Dear Grace Family,
I hope your week is off to a good start, and that our Lord is at work in your life, helping you to see that even in the most mundane of tasks, he is at work in you – gradually transforming you more and more into the image of Christ and making you a blessing to others.
If you were able to listen to the sermon this past Sunday (Facebook Live link – sermon starts at 37:30), you know that there were a few times I said of Christ that “he became sin in order that we might become righteous.” I wanted to take a few moments just to flesh out what I meant by that statement, both to avoid any misunderstanding, and because it is a beautiful and essential truth of God’s Word.
The Bible passage I was referencing in these comments was 2 Corinthians 5:21, which reads, “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 Bible clearly teaches that Christ never sinned and had no guilt in himself; he was the spotless Lamb, pure and perfect in every way. The children’s catechism sums this up well: “Q. Did Jesus ever sin? A. No, he lived a sinless life.”
As the writer to the Hebrews teaches us, Jesus really became a man in every sense of the word, and yet remained sinless:
“For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” – Hebrews 2:16-16
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15
Scripture clearly affirms the sinlessness of Christ. It’s not just that he didn’t sin – as the divine Son of God, he couldn’t sin.
And yet, we find statements in Scripture like the verse above, saying that Jesus was made “to be sin.” Peter tells us that Christ “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pt. 2:24). Paul tells us that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).
How should we understand this? To say that Jesus became sin—or was made to be sin—does not mean that Jesus became a sinner or that he committed sin. If that were true, then none of us could ever be saved! What we mean is that our sin was counted to him. The theological term for this is “imputation.” The New Testament scholar, Simon Kistemaker, said, “When God made him [to be] sin, by imputing to him our sin, he regarded him as the sinbearer, not as a sinner.”
This is an important truth for us to remember. We think about how we are justified, or declared righteous in God’s eyes, we usually remember that this only comes because Christ’s righteousness is counted (or imputed) to us. But this imputation actually works in both directions. Christ didn’t just give us his righteousness; he also took our sin from us.
Our salvation depends on this great exchange Christ took our place so that we could take his place! Our sins were counted to him and his righteousness was counted to us! And now when God looks at us, he sees us as pure and spotless as his Son.
Listen to the beautiful way the Heidelberg Catechism explains this truth from Q. 60:
“Q. How are you righteous before God?
A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments,
of never having kept any of them,
and of still being inclined toward all evil,
without any merit of my own,
out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
and as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient for me.
—if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.”
May this precious doctrine encourage you in your daily battle with sin – truly in Christ we are more than conquerors!