by John Owen
"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 COR. 5:21.
I SHALL not enter into the opening of this Scripture, but only propose some few things that may be a suitable subject for your present meditation.
There are three things concerning God the Father, three things concerning the Son, and three things concerning ourselves, all in these words that I have mentioned, and all suitable for us to be acting faith upon.
I. I would remember, if the Lord help me, the sovereignty of God the Father, his justice, and his grace:—His sovereignty, "He made him,"—God the Father made him; his justice, "He made him to be sin,"—a sacrifice and an offering for sin; and his grace, "That we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ:"—
1. The sovereignty of God. I could mention that this sovereignty of God extends itself to all persons chosen, and show for whom Christ should be made sin; for he was not made sin for all, but for them who became "the righteousness of God in him:" also, the sovereignty of God over things, dispensing with the law so far, that He suffered for sin "who knew no sin;" and we, who had sinned, were let go free;—the sovereignty of God in appointing the Son to this work, "He made him;" for none else could,—he was the servant of the Father. So that the whole foundation of this great transaction lies in the sovereignty of God over persons and things, in reference unto Christ. Let us, then, remember to bow down to the sovereignty of God in this ordinance of the Lord's supper.
2. There is the justice of God. "He made him to be sin,"—imputed sin unto him, reckoned unto him all the sins of the elect, caused all our sins to meet upon him, made him a sin-offering, a sacrifice for sin, laid all the punishment of our sins upon him. To this end he sent him forth to be a propitiation for sin, to declare his righteousness. The Lord help us to remember that his righteousness is in a special manner exalted by the death of Christ. He would not save us any other way but by making him sin.
3. There is the grace of God, [which] manifests itself in the aim and design of God in all this matter. What did God aim at? It was "that we might become the righteousness of God in him,"—that we might be made righteous, and freed from sin.
II. There are three things that lie clear in the words, that we may call to remembrance, concerning the Son. There is his innocency, his purity; he "knew no sin," There is his sufferings; he was "made to be sin." And there is his merit; it was "that we might become the righteousness of God in him." Here is another object for faith to meditate upon:—
1. There are many things in Scripture that direct us to thoughts of the spotless purity, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, when we think of his sufferings. A "Lamb of God, without spot." He "did no sin, nor had any guile in his mouth." He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." Faith should call this to mind in the sufferings of Christ, that he "knew no sin." That expression sets sin at the greatest distance from Jesus Christ.
2. The sufferings of Christ. "He was made sin;"—a comprehensive word, that sets out his whole sufferings. Look, whatever the justice of God, the law of God, whatever the threatenings of God did require to be inflicted as a punishment for sin, Christ underwent it all. They are dreadful apprehensions that we ourselves have, or can take in, concerning the issue and effect of sin, from the wrath of God, when under convictions, and not relieved by the promises of the gospel; but we see not the thousandth part of the evil of sin, that follows inseparably from the righteousness and holiness of God. The effects of God's justice for sin will no more enter into our hearts fully to apprehend, than the effects of his grace and glory will; yet, whatever it was, Christ underwent it all.
3. Then there is the merit of Christ; which is another object of faith that we should call over in the celebration of this ordinance. Why was "he made sin"? It was "that we might become the righteousness of God in him." It is answerable to that other expression in Gal. 3:13, 14, He hath borne the curse,—"was made a curse for us." To what end? That "the blessing of faithful Abraham might come upon us;" or, that we might be completely made righteous. The design of our assembling together, is to remember how we come to be made righteous. It is, by Christ's being made sin.
III. We may see three things concerning ourselves:—
1. Our own sin and guilt: he was made sin "for us." If Christ was made sin for us, then we were sinners.
2. We may remember our deliverance,—how we were delivered from sin, and all the evils of it. It was not by a word of command or power, or by the interposition of saints or angels, or by our own endeavours; but by the sufferings of the Son of God. And,—
3. God would have us remember and call to mind the state where-into we are brought,—which is a state of righteousness; that we may bless him for that which in this world will issue in our righteousness, and in the world to come, eternal glory.
These things we may call over for our faith to meditate upon. Our minds are apt to be distracted; the ordinance is to fix them: and if we act faith in an especial manner in this ordinance, God will be glorified.