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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 13
Verse 13. Christ hath redeemed us. The word used here exhgorasen is not that which is usually employed in the New Testament to denote redemption. That word is lutrow. The difference between them mainly is, that the word used here more usually relates to a purchase of any kind; the other is used strictly with reference to a ransom. The word here used is more general in its meaning; the other is strictly appropriated to a ransom. This distinction is not observable here, however, and the word here used is employed in the proper sense of redeem. It occurs in the New Testament only in this place, and in Ga 4:5; Eph 5:16; Col 4:6.
It properly means, to purchase, to buy up; and then to purchase any one, to redeem, to set free. Here it means, that Christ had purchased or set us free from the curse of the law, by his being made a curse for us. On the meaning of the words redeem and ransom, See Barnes "Ro 3:25"; See Barnes "2 Co 5:21"; See Barnes "Isa 43:3".
From the curse of the law. The curse which the law threatens, and which the execution of the law would inflict; the punishment due to sin. This must mean, that he has rescued us from the consequences of transgression in the world of woe; he has saved us from the punishment which our sins have deserved. The word "us," here, must refer to all who are redeemed; that is, to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The curse of the law is a curse which is due to sin, and cannot be regarded as applied particularly to any one class of men. All who violate the law of God, however that law may be made known, are exposed to its penalty. The word "law" here relates to the law of God in general, to all the laws of God made known to man. The law of God denounced death as the wages of sin. It threatened punishment in the future world for ever. That would certainly have been inflicted, but for the coming and death of Christ. The world is lying by nature under this curse, and it is sweeping the race on to ruin.
Being made a curse for us. This is an exceedingly important expression. Tindal renders it, "And was made a curse for us." The Greek word is katara, the same word which is used in Ga 3:10. See Barnes "Ga 3:10".
There is scarcely any passage in the New Testament on which it is more important to have correct views than this; and scarcely any one on which more erroneous opinions have been entertained. In regard to it, we may observe that it does not mean,
(1.) that by being made a curse, his character or work were in any sense displeasing to God. He approved always of what the Lord Jesus did, and he regarded his whole character with love and approbation. The passage should never be so interpreted as to leave the impression that he was in any conceivable sense the object of the Divine displeasure.
(2.) He was not ill-deserving, he was not blameworthy. He had done no wrong, he was holy, harmless, undefiled. No crime charged upon him was proved; and there is no clearer doctrine in the Bible than that, in all his character and work, the Lord Jesus was perfectly holy and pure.
(3.) He was not guilty, in any proper sense of the word. The word guilty means, properly, to be bound to punishment for crime. It does not mean, properly, to be exposed to suffering; but it always, when properly used, implies the notion of personal crime. I know that theologians have used the word in a somewhat different sense, but it is contrary to the common and just apprehensions of men. When we say that a man is guilty, we instinctively think of his having committed a crime, or having done something wrong. When a jury finds a man guilty, it implies that the man has committed a crime, and ought to be punished. But in this sense, and in no conceivable sense, where the word is properly used, was the Lord Jesus guilty.
(4.) It cannot be meant that the Lord Jesus properly bore the penalty of the law. His sufferings were in the place of the penalty, not the penalty itself. They were a substitution for the penalty, and were, therefore, strictly and properly vicarious, and were not the identical sufferings which the sinner would himself have endured. There are some things in the penalty of the law which the Lord Jesus did not endure, and which a substitute or a vicarious victim could not endure, Remorse of conscience is a part of the inflicted penalty of the law, and will be a vital part of the sufferings of the sinner in hell—but the Lord Jesus did not endure that.
Eternity of sufferings is an essential part of the penalty of the law—but the Lord Jesus did not suffer for ever. Thus there are numerous sorrows connected with the consciousness of personal guilt, which the Lord Jesus did not and cannot endure.
(5.) He was not sinful, or a sinner, in any sense. He did not so take human guilt upon him, that the words sinful and sinner could with any propriety be applied to him. They are not applied to him in any way in the Bible; but the language there is undeviating. It is, that in all senses he was holy and undefiled. And yet language is often used on this subject which is horrible, and but little short of blasphemy, as if he was guilty, and as if he was even the greatest sinner in the universe. I have heard language used which sent a thrill of horror to my heart; and language may be found in the writings of those who hold the doctrine of imputation in the strictest sense, which is but little short of blasphemy. I have hesitated whether I should copy-expressions here on this subject from one of the greatest and best of men—I mean LUTHER—to show the nature of the views which men sometimes entertain on the subject of the imputation of sin to Christ. But as Luther deliberately published them to the world in his favourite book, which he used to call his "Catharine de Bora," after the name of his wife; and as similar views are sometimes entertained now; and as it is important that such views should be held up to universal abhorrence—no matter how respectable the source from which they emanate—I will copy a few of his expressions on this subject:
"And this, no doubt, all the prophets did foresee in spirit,
that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer,
adulterer, thief, rebel, and blasphemer, THAT EVER WAS OR
COULD BE IN THE WORLD. For he, being made a sacrifice for
the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person,
and without sins; is not now the Son of God, born of the
Virgin Mary; but a sinner which hath and carrieth the sin
of Paul, who was a blasphemer, an oppressor, and a persecutor;
of Peter, which denied Christ; of David, which was an adulterer,
a murderer, and caused the Gentiles to blaspheme the name
of the Lord; and, briefly, which hath and beareth all the
sins of all men in his body: not that he himself committed
them, but for that he received them, being committed or done
of us, and laid them upon his own body, that he might make
satisfaction for them with his own blood. Therefore, this
general sentence of Moses comprehendeth him also, (albeit
in his own person he was innocent,) because it found him
amongst sinners and transgressors; like as the magistrate
taketh him for a thief, and punisheth him whom he findeth
among other thieves and transgressors, though he never
committed anything worthy of death. When the law, therefore,
found him among thieves, it condemned and killed him as a
"If thou wilt deny him to be a sinner and accursed, deny also
that he was crucified and dead."
