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Bible Gem 546 - A Beautiful Exchange (2 Cor 5:21)

April 25, 2019


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 Cor 5:21)



This verse has been called the Great Exchange amid many other things. It is shocking in its simplicity and profound in its depth.


For our sake, for us, on our behalf

For the reason that we should be reconciled to God. We are the ones who need still to do our part. He has done his part. All He went through was for us. Let that soak in. 


God made Him sin



God, treated Christ as if he had been a sinner. But this treatment of Christ on the part of God, is not because of what he had done but because our sin was heaped on him. The words in this verse are strong words - “He was made sin.” As Isaiah writes "the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all." Isa 53:6. God the Father appointed Him (the Christ) to be the Saviour of the world, the lamb of God which would take away the sin of the world. It was all part of GOD'S appointed plan. 


Him who knew no sin

God the Father made the One who knew no sin to be sin. Paul spells it out clearly with this appositional clause, that He was not guilty. He was perfectly holy and pure. This idea is also expressed by Peter (1Peter 2:22) “who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.”  In all respects, and in all possible senses, the Lord Jesus was pure and holy. If he had not been, he would not have been qualified to make an atonement. Hence, the New Testament writers take great pains to keep this idea prominent, for on this depends the whole superstructure of the plan of salvation. The phrase “knew no sin,” is an expression of great beauty and dignity. It indicates his entire and perfect purity. He was altogether unacquainted with sin; he was a stranger to sin. ; he was conscious of no sin; he had committed none. He had a mind and heart perfectly free from pollution, and his whole life was perfectly pure and holy in the sight of God.


To be sin 

Compare "to be sin"  with "to be a sinner". Paul doesn't say the Christ was made to be a sinner. That would be something entirely different.  Rather he says "to be sin" – the singular. The epitomy, the embodiment of sin. All sin. Past present and future. He is the lamb of the world who takes away the sin of the world. All of it.  Not a sinful person, which would be untrue, but “sin,” that is, the representative Sin-bearer bears the aggregate sin of all men past, present, and future. The sin of the world is one, therefore the singular, not the plural, is used; though its manifestations are manifold. But besides all this, he was made sin itself by imputation; the sins of all his people were transferred unto him, laid upon him, and placed to his account. He sustained and bore their sins and having them upon him he was chargeable and answerable for them. He was treated by the justice of God as if he had been not only a sinner, but bore the mass of sin; for to be made sin, is a stronger expression than to be made a sinner: 


So that we (who are born in sin) 

We, who are steeped in sin, conceived in sin, sinful to the core 


Might be made the righteousness of God 

This is a Hebraism, meaning the same as divinely righteous. It means that we are made righteous in the sight of God; that we are accepted as righteous, and treated as righteous by God on account of what the Lord Jesus has done. We who are guilty sinners are given the righteousness of God. We stand in His righteousness not that we are righteous or are seen to be in the right. Far from it. There is here an evident and beautiful contrast between what is said of Christ, and what is said of us. He was made sin; we are made righteousness; that is, he was treated as if he were a sinner, though he was perfectly holy and pure; we are treated as if we were righteous, though we are defiled and depraved. We are not made right or righteous. We are not judged to be right. We are given righteousness. And that righteousness is the righteousness of God. Not merely righteous, but righteousness itself; not merely righteousness, but the righteousness of God. There is none better. The idea is, that on account of what the Lord Jesus has endured in our behalf we are treated as if we had ourselves entirely fulfilled the Law of God, and had never become exposed to its penalty. In the phrase “righteousness of God,” there is a reference to the fact that this is His plan of making people righteous, or of justifying them. They who thus become righteous, or are justified, are justified on his plan, and by a scheme which he has devised.  The whole plan is based on substitution, without which there can be no salvation. Innocence suffers for guilt, and the guilty are thus made pure and holy, and are saved. 


God made Him sin and gave us His righteousness, the righteousness of God. Now that is an excellent exchange; a stupendous substitution. We sure got the best deal and He ended up with the bad deal but He did it willingly FOR US.



It seems appropriate to share the words of the song "A Beautiful Exchange" by Joel Houston (Hillsong) with you.


You were near though I was distant
Disillusioned, I was lost and insecure
Still mercy fought for my attention
You were waiting at the door then I let You in

Trading your life for my offenses
For my redemption, You carried all the blame
Breaking the curse of our condition
Perfection took our place

When only love could make a way
You gave Your life in a beautiful exchange

My burden erased, my life forgiven
There is nothing that could take this love away
My only desire and sole ambition
Is to love You just the same

When only love could make a way
You gave Your life in a beautiful exchange
When only love could break these chains
You gave Your life in a beautiful exchange

Holy are You, God, holy is Your name
With everything I've got
My heart will sing how I love You

Holy are You, God, holy is Your name
With everything I've got
My heart will sing how I love You

Holy are You, God, holy is Your name
With everything I've got
My heart will sing how I love You



Your salvation wasn't a joint effort. You didn't contribute a penny because you were spiritually bankrupt.  Bob Gass


I know you have no righteousness of your own…here, have mine. God


God loves to justify sinners, but he will never justify sin.


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