What law is Paul speaking of and what is the curse of that law? Paul was referring specifically to the Law of Moses (i.e. the Ten Commandments), but the same principles apply to any system of law. The curse of the law is that a person must keep the entire law in order to be justified by it and that once one has sinned under the law, there is no way to put away one’s guilt.

The Curse of the Law, a Study of the difference between the Old Testament Law and the New Testament of Christ, Jack McNiel, Oak Grove Church of Christ

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith. In addition, the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them. 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.: (Galatians 3:10-13)

The Curse of the Law of Moses

The Law of Moses made no provision for the forgiveness of sin. In James 2:10, we are taught that under a system of law (any system that is totally based upon a rule of law), if one tries to keep the whole law but offends in even one point, he is guilty of all. The curse of the Law, according to Paul in Romans 7:7-13, is that it exposed sin in his life, yet it did nothing to take away his guilt.

The Law of Moses only allowed for forgiveness in prospect, that is, it only covered the sins of men until Christ came to take away those sins. Now that Christ has come, the law has been taken away. It was nailed to the cross along with Him (Colossians 2:13-14). So now, we are free from the curse of the Law of Moses.

Does this mean that there is no longer a law that we must follow?

Is there not a requirement for Christians to obey in the New Testament?

The Blessing of the Law of Christ

Yes, obedience is a requirement even under the Law of Christ. Christ demands our obedience. Matthew 7:21 teaches that we must do the will of the Father in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The will of God is our law. The will of God has been revealed in its fullness in the New Testament. The Word of Christ will judge us in the last day. Those who reject Christ and His Word are rejecting the very law that will judge them. (John 12:48) We are now under the Law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 gives us the imperative command to bear one another’s bur-dens in order to fulfill the law of Christ.

We are under the law of Christ, which is a law of Liberty. The fact that Christ’s law is a law of liberty does not mean that we are free to disobey it (Galatians 5:13). James teaches, that we must be a doer of the Word of God and not a hearer only (James 1:22-25). One who is a doer of the Law of Liberty will be blessed. James also teaches in that we will be judged by that Law of Liberty (James 2:12).

Since one could not keep all of the commandments under the Law of Moses, as we read in James 2:10, one would be guilty of all the Law. There was no way under the Old Law for ones sins to be taken away. The punishment for sin is death. Therefore, violation of any point of the Law of Moses brought one under the curse of the law, which was the death sentence. Only by the grace of God was a way made for man to rid himself of the curse of law. The grace of God freed man from the curse of the law.

Does this mean that grace and law are mutually exclusive? God forbid! Grace is what brought about a system of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus. We are justified only by our obedient faith in Christ, not by works of law. However, that does not void every form of law. Romans 3:31 teaches that law is established through faith. Faith establishes or confirms law. If we have faith in Jesus and are obedient to His Will, then we must recognize His Will as law, or else we would not be faithful to it. Our obedience to Christ’s Law confirms that His Law is in effect.

In Galatians 2:16-21, the word law is referring any system whereby one is saved according to works of merit. Whether it is by the Law of Moses, which made no provision for forgiveness, or whether it was by the Law of the Jews, which was apart from the Law of Moses, and had developed into a system of works based salvation. The Jews believed that they could earn their way to heaven by keeping the traditions of their ancestors. Therefore, we are not justified by law keeping in and of its self, but we are justified by the law of faith in Christ Jesus.

- Jack McNiel
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