2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 5:21
2 Corinthians 5:21. The Sinless counted as a sinner. We give but the bare outline of a course of thought on this subject, because it is so suggestive of controversial theological topics, and can be treated from the points of view of several distinct theological schools.

I. CHRIST AS A SINLESS MAN. What proofs of this have we? And how does such sinlessness separate him from man and ensure his acceptance with God?

II. THE SINLESS CAN NEVER, IN FACT, BE OTHER THAN SINLESS. Neither God nor man can be deceived into regarding Christ as a sinner. No exigencies of theology may make us speak of God as regarding Christ as other than he was.

III. THE SINLESS CAN TAKE, AS A BURDEN ON HEART AND EFFORT, THE SINS OF OTHERS. Show fully in what senses this can be done.


V. WHEN THE SINLESS MAN THUS TAKES THE SINS OF OTHERS ON HIM HE BEARS THE SIN ALTOGETHER AWAY. Jesus took up the matter of our sin that it might be a hindrance and trouble to us no more forever. - R.T.

For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin
In every age of the world mankind seem to have been conscious to themselves of guilt. Now guilt is universally accompanied with a sense of demerit. The altars have groaned under the victims that were heaped upon them; and the temples have been filled with the most costly perfumes. Men have every given the fruit of their bodies for the sin of their souls. We are new no longer permitted to wander in ignorance, uncertainty, and error, respecting the method of our acceptance with God.

I. Consider THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST AS UPRIGHT AND INNOCENT. Not only was He free from original sin; throughout the whole course of an active and eventful life, He kept Himself unspotted from the world. Immediately before entering upon His public ministry, His innocence was put to a severe trial. But though the words of the text speak only of our Saviour's innocence, we ought not to overlook His high dignity and excellence. He was the everlasting God.

II. ILLUSTRATE THE DOCTRINE OF HIS BEING MADE SIN FOR US. The original word, here rendered sin, is also employed to signify a sin-offering; in which signification it is frequently used in the Septuagint. This phrase is borrowed from the Jewish ritual, of which the sin-offering formed a part. The design of this offering was to take away the guilt of the offerer by the substitution of a victim in his place.

1. That Christ suffered and died in our stead, and consequently expiated our guilt, appears from the nature of His sufferings themselves. Whence proceeded those groans that indicated the agony of His soul? It is impossible to account for this anguish upon the supposition that His sufferings were the same as those of any other man. Many who were thus witnesses for the truth have met death in its most terrible forms with composure, and even with transports of joy. If Christians, then, in such circumstances have triumphed, why did Christ tremble? Not surely because their courage and constancy were greater than His. The causes were completely different. They Suffered from men, who can kill the body but cannot injure the soul. He suffered from God, before whose indignation no created being is able to stand.

2. That Christ suffered in our stead appears from the nature and design of sacrifices. That sacrifices were of a vicarious nature is plain from all the accounts we have of them. The Jewish sacrifices were unquestionably of this nature. But not only were the ancient sacrifices of a vicarious nature — they were instituted as types of Christ, our great High Priest. They must have originated with God, as a proper means of directing the view of men to Him, who was to appear in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Viewed in this light, sacrifices were worthy of God to appoint, and reasonable for man to perform. Since these sacrifices were of a vicarious nature, and since they were also types of Christ, when He offered Himself as a sacrifice upon the Cross, He must have borne the punishment of our sins, and thus have expiated our guilt.

3. That Christ died in our room and stead, appears from the express declarations of Scripture. In Isaiah 53:4, Christ is said to have " borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows"; and in the 12th verse, "He poured out His soul to death, and bore the sins of many."


1. To the faithful follower of Jesus this subject is full of consolation. His guilt is expiated. Not so the impenitent sinner, who will not come to Christ that he may be saved.

2. From this subject we may learn the dreadful nature of sin.

3. From this subject we may learn the amazing love of God to man.

(John Ramsay, M. A.)

