For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. Luke 17:24
But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. Malachi 4:2

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Galatians 6:14
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2
Let the motto upon your whole ministry be - "Christ is All!" - Mather

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

John Calvin: Jesus Both Became A Curse AND Was Cursed By God On The Cross



The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write these glorious words: "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'" Galatians 3:13

Here, the Holy Spirit makes clear that Jesus became a curse ("by becoming a curse for us"), and, by citing Deuteronomy 21:23, He makes it clear that Jesus was cursed by God as well ("Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree").

John Calvin understood and taught both these truths. He even understood that becoming a curse was worse than being cursed by God: 

Now, Christ hung upon the cross, therefore he fell under that curse. But it is certain that he did not suffer that punishment on his own account. It follows, therefore, either that he was crucified in vain, or that our curse was laid upon him, in order that we might be delivered from it. Now, he does not say that Christ was cursed, but, which is still more, that he was a curse, - intimating, that the curse "of all men was laid upon him" (Isaiah 53:6.) If any man think this language harsh, let him be ashamed of the cross of Christ, in the confession of which we glory. It was not unknown to God what death his own Son would die, when he pronounced the law, "He that is hanged is accursed of God." (Deuteronomy 21:23.) But how does it happen, it will be asked, that a beloved Son is cursed by his Father? (emphasis mine)
(John Calvin, Commentary On Galatians, Galatians 3:13)

Notice Calvin pointed out that the first part of Paul's statement does not say that Christ was cursed but was a curse - which Calvin wrote is more than being cursed by God. Yet later in the same paragraph, Calvin asked the question about how God's beloved Son is cursed by His Father, indicating that he also believed the text teaches that Jesus was cursed by God. A brief survey of Calvin's sermons demonstrates that Calvin believed (along with the Holy Spirit and the Apostle Paul) that not only did Jesus become a curse on the cross, but He was also cursed by God as well:

For inasmuch as we see that the Son of God . . . was pronounced accursed by God's own mouth. (emphases all mine)
(John Calvin, Sermons On Galatians, (Audubon, New Jersey: Old Path Publications, 1995), 295-296)

. . . the son of God was fain [pleased] to suffer our curse, and to endure that death which is so slanderous before men, yea and to be cursed of God's own mouth . . . .
(John Calvin, Sermons On Galatians, (Audubon, New Jersey: Old Path Publications, 1995), 713)

How does the inheritance of heaven belong to us, except in that He was made a curse for our sakes, and He was cursed not only before men, but from the mouth of God His Father?"
(John Calvin, The Gospel According To Isaiah: Seven Sermons on Isaiah 53 Concerning The Passion And Death Of Christ, Trans. Leroy Nixon (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 16)

It is said that He is the Lamb of God without spot. Since He is the Lamb of God, He must be condemned for the sacrifice. The word “Lamb” implies that He is to be offered. And what does the Law pronounce of sacrifices? That they stand for sins and curses. That is why it is said that our Lord Jesus was accursed for our sakes, that is, that He received the curse which was due to our sins. This, then, is the quality and condition under which He is condemned, since God appointed Him as a lamb which must be offered in sacrifice.

There is, then no other means to acquire grace, except that we come to our Lord Jesus Christ, and that we have all our refuge in Him, since we are unburdened of such a load, when He was willing to be as it were cursed and detestable for our sakes, in order that we might find favor before God and that we might be acceptable to Him.

How is it that he is able to conceive of a Kingdom in Jesus Christ? He there perishing on the cross, He is cursed both by God and by men. For this sentence of the law had been pronounced by the mouth of God, "Cursed is he who will hang on the tree."(Deuteronomy 21:23.)

For she sees our Lord Jesus hanged on the cross, in such shame and disgrace that all the world is opposed to Him, and He is even there, as it were, cursed by God.

Yet, how this exposes the malice and perversity that is in man! For when Paul declares that our Lord Jesus Christ became a curse for us, it washes over us. There are even those who are so depraved that they will see this as an occasion to behave scandalously, abandoning the gospel altogether when they hear of the way in which Christ has redeemed us. Such people say, "What! Can it be that the Son of God, the fountain of all that is good, and the one who sanctifies us, has been cursed?" To their way of thinking, God has acted in an unreasonable and disorderly fashion! But, (as I have been saying), God had to stoop to this "folly" because we did not respond to his wisdom, though the way was clearly evident; thus he exposes our own ignorance! We can only wonder at the mysteries of God, for their significance may be obscure to us and seem strange; for in the face of such wonders, our intellect fails and our powers of reasoning are confounded!

How, then, did he come? In weakness; indeed, not only so, but he was accursed. If this had not been the case, our burdens would have crushed us and all would have perished in the abyss. When we understand that the Son of God, the Lamb without blemish, the mirror and fountain of all righteousness, that this One was cursed for us, should we not be horrified at the thought of all our sins and engulfed in despair until God rescues us in his grace and infinite mercy? Therefore, let us be aware that when God says he has redeemed us from the curse of the law, it is to bring us to a state of complete humility.

. . . we know that the Son of God had to suffer such a shameful death on our behalf. Who is he who seeks to have his triumphs and do his courageous deeds in this world, when he knows that the One who is the head of angels, to whom belongs all glory, majesty and authority, hung on a tree and was cursed and hated for our sakes?

It is true that there is no blemish in Him, but all pureness and perfection. Yet so it is, that He became weak as we are, that He might have compassion and help our feebleness; as it is set forth in the epistle to the Hebrews (4:15). He that had no sin suffered the punishment due to us; and was, as it were, accursed of God the Father, when He offered Himself a sacrifice: that through His means we might be blessed; and that His grace which was hidden from us, might be poured upon us.

