Almost 2,000 years ago a missionary wrote a couple letters to a church he knew was struggling. He wrote, “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).
We live in a culture that is in many ways like the one in which the Corinthian church lived in—one that is incredibly influential and often misleading. The missionary, Paul, wrote to remind the Corinthian church and Christians today that we have salvation and a new identity because Jesus exchanged our sin for His righteousness. God revealed how and why this exchange took place in the Bible.
First, we learn that God created everything and declared it good. This includes man, who was made in God’s image. Man was physically, relationally, and spiritually good as God created him.
Man chose to disobey God by eating from the one tree God forbade man to eat from. This disobedience and rebellion caused man to fall, or no longer be good. Death—being spiritual and physical—is the ultimate consequence of sin. God is perfect and holy, so He could not be in a good relationship with a sinful man. To be restored back to the way man was created as good, man’s guilt would have to be addressed. Because of sin, and we all sin, everyone is guilty before God.
(Genesis 3; Romans 3:23, 6:23)
Because of our rebellion against God and resulting guilt as sinners, we deserve God’s wrath. Separation from God and eternal suffering are the appropriate consequences man should face to appease God’s justice. However, in God’s great love and grace, He has provided salvation through His Son, Jesus, for us who are completely undeserving. Grace is essentially God showing us favor when we cannot possibly earn or deserve it.
Jesus lived a perfect life we cannot possibly live. Jesus revealed Himself to be God in human flesh, come to save the world. He was murdered and endured the wrath of God as He became our sin in exchange for His righteousness on the cross. Dying the death we deserve, He was victorious over death and sin rising up again on the third day! His work and provision of salvation is certain for all who repent (or turn from) their sin, believe Jesus died and rose again, and confess Him as Lord. Ultimately, the only way to be saved from the consequences of our sin is to place our faith in Jesus for salvation. As followers of Christ, we look to Him alone for salvation and know that He exchanged our sin for His righteousness just like Paul told the Corinthian church.
(John 14:6; Romans 10:9-11)
Recognizing that we deserve eternal punishment because of our sins, we worship God in awe of His grace and serve out of gratitude for what He has done. The salvation we have in Jesus was not meant to end with simply saving us from Hell and sin’s consequences. God saved us to worship Him and do good works for His glory. These works do not affect our salvation, but are a response to it in thankfulness for His grace and are possible because of His Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 5:15; Ephesians 2:8-10)