The incarnation from the human side
1. These are bold words of Paul. So much so that the great majority of interpreters are tempted to alter them. For "sin" they take the liberty of reading "sin offering." I suppose if Paul had meant sin offering he could very easily have said so. The ideas conveyed by "sin" and "sin offering" are exceedingly different. No man carefully expressing himself would now use the one term, when he intended to give the idea contained in the other. We know no man without sin. He who has had no experience of sin, has not had a human experience. If Christ had been man in every other respect, but without being in some way conversant with sin, men would not have felt the power of His sympathetic love reaching to the worst extremities of their case. The problem is clear enough; Christ to establish His thorough sympathy with my heart must be conversant with sin, which forms so very large a part of my experience; and yet to deliver me from sin He ought to be above it, and in no way involved in its entanglements. He knew no sin, and He was made sin. Here Paul affirms as real those very two things that I have felt to be a necessity.

2. Let us try and find our way through this difficulty, and understand some of the important conclusions in which we may be landed. The difficulty may come up in three different forms.(1) As an intellectual difficulty; arising from the apparent impossibility of the infinite entering into the experience of the finite. Christ is not the manifestation of the infinite and absolute, which in its infiniteness is incapable of being manifested. he is the manifestation of all that is intelligible and conceivable in God, which can be pictured to the mind.(2) There is the moral difficulty we are necessitated to consider. How then is it morally possible that the sinless should have the experience of sin? Here careful reflection is necessary. The experience of sin, so common to men, is more complete than may at first seem. There are. three things to be carefully distinguished in it.

(a)There are all those inducements that lead to it, and that may for a long time be operating on the mind before its commission.

(b)Then there is the deliberate, wilful act of sin, which for the most part is momentary; and

(c)There is that long course of sorrow, in numerous forms, which flows out of sin.Into how much of this can the sinless enter? Into the deliberate determination and act of wrong, it is clear that Christ the sinless cannot enter; nor can He have the slightest sympathy with it. But this forms the very least part of the experience of sin; and in every case, as we may see, forms the greatest barrier to all sympathy. But the inducements to sin, the prompting occasions and influences, as they are not in themselves morally wrong, becoming so only when they are wilfully ripened into action, in themselves arising from weakness and suffering, into all these the sinless can enter, without the least moral contamination. I admit that Christ could not Himself feel any inclination to do wrong; therefore neither could He personally feel the difficulty of resisting.. But He could feel for those in whom that inclination and difficulty are greatest. His feelings can go with us up to the point of actual commission, where our guilt begins. Can we not see at once the truth of this? There may be strong temptations to a child that are none at all to an adult. That does not prevent a parent from entering into the difficulties that beset his child's path. In Christ this sympathy was immensely strong, so strong that we can scarcely realise its power. So too was His experience of the general condition of humanity wonderfully deep and comprehensive. Hence into all this experience of sin He could enter sinlessly, to an extent that would make the realisation of temptation in Him far greater than in any one single human being. Then again on the same grounds He could enter as fully into all that after experience of sin in bodily sufferings and bitter mental agonies, with which we are all so well acquainted. He could enter into these because they are not themselves morally wrong; and though He could not know personally the reproaches of conscience and the dreadful remorse of a soul under self-condemnation, He could enter into it all, and that most intensely, through that strong sympathetic love and that perfect knowledge of our human condition which we know Him to have possessed. Still in putting this view before thoughtful men, I have found them clinging yet to the notion that Christ's sympathy and temptation could not be perfect without His actually committing wrong, being a sinner, and overcoming it, which leads me to another remark or two.(i.) It might be so if sin (actual) were a misfortune that we could not avoid, a calamity and woe in which we were plunged against our will. Then our sympathising Saviour would go with us there. And I think the difficulty greatly arises from taking that view. But sin is not that. It is a deliberate intentional act, which at every point we are perfectly conscious of the ability to avoid. Temptation is not doing wrong. Many men are most powerfully and sorrowfully tempted in those cases in which they triumph. It would not lessen the reality of that temptation if they should conquer in every case. Nor does it in Christ who enters perfectly into our temptations so far as they are suffering and wrestling; but who cannot go with us, even in sympathy, when we turn the temptation into actual crime.(ii.) As a matter of fact, it is by no means true that we either get or expect most sympathy, as sinners, from those who have committed most crimes. Quite the opposite. Nothing so destroys sympathy as wrong doing. And that for a very obvious reason. Every commission of crime destroys the sensibility of the soul and makes us comparatively indifferent both to the suffering of temptation and to the after sorrows which form so large a part of the experience of sin. All our instincts as sinners teach us that it is not in the guilt of another that we shall find the ground of his sympathy with us; but quite apart from that, in the moral tenderness of His nature (which the commission of sin destroys), and in that general humanity of disposition which enables him to make another's case his own. This is just what we see so wonderfully manifest in Christ. we may say then that it is His entire freedom from sin in act that gives that fine tone to His sympathy.(iii.) I only add one remark on the practical view of the matter. If you can feel the force of what I have put before you in removing objections, then you can unhesitatingly fall back on the simple narrative as it stands in our Scriptures. And in doing that I may confidently assert that as a matter of fact we do in our deepest sinfulness feel the sympathy of the sinless Jesus, as we feel no man's sympathy.

