Last time we saw that Christ became our substitute on the cross. That is, He willingly took the punishment in our place. So that his people would not be cast into Hell.
Ask now: how did Christ become our actual substitute?
The doctrine of substitution must then introduce us to its twin brother, the doctrine of imputation. Imputation simply means that a transfer has been done. I will explain while we go back to our familiar text (2 Corinthians 5:21) “He (the Father) made Him (Christ) to be sin for us”. The reason why the Lord Jesus went on the cross to suffer and to die is because He willingly became our substitute. He took our punishment. Now we must realize something else has happened upon that cross. There was a transaction. All our wrong doings were transferred (imputed) on to Jesus by the Father. Just as Adam sinfulness were imputed to us (Romans 5:12); so was Christ Jesus imputed with all our sins. He became our sin bearer. The Father placed upon Him all our sins. And as a result, the Father looked upon Christ and treated Him as if He was sin. As if He was guilty as we are. God is love, therefore He hates sin. And so God’s wrath was thrown on Christ, because He became our substitute.
When He shouted out to heaven, heaven’s doors were closed. He wanted water, but He got none. He turned His eyes to heaven, but nothing was there. He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matthew 27:46).
Some at this point will think that God the Father is a child abuser for sending His own Son to suffer. On the contrary, Christ Himself willingly took this office to become our Mediator, our substitute, our sacrifice. He said “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep” “No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:15, 18). This is the infinite Love of Christ for His own, “Greater love has no man, than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). The Scriptures speak for themselves.
Christ was punished and then He died. Just as God hates sin and desires it to be buried, so was Christ’s life taken away and buried as if He were a sinner. Lust, murder, idolatry, theft, lying in all thought and deed all was laid upon Him. This was a prophecy fulfilled which was predicted in the OT (Isaiah 53:11, 12) “he shall bear their iniquities” thus “he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, made intercession for the transgressors”.
This is good news for sinners like you and me. If Christ died for us, all our sins have been cast away, as far as the east is from the west. God will never have to punish us again. All crimes in the present and the past are paid for! You need no longer be concerned whether your deeds are good enough for heaven. Because they are not. But while your good actions are not enough, Christ’s whole life is. His purity, His spotlessness, His meekness and His perfect righteousness was enough to satisfy the wrath of God that was against you and me. You’re free! If you truly trust in Him, you are truly free from the bondage of sin.
Now we see Christ took the punishment and died for us, because he bore our sins. They were imputed to Him. More than this, when Christ took our sins, He transferred His righteousness upon us. Look at our text “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Man needed God’s righteousness in order to be righteous before Holy God. So now, if you are truly trusting and believe what Christ has done on the cross, the moment you are given faith to believe, God looks on you as being righteous. You are accepted in Him as if you had been Christ. If we stand alone before God, we are seen as filthy and full of ruins.
But if we stand in Him, who died for us, Christ takes His royal garment and puts it on us poor, lost sinners. While He wore our nakedness and humiliation. He gave us His crown. He took our painful crown of thorns. He took my suffering, so that I would have the joy and peace of everlasting life. Christ has redeemed us!
What does this mean for us then?
It teaches us that, since Christ imputes His righteousness to us, God is just to forgive us from all our sins and to declare us justified in His sight. And everyone is called to believe and trust in Him. It is by faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Are you are someone who does not know Christ personally? Are you someone who has done many wrongs so that you feel no one can take them away from you? Then look unto Christ and have rest. Trust in what He has done on the cross. You will be justified in God’s sight and will have a warm welcome in heaven.