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Fifteen Words of Hope

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
August 29, 2022 4:00 am

Fifteen Words of Hope

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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Fifteen Greek words. And these fifteen Greek words translated into English carefully define and perfectly balance the mystery of reconciliation. They show us the essence of the atonement. In fact, in the one verse that I read you is the heart of the Good News. Thanks for making Grace to You part of your day as John MacArthur continues his study titled The New Testament, Beginning to End. It's a collection of influential sermons from John's fifty-plus years of pulpit ministry.

Today John focuses on 2 Corinthians in a message titled Fifteen Words of Hope. But before continuing this series, John, and thinking about the thousands of sermons you've preached over the years, let me ask, was there a particular message you preached or passage that you studied that especially shaped you, that had a foundational impact on your spiritual life? Well, you know, everything I've ever preached through the years has gripped my soul. It's just the nature of what I do before I preach a message on a Sunday morning or a Sunday night or at a conference or at the Master's Seminary or wherever I might be. There has to be a ramp-up time of studying the Word of God, and every word of God is true, and every word from the Lord is pure, and every text is powerful and transforming and life-changing and God-exalting and Christ-lifting up. And so, yeah, all of the Word of God is powerful and has been powerful in my life.

It is a sanctifying influence at every level. But even having said that, if I go way back to the beginning, I think early on in my ministry there were a couple of things that were radical. One was studying the Sermon on the Mount, going through Matthew 5, 6, and 7, that great Sermon of Jesus, which I'd always heard was an ethical sermon, and some people said it was defining life in the future millennium. And I didn't really accept that, but going through it verse by verse, understanding that the Lord was really preaching maybe the most powerful evangelistic sermon ever preached, I had a completely new understanding of the gospel, of evangelism, of Matthew's gospel, of the New Testament, of the ministry of Jesus.

That study of the Sermon on the Mount, and I preached 59 sermons on that, really began to shape my theology, and that lasted throughout all my ministry to this very day. Yeah, thank you, Jon. And friend, when we talk about Jon's most powerful or influential sermon, the one you're about to hear is high on that list.

The title again, Fifteen Words of Hope. So follow along in your Bible now as Jon continues his series, The New Testament Beginning to End. The verse that we're going to look at is 2 Corinthians 5.21, 2 Corinthians 5.21. It says this, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Fifteen Greek words. And these fifteen Greek words translated into English carefully define and perfectly balance the mystery of reconciliation. They show us the essence of the atonement. In fact, in the one verse that I read you is the heart of the good news. In that one verse is the most powerful truth in Scripture because it embraces and explains how sinners can be reconciled to God. Here is where the paradox of redemption is resolved. Here is where the mystery is solved.

Here is where the riddle is answered. Here is where we find how holy justice and perfect love can both be satisfied. How righteousness and mercy can embrace each other. And the truth of this one brief sentence solves the most profound dilemma of how God can reconcile with sinners. Now as we look at this verse together, I want to point your attention to four elements, four features of the text that unfold its significance.

The benefactor, the substitute, the beneficiaries, and the benefits. That really sums up how God can reconcile sinners. Let's start at the beginning, the benefactor. The verse begins, He made...stop there. Now if you're a Bible student, the first question you're going to ask is, to whom does He refer?

The answer comes quickly. Look one word back at the end of verse 20, God. God is the antecedent. He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf. The point is, it's God's plan. He's the benefactor. God is behind the whole reconciliation plan.

God loves sinners. That's why in Colossians chapter 1 the Apostle Paul says, thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Only God knew what the qualifications were.

Only God could qualify us. He was the only one who could know the standard and thanks to Him for He delivered us from the domain of darkness. He transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

That is exactly why the Apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter 1 says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. It was the Father who chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. It was the Father who predestined us to the adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. Everything is through the praise of His glory. It is He who freely bestowed on us salvation in the beloved, who gave us redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, etc., etc.

