2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sakes he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Some 4,000 years ago, Job asked a question that is the most important question anyone could ever ask: “How can a man be in the right before God” (Job 9:2). This is the question that we all must answer: how can a sinful person stand before a Holy God? How can sinners like you and me be accepted by a perfectly holy and righteous Lord? And how we answer this question has eternal significance – eternal life or eternal death (1 John 5:12; Matt 7:13-14).
In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the apostle Paul gets at the Bible’s answer to Job’s question: “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 verse describes what some have termed “The Great Exchange.” Paul writes that “he made him to be sin who knew no sin.” This describes the Father’s sending of his Son to this world to live a sinless life and die the death that we deserve. Jesus is the one who ‘knew no sin,’ but became sin for us. Jesus is our substitute – he takes our sin upon himself upon the cross. He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Put simply, our sin is put upon him. We see the other side of the “Great Exchange” in the following phrase, “so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” (1) Our sin is given to Jesus, and (2) his perfect righteousness is given to us. Or you could say that Jesus’ life of perfect obedience is credited to our formerly bankrupt account. So that now when God looks upon us, he does not see us in our sin, but he sees the perfect righteousness of his only Son, Jesus Christ. And why did God do this? Why did he send his Son to be our substitute? “For our sake.” Because he loves us. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.” That is who God is – he is the God of love, grace, and mercy.
Now back to our original question: how will you stand before the God of the universe? The Christian can say with a humble boldness that he stands before the Father clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. We do not stand before God in our sin; but rather our sin was put on Christ. Thus because of what Jesus has done for us, we can stand before the Father without spot or wrinkle or blemish (Eph 5:27). The Christian will stand before the Father safe and secure in Jesus Christ.
Dear friends, is this not cause for rejoicing? Is this not cause to fall to our knees in praise and worship? “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Ps 146:1).
– Rev. Robert Arendale