MUSINGS CONCERNING THE TOTAL VICTORY IN CHRIST
The Greatest Exchange Ever
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
There are statements made, doctrines advanced, and promises revealed in scripture that are an ocean of consolation and comfort. They show forth the wondrous counsels of the living God.
Many of these declarations can be appreciated by the redeemed to rather a great extent, but there are some that are so tremendous that they cannot be fully received regardless of one’s approving spiritual advancements. Second Corinthians 5:21 is such a portion of Holy Writ. We could spend years considering the implications, even more years pondering the ramifications and still sense that we had done an injustice to the full beauty of the instructions detailed in this verse.
It may be rather rash to say, but seeking to explain this verse of Corinthians in ample terms leaves one knowing that his best efforts to disclose its teaching to completeness is almost a total failure. Praise God that the Holy Spirit often gives the elect knowledge to receive such powerful instruction without always granting them the language to describe its splendor
Philip E. Hughes made the observation that 2 Cor. 5:21 had no equal in describing the wonder of reconciliation. “There is no sentence more profound in the whole of Scripture; for this verse embraces the whole ground of the sinner’s reconciliation to God…”
Along with reconciliation, the doctrine of the believer’s justification is potently represented. “There is probably no passage in the Scriptures in which the doctrine of justification is more concisely or clearly stated than this.” (Charles Hodge)
These two statements by Hughes and Hodge describe the great matter that this verse alone contains. It supersedes anything men or angels had ever dealt with. It is the heart and mind of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us…” Verse nineteen says “that God was in Christ.” Verse twenty says that God made Christ to be sin. Ponder these two statements together and then try to explain how anyone could suggest that the Bible is of human origin.
God the Father made Jesus the Son to be sin. The making of the sinless one sin was part of the eternal purpose of the Triune God. The glorious act of redemption is a boundless doctrine but here we see that Jesus being made sin for the elect was an intricate part of God’s purpose. In fact without this effectuous remedy, there would never have been any hope of restoration or reconciliation between God and man.”
Jesus was not an unwilling participant in this transaction. He with eternal desire and holy willingness became sin while remaining sinless and impeccable. True, He despised the shame (Heb. 12:2) but still remained equal with God. (Phil. 2:6-8)
Proverbs chapter eight has a healthy description of the Father and the Son’s relationship before they created the world. In just a few verses, the announcement is made that Jesus was God’s delight. Mention is also made and stressed that Jesus who created all things (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17) had His delights with the sons of men. (Prov. 8:22-31) Still the eternal decree had been established that Jesus was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8) It is this Lamb that Jehovah made sin for us.
The reasons are many as to why Jesus Christ the Lord should be made sin. The most apparent is because man is impotent, weak, sinful, a hater of God by nature, and unable to do any good. Sin cannot eradicate sin, much less be willing to hinder its progress. However, He who knew no sin was made sin, without Himself being sinful. He not only removed sin, but condemn the same. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Rom. 8:3)
God not only sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3) but He made Jesus to be sin for us. The abundance of this mercy travels even further by revealing that not only did our sins become Christ’s sins, they became Jesus Christ. He by God’s eternal decree became (was made) sin for us. (2 Cor. 5:21) We as created beings sinned in the flesh, so as a result, our sins must likewise be put away, yea! condemned in the flesh. Jesus therefore came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, for the express purpose of condemning all sins, iniquities, and transgressions in the flesh.
The sins of all the elect and damning results of them were imputed to Jesus as His own iniquities. “..and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6) The eliminating and powerful antidote to man’s transgressions was the vicarious and effectual deeds of Christ Jesus in redemption. In these Holy doings, Jesus satisfied the righteous demands of the Holy Law of God and made man honorable and glorious.
What the Son of God did with all the sins of the elect is eternal awe exemplified. He bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and chastised for our peace. (Is. 53) In return, the redeemed of God by the stripes of Jesus are healed – God the Father did lay on His Only Begotten Son the iniquity of us all.
