The Wednesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is a Scriptural meditation whereby I take a verse or passage I have been pondering lately and seek to edify my readers with it’s promises, encouragements, warnings, rebukes, etc.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they polluted what was a perfect world (Gen 2-3). They brought sin into Paradise. And, God cannot tolerate sin without a payment for it, because He is a holy God who must punish sin (Exod 34:7). Sin demands payment and the only payment He will consider is the death of a righteous man. You see, without the shedding of perfect or sinless blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb 9:22). In other words, you cannot be reconciled to God, be saved from your sins and be spared from hell unless a perfect, sinless sacrifice was made on your behalf.
And that is where II Corinthians 5:20b-21 steps in – “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” I want to give you two words or concepts that summarize this one verse perfectly. They tell us why the cross changes everything.
Word #1 – Substitution – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin”
The word “substitution” refers to the concept that Jesus died on the cross in our place; He was our substitute for death. It’s like the line from the hymn “Hallelujah! What a Savior” says, “In my place condemned He stood.” He paid for sin (because He was sinless) and because we could not (as sinners).
There is no human achievement in the plan of salvation. Only God could devise this plan and only His Son could execute it. “Substitution” doesn’t mean Jesus became a sinner; He was treated like a sinner. Jesus did not become sin (literally) for the following reasons:
- In this verse, Paul says He knew no sin.
- The rest of Scripture says Jesus did not sin (Luke 23:47; Rom 5:19; Phil 2:8; Heb 4:15; 9:11-14; I Pet 1:18-19; 3:18; I John 3:5).
- If He became sin, He would not have been an acceptable sacrifice (Lev 22:20).
- God is unchanging and has never sinned.
No, Jesus didn’t become a sinner, but He was treated as a sinner. He was treated like He sinned all our sins. He was the substitute for every sinning Christian. He was the substitute in paying for our sin. This is substitution, and if you take substitution from Jesus, the cross and the empty tomb have no meaning, and the cross and the empty tomb wouldn’t change anything. But, substitution occurred at the cross and, as a result, the cross and the empty tomb changes everything!
Word #2 – Imputation – “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”
The word “imputation” means “to replace something that was missing.” In this context, Jesus, as our substitute and because of His death on the cross, replaced something missing in our lives. We are sinners and are missing perfect righteousness. Imputation means he gives us, positionally (not literally), a perfect righteousness we do not have and cannot attain. Thus, we are then treated by God as if we are perfectly holy!
He says He became a substitute for us on the cross so that “in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God treated Jesus on the cross as if He lived each one of our lives. He treated Jesus as the vilest of sinners. And He did that so – by imputation – He could then treat each of us as if we lived the life that Jesus really lived. His “righteousness” is imputed to us and God looks at us positionally and sees Jesus! Thus, we are judged not on our merits but on His. This is imputation. And if you take this away from the cross, the cross has no meaning, and the cross wouldn’t change anything. But, imputation does happen at the cross and, as a result, the cross changes everything!
Accept Him or not, believe Him or not. The choice is yours … for now! I don’t say it that way to be rhetorical or overly dramatic. One day, your opportunity to choose Christ will be over and the choice will be made for you by Him, and you won’t like what He has in store for you for rejecting Him. God will choose one day to send away from Him into hell all those who reject Him. At that point, it will be too late to think, “I should have thought this true. Can you give me more time?” The cross changes everything; the empty tomb and His resurrection changes everything; have they changed you!