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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Sinners Reconciled by Him Who Had No Sin
Text:2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Praise Waits for Thee in Zion
Jesus, Lover of My Soul
Not What My Hands Have Done
Jesus, thy Blood and Righteousness       

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Sinners Reconciled by Him Who Had No Sin”
2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2
Elizabeth Barrett Browning is well known for her poetic skills. She lived from 1806 until 1861 and during her lifetime she wrote many books of poetry. As she gained a reputation for her poetry and was widely read, Robert Browning, a man of considerable influence himself, proposed to her and she accepted, even though she was six years older and their backgrounds were quite different from each other.
When Elizabeth Barrett married, and became Elizabeth Barrett Browning, her parents disowned her. She and her husband had moved to Italy and almost every week Elizabeth wrote letters to her parents in England seeking reconciliation. She sent a letter or a poem to her parents asking to be reconciled to them on a weekly basis for the better part of ten years.
She never received a reply from her parents until finally a box arrived from them across the miles in England. Inside the box were all her letters, all her poems seeking reconciliation, still unopened. Her parents had refused to even read her letters. Later on those letters became some of the most touching classic English literature.
It is hard for us, especially those of us who are blessed with close Christian families, to imagine that scenario. But all the letters that Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote and received back unopened are in some ways like the letters that God has written to us. God has written many letters to us offering the opportunity to be reconciled to Him.
The passage that we read from 2 Corinthians 5 is just a small portion of one of those letters that God has written to us. As verse 19 says, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Yet, unfortunately, God's letters to us are also often left unopened. So many people have God's book of letters. The Holy Bible is still the best seller of all time, yet so few people have actually read the letters and responded to them with saving faith in Jesus Christ in order to be reconciled to God the Father.
The Breach
Reconciliation always implies a breach, a difference, a falling out, a separation. It is our sin that has separated us from God. The message of reconciliation that God has written to us is that He will, in the words of verse 19, not count our sins against us when by His grace and Spirit’s regenerating power, we repent of our sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
But it is not just in 2 Corinthians 5 where we read about reconciliation. The entire Bible records God's plan of reconciliation. The promise of reconciliation began already in the dawn of history. Adam and Eve sinned against God. Their disobedience to God's command separated them, and all their posterity – the whole human race including you and me – from God. Sin caused the breach, the difference, the falling out. And at that point God had every right to wipe the earth clean from humanity’s sin. He had every right to do away with Adam and Eve and start over with a clean slate. But instead, the Lord promised to send a Mediator to reconcile fallen sinners with Himself.
Genesis 3:15 records what is often called “the mother promise” of Scripture. It is the promise from which all other promises flow. It is also called the proto-evangelium, meaning the first proclamation of the gospel. It is the verse where the Lord says to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”
And all the rest of Scripture describes the conflict of the ages – the war of the serpent against God and His people. And all Scripture describes the promise of God to reconcile those who are estranged – separated from Him – because of their sin. He promises reconciliation through saving faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Just as Elizabeth Barrett Browning had sent letter after letter and poem after poem seeking reconciliation, so too God in His Word has revealed to us His promise and plan for reconciliation over and over again.
The Mediator
When there is a serious difference between two parties a mediator is brought in. For instance, when workers go on strike, mediators are brought in to try to bring the management and the workers to reconcile with one another. In politics, we have negotiators who seek reconciliation between those who are separated from each other. A marriage counselor does the same thing. He or she seeks to mediate between a husband and wife who are at odds with each other and to bring them together so that they are reconciled.
Because of our sinful condition and because of God's holiness and His proper hatred of sin, we also need a mediator, one to intercede on our behalf to reconcile us to God the Father. For as the holy and just God, He requires the penalty for sin to be fully paid. But none of us can pay the penalty for our sin. And all of our so-called “good deeds” could never counterbalance the weight of sin on the scale of God’s justice.
In fact, all our righteous deeds, the Bible teaches, are like a filthy rag in God's sight (Isaiah 64:6). Our supposed righteousness can never bring about our redemption. As Psalm 49:7-8 puts it, “No man can redeem the life of another or give God a ransom for him - the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough.” 
Who, then, could possibly bring reconciliation between the holy and eternal triune God and sinners like ourselves? What type of mediator could bridge that tremendous gap and bring about reconciliation?
The Heidelberg Catechism asks the same question in the Lord’s Day 5. Question 15: “What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?”
Answer: “He must be truly human and fully righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, he must also be true God.”
The only one who fits that description is Jesus. Jesus alone can serve as our mediator because Jesus alone is both fully God and fully human. Only God Himself could pay the penalty for our sin. But to represent us, He also needed to be truly human, “like us in every way except for sin.” And that is why the eternal Christ took on human flesh. Hebrews 10:5-7 explains it this way:
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;

with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, O God.’
