Chapter 5:16b-6:2 (ESV) - Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 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. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Question to consider: What does Paul mean that Jesus “was made to be sin?”
Paul has been giving the Corinthians reasons for why a child of God could not only experience affliction but take courage in it. Essentially, it boils down to the idea that we have already died with Christ and are being raised up in Him so whatever we experience now is temporary and able to be endured with joy knowing that we have the Spirit of the Lord in us and have an eternal inheritance waiting for us. So we no longer look at one another according to worldly standards (or as Paul wrote, the flesh).
Jesus came in the flesh and experienced all of the pains and weaknesses that we experience which can be a comfort to us since we know He truly understands what we’re going through, especially since He also serves as our great high priest and intercedes for us with the Father. However, an even greater comfort is knowing that Christ is no longer in this weak and mortal flesh but was raised up and has reconciled the world to Himself. He has made us His ambassadors to bring the good news to everyone that they no longer need to earn their salvation, for Christ has paid for it in full on the cross. Paul used extreme language here in saying that perfectly sinless Jesus became sin for us. Jesus was treated on the cross as the one who was responsible for every sin ever committed. In exchange for our sin, Jesus is offering to us His perfect righteousness.
There is a lot I like about reformation theology, and I have learned a lot over the years from teachers like R.C. Sproul, but I think their view of atonement lessens the impact of Paul’s point in this passage. Jesus didn’t just pay the penalty for the sins of some. He paid the entire debt, but not everyone is willing to receive the righteousness that He offers. Some willingly or ignorantly choose to ignore His gift and attempt to stand in their own righteousness.
So Paul proclaimed the fulfillment of Isaiah 49:8. The first seven verses of that chapter talked of the person God would send to redeem Israel, but not merely the descendants of Jacob! Verse 6 proclaimed that He would be a light for the nations so that salvation would reach the ends of the earth. Paul appealed to the Corinthians that they were living in that “day of salvation” described by Isaiah. And so I appeal to you today, dear reader. Do not ignore such a wonderful gift but receive it with utmost joy! Be reconciled to God!
Dear heavenly father, we ask that You open our eyes and hearts to receive the righteousness of Christ with joy. May we experience this truth down deep in our bones so that we may appeal to those around us with the passion of Paul to the Corinthians. If we have become weary from the things of this world, help us to set our gaze on Christ who reigns forever. Amen.