II CORINTHIANS 5:21

Brother Beebe: Will you please give your views on II 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.” I am aware that you have many such requests from brethren and sisters; but I am so situated that I have no preaching except that comes to me in the “Signs of the Times.” The “Signs,” with my Bible and hymn book supply all I receive. There are no Old School Baptists within fifty miles of me, that I know of. Elder T. H. Owen is the nearest, and I have not seen him for eighteen months.

Yours as ever,
B. Newkirk.
Yola County, California.
April 11, 1866.

Reply: The apostle in the connection of this text is treating upon the subject of the complete redemption of the people of God from the curse and dominion of the law, the guilt and punishment of sin, by the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. That all for whom Christ died were sinners against God, transgressors of his righteous law, and, by nature, children of wrath even as others, is fully demonstrated; for if they were not sinners, no expiation of sin would be required on their behalf. This apostle informs us in Romans 4:24,25, that Jesus, the Lord, was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. And in our context, verses 14 and 15, he says, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

Our views on this subject, which we believe are warranted by the scriptures, are that the immaculate Son of God, who was delivered for our offenses, was holy, harmless, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens. He was a Lamb without spot or blemish, who knew no sin in his nature, or in his works. Shining in all the brightness of his Father’s glory, he was the express image of the invisible God, and he was and is the Lord from heaven, and filled with all the fullness of the Eternal Godhead. All the infinite perfections of the eternal deity were embodied in him. He was one with the Father, and he was in the Father, and the Father was in him. In his eternal identity with the Father he knew no sin. His will was and is the will of the Father, and that will is the supreme standard of holiness, according to which God worketh all things. On his unsullied purity and absolute holiness all holy beings love to contemplate; angels adore, saints extol, and devils tremble before him. If he had known sin, as attaching impurity to himself, it must have disqualified him for the great work of our redemption.

“For he that could for sins atone,
Must have no blemish of his own.”

All the victims required to be slain under the ceremonial law, and indeed all that were offered from the foundation of the world, as typical of Christ our sacrifice, including that of Abel, were required to be without blemish, to show that we, the church of God, are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot or blemish, as set forth from the foundation of the world, pointing to that one offering wherein he through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, and by which he hath obtained eternal redemption for us.

This holy and spotless Lamb was made sin for us! How? By himself coming under that law of which he was the author and superior, and which his members in their Adamic nature had transgressed. “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his own Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them (his members) that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” In thus coming under the law he took on him the seed of Abraham. “Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death; that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels,” (for angels were not in the nature of those to be redeemed, or to receive the adoption of children) “but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” That is, as explained by Paul to the Galatians, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” In taking on him this seed, he took on him all their transgressions. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-11).” Thus he was made sin, or, if we include the supplied words of our text, he was made to be sin for us. He was not made to sin, or to do that which was sinful; but in taking on him our nature, he took on him our infirmities; was made like unto his brethren (Hebrews 2:17).

Much has been said and written in modern times of the immaculate conception of the Messiah, as though his design had been only to take on him the seed of Abraham, and not their sins. But the very object or design was to bear the sins of his people in his own body. Imbodied in the seed of Abraham, which body was prepared for him, with that seed he stood identified, as its life, and he was recognized by the law and justice of God, as being responsible for their sins. Should a capital offense be committed by a man’s hand, would not the life of the body of which that hand is a member be held in law and justice for the offense? In the typical illustration of this sublime subject, the priest confessed the sins of Israel over the head of the scape goat, and it was said their sins were laid upon the head of the scape goat, and borne away. It is in this way we understand that Jesus was made sin for us. And he was made a curse for us, as it is written in the law, “Cursed is every one that hangeth upon a tree.” Mere substitution could not meet the demands of the law. To condemn and punish the innocent, or to justify the guilty, were alike forbidden by the law which Christ came to fulfill. Yet the head being identified with its body may be held for the transgressions of the body. The right of Christ to redeem his people, as the one nearest of kin to them, and holding, by virtue of higher claim, a right of property in the seed of Abraham, before they were partakers of flesh and blood, and before they had sinned, rests on their spiritual existence in him, anterior to their becoming partakers of flesh and blood; but his qualifications to redeem them with his blood required that he should take part of the same flesh and blood in which they had offended, that he might be recognized as being under the same law by which they were condemned. Hence he was made flesh and dwelt among them. With them identified as the head with its body; the life of the body was prepared for him. He was made sin. See him whom the heavens adored arraigned before the bar of justice, now in the form of sinful flesh, with all the iniquities of all his members found on him, not merely by imputation, as some suppose, but by actual identity of head and body.

He has taken on him that body, that seed, and in that body crushed with the mighty weight of all the sins, which with the body he assumed, the law with unabating fury pours on him the wrath that was due to the sins which were laid on him. An arbitrary act of imputation could not suffice. He is made sin, or made to be sin, for us. For whom? For the seed of Abraham: for his body, his bride, his sheep, his seed, his members, and for them only. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).” But we pass to consider the great purpose or design of this wonderful condescension and unparalleled humiliation of the Son of God.

We are told in the sacred word that God sent his Son to redeem them that were under the law, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; to save his people from their sins; to redeem them unto God. But justification as well as redemption is contemplated in our text. Merely the putting away their sins would not secure to them the righteousness of God. It could only restore to them their original innocence in which they stood in Adam before sin entered. Hence to make the redeemed seed the righteousness of God himself required that the same relationship should exist between Christ and his members which we have found to be indispensable for their redemption.

Theological speculators talk of justification before God in a variety of ways. Some look for justification by the deeds of the law, or by the righteousness of their own works. But God has informed us that in that way no flesh shall be justified in his sight. As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. Others speak of the righteousness which Christ wrought out by his active and passive obedience to the law. This was indispensable in our redemption from sin. “By the obedience of one, many shall be made righteous.” And so far as legal righteousness is considered, it is secured by the obedience which Christ has rendered to all the jots and tittles of the holy law. This legal righteousness redeems and saves us from wrath and condemnation, but does it qualify us for communion with God, for fellowship with the Spirit, and for an inheritance with the saints in light? Our text contemplates a higher order of righteousness than the mere satisfaction rendered to the law for our transgressions. “That we might be made the righteousness of God.” Much more than an acquittal from guilt and condemnation is required to bring us to God, and prepare us to stand before him in the perfection of his nature. God has told us by the mouth of Daniel that Christ should not only “finish transgression and make an end of sins, and make reconciliation for iniquity,” but also “bring in everlasting righteousness.” To work out is one thing, but to bring in is quite another. Without the former, the latter would be impossible. It was indispensably necessary that Christ should redeem us from sin, and death and hell; but having so redeemed us, it is no less indispensable that we be made the righteousness of God, and partakers of the divine nature. We are therefore assured that Christ is of God “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” This is the name wherewith he shall be called, “The Lord our righteousness.” “For their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” So then as Christ was made to be sin for us, in the putting away of our sins, and as he was made sin by taking on him the seed of Abraham, so the seed of Abraham are made the righteousness of God in him who is the righteousness of God. Christ is our life, and he is the true God, and Eternal Life. We are in him, and he is in us, that all his members should be made perfect in one, that the world may know that God hath sent him, and that he hath loved us even as he hath loved him.

Middletown, N.Y.
July 1, 1866.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 352 - 357