3. I have now only briefly to notice the concluding part of this verse. The entire power of Christianity over us rests in the love, or the loving sympathy of Christ, towards and with us; just that which we have been looking at. It is the love of a holy Saviour to us, that breaks our bonds, that gives us hope that all evil may be conquered, and strengthens us to enter upon the warfare. Most beautifully has Paul put this fact into its sublimest form, when we thus understand his words. Christ the sinless, he teaches, came down into the midst of our sinful humanity, took it and us into his warmest heart of love, became conversant with all the forms of sin that oppress us and make us miserable — though without ever allowing Himself to be in the least degree conquered by them. Herein He awakens our hearts to love, He strikes to the very depths of the soul with His loving sympathy, till His conquest over us is complete.

(S. Edger, B. A.)

I. CHRIST WAS ABSOLUTELY SINLESS. Not that He was unacquainted with sin, for no man knew it so well as He did. He knew its origin, growth, ramifications, and all the hells it ever had created or ever would create. It was His knowledge of sin that caused Him to fall prostrate in Gethsemane. What then does it mean? That personally He was free from sin. It never stained His heart.

1. He was without sin though He lived in a sinful world. Everywhere sin surrounded Him as a dense, pestiferous atmosphere. But it did not taint Him. His generation failed to corrupt Him.

2. He was without sin, though He was powerfully tempted.


1. This cannot mean that God made the Sinless One a sinner. This would be impossible.

2. Two facts may throw light upon the expression.(1) That God sent Christ into a world of sinners to become closely identified with them. "He was numbered with transgressors."(2) That He permitted this world of sinners to treat and punish Him as if He were the greatest of all.

III. THAT THE SINLESS ONE WAS THUS MADE SIN IN ORDER THAT MEN MIGHT PARTICIPATE IN GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. The grand end was the moral restoration of man to the rectitude of God.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. CHRIST WAS PERSONALLY SINLESS. The conception and birth of Jesus, while they linked Him to human nature, did not connect Him with human depravity. He was the second holy man, but unlike the first He continued so. He understood the nature of sin, and knew what it was to be tempted; yet in His own experience He was sinless — He knew no sin in His desires, motives, volitions, or acts. His heart never knew self-disapprobation.

II. AS THE VOLUNTARY REPRESENTATIVE OF SINFUL MEN, CHRIST WAS THROUGH A LIMITED PERIOD ACCOUNTED BY GOD A TRANSGRESSOR. In this sense God "made" Christ sin. Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He did not come into this condition by His own misconduct. Free from exposure to suffering on all personal grounds He consented to suffer for us. But Christ held this position only for a time — and Christ is the only suffering substitute of a guilty race for the purpose of redemption.

