What is the Curse of the Law?
The curse of the Law is that one must keep the whole law in order to be justified by it and that once one has sinned under the law, there is no way to put away one’s guilt. The law made no provision for the forgiveness of sin. In James 2:10, we are taught that under a system of law, if one tries to keep the whole law yet offends in even one point, he is guilty of all. The curse of the law, according to Paul in Romans 7, is that it exposed sin in his life, yet it did nothing to take away his guilt.
The Law of Moses only allowed for forgiveness in prospect, that is, it only covered the sins of men until Christ came to take away those sins. Now that Christ has come, the law has been taken away. It was nailed to the cross along with Him. So now, we are free from the curse of the Law of Moses. Does this mean that there is no longer a law that we must follow? Is there a requirement for Christians to obey, in the New Testament?
Christ demands our obedience. Matthew 7:21 teaches that we must do the will of the Father in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The will of God is our law. The will of God has been revealed in its completeness in the pages of the New Testament. It is the word of Christ that will judge us in the last day. Those who reject Christ and His word are rejecting the very law that will judge them. We are now under the Law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 gives us the imperative command to bear one another’s burdens in order to fulfill the law of Christ.
We are under the law of Christ which is a law of Liberty. The fact that Christ’s law is a law of liberty does not mean that we are free to disobey it. James teaches in chapter 1:22-25, that we must be a doer of the word of God and not a hearer only. One who is a doer of the law of liberty will be blessed. He also teaches in chapter 2:12 that we will be judged by that law of liberty.
Since one could not keep all of the commandments of the Law of Moses, as we saw in James 2:10, one was guilty of all the Law. There was no way under the old law for ones sins to be taken away. The punishment for sin is death. Therefore, violation of any point of the Law of Moses brought one under the “curse” of the law, which was the death sentence. Only by the grace of God was a way made for man to rid himself of the “curse” of law. The grace of God freed man from the curse of the law. Does this mean that grace and law are mutually exclusive?
Grace brought about a system of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus. We are justified by our obedient faith in Christ, not by works of law. But, that does not void law. Romans 3:31 teaches that law is established through faith. Faith establishes or confirms law. If we have faith in Jesus and are obedient to His will, then we must recognize His will as law, or else we would not be faithful to it. Our obedience to Christ’s law confirms that His law is in effect.
In Galatians 2:16-21, the word “law” is referring any system whereby one is saved according to works of merit. Whether it is by the Law of Moses, which made no provision for forgiveness;or whether it was by the Law of the Jews, which was apart from the Law of Moses, and had developed into a system of works based salvation. The Jews believed that they could earn their way to heaven by keeping the traditions of their forefathers. Therefore, we are not justified by law keeping in and of itself, but we are justified by the law of faith in Christ Jesus.