CHRIST... MADE A CURSE FOR US
"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 3:13
(From his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians)
Jerome and his present-day followers rack their miserable brains over this comforting passage in an effort to save Christ from the fancied insult of being called a curse. They say: “This quotation from Moses does not apply to Christ. Paul is taking liberties with Moses by generalizing the statements in Deuteronomy 21:23. Moses has ‘he that is hanged.’ Paul puts it ‘every one that hangeth.’ On the other hand, Paul omits the words ‘of God’ in his quotation from Moses: ‘For he that is hanged is accursed of God.’ Moses speaks of a criminal who is worthy of death.” “How,” our opponents ask, “can this passage be applied to the holy Christ as if He were accursed of God and worthy to be hanged?” This piece of exegesis may impress the naive as a zealous attempt to defend the honor and glory of Christ. Let us see what Paul has in mind.
does not say that Christ was made a curse for Himself. The accent is on
the two words “for us.” Christ is personally innocent. Personally, He did
not deserve to be hanged for any crime of His own doing. But because
Christ took the place of others who were sinners, He was hanged like any
other transgressor. The Law of Moses leaves no loopholes. It says that a
transgressor should be hanged. Who are the other sinners? We are. The
sentence of death and everlasting damnation had long been pronounced over
us. But Christ took all our sins and died for them on the Cross. “He was
numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made
intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah
All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on earth. When He took the sins of the whole world (* see footnote) upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person. He was a sinner burdened with the sins of a Paul who was a blasphemer; burdened with the sins of a Peter who denied Christ; burdened with the sins of a David who committed adultery and murder, and gave the heathen occasion to laugh at the Lord. In short, Christ was charged with the sins of all men, that He should pay for them with His own blood. The curse struck Him. The Law found Him among sinners. He was not only in the company of sinners. He had gone so far as to invest Himself with the flesh and blood of sinners. So the Law judged and hanged Him for a sinner.
separating Christ from us sinners and holding Him up as a holy exemplar,
errorists rob us of our best comfort. They misrepresent Him as a
threatening tyrant who is ready to slaughter us at the slightest
am told that it is preposterous and wicked to call the Son of God a cursed
sinner. I answer: If you deny that He is a condemned sinner, you are
forced to deny that Christ died. It is not less preposterous to say, the
Son of God died, than to say, the Son of God was a
the Baptist called Him “the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the
world.” Being the unspotted Lamb of God, Christ was personally innocent.
But because He took the sins of the world His sinlessness was defiled with
the sinfulness of the world. Whatever sins I, you, all of us have
committed or shall commit, they are Christ’s sins as if He had committed
them Himself. Our sins have to be Christ’s sins or we shall perish
declares of Christ: “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” We
have no right to minimize the force of this declaration. God does not
amuse Himself with words. What a relief for a Christian to know that
Christ is covered all over with my sins, your sins, and the sins of the
papists invented their own doctrine of faith. They say charity creates and
adorns their faith. By stripping Christ of our sins, by making Him
sinless, they cast our sins back at us, and make Christ absolutely
worthless to us. What sort of charity is this? If that is a sample of
their vaunted charity we want none of it.
merciful Father in heaven saw how the Law oppressed us and how impossible
it was for us to get out from under the curse of the Law. He therefore
sent His only Son into the world and said to Him: “You are now Peter, the
liar; Paul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; Adam, the disobedient;
the thief on the cross. You, My Son, must pay the world’s iniquity.” The
Law growls: “All right. If Your Son is taking the sin of the world, I see
no sins anywhere else but in Him. He shall die on the Cross.” And the Law
kills Christ. But we go free.
argument of the Apostle against the righteousness of the Law is
impregnable. If Christ bears our sins, we do not bear them. But if Christ
is innocent of our sins and does not bear them, we must bear them, and we
shall die in our sins. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
us see how Christ was able to gain the victory over our enemies. The sins
of the whole world, past, present, and future, fastened themselves upon
Christ and condemned Him. But because Christ is God He had an everlasting
and unconquerable righteousness. These two, the sin of the world and the
righteousness of God, met in a death struggle. Furiously the sin of the
world assailed the righteousness of God. Righteousness is immortal and
invincible. On the other hand, sin is a mighty tyrant who subdues all men.
