Kruiz edited
I Am Not
Tuesday of Lent 4
13 March 2018
I was invited to speak at a Roman Catholic seminary about the Lutheran doctrine of justification some years ago. I dealt with many of the standard objections to the Bible's doctrine of forensic righteousness, including "a verdict of righteousness is just a fiction," "a mere statement does not make things so," and others. Everyone struggles with these same objections, because the old Adam is always worming his way into our hearts and niggling us with doubts about God's ability to do what He says. We think because we feel differently, God could not have declared us to be righteous. This is why we Christians must walk by faith and not by sight. If this work of Christ could be proven with inductive or deductive logic, or scientific demonstrations, then we would have no need for God to speak, nor any need to believe. Christianity would be as obvious as any other doctrine. It is only obvious to faith, which believes the Word of God.
Near the end of the time I had with my Roman Catholic friends, I made reference to one of my favorite Pauline texts: "For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2Co 5:21). This Word of God is among my favorites because it is so radical, so shocking. Listen to what Paul says of Christ, "God made Him to be sin." He became sin, not "became sinful," "bore sin," or any other evasion. Now none of those other statements are false, and, in fact, can be found elsewhere in the New Testament. But for Paul, the doctrinal incendiary, these phrases are not sufficiently arresting in their meaning. He wants us to sit up and take notice. Paul is employing a rhetorical megaphone.

We struggle with this radicality. My pious Roman Catholic interrogators wanted to throw some water on these words of the apostle to cool them off a bit, "Well, Paul can't mean that Christ became sin. What then would happen to the immaculate holiness of the Son of God?" However, this is exactly the point that Paul is making, only the One who is immaculately holy is able to submerge the world's sin in His holy heart and extinguish its burning embers in His own person. He becomes what His Father calls him, "sin." Not because He must, but because He wants to take sin from us and die for it. If He takes sin, becomes it, and dies for it, why do we need to bear it any longer?
It is not our task to cool off the words of God, when God wants to take our burning sin and plunge it into the cooling life of the Son of God. We needn't rescue God from our sin, because the goal of Christianity is not that we rescue Him, but that He rescues us. God is willing to do and say the most radical things to effect that result. Of course, what God says also is. His speech is a making to be (Gn 1:3). This is also true of the verdict of God that counts us righteous or the counting of Christ a sinner. He becomes what the Father says. If He is the sinner, then I am not.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"I am saying nothing of what has been set down before (2Co 5:14-20), that you have outraged Him, who had done you no wrong, who had done you only good, who did not exact justice, who is first to beseech, though first outraged. Let none of these things be considered at present. Should you not in justice be reconciled because of this one thing that He has done for you now? And what has He done? 'For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin' (2Co 5:21). For had He achieved nothing but only this, think how great a thing it was to give His Son for those that had outraged Him.
"But now He has both achieved mighty things, and besides, has permitted Him who did no wrong to be punished for those who had done wrong. But he did not say just this, but mentioned that which is far greater. 'He who knew no sin,' he says, who was righteousness itself, 'He was made sin,' that is, suffered as a sinner to be condemned as one cursed to die. 'For cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree' (Gal 3:13). For to die this way was far greater than just to die. Paul implied the same when he said, 'Becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross' (Phil 2:8). For this death carried with it not only punishment, but also disgrace. Consider how great are the things that He bestowed on you! For a great thing indeed it would have been for even a sinner to die for anyone else; but when He who undergoes this is both righteous and dies for sinners; and not only dies, but even dies as one cursed; and not just cursed, but in so doing freely bestows upon us those great goods which we never looked for (for he says, that 'we might become the righteousness of God in Him'); what words, what thought would be sufficient to recognize these things? 'For the righteous,' Paul says, 'He made a sinner; that He might make the sinners righteous.'
"And what is more, the word he employed is not the habit, but the quality itself. For he did not say, 'made' Him a sinner, but 'made Him to be sin.' He did not say, 'He who had not sinned' only, but 'He who knew no sin; that we' also 'might become.' He did not say 'righteous,' but, 'righteousness,' and, 'the righteousness of God.' For this is the righteousness of God when we are justified not by works, in which case it would be necessary that not a single blemish should be found, but by grace, in which case all sin is done away with. And this at the same time that sin keeps us from being lifted up (seeing the whole is the free gift of God), it teaches us also the greatness of that which is given. For that which was before was a righteousness of the law and of works, but this is 'the righteousness of God.'"

 John Chrysostom,
Homilies on 2 Corinthians, 11.5
2 Corinthians

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 
Lord Christ, Your Father made You to be sin for us, that we might become Your righteousness. How powerful His saying is, so that we become what You are, and You become what we are. Grant us to live in peace and joy in this most holy faith, that we might not be plagued by our sin. Free us from the desire to save You from Yourself, that we might be saved by You. Amen.
For Michael Koutsodontis, that he would receive strength and healing in accordance with the good and gracious will of God
For all those offended by God's radicality, that they might be rescued from their desire to save God from Himself and leave themselves in His gracious hands
For the family of Gail Wilty, who was called by the Lord from this valley of sorrow into His nearer presence, that they would grieve in faith and faithful confession of God's good gifts
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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