Words of Hope

Fifteen Words of Hope

2 Corinthians 5:21

Audio Link: http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/47-39

John MacArthur
John MacArthur

The verse that we’re going to look at is 2 Corinthians 5:212 Corinthians 5:21. It says this, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The Bible makes it clear, first of all, that all people are sinners by nature and by action. In fact, all people are sinners from birth. And thus all people are born alienated from God who is holy, cannot look upon sin, cannot fellowship with sinners. That alienation because of sin prevents us from knowing God. He is too perfectly holy to have anything to do with sinners, except to reject them.

Now the result of that rejection, the result of that alienation in time is Godlessness. The result of it in eternity is hell. So this alienation in to which every human being is born is indeed a serious issue. It means that everybody lives their life without God and if they die in that condition, will spend their eternity without God in torment.

Now that kind of reality proves that the most deadly virus in the world is not the HIV virus, it is the SIN virus. Like the HIV virus, it kills everyone it infects, only unlike the HIV virus it infects everyone. It kills not just in time but in eternity, it kills not just physically but spiritually. There is no cure for the HIV virus, but thankfully there is a cure for the SIN virus. In fact, God has made it possible for sinners to be cured so thoroughly and completely that they can be reconciled to God and have eternal fellowship in His presence.

And that is the good news, that is what Christianity preaches, that’s the gospel. There is a cure for the SIN virus so that the hostility between people and God can end now and forever and sinners can be reconciled to holy God. In fact, if you look back at verses 18, 19 and 20 you see several times the word “reconciled” in one form or another. Verse 18 says, “God who reconciled us to Himself.” Verse 19, “That God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” And at the end of verse 20 we call on sinners to be reconciled to God.

This is the good news, friends. This is the great news that you don’t have to live godlessly in time and you don’t have to live godlessly in eternity. You don’t need to suffer through this life without God and to suffer eternal torment without God in the life to come. Reconciliation is possible.

But that brings up the question…How? The Apostle Paul has been talking about the ministry of reconciliation. We have been reconciled to God and now we preach reconciliation. He mentions the ministry or reconciliation in verses 18 and 19 and then in verse 20 he mentions it by saying, “We are ambassadors for Christ, we go out and we preach to sinners that they can be reconciled to God.” That’s our ministry. That is the good news.

But the question then comes up…how can that be? How can such a reconciliation take place? How can an absolutely and utterly holy God who is infinitely pure and perfect ever be reconciled to sinners? How can He do that who is too pure to look on sin or to fellowship with transgressors? How can God satisfy His just and holy law with a condemnation of sinners by full and deserved punishment and still show them mercy who deserve no mercy? How can God end the hostility and how can He take sinners into His holy heaven to live with Him forever in intimate communion? How? How can both justice and grace be satisfied? How can love toward sinners and righteousness come together? To put it in Paul’s words, how can God be just and a justifier of sinners?

The one verse I just read you explains how. Fifteen Greek words and these 15 Greek words translated into English carefully define and perfectly balance the mystery of reconciliation. They show us the essence of the atonement. In fact, in the one verse that I read you is the heart of the good news. In that one verse is the most powerful truth in Scripture because it embraces and explains how sinners can be reconciled to God. Here is where the paradox of redemption is resolved. Here is where the mystery is solved. Here is where the riddle is answered. Here is where we find how holy justice and perfect love can both be satisfied, how righteousness and mercy can embrace each other. And the truth of this one brief sentence solves the most profound dilemma of how God can reconcile with sinners.

Well needless to say, having said that you are aware that there’s a lot in this verse. We have to search carefully through this cache of rare jewels and stop to examine each one of them with a magnifying glass in order to understand the richness.

Now as we look at this verse together I want to point your attention to four elements, four features of the text that unfolded significance…the benefactor, the substitute, the beneficiaries and the benefits. That really sums up how God can reconcile sinners.

Let’s start at the beginning, the benefactor. The verse begins, “He made…” stop there. Now if you’re a Bible student the first question you’re going to ask is to whom does “He” refer? The answer comes quickly, look one word back at the end of verse 20…God. God is the antecedent. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf. The point is it’s God’s plan, He’s the benefactor. God is behind the whole reconciliation plan. He designed it. He worked it out. He brings it to fruition. It is His plan. This is a very crucial perspective and you’ll see why as I comment on it. There could be no reconciliation unless God initiated it. There could be no reconciliation unless God activated it. There could be no reconciliation unless God applied it. He had to design it and He has to execute it. It cannot come from any human source. Nothing man could do, nothing man could not do could produce reconciliation with God. It isn’t anything we do or don’t do. In fact all of our efforts in the religious realm amount to filthy rags, the Bible says. The world is literally filled with religion and all of that religion apart from Christianity is man producing a plan with the aid of Satan in which he can initiate reconciliation with God. That is the fatal flaw of all world religions no matter what name they come under.

Romans chapter 3 says, verse 10, “There is none that does good, there is none righteous, no not one, there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God.” Nobody, absolutely nobody. Now you would think if there was anyone who could have devised the plan most aptly and pull it off it would have been the Jews, since after all, the Jews were the people of the true God, Yahweh, Jehovah. And God gave to them the law and the prophets and the covenants and the adoption and all of the things that Romans 9 mention. They had the revelation. They had the Old Testament and to them even salvation was given…salvation is of the Jews, of them and to them came the Messiah. If anyone could have devised a system by which they could have achieved reconciliation, it would have been the Jews. But they failed. And in Romans chapter 10 Paul comments on the failure by saying, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God is for Israel for their salvation,” they have not achieved it, they haven’t achieved reconciliation with all their religiosity, with all that they received by way of divine revelation from God because they believed that somehow this reconciliation depended on them and therefore they’re not saved, I bear them witness Paul says in verse 2, they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge so not knowing about God’s righteousness they seek to establish their own. That’s what false religion is, in a word, it’s the religion of human achievement.