For when the son of God, who is ordained to be judge of the world, shall come at the last day: he may well say to us . . . You have born my name, you have been baptized in remembrance and record that I was your redeemer, I have drawn you out of the dungeons where into you were plunged, I delivered you from endless death by suffering most cruel death myself, and for the same cause I became man, and submitted myself even to the curse of GOD my father, that you might be blessed by my grace . . . .
(John Calvin, Sermons On Deuteronomy, 422)

God governed it in such sort by his secret providence, that Jesus Christ was accursed when he hung upon the cross, according to that which had been spoken of him before.
(John Calvin, Sermons On Deuteronomy, 1535)

But Saint Paul adds, that forasmuch as we be all accursed by the Law, our Lord Jesus Christ was same to bear our curse. And he bare it (says he) for he was hanged upon tree. And whereas the Law of God had said, Cursed than he be that hangs on tree: the same was verified in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . You see then that we be undone and past hope of recovery, unless the curse be abolished. And that was done in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who as he has performed all righteousness, so has he also received the curse to himself which lay upon our heads, & he has born it in his person, to the intent that henceforth we should be free from it . . . Notwithstanding forasmuch as God has given his son to death, as the scripture bears witness, that he has so loved the world that he has not spared his only son, but has delivered him to death for us: Let us assure ourselves that God meant to show us to our faces, that he laid upon him the curse due to us, so as the thing which we had deserved was laid upon the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(John Calvin, Sermons On Deuteronomy, 1536)

For we ought to be even ravished at the inestimable love of God towards us, in that he vouchsafed that his son, who is the head of the Angels, before whom all knees ought to bow, and unto whom all creatures ought to do homage, should so humble himself even to the lowest depths, and bear our curse. When we see that our Lord Jesus Christ has so forgotten himself, and had so little regard of himself; that for very servant love which he bare unto us, he took upon him the curse wherewith we were all overwhelmed, receiving it wholly to himself: is there any heart so hard, which ought nor to clue at the fight thereof? Again, how ought we to be inflamed to glorify our Savior, who has abased himself so far to save us?
(John Calvin, Sermons On Deuteronomy, 1537)

Now we see that whereas Jesus Christ is said to have been forlorn and accursed for our sakes: it did so little abase his majesty, that we ought the rather to magnify his glory in that behalf; assuring ourselves that we shall no more be accursed, because he has done away our curse, and born it in his own person . . . Also let us mark therewithal, that notwithstanding his being accursed before God, yet he ceased not robe Gods well beloved son, according to this saying uttered by the heavenly father himself, This is my dear beloved son in whom I am well pleased, and in whom I am pacified. And served that but far one instant? Nay it was to continue for ever. How is it then that Jesus Christ was accursed, seeing that the father was pacified by him? And that he was not only well liked himself, but also the mean to reconcile the whole world; He is our peace and although through our corruption of nature GOD hate us, yet are we beloved in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; and how is it then possible that he should be accursed before God? They agree both very well. For (as I have said before) Jesus Christ has born our curse, yea and he has born it in such wise is GOD ceases not to love him for all that. And this curse is so abolished, that the reproach of his cross is turned into glory and triumph, because it is impossible that the son of GOD should not continue everlastingly the same that he was before.
(John Calvin, Sermons On Deuteronomy, 1539)

. . . GOD ordained the tree of the Cross to be a record of cursing. Now then, whereas it is said, Cursed shall he be which performs not all the things that are contained in the Law: therewithal GOD sends us to his only son, and would have us to know that he was hanged on tree to the intent to be accursed. As how? Was he cursed in his own person? No, but for our sakes. Yet notwithstanding, we may now glory, that the curse of the Law has no more power over us, but that he has discharged us thereof.
(John Calvin, Sermons On Deuteronomy, 1540)

Now, to knit up the whole, it remains to be known after what manner our Lord Jesus became accursed to set us free from the curse . . . Jesus Christ became accursed even by bearing Gods hatred as it were our behalf, to the intent that henceforth we should be beloved. Now I have told you already, (and it behoves us to print it well in our minds) that Jesus Christ was never hated of God his father, for that were impossible. But he was fain to bear our curse, because he was our pledge, and we could not be freed otherwise, than by the satisfaction of his death made once for all. And that is the very mean whereby we become in favor again & are beloved of God.
(John Calvin, Sermons On Deuteronomy, 1541)

Let us consider a little wherefore the only son of God yielded himself to such shame; as to be hanged on tree, and to be as it were accursed before God his father, (according as we have seen even in the one and twentieth Chapter of this book) and to be beaten by the hand of God, until he seemed as vile as a Leper . . . that he bare the burden of all our offences: as if he had been a miserable sinner; and was environed with such extreme sorrow that he will not what to say but to cry out: My God my God, why has you forsaken me? And think we that the son of God dallied when he was so humbled, yea and not only was made utterly of no reputation, as Saint Paul said: but also sought with the pangs and sorrows of death? He offered himself in the person of us, as a wretched sinner to bear that vengeance of God which was due unto us, so as (to be short) he knew that God was bent against him, to thunder down upon him for our sakes. Forasmuch then as we know that Jesus Christ abode such encounters for our redemption: stand we yet still scanning and replying, as who would say, O I cannot tell, and how can I be sure of it? Surely that were even as much as to deny the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. For it is a plain scorning of all that he has endured and suffered for our salvation, when we acknowledge not the fruit that does grow unto us thereby. So then the first point is, that having the Gospel, we have whereupon to rest, so as we need nor to allege: What is he that shall go down into hell? For Jesus Christ has been there, to the end that we should not come there at all.
(John Calvin, Sermons On Deuteronomy, 1921-1922)

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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