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How are Sinners Made the Righteousness of God?
2 Corinthians 5:21
How are sinners made to become the righteousness of God in Christ? I appeal to the Word of God alone for the answer to that question. The opinions of men are totally irrelevant. What does the Book say? Nothing else matters.
When Christ was made sin, that was a one time, once and for all act accomplished in the past, a work in which he was personally involved. But when the Holy Spirit speaks of us being “made the righteousness of God in him,” the word he uses for “made” is another word altogether. It is a present tense, passive verb, implying total passiveness on our part and means “continually cause to become.” He is telling us that those for whom Christ was made sin God continually causes to become the righteousness of God in him without doing a thing. Let me show you how he has done it and is doing it.
Our great, all-wise, eternally gracious God made us righteous before the world was in Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, by his sovereign, eternal decree of grace (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Jude 1). If we were blessed of God with all spiritual blessings before the world began and accepted in the Beloved, it was not as unrighteous, but as the righteousness of God in Christ.
We were made to become the righteousness of God judicially, in a legal sense, when the Lord Jesus died as our Substitute under the wrath of God, satisfying divine justice for us. When he had put away our sin by the sacrifice of himself, he obtained eternal redemption, for us and we were made to become the righteousness of God in him in perfect, complete justification (Romans 4:25; 5:12, 17-21; Hebrews 10:10-14).
But this matter of being made the righteousness of God in Christ, while it is something with which we have no involvement, is not just a matter of law, any more than Christ’s being made sin was just a matter of law. It is not something that takes place altogether outside our experience, any more than Christ being made sin was outside his experience. Sinners are made the righteousness of God in Christ experimentally in the new birth, when we are made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). That holy thing in us that is born of God, that John tells us cannot sin, is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We experience this blessed thing (being made the righteousness of God) in the inmost depths of our souls, in the constant assurance of our access to, acceptance with, and the forgiveness of our sins by our God (1 John 1:7-2:2).
We are in Christ, in whom alone God is well pleased — one with him! That means the Triune Jehovah, our God, is well pleased with us (Matthew 17:5). Our sacrifices are accepted of God as a sweet-smelling savor in Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Indeed, we are accepted in the totality of our lives in Christ (Ecclesiastes 9:7-
10). Our sins are never imputed to us, but perpetually forgiven because we are one with him who was once made sin for us, in whom we are perpetually made to become the righteousness of God. When our hearts are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, when the Spirit of God purges our conscience by applying the blood to us by his effectual grace in regeneration, giving the heaven-born soul faith in Christ, the believing sinner receives testimony from God that he is righteous, just as Enoch did (Hebrews 9:12-14; 10:18-22; 11:5-6).
Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, every sinner who trusts him is made to become the righteousness of God in him absolutely (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:12). Discerning the Lord’s body, that is to say, knowing our need of a Substitute and knowing the Substitute himself, trusting his finished work and trusting him, sinners like you and me are worthy to enter his church, worthy to call upon his name, worthy to receive the Lord’s Table, and worthy to enter into and possess forever his glory!
We shall be made to become the righteousness of God everlastingly in the last day in resurrection glory. We shall be raised in righteousness. We shall be declared righteous according to the record book of heaven at the Day of Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15; Jeremiah 50:20). We shall be declared righteous to wondering worlds to the glory of our God forever (Ephesians 2:7). Then we shall forever begin to enjoy, in such experimental reality, as words cannot describe, the blessedness of being made to become the righteousness of God in Christ (Revelation 21:2-5; 22:1-6).
I am lost in wonder. All this, all that Christ has as the God-man our Mediator, we have in him. All that he is, we are in him. All that he enjoys, soon, we shall enjoy forever in him, because…
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Truly, “Christ is All!” And if Christ is ours, we have all in him. All who get the Son of God get everything with the Son! — “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Our God has given us a word for that in the Bible. The word is “Grace!”