Galatians Part 2: the curse “OF” the law

The words The Law is a curse do not exist anywhere in the Word of God. Verses 10 and 13 of Galatians 3 have been, and still are misunderstood and taken out of context. The mainstream Christian teaching that “The Law is a curse” is a HUGE doctrinal error that has been passed down from our forefathers.

If you know the verses in the Law of Moses that Paul is quoting from, you can understand everything clearly; lets see what the text actually says.

Galatians 3:10,13 10For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”… 13Christ 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”),

What did the text say?

It says “cursed be everyone and “curse of the Law”, not ‘the curse is the Law’.

Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 11:26-28 & Deuteronomy 27:26 ~

Deuteronomy 11:26-28 26“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you today; 28and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.

Deuteronomy 27:26Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law by observing them.’ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’”

The Law is NOT the curse. We were taught wrong.

The “Law” is God’s Righteous Instructions for His set-apart (Holy) people to live by.

Period.

The Law can bring blessings, as well as, curses.

What did the text say above?

It said, “I set before you today a blessing AND a curse”! A blessing IF you obey and a curse IF you disobey.

If you take the time to read all of Deuteronomy you will find that God promises “blessings/rewards” upon His people when they obey Him. He also promises “curses/punishments” upon those people who disobey. 

“THE CURSE” is the effect produced by, or the consequence of disobeying the Instructions of God; it is not the Law itself.

The Law can also result in blessings! ~

Deuteronomy 11:26-27 26See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today,

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 1And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.

The Law blesses or it curses. The Law is not “the curse” and it is not “the blessing”.

Paul is reminding us that we have all sinned (disobeyed God’s Law) and deserve “the curse”, i.e. the condemnation/punishment, which ultimately is separation from the Creator. We were in ‘bondage’ to our sin when we did not keep the Law of God. The lusts of our own desires, doing what’s right in our own eyes, obeying our own flesh and not obeying God is what brings the curse upon us (don’t we do the same thing with our children?).

Paul is also reminding us that Christ redeemed us, he paid our ransom with his blood. Jesus bought our freedom from being “under” bondage and slavery to our sin; He freed us from the dominion of sin “over” our life. No amount of works on our part could be enough to justify us before God, for all have sinned…

We have to remember who Paul is talking to. He’s addressing those that were raised as pagan gentiles, and have now been deceived into believing that the Law needs to be followed in order to be justified before God (which it was never designed to do!).

They were relying on the Law for ‘justification’, even though Paul had taught them that faith and trust in the Messiah and ‘His work’ on the cross is what justifies. They (we) are no longer “under” the curse/condemnation, because Christ has redeemed them (us). We are no longer “under” condemnation, no longer “subject to the power of the Law” to sentence us guilty.

This leads us to the next misinterpreted verse in Paul’s letter to the Galatians ~

Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

So many Versions and Translations use English words like “held captive”, “imprisoned”, “locked-up”, “confined”, “restrained”, “in-custody”, “held as prisoners”, to the effect that anyone reading this verse sees in their minds eye a pitch-black solitary confinement cell on Alcatraz Island! The fact is, the Greek word means nothing of the sort.

We have been taught wrong. I believe certain translations of this verse have been purposefully mistranslated in order to fulfill an agenda.

“Held captive” is the Greek verb G5432 ἐφρουρούμεθα/ ephrouroumetha and is in the Passive Voice. Therefore, according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it means: “to protect by guarding; kept in ward; to keep.

“Imprisoned” is the Greek verb G4788, συνκλειόμενοι/synkleiomenoi, and is also in the Passive Voice. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states the mean: “to enclose completely”, “under the power of, subjected to, i.e. declared them to be subject”. This is in perfect harmony with the words under the law” which immediately precedes it. “Under” the law means subject to the power of the law; please see the blog “Subject to the Power of the Law”.

The word “until” is not even in the Greek at all! It has been added by men. The actual word is G1519 εἰς/eis and according Thayer’s Greek Lexicon means: “in”, “into”,  “towards” that we might the more readily embrace the faith when its time should come, (specifically as it means in Galatians 3:23.

