Christ Made Sin
“For He has made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.I DARESAY I have preached from this text several times in your hearing. [See Sermons #141-142, Volume 3–SUBSTITUTION; #310, Volume 6–CHRIST–OUR SUBSTITUTE; #1124, Volume 19–GOD BESEECHING SINNERS BY HIS MINISTERS and #1910, Volume 32–THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL–Read/download all these sermons, free of charge, at http://www.spurgeongems.org.] If my life is spared, I hope topreach from it twice as many more! The Doctrine it teaches, like salt upon the table, must never be left out–or, like bread, which is the staff of life–it is proper at every meal.
See you here the foundation Truth of Christianity, the Rock on which our hopes are built! It is the only hope of a sinner, and the only true joy of the Christian–the great transaction, the great Substitution, the great lifting of sin from the sinner to the sinner’s Surety–the punishment of the Surety instead of the sinner–the pouring out of the vials of wrath which were due to the transgressor, upon the head of his Substitute! It is the most grand transaction which ever took place on earth! It is the most wonderful sight that even Hell ever beheld and the most stupendous marvel that Heaven, itself, ever executed–Jesus Christ, made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him!
You scarcely need that I should explain the words when the sense is so plain. A spotless Savior stands in the place of guilty sinners. God lays upon the spotless Savior, the sin of the guilty, so that He becomes, in the expressive language of the text, sin. Then He takes off from the innocent Savior His righteousness and puts that to the account of the once-guiltysinners, so that the sinners become righteousnessthe righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
Of this transaction I would have you think tonight. Think of it adoringly! Think of it lovingly! Think of it joyfully!
- When you look at the great Doctrine of Substitution, you especially who are concerned in it and can see your sins laid upon Christ, I want you to LOOK AT IT WITH DEVOUT ADORATION.
Lowly and reverently adore the Justice of God. God set His heart upon saving your souls, but He would not be unjust, even to indulge His favorite attribute of Mercy. He had purposed that you should be His–He had set His love upon you, unworthy as you are, before the foundation of the world! Yet to save you, He would not tarnish His Justice. He had said, “The soul that sins, it shall die,” and He would not recall the word because it was not too severe, but simply a just and righteous threat. Sooner than He would tarnish His Justice, He bound His only-begotten Son to the pillar and scourged and bruised Him! Sooner than sin should go unpunished, He put that sin upon Christ and punished Him–oh, how tremendously and with what terrific strokes! Christ can tell you, but probably if He did tell you, you could not understand all that God thinks about sin, for God hates it, loathes it and must and will punish it! And upon His Son He laid a tremendous, incomprehensible weight, till the griefs of the dying Redeemer utterly surpassed all our imagination or comprehension! Adore, then, the Justice of God, and think how you might have had to adore it, not at the foot of the Cross, but in the depths of Hell! O my Soul, if you had had your deserts, you would have been driven from the Presence of God! Instead of looking into those languid eyes which wept for you, you would have had to look into His face whose eyes are as a flame of fire! Instead of hearing Him say, “I have blotted out your sins,” you might have heard Him say, “Depart, you cursed one, into everlasting fire.” Will you not pay as much reverence to the Justice of God exhibited on the Cross as exhibited in Hell? Let your reverence be deeper! It will not be that of a slave, or even of a servant, but let it be quite as humble. Bow low, bless the Justice of God, marvel at its severity, adore its unlimited holiness, join with seraphs who surely at the foot of the Cross may sing, as well as before the Throne of God, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts.”
While you admire the Justice, also admire the Wisdom of God. We ought to adore God’s Wisdom in everything wesee in Creation. The physician with his scalpel should adore the Wisdom of God in the anatomical skill by which the human body is formed and fashioned. The traveler, as he passes through the wonders of Nature, should adore the Wisdom of God in the creation of the world, with its towering mountains and with its unknown depths. Every student of the works of God should account the universe as a temple in which the gorgeous outline does not excel the beauty and the holiness of all its fittings, for in the Temple everything speaks of Jehovah’s Glory. But, ah, at the foot of the Cross, Wisdom is concentrated–all its rays are concentrated there as with a magnifying glass. We see God there reconciling contrary attributes as they appear to us. We see God there “glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders,” and yet “forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” He smites as though He were cruel. He forgives as though He were not just. He is as generous in passing by sin as if He were not the Judge of all the earth. He is as severe to punish sin as if He were not the tender Father who can press the prodigal to His bosom. Here you see Love and Justice embrace each other in such a wondrous way that I ask you to imitate the seraphs who now that they see what they once desired to look into, veil their faces with their wings, adoring the only wise God!
