17 July 2006

The Great Exchange (Part 2)

by Phil Johnson

"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 Corinthians 5:21).

his, in Paul's own words, is what it means to "preach Christ." The verse is set in a context where the apostle Paul is describing his own role as an evangelist and ambassador for Christ. This is his one-verse summary of the evangelistic message. It is accompanied by an evangelistic appeal, verse 20: "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead [as His ambassadors, speaking for Him, making the same appeal He would make if He were here speaking Himself], be ye reconciled to God."

That is the plea of the gospel message. That's the simple truth that ought to be the heart and the focus of everything we teach.

But verse 21 is the key that explains how this reconciliation is possible. In that sense, the principle taught in this passage is the very heart of the gospel. The ramifications of this passage are far-reaching and uniquely rich. It explains for us Christ's relationship to sin, to sinners, and to God the Father. It sheds important light on the meaning and the nature and the extent of Christ's work—and the means by which atonement for sin was accomplished.

As is obvious from the comments-thread under yesterday's post, 2 Corinthians 5:21 is a vitally important text for understanding the doctrine of justification by faith and the imputation of righteousness to sinners. In fact, the principles of justification, expiation, imputation, substitution, and reconciliation are all illuminated in some important aspect or another by this text. You could practically do a comprehensive survey of every aspect of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) beginning with this one verse alone.

(Of course, as yesterday's comment-thread illustrates, you have to see the connections between this text and other contexts where Paul is teaching about justification in order to get the proper sense of the doctrine.)

But Christ Himself is the proper focus of the text. At least three vital perspectives of Christ are given to us in this text, and beginning tomorrow, we'll take some time to look at each of them individually.

Phil's signature

5 comments:

Mike Y said...

Phil,

I am glad you're taking the time to dive into this topic. And I do agree that this is vital to the Gospel.

Perhaps it is in fact the heart of it. For without reconciliation, what hope have we? None, I dare say. But this does seem to fit so very tightly with justification by faith vs. because of faith as well. For God not only set out to reconcile us to him, he provided the means of overcoming our own clouded minds too. And I would go so far as to say he changed our presuppositions along the way.

If this is the definition of neurosis as some have claimed, I'm thankful for it and am tossing out the dictionary as God certainly doesn't require an external commentary.

Again, thanks for laboring on this subject. I do trust it will pay off.

donsands said...

"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
And the Shepherd will "go after that which is lost until he finds it", and when He finds His lost sheep, "He lays it on His shoulders, rejoicing", and "likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents", for it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." Matt. 18:11-14; Luke 15:4-7

"Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost."

"I am the good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of mine. ... and I lay down My life for the sheep."

Even So... said...

The gospel is foolishness to the Greek.

Keep it going, Phil, may God bless this to be yeoman work...

Rick Potter said...

I like this....
"....2 Corinthians 5:21 is a vitally important text for understanding the doctrine of justification by faith and the imputation of righteousness to sinners. In fact, the principles of justification, expiation, imputation, substitution, and reconciliation are all illuminated in some important aspect or another by this text."

It reminded me of something John Piper said in "God is the Gospel"

"Doctrine protects the treasures of the gospel from pirates who don't like the diamonds but who make their living trading them for other stones. Doctrine polishes the old gems buried at the bottom of the chest. It puts the jewels of gospel truth in order on the scarlet tapestry of history so each is seen in it's most beautiful place." (pg.22)

Thanks for the reminder Phil.

Rick

Jason E. Robertson said...

Phil, everytime I have heard you deal with this verse I feel like I am hearing it for the first time. There is just something about this verse that is so rich with Christian truth, so vast in its theological reach, and so full of hope and gospel.

I wondered if we were to list every theological truth this verse touched upon how long that list would be. I can think of a few right off the top of my head:

Theology Proper (He)
Divine election (hath made)
Christology (Him)
Sinless life (knew no sin)Atonement (to be)
Hamartiology (sin)
Substitutionary Atonement (for us)
Grace (for us)
Anthropology (us)
Imputation/Justification (be made the righteousness)
Soteriology (in Him)

It is just one of those verses in the Bible that makes my spirit well up inside of me, causes my mind to race from Genesis to Revelation, and causes me to humbly thank God for the wonderful gift of salvation.