2 Corinthians 5:11-21 is an amazing, profound passage.
Profoundly deep, profoundly encouraging, and profoundly convicting.
The message of this passage is the gospel, the simplicity with which Paul states it and the implications are staggering.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (ESV)
“one has died for all” While there are other passages that teach substitution, this is considered the clearest text (from a grammatical and lexical basis) to teach the substitutional nature of the atonement. The preposition “for” (huper, á½‘Ï€ÎÏ) in this verse may be one of the most significant words in the New Testament. Even the standard lexicon state that it has a substitutional force.
While the believe in substitutionary atonement is not based on the preposition, the use of this preposition, “for” (huper), is significant and supports the case for substitution. It can have the simple meaning of “for the benefit of” it also has the force of “in the place of.”
Paul states that “Christ” (Messiah, the one who fulfilled all the Old Testament promises) died in our place. The God-Man died in my place. Because the wages of sin is death, I deserved to died. But He died in my place. How basic a truth–how profound a reality. The one who did not deserve to died, died for all who deserved to die. He did for me what I could not do for myself.
Paul returns to this concept in verse 19.
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (ESV)
Not only did Christ died in my place, that substitution allowed God to “not count their trespasses against them” because Christ’s death dealt with God’s holy wrath and provided peace (reconciliation).
Now, those truths are the basis of the Gospel and the next verse is what blows my mind. Not only did Christ take on humanity to become a substitute, the process of providing a relationship with God (salvation) gave us more than just forgiveness.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)
When I place my trust in Christ as my only means of salvation, not only am I forgiven, I am given Christ’s righteousness. Jesus became sin for me–I can’t even image how distasteful that must have been. I’m so accustomed to sin, He was sinless, holy, unstained. And in becoming my substitute, not only was my sin imputed to Him, His righteousness was imputed to me. Simple forgiveness would be wonderful, especially since it is without merit. I didn’t deserve to be forgiven. But to go beyond forgiveness, to justification–being declared righteous is amazing. I definitely don’t deserve that.
But beyond forgiveness and positional righteousness, this concept of “we might become the righteousness of God” is the enablement for living the way God intends for us to live.
In light of the substitutionary death of Christ (5:14-15, 21) we become new creatures.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV)
That is profoundly encouraging because it states it as a result. If we are in Christ we are new creatures, not, we some day will become new creatures. While we are not yet what we should be . .
2 Corinthians 3:18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)
We are new creatures.
Being a new creatures is not only encouraging but convicting. Because I am a new creature, I must ask myself, am I “being transformed into His image?” “Am I living for Him or for me?”
15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
What does living for Him look like?
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
When I am living for Him, I live for others.
I am a new creature transformed to live for Christ because He died for me.
I am a new creature transformed to live for Christ by living for others.