But they never can accomplish it because the only way that reconciliation could ever occur is if God reached out to sinners. And He did. It was God who made Him who knew no sin to be sin. It was God’s plan. He designed it. He initiated it. And He executed it. So that Jesus went to the cross not because men turned on Him, though they did, Jesus went to the cross not because seducing spirits orchestrated the minds of the religious leaders of Judaism to plot His death, though they did. Jesus went to the cross not because an angry mob screamed for His blood, though they did. Jesus went to the cross because God planned it. God purposed it. And God designed it as the absolutely necessary means by which and by which alone reconciliation could take place. That’s why Jesus said, “I came into the world to do the Father’s will.” That’s why in John 18:11 He said, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given Me?” meaning the cup of wrath. That’s why in Hebrews chapter 10 the Lord Jesus is quoted as saying, “A body Thou hast prepared Me and I have come to do Thy will, O God.” That’s why in Acts chapter 2 when Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached to the population of Jerusalem, many of whom had been screaming for the blood of Jesus and been guilty of calling for His execution, Peter says to that crowd, “You have killed the Son of God by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” In other words, you did your evil deed but it was all in the plan of the Father.

Only God could call the second member of the trinity to become incarnate and come into the world and humble Himself and take on the form of a man and be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, only God could ask that of Him. Only God could design an atonement for sin that would satisfy His justice because only God knows what it takes to satisfy His justice. Only God knows what propitiates His wrath. We don’t know. Only God could decide how His own infinite holiness, intense hatred of sin and inflexible justice could be perfectly satisfied without destroying the sinner in that satisfaction. Only God could know what it would take to make a sinner acceptable to Him so that that sinner could escape eternal hell and live in the very presence of God in His own house. Only God could determine how the spiritual nature and the supreme authority and the unchangeable perfection of His law which is holy, just and good could be completely satisfied and the lawbreaker completely justified and rightly and purely forgiven and accepted, though fallen, guilty and depraved.

Only God could bring all of those components to reconciliation. Only God knew what it would take. Only God knew how to solve the dilemma. Only He knew what would satisfy His righteous requirement. Only He knew how He could spend His wrath so that wrath was consummated. Only He knew what it took to bear the burden of sin, to endure the punishment of His fury, only He knew. And so while the world may call the gospel and the work of Jesus Christ foolish, foolishness, it is to those who believe the wisdom of God, is it not? It may seem foolish to the world but it is the purest and profoundest wisdom that the infinitely holy God could devise a plan consistent with His infinite holiness to reconcile utterly wicked sinners…only God. So God is the benefactor. God is the benefactor. He is the one who made the plan, He is the one who must execute the plan.

That is so important, beloved, absolutely important. It all flows out of this great reality…God so loved the world…right? That He gave. And that is exactly what Paul says in different terms in Romans chapter 5 verse 8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died in our place.” It all came out of God’s love. While we were enemies, verse 10 says, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. And God initiated it because He loved us. God, Ephesians 2:4 says, who is rich in mercy for the great love wherewith He had loved us has granted us salvation. God loves sinners. That’s why in Colossians chapter1 the Apostle Paul says, “Thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Only God knew what the qualifications were. Only God could qualify us. He was the only one who could know the standard. And thanks to Him, for He delivered us from the domain of darkness. He transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

That is exactly why the Apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter 1 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” It was the Father who chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. It was the Father who predestined us to the adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. Everything is through the praise of His glory. It is He who freely bestowed on us salvation in the beloved, who gave us redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, etc., etc. It was the Father who designed to lavish on us all wisdom and insight and all riches of grace.

Listen, this is very different in the religions of the world. The religions of the world basically operate on a premise of fear that God is an angry, hateful, or indifferent God who could really care less about the prosperity of beings who grubble around underneath Him in this world. And so the goal of most all religions is to somehow to appease an otherwise hostile and angry God. Somehow they have to devise a system if they’re going to be reconciled to God so that He doesn’t crush out their life and punish them eternally. They’re going to have to appease this God. And so they are busily inventing systems of appeasement by which through certain religious ceremonies or through certain religious duties and actions, or certain good works they can somehow appease this deity and somehow hold back His deadly fury.

On the other hand, Christianity proclaims a God who loves, who loves so much He is a Savior, God our Savior who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We have a God who doesn’t hate but a God who loves sinners and has Himself designed a way for them to have fellowship with Him forever and ever. We don’t have to appease God. God loves the sinner and God in His love provides the sacrifice and wonderfully and graciously and freely and magnanimously and eagerly offers the gift of forgiveness. This is the good news. The good news is you don’t have to appease God. The good news is you don’t have to figure out a plan of reconciliation. The good news is you don’t have to somehow work out your own righteousness. The good news is God is the benefactor. He knows what satisfies His righteousness and His holiness. He has effected that satisfaction. The price of sin has been paid and He now offers you forgiveness and reconciliation, that’s the gospel.

