Substitute in Love
18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For 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 5:18-21
Theologically, Paul is describing Jesus’ work in two words: substitutionary atonement. This involves Jesus making payment for my sin by taking my place. Do you understand this? Jesus didn’t come as just some good example or some religious icon to be worn around your neck. He made payment for your sin before a Holy God. He took upon Himself the sins of the world. God poured out on Christ all His wrath, His anger, and all of His judgment for all of the wicked things that happen in this world.
People say, “Why doesn’t God do something about sin?” God DID something about sin! God poured out all of His feelings for that upon Christ, so that no matter who you are, no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done—because of what Christ accepted in your place, you can be forgiven. That’s the Gospel; the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. As the verse above puts it, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin” (v.21).
Here’s the Gospel in four words: Jesus in my place. I should have been there! I should have paid the price. I should have suffered the penalty for my sin. Jesus took it, so I could be forgiven. Why? Because God loves us. God did these things for us. That’s the good news of the Gospel.
We find the phrase in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for usall, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
So, if you had it on your heart and mind, for example, to give someone a diamond—let’s say a precious, beautiful, large diamond—as a symbol of your love for that person, what if they said to you, “Can I have the box?”
Would you give them the box? You say, “Well of course I would. I gave the diamond, why wouldn’t I give the box?” The box is nothing; the diamond was everything. Compared to the gift of His Son, anything else God could give us would be the box—an easy choice once the most valuable one has been given. In Christ, God gave us the treasure whose price can never be calculated.
Prayer - Father, help me never to put undue importance on the box over the diamond of Your Son. Help me never to neglect the awesome gift of the One who took my place and became my sin that I might become Your righteousness. Help me to live out that wonderful truth each day, and keep all Your other gifts as significant, but none like Your Son! In His name I offer my eternal thanks, Amen.