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2 Corinthians 5:21; The Theology of Reconciliation

02/24_2 Corinthians 5:21; The Theology of Reconciliation; Ambassadors of Reconciliation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190224_2cor5_21.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We have been looking at Paul’s magnificent passage on reconciliation at the end of 2 Corinthians 5. Today we are going to unpack the rich, beautiful statement of verse 21 on the theology underlying reconciliation. This might be the most concise statement of the gospel; a mere 15 words in the original Greek, it packs the powerful life altering truth of the foundation of reconciliation, God’s reconciling us to himself; how he can in fact not count the sins of sinners against them, how salvation works, and the beauty of imputed righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Practical Theology

This verse is a dense theological statement. Some of you might be thinking ‘oh… theology [yawn] I was hoping for something practical.’ To you I want to say that theology; all theology is practical! Good theology, right theology, a right understanding of God and salvation is eminently practical. This passage shows us how. Verse 14 tells us that ‘the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this’ and he goes on to unpack a specific understanding of the expression of the love of Christ for us. He tells us that we are shaped by it; it affects the way we live, it affects everything! It changes our desires; verse 15, what we believe about Christs death causes us to want to live no longer for ourselves, but for him. If you don’t find yourself moved, compelled to live for Jesus, it probably means you are believing some bad theology.

And theology leads to doxology – to worship; when we learn great truths about God our hearts naturally well up in worship to God. Good theology also leads to life transformation. This passage spells that out. When we begin to understand the extent of Christ’s love for us, that he died for us, and all that that means, we live differently; we want to live for him.

We will just walk through this verse phrase by phrase. As we do, let this truth soak in to your heart and stagger your imagination and amaze you. Allow it to fill you with worship toward this all glorious God who would go to such an extent to rescue you!

Here’s a very literal translation of the Greek (we will work through this one phrase at a time);

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν

[the one not having known sin]

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν,

[on behalf of us sin he made]

ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.

[in order that we become righteousness of God in him]

The Sinless Son

The first phrase is literally ‘the one not having known sin’ [τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν]. Notice, the verse doesn’t start with us; it starts with Jesus. It’s not all about us. If we start with us, thinking we are at the center, we end up in the wrong place, and we end up with bad theology. It’s never all about us.

Jesus knew no sin. As God from all eternity, the Son had never sinned. At the incarnation he took a human body; he became human. Romans 8:3 tells us that God sent “his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin.” Jesus came not in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. He became human, but he did not become a sinner. As Hebrews tells us, as a man, he “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb.4:15). In every respect. Are you tempted by sin? Jesus was tempted in every respect, yet without sin. Jesus never sinned. Not once. Not in thought, word or deed. Think of that for a moment. Not one selfish thought.

Not one sin of commission, and not one sin of omission. 1 Peter 2:22 tells us ‘he committed no sin’, and he also omitted no good he ought to have done; “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” he said in John 8:29. No failure to do what he ought to have done. Ever.

He was affirmed to have no sin by his own enemies. In Matthew 26 “the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward” (59-60). Tried before the governor Pilate, three times he publicly declared “I find no guilt in him” (Jn.18:38; 19:4, 6).

If you were running for public office, do you think someone could dredge up something against you? Jesus even invited his enemies to find fault; “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (Jn.8:46); “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” (Jn.10:32).

Maybe you have lived a pretty clean life, and you really can’t think of anything serious anyone could accuse you of. But is there anything the all-seeing all knowing God could accuse you of?

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Twice, Jesus received the audible testimony from his Father once at the beginning and again toward the end of his public ministry; “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt.3:17; 17:5).

Another way of saying this is that he was righteous. Perfectly righteous. Not only did he avoid a misstep, avoid doing what was wrong, he always did what was right, what was best in every situation. 1 John 3:5 “in him there is no sin.” He knew no sin.