Now what did it take? It took death because as it says in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 18:20, the person who sins will die. As it says in Romans 6:23 in the New Testament, “The wages of sin is death.” God knew what the requirement was…the requirement is death. And God may that abundantly clear throughout the whole Old Testament economy because the Jews spent most of their lives, of course, either coming from or going to a sacrifice. They had to continually massacre animals, millions and millions and millions of them to deal with sin, to show the people how wicked they were and how sin required death. It wasn’t that those animals took away their sin, they didn’t, they couldn’t. But what they demonstrated to the people repeatedly was that the wages of sin is…what?…is death…death, death, death, death, death, death. And every time they would sin it was back to another death, back to killing another animal. And they were wearied of that and longing for the ultimate Lamb who once and for all would take away the sin of the world and end this carnage. The animals were symbols that God’s law can only be satisfied through death and made the people long with all their hearts for a final substitute, a final substitute.

Well the Father sent one and He didn’t come reluctantly, not at all. He said, “No man takes My life from Me,” in John 10, “I lay it down of Myself, I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again.” He willingly did not hold on to what He had a right to grasp, but let go of it and condescended to die.

So if there was to be reconciliation, the plan had to come from God, He had to initiate it. He had to design it. He had to execute it.

Second thing you see in this text, first the benefactor who is God, second the substitute. And the substitute is identified. “He made Him who knew no sin.” That’s the identification of the substitute. Who is it? Him who knew no sin. Let me tell you something, folks, that narrows the field to one. Him who knew no sin, who is that? It’s not a human being for there is none of them who is righteous, no not one. They’ve all sinned and come short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23. There’s no human being who qualifies. Who is the one who knew no sin? Who is this one? Who is the one who can bear the full wrath of God against sin for somebody else because He doesn’t have to bear it for Himself? See, no sinful person could be a substitute, no sinner could die for another sinner because he would have to pay the penalty for his own sin. There had to be a sinless offering. And it had to be a human being because it had to be man who dies for man, but he couldn’t be a sinful human being or he would have to die for his own sin and couldn’t provide atonement for somebody else’s. So it had to be a sinless man.

Well the only way to have a sinless man was to have a man who was God because God alone is sinless. So if you’re going to have a sinless man you have to have a man who is God. And that’s exactly what God designed…that the second member of the trinity, sinless and perfect, equally holy with the other two members of the trinity would come into the world in the form of a man. He was not to have a human father, Joseph was not the father of Jesus and Joseph knew it. Joseph had never known his wife in a conjugal way. He found out that she was with child, he couldn’t believe it. And then the angel said, “That which was conceived in her was of the Holy Spirit.” So that Jesus had a human mother that He might be a human, but God was His Father so that He was the God/Man, the sinless human being.

The Old Testament pictured that because when the lamb was selected it had to be a lamb without…what?…spot and without blemish. It had to be a perfect animal without a mark, picturing the real substitute who would be perfect. A man to die for men. God to be sinless so that indeed He could be a substitute.

In Revelation chapter 5 there is a marvelous picture and it points up the fact that no one is qualified except Christ. In Revelation chapter 5 we go to heaven and we’re in the throne room of God and God is on the throne and in His hand He has a scroll, sealed with seven seals. This is a title deed to the universe, this is looking at the future when God gets ready to take His universe back from Satan and sin, from the one, Lucifer, who fell and usurped the rulership of this universe.

And so God is holding in His hand, as it were, in this vision the title deed to the universe. Verse 2, John is watching in his vision, he sees a strong angel proclaiming with a loud verse and the angel says this, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And verse 3 says, “No one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. And I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it.” There wasn’t anybody. There was not one individual in the created universe, man or angel, who could step forward and execute the contents of this book. No one. And John began to weep. No one to take back the universe from Satan.

Verse 5, “One of the elders said to me, `Stop weeping, behold the lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the root of David has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.'” Somebody is worthy. Who is it? “The lion from the tribe of Judah.” That’s a man, out of the tribe of Judah, that’s a Jew, from the tribe of Judah. But He’s also the root of David…not the branch, not something that came out of David but what produced David. That’s God. And in what form is He? Verse 6, “A lamb slain.” There’s only one who is worthy to take back the universe and that is the one who was born a Jew in every way human but the one who was God the very source from which David came…the one who was the slain lamb. God then had to create a unique virgin-born God/Man in order to be the substitute because the plan demanded a substitute. Justice had to be satisfied. The law had to be vindicated. Wrath had to consume.

So Paul says to the Galatians, “When the fullness of time came God sent forth His Son born of a woman.” Wow…why? “In order that He might redeem those who were under the law.” Galatians 4:4 and 5. Jesus Christ then is the one who knew no sin, Him who knew no sin is Christ. And the testimony of every one historically affirms that. You can go to the pagan world, start there. Jesus says in John 8:46, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” Silence and there is still silence. Hear Pilate in Luke 23, Pilate, cynical, vicious, cruel, ungodly, pagan, idolatrous. Pilate said in verse 4 of Luke 23 to the chief priests and the multitudes, “I find no guilt in this man.” Verse 14, again he said it, “I have found no guilt in this man.” Verse 22 and again the third time, he said to them, “Why? What evil has this man done, I have found in Him no guilt.”

Listen to the thief on the cross, “We indeed suffer justly,” he says to the other thief, “We’re receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Listen to the testimony of the centurion who watched it all in verse 47, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

It wasn’t just unbelieving people who saw His perfection. How about the Apostles? John who was with Him day and night for three years, John who followed His every footstep and heard His every word and saw His every act and maybe felt His every breath as he leaned on His breast as often as he could, it was John who said in His epistle, 1 John 3 verse 5, “In Him there is no sin.” And John said we were eyewitnesses of it. And then there was the writer of Hebrews who affirms the very same reality when he says in chapter 4 of verse 15, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has been tempted in all things as we are tempted, yet without sin.” And in chapter 7 the writer of Hebrews says, “He was holy, innocent, undefiled and separate from sinners.” And then there was Peter who preached in Acts 3 and he says of Christ, “You have killed the prince of life,” and he calls Him a holy and just one. And then you remember it was Peter, specially Peter, who said of Christ that He was a lamb, 1 Peter 1:19, unblemished and spotless, who said of Him in chapter 2 of that same epistle and verse 24, “He bore our sins in His own body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. But He…verse 22…committed no sin.” And then in chapter 3 and verse 18 of that same epistle, “God died for sins, the just for the unjust.”