It was the Father who designed a lavish on us all wisdom and insight and all riches of grace. Listen, this is very different than the religions of the world. The religions of the world basically operate on a premise of fear that God is an angry, hateful, or indifferent God who could really care less about the prosperity of beings who grovel around underneath Him in this world. And so the goal of most all religions is to somehow appease an otherwise hostile and angry God. On the other hand, Christianity proclaims a God who loves, who loves so much He is a Savior, God our Savior who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We have a God who doesn't hate but a God who loves sinners and has Himself designed a way for them to have fellowship with Him forever and ever.

We don't have to appease God. God loves the sinner and God in His love provides the sacrifice and wonderfully and graciously and freely and magnanimously and eagerly offers the gift of forgiveness. Second thing you see in this text, first the benefactor who is God, second the substitute. And the substitute is identified. He made Him who knew no sin.

That's the identification of the substitute. Who is it? Him who knew no sin. Let me tell you something, folks, that narrows the field to one. Paul says to the Galatians, when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son born of a woman. Wow!

Why? In order that He might redeem those who were under the Law. Galatians 4, 4 and 5. Jesus Christ then is the one who knew no sin. Him who knew no sin is Christ.

And the testimony of everyone historically affirms that. Jesus says in John 8, 46, which of you convicts Me of sin? Silence.

And there's still silence. Here Pilate in Luke 23, Pilate's cynical, vicious, cruel, ungodly, pagan, idolatrous, Pilate said in verse 4 of Luke 23 to the chief priests and the multitudes, I find no guilt in this man. Verse 14, again he said it, I have found no guilt in this man. Verse 22, and again the third time he said to them, Why what evil has this man done? I have found in him no guilt. Listen to the thief on the cross.

We indeed suffer justly, he says, to the other thief we're receiving what we deserve for our deeds but this man has done nothing wrong. Listen to the testimony of the centurion who watched it all in verse 47, certainly this man was innocent. And it wasn't just unbelieving people who saw his perfection. How about the apostles? John who was with him day and night for three years. John who followed his every footstep and heard his every word and saw his every act and maybe felt his every breath as he leaned on his breast as often as he could. It was John who said in his epistle, 1 John 3 verse 5, In him there is no sin.

And John said we were eyewitnesses of it. And then there was the writer of Hebrews who affirms the very same reality when he says in chapter 4 verse 15, We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has been tempted in all things as we are tempted, yet without sin. And in chapter 7 the writer of Hebrews says he was holy, innocent, undefiled and separate from sinners. And then there was Peter who preached in Acts 3 and he says of Christ, You have killed the prince of life and he calls him a holy and just one. And then you remember it was Peter, especially Peter, who said of Christ that he was a lamb, 1 Peter 1 19, unblemished and spotless. Who said of him in chapter 2 of that same epistle and verse 24, He bore our sins in His own body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. But He...verse 22...committed no sin. And then in chapter 3 and verse 18 of that same epistle, Christ died for sins, the just for the unjust. Now the testimony of unbelieving men was of His sinlessness, the testimony of those who knew Him best was of His sinlessness.

But there's another who gave testimony and that testimony is indeed powerful. It was none other than God the Father Himself. At His baptism recorded in Matthew 3 17, the Father said, This is My beloved Son in whom I am completely pleased. And at His transfiguration in Matthew 17 verse 5, This is My beloved Son in whom I am completely pleased. You see, the Father was totally satisfied with the Son. There was nothing in the Son that dissatisfied the Father. He was perfect, sinless. And maybe the greatest testimony of His sinlessness was the unbroken fellowship He had with God. I and the Father are one.

I and the Father are one. He said that many times. He says that in John 10 verse 30. He says it in John 14 verses 30 and 31. He says it repeatedly in John 17. He says it in verse 11.

He says it in verse 21, 22, 23, we're one, we're one, we're one, we're one, we're united, we're united. That was the greatest testimony of His sinlessness was that He had absolutely unbroken communion with God. Now had He not been man, He couldn't be the substitute. Had He not been sinless, He couldn't be the substitute. So He had to be man and He had to be God.

Notice our text again. God made him who knew no sin. Here is the remarkable statement, to be sin. You see, He had to punish sin. But if He punished the sinner, the sinner would be destroyed in hell eternally. So He had to take the substitute and put him in the place of the sinner and punish the substitute instead.

