A Study of 2 Corinthians 5:21
“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 Corinthians 5:21)
I do not know what it may please the Lord to help me to set before you this afternoon from this portion of His most holy Word; this I can say: “My meditation of Him has been sweet.”
I have been glad in the Lord; glad in the Lord who was made sin, that I, a vile sinner, “might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
It is a mercy to know by the teaching of the Holy Ghost that we are sinners. Unless the Lord has taught us our sinnership, we do not know what sin is, we do not know what sin has done. If the Lord has dealt with us, then we can say,
“O thou hideous monster, Sin,
What a curse hast thou brought in!
Thou hast ruin’d wretched man
Ever since the world began;
Thou hast God afflicted too;
Nothing less than that would do.”
O friends, it is a mercy if the Lord has convinced us of sin.
“A sinner is a sacred thing,
The Holy Ghost has made him so.”
But do you know what it is to fall as sinners at God’s feet?
Do you know what repentance is?
God gives repentance unto salvation, which needeth not to be repented of. O, what an unspeakable mercy to ba brought as a sinner to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Unless the Lord bring us there, we shall know nothing of Christ, our hearts will not be set on things above. But if He brings us by His grace as sinners to His feet, He will have our affections, He will have oar hearts, and there will ba times in our experience when we shall say, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.”
O the love of Christ in coming from heaven to earth!
O,the love of the Father in sending Him!
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”
The Lord Jesus Christ so loved the church that He came into this world: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich “ (2 Corinthians 8:9).
I do not wonder that the apostle, in speaking of His Incarnation, should say, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16).
“The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;” and John says, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
“Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.”
A holy Child is born; there is no sin in this Child; that “Holy thing” which was born and laid in the manger was the Incarnate God.
“My God, my Creator the heavens did bow;
To ransom offenders He stoop’d very low.”
O what a low stoop it was!
He condescended to be born and laid in Bethlehem’s manger; a poor Man, “a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” There was no sin in Him. He was holy, spotless, harmless, separate from sinners. We have in the words of our text: “Who knew no sin.” He never sinned in thought, in word, in deed. “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.”
He never had a wrong thought, never had an unholy desire; there was no sin in Him.
O what a mystery we have here!
I wish I knew how to deal with it, I wish I could set it before you. “God manifest in the flesh,” the Lord of life and glory!
The Lord Jesus Christ takes human nature into union with His divine nature, and He lives on this earth a Man, a parfect Man, a holy Man. He knew no sin, and yet He comes sinless to be made sin: He comes that sin may be charged upon Him, that sin may be laid upon Him, that He may remove that sin, put an end to sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness.
God the Father lay sin upon Him, imputed it to Him.
O friends, what a deep we have here!
What a subject we have!
This holy Son of God, Incarnate God, made sin.
God the Father charged sin upon Him.
Have you had any thoughts concerning this vital matter, concerning your sins being laid upon Him?
Have you ever seen Him as your Surety, your Substitute?
Have you seen Him bearing your sins, all your sins charged to Him, laid upon Him?
If you have, I know what it has done for you. It has broken your heart; it has humbled you in the dust, it has laid you at God’s feet, and you have said:
“Why me, why me, O blessed God,
Why such a wretch as me?
Who must for ever lie in hell,
Were not salvation free.”
What an unspeakable mercy to have a faith’s view of our sins laid upon Jesus Christ!
All our sins, mark you, not some of them. This has exercised my soul during the last few hours, to think that every sin I have ever committed, or may yet commit, was laid upon the Lord Jesus Christ, charged upon Him, imputed to Him.
“He bare our sins,” says the apostle, “in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
O what an unspeakable mercy if He has ever shown you this: that all your sins were charged to Him, all your breaches of the law were His; that He stood in your name, place, and stead!
He was made under the law, that He might fulfil that law, that He might bring in everlasting righteousness for His people; that He might make them meet to be “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12).
Matchless grace is this!
To think that the Lord Jesus Christ should condescand to stand in the room, place, and stead of such a vile, guilty, polluted sinner as I know myself to be.
“He hath made Him;” that is, the Father hath made Him to be sin, God the Father. In this is manifest the love of God: He does not spare His Son, but He freely gives Him up. “If God be for us,” says the apostle, “who can be against us?” He that spared not His only begotten Son, “how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans
He did not spare Him from suffering. God did not spare Him from affliction; He was wounded, bruised.
It pleased the Father to bruise Him; it pleased the Father to lay upon Him all the iniquity of the church, it was all laid upon Him. Here He is, bearing the sin of the whole election of grace; think of it, friends, what it cost Him, this being made sin; it cost Him groans, it cost Him wounds, it cost Him smart; it pleased the Father that it should be so.
He undertook, engaged in eternity, to come and thus bear the sins of millions; for millions He bows His sacred head in death, and what a mercy if we belong to the millions!
Is it to be known?
It is to be known.