Now the testimony of unbelieving men was of his sinlessness. The testimony of those who knew Him best was of His sinlessness. But there’s another who gave testimony and that testimony is indeed powerful. It was none other than God the Father Himself. At His baptism recorded inMatthew 3:17 the Father said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am completely pleased.” And at His transfiguration in Matthew 17 verse 5, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am completely pleased.” You see, the Father was totally satisfied with the Son. There was nothing in the Son that dissatisfied the Father, He was perfect, sinless.

And maybe the greatest testimony of His sinlessness was the unbroken fellowship He had with God. “I and the Father are one. I and the Father are one.” He said that many times. He says that in John 10 verse 30. He says it in John 14 verses 30 and 31. He says it repeatedly in John 17, He says it in verse 11, He says it in verse 21, 22, 23, we’re one, we’re one, we’re one, we’re one, we’re united, we’re united. That was the greatest testimony of His sinlessness was that He had absolutely unbroken communion with God.

Now had He not been man He couldn’t be the substitute. Had He not been sinless He couldn’t be the substitute. So He had to be man and He had to be God.

Notice our text again, “God made Him who knew no sin,” here is the remarkable statement, “to be sin.” You see, He had to punish sin but if He punished the sinner the sinner would be destroyed in hell eternally. So He had to take the substitute and put Him in the place of the sinner and punish the substitute instead. He had to be sin. That phrase is very important and I want you to grasp it.

What does it mean that He was made sin? That’s an astounding statement. What does it mean? Well, first of all, let me tell you what it doesn’t mean and you need to understand this clearly. It does not mean that Christ became a sinner. It does not mean that He committed a sin. It does not mean that He broke God’s law. He did not do that. The Scriptures I’ve just read to you indicate that He had no capacity to sin, that’s what theologians call the impeccability of Christ. He had no possibility to sin. He could not sin. He was sinless God while fully man. And certainly it is unthinkable that God would turn Him into a sinner. The idea of God making anybody a sinner is unthinkable, to say nothing of making His holy Son into a sinner.

Well you say, “Well what does it mean then that He was made sin?” Isaiah 53 introduces it to us, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, our sorrows He carried.” Verse 5, “He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. And the chastening that fell on Him was because of us.” Verse 6, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” He didn’t die for His own sins, He died for…what?…for our sins.

What it means is the Lord took all of the iniquity of all of us and it fell on Christ. What do you mean? It wasn’t His sin? No, it was our sin. What is it saying? Simply this, God treated Christ as if He were a sinner. How? By making Him pay the penalty for sin though He was innocent. He paid the penalty. God treated Him as if He was the sinner. More than that, God treated Him 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. That, listen, is the only sense in which Christ was made sin, and the word is He was made sin by imputation. Sin was imputed to Him, it wasn’t His, He never sinned. But God put it to His account, charged it to Him and making Him pay the penalty. It would be like some…it would be like all the sinners in all the world charging all their sin to your credit card and you having to pay the bill. Imputation…listen, the guilt of the sins of all who would ever believe God, all who would ever be saved was imputed to Jesus Christ, credited to Him as if He were guilty of all of it. And then just…as soon as God had credited it to Him, God poured out the full fury of all His wrath against all that sin and all those sinners and Jesus experienced all of that. Is it any wonder at that moment He was alienated from God and said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He was treated as a sinner. He was treated as a sinner deserves to be treated, with all the fury of just punishment.

Let me go further. He was treated as every sinner cumulatively deserve to be treated and all the fury was poured on Him. He was personally pure—He was officially guilty. He was personally holy—He was forensically guilty.

Look at Galatians chapter 3 verse 10…verse 10 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse.” All right, you want to try to earn your way to heaven? You want to try to reconcile yourself? You want to keep certain works? Do certain religious duties? Ascribe to some moral law or ceremonial law? You want to achieve your own righteousness? You’ve got a problem. All of you who try to reconcile to God through works, through what you do are cursed. Why? Because it says in Deuteronomy, “Cursed is everyone who doesn’t abide by all things written in the book of the law to perform them.”

You know why that curses you, that approach curses you? Because the first time you violate one law you’re damned. It just takes one. Cursed is everyone who doesn’t keep all that is written in the book of the law. So if you’re going to try to reconcile yourself to God through human effort, every time you try to do that you put yourself under a curse because it only takes one violation. So the whole human race is cursed. And everybody in every religion on the face of the earth trying to achieve reconciliation by their own efforts is cursed. All this curse of iniquity has to be paid for. There has to be a penalty for this curse. So verse 13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse by being made a curse for us.” Wow! That’s the point. He became a curse for us. He took the full fury of God’s wrath on our behalf. God placed Christ in the path of the curse and trampled Him with exhausted judgment.

And again I remind you, that it is imputation that is crucial to understanding reconciliation. He became sin by imputation. Our sin was imputed to Him…follow this…just as believers become holy by imputation. You remember that? Being given His righteousness.

