This is my attempt to abridge the absolutely mind-blowing sermon (7000+ words). If you have the time and zest, ask me and i’ll give it to you in hard-copy!
Delivered July 18th, 1886 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
2Cor 5:20-21 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The heart of the gospel is redemption, and this essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. Preachers who preach the gospel are aplenty, often in fanciful ways. But what I’m trying to do here is to plainly declare the foundation truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have found that nothing touches the heart like the cross of Christ. Hearts of stone that never beat with life before, have been turned to flesh through the Holy Spirit, causing them to know this truth. Those who lay inches away from hell’s dark door, even to them, Christ’s Light pierces through. Lives are converted and sanctified simply, but only by the true doctrine of substitutionary atonement. The story of the great Lover who gave Himself for the salvation of souls is the work of the Holy Spirit, greatest of all forces.
Herein verse 20 contains the GREAT ARGUMENT, and verse 21, the GREAT DOCTRINE.
THE GREAT DOCTRINE
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Cor 5:21
1. Let me begin on the great doctrine in 2 Cor 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.” This doctrine, greatest of all, is this, that God, seeing man, lost in sin, made His only begotten Son, sin, that knew no sin, to become sin in order that sinners be made righteous.
Who was made sin? Christ Jesus, the Son of God was made flesh and dwelt among man. Though upon Him sin was laid, He could never be a sinner. The Law was in His heart. Holiness flowed through and in Him. Many people have tried, but the answer remains, “What evil has he done?” – Matt 27:23. The Lamb of God, without blemish or spot. No sin of commission? Certainly. We as believers are probably enabled by grace to do so. But, have we yet considered sins of omission? We come short of the glory of God in some respect or other, by forgetting, lukewarmness, self-reliance, unbelief, etc. No sin of thought? Even as Jesus was about to endure an excruciating death, He said, “not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus was an all-round holy man: all perfections combine in perfect harmony to make in Him, One surpassing perfection. His unconstrained life on earth was holiness itself. Not only did no sin flow from Him, but there was no sin in Him, nor inclination, nor tendency. Oh, the blessed character of Christ!
Yet, it was absolutely necessary that any one who should suffer for sinners be spotless. Would an obnoxious sinner do anything to bear the wrath of his sin? Certainly not.
Oh, how I admire Christ, that being such as He was, spotless and thrice holy, so much so that even the heaevns were not pure in His sight, charged His created angels with folly, condescended Himself to be made sin for us! It may be no misery for a sinful man to live with sinful men; but it is absolute sorrow for the pure-minded to dwell with wretches. He, whom the sun itself is dim and the pure azure of heaven is defilement was made sin. I need not put this in fine words: the fact is too grand for magnification by human language.
2. Jesus was “made sin”. The more you look at the phrase, the more you’ll be in awe of the strength of the language. Only the Holy Spirit might originate such language. The wrath of God, instead on resting on the sinner (who committed sin), rested upon Christ, and Christ took on the full loadbearance of the nature of sin. He who was not guilty, and could not be, was treated as if He were, because He was all-willing to stand in place of the guilty. He was not only treated as a sinner, but he was treated as if He was sin. The sinless One, was now, sin.
Read the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane? Sin pressed our great Saviour-Substitute sorely. He sweated blood. There in the hours of darkness, He bore infinitely more than we can tell. Imagine the humiliation, darkness, agony and death He foresaw! Who would know God’s hate of sin must see Jesus bleeding in body and soul even unto death: he must read the text and understand its innermost meaning! Oh depths of terror, and yet heights of love!
3. “He made Him to be sin, that knew no sin” Who did it? God the Father. He appointed His dear Son to be made sin. Is it not just? Surely it is. In the appointment of the Lord Jesus to be made sin, divine sovereignty is displayed. God here did what none but Jesus could do. Jesus Christ was a willing sacrifice, and by grace, His Father accepted, hence, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” – Rom 9:20
God doesn’t show love to His Son? Isn’t justice love? “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” – Gen 18:25. If He didn’t love all of creation, He will not deal with sin at all. I bless His Holy Name that to vindicate His justice He determined, while a free pardon should be provided for believers.
Admire therefore the substitutionary sacrifice, the great grace of God. Never, ever forget that He whom God made to be sin for us was His own Son. In fact, for Himself, I might say, as the Father and Son are One – John 10:30. Do not question “Is this right, or is this not right”. The thrice holy God has done this, and hence it must be. Shall we not be delighted, emparadised to be saved by such a sacrifice that God appoints, provides and accepts? “He made Him to be sin, that knew no sin”
4. What happens to us in consequence? That “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”? Oh the weight of the text! No man living can exhaust it. The righteousness of God! Much like the substance of sin that Christ bore, we’re now called to be the substance of righteousness of God. We now have a divine righteousness that can never fail. This righteousness is now imputed unto us! Oh, the splendour of this doctrine! Can you see now, my friend? No doctrine can be more sweet than this to those who feel the weight of sin and the burden of its curse.
THE GREAT ARGUMENT
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Cor 5:20
Oh, if only I could speak through thoughts and not language. I will plead with every uncoverted, unbelieving soul within this place. Friend, we are at enmity with God, and God is angry; but on His part, there is reconciliation. He has made the way by which you can become His child – a very costly way to Himself, but free, to you. See how God meets you! His Only Begotten, His Well-Beloved, that Son of His, had been made sin for us, though He knew no sin!
To those who have believed, notice how the text puts it. “God making his appeal through us.” See the great God turning to appeal His obstinate creation! His foolish nature! In this I feel compassion for the Lord. Must he appeal to us? Do you now hear it? It is not you, it’s God doing His work through you. How dare you resist or reject it?
To those who have not believed, Why should you not love the God of love, and delight in Him who is so kind to you? What He has done for me, He is all willing to do for you: He is a God ready to pardon. “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4.
“We implore you on behalf of Christ” Now if my Lord were here this morning, how would he pray you to come to Him? O men, how can you think so little of the death of the Son of God? O soulds, why will you refuse eternal life? Why will you choose death? Why will you despise Him by whom alone you can live?
There is one gate of life, that gate is Christ. I can almost hear Him saying “Come unto me, come unto me…” You that hear my voice every Sunday, come accept the great sacrifice, and be reconciled to God. You who have only heard me once, I would like you to go away with this ringing inyour ears, “Be reconciled to God”.
Believe and live. “As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” – Heb 3:15. Oh, please yield. At the gate, the Saviour is waiting to receive You, and He is saying, “I was made sin for you, and you are now made the righteousness of God in Me!”
Father, draw them! Holy Spirit, draw them. For Your sake, Jesus Christ. Amen.