For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. -2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
This year the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution “On The Necessity Of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.” It was passed in part because some of the more theologically liberal and progressive folks deny and denigrate this biblical doctrine.
A discussion of Penal Substitutionary Atonement always includes 2 Corinthians 5:21. It reminded me of Robert G. Lee’s famous sermon, “What He Was Made.”
R. G. Lee’s outline:
What He Was Made
1. Made Flesh (John 1:14)
2. Made a Curse (Galatians 3:13)
3. Made Sin (2 Corinthians 5:21)
4. Made Alive (Acts 1:3)
A portion of Robert G. Lee’s message on 2 Corinthians 5:21 follows:
“Terrible the fact that He [Jesus, God the Son], the sinless One, was ‘made sin’ in view of God’s hatred of sin.
Behold this picture: It is night time. A little child, wearied with much play, falls asleep. The father and mother, the light of love beaming in their eyes, the tone of love in their whispering voices, the inexhaustible wonder of parental sacrifice burning in their hearts, put their darling into the trundle bed. With deft and tender hands the mother smooths the pillow and spreads the coverlets, the father taking in every detail of the scene with admiring eyes. Child of phenomenal beauty that, its voice sweeter to their ears than chiming bells, its eyes bluer than violets dew-wet, it luxuriant curls golden like sunshine, its face on the pillow dainty like a pink rose in a snow bank, its soft sleep-breathings like faint whispers of a harp touched by angel fingers. What a mighty hold those baby hands, wee and dimpled, have upon human hearts! They kneel, those parents, a minute beside the trundle bed, pure thoughts holding high and holy carnival in their minds. Then, before they go to seek for themselves rest and sleep, they pray that God will give them wisdom to rear that child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
And then, in the night, while they sleep, a rattlesnake with stupid audacity and vile intrusion, crawls in through an open window and into the bed of the child. The hideous reptile coils itself into a circular pile and lies there apparently in a stupor until, at the movement of a dimpled hand or a turn of the curly head, the rattler, his buttons buzzing with diabolic effrontery, strikes out madly. And the poisonous fangs are buried in the cheek of the child. In awful agony it died – while the parents sleep. The next morning they awake. They go to the bed and find their approach challenged by the rattler whose head sways ominously while his buttons sing with raucous warning. They see their child swollen, dead, its little face bearing the evidence of its frightful death agonies.
Now – if you will magnify the attitude and the hatred for that vile rattler by that father and mother a million times you will have a faint conception of how God Almighty looks toward sins and upon sin. You will know in some slight measure His perpetual attitude toward sin, His eternal hatred of sin. Yet it is said that our holy God ‘made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him!”
Made sin. What does it mean? What do they mean, these two words, ‘made sin,’ that stagger under a weight of agony?
It means that God dealt with Him as He must deal with sin – in severe and unrelenting judgment!
It means that God sentenced sin, ordered sin to execution in the person and death of His Son. Jesus has made up before God for all we failed to do and be. Jesus takes all our sin and sins upon Himself and bestows all His righteousness upon us. Jesus took sin’s place on the Cross! Took the guilty culprit’s place there! Took my place there! It means that He, the perfectly righteous One, was made sin that we, the unrighteous ones, might be made righteous. For God meted out to Jesus the full measure of punishment sin deserves.
It means – He stood before God with all our sin upon Him that we, through faith, might stand before God with none of our sin on us.
He who was righteous was judged before God as unrighteous that we who are unrighteous should be judged before God as righteous!
He was made for us all that God must judge and we are made in Him by faith all that God cannot judge.
And this could not be through physical suffering alone! By the bloody drops of sweat in Gethsemane, by the dirty sputum, contempt materialized in a liquid, by the rough hands that plucked off His beard, by the merciless steel fingers of Pilate’s scourge, by the thorns that punctured His brown veins, by the nails that pinned Him to the tree, by His mouth hot like and oven, I know, you know, all of us know, He suffered physically on the Cross.
But! To speak of Jesus’ suffering as intense physical torture only is a species of spiritual stupidity and intellectual clownishness. Because of the depths and vastness of sin’s malignant nature, which caused the feet of Deity to draw back with trembling, terms like bravery, courage, martyrdom, physical agony have no place because they contain no meaning big enough to fit His experience, when He ‘made His soul an offering for sin’ – when he died a spiritual death as well as a physical death. He founded our joy in the deep bitterness of His own soul.
The pangs of hell got hold upon Him! God turned Him into the slime pits of hell! The thirst of hell was upon Him! The lightest of His sufferings were physical! The tortures of the damned were upon Him. The soul of His suffering was the suffering of His soul. He bore the burdens of sin on His sinless soul. And He did this for all – all!...
The death of Christ was for us. Therefore Christ was condemned to death instead of us. To condemn us now after we have put our faith in Christ and surrendered personally to Him, would be to say that the death of Christ was not sufficient and that there was no justice with God, for He would get two payments for one debt, two payments for one offense. But, thank God, the death of Christ is sufficient and God is not possessed of the injustice that demands two payments for one debt – and we can truly say, ‘There is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.’
We can find no knowledge in the world better than this: that man hath sinned and God hath suffered; that God in Christ made Himself the sin of men; that men are made the righteousness of God!
In view of this let us ask: Is any distance too great to go – for Him – who went to the Cross for us? Is any burden too heavy to bear – for Him – who bore the heavy weight of the world’s sins on His heart? Is any sacrifice too severe to make – for Him – who was ‘made a curse’ for us? Is any obligation too heavy to assume – for Him – who was ‘made sin’ in our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him? Is any service too great to render – for Him – who was made for us all that God must judge and punish? Is it not time that we say: ‘I count all things but loss…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering’?”
-Robert G. Lee (AD 1886-1978), pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee, SBC president, author.
Excerpt from his sermon, “What He Was Made,” in the book,
From Feet to Fathoms, Robert G. Lee, Broadman, Zondervan; 1926.
-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, July 3, AD 2017.
Other articles listed in lower right margin.