Let me say it another way. Christ dying on the cross did not become evil like we are, nor do we by virtue of the cross become as holy as He is. You say, “Well what happens?” It’s imputation. God puts sin to Christ’s credit, our sin and puts Christ’s righteousness to our credit. It’s not that we are so righteous God is satisfied. It’s that because the penalty is paid and the guilt has been met that God can credit to us the righteousness of Christ. That’s the gospel.

The only sense in which you are made righteous through justification is by imputation. And that’s the same sense in which Christ was made sin. He is made sin because God credits our sin to Him. We’re made righteous because God credits His righteousness to us.

Listen, I’m a Christian, you’re a Christian, I am not so righteous that as I am I can stand before a holy God. Are you? I’ve got a lot of sin in my life and I would say if I got anywhere near God what Peter said, “Depart from Me, O Lord, for I am…what?…I’m still sinful.” But God looks at me and does not consider me on the virtue of my human morality, He considers me on the virtue of the imputed righteousness of Christ which covers me. This is the point.

Well, the benefactor is God, the substitute is Christ and by imputation receives our sins and dies for them, taking our place. Thirdly, the beneficiaries and these last points are brief. Thirdly, the beneficiaries. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin…here it is…on our behalf.” On our behalf. Who you talking about, Paul? Who is “our”? Well it’s the same as the “we” in verse 20. “We are ambassadors.” It’s the same as the “us” in verse 19, “He committed to us the reconciliation ministry.” It’s the same as the “us” in verse 18, “Us who have been given this ministry.” Who is this “our, we, us” group.

Well they’re in verse 17 described, “Any man who is…what?…in Christ who is a new creation, old things passed away and new things have come.” There is a transformation. There is a new creation at salvation. There is. We are transformed. We are changed. But even with that change we wouldn’t have sufficient righteousness to satisfy a holy God. And so He has to cover us in the righteousness of Christ to make us acceptable until He can get us to glory and we’ll be made righteous. And it is for us, us who are in Christ then, us who have been reconciled that He died. He died in our place.

The actual substitution in its efficacy was for believers, those who would believe. He died for our sins. He died for us. He died in our place.

The final point, the benefit. And what did He provide us? “In order that,” this is the purpose of it, “we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” See, there’s that imputation. What is the benefit? We become righteous before God. This is what justification does. And the righteousness that we are given is the very righteousness of Christ. Listen to what Paul said in Philippians 3:9, “We are now found in Christ not having a righteousness of my own,” he says. Not some righteousness derived from keeping the law but a righteousness through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God. Wow! It’s imputed to us. He’s holy, God imputed sin to Him. We’re sinful, God imputes holiness to us.

The very righteousness which God requires to accept the sinner is the very righteousness which God provides. When God looks at you He sees you covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. That’s why all your sin is automatically forgiven in the eternal sense because Jesus already paid the penalty, right? God can’t hold you responsible for your sin, Jesus paid the full penalty for it, took the full fury for it.

You say, “Well what about the sins I commit after I’m a Christian?” Well He died for those too because you weren’t even born when He died. They were all future. In fact, He is the lamb slain from before…what?…the foundation of the world, before even the creation. The plan was for Him to die for all the sins of all who will ever believe.

This is the righteousness that Romans 3 talks about. It’s the righteousness of God, verse 21, apart from the law. Verse 22, it’s the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe. And that’s the key. How do you get in on this? Believe. Believe what? Believe that you’re a sinner, believe you’re in a desperate situation, you’re desperately alienated from God. Believe that you have no hope of reconciliation and you will in this life live godlessly and in the next life you will suffer eternal torment. And believe all of that. And then believe that God sent His Son into the world in the form of a man to die as your substitute and take your place and that He took the full fury of the wrath of God upon Him. And believe that the affirmation that God’s justice was satisfied was the fact that God raised Jesus…what?..from the dead. And when God raised Him from the dead He was saying, “I am satisfied.” And then God exalted Jesus to His right hand where He sits at the right hand of God on the throne and God says when that was done, when He offered Himself and satisfied My justice, I gave Him…Philippians 2…a name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee in the universe must bow and every tongue must confess that Jesus is Lord. That’s what you believe. That’s the gospel.

And when you believe that by faith, simply believing that, God in His mercy takes the righteousness of Jesus Christ and imputes it to you because your sins were imputed to Christ when He died on the cross. The Father knew you were there when the Son died. Your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world and the atonement that Christ made was for you. And you come to believe and you receive the imputed righteousness. And then you live in this life with God in your life and in eternity in the presence of God in absolute perfection. That’s the gospel. That’s Christianity. That’s it.

The benefactor is God, it’s all His plan, it comes out of His love. The substitute is Jesus Christ who took your place, the perfect God/Man. The beneficiaries, all of us for whom He died, those who will believe. And the benefit, you receive the righteousness of God imputed to you as if you were equal to Jesus Christ in holiness. And some day you will be made holy. But until then you’re covered with the righteousness of God in Christ. And it becomes yours through faith, believe, repent, put your faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s bow in prayer.

Father, we come to You at this time and ask that everyone of us might look into our hearts and be sure that we have been reconciled to God. Thank You for giving all of us the ministry of reconciliation. Thank You that You have not only reconciled us but called us to cry to others, “Be ye reconciled to God, it is available, it is possible, God has made a way.” And we cry that to sinners here this morning who have not been reconciled and we ask, O God, that You would prompt their hearts to believe and to repent, turning from their sin and saying, “I want forgiveness for my sin, I want the hope of heaven, I want God in my life, I want to be reconciled.” O Father, I just pray that Your Holy Spirit will work that marvelous miracle of reconciliation in hearts today. And we thank You for bearing our sin and for letting us bear Your righteousness. This is all overwhelming and we are unworthy, but grateful. Speak, Father, to those hearts who do not know the Savior, who have not been reconciled and draw them to Yourself. And may they have confidence in the words of Jesus who said, “Him that comes to Me I’ll never turn aside.” And we ask that sinners might come today and in faith embrace the righteousness provided for them by the one who bore their sin. We thank You in Christ’s name. Amen.


