love relationships of so many today. The children born to a couple who believe and obey this Seventh Commandment will be blessed with a stability and happiness that is rare in the 20th century.
Keeping all of God’s laws brings to man the richest of blessings. Speaking of God’s commandments, David said: “More to be desired are they than gold… and in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:10-11).
God said of His people, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
Keeping God’s laws brings spiritual blessings, as well. When we show our willingness to obey God, He blesses us with more understanding of His plan: “A good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10).
Ultimately, for those who accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment for their sins and continue in an obedient attitude, God will give them eternal life. It is not that lawkeeping earns salvation; on the contrary, eternal life is a gift from God (Romans 6:23). But God will not save one who is in rebellion against His commandments (Matthew 19:17).
No, God’s law has not been done away. God’s spiritual law, summarized by the Ten Commandments, is as permanent as God Himself. Those commandments, with all God’s other laws, reflect God’s very character. A major part of our becoming more like God is our willingness to keep and live by His holy, righteous, perfect law!
Our free booklet The Ten Commandments takes an in-depth look at God’s basic laws and shows how you can apply them in your own life and reap the benefits.
Source: The Good News, January 1986