“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
Martin Luther rightly called this “the great exchange.” On the cross, Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness. The result is that by grace alone, through faith in Jesus alone, we can be justified and declared righteous in the sight of God.
Now, I’m not sure how quickly you just read that first paragraph, but you might want to read it again. The mere thought that God would take our sin and replace it with His righteousness is just mind-blowing. The death of Jesus achieved far more than what we could ever imagine, yet I think at times we can gaze upon this indescribable sacrifice a little one-dimensionally, a little too quickly.
The truth is we all, at times, love other things and obey other things more than God. We all sin! The heart of God’s law is that we love and obey God and that we love our neighbours as much as we love ourselves. John Piper says, “The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted.” Since our sin is against the Ruler of the Universe, “the wages of [our] sin is death” (Romans 6:23)
Let’s say for example, that there was a judge and his duty is justice, and someone before him was a person accused of a terrible crime, maybe someone who murdered or harmed someone that you loved. That person when asked, “How do you plead?” declares, “guilty!” How would you respond if that judge then delivers a verdict and says, “I find you not guilty – you are free!” Your and my response would be, ”that is an absolute, atrocious violation of justice. This judge is corrupt!”
You and I are guilty as sinners, and God is just, God is not evil, He is good. He is not corrupt. Amazingly, on the cross, Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness. The result is that by grace alone, we can be justified and declared righteous in the sight of God. This is “The Great Exchange!”