Last time we concluded that because man is sinful by nature (Genesis 6:5, Psalms 51:7, Ephesians 2:1-3), because of the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12), he cannot fulfil the requirements that God demands for His justice to be satisfied. And since no sinner cannot reach the perfect righteousness that God demands, according to the law, then all of humanity is under the judgement of God (Romans 1:18, Romans 3:9-20, 23). But we also found looked that because God has chosen to save a number of sinners from eternal Hell, the Father sent His Son to die for them. In this article we are going to uncover the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross.
How can sinners be united to God?
He sent His Son the Lord Jesus to die for our sins.
What exactly did He do on the cross?
Christ became our substitute. I will explain what I mean.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:21 “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.”
The Apostle Paul here is summarizing for us the heart of the Gospel and he explains how sinners are reconciled with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Many today think the cross is just a sign of God’s demonstration of love for mankind. In a sense, that is true. But they do not believe or even seek what is the meaning behind sending Jesus to die on the cross? The Bible tells us that it is more than just a mere demonstration of love. This love was effective love. What Jesus Christ did on the cross has given to every believer assurance of their eternal salvation from the moment they are converted. That they are going to heaven not because of their own works, but because of they have trusted in Him who has already done the work required (Ephesians 2:8). Ever doubted whether you will go to heaven or not? Here is the way to find out. If you truly believe in Jesus Christ then you must also believe what was done on the cross.
Now in our text we see these words “he (the Father) made him (the Son) to be sin”. This does not mean that Jesus Christ became a sinner on the cross, nor does it say that Jesus took the form of the devil and became sin itself. The Scriptures teach us that Jesus Christ was sinless. Pilate saw nothing evil in Him (Luke 23:4, 14). Peter wrote that He was clean and innocent (1 peter 1:19, 2:22). So what does this text mean?
Galatians 3:13 explains the expression of why Paul used the expression ‘made him to be sin’. It is written “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for is written ‘cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’. So God the Father did not make Christ to be sin, rather the Father treated Him as if He was guilty of all sins, though He was not. The next word’s say “who knew no sin”. That is, He was a stranger to sin. Sin was not in His nature. So He never sinned. If someone was to be our substitute and our representative to suffer on our behalf, he himself must be free from sin. If Christ was not sinless, our salvation would not be sufficient. God’s law demands from us to have a righteousness which none of us will ever have. Only Christ is able because He is the Son of God.
Christ was free from sin and was put to death willingly by the Father in order that we would not face the wrath of God. Let me give you an illustration: imagine if a robber was caught by the police for a crime he has committed and taken to the judge to be judged. The judge looks at him and says ‘you have committed a terrible crime’ ‘justice demands you pay the fine in order to be set free. Do you have this money!’ The robber says ‘how much will it take’? The judge takes out a paper then rolls it out so that the robber would see how much he has to pay for His fine. It is so long that it was still rolling all the way to the door of the courtroom. The robber looks at it and says ‘but Judge, I cannot pay that!’. The Judge then says ‘Therefore I declare you guilty. Imagine then someone interrupting the moment when the man is being taken. This man says ‘I would like to pay the fine that this man owes. I will pay every cent of it’. He gets from his pocket a cheque which shows the amount of the fine. The judge says ‘well, because his fine is payed and justice is satisfied, I will allow him to be set free’.
Here is the meaning. The man who was the criminal is us, you and me. The judge is the justice of God. The man who came to pay the fine instead of the criminal is Jesus Christ. And the fine that He paid for our sake is His life, He died on the cross for our sake. That is what Paul means when He wrote in Galatians 3:13 that He became a curse. So that his people would stand before God and be justified with His righteousness and not their own. That is what the next words say in the text “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”. Not that we would be righteous; but that we would have God’s righteousness.
This is a very well know doctrine called the doctrine of substitution. It teaches us that while sinners deserved punishment for all their sins, Christ willingly took that punishment upon himself, for our sake. He became our Substitute and those who would put their faith in Him are set free. Because His sinless death was enough to satisfy the justice of God.