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Christ Made Sin for Us — The Typical Sacrifices
2 Corinthians 5:21
Look at the typical sacrifices of the Old Testament and learn the meaning of that gospel declaration made by God the Holy Ghost in 2nd Corinthians 5:21. — “He hath made him sin for us.”
The word translated “sin-offering” (Leviticus 4:21) would be more accurately translated “sin.” It literally means “habitual sinfulness, or offender.” This very same word is translated “sin” in Hosea 4:8, where God indicts the priests of the people for eating the sin-offering, “the sin” of his people, while they set their hearts on their iniquity. God’s word to Moses in Leviticus 4:21 is really this, — “And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it is the sin of the congregation.”
The word translated “trespass offering” (Leviticus 5:6, 7, 18) means guilt. And again, the word translated “sin-offering” means “habitual sinfulness, or offender.” John Calvin wrote, “The victims and expiations offered for sins were called (Æasham — aw-shawm’) a word which properly signifies sin itself. By this appellation, the Spirit intended to suggest that they were vicarious sacrifices to receive and sustain the curse due to sin. But that which was figuratively represented in the Mosaic sacrifices is actually exhibited in Christ, the archetype of the figures. Wherefore, in order to effect a complete expiation, he gave his soul, that is, an atoning sacrifice for sin, as the prophet says; so that our guilt, and consequent punishment, being as it were transferred to him, must cease to be imputed to us.”
The Prophet Isaiah clearly declares that the Lord Jesus Christ, our all-glorious Substitute and Savior, was made to bear our sins, not just the consequences of them, but our sins themselves, when he was made an offering for sin. Isaiah 53 clearly and distinctly tells us that he not only bore our sorrows and griefs, the consequences of our sins, but our sins themselves. In this portion of Holy Scripture, our Savior is set before us as one “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He was such, not on his own account, but because he is our blessed Substitute. Our transgressions wounded him. Our iniquities bruised him. Yes, by all means, we read, — “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” But he carried more than our griefs and sorrows. He was made sin for us.
In these solemn transactions, our Lord Jesus stood as the great Surety of many. As debts are transferred from the original debtor to the surety, so our sins were transferred from us to our great Surety, our sinless, spotless, holy, harmless, undefiled Redeemer, and were made his. He bore them and he bore them (received, accepted, took, and carried them) freely and willingly as our beloved Surety. And as the surety must pay the debt, which by transfer becomes his own, so Christ was stricken and wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and endured all the wrath of God to the full satisfaction of justice to make peace for us!
Christ’s being made sin and the transfer of our sins from us to Christ is clearly revealed in the Psalms. In the Psalms, we are given even more specific language. Here the Lord Jesus Christ calls our sins his own, because “He hath made him sin for us.”
In the fortieth Psalm, the One speaking is beyond all doubt our Savior. We know that because the Holy Spirit tells us that it is Christ who is speaking here. (Hebrews 10:5). He knew that being made sin for us, he would be brought into an horrible pit and filled with distress. Yet, his love for us was and is so great that in verse 7 he declares his readiness to assume a body and to accomplish his Father’s will in the salvation of his chosen, agreeably to the ancient settlements written in the Volume of the Book, saying, — “Lo! I come, I delight to do thy will, O my God.” Then in verses 11 and 12, he prays for deliverance from his deep distresses. This is exactly the same thing we read in John 12:27-28.
Why was the Son of God brought to such sorrow and grief? Here is the answer. — “He made him sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him!” Indeed, he could never have suffered the painful, shameful, ignominious death of the cross as our Substitute had he not been made sin for us. Justice would never have allowed it (Exodus 23:7; Proverbs 17:15).
Hear the Savior’s words in Psalm 40:12 and worship him. — “For innumerable evils have compassed me about.” — He was beset on every side with evil. Countless woes compassed our great Substitute and Sin-bearer. Our sins were innumerable, and so were his griefs. From every quarter, all the accumulated sins of all his people, for all time, in all parts of the world were at once made to be his! The Blessed One of God, who knew no sin, did no sin, and could not sin, was made sin!
Read on. — “Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up.” — He had no sin, but our sins were laid on him; and he took them as his own. “He was made sin for us.” “The transfer of sin to the Savior was real,” Spurgeon wrote, “and produced in him as man the horror which forbade him to look into the face of God, bowing him down with crushing anguish and woe intolerable.”
O my soul, what would our sins have done to us eternally if the Friend of sinners had not condescended to take them all upon himself! Oh, blessed Scripture! “The Lord hath made to meet upon him the iniquity of us all.” Oh, marvelous depth of love that made the perfectly immaculate Lamb of God to stand in the sinner’s place and bear the horror of great trembling, which sin must bring upon those who are forever keenly conscious of it in hell!
“They are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.” — The pains of God’s holy fury against sin, his unbending justice, and unmitigated wrath were beyond calculation; and the Savior’s soul was so crushed with them that he was sore amazed, and very heavy, even unto a sweat of blood. His strength was gone, his spirit sank; he was in an agony (Psalms 22:14-15).