Torrey Teaches the Bible

Methods of Bible Study

R A Torrey
R A Torrey
by Rev. R. A. Torrey.

First of all make up your mind that you will put some time every day into the study of the Word of God. That is an easy resolution to make, and not a very difficult one to keep; if the one who makes it is in earnest. It is one of the most fruitful resolutions that any Christian ever made. The forming of that resolution and the holding faithfully to it, has been the turning point in many a life. Many a life that has been barren and unsatisfactory has become rich and useful through the introduction into it of regular, persevering, daily study of the Bible. This study may not be very interesting at first, the results may not be very encouraging; but, if one will keep pegging away, it will soon begin to count as nothing else has ever counted in the development of character, and in the enrichment of the whole life. Nothing short of absolute physical inability should be allowed to interfere with this daily study.

It is impossible to make a rule that will apply to everyone as to the amount of time that shall be given each day to the study of the Word. I know many busy people, including not a few laboring men and women, who give an hour a day to Bible study, but if one cannot give more than fifteen minutes a great deal can be accomplished. Wherever it is possible the time set apart for the work should be in the daylight hours. The very best time is in the early morning hours. If possible lock yourself in with God alone.

2. Make up your mind to study the Bible. It is astounding how much heedless reading of the Bible is done. Men seem to think that there is some magic power in the book, and that, if they will but open its pages and skim over its words, they will get good out of it. The Bible is good only because of the truth that is in it, and to see this truth demands close attention. A verse must oftentimes be read and re-read and read again before the wondrous message of love and power that God has put into it begins to appear. Words must be turned over and over in the mind before their full force and beauty takes possession of us. One must look a long time at the great masterpieces of art to appreciate their beauty and understand their meaning, and so one must look a long time at the great verses of the Bible to appreciate their beauty and understand their meaning. When you read a verse in the Bible ask yourself What does this verse mean? Then ask: What does it mean for me? When that is answered ask yourself again: Is that all it means? and don’t leave it until you are quite sure that is all it means for the present. You may come back at some future time and find it means yet a great deal more. If there are any important words in the verse weigh them, look up other passages where they are used, and try to get their full significance. God pronounces that man blessed who “meditates” on the Word of God “day and night.” Ps. 1:2, 3. An indolent skimming over a few verses or many chapters in the Bible is not meditation, and there is not much blessing in it. Jeremiah said: “Thy words were found and I did eat them.” (Jer. 15:16.) Nothing is more important in eating than chewing. If one doesn’t properly chew his food, he is quite as likely to get dyspepsia as nourishment. Don’t let anyone chew your spiritual food for you. Insist on doing it for yourself. Any one can be a student who makes up his mind to. It is hard at first but it soon becomes easy. I have seen very dull minds become keen by holding them right down to the grindstone.

3. Study the Bible topically. Take up the various subjects treated in the Bible, one by one, and go through the Bible and find what it has to say on these subjects. It may be important to know what the great men have to say on important subjects; it is far more important to know what God has to say on these subjects. It is important also to know all that God has to say. A great many people know a part of what God has to say–and usually a very small part–and so their ideas are very imperfect and one-sided. If they only knew all God had to say on the subject, it would be far better for them and for their friends. The only way to know all God has to say on any subject is to go through the Bible on that subject. To do this it is not necessary to read every verse in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It would be slow work, if we had to do that on every subject we took up. This would be necessary were it not for Text Books and Concordances. But in these we have the results of the hard work of many minds. Here we have the various passages that bear on any subject brought together and classified for use, so that now we can do in a few hours what would otherwise take months or years. The topical method of Bible study is simplest, most fascinating and yields the largest immediate results. It is not the only method of Bible study, and the one who pursues it exclusively will miss much of the blessing God has for him in Bible study. But it is a very interesting and fruitful method of study. It is Mr. Moody’s favorite method. It fills one’s mind very full on any subject studied. Mr. Moody once gave several days to the study of “Grace.” When he had finished he was so full of the subject that he rushed out on the street and going up to the first man he met he said: “Do you know anything about Grace?” “Grace who,” the man asked. “The Grace of God that bringeth salvation.” And then Mr. Moody poured out upon that man the rich treasures he had dug out of the Word of God. That is the way to master any subject and to get full of it. Go through the Bible and see what it has to say on this subject. This is easily done. Take your Text Book and turn to the subject. Suppose the subject you desire to study is “Prayer.” On pages 198-200 will be found a long list of the various passages of Scripture that bear on this subject. Look them up one after another and study them carefully and see just what their teaching is. When you have gone through them you will know far more about prayer than you ever knew before, and far more than you could learn by reading any books that men have written about prayer, profitable as many of these books are. Sometimes it will be necessary to look up other subjects that are closely related to the one in hand. For example, you wish to study what the teaching of God’s Word is regarding the atonement. In this case you will not only look under the head “Atonement” on page 23, but also under the head “Blood” on page 30, and under the head “Death of Christ,” on page 60. To do this work a concordance is not necessary but it is often very helpful. For example, if you are studying the subject “Prayer” you can look up from the concordance the passages that contain the words “pray,” “prayer,” “cry,” “ask,” “call,” “supplication,” “intercession,” etc. But the Text Book will give most of the passages on any subject regardless of what the words used in the passage may be. Other passages will be found in the section on Bible Doctrines under their proper headings.