The marvelous Christ was oppressed, afflicted, and cut off from the land of the living. All of these sufferings were indispensable when Jesus became sin for us. “For the transgressions of my people was he stricken.” (Is. 53)
It is written that Jehovah was pleased to bruise Jesus, to put Him to grief when God the Father made His precious Son an (the) offering for sin. (Is. 53:10) Paul when writing to the Galatians described the perfect action as follows. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being MADE a curse for us.” (Gal. 3:13)
Sin kills! Jesus died; the wages of sin is death. (Rom. 6:23) In the Holy counsels of God there is no alleviation of payment, no appeals, no probations, and no reduced penalty for sins. Full satisfaction and payment must be rendered and met. The outcome of the once offered substitute is glorious. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree…by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) The will of God in Christ’s being made sin was to effectuate, perfect, and consummate divine reconciliation. God was in Christ in the reconciliatory process, so what Jesus accomplished in His sin destroying deed of becoming sin for the elect was the eternal and perfect will of God. Jesus therein completed the greatest exchange ever. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh…” (1 Peter 3:18) The Righteous Lord exacted the righteous punishment from the Righteous Christ so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus was put to death when He was made sin for us.
He who knew no sin was made sin for us. The Apostle began verse 21 of 2 Corinthians 5 by saying Jesus was made sin for us. In the next phase however, he quickly adds that Jesus was eternally perfect and knew no sin. What a profound book is the Bible. The truths contained in its pages are divine beyond expression.
“He who knew no sin” was made sin. “he was treated by the justice of God as if he had been not only a sinner, but a mass of sin: for to be made sin, is a stronger expression than to be made a sinner…” (John Gill)
God loves elect sinners – God hates sin – Jesus was not made a sinner – He was made what God hates – SIN.
Jesus was without sin, He knew no sin, He did not sin, and neither was guile found in His mouth. (1 Peter 2:22) The Lord’s servant John stated that “in him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5) Tempted in all things even as we, touched with the feelings of our infirmities to be sure, yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15) Matthew Poole wrote in his commentary that the trials and temptations of Jesus far exceeded anything that any man ever experienced. The reason being, we all give way to temptations to a lesser or greater extent when tried relentlessly, but Jesus never knew defeat or failure. Because of such indefectibility, Christ’s sufferings maximized the persistent persecution of Satan far beyond man’s ability to sustain, endure, or explain, and all of these wicked onslaughts were rebuffed and turned away by the undefiled Christ who knew no sin. He alone is separate from sinners, holy and harmless, and one that needs not to offer sacrifice for his own sins because He did not sin and knew none – none until He became sin for us and those sins He destroyed, all of them, when He one time offered up Himself for sin. (Heb. 7:26-27)
The following paragraph was printed in a commentary Titled “GREAT PROPHECIES OF THE BIBLE” by Ralph Woodrow.
“TO MAKE RECONCILIATION FOR INIQUITY.” “The word reconciliation used here frequently appears in Leviticus as ‘to make atonement.’ Jesus, ‘our merciful and faithful high priest’ made ‘reconciliation for the sins of the people’ (Hebrews 2:17). ‘Having made peace through the blood…to reconcile all things unto himself…and you, that were sometimes alienated . . . hath he reconciled…through death’ (Colossians 1:20-22; Ephesians 2:16). ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). Plainly, ‘reconciliation for iniquity’ was accomplished by Jesus, for he ‘gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity’ (Titus 2:14), and ‘the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ (Isaiah 53:6)
Mr. Woodrow further wrote “One only has to read the great redemption passages of Romans, Corinthians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews to see how an ‘end’ of transgressions and sins, reconciliation for iniquity, and everlasting righteousness, were all accomplished by Christ at Calvary.”
“That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” The word “made” as in “made” made sin in verse 21(a) and the righteousness in 21(b) are equal in strength and both are absolute. Also, the words “might be” in 21(b) should not be used to diminish the extent and power of the eternal purpose of redemption. To suppose or suggest that “might be” made the righteousness of God in Christ as only an invitation or a possibility for sinners’ endorsement is not only an unscriptural concept, but is an enslaving bewilderment. Nonetheless, there are many that teach this concept as truth and make sinners the effectual participant in salvation. It should be distinctly clear from Scriptures that Christ’s acts are facts and not merely feasible possibilities that one can obtain if he is rightly persuaded. Let such instruction die a violent death for the Word insists that “Salvation is of the Lord.”
“To be made the righteousness of God.” – what a supernatural Divine announcement. A statement of such value can never be fully appraised or appreciated. To even insinuate that fallen man, who by voluntary wickedness became polluted, filthy, and estranged from God could be reconciled again is a lofty miracle, but to further entertain the idea that vile men could be declared the righteousness of God is spiritual manna that will take an eternity to digest. Truly it must be conceded by all that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Rom. 5:21).
