2 Corinthians 5:21

Sermon preached on April 3, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A couple of years ago there was a news story about one of the best players in the National Hockey League—Claude Giroux. The article was about how he wasn't allowed to play in the Sochi Winter Olympics. The problem was that he was a Canadian and, although he was one of the best players in the world, he wasn't good enough to make the Canadian Olympic team. On ability, he could earn a sport on most other teams. But since he's only a Canadian citizen, he can't play for another team. The Olympic rules requires athletes to be a citizen of the country they represent. He can't play for any other country. He's not qualified.

In order to race in the Tour de France, you have to be a member of one of the teams that is invited to the Tour by the race organization. They only have room for so many teams and not every team that applies is invited. Not only that, but according to the rules, you aren't allowed to use illegal performance enhancing drugs. In the past some riders have ignored that. But if they're found to be using such drugs they are banned from the sport for a year or two and perhaps even stripped of past victories. The reason for losing the past titles is because they weren't qualified. Their illegal drug use disqualified them. They shouldn't have been allowed to race.

In order to become a Navy seal you have to pass certain tests. Some of them are physical but there are others—one of them being your age. Applicants have to be between 17 and 28 years old. For certain highly qualified applicants they will extend the limit to 30 years of age. But people over 30 need not apply.

Was anyone qualified to save fallen human beings? There were many qualifications for the one that was going to save us. Could anyone meet those qualifications? The qualifications were incredible and the work difficult. One of them was that He had to be man. He had to be one with us.

He also had to be sinless.

He had to have no sin. He had to be able to defeat the curse of sin and rise from the dead. Only Jesus could do it. Our text says, (2 Corinthians 5:21)

"God made him
who had no sin
to be sin for us,"

Our Savior was sinless. He had no sin. This was one of the qualifications for the salvation of men. God's justice demands that sin be punished. We're sinners and our sin, had to be paid for. Only one who was sinless could take our place.

Our Savior Jesus is absolutely incredible. One of the things we should realize about Him is that He was qualified in every way to save us. He is a perfect Savior. He was God and had the authority of the triune God to save us. He was truly human and so could take die in our stead, as One of us. He was also without sin, so that our sins could be transferred to His account and He could pay the price that was due to them. He was qualified in every way to be our Savior. One of the passages that tells us this is Hebrews 7:26-27. It speaks about Jesus as a priest and sacrifice and says,

"Such a high priest meets our need—
one who is holy, blameless, pure,
set apart from sinners,
exalted above the heavens.
Unlike the other high priests, he does
not need to offer sacrifices
day after day, first for his own sins,
and then for the sins of the people.
He sacrificed for their sins
once for all when he offered himself."

Jesus, was holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners—therefore He meets our need. He was able to offer Himself in our place, for our sins.

If Jesus been a sinner, He would not have been able to save us. That's why the devil targeted Him and tempted Him—tried so hard to get Him to sin. But because He was righteous He could save us. 1 Peter 3:18 says,

"For Christ died for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
to bring you to God."

D. Edmond Hieber says of Jesus, (1 Peter, p. 222)

"His sinlessness qualified Him to act for… 'as the substitute for' those who failed to conform to the divine standard of right… 'The one Man, whose perfect righteousness meant that He never deserved to die, endured the pains of death on behalf of those who deserved to die."

Philip E. Hughes adds, (2 Corinthians, p. 213)

"Only He who had completely and uninterruptedly obeyed the law of God was fitted to suffer the punishment due to those who have willfully disobeyed the law. Only He who was entirely without sin of His own was free to bear the sin of others. And only God-become-Man could achieve this unblemished victory over Satan and death for our fallen and rebellious race. Such a Mediator was absolutely essential for our reconciliation to God. None other could suffer for our sins, 'the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God'…"

The Bible repeatedly points to the sinlessness of Jesus. Even the Old Testament pointed to the perfection of the Messiah in a number of places. We see it often in Leviticus. In 1:3 we read about offerings to the Lord.

"If the offering is a burnt offering
from the herd, he is to offer
a male without defect."

Leviticus 22:21 says,

"When anyone brings from the herd
or flock a fellowship offering
to the LORD to fulfill a special vow
or as a freewill offering, it must be
without defect or blemish
to be acceptable."

Numbers 19:2 is another example,

"This is a requirement of the law
that the LORD has commanded:
Tell the Israelites
to bring you a red heifer
without defect or blemish and
that has never been under a yoke."

Those passages showed that the animals that were to be sacrificed had to be without defect or blemish. They were pointing to the fact that the coming Messiah, the One who would finally and decisively deal with sin— would Himself be without sin.

But in the New Testament this theme comes to the fore. Our text asserts it.

"God made him
who had no sin
to be sin for us,"

There are many passages that assert the sinlessness of Jesus. Hebrews 4:15 says,

"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."