There are four important suggestions to make regarding Topical Study of the Bible.

First: Be systematic. Do not take up subjects for study at random. Have a carefully prepared list of the subjects you wish to know about, and need to know about, and take them up one by one, in order. If you do not do this, the probability is that you will have a few pet topics and will be studying these over and over until you get to be a crank about them, and possibly a nuisance. You will know much about these subjects, but about many other subjects equally important you will know nothing. You will be a one-sided Christian.

Second: Be thorough. When you take up a subject do not be content to study a few passages on this subject, but find just as far as possible every passage in the Bible on this subject. If you find the Text Book incomplete make additions of your own to it.

Third: Be exact. Find the exact meaning of every passage given in the Text Book on any subject. The way to do this is simple. In the first place note the exact words used. In the next place get the exact meaning of the words used. This is done by finding how the word is used in the Bible. The Bible usage of the word is not always the common use of to-day. For example, the Bible use of the words “sanctification” and “justification” is not the same as the common use. Then notice what goes before and what comes after the verse. This will oftentimes settle the meaning of a verse when it appears doubtful. Finally see if there are any parallel passages. The meaning of many of the most difficult passages in the Bible is made perfectly plain by some other passages that throws light upon them. Then parallel passages are given in the margin of a good reference Bible and still more fully in “The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge,” a volume worthy of a place in the library of every Bible student.

Fourth: Arrange the results of your topical study in an orderly way and write them down. One should constantly use pen and paper in Bible study. When one has gone through the Text Book on any subject, he will have a large amount of material, but he will want to get it into usable shape. The various passages given on any topic in the Text Book are classified, but the classification is not always just the one best adapted to our individual use. Take for example the subject “Prayer.” The classification of texts in the topic is very suggestive, but a better one for some purposes would be: 1st. Who Can Pray so that God Will Hear? 2nd. To Whom to Pray. 3d. For Whom to Pray. 4th. When to Pray. 5th. Where to Pray. 6th. For What to pray. 7th. How to Pray. 8th. Hindrances to Prayer. 9th. The results of Prayer. The passages given in the Text Book would come under these heads. It is well to make a trial division of the subject before taking up the individual passages given and to arrange each passage as we take it up under the appropriate head. We may have to add to the divisions with which we began as we find new passages. The best classification of passages for any individual is the one he makes for himself, although he will get helpful suggestions from others.

There are some subjects that every Christian should study and study as soon as possible. We give a list of these:

The Atonement (of the Blood of Christ).
The New Birth.
The Flesh.
Love: To Godto Jesus Christ, to Christians, to all men.
The Future Destiny of Believers.
The Future Destiny of the Wicked. (Found under “Punishment of the Wicked,” page 213; “Death of the Wicked,” p. 61).
The Character of Christ.
The Resurrection of Christ.
The Ascension of Christ.
The Second Coming of Christ: The fact, the manner, the purpose, the results, the time.
The Reign of Christ.
The Holy SpiritWho and What He isHis Work.
God. His Attributes and Work.
Messianic Prophecies (under head, “Prophecies Respecting Christ,” page 207).
The Church.
The Jews.
The Judgment.

4. Study the Bible by chapters. This method of Bible study is not beyond any person of average intelligence who has fifteen minutes or more a day to put into Bible Study. It will take, however, more than one day to the study a chapter if only fifteen minutes a day are set apart for the work.

First: Select the chapters you wish to study. It is well to take a whole book and study the chapters in their order. The Acts of the Apostles (or the Gospel of John) is a good book to begin with. In time one may take up every chapter in the Bible, but it would not be wise to begin with Genesis.

Second: Read the chapter for to-day’s study five times. It is well to read it aloud at least once. The writer sees many things when he reads the Bible aloud that he does not see when he reads silently. Each new reading will bring out some new point.

Third: Divide the chapters into their natural divisions and find headings for them that describe in the most striking way their contents. For example, suppose the chapter studied is 1 John 5. You might divide in this way: 1st Division, verses 1-3.The Believer’s Noble Parentage. 2nd Division, verses 4, 5. The Believer’s Glorious Victory. 3rd Division, verses 6-10. The Believer’s Sure Ground of Faith. 4th Div.,verses 11, 12. The Believer’s Priceless Possession. 5th Div., verse 13. The Believer’s Blessed Assurance. 6th Div., verses 14, 15. The Believer’s Unquestioning Confidence. 7th Div., verses 16, 17. The Believer’s Great Power and Responsibility. 8th Div., verses 18, 19. The Believer’s Perfect Security. 9th Div., verse 20. The Believer’s Precious Knowledge. 10th Div., verse 21. The Believer’s Constant Duty. In many cases the natural divisions will be longer than in this chapter.

Fourth: Note the important differences between the Authorized Version and the Revised and write them in the margin of your Bible.

Fifth: Write down the leading facts of the chapter in their proper order.

Sixth: Make a note of the persons mentioned in the chapter and of any light thrown upon their character. For example, your chapter is Acts 16. The persons mentioned are: Timothy, Timothy’s mother, Timothy’s father, the brethren at Lystra and Iconium, Paul, the Jews of Lystra and Iconium, the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, a man of Macedonia, Luke, some women of Philippi, Lydia, the household of Lydia, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination, the masters of this damsel, Silas, the praetors of Philippi, the Philippian mob, the jailor of Philippi, the prisoners in the Philippian jail, the household of the jailor, the lictors of Philippi, the brethren in Philippi. What light does the chapter throw upon the character of each?

