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.”
It is interesting that we know Jesus took on our sins by hanging on the cross. He paid the penalty that we were due and thus He was cursed.
But Jesus was considered cursed by more than the fact that He died for our sins. According to the Law of Moses, anyone who was hung on a tree was considered cursed. This became a stumbling block for Jews in accepting Jesus because He was hung on a cross. They could not accept that their Messiah was cursed by God.
Of course the true curse was the sins that He bore while nailed to the cross. When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” it was more than just a cry of anguish. It was at this moment that the curse was laid upon Jesus.
The curse of sin is that it separates us from God. It prevents us from having fellowship with the Lord because He is holy and we are not. When Jesus took on our sins, He really was forsaken by God because the relationship was broken in that instant.
Because of the work of Jesus, the relationship has been fixed. We have access to God because of grace. Sin still affects our relationship with God however which is why we strive to follow His commands and ask forgiveness when we fail. Our salvation is not affected by sin because the curse has been lifted but our relationship can still be hurt by it.
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
Despite all of the calls for obedience in the New Testament, calls for holiness, and calls to follow the model of Jesus, Christians are reminded that they are not under the law.
This paradox is something that many pastors and theologians struggle with, let alone the average Christian. Romans 6:14 is one of the keys to understanding the difference between being under the law and under grace.
The law is a burden that we are unable to keep. It is directly tied to sin because it points out our sin to us. This is a good thing because we should do all that we can to eliminate sin in our life. However, we can fall into the trap of attempting to follow the law for the wrong reasons.
We should follow the law because we love God and want to obey Him. We should follow the law because God has set the guidelines for us for our own protection because He loves us. We shouldn’t follow the law because we think that we have something to gain from God by doing so.
God has given us grace which means that the penalty for disobeying the law has been removed. When we follow the law out of duty, we actually reject God’s grace and say “thanks but no thanks, I’ll do it on my own.” God wants obedience but He wants it out of love and not a sense of duty. Because of grace, the law should not be a burden for us to fulfill but a joy because of our love for the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
Almost 3500 years ago, Moses came down from Mt. Sinai holding two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. They were the direct words of God, etched into stone.
The law failed however, or at least the people were unable to uphold the law. Something more would be needed to fulfill what was uncompleted within the law. Jesus was needed to fulfill the law in our place.
But the work of Jesus didn’t make the law null and void. Instead, it just meant that we would not be judged according to our ability, or inability rather, to uphold the law.
The law remains a good thing to obey. It is meant to protect us from the consequences that may occur should we break it. It is also meant to maintain our relationship with God. Because we are unable to uphold the law, we need help.
God gave us the Holy Spirit to help us keep the law. We still don’t do a perfect job with it because we still have our sinful nature but the Holy Spirit is a help. He reminds us of what we have learned and know of the Bible.
Just as importantly, God is no longer a far off being who handed down the law. Now He lives within us, so there is an increased relationship between God and man.
1 John 5:3
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.
While we do not earn our salvation by following the law, nor can we repay God by later doing good, we are still meant to follow God’s commands.
Some people approach Christianity as a list of do’s and do-not-do’s but it is much more than that. We should not obey the commands that God has for us simply out of necessity but because we love Him and want to make Him happy.
Our relationship with God is similar to a marriage in this respect. There are certain things that are expected by spouses. We should clean up after ourselves, show affection, take care of the other when they are sick, pay attention to the other’s needs, etc.
Husbands and wives can methodically go through and do everything to make their marriage work but most people only pay attention to these things when they are having trouble in their marriage. The reason is when the relationship is going well, these things happen automatically without thinking. Only when things sour do we have to think back to what made it work previously.
Likewise, what we do for God should be done automatically out of love. The more we love Him, the more we’ll want to obey Him and we’ll do it without thinking. When our relationship falls off track we’ll notice that we haven’t been obeying as we should but if we dig deeper, we’ll realize that really we haven’t been loving as we should.
For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
Throughout this series of devotions we have seen that because no one is able to live up to the law that they are due the punishment of breaking the law. Romans 4 takes this idea a step further and applies it to Christians.
Christians have been forgiven of their sins and are no longer subject to the penalty of the law. The problem is that we live as if we are still under the law. Make no mistake, the ten commandments are just as applicable to Christians today as they were to Jews of the Old Testament era. The difference is that our salvation is not found in maintaining those rules.
This is where Christians stumble. As was discussed in “No Justification by the Law” the law should be preached to make people aware of their sins so that they will seek the Lord in repentance.
The problem arises when Christians push the law too hard. There are absolutely times when Christians should be involved in government action – that is an entirely different topic. Some people seem to think that by passing laws against abortion, homosexuality, or any other thing that Christians do not stand for that it will solve the problem of sin.
Instead, more effort should be put towards bringing people to the Lord. All of the laws in the world won’t stop sinful behavior. Repentance will stop sinful behavior however. Then there will be no need to point out the law because it will be written on the hearts of the people.