And what was God’s will? What was written in the scroll? The scroll contains the words of Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and … the Lord makes his life a guilt offering…” It is only by His guilt offering – the sacrifice He made at Calvary – that you and I can be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ alone – truly God and truly human – can bring reconciliation and peace with our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And Christ has reconciled sinners! When by God’s grace and Spirit’s power we have saving faith in Christ alone we have peace with the same triune God whom we have sinned against innumerable times. Romans 5:1 assures us, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
The Greatest Exchange
Our justification and reconciliation, our forgiveness of sins, our rejoicing in the glory of God, hinges on the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” That verse describes how when Christ, our mediator, truly God yet truly human, came to reconcile us to the Father he initiated the greatest transfer – the greatest exchange – ever recorded.
In our electronic age great sums of money can be transferred with the click of a mouse as one account transfers funds to another. But no transfer, even the billions of dollars transferred in corporate buyouts, compares to the transfer that 2 Corinthians 5:21 speaks about.  
It describes, first, how “God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us.” All of your sins and mine – our sinful actions, our cruel words, our impure thoughts, as well as our innumerable sins of omission – all these sins were transferred onto Jesus at Calvary. There, on the cross the words of Isaiah 53 were fulfilled: He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:5-6)
Theologians refer to that action as “the passive obedience of Christ”. In His passive obedience Jesus submitted to the agony of the cross. He could have escaped from that agony. As He said to Peter, after Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, as they came to arrest Jesus, “Put your sword back in its place. …Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matt. 26:52-54). By obediently submitting to death on the cross Jesus passively shed His blood, which covers – propitiates, atones for – the sins of all who have true saving faith in Him alone.
But when Jesus, in His passive obedience, was crucified to cleanse us from our sins by shedding his precious blood, he did not leave us with a blank slate. Sometimes the redeeming work of Jesus is pictured as him wiping off all the black marks on a white board so that nothing is left but the white board in all its purity. And that is an accurate illustration as far as it goes, for through saving faith in Christ we are thoroughly cleansed and are given this promise from the Lord: “…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isa. 1:18)
But Jesus not only removed the curse of our sin from us, He also imputes – credits – to us His perfect record in keeping the law. Consider that Jesus never used His Father’s name in vain. He never served false gods. He never killed, coveted, stole or committed adultery.
His perfection in keeping the law wasn’t just outward, but inward. In other words, he did not look in lust at the woman at the well. He did not murder anyone in his heart by thoughts of anger and retaliation. Not even the Pharisees. Not even those who crucified Him. Instead, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He kept the law perfectly, and after removing every transgression from the slate of your life and mine – he writes on that clean slate – the white board of your life – His perfect record of righteous obedience to every nuance of the law.
Theologians call that his active obedience. He actively kept every jot and title of the law – every iota, every nuance – perfectly and he credits his perfection to the life of everyone who has saving faith in Him alone. Thus, when the Father looks at you and me, if we truly have saving faith in Christ alone, He sees that our sins are cleansed. They are covered by the precious blood of Jesus. And He sees that the righteousness of His Son is permanently engraved on our lives because “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Cor. 5:21)
That is amazing reconciliation! The party which has been offended – God – sends His only begotten Son, whom He loves so dearly, Jesus Christ – one with the Father and one with the Holy Spirit, truly God, yet truly human – to be sin for us so that by grace, through saving faith in Him alone we are seen as righteous by God and reconciled to Him, presented before His throne spotless and without blame!
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote classic English literature in her letters of reconciliation. But none of her letters or poems were close to the beauty of God’s letters to us:
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” - Isaiah 1:18
The promise of God in Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
Or, Isaiah 49:15-16a: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands...” 
And the words of Jesus in John 6:27, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
Those verses, and so many more like them, offering reconciliation, are truly priceless. As David exclaimed in Psalm 19:10, “They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold. They are sweeter than honey, honey from the comb.” And, as such, they require a response from you and from me.
The New Creation
How are we to respond? First, we see that to be reconciled, we must be “in Christ.”  Verse 17 declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come…”
If you are not “in Christ” through saving faith in Him alone you cannot be reconciled to God. In order to be reconciled to God the Father you and I must have true saving faith in Jesus the Son. As the gospel of John puts it, in John 1:12-13: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
And John 6:28-29 – The people came to Jesus and asked, “‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the One he has sent.’”
Or Romans 10:9 “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And that is the key, that your faith is your heart, not just expressed on your lips.
To be reconciled to God requires heart-felt saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we delight in the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” then we must ask ourselves: “Do I truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for my salvation? Or, am I resting on my own works? Am I trusting my membership in the church or my baptismal certificate?
