Sermons

Christ Redeemed Us From the Curse

September 17, 2017 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: Freedom in Christ - The Book of Galatians

Topic: Redemption Passage: Galatians 3:10–3:14

My goal is that you leave today so full of hope and joy and encouragement in the gospel today.  We have quite a Redeemer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He saves completely!  He is a perfect Redeemer.  And therefore he gets the glory, we get the joy - forever!

At the end of the day there are really only two religions in the world: The religion of Human Achievement and the religion of Divine Accomplishment.  Verse 13 makes clear which message the gospel proclaims.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us

That’s Divine accomplishment.  What Jesus, our wonderful Redeemer has done.  

Remember what is going on here.  The occasion which prompted Paul to write this letter to the Galatian churches.  It is so relevant.  False teachers came in with very orthodox beliefs about Jesus.  But they said, “Of course, you need to believe in Jesus.  But his work is not quite complete and you need to add to it.” John Stott explains the false teaching like this:

They did not deny that you must believe in Jesus for salvation, but they stressed [note that word, stressed] that… you yourself must finish, by your obedience to the law, what Christ has begun. You must add your works to the works of Christ. You must finish Christ’s unfinished work.

Paul says in Galatians 2:21 that this is to nullify (cancel, reject) the grace of God and live as though Jesus died for no purpose.  The relevance for us is we do sometimes.  Martin Luther said there is no sin more grievous and no sin more common.  We swim in the ocean of God’s grace, trusting in Christ as our all in all, and then we feel the need to add to the work of Jesus in pride to get extra brownie points or out of fear and guilt that we aren’t doing enough for God to accept us.

And so Paul looks at some similar truths from a different angle.  I think Paul does this for two reasons.  First, we are forgetful.  One of the most important words in the NT for a Christian is “remember”!  Second , it is to give us a more full picture of the riches of the gospel.  Like taking a different route up a mountain summit.

There is no way to look at this text with rose colored glasses.  It is a weighty passage full of warning and glory.  So let’s look at 3 things as we consider the great work of our amazing Redeemer: 1) Big Trouble, 2) Big Price, 3) Big Promise.

 

Big Trouble

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for as it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, and do them.”  (verse 10)

Living a life of self-righteousness and self-justification puts us under God’s curse.  Curse - When we think of curse, a Voodo doll may come to mind.  Or an occult witch calling down a curse upon a deadbeat husband.  And we should not think of this curse as a kind of self-heaping curse, where because of one’s actions, they heap a curse on themselves.  Under the curse of God. Paul proves this by quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 which is the last verse of chapter 27 and chapter 28 is all about blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.

Listen to Deuteronomy 28:1-6.  This is to live under the divine blessing of God - “in the city, in the field, your womb, your cattle, when you come in and when you go out.”  And how do we secure this?  Just by perfect obedience to the entire Law.  But in Deuteronomy 28:15-19, we see expounded the consequences of anything less than perfect obedience.   

Someone might say, “Well when I look at the 10 commandments, I think I can keep those.”  Oh really?  What do you do when Jesus takes the 10 commandments and gets to the heart and spirit of the law in the Sermon on the Mount.  When Jesus takes the 10 commandments and puts them under a microscope and examines the heart and spirit of God’s law, it is devastating! And I realize, I haven’t been fully obedient to God’s law for 5 minutes since I have been born!

This is actually obvious for Paul.  It is not obvious for those who want to justify themselves.  But it is obvious for Paul.  In verse 11 Paul says, “Now it is evident that no one is justified (accepted) before God by the law. “

It’s evident.  It’s clear.  It’s obvious, without question right?  No one will be acceptable to God this way.  Then Paul gives the reason why it is so obvious, “for [because] the righteous shall live by faith.”  He means those who through faith in Christ are made righteous.  So put negatively.  The self-righteous woman, the man who seeks to justify himself is under God’s curse.  So this morning let’s abandon this project of justifying ourselves once and for all and seek a righteousness outside ourselves, namely the one that comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

 

Big Price

This is amazing because we all at one time lived under the curse.

Christ redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (verse 13)

Notice first it says not simply that Jesus was cursed, but he “became a curse”.  The One who is the incarnate Son of God at this moment becomes the incarnation of the Divine curse!  How can this be?  Jesus lived under the smile of the Father from all eternity.  When he was born, God sends a host of angels to sing the glory of his coming.  At Jesus’ baptism, when he comes up out of the water, the Father expresses his deep love and delight in Christ, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus  is the One described in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

For he is perfectly pure.  Until that day when my sin was placed on him on the cross and he was pure no more.  And God cursed him.  This helps us understand Jesus’ cry of agony  from the cross “My God, my God why have you forsaken me!” (Matthew 27:46)  Jesus was not having a momentary lapse of reason during his anguish, disillusioned because he thought the Father was going to rescue him.  And I don’t think Jesus was in the mood to quote some scripture and thought Psalm 22 would be a good place to go in order to draw the people’s attention to the fact that he was fulfilling this text.  