This apostle is writing to men who knew it; men in whom God magnified the riches of His grace. Paul writes unto the church of God which is at Corinth, and to all the saints which are in Achaia, “called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
God calls sinners by His grace, and calls them to be saints. He makes known to them the riches of His grace. He gives them to realise this; that although they are sinners, they are saved sinners.
Their sins were charged upon Jesus Christ.
Have you ever seen Him bearing your sins in His own body on the accursed tree?
I hope I can say I have. I trust by God’s grace I can say I have seen the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary bearing my sins in His own body.
“Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!”
O, herein is love, not that I loved Him, but that He loved me, and gave Himself for me.
“For love of me the Son of God
Drain’d every drop of vital blood.”
He stood in my room, my place, my stead. Blessed Jesus! Blessed Saviour!
When you get Him in the arms of your faith, how you embrace Him, how you hug Him, if I may so spaak!
How you cling to Him, and call Him yours in ties of blood!
You live as you behold Him die; as you behold Him on the cross of Calvary dying, the Just for such an unjust sinner as you know yourself to be, you live. And that is the life of the Christian. I want no other life.
“I am crucified with Christ,” says the apostle: “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
My soul has sometimes been humbled in the very dust before God as I have known the Father’s love in the gift of His Son, and the Son’s love in the gift of Himself.
“He loved me,” says the apostle, “and gave Himself for me.”
He is made sin. Have you by faith seen Him? Mark, no sin in Him; He
never sinned; but sins were laid upon Him as the scapegoat, as the Sin-bearer all iniquity was laid upon Him.
I was thinking only this day in secret before my God, of all the sins of my childhood, the sins of my youth, the sins of my manhood. Foul sins, guilty man as I feel myself to be, all my vile sins were upon Him. If there is one sin I ever committed, or one sin I shall ever live to commit, that was not upon the Lord Jesus Christ, I am a lost man, where God is I never shall be.
And so it concerns each one of you; and I hope the Lord will give you a real concern, each one, to know that your sins were laid upon the Lord Jesus Christ, that He did bear your sins in His own body on the accursed tree, that He put an end to them; and though you find that sin works in your members, yet it shall not have dominion over you; it shall never be your ruin. In other words, you shall never know penal wrath for sin, if your sin was laid upon Christ. He suffered that curse that the damned in hell will suffer through the countless ages of a never-ending eternity.
For millions of sinners He bowed His sacred head: He gave up the ghost.
“Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.” He said, “It is finished.” By God’s grace, try and meditate more and more upon this deep subject; that Jesus Christ was made sin, who knew no sin, that sin was imputed to Him.
“When I by faith my Maker see,” says one, “reduced to such wretchedness and misery to save such a vile sinner as I am, I’m lost in wonder, adoration, and praise.”
This is a deep subject, friends. That God the Father made His Son to be sin; that is, He charged this sin upon Him.
It is His by imputation, and He bears it.
What a load!
If any sins are so heavy, so great, what weight was that which He did bear in His own body, as Peter puts it, on the accursed tree (1 Peter 2:24)?
A weight that must have sunk a world to hell.
“He bore it for the chosen race,
And thus became their hiding-place.”
God will not payment twice demand, as one has put it,
“At my bleeding Surety’s hands,
And then again at mine.”
I had not known sin, had not the law said, “Thou shalt not covet.” Christ was made under the law; He fulfilled all its demands. He kept the law, every particle of that law He kept; fulfilled all its claims, met all its demands, magnified it, and made it honourable. Justice looks upon the sinner now, and cannot touch him; it smiles upon him, so to speak.
His sins are removed; Christ has borne them, taken them away. The iniquity of that land is removed in one day.
And yet you find this; that those who are interested in this, know what it is from time to time to groan, being burdened with a body of sin and death. Some might say,
“If sin is removed; if Christ has put it away, then I shall not know anything about it.” If Christ has put away your sin by His one offering, if your sins were laid upon Him, you are the very person who will know something about it; you are the very one who will know in some measure what sin is and what sin has done.
I have sometimes said to sin, looked at it, so to speak, and have said,
“Faith relieves me of thy guilt,
But I think whose blood was spilt;
All I hear, or feel, or see,
Serves to raise my hate to thee.”
I hate it, I hate that sin that made my Saviour suffer: I hate that sin that pierced my Redeemer.
Can you love sin?
Then you have no reason to hope that the Lord Jesus Christ was made sin for you.
I must be faithful in the discharge of my ministry. God help me in my declining days to be more faithful than I have ever been, more solemn. I say it again; unless you come to know what it is to hate sin, and groan because sin dwells in your members, your sins were never laid upon Christ, He did not bear your sins in His body on the accursed tree.
The godly man hates sin; the believer would live without sin; the believer would not have a sinful thought, a sinful desire; not one. He would be as holy as God is holy, and it grieves him because he cannot live without sin.
God is holy, and cannot look upon sin with any allowance: can you?
What reason have you to believe that He put away your sin, if you love it?