Or, for you young people – and us older ones as well – do I expect to be saved because I grew up in a Christian home, in the church, educated perhaps in a Christian school? You can’t enter heaven by your association with Christianity. As the old saying goes, “Sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in the garage makes you a car!” Young people, you can’t enter heaven on your parents’ coat tails. To be saved from our sin we must be “in Christ” through saving faith in Him alone.
And if by God’s grace we do have saving faith in Christ alone, then we must show that we are “new creations in Christ” by the way we live. Verse 15 tells us that we are to no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us and was raised again. We are to show that we are reconciled to God through saving faith in Jesus Christ by how we live. As verse 17 says, “The old has gone and the new has come!” And we must live in the newness of that life in Christ if we profess to be new creations in Him.
The prominent theologian of the early church, Augustine, found that out. Although he grew up in a Christian home, Augustine lived a wild, willfully immoral life. But by God’s grace, in response to the many prayers of his godly mother, Augustine was convicted by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God as he read from Romans 13:13-14, where the Apostle writes: “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
Some time had passed since his conversion, when one day as he was walking down the street a young woman who had once shared his immoral lifestyle caught his eye and said, with all her charms, “Augustine!” But he turned and went the other way.
“Augustine, Augustine, it is I!” she exclaimed.
Augustine turned around and said, “But it is not I. The old Augustine is dead and now I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.”  (Spurgeon, Quotes, pg. 334)
As a new creation in Christ, you and I need to take the words of Galatians 2:20, a parallel passage, to heart where the Apostle Paul writes: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Now Is the Day of Salvation
A third application: For any who have not believed in Jesus, now is the day of salvation; now is the time to have true saving faith in Him. Perhaps there are some who have heard the gospel message of reconciliation many times, yet have not been reconciled to God.
Others perhaps have historical faith in Jesus. That is, they believe that at the fullness of time, Christ took on human flesh, was born in the manger, lived, suffered, died, and rose again. But it is just knowledge of historical facts in their head. That knowledge has never sunk into their heart. That knowledge has never changed their life.
Others perhaps are like the man who asked, “Why do I need reconciliation – peace – with God? I never knew we were at war.” Yet by our very nature we are enemies of God, prone to hate, prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love, even as Christians. Yet He still offers reconciliation – full and free and complete through saving faith in His Son.
But the letters He has sent need to be opened now and responded to today. The passage closes in Chapter 6:2 with a quote from Isaiah 49:8, “‘In the time of my favor I heard you and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.”
No one knows what tomorrow will bring. None of us, not even you young people, know for sure if we will see the dawn of a new day tomorrow. Have you thought about how many people had their names appear unexpectedly in the news? Perhaps the name was in the article about the fatal accident. Or the murder that shook the suburbs because it wasn’t in the inner city but right down the street. Or the obituary that tells of the heart attack that took someone away in what they, and their loved ones, thought was the prime of their life.
Do you see why now is the time to be reconciled? You and I are not guaranteed tomorrow. That is why Paul implored the Corinthians, “I tell you now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.”
God has sent his Son to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” That is true, wonderful, awesome reconciliation! It is written about innumerable times in God's letters to us, from the proto-evangelium of Genesis 3:15 to the end of Revelation where we read: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev. 22:17)
That invitation for reconciliation is written about throughout Scripture. Don't be like Elizabeth Barrett Browning's parents. Don't leave the letters of reconciliation unopened! Instead, take God’s letters to heart. Marvel that the eternal God of majesty sacrificed Himself for you and for me! Rejoice that through saving faith in Jesus Christ you and I are redeemed and reconciled to God!
And then may you and I leave this building, resolving to live as joyful new creations in Christ, telling others about His redeeming love, now and always! Amen.
sermon outline:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might
become the righteousness of God. –  2 Corinthians 5:21
                  “Sinners Reconciled by Him Who Had No Sin”
                                      2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2
I. The message of the gospel is the message of reconciliation:
    1) The entire Bible records God’s plan of reconciliation (Genesis 3:15)
     2) Jesus is the only Mediator through whom we are reconciled to God
          the Father (18-19)
     3) God reconciles us by transferring our sin to Jesus and transferring His
         righteousness to us when, by grace, we have saving faith in Him alone (21)
II. Applications:
     1) To be reconciled we must be in Christ (17a) by saving faith
     2) We must show that we are new creations in Christ by the way we
          live (15, 17; Galatians 2:20)
     3) For any who have not believed in Jesus, now is the day of salvation; now
          is the time to have saving faith in Him alone for salvation (2 Cor. 6:1-2)



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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