PAUL AND THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Paul’s standard for gospel ministry was quite different from the standard held by many of today’s more popular ministers, especially those who have turned ministry into a lucrative career.

According to Paul, the gospel which was ministered by him and his company, wasn’t a gospel ministered in word only. It came also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.

What exactly does Paul mean when he speaks of the gospel coming in this manner, and why does Paul, here, make a distinction between the Holy Spirit and power, as he also does in 1 Corinthians?

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Notice that Paul tells the Corinthians that he did not come to them with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring to them the testimony of God. This coincides with his statement to the Thessalonians that the gospel he preached did not come in word only.

Paul did not desire to be an eloquent speaker when it came to his declaration of the gospel. Paul’s quest was to minister Jesus Christ not only in his declaration of God’s word, but also in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

What is the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, and why does Paul make a distinction?

We all should know what power is. It is the signs, wonders, and miracles that accompany the gospel. We can see this in both the ministry of Jesus, the apostles, and men like Stephen who was a deacon and not an apostle.

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. ~ Acts 6:8

Power is easily understood, but what exactly in the demonstration of the Spirit, or as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, the ministry of the gospel in the Holy Ghost?

The ministry of the Holy Ghost is that which brings about a change in the lives of those who truly believe the gospel. In Paul’s doctrine, the gospel was to be preached, confirmed by God’s power, and lived in holiness, and this last point is where so many stumble in their understanding.

When Paul says to the Thessalonians, “our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance,” he follows by saying, “as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”

Throughout the balance of 1 Thessalonians, Paul expounds on how he and those with him behaved and set the example of true Christian living. This is what Paul is referring to when he speaks of the gospel coming in the Holy Ghost.

Many preachers have a theology about the Holy Ghost which is foreign to the teachings of the apostle Paul. They lead their followers into many emotional responses, claiming that such hysteria is the work of God.

Paul, however was concerned with how the gospel had affected the everyday lives of the people. Had they become a holy people living dedicated lives to the Lord? According to Paul’s theology, the gospel ministered in the Holy Ghost brings about a Christ-like life of holiness to the glory of God.

Paul’s ministry wasn’t one of words only. Instead, Paul’s ministry set the example of godly living.

Consider the following:

For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:3-13

Now consider the following:

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 

Though some have devalued the importance of how we ought to live as Christians, Paul believed that the true gospel of grace changes a person’s life into a life of holiness that pleases God. The Spirit ministers the gospel to us, not only to save us from our past sins, but also to create in us holiness of character that glorifies God. Therefore Paul writes the following to the Thessalonians:

Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8

Paul did not feel that his ministry had effectively ministered the gospel unless the people were established in the faith and living according to the changed life produced by the gospel of Christ.

JESUS, PAUL, AND THE LAW

Among the arguments made by those who claim that Paul contradicted Jesus, is the argument that Paul contradicted Jesus with regards to the Law.

Is this so? To begin, let’s consider the following:

Throughout scripture, the Law is referred to as the Law of Moses some 23 times by the following witnesses:

  • Joshua (Joshua 8:31, 32 and 23:6)
  • Daniel (Daniel 9:11, 13)
  • Luke (Luke2:22 and 24:44)
  • Paul(Acts 13:39 and 28:23; 1 Corinthians 9:9)
  • The Pharisees (Acts 15:5)
  • John(John 7:23)
  • The author of the book of Hebrews(Hebrews 10:28)
  • The author of the book of 1 Kings (1Kings 2:3)
  • The author of the book of 2 Kings(2 Kings 14:6 23:25)
  • The author of the book of 2 Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:18 and 30:16)
  • The author of the book of Ezra(Ezra 3:2 and 7:6)
  • The author of the book of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:1)
  • Jesus and God, I saved the best for last (John 7:23, Malachi 4:4).

Moses was the one through whom God gave the law to the children of Israel to govern them as a nation. Time and time again the scripture says, “Moses commanded” or “Moses said” or “Moses gave.”

For example, in Matthew 19 the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement?” Jesus answered, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts allowed you to put away your wives: but in the beginning it was not so” (v. 7-8).

The Pharisees specifically asked, “Why did MOSES give a writing of divorcement?” Yet the Law was given by God, through Moses, for the people (Deuteronomy 24:1-3).  Moses’ instructions were authoritative for the people of Israel, for through Moses, God  gave the Law to the children of Israel.