Further, Beloved, when you have thus thought of His Justice and of His Wisdom, bow your head again in reverence as you contemplate the Grace of God. For what reason did God give His only-begotten Son to bleed instead of us? Wewere worms of insignificance, we were vipers of iniquity–if He saved us, were we worth the saving? We were such infamous traitors that if He doomed us to the eternal fire, we might have been terrible examples of His Wrath, but Heaven’s Darling bleeds that earth’s traitors may not bleed! Shout it! Shout it in Heaven and publish it in all the golden streets every hour of every glorious day, that such is the Grace of God, “that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
And here, while I ask you to adore, I feel inclined to close the sermon and to bow myself in silence before the Grace of God in Christ Jesus. “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us!” Behold it in the sweat of blood which stained Gethsemane! Behold it in the scourging which has made the name of Gabbatha a terror! Behold it in “the pains, and groans, and dying strife” of Calvary! Bow, did I say? Prostrate your spirits! Lift up your sweetest music, but let your soul feel the deepest abasement as you see this super abounding Grace of God in the Person of the Only-Begotten of the Father, making Him to be sin for us–He who knew no sin!
When you have thus thought of His Justice, His wisdom and His Grace, like a silver thread running through the whole, I want you once more to adore His Sovereignty. What Sovereignty is this, that angels who fell should have noRedeemer, but that man, insignificant man, being fallen, should find a Savior in Heaven’s Only-Begotten! See this Sovereignty, too, that this precious blood should come to some of us and not to others! Millions in this world have never heard of it. Tens of thousands who have heard of it, have rejected it. Yes, and in this little section of the world’s population encompassed now within these walls, how many there are who have had that precious blood preached in their hearing and presented to them with loving invitations, only to reject it and despise it? And if you and I have felt the power of it, and can see the blood cleansing us from sin, shall we not admire that discriminating, distinguishing Grace which has made us to differ? But the part of Sovereignty which astonishes me most is that God should have been pleased to make Him as our Substitute!
A great many persons rail at this plan of salvation, but if God has determined it, you and I ought to accept it with delight. “Behold,” says God, “I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious.” The Sovereignty of God has determined that no man can be saved except by the atoning Sacrifice of Christ. If any man would be clean, Jehovah declares that he must wash in the fountain which Jesus filled from His veins. If God should put away sin and accept the sinner, He declares that it should only be through that sinner putting his trust in the Sacrifice offered once and for all by the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross. Admire this Sovereignty and adore it by yielding to it! Cavil not at it. Down, rebellious will! Hush, you naughty reason that would ask, “Why?” and, “Why is there no other method?” Yield, my heart! “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.” Oh, magnificent love! A way as splendid as the end! A plan as glorious as its design! The design to save is not more resplendent than the method by which men are saved. Justice is magnified, Wisdom extolled, Grace resplendent, and every attribute of God glorified! Oh, let us, at the very mention of a dying Savior, bow down and adore!
II. Not to change the topic, but to vary the line of thought, let us endeavor to LOOK LOVINGLY at Jesus Christ made sin for His people.
Every word here may help our love. That word, “Him,” to be sinfor us"–Him–the Son of God, coequal and co-eternal with the Father! Him–the son of Mary, born at Bethlehem–the spotless “Son of Man.” “He has made Him to be sin.” I am not going to enlarge. I only want to bring His blessedPerson clearly before your mind. He who trod the waves. He who healed the sick He who had compassion upon the multitudes and fed them. He who always lives to make intercession for us–“He has made Him to be sin for us.” Oh, love Him,Sinner, and let your heart join in the words–
“His Person fixes all my love.”
I delight to have you get a hold of Him as being verily a Person. Do not think of Him as a fiction–never do so! Do not regard Him as a mere historical person who walked the stage of history and now is gone. He is very near to you right now! He is still living! We often sing–
“Crown Him Lord of all.”
