Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles , so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Galatians 3:13-14).
What glorious promise! To know that one such as the Son of God, the Holy one, took my place and died on a cross, the most shameful death of all! And to think that He did that just for me! The just for the unjust; a righteous man for sinners like you and I!
But the promise doesn’t end there. Christ did not only take my place and die on a wooden cross; He redeemed me from the curse of the law; by being himself accursed! As if this was not stupendous enough, the Apostle piles yet another superlative upon superlative and declares “that the Blessings of Abraham might come upon the gentiles.”
But what do these promises really mean? Redemption from the curse of the law; and the blessing of Abraham? Does this verse speak to the mysterious ancestral curses that are purported to follow all those with ancestral ties to idol worshippers?
In a continent such as ours, that would include a vast majority of people including me, whose forefathers poured libation to images carved out of stone or wood and made obeisance and sacrificed to these. And what are these blessing of Abraham? Are they his cattle, or his donkeys, or his silver and gold?
The bible did let us know that Abraham was heavily loaded with substance. Are we to lay claim to his riches and wealth? How do we begin to find where he stashed his treasure? And who are these to whom this is addressed? Are these promises for the Galatian Christians of the first century only, or are we beneficiaries in this 21st century? And why does the Apostle speak of Christ’s redemption in connection with the blessing of Abraham?
Paul did not leave his statement in ambiguity leaving us to figure out and choose our own meaning.The letter to the Galatians contains what is referred to as “apostolic astonishment ” over the Galatians who were so quickly turning from the Gospel of Christ to another Gospel – which he alluded to was no gospel at all (1:6). He warned sharply, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (1:8).
In chapter 2, we are given an insight into what this false Gospel is all about. A group of Jews, who Paul referred to as “the circumcision group” (2:12) were teaching in essence that if these Galatians did not get circumcised (a requirement of the Jewish law), then something was lacking in their Christianity. Even apostle Peter was at a point nearly carried away by this false teaching, attracting a remonstration from Paul (2:11).
In chapter 3, Paul lays down the crust of his argument – and the overarching theme of the true Gospel: “salvation is by faith, not by works of the law”. He lays down his principle, “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.” How is Abraham the father of the children of faith? We find the answer in the rhetoric of verses 5 & 6:
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Abraham believed God when He promised him that “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (3:7). Expounding what this promise entailed, Paul says “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.” (3:16). So God promised a “blessing” (not blessings) to all nations through Abraham. This was the promise to send a Messiah, namely Christ. “So then, those who are of faith [in Christ] are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (3:9; emphasis mine); meaning, all those who would believe in Jesus for salvation will be partakers of “the blessing” that God promised the world through Abraham thousands of years ago.
Paul wrote to the Galatians, that if they yielded to the deception of the “circumcision group” to be circumcised in order to attain salvation, then they might as well keep the whole law! He goes on further to explain why it is crucial to believe in Christ for salvation (faith) as opposed to trying to do so by observing the law (works). He says, all who try to attain salvation by keeping a set of codes are under the “curse of the law” – because, the law works such that, to attain salvation by it, one must keep all of it (100%); and keep doing so till their final breath, if they will have any hope of attaining salvation by it.
This is an impossible task, which no man, apart from Christ, has ever, or ever will attain (3:2); because “it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law” (3:11). Christ alone perfectly obeyed all of God’s holy law; and by His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, He thus freed all who will believe in Him from this curse of (not being able to keep) the law.
It is in this context Paul makes his statement of verse 13&14 – our opening verse.
This verse does not speak of material possessions or earthly benefits; no! Nor are ancestral curses the focus here. This promise is far beyond that. The context shows us quite plainly that these verses speak to us about the Gospel – if we would have faith in the Son of God and what He has done for us on the cross; we would be saved! Those who read material prosperity into this verse are manufacturing another gospel — which is no gospel at all.
Once saved, we become sons (and daughters) of God, and qualify by faith to receive the Spirit of God, which He has promised to give all those who put their faith in His Son Jesus (Acts 2: 38-39; 5:32). Thus Paul writes in chapter 4,
that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father” (4:5b-6).
Adoption into God’s family by faith in Christ Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the blessing herein spoken of.