It was the travail of Jesus that did justify many. He bore our sins and eternally carried them to the grave. He poured out His soul unto death therein making Him the qualified and legitimate intercessor. (Is. 53:11-12)
It is fitting and proper then that because Jesus Christ was made sin for God’s elect – they in return would be made the righteousness of God in Him. Without question Jesus is more powerful and efficient in imputing righteousness by His sacrificial acts than sinners are and were in destroying the redemptive purpose of God. No not even all the sins of all the chosen of God could exceed the proficient Christ in His obedience to His Father’s will. By His stripes we are healed, not partially, but totally and eternally. Being made the righteousness of God in Christ is complete healing.
Man was made a sinner by his disobedience. Disobedience could only be eradicated by perfect obedience. The disobedience of man was full and condemned all his offspring. The obedience of Jesus Christ was complete for all His people and much more in that He conferred more upon them than they had before they sinned in Adam. Believers now are the righteousness of God in Christ, something they did not possess before the fall. See Rom. 8:10, 15, 17, 19; Heb. 9:14.
The much mores of Jesus Christ and His Word are the incontrovertible witnesses that the redeemed are the righteousness of God. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, MUCH MORE, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Rom. 5:10) “MUCH MORE then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Rom. 5:9) “So if Christ’s being made sin does not secure our being made righteousness, he was not our substitute.” (Charles Hodge)
The humbling but glorious doctrine of Divine imputation is plainly taught in this verse. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21) All the sins of God’s chosen were attributed to Christ. Each and every sin of the elect was His by imputation. It was as if they were solely His own and He must make restitution and satisfaction for them. The great Jesus who knew no sin, neither committed any became all sin by the Holy and Just counsel of The Almighty God. The result is that when Jesus made an end of sins, they were forever canceled, gone evermore from the mind of Jehovah and forgotten. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb. 8:12) The conclusion of the matter is that there remains now no sin, not even the remembrance of them in the mind of God to those in Christ. To be in Christ is the righteousness of God.
Our righteousness received, however, has the same element of imputation as Christ being made sin. He had none in and of Himself, neither committed sin. The saved likewise have no inherent righteousness of their own and neither have we committed any. Herein is imputation illustrated in the clearest possible language. “As Christ was not made sin by any sin inherent in him, so neither are we made righteous by any righteousness inherent is us, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.” (Matthew Poole)
According to the Apostle Paul, Jesus Christ is the end of the law. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” (Rom. 10:4) He likewise declared that sin is not imputed where there is no law. “For until the law sin was in the world but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Rom. 5:13) The Biblical fact then is that believers are pronounced righteous by the deeds of Jesus (Rom. 10:4) and there is therefore no condemnation to those which are in Christ. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2) Blessed certainly is that man who God does not reckon his sins and iniquities as his own but transfers their damning and killing consequences and imputes them as Christ’s. “Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity. . . ” (Ps. 32:2) Still, God must pass Divine judgment with respect to those for whom Jesus Christ became sin. Paul unveiled the perfect consummation by demonstrating the opposite of David’s disclosure (Ps. 32:2) when he wrote, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Rom. 4:6-8)
This hallowed exchange is irrevocable and eternal. The imputed righteousness of Christ is freely granted to all who believe God raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25) It must be repeated, that God was in Christ when He made Christ to be sin for us. The Holy exchange was consecrated and made efficient by the vicarious acts of the obedient Christ. “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” (2 Cor. 5:19)
When the believer’s righteousness and eternal redemption is based upon the perfections of Christ, he may rest assured that his righteousness and eternal state is pleasing and acceptable before God the Father for we not only has a spotless righteousness, but the very righteousness of God in Christ. This great exchange is far reaching and eternally holy according as it is written. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30)
This blessed doctrine cannot be valid if it be only the faith and wisdom of men. True believing faith is the power of God and it believes what is written, even this marvelous and profound exchange. Made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Christ was made sin, believers are made the righteousness of God. “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
“FOR HE HATH MADE HIM TO BE SIN FOR US, WHO KNEW NO SIN; THAT WE MIGHT BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM.” (1 Cor. 2:5; 2 Cor. 5:21)
This is truly THE GREATEST EXCHANGE EVER!!