Jesus Became a Curse for Us

If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 [NASB]

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”

Genesis 3:13

When the Bible refers to someone as being accursed, it means he will be damned forever with no hope of redemption. It is from anathema, which means “the disfavor of Jehovah,” and was used of “the sentence pronounced” or “the object on which the ‘curse’ is laid.”[1] So great was that first sin—the sin of the first man and woman—that all the earth was cursed; every creature was brought under the sentence of death and condemnation.

Our sins are such an affront to the holiness of God, contrary to his good and holy law, and so diminishing to His incomparable glory that we deserve to be accursed. We deserve to be the objects of His righteous anger. We deserve to be sentenced to eternal damnation.

As one of the strongest words in the New Testament, the apostle Paul chose to use accursed to sentence all preachers of false gospels to eternal punishment. To feel the sobriety of his condemnation, substitute the phrase “damned forever without hope of redemption” in place of accursed as you read: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be [damned forever with no hope of redemption].  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be [damned forever with no hope of redemption]” (Gal. 1:8-9). Such would all of us be if it were not for Jesus Christ.

But God!

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God so loved our world of sinners that He cursed His own Son instead of cursing us. “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’” (Gal. 3:13). Jesus became a curse for us by willingly assuming our guilt and its punishment, which was imposed upon us by the mandates of God’s law.

The law of God, as perfect and holy as it is, was never meant to save us. Instead, it condemns us. The law of God is our teacher, “our tutor to lead us to Christ” (Gal. 3:24); it is the light that exposes the darkness of our sin and leads us to the only One who has ever met its demands perfectly. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). We who should have been damned forever with no hope of redemption have instead been “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). And so we sing,

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

for I am His and He is mine

bought with the precious blood of Christ.

[Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, “In Christ Alone”]

[1] W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1985), p. 141.

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