Well, this is that same Glorious One! “He has made Him to be sin for us.” Think of Him and let your love flow out towards Him!
Would you further excite your love? Think of His Character. He knew no sin–there was none within Him–for Hehad none of our sinful desires and evil propensities. “Tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.” Think of that, and then read, “He has made Him to be sin for us.” Do not fritter that away by putting in the word, “offering,” and saying “sin-offering.” The word stands in apposition–what if I say opposition?–to the word, “righteousness,” in the other part of the text. He made Him to be as much sin as He makes us to be righteousness! That is to say He makes Him to be sin by imputation, as He makes us to be righteousness by imputation! On Him who was never a sinner–who nevercould be a sinner–our sin was laid! Consider how His holy soul must have shrunk back from being made sin, and yet, I pray you, do not fritter away the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” He bore our transgressions and carried our sins in His own body on the Cross. There was before the bar of Justice an absolute transfer made of guilt from His elect to Himself! There He was made sin for us, though He personally knew no sin, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” As you think of His pure, immaculate Nature and perfect life–love Him as you see Him bearing the burden of sins not His own, for which He came to atone!
Will not your love be excited when you think of the difficulty of this imputation? “He has made Him to be sin."None but God could have put sin upon Christ. It is well said that there is no lifting of sin from one person to another. There is no such thing, as far as we are concerned, but things which are impossible with man are possible with God. Do you know what it means for Christ to be made sin? You do not, but you can form some guess of what it involves, for when He was made sin, God treated Him as if He had been a sinner–which He never was and never could be. God left Him as He would have left a sinner, till He cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” God smote Him as He would have smitten a sinner, till His Soul was “exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” That which was due from His people for sin, or an equivalent to that, was literally exacted at the hands of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! He was made a debtor for our debts and He paid them. You may guess what it was to be a debtor for us by the smart which it cost to discharge our liabilities. He that is a surety shall smart for it–and Jesus found that proverb true. When Justice came to smite the sinner, it found Him in the sinner’s place and smote Him without relenting, laying to the full the whole weight upon Him which had otherwise crushed all mankind forever into the lowermost Hell! Let us love Jesus as we think that He endured all this.
Beloved in the Lord, there is one more string of your harp I would like to touch, and it is the thought of what younow are, which the text speaks of. You are made the righteousness of God in Christ! God sees no sin in you, Believer! He has put your sin, or that which was yours, to the account of Christ–and you are innocent before Him. Moreover, He sees you to be righteous. You are not perfectly righteous–the work of His Spirit in you is incomplete as yet–but He looks upon you, not as you are in yourselves, but as you are in Christ Jesus and you are “accepted in the Beloved.” You are, in His sight, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing! What Jesus did is set to your account. He sees His Son in you and then He loves you as He loves His Son. He has put you into union with His Son and you are now hid with Christ in God. I trust you will endeavor to realize this position of yourselves as made the righteousness of God in Christ, and when you do, surely you will love the Savior who has done all this for you–undeserving, helpless, dying, guilty mortals! Oh, that the Lord Jesus would now send fire into all your souls and make you love Him, for surely, if you have but the sense of what He has done and how He did it, and what it cost Him to do it, and who He is that has done it–and who you were for whom He has done it–you will surely say, “Oh, for a thousand hearts that I may love You as I should, and a thousand tongues that I may praise You as I should!”
III. And now, let us JOYFULLY VIEW THE GLORIOUS FACT OF SUBSTITUTION.
And here I will commence with the observation that till your sin as a Believer is gone, and till, as a Believer, Christ'srighteousness is at present your glorious dress, your salvation is in no sense realized by yourselves. It is not dependent upon your frames and feelings. Your sins are not put away through your repentance. That repentance becomes to you the token of the pardon of sin, but the true cleansing is found, not in the eyes of the penitent, but in the wounds of Jesus! Your sins were virtually discharged upon the accursed Cross. You stand this day accepted, not for anything you are, or can be, or shall be, but entirely and wholly through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. We cannot state this Truth of God, it seems to me, too boldly. This is the very Doctrine of the Reformation–Justification by Faith, or rather the basis Doctrine upon which it rests. And I am persuaded the more plainly it is preached, the better, for it is the Gospel of salvation to a lost and ruined world!
