“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Many Christians have sung this verse from the popular contemporary Christian song “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin. It is a great worship song containing sound theology. But let me ask two questions as it relates to 2 Corinthians 5:21. First, do you understand the truth being taught in this verse? Secondly, have you embraced that truth? This is a verse in which I believe theology and experience meet. Let me explain. Some say we can have too much theology and what we really need is to only experience God. Others lean heavily on the theology side and do not seek to truly experience God. When we apply this verse of Scripture appropriately, it should lead to both. Scripture teaches that, “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We find in this section of 2 Corinthians, Paul describing the greatness of God’s love is and an answer to how we are reconciled to Him. That answer culminates with the most beautiful truth of verse 21.
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” It truly was for our sake, because God didn’t need you or me for anything, but He loved us enough that He made “Him”, that would be Jesus “sin”. Jesus was sinless, and by becoming sin for us, we become, “the righteousness of God”. Righteousness means to be in a right standing or relationship with God, it is what is right and just. This is known as the doctrine of justification, a legal term in which one is declared not guilty before God. The best way that I have ever heard 2 Corinthians 5:21 explained is this, “Though Jesus was not a sinner, on the cross, God treated Him as if He was. On the other hand, you and I are not righteous, but God treats us as if we are. So in essence, this means that on the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had lived our life so that He could treat us as if we had lived His.” This verse also supports the doctrine of atonement, which is the work that Jesus did in His life and death to earn salvation for you and me. Christ was our substitute, and took on our sin that we might be given His righteousness.
So you ask, “What do you mean about theology and experience meeting?” The point is simply this; we can have an experience and it not be based on right theology. That never leads to proper worship or God’s glory. But when you grasp and fully embrace the theological truth of this verse, realizing that because of Jesus Christ, your position before God is perfect, you will experience God and your worship will change. You will no longer be paralyzed by your past, present and future failures because this verse tells you that they are completely paid for. What freedom when you realize God loves you this much! And because He loves you, you love Him and your motivation to serve and to worship Him will be pleasing to Him because it comes, not out of duty, but out of gratitude. Theology; meet experience.
Father, I can’t believe you love me that much, but you do. Thank you. I know my sin put Jesus on the cross, but He bore it willingly. As I live today, with my failures before me, help me to grasp that my position before you God is perfect, because my Savior is perfect. Let that motivate me to live for your glory each day, thankful that Jesus chose to be my substitute.