He had to be sin. That phrase is very important and I want you to grasp it. What does it mean that He was made sin?

That's an astounding statement. What does it mean? Well, first of all, let me tell you what it doesn't mean and you need to understand this clearly. It does not mean that Christ became a sinner. It does not mean that He committed a sin. It does not mean that He broke God's law.

He did not do that. The Scriptures I've just read to you indicate that He had no capacity to sin. That's what theologians called the impeccability of Christ. He had no possibility to sin. He could not sin. He was sinless God while fully man. And certainly it is unthinkable that God would turn Him into a sinner. The idea of God making anybody a sinner is unthinkable to say nothing of making His holy Son into a sinner.

You say, well what does it mean then that He was made sin? Isaiah 53 introduces it to us. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, our sorrows He carried. Verse 5, He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities and the chastening that fell on Him was because of us. Verse 6, all of us like sheep have gone astray.

Each of us has turned to his own way but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He didn't die for his own sins. He died for what? For our sins. What it means is the Lord took all of the iniquity of all of us and it fell on Christ. What do you mean? It wasn't His sin? No. It was our sin.

What is it saying? Simply this, God treated Christ as if He were a sinner. How? By making Him pay the penalty for sin, though He was innocent. He paid the penalty. God treated Him as if He was the sinner. More than that, God treated Him as if He sinned all the sins of all who would ever believe.

Is that incredible? Sin, not His at all, was credited to Him as if He had committed it and paid the price. And He didn't.

But it was credited to Him as if He did. That, listen, is the only sense in which Christ was made sin. And the word is He was made sin by imputation. Sin was imputed to Him.

It wasn't His. He never sinned. But God put it to His account, charged it to Him and making Him pay the penalty. It would be like all the sinners in all the world charging all their sin to your credit card and you having to pay the bill.

Imputation. Listen, the guilt of the sins of all who would ever believe God, all who would ever be saved, was imputed to Jesus Christ, credited to Him as if He were guilty of all of it. And then just as soon as God had credited it to Him, God poured out the full fury of all His wrath against all that sin and all those sinners and Jesus experienced all of that.

Is it any wonder at that moment He was alienated from God and said, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? He was treated as a sinner. He was treated as a sinner deserves to be treated with all the fury of just punishment.

Let me go further. He was treated as every sinner cumulatively deserved to be treated and all the fury was poured on Him. He was personally pure. He was officially guilty. He was personally holy. He was forensically guilty. Let me say it another way. Christ dying on the cross did not become evil like we are, nor do we by virtue of the cross become as holy as He is.

You say, well what happens? It's imputation. God puts sin to Christ's credit, our sin, and puts Christ's righteousness to our credit. It's not that we are so righteous God is satisfied, it's that because the penalty is paid and the guilt has been met that God can credit to us the righteousness of Christ.

That's the gospel. The only sense in which you are made righteous through justification is by imputation. And that's the same sense in which Christ was made sin. He is made sin because God credits our sin to Him. We are made righteous because God credits His righteousness to us. Listen, I am not so righteous that as I am, I can stand before a holy God.

Are you? I got a lot of sin in my life and I would say if I got anywhere near God what Peter said, depart from me, O Lord, for I am what? I'm still sinful. But God looks at me and does not consider me on the virtue of my human morality, He considers me on the virtue of the imputed righteousness of Christ which covers me. This is the point. Well, the benefactor is God, the substitute is Christ, and by imputation receives our sins and dies for them, taking our place. Thirdly, the beneficiaries.

And these last points are brief. Thirdly, the beneficiaries. He made him who knew no sin to be sin, here it is, on our behalf...on our behalf. Who are we talking about, Paul? Who is our? Well, it's the same as the we in verse 20. We are ambassadors. It's the same as the us in verse 19. He committed to us the reconciliation ministry. It's the same as the us in verse 18, us who have been given this ministry. Who is this, our we, us group? Well they're in verse 17 described.

Any man who is what? In Christ, who is a new creation, old things passed away and new things have come. There is a transformation. There is a new creation at salvation.

