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The Curse Removed

The Curse of the Law

The Mosaic Law is mentioned in the Bible hundreds of times.  Why do you suppose this is true?  God never intended the Ten Commandments to make a bad man good or a good man better. The Ten Commandments were not to give anyone life (Gal. 3:21; Rom. 3:20-21).  But the Law had a spiritual purpose to perform (Rom. 7:14). This spiritual role was to be God’s X-ray machine to reveal the nature of man.

The Law of Moses is made up of many more laws than just the famous ten.  It actually includes hundreds of laws and ordinances.  This whole complex system of commands and sacrifices was designed by a holy God to reveal to us His perfect character and to teach us just what we are like when we are compared to Him.

The Law: Tied to Sin

In order to activate His spiritual X-ray machine, God mysteriously attached His righteous laws to our sinful heart.

“For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam.” (Rom. 5:13-14)

Even though the people who lived from Adam to Moses (about 2000 years) did not have a specific law to break, like Adam’s command not to eat the forbidden fruit, sin was still in man.  Physical death was clear proof that the death seed was there.

Many years after Adam, God gave His Law and He gave it in two forms.  He gave to the Jews at Mount Sinai a written version etched in stone tablets, and He gave to the Gentiles a spiritual version written on fleshly tables of the heart (2 Cor. 3:6, Rom. 2:14-16).  Both versions were given to express God’s holiness and to expose sin as a transgression against Him.

“Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound.” (Rom. 7:20)

The Greek word “entered” comes from a word often used of a Greek play in which an actor entered the stage to play a supporting role.  The Law of Moses entered God’s plan of grace to play a supporting role – to stir up invisible sin within man.

The Law’s stirring of our sinful heart would be like throwing a rock at a hornet’s nest or poking a sleeping bear with a stick.  Both the rock and the stick (representing the Law) would stir our sin, (represented by the hornets and the bear).  The Law stirs our sin in order for it to be made known.

Paul’s Contact with God’s Law

Paul learned this truth about God’s Law personally.

“What shall we say then?  Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not known sin but by the law; for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of coveting.  For apart from the law, sin is dead (or dormant).  I was alive apart from the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.  And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” (Rom. 7:7-11; commentary mine)

Paul received the knowledge of his death nature because of the stirring of his sin caused by the Law.  He had broken God’s Law against covetousness and therefore became aware of his sin before God.  “Oh God,” he must have thought, “I am a covetous person.  I am a sinner.  Therefore, I am dead and in need of life.”  The Law had accomplished its work in his life.

Paul explained the work of the Law to the Galatians.

“What purpose then does the law serve?  It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.” (Gal. 3:19)

Paul had gone to great lengths to teach the Galatians that God’s Law was never meant to give anyone life. It was added to reveal sin as a transgression before God.  A transgression is an unlawful trespassing upon someone else’s domain.  It is unlawful to trespass God’s holy domain.  The boundary that separated a holy God from sinful man was not clearly marked until the Law.

God’s Law says to every member of Adam’s race, “No trespassing!”  To transgress God’s Law is to realize that one has become guilty before God.

“Now we know that whatever things the law says, it says to them that are under the law that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:19-20)

We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.  How do we know this is true?  It is true because we have all broken God’s Law. The Jews could not keep the Law written upon stone. The rest of us cannot keep that which is written by God on the fleshly tables of our heart.  The Law says that Jews and Gentiles alike stand condemned before God.

The Law Becomes the Strength of Sin

“The strength of sin is the law.” (1 Cor. 15:56b)

What a strange statement!  How is the Law the strength of sin?
Without the Law, invisible sin within us has no means of expressing itself.  It has no strength!  How could we ever define or describe an invisible sin nature without the Law?

The Bible calls this invisible nature within us the flesh (Rom. 7:18), sinful passions (Rom. 7:5), sin (Rom. 7:17), the old man (Eph. 4:22), and lusts (James 4:1).  But it can only be understood when it is spiritually set in motion.  The Law, as the strength of sin, gives our sinful passion a little push.

A young boy came into the kitchen with his mom many times.  One day she said to him, “Sweetheart, do you see that big jar up there on the top shelf?”

“Yes, Mommy,” he replied.

“Well, dear, there is something in that jar that mother does not want you to see, so please do not ever look in it, okay?”

“Sure, Mom,” he responded.