"But if it be not absurd to confess and believe that Christ
was crucified between two thieves, then it is not absurd to
say that he was accursed, and OF ALL SINNERS THE GREATEST."
"God, our most merciful Father, sent his only Son into the
world, and laid upon him all the sins of all men, saying,
be thou Peter, that denier; Paul, that persecutor,
blasphemer, and cruel oppressor; David, that adulterer;
that sinner which did eat the apple in paradise; that thief
which hanged upon the cross; and briefly, be thou the
person which hath committed the sins of all men: see,
therefore, that thou pay and satisfy for them."—
Luther on the Galatians, chap. iii. 13, (pp. 213—215; Edit. Loud., 1838.)
Luther was a great and holy man. He held, as firmly as any one can, to the personal holiness of the Redeemer. But this language shows how imperfect and erroneous views may warp the language of holy men; and how those sentiments led him to use language which is little less than blasphemy. Indeed, we cannot doubt that if Luther had heard this very language used by one of the numerous enemies of the gospel in his time, as applicable to the Saviour, he would have poured out the full torrent of his burning wrath, and all the stern denunciations of his most impassioned eloquence, on the head of the scoffer and the blasphemer. It is singular, it is one of the remarkable facts in the history of mind, that a man with the New Testament before him, and accustomed to contemplate daily its language, could ever have allowed himself to use expressions like these of the holy and unspotted Saviour. But what is the meaning of the language of Paul, it will be asked, when he says that he was "made a curse for us?" In reply, I answer, that the meaning must be ascertained from the passage which Paul quotes in support of his assertion, that Christ was "made a curse for us." That passage is, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." This passage is found in De 21:23. It occurs in a law respecting one who was hanged for a "sin worthy of death," De 21:22. The law was, that he should be buried the same day, and that the body should not remain suspended over the night; and it is added, as a reason for this, that "he that is hanged is accursed of God;" or, as it is in the margin, "the curse of God." The meaning is, that when one was executed for crime in this manner, he was the object of the Divine displeasure and malediction. Regarded thus as an object accursed of God, there was a propriety that the man who was executed for crime should be buried as soon as possible, that the offensive object should be hidden from the view. In quoting this passage, Paul leaves out the words "of God," and simply says, that the one who was hanged on a tree was held accursed. The sense of the passage before us is, therefore, that Jesus was subjected to what was regarded as an accursed death. He was treated in his death AS IF he had been a criminal. He was put to death in the same manner as he would have been if he had himself been guilty of the violation of the law. Had he been a thief or a murderer, had he committed the grossest and the blackest crimes this would have been the punishment to which he would have been subjected. This was the mode of punishment adapted to those crimes, and he was treated as if all these had been committed by him. Or, in other words, had he been guilty of all these, or any of these, he could not have been treated in a more shameful and ignominious manner than he was; nor could he have been subjected to a more cruel death. As has already been intimated, it does not mean that he was guilty, nor that he was not the object of the approbation and love of God, but that his death was the same that it would have been if he had been the vilest of malefactors, and that that death was regarded by the law as accursed. It was by such substituted sorrows that we are saved; and he consented to die the most shameful and painful death, as if he were the vilest malefactor, in order that the-most guilty and vile of the human race might be saved. In regard to the way in which his death is connected with our justification, see See Barnes "Ga 2:16".
It may be observed, also, that the punishment of the cross was unknown to the Hebrews in the time of Moses, and that the passage in De 21:23 did not refer originally to that. Nor is it known that hanging criminals alive was practised among the Hebrews. Those who were guilty of great crimes were first stoned or otherwise put to death, and then their bodies were suspended for a few hours on a gibbet. In many cases, however, merely the head was suspended utter it had been severed from the body, Ge 40:17-19; Nu 25:4,5. Crucifixion was not known in the time of the giving of the law; but the Jews gave such an extent to the law in De 21:23, as to include this mode of punishment. See Barnes "Joh 19:31, seq. The force of the argument here, as used by the apostle Paul, is, that if to be suspended on a gibbet after having been put to death was regarded as a curse, it should not be regarded as a curse in a less degree to be suspended alive on a cross, and to be put to death in this manner. If this interpretation of the passage be correct, then it follows that this should never be used as implying, in any sense, that Christ was guilty, or that he was ill-deserving, or that he was an object of the Divine displeasure, or that he poured out on him all his wrath. He was, throughout, an object of the Divine love and approbation. God never loved him more, or approved what he did more, than when he gave himself to death on the cross. He had no hatred towards him; he had no displeasure to express towards him. And it is this which makes the atonement so wonderful and so glorious. Had he been displeased with him; had the Redeemer been properly an object of his wrath; had he in any sense deserved those sorrows, there would have been no merit in his sufferings; there would have been no atonement. What merit can there be when one suffers only what he deserves? But what made the atonement so wonderful, so glorious, so benevolent, what made it an atonement at all, was, that innocence was treated As IF it were guilt; that the most pure, and holy, and benevolent, and lovely Being on earth should consent to be treated, and should be treated by God and man, As IF he were the most vile and ill-deserving. This is the mystery of the atonement; this shows the wonders of the Divine benevolence; this is the nature of substituted sorrow; and this lays the foundation for the offer of pardon, and for the hope of eternal salvation.
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