For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Having shot down the Judaizers’ argument for circumcision, Paul now shows how important this all is. He does that by quoting a number of passages in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 27:26, Habakkuk 2:4, Leviticus 18:5, and Deuteronomy 21:23). Paul is using the Judaizers’ own words against them. Their whole case is based on Old Testament law.
But remember, this is written to Gentiles. They aren’t familiar with the Old Testament. So, don’t look to the context of these OT passages to discern Paul’s meaning. This isn’t about the passages that the quotes are taken from. The quotes stand alone.
Paul uses three quotes to show that the Judaizers’ approach leads only to being cursed, while the just shall live by faith. Then he uses another quote to show how it was Christ who took the curse for us.
But Paul’s last point is the key. Christ taking the curse is how the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles.
The whole argument comes together to make it feel like Gentiles getting circumcised is a clumsy attempt at imitating being Jews. Besides being ineffective, that misses the point.
The law isn’t the key to the promise in the first place.
We all memorize how faith is the key, but we tend to leave it at that. I’ve never seen a Sunday School class on how to strengthen your faith. The closest might be an apologetics class on how to defend your faith to an unbeliever. No one wants to have a class on defending the faith against our own doubts.
In a class of thirty adults, there will be thirty different faiths. The differences will mostly be tiny, but they’re left untouched. We’re afraid of offending anyone, so we don’t talk about this.
And we avoid like the plague talking about levels of certainty. Whatever it is we believe, we must be absolutely certain that’s the exact true doctrine. We might allow some wiggle room in eschatology—post-millennial vs. pre-millennial vs. amillennial—but that’s about it. Saying, “I’m not sure,” is worse than saying, “I don’t buy it.”
The result is faith starvation. Some of the most important and useful subjects are never addressed.
These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.