"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)
This verse is one that we are quite familiar with, particularly the second half. The Scripture does not say "that we might be accounted to have the righteousness of God," or even "given the righteousness of God," but rather, "that we might be made the righteousness of God." There is a change, not in the title or legal standing only, but in the actual composition. We are "made the righteousness of God," and this not of ourselves, but "in Him."
It is "Him" that I would like to focus on, and particularly in the first part of this verse. As certainly as it is written that we are "made the righteousness of God in Him," it is just as certainly written that Yahshua was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin."
It does not read that "He made Him to bear the penalty of our sins," or "He made him to take the guilt of our sins," though these are both true. It reads more than this; that He "made Him to be sin." That is, the thing itself; the sin itself. Yahshua "was made to be sin" in order that the sin itself might die. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Romans 6:6)
And again, "For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:10,11)
The sacrificial system that prefigured the cross contained many offerings, each with particular meanings and rituals. There were burnt offerings, praise offerings, meat offerings, and the one most relevant to us tonight, sin offerings. We read:
"When a ruler hath sinned, and done [somewhat] through ignorance [against] any of the commandments of the LORD his God [concerning things] which should not be done, and is guilty; Or if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish: And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD: it [is] a sin offering." (Leviticus 4:22-24)
There are several things worth noting in these verses. First is that, while this passage applies to rulers, the rest of the chapter details similar offerings for priests, common people, the poor, etc. Second, each of these offerings - indeed, every sin offering in Scripture - applies only to sins "done somewhat through ignorance." Of those sins committed willfully, we read:
"But the soul that doeth [ought] presumptuously, [whether he be] born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity [shall be] upon him." (Numbers 15:30,31)
The only judgment for willful sin is separation and death. This death sentence is either realized after probation has closed in the second death, or is accepted now, allowing the old man to die and being "made the righteousness of God in Christ" while Yahshua's ministry continues.
Returning to our passage in Leviticus regarding sin offerings, there are two different phrases used. One is, "he shall bring his offering." This is the general word in Hebrew for offering or gift, "Qorban." We know this word in a slightly different spelling from another Scripture:
"For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, [It is] Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; [he shall be free]." (Mark 7:10,11)
The other phrase is, "it is a sin offering." This is from one word in Hebrew; "Chatt'ah." It does not indicate gift, or offering, or even sacrifice; it means simply "sin." There is no word in Hebrew for "sin offering" apart from "sin;" when the Scriptures read that the sin offering is slain, it is the sin that is slain. When the "blood of the sin offering" is sprinkled, it is "the blood of the sin." When the Scriptures record the priests eating of the sin offering, they are eating of, and thus bearing, the sin. We read:
"And Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin offering, and, behold, it was burnt: and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron [which were] left [alive], saying, Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it [is] most holy, and [God] hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD?" (Leviticus 10:16,17)
We may see the precedence, then, for Yahshua "being made sin for us." We may also note something unusual in this passage; the sin offering is at the same time called "sin" (remember, there is no word for offering attached) and also "most holy." We may see Yahshua in this also, who was "made sin for us, who knew no sin."
In the typical service, the priests ate of the sacrifice in order to bear the iniquity of those who offered it, until the sins were transferred to the sanctuary. It is worth noting that we continue to "eat of the sacrifice," though the change in covenant has brought a change in effect. Whereas priests once ate of the sacrifice to bear sin away, we now eat of the sacrifice to bear the righteousness of God within:
"And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake [it], and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup [is] the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22:19,20)
We note that Yahweh, through Moses, was very particular about the proper eating of the sacrifice. The Scriptures show that this has not changed:
"For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink [this] cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many [are] weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." (1 Cor. 11:26-30)
Eating, of course, was not the only means of transferring sin; the sprinkling of blood had power to both cleanse the sanctuary and to impart guilt to the sanctuary, depending on whether the blood was "sin-bearing." And, in order for the blood to become such, two steps must occur:
"And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these [things], that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that [thing]." (Leviticus 5:5)
And, after specific confession:
"And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering." (Leviticus 4:29)
Similarly to eating, the laying on of hands served to transfer sin under the old covenant. Whereas priests once laid hands to symbolically transfer iniquity, we now lay hands to symbolically transfer the gifts of righteousness:
"And when Paul had laid [his] hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied." (Acts 19:6)
"Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure." (1 Tim. 5:22)
We may see, then, that while the priesthood once served to transfer away sin continually, the priesthood now serves to transfer in righteousness continually. Where the purpose was once to remove the rubbish of death, it is now to fill the soul with life. We read of the contrast between the ministry of the old covenant and the new:
"Who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading [as] it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory." (2 Cor. 3:6-9, NASB)
The ministry of removing sins is the "ministry of condemnation;" it is a ministry based on avoiding condemnation by allowing another to take the penalty of sin. "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, [and] not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect." (Hebrews 10:1)
It is here - seeking to avoid condemnation - that the majority of professed Christians sit, not having followed Yahshua into the Most Holy. If the heart is motivated by a fear of losing, or hope of gaining heaven, it is a worship of rewards and punishments - of condemnation and its avoidance.
We are given, however, "the ministry of righteousness;" or, "the ministry of the Spirit." These are both quite the same ministry, as "if Christ [be] in you, the body [is] dead because of sin; but the Spirit [is] life because of righteousness." (Romans 8:10)
Having been "made the righteousness of God in Him," we now pour out life naturally from within rather than merely remove or avoid the penalty of death, even as the blood was poured out at the base of the altar into the earth. So far from only sins being transferred with the laying on of hands, it is the Holy Spirit that is transferred through the same.
