Question 39. Is there anything more in his being “crucified”, than if he had died some other death?
Answer: Yes there is; for thereby I am assured, that he took on him the curse which lay upon me; (a) for the death of the cross was accursed of God. (b)
(a) Gal.3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (b) Deut.21:23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
And here is Ursinus’ explanation:
The death of the cross is an aggravation of the punishment of Christ, and a confirmation of our faith. For if Christ was crucified, then he has taken upon himself the curse, because the death of the cross was a figure, or sign of the curse; and not only so, but he has also endured the curse for us, inasmuch as he was righteous in himself.
God, therefore, willed that his Son should endure the punishment of such an ignominious death, for these most satisfactory reasons:
1. That we may know that the curse which was laid upon him was due on account of our sins; for the death of the cross was accursed of God, according to what is written, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Deut. 21:23.)
2. That the punishment might thus be made the heavier, and that we may, so much the more, be confirmed in faith, confidently believing that Christ, by his death, has taken upon himself our guilt, and endured the curse in our behalf that he might deliver us therefrom. Paul teaches this when he says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth upon a tree.” (Gal. 3:13.)
3. That we may be excited to greater gratitude, considering what a detestable thing sin is, inasmuch as it could not be expiated unless by the most bitter and ignominious death of the only begotten Son of God.
4. That there might be a correspondence between the truth and the types. This was necessary in order that we may know that the types are all fulfilled in Christ. For the ancient sacrifices, which shadowed forth the sacrifice of Christ, were laid upon the wood, and before they were burned, they were lifted up on high by the priest, that it might be signified thereby that Christ should be lifted up upon the cross, that he might offer himself a holy sacrifice to the Father in our behalf. The same was adumbrated in Isaac who was laid upon the wood for the purpose of being sacrificed by his father. Finally, the brazen serpent, which Moses set upon a pole in the wilderness, was a type of Christ, as is evident from the application which Christ himself made of it when he said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 3:14; 12:32.)
What, therefore, is it to believe in Christ crucified? It is to believe that Christ was made subject to the curse for me; that he might deliver me therefrom.