In Our Place

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν

[the one not having known sin]

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν,

[on behalf of us sin he made]

We already saw this rich word ‘for’; on behalf of, in place of, three times back in verses 14 and 15; one in place of all died. Jesus died for us. In Romans 5,

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus died for sinners, for the ungodly. The sense is that ungodly sinners deserve to die, and he died for us – in our place. Peter says:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for [concerning – περὶ] sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…

Here the idea of substitution is made clear; Christ was executed, put to death, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. He, the righteous one, was executed for the unrighteous, in the place of the unrighteous.

This is the sense of ‘for’ in our verse. ‘For us he made him to be sin.’

Made Sin

What does this mean: ‘He made him to be sin?’ He made the one who knew no sin to be sin for us? Jesus, the sinless one, made sin? ‘He made‘ is the active verb in the sentence;. The Father made sinless Jesus to be sin. It is important to be careful to see what it does not say; it does not say that he was made sinful; Jesus was not made sinful. It does not say he was made a sinner; Jesus was not a sinner; he never sinned. It says he was made sin; he was made the embodiment of sin; Jesus was made to be sin personified. What does it mean that the Father made Jesus to be sin? We find language that expresses this in Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

YHWH has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows. The Father placed my sin on Jesus, and Jesus was pierced for my transgressions, he was crushed for my iniquities, the chastisement that brought reconciliation and peace to me fell on him.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; …

The burden of my sin was placed on Jesus. The guilt of my sin and shame was counted by the Father as transferred to Jesus and belonging to Jesus. He owned my sin. He took my name.

This is how in verse 19 he could say that he was not counting the sins of sinners against them. “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Rom.4:8). We are blessed because he was cursed; he became a curse for us (Gal.3:13).

God can no longer count my sins against me because he counted it against Jesus. For me he made him to be sin. This is how salvation works. This is how God can be just and justify the ungodly (Rom.3:23-24, 26; 4:5). The Father made Jesus to be sin, my sin. My price was paid in full; it is finished. I will never be held responsible for those sins; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed my transgressions from me (Ps.103:12). How? By placing them on Jesus.

That We Become Righteousness of God

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν

[the one not having known sin]

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν,

[on behalf of us sin he made]

ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.

[in order that we become righteousness of God in him]

Here we get to the purpose; in order that we become the righteousness of God. The Father made Jesus to be sin in my place so that in him I am caused to be the righteousness of God. This is the other side; God no longer counts my sin against me because he counted it as Christ’s. God now counts me as righteous because he counts Christ’s righteousness as mine. This is known as double imputation; imputing or crediting my sin to Christ, and his righteousness to me. Just as Jesus was made sin in that sin not his own was counted against him, so I am made righteous in that a righteousness not my own is counted as mine.

This is what Paul says in Philippians 3: Paul claimed to have his own flawless righteousness under the law, but he counted that trash in order to

Philippians 3:9 …be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Paul was eager to trade in his own works righteousness for the righteousness that comes from God, that is counted to those who are in Christ.

The gospel in Romans 1 reveals the righteousness of God. In Romans 3, Paul spells out

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

In Romans 4, God counts righteousness to sinners apart from works.

In Romans 9, Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness attained it by faith, while in 10 Jews

Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

The righteousness that God requires is his own perfect righteousness, the very righteousness of Jesus Christ, credited to our account. If we seek to establish our own righteousness, we fall short.

2 Corinthians 5:21 [the Father] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin in our place, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

In Him

This double imputation comes only to those who are in him through faith. This connects back with verses 14-17; we have been identified with him in his death; he took my name and died my death; the sinful me is dead. I am now alive in him, clothed in his righteousness. I stand under his name. If anyone is in Christ, new creation! In Christ we are made into the righteousness of God; God has made all things new!

Conclusion:

This is bedrock foundational theology, and it is so practical! Let this truth wake you up in the morning and encourage your heart throughout your day and allow you to lay down at night in peace and sleep. Let this truth make your heart sing. Let the riches of this reality of Christ’s love for you compel you no longer to live for yourself, but for him who for you died and lives again.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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February 26, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment