************ Sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 14, 2009
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
2 Corinthians 5:21
"The Great Exchange"
My sermon title this morning is "The Great Exchange." I googled the title and was surprised by everything that showed up on the internet: the New York Stock Exchange; the Antwerp Diamond Exchange; the Interstate 110/105 freeway exchange in Texas; the Great Exchange book stores in San Antonio, Texas; the Great Exchange online classified website.
But none of these are the exchange I am talking about on this Lord's Supper Sunday. Rather, I am telling you about the exchange that lies at the heart of the Gospel. Listen to the text again:
(2Cor 5:21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Note that three persons are mentioned: God, Christ, sinner. Before we can look at the great exchange, we need to look at and understand something of the three persons.
I Three Persons
A The first person that we meet is God, the Father. He is the God revealed in Scripture. In other words, He is the God of heaven and earth; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Creator, Provider, and Preserver; the God of all grace. He is not the God many try to make Him be: weak, ineffectual, tolerant of sin and evil, all love and no justice. He is not a god we can fashion after our own thoughts.
The God of Scripture has three great attributes that we find implied in our text.
First, He is sovereign. Absolutely sovereign. How does God show His sovereignty? Our text says, God "made" Christ to be sin. That was God's decision, God's act, God's will. He is a God Who has the authority and power to do whatever He wants to do. No one is higher than Him. No rule is over His. He answers to no one; instead, all things in heaven and on earth and under the earth answer to Him. As the Apostle Paul writes,
(Rom 9:20-21) But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" (21) Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?He is Sovereign!
Second, God is just. Where do we find that in our text? From beginning to end, our text deals with satisfying the justice of God. God's justice makes one demand – namely, sin needs to be punished. His justice is inflexible and unchanging. Regardless of the time, circumstances, or people, His justice must be satisfied. Furthermore, His justice is not for sale. He cannot be bought. He cannot be bribed. God does not wink at our sins, or overlook our sins, or merely give sinners a slap on the wrist. His justice is not pacified with a few good words or prayers. Nor can the superstitious rites of man make payment. Don't forget, He is just and sovereign; so, He is not so weak that He is unable to punish sin. He is just.
Third, God is gracious. Where do we find that in our text? It is God's grace that made Christ to be sin for us. Some find here a contradiction with God's justice. But that is not at all the case. In His justice, God is gracious. In His grace, God maintains justice.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday, it is this God that we worship and praise – a God of power, a God of justice, a God of grace. It is this God Who "made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor 5:21).
B The second person that we meet is Jesus. He, as you know is the eternal Son of God: begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father, co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent. But, He was also born of the virgin Mary, a man like ourselves in every way except for sin. A man of suffering and woe, of pain and trouble, of anxiety and fear, of trouble and doubt, of temptation and trial, of weakness and death.
Our text makes clear to us that Christ "had no sin" (2 Cor 5:21). Because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, He did not inherit the guilt or pollution of original sin. Unlike us, He was sinless and pure from conception on. Not only that, but after His birth He kept Himself sinless and pure. He did not fall into temptation. He did not allow the evil that surrounds us all to enter into His heart and life.
Let us not make the mistake, though, of thinking that Jesus' sinlessness was easy and automatic, that it came without a struggle. The writer to the Hebrews says,
(Heb 4:15) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin.He faced the same temptations we do. He had the same struggles we have. Yet, He did not sin!
Not only that, but Christ was also tempted to avoid the suffering and death of the cross. Scripture mentions at least three instances when Christ faced this specific temptation. The first time is when Satan tempted Jesus after the forty days of fasting in the wilderness. If He followed Satan, Jesus could receive His crown without going the way of the cross. At that time Jesus said, "Away from me, Satan!" (Mt 4:10). The second time is when Jesus announced to the disciples His coming suffering and death. Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him and said, "Never Lord! This shall never happen to you!" (Mt 16:22). Again Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan!" (Mt 16:23). The third time is in the Garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus recognized that "the spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (Mt 26:41). Again He struggled with following the way of the cross. And again He was obedient. He said to the Father, "Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mk 14:36).