And yet it cleaves to you, and this makes you groan before God; and it is only as you are led to know something of the mystery of iniquity that you are led to know the mystery of Christ. And this is the mystery which is preached among the Gentiles: “Christ in you, the Hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
And Christ being in the believer the Hope of glory, he would live a life of faith. In
that dear Christ, and he would by God’s grace be kept from sinning against Him; and yet does it not come to this again and again, again and again, again and again,
“From sins immense as is the sea,
Hide me, O Gethsemane!”
And there is nowhere else a sinner can hide but in sweet, dark, gloomy Gethsemane: there the believer may hide.
“He hath made Him” that is, God the Father hath made His eternal Son, who vailed His Deity in human flesh, and tabernacled among men “made Him to be sin, who knew no sin.” Here is the transfer. Here the sins are
taken so to speak from the church, from the believer, and placed upon the sacred head of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be dealt with as though He were a sinner.
And I have sometimes thought this: why did God hide His face from Him?
Was it not in that moment when He was bearing our sins in His own body on the tree?
As He is on that accursed tree, with all the sins of the whole election of grace upon Him, the Father hides His face, and He cries, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Would you know what it is to have fellowship with Him in His sufferings?
You would. I repeat it, you would, if by His grace you have been brought to know that He was made sin for you. I can say, and I hope you can, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection; and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death “ (Philippians 3:10).
Why was Christ made sin?
He was made sin “for us,” for the church.
O blessed gospel!
O glorious truth!
Here is something, believer, for your comfort and for your consolation, may I say?
strong meat, such as my soul loveth, and the souls of God’s people love.
“That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
Last night I was thinking of what Job said to one Bildad, who was his miserable comforter. “I know it is so of a truth” (that God is just); He is just in His ways, He is just
in His dealings I know it, I am satisfied of it, I am persuaded
of it; “but how should man be just with God?”
Mortal man, sinful man, rebel man, that man who has sinned against God, that man who has turned his back upon God, how shall this vile man, this guilty man, this polluted man, this unjust man, be just with God? You have it in the words of our text: “That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
Mark this: the church was in Him from all eternity, one with Him. I can honestly say this is the desire of my soul; to know if I am one with Christ,
“By eternal union one.”
In Him before I sinned in Adam, in Him before He created the world, in Him when I fell in Adam, in Him before I was born; in Him, ever in Him. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High.”
“Who of God is made unto us,” that is, to all who are in Him, “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
“That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
O, think of it, friends. Here is a sinner, a polluted man, a man without righteousness, a man whose righteousnesses are as filthy rags; a guilty, vile, polluted sinner, one mass of sin, one mass of corruption.
Is it not so in soul feeling from time to time?
O the mystery of this doctrine!
“That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
“This is His name whereby He shall be called: The Lord our Righteousness.”
I have no righteousness of my own, all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags. I have to confess it before the Lord again and again, as a good many of you do. And yet the Lord Jesus Christ’s obedience is mine by imputation; my Righteousness is in heaven. 0, I sometimes lift up my eyes to heaven, and I say, “My Righteousness is in heaven.” Jesus is my Righteousness.
“A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing,
Nor fear with Thy righteousness on,
My person and offering to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.”
I am black, but comely; I am ruined in Adam, I am saved in Christ; I have no righteousness of my own, Christ is my Righteousness.
“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds in these array’d,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”
God looks upon all whose sins were charged upon Christ as being righteous in Him; He looks upon Christ as their Righteousness; and He deals with them as righteous men, as godly men.
“O, look upon me,” we sometimes say who fear the Lord, “and deal with me as Thou art well pleased with Thy dear Son.”
“O God our Shield, look upon the face of Thine Anointed; look upon me in Jesus.”
And so you come before the Father in the Person of His dear Son, and plead what He has done, plead His merits; you plead the atonement, you plead Him as your Righteousness, and here you make your boast: that the Lord Jesus Christ is your Righteousness, and you stand complete in Him, spotless in Him, without blemish in Him.
O the mystery of Christ!
O the mystery of this blessed, glorious doctrine, the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ!
I love this doctrine.
O believe this, friends; it is precious indeed to those who are partakers of grace, as the Lord leads them by His blessed Spirit into the discovery of this blessed truth. May He favour us with a more abundant entrance into the kingdom of His grace, and make us ready for that vast, boundless, never-ending eternity which is before us.
“That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,” in the Lord Jesus Christ; and so the prophet Isaiah says, “Surely, shall one say,” may that one be I, may that one be you, my dear hearer! may it be ours to say by God’s grace “in the Lord have I righteousness and strength” (Isaiah 45:24).
I have no other righteousness, do not want any other; a better there cannot be. No other righteousness will do: this will do. O to know these things! to have a gracious experience in this very portion of God’s Word which I have been trying in my feeble way to lay before you!
That our sins were placed upon Him: that our breaches of the law are His; every sin we have committed is His; all His righteousness is ours, all His innocence is ours.
O precious Jesus! precious Saviour!
I long sometimes to take Him as Simeon took Him into his natural arms; to take Him into the arms of my faith, and say, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”
May the Lord command His blessing.
A sermon by Mr H. Haddow, At Tamworth Road Chapel, Croydon, 1916.