Curse of the Law

The Curse of the Law

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” Galatians 3:10

If these words were the complete thought brought forth by the apostle Paul, or even the essence of what was to follow, one might be excused for taking the position that those who advocate the binding claims of God’s Law are misdirected in their efforts, and that those who seek to render obedience to it are under a curse. To stop right here, however, is to miss the real point that the apostle is seeking to make. Notice that the verse does not stop here; it goes on to say: “for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” The fact of the matter is, the curse comes upon men, not because they do the Law but because they fail to do it all. Closer observation reveals that the curse is the curse of disobedience.

Disobedience to God’s Law is itself the curse, and the curse it brings is death. Sin has death wrapped up in it. For “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” Romans 5:12. Without sin, death would be impossible, for “the sting of death is sin.” 1 Corinthians 15:56. Why, then, did the apostle say that “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse”? Is it because the Law is a curse?—Not at all. The apostle himself acknowledges that: “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Romans 7:17. Were there something inherently wrong with the Law, we may know with confidence that Christ would not have fulfilled it in every respect. (See John 15:10) Why, then, are as many as are under the works of the law under the curse?—Because all have failed to fulfill the works of the Law in their lives; for, as we are told: “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. Anyone who seeks by good works to remove from himself the curse of having broken that Law will remain under that curse.

Laws Insure Liberty

We see this principle in the application of human laws. The laws of the land that prohibit an individual from defrauding or committing violence against his neighbor are not a curse, or a type of bondage. In fact, we would have to agree that they are the laws that insure liberty. To prevent blatant disregard of these laws and to insure the rights of the citizens they are designed to protect, there are certain penalties attached to them that are directed against those who break them. Therefore, while these laws speak liberty to the law-abiding citizen, they speak bondage to the one convicted of having violated them.

Once convicted of breaking the law, future obedience does not free anyone from the penalty which that act of disobedience brings. Obedience is not part of a merit system by which we can gain recognition for our accomplishment; rather, it is something that is just expected of all good citizens.

Consider the working of this principle in the area of something so simple as the laws governing traffic. Once convicted of breaking the speed law, one’s past driving record does not lessen the penalty, nor will his future good driving remove from him the obligation of paying the penalty.

In this respect, God’s Ten Commandment Law is no different. James refers to it as the “perfect law of liberty.” (See James 1:25) The precepts of this Law are designed to protect our highest interest. Divided into two parts, the first addresses our relationship to God, showing us how to live in harmony with our

Creator and Source of life. The second part insures the rights of the individual, protecting him from those who would deprive him of peace and safety.

Disobedience Brings the Curse

When God brought Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, He set before them two types of promises. One set of promises was based upon a course of obedience, the other disobedience. “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: and a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 11:26–28. God did not speak these words to Israel alone. These ten precepts apply equally to all mankind. It was not just the rights of the children of Israel God sought to protect. Neither were the people of Israel the only segment of society that God desired to have live in harmony with the principles of His government, but all men. “The law worketh wrath” (Romans 4:15), but the wrath of God comes only on the children of disobedience. While condemnation does not come upon us if we truly believe, the reason it does not do so is because faith brings us into harmony with the Law-the life of God. We are then imitating the life of Christ, our great Example. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” 1 Peter 2:21–22. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 5:1–6 NKJV

Alone, Man Can Not Obey God’s Law

Good works are commanded, but we cannot do them. They can be done only by the One who alone is good, and that is God. If there is ever to be any good in us, it is because we have God working in us. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20–21

When we read the statement that, “the just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3 :11), it is important that we have a clear idea of the meaning of the word “just.” Some versions correctly translate it: “The righteous shall live by faith.” “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17), and “sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. Therefore, all unrighteousness is transgression of the Law; and it naturally follows that all righteousness must, therefore, be obedience. So, for a man to be declared righteous, he must not be knowingly disregarding any precept of God’s Law. This is what the apostle means when he says: “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” Romans 2:13

It is by faith, not by works, that we become doers of the law. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Romans 10:10. There is no exception, no halfway working. Salvation simply comes by faith and not by works. All the just are made righteous and kept righteous by faith. The Law is so holy that the standard it holds out before us is greater than any man can attain to in his own strength. Perfect obedience can be accomplished only by divine power. So, as by faith we receive the Lord Jesus, He lives out his perfect Law in us.

Obedience Was Never the Issue

You will never find in any of Paul’s writings any hint or suggestion that the Law is not to be obeyed, or that it has been abolished or changed. The question is not if the Law should be kept, but how it is to be kept.

“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Galatians 3:23–25

The words “to bring us” are marked in your Bible being added by the translators as they sought to make the meaning clearer, so you may drop them without in any way changing the inspired portion of e text. You also will notice that the New King James Bible uses the word tutor in the place of “schoolmaster.” This word is translated from the word paidagogos (pahee-dag-o-gos’) (Strong’s Concordance #3807) and means a boy-leader, that is, a servant whose office it was to take the children to school (by implication [figuratively] a tutor ["paedagogue”]): instructor, or schoolmaster.

A paidagogos was a slave who accompanied the boys to school to see that they did not play truant. If they attempted to run away, it was his responsibility to bring them back; and he had authority even to beat them to keep them in the way. The word could better be translated “taskmaster.” The idea here is [at of a guard who accompanies a prisoner who is allowed to walk around outside the prison walls. The prisoner although nominally at large, is really deprived of his liberty just the same as though he were actually in a cell. This is the condition of those who

Do not believe and who are “under sin,” “shut up” under the law. “ For these, the Law acts as their jailer. The broken law shuts them in and will not let them off; they cannot escape their guilt or punishment. Though God is merciful and gracious, He will not clear the guilty. (See Exodus 34:6–7) That is, He will not lie, calling evil good. Yet, He provides a way by which the guilty may lose their guilt. The Law will then no longer be against them, will no longer shut them up, and they can walk at liberty.

Some have supposed from this text that there was a definite time for faith to come and that men were under the Law until this certain time in the history of the world. It is then commonly believed that once faith came, they were from then on free from the Law. This coming of faith is generally considered to be synonymous with the manifestation of. Christ on earth. To believe this actually makes a man’s salvation dependent simply on the accident of birth. If he lived before a certain time, he would be lost; if after, he could be saved. No one who stops to reason the matter out can seriously think that the apostle is really saying this. Besides, Hebrews 11 tells us that all the patriarchs received salvation by faith.

When, then, does faith come? “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17. Keeping in mind that the only Scriptures that men had at the time the apostle wrote this were those writings that comprise our Old Testament, we begin to appreciate that whenever a man receives the Word of God-the word of promise, which brings with it the fullness of the Law-and no longer fights against it but yields to it, then faith comes to him.

Christ did not come to save us in our sins but from them. (See Matthew 1:21) The salvation He brings to us is not just release from the penalty of sin but victory over sin itself. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13)—from sin and death. This He has done by “being made a curse for us,” and thus we are freed from all necessity of sinning. Sin can have no more dominion over us if we accept Christ in truth and without reserve. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

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