by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 8 January 29, 2012 Dayton, Texas
13 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:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
1901 ASV Translation:
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14 that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
I. Paul's Linkage of the Gospel to the Methodology of God's Dealings With Abraham [See notes for Dec. 4, 2011(135)].
II. Paul's Focus Upon Abraham's "Believing" [See notes for Dec. 11, 2011(137)].
III. Paul's Interpretation of God's "Accounting" (KJV word, NASB uses "reckoned") [See Notes for Dec. 18, 2011(139)].
IV. Paul's Adamant Application of Genesis 15:6 to the Gospel [See notes for Jan. 1, 2012(141)].
V. Paul's Logic Regarding "the Curse".
A. Being "of the works of the Law" puts a person "under a curse" [See notes for Jan. 8, 2012(143)].
B. The biblical record simply declares that "the righteous by faith shall live" [See notes for Jan. 15, 2012(145)].
C. The antithesis involved in Law and Faith [See notes for Jan. 22, 2012(147)].
D. Christ's redemption involved becoming "a curse for us".
1. Without debate, Paul's argument is that Christ became a surrogate for us.
2. At issue is Christ "becoming a curse for us".
a. Paul's claim is that Deuteronomy 21:23 identifies "hanging upon a tree" as evidence of a curse by God. It was a common practice in the early years of Israel's history as a nation to hang vanquished enemies upon trees. But it was demanded by God that such practice have an end before sundown (Joshua 8:29; 10:26) because, He said, such a practice could lead to the defilement of the entire land. It is interesting that, in Jesus' case, Pilate fully intended to leave Him on the tree past sundown, but relented upon hearing that He was dead and his body was requested by a wealthy Jew of influence.
b. Even though "hanging upon a tree" was not initially seen by those aware of the meaning of the phrase to include "being nailed upon wood in order to kill"; after the fact, it was known to include that reality as Acts 5:30 reveals.
c. At issue, however, is not that being cursed would lead to hanging on a tree. It was the hanging that revealed the accursedness of the victim. This was essential to the identification of Christ as The Redeemer. If a person was accursed, but not hung on a tree, his accursedness would be real, but unknown to man.
1) Paul's claim is that Christ "redeemed" us from the Law's curse. He used an intensified form of a verb that means "to pay a price for". It is a market-place term where a merchant has something he wishes to sell and a buyer pays the merchant's price in order to possess it. In "T"heology, God is both Seller and Buyer because it is in the character of God that Justice and Grace co-exist under Love. Paul's best explanation of this reality is Romans 3, where he explains how God is both "just and the justifier" of the ones who believe in Christ. Paul used this concept in 1 Corinthians as a motivator of godly submission (6:20 and 7:23).
2) Paul had earlier claimed that he was now "alive to God" because "through the Law he had died to the Law" and he explained his meaning by saying that he "was crucified with Christ" (2:19-20). Thus, by being identified with the curse upon Christ by co-crucifixion with Him, he claimed he was "free from the Law" which, in this text, means being "free from the curse of the Law".
3) This raises this question: does Paul's "for us" indicate a "substitution" or something else? Clearly, and beyond dispute, it indicates "a means by which we profit". In the New Testament the use of Paul's preposition has many settings in which the issue at hand is one doing something by which others benefit (Luke 6:28; 9:50; Acts 8:24; etc., etc.). Just as clearly, and beyond dispute, is the connection between this preposition and the concept of "redemption" (Romans 5:6 is just one of many such connecting texts). It may be that Romans 8:31 offers a greater clarity: God being "for" us means that He is willing to do the things that are necessary for us to benefit. This issue is not really "substitution"; it is, rather, "an alternative actor", someone whose behavior brings benefit to another. At the core, then, is the question of whether Christ's action in "redeeming" is acting as a substitute, or simply doing what needed to be done for the benefit to accrue to others. Paul's argument is this: we were under a curse and Christ redeemed us from it by becoming a curse for us. This is pretty clear "substitutionary" terminology. The consequence of our sins was "paid" by Him for us. However, the issue of Paul's theology is our "unity" with Christ so that we are "reckoned" by God to have done what He did. This is not "substitutionary action"; it is "participatory action": what He did is reckoned to us as an actual reality. "I was crucified with Christ" is not "Christ was crucified for me". It is, rather, that "because I am 'in' Him, I was crucified when He was". This is not substitution; it is co-participation. What is really at stake here is our concept of how the benefit comes to us. Is it by way of substitution, or is it by way of a new unity that permits co-participation? Did Christ die as a "substitute" for sinners, or did He die so that the issues of sin and Justice in the character of God were resolved and so that anyone can benefit from that resolution if they are "united" with Him? What is it that we are to "believe": that Christ's actions free us from condemnation, or that our union with Christ in His actions free us? Paul seems to argue that co-participation is the requirement, not substitutionary activity.
d. The bottom line is this: we have been redeemed by an Alternate Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) Whose accursedness we can share by virtue of the reality of a genuine "union" with Him. It is true that we have a "drag" on this unity (our unredeemed flesh), but we also have the Spirit of the Omnipotent God in our bodies to empower us beyond the "drag".