"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Old Exchange

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor. 5:21) As a child, I memorized this verse, and its salvific import was not lost on me, at least not entirely:  the Father punished the Son for our sins when He had committed no wrong.  Of course, there is much more than simply this residing in those few words, but what seems to leap from the page at first blush is the imputation of Christ's righteousness to undeserving sinners like you and like me.  However, the opposite side of this glorious truth is just as hard-hitting, is it not?

Indeed, I remember not so many years ago hearing Dr. MacArthur comment on this verse with these words - so simple, but deceptively momentous:  "...God treated [Christ] as if He sinned all the sins of all who would ever believe. Is that incredible? Sin, not His at all, was credited to Him as if He had committed it and paid the price. And He didn't...but it was credited to Him as if He did...Sin was imputed to Him, it wasn't His, He never sinned." (emphasis added)

Sin was imputed to Him.  As I ground through the daily commute after a long day at work, I actually had to back the sermon up a few seconds, just to listen to that statement one more time.  What a humbling and devastating and glorious truth this is!  Certainly, I had long known that the Christ had to pay the price for our sins if we were to be saved, and had loved this truth and relied upon its reality for my very salvation.  Two points, however, came through very clearly that caused me to cherish and to cling to Christ's work on the cross anew in that humbling moment (and in many such moments thereafter, even to this day).

1.  The imputation at the cross was twofold.  The undeserved favor which the just Father bestowed upon us necessitated the bestowal of an undeserved curse upon the divine Son.  In order for God to look upon us with the eyes of sovereign justice and see only Christ's righteousness covering our sins completely, He had to also look upon His only eternal son with those same just eyes, and see our sins covering His righteousness completely.  Never, never did a more unimaginably vicious condemnation befall a more totally and wholly undeserving person - indeed, the most grievous imbalance possible (until the grace of salvation brings that balance; consider that for a moment).  The Man of perfect holiness, of impeccable righteousness, was regarded as vilest of sinners, and punished in dreadful and infinite extent.

Is there a greater irony than this?  Christ, in whom there resides a divine hatred which is eternal, abiding, perfect, infinite, and pure, and to whom was handed all judgment by the Father (John 5:24), receives the completest measure of the very wrath which He, in His divine holiness, possesses against sinners.  Wonder of wonders - the Father did not stint in His wrath, did not hold back the slightest force in His punishment, did not afford His own Son the slightest special consideration, but rolled relentlessly upon the Christ breaker after breaker of perfect and unmitigated divine fury.  It pleased the Father to do so (Is. 53:10), and indeed it pleased the Son to do so as well (John 4:34).  Does it not take your breath away just to think of it?

2.  Christ was punished not just for sins in general, but sins in specific.  Christ did not suffer for nondescript, generic, faceless sins.  He did not suffer for a given amount of sin, so as to possess a predetermined portion of forgiveness in the economy of salvation.  He endured the boundless enormity of the Father's wrath for our sins, brothers and sisters (Is. 53:6).  Every one of my sins was laid upon Jesus's frame on that day - the Father, with heartbreaking omniscience, did not forget a single one, but gathered them all upon the Christ, and then exacted punishment for each one

Oh, that the Savior should have to suffer for my frivolity or carelessness with sin!  Every sin committed and then forgotten in the same breath, every temptation looked upon with quiet indifference, every trespass suffered to wreak havoc with discouraging repetition - all of these and much, much more freighted innocent shoulders that day at Calvary.  Are there words? 

To you, my dear fellow soldier in the faith, I ask - as you consider once more the death and resurrection of our Savior on this blessed holiday, will you be unmoved by the cross?  Will your heart remain even as it has been?  Let it not be so, dear friend.

To you, the one who has not known this Christ, who has not sought the unique salvation which He brokered, I ask - will you not consider this God who gave so wholly of Himself to provide a means of escape from the eternal doom which rightly awaits every person? 


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