A better translation of verse 23 that is truer to the Greek would be ~ “Now before faith came we were guarded under the law, subjected to its power into the about to be revealed faith”.

The Law of God given through Moses is not now, nor has it ever been a ‘prison’.

Moses, Joshua, David and Jesus were not in ‘chains’ or ‘shackles’ as they obeyed the Father’s Law. The Law of God is His guide for righteous living; they are His instructions for what is right and what is wrong. They guard us from making the wrong decisions according to what He has justly decreed to be right or wrong. Who are we to tell God otherwise?

The next two verses are also greatly misunderstood, as well as, mistranslated ~

Galatians 3:24-25 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (ESV)

Galatians 3:24-25 24Wherefore the Law was our Schoolemaster to bring vs vnto Christ, that we might be iustified by Faith 25But after that Faith is come, we are no longer vnder a Schoolemaster. (KJV-1611)

Galatians 3:24-25 24Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (NASB)

Tragically, the words ‘schoolmaster’ or ‘tutor’ are used in almost all of the current versions, and are bad translations. ‘Guardian’ is close, but quite right. 

The Greek word is Strong’s G3807, paidagōgos/παιδαγωγὸς.

Strong’s states paidagōgos to be: – properly, a legally appointed overseer, authorized to train (bring) up a child by administering discipline, chastisement, and instruction, i.e. doing what was necessary to promote development.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says: The name ‘paidagōgos’ carries with it an idea of severity (as of a stern censor and enforcer of morals).

In our culture a ‘tutor’, is not a man who escorts child everywhere, supervising, enforcing morals, disciplining and administering punishments as needed. In the ancient Greco-Roman world, the word paidagōgos described such a person. This man was not a tutor nor a teacher in the sense that we today understand these words. He was an enforcer. Paul is explaining to ancient Greek believers in ancient Greek terminology.

The paidagōgos, the ‘enforcer’ of the Law, were the punishments (curses) incurred when you sinned i.e. ‘The Curses of the Law’. These verses about the ‘paidagōgos’/’enforcer’ are just a continuation of Paul’s discourse on “the curse of the Law” that he started at the beginning of this chapter; context, context, context.

Again, these curses/disciplines are what “we” deserve for our sinning/transgressing of the Law of God. Paul is explaining to all of us, that we were under (‘subject to the power of’) all of the following:

  • we were “under” the dominion of sin,
  • we were “under” the law of sin and death,
  • we were “under” the enforcer/paidagōgos/curse of the Law.
  • we were “under” condemnation, guilty “under” the Law

(Please read my blogSubject to the Power of the Law’ to understand more fully this word “under” in the Greek).

Please note Galatians 3:24 again, and see how the Law is meant to lead us to Christ. The Law defines what sin is; it “reminds” us that we are sinners, and “shows” our need of a Savior from our sin. Sounds a lot like the ‘true’ translation of the Romans 10:4 (Please read ‘Is Christ the Ending of the Law?’ and ‘It is Finished!)

Romans 10:4 The goal of the Law is Christ into righteousness for all who are believing.

Now that we have been led to the Messiah, we are “under” (subject to the power of) grace through faith, no longer “under” condemnation! Hallelu Yah!!!

And what does Paul have to say about that faith? ~

Romans 3:31 Do we then destroy the law through faith? God forbid. But we uphold the law. (Please see “Paul Commands Us to Uphold the Law”)

Romans 6:1-2 1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”

Romans 7:12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

Paul says that the Law of God is to be established/upheld, even though we have faith. The Law tells us what sin is, it always has and it always will.

The “Law” does not save; it was never designed to save. Only God can save His people; and He did. When the God of Israel put on flesh and shed His blood, He ransomed us, saving us from our bondage/slavery to sin and death.

Paul says that the Law of God given through Moses is Holy, Just and Good; and if it was Holy, Just and Good when Paul wrote this 20 years after the resurrection of Christ, then it is Holy, Just and Good ‘today’!