According to Jesus, the bill of divorcement was a law catered for the hard hearted and not God’s intent for marriage. God’s will is for a man to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife just as Jesus says above. In like manner, Paul says something very similar in Ephesians 5.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. ~ Ephesians 5:22-28

As we can see from Paul’s words above, Paul was on the same page with Jesus in his view of marriage as a holy institution ordained by God.

Paul’s standard concerning husbands loving their wives is actually higher and exceeds the commandment given in Deuteronomy 24:1-3 to regulate hardheartedness. Without question, Paul’s teaching regarding marriage is absolutely in harmony with the teachings of Jesus.

Under the law, the writing of divorcement protected the woman from the oppressiveness of a husband who did not love her, and thus she was allowed to remarry. In no way did this writing of divorcement express God’s will concerning the union of a man and his wife. God’s will is for the husband to love the wife and to care for her.

The mistake that many people make when they attempt to disqualify Paul’s teachings is they do not rightly divide the scriptures that pertain to the law. The law was not simply a religious code to live by. The law was the rule of law for the nation and was given to guide the civil affairs of the nation as well as the religious conduct.

Not making this distinction, leads some to question Paul’s teachings about the grace of God. They fail to consider that Paul’s apostleship was to the gentiles to whom the law given to Israel did not apply. The writing of divorcement applied to Israel’s civil laws, and if a man gave his wife a writing of divorcement, it could be said that he had “kept the law”, but he had not fulfilled God’s will in his marriage. Only love fulfills the law.

There is a stark contrast in keeping the law and fulfilling it.

Those who argue that Paul contradicts Jesus often claim that Jesus taught that the Law would continue while Paul claimed it had been done away with. Yet, this contradiction is cleared up when the words of Jesus and the teachings of Paul are understood within their context.

First, consider the words of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. ~ Matthew 5:17-18

When Jesus said these words, he was not intending to imply that he had come as an enforcer of the Law, but rather to bring the Law to its fruition through fulfillment.

Jesus told the people,except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:20

The scribes and the Pharisees were all about ”keeping the law”. They had no interest in fulfilling it. This is evident in Matthew 23 where Jesus says, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. ~ v.2-4

Jesus was not an opponent to the Law or the message of the prophets. His mission was not to destroy (by discrediting) either one. Instead, his mission was to fulfill the law and the prophets by leading the people of God into the way of righteousness which is faith from a pure heart.

In Matthew 5 Jesus says – “you have heard it said…but I say to you”  in reference to what the people had heard from the teachers of the Law.

The Law says, “Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.” In contrast Jesus says, “whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca (worthless), shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” 

The letter of the Law says “thou shall not kill” but Jesus says keep your heart right towards all men. The law says “thou shall not commit adultery” but Jesus says don’t desire her in your heart. The law says “love your neighbor and hate your enemies” but Jesus says love your enemies.

The letter of the Law could not, and cannot give man a right heart and this is what is at the core of the issue. The letter of the Law merely deals with the outward actions of sinful men and does nothing to change his heart.

While the Law addresses man’s outward actions, Jesus Christ searches the reins and hearts (Revelation 2:23).

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. ~ Hebrews 4:12-13

When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they had every right according to the letter of the law to condemn her and to stone her. They had no desire to show mercy or to restore her. They placed the heavy burden of condemnation on her with the wording of the law, but had no compassion towards her.

Jesus by the wisdom of God challenged their motives and dispersed them.  He then sent the woman away without condemnation, telling her to sin no more. Those who condemned her wanted to enforce the law, Jesus fulfilled it. 

Those who condemned the women that Jesus freed, were fixated with the letter of the Law from their uncircumcised hearts. They missed the weightier matters of the law which according to Jesus is mercy, faith, and justice (Matthew 23:23). Rather than liberating the people they used the Law to put heavy burdens on them.

Jesus never employed the law to ensnare people. Instead, Jesus taught that the law was fulfilled by love (Matthew 7:12; 22:34-40) and demonstrated it by showing mercy and compassion on the people. Paul also taught that it is love which fulfills the law:

Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ~ Romans 13:8-10

Paul’s words in Romans 13 (above) align perfectly with Jesus’s teachings from the sermon on the mount. Paul says elsewhere, For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. ~ Galatians 5:14

Paul actually refers to the fulfillment of the law through love as “ the law of Christ.”

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ~ Galatians 6:1-2

Paul’s doctrine regarding love fulfilling the Law is in perfect harmony with Jesus. Jesus taught that all the prophets and the Law prophesied until God sent John the Baptist (Matthew 11:13). The ministry of John the Baptist was the great point of change from the administration of the Law of Moses through the nation of Israel, to the administration of Christ in the hearts of all who believe in him.

