(Article for publication week of 9-12-2012 AD)
“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” (II Corinthians 5:21).
Our text this week tells us that believers in Christ are justified by a great work of substitution. Christ is the Substitute for His elect people.
Let us begin by being sure we understand the use of the pronouns in our text. “He (God the Father) hath made Him (God the Son) to be sin for us (believers in Christ), Who (Christ the Son) knew no sin; that we (God’s elect) might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Christ).” God has made His Dear Son to be sin for His elect people (that is all those who are graced by God to believe in Christ). Christ is the believer’s Substitute.
Now I want you to see that there is no way this could be true except for imputation. The Lord Jesus Christ was made sin by imputation. He Himself was personally and actually without sin. He was holy, harmless, and undefiled and separate from sinners (Hebrews 7:26). There was no deceit in His mouth, and He never did any violence (Isaiah 53:9). No man could convince Him of sin (John 8:46). Our Lord was impeccable, and to even suggest that He could have sinned is the blackest of blasphemies. Our text proclaims that Christ was made to be sin, because all the sins of all His elect people were imputed to Him. That is, God the Father by a judicial act, reckoned His Son as a sinner, because He willingly and gladly agreed to be a Surety and Substitute for His people. I repeat for emphasis, there is no way this could be true except by imputation. Works- mongers who deny imputation would have to twist this text to say that Christ was actually a sinner Himself, again a most vile blasphemy. Imputation is required for Christ to be sinless Himself, and yet be made sin for His people. Our text today is absolute proof of the wholesome Protestant doctrine of imputation. Those who deny imputation deny the very gospel, and it is most questionable if they are Christians (God knoweth infallibly, not us). I am trying to stress how important the doctrine of imputation is to our understanding of the gospel. Imputation must be made clear, and cannot be emphasized too strongly.
Our text says that all the sins of all God’s people were transferred to Christ. And so He was made to be sin. God the Father treated His Son as sinners should be treated, that is He poured out His wrath upon Him! He was just Himself, but He suffered for the unjust, because our sins were counted as His! Oh! My soul behold and wonder! God is determined to punish sin, and He will either punish the sinner, or He will punish the sinner’s Substitute.
Since Christ took our sins as His Own, and truly suffered for them, we (that is believers in Christ) are made the righteousness of God. God by a judicial act regards us in right relation to His law because Christ has fully atoned for all our sins. Note well, it is by imputation that we are made the righteousness of God, for none of us are actually and personally righteous in and of ourselves. God justifies the “ungodly” (Romans 4:5). The believer is not actually righteous any more than Christ is actually a sinner. We are made the righteousness of God because God imputed our sins to Christ, and imputed His righteousness to us. That is the greatest transfer that has ever been!