One of the wonderful and comforting truths of the Christian faith is the fact that a sinner is justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This truth is full of hope, peace, joy, happiness, and assurance. One aspect of justification is what Scripture teaches about Christ suffering the curse of law-breaking in the place of his people (Gal. 3:13). John Bunyan gave an excellent explanation of how Christ suffered the curse in our stead and completely freed us from it by doing so:
As we are said to suffer with him, so we are said to die, to be dead with him; with him, that is, by the dying of his body. ‘Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him’ (Rom 6:8). Wherefore he saith in other places, ‘Brethren, ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ’; for indeed we died then to it by him. To the law that is, the law now has nothing to do with us; for that it has already executed its curse to the full upon us by its slaying of the body of Christ; for the body of Christ was our flesh: upon it also was laid our sin.
The law, too, spent that curse that was due to us upon him, when it condemned, killed, and cast him into the grave. Wherefore, it having thus spent its whole curse upon him as standing in our stead, we are exempted from its curse for ever; we are become dead to it by that body (Rom 7:4). It has done with us as to justifying righteousness. Nor need we fear its damning threats any more; for by the death of this body we are freed from it, and are for ever now coupled to a living Christ.
John Bunyan, Justification by an Imputed Righteousness, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 304.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015
Here are some great words from a great book: The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges. This quote is found near the end of the section where Bridges talks about original sin and the sinful guilt/pollution humans have by nature (i.e. Rom. 3:10-20).
“You might be thinking by this time, ‘Why devote so much attention to sin? It just makes me feel guilty. I thought you were going to tell us about the unsearchable riches of Christ.’ My reason is to cause us all to realize we have no place to hide. In our relationship with God we cannot plead our Christian duties, as helpful as they may be, or our external morality, as exemplary as it may be. Instead, we must confess with Ezra that ‘our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens’ (Ezra 9:6).”
“Furthermore, even a deep, penetrating sense of our sinfulness does not do justice to the reality of our predicament. Our need is not to be measured by our own sense of need, but by what God had to do to meet that need. Our situation was so desperate that only the death of his own Son on a cruel and shameful cross was sufficient to resolve the problem.”
“Many people erroneously think that God can just forgive our sins because he is a loving God. Nothing could be further from the truth. The cross speaks to us not only about our sin but about God’s holiness. …The cross…is an expression of God’s wrath toward sin as well as his love to us. It expresses his holiness in his determination to punish sin, even at the cost of his Son. And it expresses his love in sending his son to bear the punishment we so justly deserved. …We cannot begin to understand the true significance of the cross unless we understand something of the holiness of God and the depth of our sin” (p. 28-9).
Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2003).
rev shane lems
In his excellent little book, The Truth of the Cross, R.C. Sproul discusses the Ancient Near Eastern (Sumerians, Akkadians, etc.) treaties/covenants and how parts of them were pretty much universal back then. He then shows now the blessings and curses of the Mosaic covenant point to Christ. In the light of the curse specifically, Sproul comments:
“I’ve heard sermons about the nails and the thorns. Granted, the physical agony of crucifixion is a ghastly thing. But thousands of people have died on crosses, and others have had even more painful, excruciating deaths than that. But only One received the full measure of the curse of God while on a cross. Because of that, I wonder if Jesus was even aware of the nails and the thorns. He was overwhelmed by the outer darkness. On the cross, He was in hell, totally bereft of the grace and the presence of God, utterly separated from all blessedness of the Father. He became a curse for us so that we one day will be able to see the face of God. God turned His back on His Son so that the light of His countenance will fall on us. It’s no wonder Jesus screamed from the depths of His soul.”
R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Orlando: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 134-5. Website: www.reformationtrust.com