Sunday, August 30, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 3, Verse 13

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” Here is the answer at last! For the first time in Paul’s theological treatise in Chapter 3, Jesus is introduced as our “redeemer.” The Jews of Paul’s days understood this concept well – the need for some kind of way to be right with God after failing to fulfill the requirements of the law. The law of Moses provided for a sacrificial system of animal blood offerings in the tabernacle/temple, but it was an imperfect system. It wasn’t complete – it had to be constantly repeated, and even then, under this system we were still doomed – for indeed falling short of the law put us all under a curse. (See Romans 8:3).

“by becoming a curse for us” Paul continues his use of the law of Moses as a proof text, here citing Deuteronomy 21:23. Again, this would have been a well known text to the Jews of Paul’s time, and the use of the term “tree” was common to the Greeks and Gentiles, understood as the pole or beam used to place a criminal in the stocks, impale him, or, for the Romans, to crucify him. In this verse and the next, Paul sums up in two succinct sentences the entirely of the Gospel. Jesus, the Messiah, the God-man, gave his own life for all of us, taking the curse we carry because we are unable to fulfill the righteousness of the law, and actually became that curse himself. By using the actual text of the law to underscore his argument, Paul proves to his audience of Jews and Gentiles who were trying to be like Jews that this was God’s plan all along.

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