Seventh: Note the principal lessons of the chapter. It would be well to classify these: e. g., lessons about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, etc., etc.

Eighth: The Central Truth of the chapter.

Ninth: The key verse of the chapter if there is one.

Tenth: The best verse in the chapter. Opinions will differ widely here. But the question is, which is the best verse to you at this present reading? Mark it and memorize it.

Eleventh: Note the verses that are usable as texts for sermons or talks or Bible readings. If you have time make an analysis of the thought of these verses and write it in the margin, or on the opposite leaf if you have an interleaved Bible.

Twelfth: Name the chapter. For example, Acts 1 might be called The Ascension Chapter; Acts 2, The Day of Pentecost Chapter; Acts 3, The Lame Man’s Chapter; etc. Give your own names to the chapters. Give the name that sets forth the most important and characteristic feature of the chapter.

Thirteenth: Note subjects for further study. For example, you are studying Acts 1. Subjects suggested for further study are, The Baptism with the Holy GhostThe Ascension ; The Second Coming of Christ.

Fourteenth: Words and phrases for further study. For example you are studyingJohn 3. You should look up words and expressions such as, “Eternal life,” “Born again,” “Water,” “Believer,” “The Kingdom of God.”

Fifteenth: Write down what new truth you have learned from the chapter. If you have learned none, you had better go over it again.

Sixteenth: What truth already known has come to you with new power?

Seventeenth: What definite thing have you resolved to do as a result of studying this chapter? A permanent record should be kept of the results of the study of each chapter. It is well to have an interleaved Bible and keep the most important results in this.

5. Study the Bible as the Word of God. The Bible is the Word of God, and we get the most good out of any book by studying it as what it really is. It is often said that we should study the Bible just as we study any other book. That principle contains a truth, but it also contains a great error. The Bible, it is true, is a book as other books are books, the same laws of grammatical and literary construction and interpretation hold here as hold in other books. But the Bible is an entirely unique book. It is what no other book is–The Word of God. This can be easily proven to any candid man. The Bible ought then to be studied as no other book is. It should be studied as the Word of God. (1 Thes. 2:13.) This involves five things.

First: A greater eagerness and more careful and candid study to find out just what it teaches than is bestowed upon any other book or upon all other books. We must know the mind of God; here it is revealed.

Second: A prompt and unquestioning acceptance of and submission to its teachings when definitely ascertained, even when these teachings appear to us unreasonable or impossible. If this book is the Word of God how foolish to submit its teachings to the criticism of our finite reason. The little boy who discredits his wise father’s statements because to his infant mind they appear unreasonable, is not a philosopher but a fool. When we are once satisfied that the Bible is the Word of God, its clear teachings must be the end of all controversy and discussion.

Third: Absolute reliance upon all its promises in all their length and breadth and depth and height. The one who studies the Bible as the Word of God will say of every promise no matter how vast and beyond belief it appears, “God who cannot lie has promised this, so I claim it for myself.” Mark the promises you thus claim. Look each day for some new promise from your infinite Father. He has put “His riches in glory” at your disposal. (Phil. 4:19.)

Fourth: Obedience–prompt, exact, unquestioning, joyous obedience–to every command that is evident from the context applies to you. Be on the lookout for new orders from the King. Blessing lies in the direction of obedience to them. God’s commands are but signboards that mark the road to present success and blessedness and to eternal glory.

Fifth: Studying the Bible as the Word of God, involves studying it as His own voice speaking directly to you. When you open the Bible to study it realize that you have come into the very presence of God and that now He is going to speak to you. Every hour thus spent in Bible study will be an hour’s walk and talk with God.

6. Study the Bible prayerfully. The author of the book is willing to act as interpreter of it. He does so when we ask Him to. The one who prays with earnestness and faith, the Psalmist’s prayer, “Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law,” will get his eyes opened to see beauties and wonders in the Word that he never dreamed of before. Be very definite about this. Each time you open the Bible to study it for a few minutes or many, ask God to give you the open and discerning eye, and expect Him to do it. Every time you come to a difficulty lay it before God and ask an explanation and expect it. How often we think as we puzzle over hard passages, “Oh if I only had so and so here to explain this.” God is always present. Take it to Him.

7. Look for “the things concerning Christ” “in all the Scriptures.” Christ is everywhere in the Bible (Luke 24:27) be on the lookout for Him and mark His presence when you find it.

8. Improve spare moments in Bible study. In almost every man’s life many minutes each day are lost; while waiting for meals or trains, while riding in the car, etc. Carry a pocket Bible or Testament with you and save these golden minutes by putting them to the very best use listening to the voice of God. The Topical Text Book can be easily carried in the pocket as a help in the work.

9. Store away the Scripture in your mind and heart. It will keep you from sin (Ps. 119:11. R. V.), from false doctrine (Acts 20:29, 30, 32. 2 Tim. 3:13-15), it will fill your heart with joy (Jer. 15:16), and peace (Ps. 85:8), it will give you the victory over the Evil One (1 John 2:14), it will give you power in prayer (John 15:7), it will make you wiser than the aged and your enemies (Ps. 119:100, 98, 130.) it will make you “complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17, R. V.) Try it. Do not memorize at random but memorize Scripture in a connected way. Memorize texts bearing on various subjects in proper order. Memorize by chapter and verse that you may know where to put your finger upon the text if anyone disputes it.