2 Corinthians 5:21
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 1, 2018
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 Corinthians 5:21, ESV
Even though it is essentially a holy day, Easter derives its name from a pagan goddess. True to form, Easter is something celebrated by Christians and pagans, believers and non-believers, alike. Churches are full, community events to commemorate the arrival of spring abound, and sometimes the two are combined. Preachers unpack their best sermons, retailers make a small fortune, eggs sell out, and restaurants are packed to the rafters. There’s something for everyone to like!
But a better and more biblical way for God’s people to commemorate the day is to celebrate it as Resurrection Sunday, the capstone of a holy week which begins with Palm Sunday, passes through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and begins again on Resurrection Sunday. A day by any other name does not sound as sweet, for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the cornerstone of Christianity.
Therefore, on Easter Sunday and every Sunday, we affirm the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Before the resurrection, however, there was the crucifixion. Before the crucifixion there was a singular, stellar, sinless life, the life of the Son of God, God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. Before the earthly life there was an eternal plan, decreed by God before creation.
God’s plan of salvation is pictured graphically in the Old Testament Passover and given to a remnant of Jews known as the redeemed. God’s plan of salvation happened historically in the New Testament, with Jesus Christ at center stage, and is now given to a remnant in the world called Christ followers, or Christians. If this grand plan of salvation could be summarized in only one of the 31,102 verses of Scripture, that verse I would pick 2 Corinthians 5:21.
“For our sake …
In spite of the efforts of modern marketing, Easter is an exclusive holiday. It may be celebrated by many, but it is consecrated for only a select few. Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
— Matthew 7:13-14
Those few who enter into the kingdom of God are not necessarily volunteers, but rather draftees who have been particularly and irresistibly chosen by God.
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
— Matthew 22:14
And this choice of God for our salvation occurred long before we raised our hands.
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.”
— Ephesians 1:4
“For our sake” is actually two words in the Greek which appear together 17 times in the New Testament, always and exclusively speaking of this group called the elect, the chosen children of God, the men and women and boys and girls for whom Easter is the exclusive gift of eternal grace and peace.
The doctrine of divine election is not a depth normally plumbed on Easter Sunday, and I do not want to elaborate upon it here. It is just that the words “for our sake” conjured up a curiosity as to whom exactly “our” refers. Since Jesus said He will come again to end the tribulation “for the sake of the elect” (ref. Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:20) and the Apostle Paul exercised his ministry “for the sake of the elect” (ref. 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1), “for our sake” can be taken to mean that the blessings and benefits of Easter Sunday are for, well, the elect.
Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, is for believers only. Only, you must know what you believe in, namely Jesus Christ, and what He has accomplished to unite believers with God. What Christ had done, aptly summarized in this one verse of Scripture, is known as the doctrine of double imputation.
… He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, …
The first part of the plan contains a plethora of pronouns. It also contains a couple of common words which have a far deeper meaning than we normally ascribe. Let’s sort it out.
The “He” would be God the Father, the “Him” would be God the Son. God the Spirit is not expressly mentioned in the verse, but the silent member of the Holy Trinity is always at work behind the scenes of salvation. The gospel of Jesus Christ that includes Easter as an essential necessity is first and foremost a trinitarian plan. God the Father ordained it, God the Son accomplished it, and God the Spirit applies it to your life. I pray God is at work in your life this Easter Sunday.
“Sin” and “knew” (know) are the words with which require further analysis. We live in a world that no longer knows sin, one that seeks to erase sin from our vocabulary, a culture that says nothing is a sin except saying that something is a sin. God, however, takes sin a little more seriously.
Sin may be defined as anything done which is not faithful to the word of God and/or anything done not to the express glory of God, in deed or thought, in commission or omission.
It is not only gangsters and pimps who live in sin, but also the heart surgeon who saves lives only for his patients, professional glory, and a good payday, but not for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also the humanitarian who gives food, shelter, and clothing but neglects the gospel and the word of God. It is the rich who forsake and steal from the poor and the poor who curse and steal from the rich. It is every one of us in an Easter Sunday service today who, even when worshiping and serving God, do so with the mixed motives of pride and greed.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
— Romans 3:23
This includes everyone, the learned and the lunatic, the mother and the murderer, the preacher and the prostitute. This includes those who sin big and those who sin little. This includes you and me.
The seriousness of sin is owed to the grandeur of God, who is holy and just beyond measure. He by His nature must hate sin and by His office He must punish sin to the limit. At the same time, God is love and full of grace and mercy. Therefore, He made a plan to punish sin so that He can be a just Judge and still provide His people with forgiveness and freedom to spend now and eternity with Him.
The plan can be seen in the Old Testament, when lambs and scapegoats and other animals were sacrificed in ritual ceremonies to show the seriousness of sin, which is death, and the hope of forgiveness, which is sacrifice. The plan was carried out on the cross of Jesus Christ, when the perfect, spotless “Lamb of God” was slain in our stead, even though He “knew no sin.”
“Know” in the biblical sense means more than read and remember. It means to experience and be effected by the experience. Jesus never sinned, but God the Father made God the Son a sin offering.
If you cannot see yourself as a sinner then you cannot count Christ as your Savior. If sin is not a big deal to you, then the cross is something you can play with once or twice a year, or maybe even wear around your neck. But if you know that it is your sins that nailed Jesus to the cross, the cross has meaning, which means Jesus will take all of your sins form you and bear the punishment Himself.
Remember, before the resurrection there was a crucifixion. The crucifixion is part one of two in the doctrine of double imputation. If, by faith, you confess your sinfulness to God and ask for forgiveness based on Christ’s death on the cross, you are halfway home to Heaven.
… so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Sovereign grace that produces saving faith puts you “in Him” on the cross. Christ takes your sin and bears it before God. All of the punishment you deserve is taken by Jesus instead. You are forgiven and free and will never by punished by God for your sins.
On the other side of double imputation, you also share in the righteousness and resurrection of Christ, commemorated by Easter Sunday, and in this new life you are credited with “the righteousness of God.” Look at your picture in 2 Corinthians 5:17, a photo taken just before the plan is explained in verse 21:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
— 2 Corinthians 5:17
What’s new is you! You are not only saved by the death of Jesus Christ, you are saved by the life of Jesus Christ. The righteousness He earned by living a perfect life, the righteousness He showed by defeating death through resurrection, this perfect life of righteousness is yours by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Your sins are gone and your life is rightly aligned with God forever. This is the doctrine of double imputation. This is the essential necessity of Easter Sunday. There had to be a Savior, there had to be a perfect life, there had to be a sacrificial death, and there had to be a righteous resurrection. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
When by faith the death and life of Christ truly touches your soul, then your motto is the same as the Apostle Paul who said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (ref. Philippians1:21). Easter Sunday and every Sunday take on a whole new meaning. It becomes not a once a year ritual, but an every day necessity. Easter is God’s gift to you. Give your life to God this Easter Sunday, for the first time or afresh and anew, and delight in the double imputation of Christ.
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