Beloved, your case is something similar to this. You are in debt and, according to the old laws, you must be cast into prison. You are brought up before the court. You cannot plead that you are not in debt–you are compelled to stand there and say, “Each one of these charges I must admit. These liabilities I have incurred and I have not a single penny with which to meet them.” A friend in court, wealthy and generous, pays the debt. Now, the only reason why you go out of court clear, lies in the payment made by your friend. You do not leave the court because you never incurred the debt–no, you did incur the debt. And you must admit that you did not leave the court because you pleaded not guilty, or because you promised never to get into debt again. Not so–all that would not have answered your purpose. Your creditor would still have cast you into prison. You did not leave the court because your character is excellent, or you hope to make it so. The only ground of your liberation from your liabilities is found in the fact that another person has discharged them for you and that will not be affected by any act you may have committed or shall commit. You may have felt ill today. You might have labored under 20 diseases, but those diseases will not imprison you, neither will they help to set you free. Your freedom hinges upon the fact that the debt was paid for you by another!
Now, Christian, your hope and comfort hang here! This is the diamond rivet which rivets your salvation firmly! Jesus died for you–and those for whom Jesus died, in the sense in which we now use the language–are and must be saved! Unless Eternal Justice can punish two persons for one offense. Unless Eternal Justice can demand payment twice for the same debt–first from the bleeding Surety, and then from those for whom the Surety stood–they must be clear for whom Jesus died! This is the Gospel which we preach! Oh, happy they who have received it, for it is their joy to know it, sinners though they have been, guilty and ruined–and sinners though they are still–yet, since they have believed, Christ is theirs! Christ took their sins and paid their debts! And God Himself can bring no charge against the man who is justified by Christ! “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
Now, Christian, I want you to come, tonight, and enjoy this. Why, Man, it ought to make your soul dance for joywithin you to think that sin is pardoned and righteousness is imputed to you! This is an unchanging fact, that Christ has saved you. If it was ever a fact, it is always a fact. If it was ever true, it is always true and always alike true–as true now that you are depressed, as yesterday when you were rejoicing. Jesus' blood does not change like your poor heart. It does not go up and down in value, like the markets, and fluctuate like your faith. If you are saved, you are saved! If you are resting in the blood, you are as safe, today, as you were yesterday–and you are as safe forever! Remember that this is true of all the saints. It is true to great saints, but equally so to little ones. They all stand under this crimson canopy and are alike protected by its blessed shadow from the beams of Divine Justice. It is true to you now. O Beloved, try to live up to it! Say, “Away, my doubts! Away, my fears! I trust a Savior slain and I am saved! Away, my questions! Away, my carnal reasonings! I hate my sins, but I cannot doubt my Savior! It is true I have not lived as a Christian should live, but I will still cast myself into His arms.” It is not faith to trust God as a saint when you feel you are a saint. Faith is to trust Christ as a sinner–while you are conscious that you are a sinner. To come to Jesus and to think yourselves pure, is a sorry coming to Him–but to come with all your impurity–this is true coming!
I say to you, Sinner. I say to you, Saint. I say to you all this one thing, and I have done. When your souls are at the blackest, seek for nothing but the blood! When your souls are at the darkest, seek no light anywhere but in the Cross! Do not cling to preparations, to humbling, to repentings. All these things are good in their way, but they cannot be a balsam to a wounded conscience! Christ and Christ Crucified is what you need. Do not look within–look without. I say, when you repent, it is a base repentance that will not let you trust Christ, for while repentance should have one eye on sin, it should have the other upon the Cross. While repentance should make you lie low, yet it is not repentance, but unbelief, that makes you doubt the power of Christ to save you! Christ never came to save the righteous–He came to save sinners. I would have you magnify the Grace of God by believing that when your sin stares you most in the face, when you are most conscious of it and it seems to be worse than ever, Christ is the same to you and for you, your glorious Surety and your blessed satisfaction! Still believe and still trust, and do not let go your confidence that Christ is able to save sinners, even the chief, and will save you without help from your doings or your feelings! His own right arm will get Himself the victory and, having trod the winepress of Divine Wrath alone, He will save you solely by the merit of His life and of His death! Oh, for Grace to rest in the Savior and to know the truth of this text–“He has made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”!