III. THE OBJECT OF GOD IN TREATING CHRIST AS A SINNER WAS TO PLACE HIMSELF IN A POSITION WHENCE HE MIGHT ACCOUNT SINFUL MEN RIGHTEOUS, AND REALLY WORK RIGHTEOUSNESS WITHIN THEM. Generally the "righteousness of God" means that provision which God has made in the sacrifice of Christ for the justification of the ungodly. To be made the righteousness of God by Christ is to have our guilt removed by His sacrifice, and our persons sanctified. Conclusion: Behold —

1. The riches of the goodness of God! God made Christ sin to make us righteousness.

2. The unutterable love of Christ. He who knew no sin made sin for us, and this not by constraint, but willingly, not for self interest, but of a ready mind.

3. An absolute human necessity provided for. But for this interposition.

(1)We are lost.

(2)We have no meeting place with God.

(3)We have no offering wherewith to come before God.

4. The hopeful circumstances in which mankind are placed, and the security of such as participate in Christ's mediation!

5. The lessons which by Christ's mediation God reads to His intelligent universe (Luke 15.).

(S. Martin.)

I. THE PERSONAL CHARACTER OF CHRIST. "He knew no sin." The virtues of others are only comparative: their excellencies are counterbalanced by defects. How seldom do men appear to the same advantage in public and in private. There are virtues which are in some degree incompatible: the circumstances which go to form the contemplative character, are unfavourable to the active; and contrariwise. Some virtues border closely on defects: — courage degenerates into temerity; caution becomes timidity. It not unfrequently happens that men, after having established their claim to some particular quality, fail in those points in which their chief excellence consists. It was thus with the faith of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, and the patience of Job. Even where there is no flaw in the character which strikes the eye of the public, or which is noted by private friendship, the individual himself is deeply conscious of his deficiencies. Confessions of this kind are found in the diaries of Luther. In all the particulars referred to, our Lord stood out in marked contrast to the most distinguished servants of God. His virtues were not comparative, but absolute: there was no inconsistency — no disproportion, His was not the excellence which arose from the predominance of some one virtue, but from the union and harmony of all: in the active and contemplative, He was alike eminent. In none of His virtues was there any exaggeration or excess. This purity did not arise from the absence of temptation. Some who have risen superior to greater trials, have been overcome in smaller. To lighter trials our Lord was not less exposed than to severer ones; nor was His conduct in regard to the one, less admirable than in regard to the other. Jewish fishermen would never have drawn that character if they had not seen it.

II. HIS MEDIATORIAL OFFICE — "He was made sin for us." To assert, and to found the assertion on the text, that Christ, having the guilt of our sins imputed to Him, may be considered as the greatest sinner on earth, is language utterly indefensible. It is not to explain the language of Scripture, but to distort it. Guilt is a personal quality: it is incapable of being transferred. At the very time that Christ was expiating the guilt of sin upon the Cross He was the Holy One of God — the just suffering in the room of the unjust. He who was not guilty suffering in the room of those who were. Some understand the word "sin" to mean sin-offering. The word rendered sin-offering, as the marginal reading indicates, strictly signifies sin. The terms are singularly emphatic. God made, or treated, or permitted Christ to be treated, not merely as sinful, or a sinner, but as sin itself. Look in proof of this to the records of His life. Consider the estimate which His enemies formed of His character. They did not speak of Him merely as a sinner, but as a friend or favourer of sinners. They did not impute to Him merely gluttony and intemperance, but the indictable offence of blasphemy. "Away with Him," was their cry, "let Him be crucified." Had there been nothing more in the treatment of Christ than what has been here mentioned, the propriety of the language in the text would have been sufficiently vindicated. But whence the agony in Gethsemane?

III. HIS BENEVOLENT UNDERTAKING. "That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." This clause is to be explained on the same principle with the former. If by the expression, being made sin for us, is to be understood His being treated as a sinner, the corresponding expression, being made the Righteousness of God in Him, must imply, that we, on His account, are treated as if we were righteous. The sinner on believing in Christ is acquitted, and treated as if he were righteous. This view of the design of Christ's sufferings, independently of the direct testimony of the text, follows from the fact of His innocence. If suffering and death are the penalty of sin, as He could not have suffered for His own sins, He must have suffered for the sins of others.

(R. Brodie, M. A.)

