Q&A: Can Christians be cursed?

Can Christians be cursed?

Question

I've got a theological question that I wonder if you might be able to help me with. In Dr. Pratt's Kingdom, Covenants and Canon of the OT series, he states in the third lesson, titled "Divine Covenants," (and in the study guide, p.8) that one of the consequences of being in covenant with God is that true believers in the Old Testament and New Testament experience the consequences of their loyalty and disloyalty and true believers experience temporary blessings and curses from God.

Could you please explain to me how a true believer in the New Covenant might experience some of the "temporary curses" from God? Would these come to people individually, or just to apostate churches/denominations? How does this relate to what Paul is saying in Galatians 3 and 4 that Christ bore the curse and became a curse for us?

Thank you for your time!

Answer

Most people tend to refer to "discipline" rather than "curse" when God sends bad things into the lives of believers as a result of their sin. Richard chose different vocabulary in those lessons because he wanted to stress the covenantal aspect of these types of consequences. In covenantal terms, positive consequences are "blessings" and negative consequences are "curses."

It may feel unfamiliar to use the word "curse" to refer to a negative consequence without regard to God's ultimate justice, since we don't tend to do that in church or theological studies. But the Bible does it on a regular basis. We might think of the word "curse" as a broad category that includes all negative consequences. Within that broad category are the subcategories of "discipline" (temporary punishments motivated by love and intended to sanctify) and "condemnation" (including both temporary and eternal punishments motivated by wrath and intended to fulfill justice).

God never sends wrathful condemnation against believers, since Jesus has propitiated God's wrath and borne our condemnation. But he does discipline us. And the outward manifestations of both these types of curses are often identical. They differ mainly in God's motivation, and in the result he intends the consequence to create in our lives. For example, when Paul said that Jesus bore the curse for us in Galatians 3, he was referring only to condemnation, not to discipline. Galatians 3 describes a legal exchange, in which Jesus justifies us (i.e., secures our legal acquittal) by means of suffering the judicial penalty (i.e., wrathful condemnation) due to us because of our sin. Other portions of the Bible (e.g., Heb. 12) indicate that all believers are subject to God's discipline.

Both types of curses (discipline and condemnation) can affect individuals or groups. Sometimes they fall on an individual because of what that individual has done; sometimes they fall on a group because of what that group has done; sometimes they fall on a group because of what an individual has done; sometimes they fall on an individual because of what a group has done; and so on. For example, in the Old Testament, David's child died in 2 Samuel 12 because of David's sin. This curse fell on David and his family because of what David had done even though David was saved.

Curses often affect groups that contain believers and unbelievers. When that happens, the same manifestation of the curse may affect everyone. But the function of the curse is different for believers than for unbelievers. For believers, the curse functions as discipline. For unbelievers, it functions as condemnation.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.