Through Christ, the Law of God is written in the mind and the heart of the child of God. Our conscience has been cleansed by the Blood of Jesus and we have been made alive together with Christ. His life abides in us and the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us through his love which is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

In those texts where Paul speaks of the Law being abolished, he is not referring to the necessity of obedience to God or righteous living. He is referring to the Law in the manner in which it made a distinction between the Jew and the Gentile.

The law given to Israel served as their constitution and rule to govern them as a theocracy. The Kingdom of God was manifested through Israel and one could not be a part of God’s Kingdom without becoming a member of the nation of Israel.

Israel was a theocracy, and the Law separated Israel from all other nations as the people of God. Yet, Israel was often very rebellious against God and did not serve him according to the Law God had given to govern them. Consequently Israel inherited the curse.

This is what Paul is dealing with when he addresses the Law as being annulled. The Kingdom of God is no longer a theocracy demonstrated through a physical nation. God’s Kingdom is in the heart of those who follow Jesus, and God’s people are in every nation.

Being circumcised and taking on Jewish identity through the letter of the law no longer has value with regards to covenant relationship with God. What matters is having a circumcised heart through Jesus Christ who died for his people, and in no way did Paul contradict Jesus regarding the law.

THIS IS THE LORD’S DOING AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES

In Matthew 21, Jesus spoke of his death in the parable of the vineyard. The Lord of the vineyard had sent many different servants and they were all mistreated and killed by the wicked husbandmen (the caretakers of the vineyard). Eventually, the Lord of the vineyard sent his Son and they did the same to him and put him to death as well.

And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that
they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But
last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. ~ Matthew 21:34-39

As we can see in this parable, the Lord of the vineyard was not the one condemning his
Son. Instead, it was the husbandmen who mistreated and killed the Son. They did to the Son as they had done to the other servants who were sent before him.  This is an important point to remember in righty understanding how the prophecies concerning the sufferings, and death of Christ were fulfilled. Unfortunately, many have embraced a theological view of the cross that creates a narrative in which Jesus was condemned by God rather than sinful men. Yet the New Testament says otherwise.

According to the New Testament, the rejection of Jesus by those who condemned him was the culmination of their rejection of all the prophets and righteous men God had sent to them and their ancestors. They became guilty and the blood of all the righteous men and the blood of prophets whom God sent by their rejection of Jesus ~ see Luke 11:46-52, Matthew 23:29-39

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. ~ Matthew 23:29 -38

And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God,
I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute. That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him. ~ Luke 11:46-54 

These two references above in which Jesus reprimanded the religious leaders in Israel is exactly what is being referred to in the parable of the vineyard, and it is exactly what played out in the narrative of how Jesus was condemned by them. They rejected Jesus because he was the truth borne witness to by the righteous men and prophets who came before him. In fact, Jesus was God’s own Son whom God had sent to bear witness of the truth.

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. ~ See John 18:37

Like many of the righteous men and prophets who came before him, Jesus would die a martyr’s death, but unlike those before him, Jesus’s death would make atonement for the sin of the world, for only Jesus is the Messiah, and only his precious blood can save us from our sins.

In the gospels, Jesus likened his own death to those who had died before him for the glory of God. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus likened his death to that of John the Baptist:

But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. ~ Matthew 12:12-13

John the Baptist was not condemned by God, he was a martyr who died for the glory of God.

Jesus also describes his death as a martyr in the parable of the vineyard referenced above. As we can see in this parable, the Lord of the vineyard was not the one condemning his Son. Instead, it was the husbandmen who mistreated the Son and killed him. They did to the Son as they had done to the other servants who were sent before him. This is the narrative according to Jesus and his apostles with regards to the nature of Christ’s sufferings. Jesus died at the hands of sinful men who unjustly condemned him.

As we continue reading the parable of the vineyard, Jesus says the following:

When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, he will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, did ye never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?  ~ Matthew 21:40-42 

The significance of Jesus as the Stone the builders rejected and the ONE God has chosen is abundantly clear throughout the gospels, the book of Acts, and the entirety of the New Testament.

Jesus never once attributed the things he suffered in death to the justice or wrath of God, or as condemnation from God. He always attributed things he suffered in his death to the hands of sinful men.

Likewise, in the book of Acts, the apostles never interpret the death of Jesus as condemnation levied against Jesus from God. The apostles always held the people responsible for Christ’s death. Conversely, they attribute the resurrection to God in opposition to what the people had done in condemning and crucifying Jesus.