Note —

I. THE DOCTRINE. There are three persons mentioned here.

1. God. Let every man know what God is.(1) He is a sovereign God, i.e., He has absolute power to do as He pleaseth. And though He cannot be unjust, or do anything but good, yet is His nature absolutely free; for goodness is the freedom of God's nature.(2) He is a God of infinite justice. This I infer from my text; seeing that the way of salvation is a great plan of satisfying justice.(3) He is a God of grace. God is love in its highest degree.

2. The Son of God — essentially God; purely man — the two standing in a sacred union together, the God-Man. This God in Christ knew no sin.

3. The sinner. And where is he? Turn your eyes within. You are the person intended in the text. I must now introduce you to a scene of a great exchange. The third person is the prisoner at the bar. As a sinner, God has called him before Him. God is gracious, and He desires to save; God is just, and He must punish. "Prisoner at the bar, canst thou plead 'Not guilty'?" He stands speechless; or, if he speaks, he cries, "I am guilty!" How then shall he escape? Oh! how did heaven Wonder, when for the first time God showed how He might be just, and yet be gracious! when the Almighty said, "My justice says 'smite,' but My love stays my hand, and says, 'spare the sinner'! My Son shall stand in thy stead, and be accounted guilty, and thou, the guilty, shalt stand in My Son's stead and be accounted righteous!" Do you say that such an exchange as this is unjust? Let me remind you it was purely voluntary on the part of Christ, and that it was not an unlawful thing is proved by the fact that the sovereign God made Him a substitute. We have read in history of a certain wife whose attachment to her husband was so great, that she had gone into the prison and exchanged clothes with him; and so the prisoner has escaped by a kind of surreptitious substitution. In such a case there was a clear breach of law, and the prisoner escaping might have been pursued and again imprisoned. But in this case the substitution was made by the highest authority.

II. THE USE OF HIS DOCTRINE. "Now, then, we are ambassadors for God," etc., for — here is our grand argument — "He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin." I might entreat you to be reconciled, because it would be a fearful thing to die with God for your enemy. I might on the other hand remind you that those who are reconciled are thereby inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. But I shall not urge that; I shall urge the reason of my text. I beseech thee, be reconciled to God, because Christ has stood in thy stead; because in this there is proof that God is loving you. Thou thinkest God to be a God of wrath. Would He have given then His own Son? God is love; wilt thou be unreconciled to love?

III. THE SWEET ENJOYMENT WHICH THIS DOCTRINE BRINGS TO A BELIEVER. Are you weeping on account of sin? Why weepest thou? Weep because of thy sin, but weep not through any fear of punishment. Look to thy perfect Lord, and remember, thou art complete in Him.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. WHAT IS THE ESSENTIAL IDEA OF SIN? Some people desire to minimise sin; some evaporate it entirely away; some sneer at the idea. As men grow superficial and heartless they lose all true conception of sin, as a real, abiding, universal, awful fact; but, with Luther, we want no painted sin or painted Christ, we have to do with realities. If sin is not a reality, the Bible is inexplicable. At the outset we say that sin is not merely an individual, personal act. It involves the transgression of the law, but more. No man lives to himself. No act stops with the act or the actor. Your gun is fired in the air, the blaze goes from your chimney, but there is grime left in each. So the channels of our nature grow sooty. The act of sin leaves a stain which we and others see. Sin sinks into us. The sot is powerless. The fibres of his will are unstranded, unravelled. The impure become infected through and through. Sin is not a merely personal act, for it affects others. It scalds and scars the souls about us. We breathe our speech into the delicate membrane of the phonograph, turn the handle, and hear again the same. Had we instruments delicate enough we might grind out again from yonder post the sounds it has recorded here. No, sin is not an individual, isolated act, stopping with the act. Sin is a debt. We owe something to the laws of our being, those of the universe. We may overdraw, but we have got to pay sooner or later, though there be a delay. Sin is also spoken of as a disease. Sin is transmissible to posterity. Furthermore, we cannot say that it is a natural incident in the process of evolution, as did Emerson, so that the thief or the man in the brothel is on his way to perfection. Such a statement is an insult to conscience, an affront to God. Some flippantly say that Adam's fall was a fall upward, which is absurd. Dives went down into the pit and Lazarus upward, borne to Abraham's bosom. Some talk of a lie as but an incomplete form of truth. Then the devil, the father of lies, is the grandfather of truth! Darkness is partial light! It is folly to excuse our sin by subterfuge.