Suddenly those hidden impulses of Adam’s sin inside the little fellow began to vibrate like a tuning fork struck by a mallet.  These vibrations eventually nudged him to take just one little peek into the jar.  His ability for disobedience was always there, but until the Law struck the chords of his sinful heart, it had no means of expression, no strength.

Our silent sin is like the energy stored in a fully charged battery needing some outlet of release.  Connect the battery to a small appliance and the energy will flow. Our sin had no channel for expression until the Law of God gave it one.

God was gracious in providing His Law to become the strength of sin.  He exposes our sinful condition in order to create within us a thirst for His wonderful grace.

“For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sin, which were aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.” (Rom. 7:5)

Law and Death

If the sting of sin is death (and it is) and the strength of sin is the Law (and it is), then the Law must be tied to death.  The Law, unless it is kept absolutely perfectly, can only curse.  The Law is a unit, and as a unit it demands all or nothing at all.  If one fails to keep it flawlessly, it will become a killer.

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident; for the just shall live by faith.   And the law is not of faith, but the man that does them shall live in them.” (Gal. 3:10-12)

“Who also made us able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.  But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children or Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away, how shall not the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.” (2 Cor. 3:6-9)

No matter how well it is concealed, God’s Law will search sin out (Rom. 7:14-25). Once our sin is exposed, God’s Spirit opens our blind eyes to the knowledge that we are spiritually separated from God.

The Law, therefore, becomes a killer and a minister of condemnation to those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior. It gives them no excuse and no place to hide.  The Law will always do just what God has designed His holy Law to do.  It can never give anyone life, nor make anyone better.  But it will always demand from the human race the righteousness of God and condemn all who do not measure up.  It will stir up the Adamic nature within and give the knowledge that we are sinners and under God’s condemnation.  The Law was designed to reveal a curse. So the Law and death go hand in hand.

Why the Cross?

“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’ – that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal. 3:13-14)

By understanding this goal for the Law, we can begin to understand why Jesus Christ had to die on a cross.  It would have seemed more appropriate to the shadows of the Old Testament for God to allow the Lord Jesus to die on the mercy seat or on the brazen altar.  After all, it was upon the mercy seat that the blood was sprinkled, and upon the brazen altar that the sacrifices were offered.  Both of these foreshadowed the death of Christ.  So why did God determine that Christ was to die on a cross?

His death on the cross had everything to do with the final judgment of death imposed by God’s holy Law.  Again, the Law is God’s executioner, pronouncing every human being guilty and condemned (2 Cor. 3:6-9).  The Law’s role as an executioner is illustrated simply, yet graphically, in the Old Testament.

“And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he be put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day (for he who is hanged is accursed by God).” (Deut. 21:22)

If a Jew committed a sin worthy of death (broke a law which was to result in death), he was to be stoned to death and then placed on a tree.  This Law-breaker suspended on the tree graphically revealed that God’s holy Law had been broken and His divine judgment of death had been executed.

Christ, Cursed for Us

Think for a moment of the death of Jesus Christ. His payment for sin, as the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29), was the real thing.  All of the shadow sacrifices of the Old Testament Law system pointed to His final offering.  Jesus Christ died on a cross!  He was nailed to a tree!  Paul connected His “cross death” to the Old Testament illustration of the one who hung on a tree (Deut. 21:22).

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'” (Gal. 3:13)

When God placed my sin upon Christ, His holy Law did what it was designed to do.  It became His minister of condemnation. The Law killed God’s precious Lamb.  Jesus Christ bore its full curse for us!  At that moment “He who knew no sin became sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).

On the cross of Calvary, the Lord Jesus Christ satisfied forever the divine judgment of death demanded by God through the Mosaic Law.  When He screamed from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:45-46), He bore the Adamic curse of being separated from God in our place, thereby becoming our sin substitute.  He took our place! He bore our curse!

What happened to the curse of the Law following His death on the cross?

“And you being dead in your sins and uncircumcision of your flesh, has he made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses, blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and contrary to us and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Col. 2:13-14)

The curse imposed upon us by the Law was blotted out forever. No one today receives eternal life by keeping the Mosaic Law. God never gave the Law for this purpose.  We are given life today by trusting in God’s Son as the One who died for us.

“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.” (Rom. 10:4)

 

Sources

New American Standard Bible

Donald Gray Barnhouse

Chafer’s Systematic Theology

R. B. Thieme

New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance