Is the Law of God a Curse?
What did Paul mean by,
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law"?
The apostle Peter warned that false teachers would come along and deliberately blaspheme God and cast away the law of the Lord through their false teachings: “But there were also false prophets among the people [of Israel], as indeed there will be false teachers among you, who will stealthily introduce destructive heresies, personally denying the Lord who bought them, and bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many people will follow as authoritative their destructive ways; and because of them, the way of the truth will be blasphemed. Also, through insatiable greed they will with enticing messages exploit you for gain; for whom the judgment of old is in full force, and their destruction is ever watching” (II Pet. 2:1-3).
This devious approach causes most Protestants to completely misunderstand such critical passages as Galatians 3:13: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us [to save us from our sins] (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” Typically, they violate this verse, misreading it as if it meant, “Christ has redeemed us from the law, which is a curse.” Such an absurd reading is completely incorrect and without foundation—because THE LAW OF GOD IS NOT A CURSE!
The truth is that the perfect law of God is a wonderful blessing—not a curse! Sin is the curse! Obedience to the laws and commandments of God results in numerous blessings (Deut. 28:1-14; Lev. 26:1-13). Sin—the transgression of the law (I John 3:4)—results in curses (Deut. 28:15-68; Lev. 26:14-45). Christ has redeemed us not from the law itself, but from the curse of breaking the law—the very curse we brought on ourselves because of our sins. He provides forgiveness and redemption through His perfect sacrifice and shed blood—redeeming us from the death penalty, which is the curse of breaking the law. He has not redeemed us from keeping the law of God—as if one no longer has an obligation to keep the laws and commandments of God.
The Purpose of God’s Laws and Commandments: Before we can grasp what Paul actually wrote, we need to understand God’s view of His own law and why He gave it to Israel and mankind. After wandering in the wilderness for forty years—because of Israel’s lack of faith and their sin against God—Moses was inspired by God to write this concerning the law: “And now, O Israel, hearken to the statutes and to the judgments which I teach you, in order to do them, so that you may live and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers gives to you. You shall not add to the word which I command you; neither shall you take away from it, so that you may keep the commandments of the L ORD your God which I command you ” (Deut. 4:1-2).
The children of Israel were to keep the commandments of God so that they might live with God’s blessings. Thus, God’s laws are obviously not a curse. How can Protestants possibly believe that Jesus abolished the entire law—“nailing it to the cross”—when God commanded the children of Israel not to add to it or diminish anything from it? (Also see Deuteronomy 12:32 and similar references.)
God is a God of love. He gave His laws and commandments to be a blessing for Israel and a benefit to all mankind. “Therefore, know this day and fix it in your heart that the L ORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath. There is none other. Therefore, you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you this day, so that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and so that you may prolong your days upon the earth, which the L ORD your God gives you forever…. And you shall be careful to do as the L ORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the L ORD your God has commanded you so that you may live and that it may be well with you, and you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess. Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which the L ORD our God commanded to teach you so that you might do them in the land where you go to possess it, that you might fear the L ORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you, and your son, and your son’s son, all the days of your life, and so that your days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be diligent to observe it, so that it may be well with you, and that you may greatly multiply, as the L ORD God of our fathers has promised you, in the land that flows with milk and honey” (Deut. 4:39-40; 5:32-33; 6:1-3).
With these passages in mind, we need to ask: What is a converted person’s attitude toward the laws and commandments of God? Does the Lawgiver reject, despise and ridicule His own laws? Absolutely not! Since truly converted people have the laws and commandments written in their hearts and minds (Heb. 10:16), they will love them, think on them and live by them in the spirit of the law (Rom. 7:6), as did King David. Notice his attitude toward the laws and commandments of God which he exalted and praised as perfect: “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the L ORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandments of the LORD are pure , enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether, more to be desired than gold, yea, much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
“Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Oh, cleanse me from my secret faults; and keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; do not let them rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Psa. 19:7-13).
David never once called the law a curse! He fully understood that God gave His laws to mankind to define righteousness and sin. If we obey, the law is not a curse, but a blessing. If we disobey, we bring the curse of the law for disobedience upon ourselves.
We also find much spiritual understanding about God’s laws and commandments in Psalm 119. Notice the following key verses:
Psa. 119:142 “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is the truth.”
Psa. 119:151 “All Your commandments are truth.”
Psa. 119:160 “Your word is true from the beginning.”
Psa. 119:172 “All Your commandments are righteousness.”
Psa. 119:97 “O how love I Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
Psa. 119:113 “I hate those who are double-minded, but Your law do I love.”
Psa. 119:119 “You destroy all the wicked of the earth like dross; therefore I love Your testimonies.”
Psa. 119:127 “Therefore I love Your commandments above gold—yea, above fine gold.”
Psa. 119:140 “Your word is very pure; therefore Your servant loves it.”
Psa. 119:159 “Consider how I love Your precepts; O Lord, according to Your loving kindness give me life.”
Psa. 119:163 “I hate and despise lying, but I love Your law.”
Psa. 119:167 “My soul has kept Your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly.”
David’s solemn, converted attitude of love toward God and His laws—as evidenced throughout Psalm 119—is undoubtedly prophetic of Jesus Christ’s attitude and love of God’s laws and commandments which He had during His ministry in the flesh when He “magnified the law and made it glorious” (see Isaiah 42:21) revealing its spiritual intent and purpose.
An in-depth study of the entirety of Psalm 119 should be undertaken by the reader for a more comprehensive understanding of the laws and commandments of God.
Quoting from the Old Testament, Jesus Christ expounded on the greatest commandment of all: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment; and the second one is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40). Reflecting on what Jesus said, the apostle John wrote that love and commandment-keeping go together like a hand and glove: “By this standard we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God: that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:2-3).
Far from being a curse, God’s Law is a wonderful blessing—a shield, a safeguard, a light on a dark path. As the apostle Paul wrote, “the law is indeed holy, and the commandment holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). Is it any wonder that King David exclaimed, “ O how love I Your law!”?