Christ Our Redeemer
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)
In Galatians 3 Paul is showing us that salvation is entirely the gracious and sovereign work of God, upon the merits of the shed blood of Christ, apart from any human effort. He makes what must be to all legalists a very astonishing and grating statement in verse 10. “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” When a man tries to save himself by doing good, by keeping laws and commandments, he is cursed in his very effort. Such a statement is in direct opposition to the natural opinion of man, and all other forms of religion. Men, by nature, assume that Christianity should address itself to men and say, “You ought to do good. Do this and that and thou shalt live. Obey these commandments and you will have eternal life.” But the revelation of God says just the opposite. “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, for it is written, cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
The giving of the law was an awesome and terrifying event. Mount Sinai burned with fire. It was covered with thunder and lightning and thick darkness. The giving of the law was accompanied by the blast of a trumpet. It sounded like the day of doom, of damnation, of destruction. So awesome and terrible was that sight that Moses said, “I do exceedingly fear and quake.” It was such a fearful time that if so much as the hand of a beast were to touch the mountain it was to be stoned, or thrust through with a dart.
The awesomeness of that drama was concluded by the law of God being given to man upon two huge tables of stone. The law is hard, unbending, and impersonal. It was written on rock, heavy rock that cruses us to powder. “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Paul shows us that no man can stand before God and claim salvation upon the footing of his own works, because his very works are a curse to him.
In verse thirteen he tells us how sinners are saved. They cannot be saved upon their own merit, but they can be saved upon the merits of Another. Jesus Christ, the Representative Man, is the only one whose righteousness God will accept. And He graciously accepts as righteous all who are in Christ.
Sin is an accursed thing. The holy Lord God must curse it. His righteousness demands that he punish all sin and punish men for sin. But the Lord Jesus Christ, the all-glorious Son of the Everlasting Father, became a man and suffered in his manhood the curse, which was due his people. In the sacrifice of his own Son as our Substitute, God has satisfied his justice in the punishment of sin, and bestows his boundless mercy, love, and grace upon all who trust his Son, receiving salvation at his hand.
All men are guilty of sin and under the curse of the law (v. 10). You and I have broken God’s holy law (Ex. 20:1-17). The mere reading of the law should be enough to convince us of our guilt. We have all broken the law continually, from our youth up. No sinful human being is capable of keeping even one of the commandments. You may think, “But the Lord knows, I have done the best I could.” But that very thought is itself a lie; and you know it. No man has ever done the best he could do. It is ever our nature to choose evil. Yet, even if it were true, the best that we can do is but sin. God’s law demands perfect obedience, inwardly and outwardly, without a break.
Some try to find comfort in the supposition that, though they have sinned, they are no worse than others. But that will be no solace when God sweeps nations into hell. In that terrible day the wrath of God will be felt by every sinner as though he alone were damned. Unless you have kept the whole law of God perfectly, from the dawn of your life to the end of it, you are guilty before God.
Though it is impossible for us to keep God’s law because of the corruption of our hearts, were it possible to do so, we are still guilty. We all sinned and fell in Adam (Rom. 5:12). We were all born in sin (Ps. 51:5; 58:3). We do not become sinners by what we do. We do the evil that is in us because we are sinners. We were born that way. Our very nature is evil (Mark 7:20-23). Therefore we all live by nature after the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh (Eph. 2:1-3).
Because we have broken God’s holy law, we are under the curse of his law (Deut. 27:14-26). What is the curse of the law, but the curse of God? It is a completely just and righteous curse, a curse we have earned (Gen. 2:17, Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23). And the curse of God is indescribably great (Nah. 1:2-6; Mal. 4:1). He who destroyed the world once in water will soon purge it with fire. He who rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah will pour out the unquenchable fire of his holy wrath and the everlasting brimstone of torment upon every sinner who is found by his avenging justice outside Christ, the only City of Refuge.
But let no one imagine that the wrath of God is something that may fall upon them sometime in the future. The wrath of God is presently upon the unbelieving (John 3:36; Deut. 28:15-19). Eternal hell is the place where that wrath shall be forever executed, without abatement, upon the ungodly.
But there are some people in this world who are no longer under the curse of the law, who are no longer condemned, and can never be condemned. Let every believing sinner rejoice and sing. Christ our Mediator has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (1 Cor. 12:3; Deut. 21:22-23; Josh. 10:24-27).
The Word of God declares that there is only one way of redemption ― Substitution. The only way God can or will forgive sin is by the sin-atoning death and justice satisfying sacrifice of a Substitute of infinite worth and merit. The Lord Jesus Christ is that Substitute. ― "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21). The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was made to be sin for us. When he was made sin, the Lord God poured out all his infinite, holy wrath upon him. And, with one tremendous stroke of his glittering sword, justice was satisfied. The sword of justice that would have tormented us forever was swallowed in our holy Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“With one tremendous draft of love,
He drank damnation dry!”
