Saturday, 26 March 2016
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”), Galatians 3:13
In verse 10, Paul said that “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” He then went on to explain to us that that if the precepts of the law are not met by anyone under the law (and which no one can meet) that they are under a curse. Now to show the marvel of Christ, he says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.” If the law brought a curse, and if Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, then it must mean that the law is annulled through Christ’s work (as it is explicitly said to be in numerous NT passages).
Paul is obviously speaking of the Jews who were under the law, but his words are given to include the Gentiles in Galatia (and thus us!) who would stupidly presume to insert the law into our lives when it is fulfilled in Christ. Ellicott notes that, “The opening of this verse without any connecting particle lends sharpness and emphasis to the contrast. The Law brought a curse. There it stopped short. That was all it could do. The first thing that Christianity does is to undo this result of the Law by deliverance from the curse.”
Where the law failed, Christ prevailed over it and “redeemed us from the curse.” The word redeemed here means “to purchase, to buy up.” From that it gives the sense of “to purchase anyone, to redeem, to set free.” Paul is saying that it is through the work of Christ that we have been “purchased” and thus “set free” from the law (which brings a curse). So why would anyone attempt to reinsert (or to insert in the case of the Gentiles) that from which a purchase of redemption has been made, and which could only bring a curse?
Next, to show us how Christ did this thing on our behalf, he says that it is through Christ “having become a curse for us.” This was explained in Galatians 2:20. Christ became a curse under the law by becoming legally impure because, as Paul now cites from Deuteronomy 21:23, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”
Here Paul cites the substance of the Greek translation of the OT passage, but he notably leaves off the words “by God” after “cursed.” Paul knew that Christ was not cursed by God when He was crucified. The law deemed Christ, as it were, as accursed by having subjected Him to the type of death that a scoundrel would die. He died in fulfillment of the law, and in His death the law then cast Him out of its legal constraints by the type of death He died. Thus, when we join to Him, we also are also cast out of the legal constraints of the law. The law has no power over us because of this.
The word for tree here, xulon, means “anything made of wood, a piece of wood, a club, staff; the trunk of a tree, used to support the cross-bar of a cross in crucifixion” (Strong’s). If a tree is that which gives life, and this is certainly what was on Paul’s mind, then as Ignatius notes, “Christ was nailed up for our sakes – of which fruit are we. That is, the cross is regarded as a tree, and Christians as its fruit” (Vincent’s Word Studies).
The symbolism is extremely rich and it points back to the very fall of man where this was written in Genesis 3 –
“So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24
It is Christ who is the life and it is Christ who restores to us access to eternal life through His cross. It is the most amazing thing for us to consider. That hope in life which was lost is now again available through the death of Christ.
Life application: All who attempt to be justified by works of the law are under a curse. Those who claim to be “in Christ” and yet mandate works of the law are both heretics and under a curse. Keep far away from such depraved people.
Lord God Almighty, it is beyond imagination for me to grasp all that occurred in the death of Christ. We lost access to the Tree of Life, but through His death it is restored once again. We were bound under the harsh precepts of the law, and yet He became a curse for us so that we might be freed from the curse of the law. We were unrighteous and yet through Him we are made righteous. How can such marvelous things be! How great are You, O God. Thank You for the life, work, death, and resurrection of Christ my Lord. Amen!