The Marvelous Exchange!
James Smith, 1859
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21
The Apostle is treating of the gospel ministry, and showing that God is most desirous that men should be upon good terms with him. Therefore he does not appear in dazzling splendor, and glorious majesty, as when he gave the law; but comes down to us in human form, in the person of his Son, in order to remove every impediment out of the way of our reconciliation to him. And having laid a foundation for friendship on honorable terms, he sends forth his ambassadors to invite, yes, to beseech men—to be reconciled unto him; promising not to impute their trespasses unto them—but to treat them as kindly, as lovingly, as if they were innocent, and had never offended him at all! The ground on which he does this, is thus stated, speaking of Christ, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
The Lord Jesus was pure, without sin. His divine nature could not be tainted, or be in any way impure; as divine, he is the holy God. His human nature was prepared for him, in the womb of the virgin, by the presence, power, and influences of the Holy Spirit. As the angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you; also, that holy One that shall be born of you, shall be called the Son of God." Thus, God created a new thing in the earth, a woman compassed a man, a clean thing was brought out of an unclean. A child was born, who was not implicated in the guilt of Adam's sin, and whose nature was not tainted with human corruption. "In him was no sin."
The God man, was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. His natures were spotless, and his whole life was correct. He could appeal to the Jews, and ask, "Which of you convinces me of sin?" Pilate was compelled to testify, "I find in him no fault at all, no, nor yet Herod." In every thought, word, and deed, he acted in exact accordance with God's pure, spiritual, and holy law. His death was unmerited, he did not deserve to die. He had broken no law. He had injured no one. And if he had not voluntarily offered to die the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty, he could not have been put to death. His resurrection from the dead, by the power of the Father, was a glorious proof, that he "did no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth."
"He knew no sin." The act of sin, never exposed him to punishment. The guilt of sin, never troubled his conscience. The thought of sin, never polluted his heart.
But he was made sin for us. He was not made a sinner—or he could not have been an acceptable sacrifice for sin. Sin was not transfused into him, though it was laid upon him. He was made an offering for sin, or a sin offering, and therefore he was treated as a sinner. The sins of all he represented, of all for whom he became a substitute—were placed to his account. He became answerable for them. He voluntarily undertook to become responsible for them. The whole debt became his. Our breaches of the law—were to be answered for by him. Therefore as sin was imputed to him, or placed to his account, it was punished in his person.
All that it was necessary to inflict, in order to satisfy divine justice, and present an example of God's hatred to sin, to the universe, was inflicted on him. The whole curse of the law, the whole desert of sin, the whole of the wrath of God for sin, was put into one cup, and presented to him. He looked into it and trembled, crying out, "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say?" He took it, and fell to the ground, blood oozing from every pore of his body, he cried in bitter agony, "If it is possible—let this cup pass from me!" He drank of it, and exclaimed, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But it pleased the Lord to bruise him, Jehovah put him to grief, when he made his soul an offering for sin. O the tremendous agony which he endured! O the depths of woe through which he waded! O the waves and billows of divine wrath, that went over him!
"Our sins deserved a hell,
And Christ that hell endured,
Guilt broke his guiltless heart,
With wrath that we incurred!
We bruised his body, spilt his blood,
And both became our heavenly food."
Sin, all the sin placed to his account, was put away by his death. He carried sin to the cross—but not to Joseph's tomb. "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree." "He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." "By one offering he perfected forever, those who are sanctified." He made a full atonement, he gave perfect satisfaction, and by him all who believe are justified from all things. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Every believer may now triumphantly ask, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." Blessed, forever blessed be God, for placing our sins to the account of Jesus—for punishing our sins in the person of Jesus—for putting away, and putting away forever, our sins by the death of Jesus!
He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. What a wondrous exchange!
Christ takes our sins—that we might take his righteousness!
He suffers—that we might go free.
He is stripped—that we may bo clothed.
He is put to death—that we might live.
He is made sin—that we might be made righteous.
O what mercy! "What a mystery of mercy is this! We have no righteousness of our own—our best is but as filthy rags. God requires a righteousness, and one that will meet all the demands of his law, and satisfy his impartial justice, in order to our justification. Jesus, therefore, came to do, and to suffer, all that was necessary to make us righteous, divinely righteous. The righteousness of God, or as righteous as he is righteous. The righteous of God in him. We now, therefore become righteous, perfectly righteous, not by obeying the law—but by faith in Christ—union to Christ—and participation with Christ. Faith brings us to Christ, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ, and then we participate in all Christ has. His life is our righteousness, his death is our atonement, his intercession is our salvation. He took our place—that we might take his. He came to toil for us—that we may rest with him. He sorrowed for us—that we may rejoice with him. He died for us—that we may live with him. Blessed Redeemer, how wondrous your love! How perfect your work!
Let us then, admire God's wisdom, in the contrivance of such a wondrous plan. The thought never could have entered into any created mind—the scheme never could have been devised, either by human or angelic intellect. It is of God. Of God alone. In it, God has abounded toward us, in all wisdom and prudence. Let us receive God's testimony without gainsaying. We may not be able to fully comprehend it—but we can believe it. The philosophy of this plan may puzzle us—but the fact will fill us with joy unspeakable. Let us plead Christ's work alone for acceptance with God. It is not what we have done—but what Jesus has done. It is not what we deserve—but what Jesus suffered. Jesus takes my place, becomes answerable for my sins, undertakes to endure the sufferings I deserved; and makes over to me all the merit of his righteous life, and atoning death.
In Jesus, God can accept me. For the sake of Jesus, God will pardon, and justify me. Through Jesus, God will put me among his children, and place me before his face forever. Let us expect God to honor his own arrangement. This is the way to conquer doubt, overcome fear, and make Satan flee. God arranged that the obedience of his Son should be placed against our disobedience; that the holiness of his Son, should be placed against our unholiness; and that the merit of his Son, should be placed against our demerit; and in this way he "can be just, and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus." In this way he can be a just God—and yet a Savior. Let us, therefore, look for justifying righteousness in Jesus. He has finished the transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness. He is "the Lord our righteousness."
He is the end of the law for righteousness, to everyone that believes; and our righteousness is of him, says the Lord. It is in this way, that a just God, justifies the ungodly, by faith. Let us glorify free grace for the wondrous transfer! It is of grace, and grace alone, that our sins were transferred to Jesus; and that his righteousness is transferred to us. Therefore, by grace are we saved, through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.
Finally, let us view Jehovah as the sole author of this glorious plan. It is of God, and therefore godlike. It is of God, and therefore fully—exactly, meets the case. It is of God, and therefore it is perfect. All sin is put away, scattered as a cloud, hidden as in the depths of the sea, lost, so that when it is sought for—it shall not be found, for there shall be none. Well might the Apostle say, as introductory to this subject, "All things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ." And again, "All things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace, might through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God."