“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
(2 Cor. 5:21)
Talk about a great deal.
Suppose you had a car that didn’t work. It’s not that it just had problems you couldn’t afford to fix, costly repairs that needed to be made – imagine you were still making payments on the vehicle. The car is dead in your garage, and you are stuck with it.
Then one day someone pulls up in a brand new _________ (insert your ideal here, Lincoln, Cadillac, Mercedes). Without even kicking the tires on your old jalopy, they offer you an even exchange. No, the new car isn’t stolen, the Title is free and clear. All you have to give in exchange for a new car is the old junker that doesn’t work and has been your source of grief and hardship for years.
It’s a poor analogy, but it does make the point. Consider the great exchange, the unbelievable deal that is offered in the heart of the Gospel. On the one hand you have Christ, the sinless one, who lived in perfect righteousness before God. Jesus lived in complete obedience to the will of the Father. But for our sake, God made him to be sin…
Notice what isn’t said. God did not make him to be a sin offering, though Jesus was the Atoning Sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Neither does Paul say that God made Jesus a sinner. No, God made him “sin”. One writer put it this way, “God treated Christ as if he were sin… that is, the very personification of sin. Christ came to stand in that relation with God which normally is the result of sin, estranged from God and the object of his wrath.” God looked upon Jesus as if He were sin itself, as if all the sins of all the world were there in one man, and poured out His wrath upon Him for our sake.
On the other hand you have us. God considered Jesus sin for our sake, poured out His wrath upon Him for our sake. We are the recipients of God’s favor, of God’s mercy, of God’s righteous plan. He took our sin and placed it upon the sinless one, so that we might become “the righteousness of God.”
Did you catch that? God didn’t call His Son “sin” so that we can now do righteous things. Nor do we now possess, or own, a righteousness all to ourselves. Rather, God called His righteous Son “sin” on our behalf, so that He could now call us, who are “sin,” the “righteousness of God.”
Charles Hodge put it this way, “He was made sin, that we might be made righteous. He was condemned, that we might be justified. He bore our sins; we are clothed in his righteousness. In other words, our sins were imputed to Christ, and his righteousness is imputed to us.”
And this is all for the glory of God. This passage begins just like the book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God…” When you read the creation account, you know the clear teaching of Scripture is that all of creation has its source in God, and all things were created for His glory. Here in 2 Corinthians we see it again, “For our sake, he made…” God did this all for us, it is His work, revealing the grace, the love, the power, the wisdom, yes, the glory of God.
What an amazing exchange. What an amazing Savior. What an amazing God.