it's Nicolai here, and I wanted to share something I found in Dr. Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians. I love the way he quotes Psalms. This is part of his comment on the verse where it says, "cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree":
Paul does not say that Christ was made a curse for himself, but for us. Christ is innocent as far as his own person is concerned, and therefore he ought not to have been hanged upon a tree. But because, under the law of Moses, every thief and criminal had to be hanged, Christ too had to be hanged, for he sustained the person of a sinner and of a thief - not just one, but all sinners and thieves. We are sinners and thieves and therefore guilty of death and everlasting damnation. But Christ took all our sins upon him and for them died upon the cross Therefore, it was right for him to be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).
No doubt the prophets all foresaw that Christ would become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, and blasphemer that ever was or could be in the world. Being made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, he is not now an innocent person without sins, not now the Son of God born of the Virgin Mary, but a sinner who carries the sin of Paul, who was a blasphemer, an oppressor, and a persecutor; of Peter, who denied Christ; of David, who was an adulterer and a murderer and caused the Gentiles to blaspheme the name of the Lord. In short, Christ bears all the sins of all people in his body. It was not that he himself committed these sins, but he received the sins that we had committed; they were laid on his own body, that he might make satisfaction for them with his own blood (see Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 20:18-19). Therefore, this general sentence of Moses includes Christ too (even though in his own person he was innocent), because it found him among sinners and transgressors - just as the magistrate takes a man for a thief and punishes him when he finds him among other thieves and transgressors, even if he never committed a crime himself. Christ was not only found among sinners, but of his own accord and by the will of his Father he was a companion of sinners and took upon himself the flesh and blood of those who were sinners and thieves and plunged into all kinds of sin. When the law, therefore, found him among thieves, it condemned and killed him as a thief.
Some people will say it is quite absurd and slanderous to call the Son of God a cursed sinner. I answer that if you deny him to be a sinner and to be cursed, you must also deny that he was crucified and died. It is no less absurd to say (as our faith confesses and believes) that the Son of God was crucified and suffered the pains of sin and death than to say that he is a sinner and cursed and the greatest of all sinners (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). He is truly innocent because he is the unspotted and undefiled Lamb of God (John 1:29). But because he bears the sins of the world, his innocence is burdened with the sins and guilt of the whole world. Whatever sins I, you, and all of us have done, or will do later, are Christ's own sins, as truly as if he himself had done them. In short, our sin has to become Christ's own sin, or else we will perish forever.
Isaiah says of Christ that "the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). We must not make these words less than they are. In these words of the prophet, God is not playing games but is telling us earnestly and out of great love that Christ, the Lamb of God, would bear the sins of us all. But what does it mean to bear them? If it menas Christ is punished, why is he punished? Is it not because he has and bears sin? The Holy Spirit tells us in Psalm 40 that Christ has sin: "My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head" (verse 12; see also Psalm 41:4 and 69:5). The Holy Spirit is speaking in the person of Christ and clearly says that he had sins. This testimony is not the voice of an innocent, but of a suffering Christ who took upon him the person of all sinners and therefore was made guilty of the sins of the whole world.
Christ, therefore, was not only crucified and died, but also (through the love of the divine majesty) sin was laid on him. Therefore, Paul is quite right to apply this general statement of Moses to Christ. Christ was hanged on a tree; therefore, Christ was cursed by God.
It is an extraordinary consolation for all Christians to clothe Christ with our sins, to wrap him in my sins, your sins, and the sins of the whole world, and so to behold him bearing all our iniquities. Seeing him like this will easily overcome all ideas of justification by works. If we think that faith adorned with love takes sins away and justifies us before God, we strip Christ of our sins, make him innocent, and charge and overwhelm ourselves with our own sins and look upon them not in Christ but in ourselves. This makes Christ utterly useless to us. If it is true that we take away sins by obeying the law and by works of love, then Christ does not take them away. If he is the Lamb of God cursed for us, we cannot be justified by what we do. God has laid our sins not upon us, but upon his Son, Christ, so that he, bearing the punishment for them, might be our peace, and so that by his wounds we might be healed (Isaiah 53:5). Therefore, they cannot be taken away by us. All Scripture bears witness to this; and we also confess it in the articles of Christian belief when we say, "I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified and died for us."
Merry Christmas =)