II. THE REMEDY AND CURE IS A CRUCIFIED CHRIST. "Sin for us, who knew no sin." Christ, once for all, has been made a sacrifice for sin. He instead of the sinner dies. His death for sin is a real matter. He alone can deliver and purify those who are polluted by sin.

(J. B. Thomas, D. D.)

Note —


1. And of whom can this be said, but of Him? There is not one who must not acknowledge with David, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." And if our Saviour had been born, like others, after the flesh, such would have been His state also. But He knew no sin. Though He assumed our nature He did not partake of its corruption. Before His incarnation He was known as the Holy One of Israel; before His birth, He was declared to be a holy thing; and when He was born, He was born "without spot of sin, to make us clean from all sin." Thus the Lord created a new thing in the earth. Christ then was born into the world holy, perfectly holy; did He continue so till He left it? The disciple who betrayed Him, confessed that he had betrayed the innocent blood.

2. And this was necessary in order to His being the Saviour of sinners. If He had once sinned, His obedience would not have been commensurate with the demands of the law which we had broken (Hebrews 7:26).

II. THAT GOD MADE HIM, WHO KNEW NO SIN, TO BE SIN FOR US, i.e., a sin offering. Sin is a great evil, and required a great sacrifice. It is a breach of God's law which is holy, just, and good; and subjects the unhappy transgressor to the heavy curse of that law (Galatians 3:10); and to us sinners there was no hope of deliverance, unless some one should be found who could make a sufficient atonement. We could never have done this. Neither repentance, nor future obedience would have been sufficient to repair the breach which sin had made. No personal sufferings of ours could ever have expiated our offences. Even the sacrifices under the law could not make the comers thereunto perfect. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us. He left no demand of the law unfulfilled, and no claim of Divine justice unsatisfied. His work is perfect. There needs no righteousness of our own to be added to His, nor any sufferings of our own to be joined to those which He endured.

III. THE END WHICH GOD HAD IN VIEW. "That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

1. God, the moral Governor of the world, requires righteousness from all the children of Adam. But we have all come short of the glory of God, and of the righteousness He requires. How then can man be just with God? There is no answer but that of the gospel. There we read that the Son of God in human nature — the nature which had sinned — became obedient to the law for man, obedient unto death, and thus brought in perfect and everlasting righteousness. We read also that this righteousness is imputed to us of God, for our complete justification before Him, the very moment we believe in Christ; which is therefore called believing unto righteousness. There is thus a reciprocal imputation; the believer's guilt is transferred to the Saviour, and the Saviour's righteousness made over to the believer. And as that Saviour is a Divine Saviour His righteousness may, with the strictest propriety, be called the righteousness of God.

2. This happy and glorious change of state is attended with the most blessed and transforming effects on the spirit and conduct. He who frees from the guilt and consequences of sin, delivers also from its love and power. Christ is made of God sanctification as well as righteousness. The very faith which justifies, sanctifies also. In particular, it secures the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, by whose powerful operations we are renewed in righteousness and true holiness, after the image of God. Conclusion:

1. How glorious does the character of God appear in all this! Mark —

(1)His love. Was there ever such love?

(2)His wisdom in providing a Saviour so exactly adapted to our wants.

(3)His holiness and justice.

2. How anxiously should we inquire whether we are made the righteousness of God in Christ!

3. How studious should we be to grow in grace and in holiness, and thus evince that our faith is a lively and active principle, working by love, and bringing forth much fruit to the glory of God!

(D. Rees.)

