The Bible specifically states that Christ became both sin and a curse for us, when He died on the cross. Notice 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Galatians 3:13, in the New King James Bible:
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:13).
These two passages are correctly translated from the original Greek. The Interlinear Literal Translations renders the two passages as follows:
“For him who knew not sin for us sin he made… Christ us ransomed from the curse of the law, having become for us a curse…”
Christ became sin for us, in that He carried our sins, as Isaiah 53:6 explains: “And the LORD has put on Him the iniquity of us all.” He was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Likewise, He became a curse on our behalf, by paying for us the penalty or curse for our breaking of the law. As the Ryrie Study Bible explains, “Christ… was made a curse for us. The crucifixion brought Him under the curse of the law, as explained in the last half of the verse (quoted from Deut. 21:23).” The New Bible Commentary:Revised adds the following thought: “Sin’s penalty was borne in a substitutionary way. He bore our curse, the curse cited from Dt. 21:23, which is equivalent to the wrath of Rom. 1:18 and 2:8.”
Some, since they can’t understand how Christ became sin for us, attempt to interpret this passage by claiming that He became a sin offering for us. Although it is true, of course, that Christ became the perfect sacrifice or sin offering, the addition of the word “offering” detracts from the full meaning of the passage. The Commentary on the Whole Bible, by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, explains:
“…sin — not a sin offering, which would destroy the antithesis to ‘righteousness,’ and would make ‘sin’ be used in different senses in the same sentence…, but ‘sin,’ i.e., the representative Sin-bearer (vicariously) of the aggregate sin of all men past, present and future. The sin of the world is one, therefore the singular, not the plural, is used; though its manifestations are manifold (John 1:29).’ Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the SIN of the world.'”
Compare, too, the Commentary’s note on Galatians 3:13: “Having become what we were, in our behalf, ‘a curse,’ that we might cease to be a curse. Not merely accursed (in the concrete), but a curse in the abstract, bearing the universal curse of the whole human race. So II Corinthians 5:21, ‘Sin for us,’ not sinful, but bearing the whole sin of our race, regarded as one vast aggregate of sin.”
The Broadman Bible Commentary agrees: “It is often thought that the opening clause, ‘he made him to be sin’ means that God made Christ to be a ‘sin-offering.’ The occurrence of the term sin in its usual meaning in the immediately following phrase however makes that suggestion difficult; and in any case there is little evidence in the New Testament to support this interpretation.”
Regarding Galatians 3, the Commentary explains: “Paul finds in this passage [in Deuteronomy 21:23] scriptural support for his claim that Christ became a curse in our behalf. In the death that he died he took the curse [or penalty] of the law upon himself.”
The Biblical teaching is inescapable: When Christ died on the cross, He became sin and a curse, on our behalf. At that moment, when God the Father forsook Him (Matthew 27:45-46), Christ personified the sin of the world, as well as the curse [or penalty] of the law. When Christ died, all those sins as well as the curse or penalty for sinning, “died” with Him — were eradicated with Him — provided, that we, individually, claim Christ’s sacrifice, repent of our sins, accept Christ as our personal Savior, and are baptized in the Biblically prescribed manner. When Christ was on the cross, and all the sin of the world had been placed on Him, God the Father had to forsake Him, because He could not look at that much evil (compare Habakkuk 1:13), and what He saw at that time was SIN. Also, we need to obtain forgiveness for what we are, not only, for what we have done. We have sinful human nature — one might say, we ARE sin, as we are the curse. Christ became sin in that He became one of us — not, that He ever sinned — but He came into sinful flesh, with human nature (Romans 8:3), being tempted in all points as we are, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
This is not to say that God created Adam and Eve as sinful human beings, or that He created Lucifer who became the devil, and the other angels, who turned to demons, as evil spirit beings. Adam was not created sinful — he was created neutral. But — since Adam did sin, under Satan’s influence, and Satan has been tempting man ever since, every human has sinned, too (compare Romans 3:9-20). The same is true for angels. They were not created as sinful spirit beings, either — they were created neutrally, with free moral agency, capable of sinning or of rejecting sin. Lucifer sinned (Ezekiel 28:16) — nobody tempted him to sin — and the angels, who became demons, followed Satan’s evil influence, and sinned likewise (2 Peter 2:4).
Returning to the question at issue as to how Christ could BECOME sin and a curse; sometimes we just have to accept the Word of God in these matters. Exactly how all this was done–even why in the greater framework of God’s purposes–involves the deeper aspects of God’s work.
Clearly the Bible says that Jesus gave up His existence as a godly Spirit being, to come into this world as a man. The Bible also clearly states, as has been pointed out, that Christ “bore the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12); that “the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6); that “He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11); and that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus did not die because of His righteousness. He died for our sins! He alone, as the Creator of mankind, through whom the Father created everything (Hebrews 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16), was able to pay the price of the sin of all of mankind. He assumed our guilt, and He died in our stead. Now, as Romans discusses, we, through His obedience, and through His life in us, are also being made righteous (Romans 5:19, 10)–also spoken of as the “gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17). We believe this, because God is the Author of these things. We may not be able to fully understand all the “how” of the matter, but we must accept, in faith, God’s Word.
Certainly, a great deal of faith is required, when it comes to the life and death of Jesus Christ. It is hard for the average person to believe that:
1) Christ was very God;
2) Christ gave up His divinity, to become physical man (John 1:1, 14), just as we are physical man;
3) Christ emptied Himself of His position as a glorified God being (Philippians 2:5-8), and of His godly relationship with the Being we understand to be the Father, for our benefit, to come to this earth in the flesh;
4) As a human being, Christ was now capable of sinning — when He had never known sin, personally, in His life before — but through His own choice and will, and with the help of God the Father, living within Him through the Holy Spirit, He never sinned while in the flesh;
5) Christ was willing to take our sins upon Himself, thus offering us forgiveness and giving us the potential to put on perfection in our lives (Matthew 5:48) — if we would let Jesus Christ live in us through the Holy Spirit –, even though while in that state on the cross, Christ was totally cut off from God, the Father;
6) By being sacrificed on that stake, and receiving the beating He received, we, through that sacrifice, could not only be forgiven all our sins, such that we have a chance of becoming members of the Family of God; but also, while in the flesh, we can be healed of our physical infirmities (Matthew 8:16-17);
7) God, the Father, was pleased with all that Christ did, and has now received Him back into the Godhead (Philippians 2:9-11), the First of the Firstfruits; and both now await the next step in this whole process, whereby we, too, will become Firstfruits, with Christ, at the resurrection of the just; we become then without sin, totally, just as the Father and Jesus Christ are today, and the Father and Christ will not remember our sins anymore!
It’s all a matter of faith! If we believe all of this, why should we not believe that Christ BECAME sin and a curse? God has inspired it to be written — therefore, it must be true.