This tyrant pounces on Christ. But Christ’s righteousness is
unconquerable. The result is inevitable. Sin is defeated and righteousness
triumphs and reigns forever.
the same manner was death defeated. Death is emperor of the world. He
strikes down kings, princes, all men. He has an idea to destroy all life.
But Christ has immortal life, and life immortal gained the victory over
death. Through Christ death has lost her sting. Christ is the Death of
curse of God waged a similar battle with the eternal mercy of God in
Christ. The curse meant to condemn God’s mercy. But it could not do it
because the mercy of God is everlasting. The curse had to give way. If the
mercy of God in Christ had lost out, God Himself would have lost out,
which, of course, is impossible.
says Paul, “spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them
openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col.
2:15). They cannot harm those who hide in Christ. Sin,
death, the wrath of God, hell, the devil are mortified in Christ. Where
Christ is near the powers of evil must keep their distance.
may now perceive why it is imperative to believe and confess the divinity
of Christ. To overcome the sin of a whole world, and death, and the wrath
of God was no work for any creature. The power of sin and death could be
broken only by a greater power. God alone could abolish sin, destroy
death, and take away the curse of the Law. God alone could bring
righteousness, life, and mercy to light. In attributing these achievements
to Christ the Scriptures pronounce Christ to be God forever. The article
of justification is indeed fundamental. If we remain sound in this one
article, we remain sound in all the other articles of the Christian faith.
When we teach justification by faith in Christ we confess at the same time
that Christ is God.
cannot get over the blindness of the Pope’s theologians. To imagine that
the mighty forces of sin, death, and the curse can be vanquished by the
righteousness of man’s paltry works, by fasting, pilgrimages, masses,
vows, and such gewgaws. These blind leaders of the blind turn the poor
people over to the mercy of sin, death, and the devil. What chance has a
defenseless human creature against these powers of darkness? They train
sinners who are ten times worse than any thief, whore, murderer. The
divine power of God alone can destroy sin and death, and create
righteousness and life.
we hear that Christ was made a curse for us, let us believe it with joy
and assurance. By faith Christ changes places with us. He gets our sins,
we get His holiness.
faith alone can we become righteous, for faith invests us with the
sinlessness of Christ. The more fully we believe this, the fuller will be
our joy. If you believe that sin, death, and the curse are void, why, they
are null, zero. Whenever sin and death make you nervous write it down as
an illusion of the devil. There is no sin now, no curse, no death, no
devil because Christ has done away with them. This fact is sure. There is
nothing wrong with the fact. The defect lies in our lack of
the Apostolic Creed we confess: “I believe in the holy Christian Church.”
That means, I believe that there is no sin, no curse, no evil in the
Writ does not say that Christ was under the curse. It says directly that
Christ was made a curse. In II
Corinthians 5:21 Paul writes: “For he (God) hath made
him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the
righteousness of God in him.” Although this and similar passages may be
properly explained by saying that Christ was made a sacrifice for the
curse and for sin, yet in my judgment it is better to leave these passages
stand as they read: Christ was made sin itself; Christ was made the curse
itself. When a sinner gets wise to himself he does not only feel
miserable, he feels like misery personified; he does not only feel like a
sinner, he feels like sin itself.
finish with this verse: All evils would have overwhelmed us, as they shall
overwhelm the unbelievers forever, if Christ had not become the great
transgressor and guilty bearer of all our sins. The sins of the world got
Him down for a moment. They came around Him like water. Of Christ, the Old
Testament Prophet complained: “Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors
have cut me off” (Psalm
88:16). By Christ’s salvation we have been delivered
from the terrors of God to a life of eternal
(N.B. Where Luther uses the terms ‘the sins of the whole world’ or ‘all
men’ it should be understood that he is referring to ‘the sins of the
elect throughout the whole world’ or ‘all elect men’ – not to all men
without exception, for we know that not all men are saved.