In 1 Peter 1:19 Jesus is described as,

"a lamb without blemish or defect."

And a few verses later Peter wrote, (1 Peter 2:22)

"He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth."

1 John 3:5 says about Jesus,

"But you know that he appeared
so that he might take away our sins.
And in him is no sin."

Jesus Himself declared that He was sinless. In John 8:46 He issued a challenge to His opponents. He said,

"Can any of you prove me
guilty of sin?"

When He was condemned, what did Pilate say about Him? (Luke 23:4)

"I find no basis for a charge
against this man."

Pilate declared that He was innocent.

Two of those who witnessed his dying, the criminal crucified with him and the centurion standing beside the cross—testified to his blamelessness. One of the criminals said to the other, (Luke 23:41)

"We are punished justly,
for we are getting what our deeds deserve.
But this man has done nothing wrong."

Right after Jesus died, Mark tells us, (Mark 15:39)

"And when the centurion,
who stood there in front of Jesus,
heard his cry and saw
how he died, he said,
'Surely this man was the Son of God!'"

If Jesus had been a sinner He Himself would have been under the curse and He would have been unable to undergo the punishment that we deserved. 1 Peter 1:18–20 tells us,

"For you know that it was not with
perishable things such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed from
the empty way of life handed down
to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ,
a lamb without blemish or defect.
He was chosen before the creation
of the world,
but was revealed in these
last times for your sake."

Why was the blood of Jesus precious? One of the reasons was because it was the blood of someone who was sinless. His blood was shed even though He Himself was perfectly sinless. That made it extremely precious. It's the only blood that can save us. His was the only death that could save us. It was precious blood because it was the blood of Him who never sinned. Jesus was without sin.

Donald Macleod says of the phrase "God made Him sin", (Christ Crucified, p. 155)

"Any exegesis of this statement requires one instant disavowal. Christ was not made 'sinful', a point which Paul carefully safeguards when he speaks of him as the one who 'knew' no sin. He never committed sin, he never confessed it and he never inherited it. Instead, the human nature he took was perfectly holy from its very inception. He had no affinity with sin and bore not the slightest taint of corruption."

The second important thing in our text that shows that Jesus was without sin was the fact that

God made Him sin.

In the passage I just quoted from 1 Peter it stated that Jesus was chosen,

"before the creation of the world."

What happened in Gethsemane and at Calvary was planned long ago in the counsels of eternity. Donald MacLeod writes, (Christ Crucified, p. 156)

"But it is here, too, that the divine paradox climaxes: it was God who made Christ 'sin'. This is the most challenging of all the biblical statements portraying God the Father as not a mere spectator at Calvary, but as the key participant. Here is the ultimate expression of God not sparing his Son. God treated him as the sin of the world deserved to be treated."

This shows us that Christ's work has the full authority of the triune God.

What faith you can have in Christ's work! His work on the cross is the work of the Triune God. You can have absolutely confidence in the work of Jesus on your behalf. Your sins have been dealt with decisively and completely.

But even more than that, the fact that God made Jesus sin for us shows us the incredible love of God for us. How could the Father make His beloved Son sin for us? How could He give Him up for us? Such love is incredible. It's mind boggling. It staggers our understanding. How could God love us like that?

Who made Jesus sin in our place? We could say it was God the Father and that would be true. We could include the Holy Spirit and that would be true. But we should note that it says God, and it means that the triune God was involved—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Donald Macleod writes, (Christ Crucified, p. 95-96)

"Christ takes our place voluntarily, and behind this lies the fact, already noted, that he came into the world in accordance with a plan of salvation agreed from eternity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Christ, as the divine Son, was a full party to this agreement, not as an inferior or junior, but as an equal. He did not become mediator by a sovereign divine decree, or by the imperious command of a divine superior. Instead, prompted by love for the world he assumed, voluntarily, the role of mediator; and prompted by the same love the Father agrees to send him and the Holy Spirit to anoint him. It is by this covenant that Christ is united to his people. With his own loving consent he becomes their head, their representative, their surety and their substitute; and by entering into this union he undertakes not only to act on their behalf but to contract their debts and to assume their liabilities. From this point of view, the road to Calvary began in eternity, when the divine Son volunteered, 'Here am I! Send me!' There was surely nothing immoral here. The Son of God had a right to love this way, and the triune God had a right to save this way."

This means that you should never, no matter what happens to you, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in—you should never doubt God's love for you. How could you. The Father made Jesus sin for you—because of you. You should never doubt.

