“the law is not of faith” – This means you can’t mix the two, some law and some faith. If you want God to take account of part of the law that you think you’re actually not bad at, you can’t rely on faith to top up where your own righteousness is lacking. You have to choose one or the other. And if you decide you do want your law-keeping to be counted, then the rule is “the one who does them shall live by them”. If you have obeyed the whole law, well done, you will live by it, but for most of us, when we hear that the one who obeys the law will live by it, we instantly know that’s not us. So if/when someone points to the law, or some kind of religious discipline for us to follow, to be seen as righteous, we just know there’s no way we’ll be able to manage it. Even on our best days, our works fall far short of God’s standard of righteousness, so we have to renounce any attempt to make ourselves righteous by our works. We have to look to something or someone else to make us righteous, which brings us on to…
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us”.
The curse of the law is that while the one who does them shall live by them, the one who doesn’t do all the things written in the book of the law won’t live by them. The wages of sin is death. The curse of the law is death for those who’ve broken it. Christ embodied that curse for us. He died the curse of death that should’ve been on us.
Paul says something similar in 2 Corinthians 5v21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Christ became our sin and redeemed us from the curse of the law by dying the death our sin deserved, but not only that, Paul tells the Corinthians that in exchange we become the righteousness of God. Christ doesn’t just take away our sin and wipe the slate clean and say “now you get on with building up your own righteousness”, he gives us his righteousness as well. He does it all for us.
“Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” – Paul seems to be providing an answer for people who were uncertain about what Christ’s death on the cross actually meant. Perhaps they thought he was a heroic martyr who was willing to die for what he believed in. But heroes don’t get hung on trees. If someone was hung on a tree, it meant they were cursed. We see Christ’s death as heroic because of what it achieved for us, but he didn’t die a hero’s death. He died the death of a cursed man. He was a cursed man. That’s what he became for us. This is important because, if we don’t realise that he bore our curse for us, we won’t experience the joy of knowing he’s redeemed us from it. We’re not under a curse anymore. So remembering the context, don’t let anyone bewitch you into thinking you need to do anything yourself to get the curse off you. Remember Christ has already done it.
So finally, v14 kind of circles back to what v5 was talking about. We can receive the Spirit promised to Abraham because the curse that had been blocking us from God’s blessing has been removed by what Christ did on the cross. And we’re freed from the curse and become righteous through faith, in Christ.