We note that, while Yahshua has been offered as our sacrifice, the steps of confession and repentance remain the same. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Heb. 9:28)
Yahshua was once offered; Yahshua was once "made sin for us," bearing the sins of many. Through the entirety of the sacrificial economy, the core concept presented is sin as a commodity; something that can be traded, given, taken, moved from person to place, etc. In other words, it teaches us to consider that sin is separate from us, a thing able to be forsaken and removed, taken and cast away, rather than a part of who we are.
We have taught, and it is true, that "sin separates" - that is, sin brings separation. There is a deeper principle here, however, that is necessary to correct thinking in the context of the "mind of Christ." There are no further sacrifices for sin; the sin offering has been sacrificed, once and for all time. The "sin" has been offered, once and for all time. Sin, therefore, not only separates - sin is itself separate, having been separated from us and put to death before the fact.
This gets into "deep theology" a bit, as individual sins must still be confessed and forsaken as they are identified and realized. There is no laying of hands on the sacrifice followed by its slaying, however. Yahshua now offers the pre-slain blood on our behalf, which means that His sacrifice - the "sin He was made" for death - was already separated from us, and placed upon Him.
Yahshua has already spoken the word to create every man and woman a new creature. The Word creates by its very speaking; the only reason every man and woman is not a new creature is that Yahweh honors agreement, and not all agree with Yahweh's spoken Word regarding them.
So we may say, Christ is the light that shines on every man, and the savior of all, specially of those that believe; for the reality is only realized through faith. Similarly, any and every sin has already been separated from us and slain, "specially we that believe;" we need only confess them, reject them, and walk in the reality of faith as promised.
This is the area where Satan will seek to interject. He cannot prevent the sacrifice; that has happened. He cannot prevent the ministration of Yahshua as high priest; that is beyond his reach. What he will do instead is attempt to convince us that sins committed through ignorance are a part of us, rather than merely in us, awaiting cleansing upon revelation. In this way faith in the process of atonement is broken down, and the soul is tempted to identify with and defend the sin as part of "self" rather than rejecting it as hateful, and as an intruder to Christ.
While this concept may be new to some, the wording should be familiar:
"I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (John 17:14-16)
"In the world, but not of the world" describes the experience of the Christian in a world of sin. "In the Christian, but not of the Christian" describes the experience of discovering a sin in the Christian who has been born again, "made the righteousness of God in Him."
It is in the confessing and forsaking of the sin that acknowledgment is made of the sacrifice on our behalf, and cleansing effected. It is the work of Satan to hinder this process, and one method used to prevent confession of a sin is to introduce the thought that to acknowledge sin is to deny the faith. That is to say, because the Scriptures promise us plainly that "whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin," Satan attempts to set the reality of a discovered sin against the reality of Yah's promise. The accusation is that Yahweh is a liar, and the implication is that faith means guile, or a distortion of the truth.
The answer is simply that sin is sin; there is a sin not unto death, which is to say, a sin for which there is sacrifice, a sin performed in ignorance or under a false belief. There is also a sin unto death, that is, a "committed," or willfully undertaken sin, an act of rebellion. Satan seeks to send souls off the path by preventing examination of the thoughts and feelings that lead to thorough confession of sin; for we cannot confess what we have not identified, and we cannot identify what we have not examined.
If the thoughts are not identified and corrected, merely the action is seen; this is insufficient for those who have died to self and been created anew in the image of Christ. Why? He was "made to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." If the action is unChristlike, it cannot be from within us, for Christ is formed within; the wrong action may be "in us," but it cannot be "of us." It can only be a remnant of self, the old, dead person whose possessions must be discovered and cast out.
We must therefore reject the temptation to view sin as a part of the new man, and rather view it for what it is; a virus, a cancer, an interloper and invader that must by all means be cut off and cast away. Indeed, it already has been cast away, crucified and buried; we need only recall this, confess the specific sins, and rejoice that Yahshua was "made sin for us" and "slain from the foundation of the world."
An opposite, but equally dangerous error claims that because the sin was not willful, the ignorance excuses the sin, and it is therefore not terribly dangerous or worrisome. Satan here would convince the saint that, because they are not willful sinners, the ignorant sin may go unconfessed. If accepted, this thought destroys the entire process of atonement, as ignorant sins are the only ones the converted Christian will uncover. We note the words of Scripture:
"And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist [it] not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred and wist [it] not, and it shall be forgiven him. It [is] a trespass offering: he hath certainly trespassed against the LORD." (Leviticus 5:17-19)
We note that "though he knew it not, yet is he guilty;" the consequences of sin are not removed by the sacrifice, though we may be forgiven. Sin is sin; it is "sin" for a reason, for Yahweh is not arbitrary. All unrighteousness is sin, for all unrighteousness - known or unknown - has a consequence, to ourselves, to Christ, and to those around us. There is no safety in hiding from examination, for this is how sin persists unrecognized, unconfessed, and uncleansed. There is no safety in neglecting soul-searching, for this has the same result, and is a tactic of the same adversary.
Sin was slain on the cross; it will be finally removed from the universe in a short period of time, with all who identify with it and neglect to forsake it. May we honestly acknowledge, but never identify ourselves with sin, rejoicing in the One who has given us the ministry of reconciliation, being "made the righteousness of God in Him."
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