The Law of Moses is God’s list of Instructions for what He has determined is the way He wants His set-apart people to live. It was never designed to ‘justify’, redeem or save. The Law of God gives us knowledge of what sin is, at least according to Paul ~

Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Unfortunately, to the great detriment of all, the Law was abused. It was taught incorrectly for generations (especially at the time of Jesus and Paul) that it, along with all of the man-made dogma, was the only way to salvation and entrance into God’s kingdom.

Tragically, the opposite has occurred and the Law is being abused again, only now it’s being maligned and abandoned.

In my last blog “Galatians Part 1”, we covered one of the “Big Lies” in Christendom, that ‘the Law of God given through Moses is bondage and slavery’. One of the other “Big Lies” is: ‘Israel (and the Jews) were ‘saved’ by obeying the Law of Moses’. This is completely unscriptural and false. This ‘dogma’ has led to all kinds of disastrous doctrines, most of which we will discuss in future blogs.

Israel was never ‘saved’ by obedience to the Law of Moses.

Historically, Israel was first ‘saved’ out of “slavery in Egypt”, then they went to Sinai to make a Covenant with God and then they received the Law. God gave Instructions (Laws) to set them apart (Holy) because they were His chosen people, His treasured possession above of all the nations of the earth.

What does the text say?

Exodus 19:2-6 2They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3while Moses went up to God. 4The LORD called to him out of the mountain (Sinai), saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 7So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.

Exodus 29:9 Therefore keep the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.

Deuteronomy 7:6,11-12 6For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth… 11You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today. 12And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers.

Deuteronomy 14:2-3 2For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 3“You shall not eat any abomination.

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 16“This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17You have declared today that the LORD is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. 18And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.

Deuteronomy 27:9-10 9Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the LORD your God. 10You shall therefore obey the voice of the LORD your God, keeping his commandments and his statutes, which I command you today.

Deuteronomy 28:1 And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.

Deuteronomy 28:9 The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways.

Obedience to the Law of God given through Moses was never designed to save or justify Israel. God never promised ‘If you obey my Laws you will have salvation’, eternal or otherwise.

As you have read from the above stated verses, there is no ‘Salvation’, ‘Deliverance’ or ‘Redemption’ listed. God promised to be their God, bless them, and treasure them above all the nations if they obeyed His Law, that’s all. First, with the relationship established God saved them from bondage in Egypt; then they went to get His Instructions, His Laws, for living as His set-apart “covenant” people.

Obedience to the Law cannot save. If they(we) try to keep the Law to deliver(save) us, which it is not designed to do, then we put ourselves in bondage because we fail(ed) to keep it. All have sinned and fallen short…

The children of Israel knew the Law could not save. They looked to God Himself as their Savior, their Deliverer and their Redeemer; and they looked to the coming Messiah (the God of Israel Himself, manifested in the flesh) to save them!

What does the text say?

Exodus 15:2,13 The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him… 13You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; (this is before Mt. Sinai)

Job 19:23 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 130:7-8 7O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities(sins).

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”

Isaiah 45:17 But Israel is saved by the LORD with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity.

Isaiah 45:22-23 22Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.

Isaiah 45:25 In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.”

All of Isaiah chapter 53!

Jeremiah 23:5-6 5Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: The LORD is our righteousness.’

This is the exact same understanding that we see revealed by the Disciples and Paul ~

Matthew 19:25-26 “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Luke 1:67-75 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Luke 2:28-32 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.

Acts 13:21 Of this man’s (David) offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.

Hebrews 5:8-10 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Titus 2:13-14 13our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness

In conclusion, “Only” God saves. His Instructions for righteous living, the Law of God given through Moses, are rules, statutes and just decrees for His treasured, covenant people in order to set them apart. And as Paul has decreed in Romans 3:31, we are to uphold it, if we have chosen to be in covenant with the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Paul.

Final Thought: “Thus, all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself (Paul)also live in observance of the law.” | James, the brother of Jesus, speaking to Paul

  • For further study of Paul’s teachings, as well as the original Greek, please see the blog posts at the bottom of this page. Be a Berean, and test Paul’s doctrines to the “Scriptures”. Please ‘share‘ this study. Thank you for your time!
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