Yes, he redeemed us from the curse of the law by his one great sacrifice for sin.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.” ― Our Redeemer is Christ, the Son of God, who was appointed and called to this work by his Father. He agreed to be our Redeemer and became our Redeemer in eternity, in the everlasting covenant. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was spoken of in Old Testament prophecy as our Redeemer, and was typified as our Kinsman Redeemer both by the law and by Boaz. In the fulness of time he came, not to become our Redeemer, but as our Redeemer. And he has, by the sacrifice of himself, obtained eternal redemption for us. Our Lord Jesus is abundantly qualified to be our Redeemer. As man, he is our near kinsman, to whom the right of redemption belonged by the law. As God, he was able to accomplish the great work.
Those who have been redeemed by Christ are "us," God’s elect (2 Thess. 2:13-14), the objects of his eternal love (Jer. 31:3; Rom. 8:28-30). They are a people scattered through all the world, a peculiar people, the peculiar and distinct objects of grace. They are the people of Christ, “his people,” whom he came into the world to save (Matt. 1:21), those the Father gave to him before the world began (John 6:39). Those who were redeemed by Christ are his sheep (John 10:11-16), those for whom he made and makes intercession (John 17:9, 20). Surely, no reasonable person can imagine that the Lord Jesus would lay down his life for those for whom he refuses to pray! Those Christ redeemed are those who are, in fact, redeemed. Is it not ludicrous beyond comprehension to imagine that the Lord Jesus Christ redeemed some who are not redeemed? All those redeemed by Christ are “us” who in time are brought by grace to believe on Christ. Our faith in him in time is the result of the redemption he accomplished at Calvary.
By his death upon the cursed tree, by the infinite merit and efficacy of his blood, the Lord Jesus Christ effectually redeemed God’s elect (all for whom he died); and the blessing he obtained for them is eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12). When Paul says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law,” his meaning is ― “At one time in the past, by a finished, once for all act, Christ bought us out of the curse of the law and delivered us from it to himself, by a price.” And the price of our redemption was his own life’s blood (1 Pet. 1:18-20). We were his before he died by the Father’s gift. Now, we are his by lawful ransom. He purchased us with the price of his own blood and delivered us "from the curse of the law," its sentence of condemnation and death, and from the execution of it in eternal wrath. That simply means that all who were redeemed by Christ have been so thoroughly and effectually delivered from the curse of the law, “so that,” as John Gill puts it, “they shall never be hurt by it, he having delivered them from wrath to come, and redeemed from the second death, the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.”
How did our Savior accomplish this great work? The Holy Spirit tells us that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law “by being made a curse for us.” That does not mean that he was simply made to be like one who is cursed by the law. It does not merely mean that he was looked upon by the men of his day as an abominable, wicked man, or that God merely looked upon him as though he were such.
There is much more here than a supposed curse. When our all-glorious Substitute was made to be sin for us, he was made to be “a curse for us.” As our Surety the Lord Jesus was made under the law. He stood before God in our place legally as our Representative. Having all the sins of all his people imputed to him, and having assumed total responsibility for us as our Surety, he stood before God as to one answerable for them, the only one answerable for them. The law, finding our sin on him, charged him with them and cursed him for them.
When the Son of God was made to be sin for us, justice executed upon him the full measure of God’s infinite wrath and fury, until it was fully satisfied with the payment received from him. God the Father himself, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us, awoke the sword of his angry justice against him, and commanded his death, even the horrid, ignominious, accursed death of the cross. Thus, he was made a curse: "made a curse," by the will, counsel, and determination of the eternal God. And as our great Savior and the Father’s righteous Servant, the Lord Jesus freely consented to the work. He freely laid down his life for us. He voluntarily gave himself for us. He made his own soul an offering for sin in full agreement with the Father, because of his great love for us.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” ― It is so written in Deuteronomy 21:23. ― “He that is hanged on a tree is accursed of God.” That phrase in Deuteronomy 21:23 is translated in the margin, “He that is hanged on a tree is the curse of God.” Stronger words could not be used to describe our Redeemer’s agony, the magnitude of his sacrifice, and the efficacy of his work upon the cursed tree.
When he hung on the cross, in our room and stead; the Lord of Glory was made a curse, not for himself, or for any sins of his own, for he had none. He was made a curse, the curse of God for us, in our room and stead, because of our sins that were made to be his. He was made the curse of God to make atonement for us. The curse of God fell upon his darling Son as our Surety. His own Father, who made him to be sin for us, made him the curse of God for us, that he might redeem us from the curse of the law.
God’s holy law requires a penalty against sin. The penalty is death. That is its curse. The only way anyone can ever be delivered from the curse of the law is by enduring its curse, death, to the full satisfaction of justice. But no man can ever do that. Indeed, whatever hell is, it is eternal, precisely because all the damned suffering the wrath of God in hell can never satisfy its infinite curse.
Here is the great beauty, wonder, and glory of the gospel. ― The Lord Jesus Christ, when he was made the curse of God for us and all for whom he died endured the curse of God in him to the full satisfaction of justice, for when he died, we died in him. Now, upon the grounds of justice satisfied, both the law of God and the grace of God demand the eternal salvation of all for whom Christ died. Because “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” God is both just and the Justifier of all who trust his Son (Rom. 3:24-26). There is no other way in which he can be, as he declares himself to be, “A just God and a Savior” (Isa. 45:20).