The message preached by the apostle Peter on Pentecost, was that Christ, whom the people had condemned, had been raised from the dead and enthroned at the right hand of God. By this message, Peter exhorted the people of Israel to repent and to believe all that the prophets had foretold of the Messiah.

Stephen, who was not an apostle, testified of the death and resurrection of Jesus while on trial before the Sanhedrin. Stephen did not preach that Jesus had been condemned by God. Instead, Stephen held the Jewish leaders responsible saying to those who were about to stone him that they had been the betrayers and murders of Jesus, the Just One.

Their forefathers had persecuted the prophets who had showed beforehand the coming of Christ, and they had followed in their footsteps by their rejection of Christ. Stephen says that what they did to Jesus was that of resisting the Holy Ghost!

Because of his bold testimony for Jesus, Stephen was murdered by those to whom he testified of Christ: Stephen was martyred, just as his Lord had been martyred ~ Acts 7:52

Following in Christ’s footsteps, Stephen laid down his life for the glory of God. Stephen was not condemned by God, but rather was a chosen vessel who suffered martyrdom for the gospel and for the glory of Christ.

It is in this way – martyrdom – Jesus suffered and died. The nature of sufferings of Christ, according to the will of God, should be understood in the same way in which we understand others, who according to the will of God, suffered for the glory of God. Job and Paul are also examples. Both suffered for the glory of God, but it was not God opposing and afflicting them. Yet in their sufferings they were completely in the will of God and the purposes of God were accomplished through them. Likewise, it was the will of God for Christ to suffer for us to redeem us with his precious blood.

Because Jesus obeyed God’s will to give his life for the redemption of sinful men, God exalted him in righteousness in the resurrection, and delivered unto him the Kingdom. The stone the builders rejected is the precious cornerstone on which God has chosen to build his house and kingdom. Now all men are commanded to repent and serve him!

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. ~ Acts 17:30-31

Jesus laid down his life according to the will of God, dying unjustly at the hands of sinful men to redeem us with his precious blood. In his resurrection, God overturned the verdict of sinful men by raising Jesus from the dead and exalting him at the highest place of honor.

It is in this way that scriptures, such as Isaiah 53:10: it pleased the Lord to bruise him: he hath put him to grief, were fulfilled. Not by God personally afflicting him from Heaven, but by the surrendered obedience of Jesus to the will of God, he was bruised and put to grief for us. In the parable of the vineyard, Jesus says, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

GALATIANS 3:13, CURSED IS EVERYONE THAT HANGS ON A TREE

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. ~ Galatians 3:13-14

Some have taken Galatians 3:13 (referenced above) which says that Jesus was made to be a curse for us to support their claims that Jesus became the object of God’s righteous wrath when he died for our sins. 

Those who teach such things often present the cross in a manner as if what actually happened to Jesus in the flesh wasn’t sufficient, and therefore some other suffering or torture was needed, such as God punishing Jesus by spiritually by condemning him as a substitution. 

However, Paul qualifies his declaration that Christ was made a curse for by saying, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: For it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.

According to Paul, Christ was made a curse for us in the manner in which he suffered physically on the cross. Paul tells the Galatians, Christ was made a curse by hanging on a tree. There is no mention by Paul of God’s wrath being poured out. In fact, Paul says this within the context of justification by faith in contrast to the works of the law. So Paul’s statement has to do is how we are justified in view of the Law and faith.

Under the Law it was the corpses of those who had already been executed then hanged on a tree, which were cursed. In Galatians 3:1 Paul says, “Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.”

Christ’s death frees us from the condemnation which comes through the law because Jesus absorbed the sentence of death for us so that we could be justified from our sins through faith in him. Paul appeals to the Galatians according to what actually happened out in the open at the cross, and not by some behind the scene exchange whereby God needed to be appeased as those with pagan false gods believe.

In contrast, the crucified body of Jesus Christ is the emblem of our redemption. Jesus sacrificed his body for our sins, and through his slain body which was hanged on a tree, we are free from the curse of the Law. He was made a curse by bearing the penalty for our sin (death) in his own body on the cross. The writer of Hebrews tells us, we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. ~ Hebrews 10:5-10

Christ was made a curse in that his body was crucified, not by God’s righteous judgment condemning him. According to the Bible Jesus was denied justice and suffered unjustly at the hands of sinful men. God’s justice was displayed when God raised him from the dead.

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:. ~ Romans 1:3-4

For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 13:4

When God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him at his own right hand, he overturned the verdict of sinful men. Now, all who believe in him have their sins remitted and become heirs of the blessing God promised Abraham through the Spirit.