No, Jesus cries these words because he was experiencing God-forsakenness. Never was there such a concentration of evil in one place as there was on that cross as Jesus bore the sins of all his people.  And Habakkuk 1:13 says, “You are of purer eyes than to see evil and you cannot look on wrong.”  So the light of the Father’s face was turned away from the Son.  And the full force of the curse of God was poured out on Christ.  Philip Ryken in commentary on Galatians said,

To put it in the most shocking and yet perhaps the most accurate way, the apostolic message was about a God-damned Messiah.”

Paul says the evidence that Christ was bearing the curse for us was that he hung on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:23).  Again, verse 13, “For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’”  

All the imagery surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus indicate  he was enduring the divine curse.  He was delivered into the hands of the Gentiles so that rather than being stoned by the Jews, he was executed Roman style on a tree (cross).  Add to this, the astronomical phenomena when at midday, when the Father turns his face away from Jesus, the sun ceases to shine on that hill on which Jesus dies and the earth is darkened for three hours.

Jesus became a curse.  I don’t understand.  But I know it’s true.  And I glory in it.  Because it was no accident, but Christ did it “for us.”, to redeem us from the curse.  For me.  The hymn, Christ What Burdens Bowed Thy Head says these precious words,

Death and curse were in our cup. O Christ, ‘twas full for Thee.  But Thou hast drained the last dark drop. ‘Tis empty now for me.

What an enormous price for your redemption!  Do you realize what Christ paid to redeem you?  You were bought at such a high price!  Martin Luther is right on when he said: “When we hear that Christ was made a curse for us, let us believe it with joy and assurance. By faith Christ changes places with us.  He gets our sins, we get his holiness.

 

Big Promise

So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (verse 14)

Christ purchased for us blessing!  He removed the curse and has earned blessing for us.  Only Jesus is worthy of the blessing.  Remember, the blessings we saw in Deuteronomy 28 are for the one who has been careful do all the commands of God.  Who has done that?  Jesus has!  The blessing is for him and everyone who has been joined to him by faith.  Notice the phrase, “In Christ Jesus”.  “So that in Christ Jesus…” the blessing of Abraham might come to all the nations.  That was God’s promise to Abraham was (Genesis 12:3).   

In Christ Jesus is one of Paul’s favorite phrases.  In Paul’s letters he uses this phrase over 160 times, which speaks of our union with Christ.  It means that through faith in Christ, we are now “in him” such that all he is and all he has done is ours!  But Paul gets more specific.  He says, “so that we might receive the Holy Spirit.”  So the blessing of God results in you receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Or I think we could just say, the blessing is the Holy Spirit.

Think with me. What is the greatest gift God could give you?  Himself - present with unlimited power.  God gives you the greatest gift, namely he gives himself as the fountain of living waters dwelling within (John 7:37-39).  John 16:7: The disciples are filled with doubts and fears because Jesus has said he will no longer be with them and Jesus said, “It is actually better for you that I go away.  For if I go, I will send the Helper to you.”  Jesus is saying “the promised Spirit indwelling you is better than having me walk with you.”  The Holy Spirit is spoken of as a “down payment” or our full inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14).

In him [Christ] you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Holy Spirit was called “the promise” in another place.  On the Day of Pentecost, Peter says in his sermon in Acts 2:35, 39:

[Jesus] Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.  The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

With all we have seen concerning the Spirit: life giving waters, better for us, down payment, and promise, one thing is clear. This is more than just a doctrine to be believed, it is a reality to be experienced.  Reality with the risen Christ through the Spirit.  How does Paul say we receive this promise? Through faith.  Faith plus our works?  Nope, faith alone.  Again Martin Luther,

The Spirit spells freedom from the Law, sin, death, the curse, hell, and the judgment of God. No merits are mentioned in connection with this promise of the Spirit and all the blessings that go with him. This Spirit of many blessings is received by faith alone.  Faith alone builds on the promises of God.

Faith. Filling your mind with the work of Christ.  Counting on him as our perfect Redeemer, who has earned everything for you!  The more you turn away from yourself and believe this, the more full of the Holy Spirit and joy you will be. 

More in Freedom in Christ - The Book of Galatians

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