No matter what the temptation, no matter what the struggle, Christ remained without sin. He remained sinless and perfect. As our text puts it, He "had no sin" (2 Cor 5:21).
Jesus had no sin. This means that, unlike us sinners, He perfectly reflects the image of God:
(Heb 1:3) The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being ... (cf 2 Cor 4:4)
(Col 1:15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Jesus had no sin. This means that, unlike us sinners, He was not under the dominion of sin and death. Remember Adam and Eve in the Garden. They were told not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, "for when you eat of it you will surely die" (Gen 2:17). Well, man ate. Since then every person has come under the dominion of sin and death. But not Christ.
Jesus had no sin. This means that, unlike us sinners, He had no guilt. Unlike us, He had no need for confession. Unlike us, he had no sin to repent of. Unlike us, He had no need for sin offerings or guilt offerings. Unlike us, He had no need for a Savior.
Jesus had no sin. This means that, unlike us sinners, He was not in the grip of sin and Satan. Many of us have experienced the painful grip of sin in our life. Like a smoker addicted to his tobacco, or an alcoholic enslaved to his drink, or a druggie hooked on his drugs, we sinners are in bondage to sin and Satan. But not Jesus.
Jesus had no sin.
C The third person that we meet is the sinner. Where is he in our text? Paul says "we." Who is the sinner? The drunkard, the drug addict, the adulterer, the liar, the thief, the blasphemer, the idolater, the coveter, the murderer, the gay and lesbian. Who is the sinner? Look in the mirror – there you will also find him and her. Who is the sinner? Everyone who has broken a single commandment of God! Everyone who has kept the whole law of God except for one small point! Everyone who fails to love God above all and their neighbor as themself. Who is the sinner? You and me.
II The Great Exchange
A You have met the three persons of our text. Now, on this Lord's Supper Sunday, let me tell you about the great exchange that takes place.
Imagine a court-room. God, the Father, is the judge. You, the sinner, is the defendant.
The divine Judge delivers the verdict: GUILTY. You can't escape by pleading "Not Guilty!" You can't claim the evidence is wrong. You can try to escape, but there is no escape.
Now God has a problem. He is just – so you must be punished. He is merciful – so He wants to save you. What can He do?
It is at this point that Christ enters the picture. It is at this point that the great exchange takes place. Christ says, "Treat me as if I were the sinner. Treat the sinner as if he were me." Christ stands in the sinner's place. The sinner stands in Christ's place.
B How does our text put this? "God made him who had no sin to be sin" (2 Cor 5:21). Our sin was transferred to Christ. Think about this.
Jesus was made to be sin. This means that He was treated as if He had He had defaced the image of God.
Jesus was made to be sin. This means that He was treated as if He was under the dominion of sin and death.
Jesus was made to be sin. This means that He was treated as if He was guilty.
Jesus was made to be sin. This means that He was treated as if He was in the grip of Satan.
Jesus was made to be sin. This means that God's wrath and anger against sin was placed upon Him.
C Jesus was made to be sin. He took the sinner's place. So, what happens to the sinner? "In him we ... become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). Christ's righteousness – His perfect righteousness – was transferred to us. Meaning what? Meaning it is as if I have never sinned nor been a sinner. Meaning it is as if I had been perfectly obedient. Meaning I am treated as if I am as righteous as Christ Himself – that is, perfectly righteous, without sin, without guilt, without shame.
This, my brothers and sisters, is the great exchange. Notice what God has done: He has satisfied His justice and His mercy. Sin is punished; yes it is; it is punished in Christ. Grace is shown; yet it is; it is given to the sinner.
Today, we celebrate the Lord's Supper. We see Christ's broken body. We see Christ's shed blood. We see Christ punished for our sins. We see ourselves clothed with Christ's righteousness. We see the great exchange.
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