1. The heart of the gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. They who preach not the atonement, whatever else they declare, have missed the soul and substance of the Divine message. In the days of Nero there was great shortness of food in Rome, although there was abundance at Alexandria. A certain man who owned a vessel went down to the sea coast, and there he noticed many hungry people, watching for the vessels that were to come from Egypt. When these vessels came to the shore there was nothing but sand in them which the tyrant had compelled them to bring for use in the arena: Then the merchant said to his shipmaster, "Take thou good heed that thou bring nothing back with thee from Alexandria but corn, for these people are dying, and now we must keep our vessels for this one business of bringing food for them." Alas! I have seen certain mighty galleys of late loaded with nothing but mere sand of philosophy and speculation, and I have said, "Nay, but I will bear nothing in my ship but the revealed truth of God, the bread of life so greatly needed by the people."

2. The doctrine of substitution is set forth in the text. I have found, by long experience, that nothing touches the heart like the Cross of Christ. The Cross is life to the spiritually dead. There is an old legend that when the Empress Helena was searching for the true Cross they found the three Crosses of Calvary buried in the soil. Which out of the three was the veritable Cross they could not tell, except by certain tests. So they brought a corpse and laid it on one, but there was neither life nor nation, but when it touched another it lived; and then they said, "This is the true Cross."

I. WHO WAS MADE SIN FOR US? "He who knew no sin."

1. He had no personal knowledge of sin. Throughout the whole of His life He never committed an offence against the great law of truth and right. "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" Even His vacillating judge enquired, "Why, what evil hath He done?"

2. As there was no sin of commission, so was there about our Lord no fault of omission. He was complete in heart, in purpose, in thought, in word, in deed, in spirit.

3. Yea, more, there were no tendencies about our Substitute towards evil in any form.

4. It was absolutely necessary that any one who should be able to suffer in our stead should Himself be spotless.

II. WHAT WAS DONE WITH HIM WHO KNEW NO SIN? He was "made sin." The Lord laid upon Jesus, who voluntarily undertook it, all the weight of human sin. Instead of its resting on the sinner it was made to rest upon Christ. Christ was not guilty, and could not be made guilty; but He was treated as if He were, because He willed to strand in the place of the guilty. Yea, He was not only treated as a sinner, but He was treated as if He had been sin itself in the abstract. Sin pressed our great Substitute very sorely. He felt the weight of it in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the full pressure of it came upon Him when He was nailed to the accursed tree. The Greek liturgy fitly speaks of "Thine unknown sufferings": probably to us they are unknowable sufferings. The Lord made the perfectly innocent one to be sin for us: that means more of humiliation, darkness, agony, and death than you can conceive. I will not say that He endured either the exact punishment for sin, or an equivalent for it; but I do say that what He endured rendered to the justice of God a vindication of His law more clear and more effectual than would have been rendered to it by the damnation of the sinners for whom He died. The Cross is under many aspects a more full revelation of the wrath of God against human sin than even Tophet.

III. WHO DID IT? "He," i.e., God Himself. The wise ones tell us that this substitution cannot be just. Who made them judges of what is just? Do they say that He died as an example? Then is it just for God to allow a sinless being to die as an example? In the appointment of the Lord Jesus to be made sin for us, there was a display of —

1. The Divine Sovereignty. God here did what none but He could have done. He is the fountain of rectitude, and the exercise of His Divine prerogative is always unquestionable righteousness.

2. The Divine justice.

3. The great grace of God. God Himself provided the atonement by freely and fully giving up Himself in the person of His Son to suffer in consequence of human sin. If God did it, it is well done. If God Himself provided the sacrifice, be you sure that He has accepted it.

IV. WHAT HAPPENS TO US IN CONSEQUENCE? "That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." Every man that believes in Jesus is through Christ having taken his sin made to be righteous before God. More than this, we are made not only to have the character of "righteous," but to become the substance called "righteousness." What is more we are made "the righteousness of God." Herein is a great mystery. The righteousness which Adam had in the garden was perfect, but it was the righteousness of man: ours is the righteousness of God. Human righteousness failed; but the believer has a Divine righteousness which can never fail. How acceptable with God must those be who are made by God Himself to be "the righteousness of God in Him"! I cannot conceive of any thing more complete.

(C. H. Spurgeon).

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2 Corinthians 5:20
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