There is. We are transformed. We are changed.

But even with that change, we wouldn't have sufficient righteousness to satisfy a holy God, and so He has to cover us in the righteousness of Christ to make us acceptable until He can get us to glory and we'll be made righteous. And it is for us, us who are in Christ then, us who have been reconciled that He died. He died in our place.

The actual substitution in its efficacy was for believers, those who would believe. He died for our sins. He died for us.

He died in our place. The final point, the benefit. And what did He provide us? In order that...this is the purpose of it...we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

See, there's that imputation. What is the benefit? We become righteous before God. This is what justification does. And the righteousness that we are given is the very righteousness of Christ. Listen to what Paul said in Philippians 3, 9. We are now found in Christ not having a righteousness of my own, he says. Not some righteousness derived from keeping the law, but a righteousness through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God.

Wow! It's imputed to us. He's holy, God imputed sin to him. We're sinful, God imputes holiness to us. The very righteousness which God requires to accept the sinner is the very righteousness which God provides.

When God looks at you, He sees you covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. That's why all your sin is automatically forgiven in the eternal sense because Jesus already paid the penalty, right? God can't hold you responsible for your sin. Jesus paid the full penalty for it, took the full fury for it. You say, well what about the sins I commit after I'm a Christian? Well He died for those too because you weren't even born when He died.

They were all future. In fact, He is the Lamb slain from before what? The foundation of the world, before even the creation.

The plan was for Him to die for all the sins of all who will ever believe. This is the righteousness that Romans 3 talks about. It's the righteousness of God, verse 21, apart from the Law. Verse 22, it's the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe. And that's the key.

How do you get in on this? Believe. Believe what? Believe that you're a sinner.

Believe you're in a desperate situation. You're desperately alienated from God. Believe that you have no hope of reconciliation and you will in this life live godlessly and in the next life you will suffer eternal torment and believe all of that and then believe that God sent His Son into the world in the form of a man to die as your substitute and take your place and that He took the full fury of the wrath of God upon him and believe that the affirmation that God's justice was satisfied was the fact that God raised Jesus...what?...from the dead and when God raised Him from the dead He was saying, I am satisfied. And then God exalted Jesus to His right hand where He sits at the right hand of God on the throne and God says when that was done, when He offered Himself and satisfied my justice, I gave Him, Philippians 2, a name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee in the universe must bow. And every tongue must confess that Jesus is Lord. That's what you believe. That's the gospel and when you believe that by faith, simply believing that, God in His mercy takes the righteousness of Jesus Christ and imputes it to you because your sins were imputed to Christ when He died on the cross. The Father knew you were there when the Son died.

Your name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life before the foundation of the world and the atonement that Christ made was for you and you come to believe and you receive the imputed righteousness and then you live in this life with God in your life and in eternity in the presence of God in absolute perfection. That's the gospel. That's Christianity.

That's it. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur. Thanks for being with us. Along with teaching the Bible daily on radio, John also serves as Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Today he looked at one verse from 2 Corinthians, 15 words of hope. It's part of his current series titled, The New Testament Beginning to End. And now friend, today's sermon is one we get a lot of response to.

It's helped many people better understand the magnitude of the forgiveness that Christ made possible. If you've benefited from John's teaching, we would love to hear about it. When you can, jot us a note and send it our way. You can send your email to letters at or write to Grace to You, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. Again, if you can point to a specific way Grace to You has helped you grow spiritually, perhaps you or someone you know has become a Christian after listening to this broadcast, I would encourage you to get in touch. Our email address again, letters at, and our regular mailing address, P.O.

Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. And when you visit, make sure to take advantage of the thousands of free resources available, including Grace Stream. That's a continuous loop of John MacArthur's sermons from Matthew through Revelation.

It takes a couple of months to get through all of them. And then the sermons repeat. Jump into the Grace Stream today and any time for verse-by-verse encouragement from the New Testament. You'll find Grace Stream at Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow when John helps you answer this question, What is Christian Liberty? That's the title of the lesson that comes your way with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-04 20:50:42 / 2023-03-04 21:00:15 / 10

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