Donald MacLeod says of our text and the surrounding verses, (Christ Crucified, p. 154)

"The first thing that stands out here is the emphasis on the divine initiative. It pervades the whole context: 'all this is from God' (v. 18). He it is who makes us new creatures (v. 17); he it is who reconciled us to himself; he it is who gave us the ministry of reconciliation; he it is who does not count our sins against us; he it is who makes his appeal through the apostles; and he it is who made Christ 'sin' for us. All this brings out with overwhelming force that it is the offended, not the offender, who not only takes the first step, but carries the whole process through to its conclusion. But, then, this simply underlines what we have already noted so often: the love of God is the source of the atonement, not its intended outcome. He does not wait for the offender to take the first, apologetic step. Instead, he is the one determined to do all that has to be done to heal the broken relationship. And not only does he take the initiative, delegating the work to Christ and then standing back, but he was actively involved throughout…"

Our sins were imputed to Jesus. They were put on his account. Macleod continues, (CC, p. 155)

"Christ's being made sin means the imputation of our sins to him."

This concept of imputation is mysterious. How could Jesus be 'made sin' for us.

The best way I can offer is to think of it like a person's rap sheet. Rap sheets vary from country to country but in our country they include all arrests. You can be arrested for something, charged, tried and found innocent—but that arrest stays on your rap sheet. You can be arrested, but before you're charged with the crime, the police find that someone else committed the crime, they will release you and arrest the person who committed the crime. He's then charged and convicted. But even though you were never charged, even though they found out that you were innocent, that arrest remains on your rap sheet. Your rap sheet, if you have one is very personal. It relates to you and you alone. But it can contain things that you never actually did. You're actually innocent of those things—you never did them—but they're on your rap sheet.

That's that way it was with Jesus. He never did anything wrong—but our sins were put on His account. Donald Macleod writes of Jesus being 'made sin', (Christ Crucified, p. 155)

"He took responsibility for it, was identified with it, charged with it and paid for it. He endured its curse (Gal. 3:13), being banished to a place where he could not see God walk or hear God talk. What sin deserved, Christ suffered; and all he suffered was because of sin. Yet, once again, we confront the paradox: it was not for his own sin, but 'for us'."

Questions about the rightness of substitution have been raised—but since it was decided by the most wise, most holy, most righteous God in the counsels of eternity, who has a right to object? Rather than object, we ought to be rejoicing in it. Jesus is perfectly suited to meet our needs, perfectly suited to save us. In Him we have complete, full and free salvation. What a Savior!

This has tremendous implications for us.

First of all, that fact that Jesus had no sin

means that Jesus was perfectly suited to die for our sins and He actually paid for them.

It means that He could save us. Jesus did what no one else could do.

Revelation 5 shows us the problem and the solution. John sees a scroll in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. That scroll, in part, represented the fulfillment of God's plan of salvation for human beings. What was needed was someone to take the scroll and break the seals. We read, (Revelation 5:2–10)

"And I saw a mighty angel
proclaiming in a loud voice,
'Who is worthy to break the seals
and open the scroll?'
But no one in heaven or on earth or
under the earth could open the scroll
or even look inside it.
I wept and wept because no one
was found who was worthy
to open the scroll or look inside.
Then one of the elders said to me,
'Do not weep!
See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David, has triumphed.
He is able to open the scroll
and its seven seals.'
Then I saw a Lamb,
looking as if it had been slain,
standing in the center of the throne,
encircled by the four living creatures
and the elders.
He had seven horns and seven eyes,
which are the seven spirits of God
sent out into all the earth.
He came and took the scroll
from the right hand of him
who sat on the throne.
And when he had taken it,
the four living creatures
and the twenty-four elders
fell down before the Lamb.
Each one had a harp and they were
holding golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.
And they sang a new song:
'You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men
for God from every tribe and language
and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom
and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.' "

Only One could save us—the God-Man, the one who was without sin. He died in our place.

How you should trust Jesus. Your faith should be focused completely and only on Him, on His work for you.

Secondly it means that

our sins have been paid for, they have been washed away.

When Jesus suffered and died on the cross He paid for the curse of sin for His people. He died in our place. He satisfied the curse that was due to our sins. We are forever free from that curse. Psalm 103 tells us that God has removed your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. Micah 7:19 tells us that God has trampled our sins underfoot and hurled them into the depths of the sea. They are gone, never more to return.

Donald MacLeod writes of God and the ones that Jesus died for. (Christ Crucified, p. 156)

"He cannot count their sins against them because these sins are theirs no more. The debts have been paid in full, or, to revert to the imagery of Genesis 3, as the risen Christ approaches Eden the flaming sword cannot touch him or the divine holiness rebuff him. There is shalom because there is righteousness. And when we approach, we, too, have safe conduct. The flaming sword cannot touch us because we are 'in him'. Now the sword, once so threatening, is our defense, poised to strike any accuser who dares to defy God's word: 'There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus' (Rom. 8:1)."

What love the Triune God has for sinners! What provision they made for our salvation. What planning! What execution" What result! Was anything left out? No. All was accomplished. The curse is done away with. Justice is satisfied. As we read in Galatians 3:13,

"Christ redeemed us from
the curse of the law by
becoming a curse for us…"

What a Savior!