“Made,” Made” and “Made”
“…The water that was made wine…” (John 2:9)
The water was made wine. Pictures of wine were not pasted on the water pots. The water was not made to look like wine. The water was not made to taste like wine. And the water was not treated as though it were wine. It was made wine. In John 2:11 we are told that this water, when it was made wine, manifested forth our Savior’s glory. It shows us a picture of how the God of all grace takes sinners like you and me and makes us saints, how God takes one who is altogether sinful, and nothing but sin, and makes him righteous by his grace.
In the New Testament there are three distinct words that are translated “made,” and each word is used with reference to our redemption and salvation in and by the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are to understand the teaching of the Holy Spirit in those places where these words are used, it is important to know the distinct meaning of each word. Let me show you how these three different words translated “made” are used.
One of the words translated “made” is a legal or forensic term. It means “to legally constitute.” This is the word that is used by the Holy Spirit in Romans 5:19, when he tells us that all the human race were made sinners by the sin and fall of our father Adam, and all God’s elect shall be made righteous by the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ, the last Adam.
Without question, redemption is a legal matter. Justification is a legal matter (Romans 3:24-26; 4:25). We could not be redeemed were Christ not our penal Substitute. Those who deny that redemption is by the penal sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ deny that which is plainly declared in Holy Scripture and deny the very core of the Gospel.
However, that legal term is never used in the Word of God, with reference to Christ being made sin. In fact, you will never find any legal term used in the Book of God in connection with our Savior being made sin for us. There is much, much more to it than that!
Those who make redemption nothing but a legal transfer of debt, who make justification nothing but a legal declaration, and make salvation nothing but doctrinal facts, to which we must give assent, would take away “the joy of faith” in the blessed experience of grace.
The second word that is translated “made” is a very intense word. It involves experience. It is the actual transformation of a person or thing by something being done to it. When the water was “made” wine, this is the word the Holy Spirit used to tell us about it. The water did not cease to be water. Yet, it would never again just be water. It was “made wine.” When the Son of God came into this world in human flesh, “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). There again, the Spirit of God inspired John to use this strong, intense word for “made.” The Son of God did not cease to be God. His divinity was not in any way altered. But he would never again be just God (if I can be permitted to use such language). He who is our Savior is for evermore God in human flesh. By a marvelous experience, “the Word was made flesh.”
In 1st Corinthians 1:30 this very same, intense word is used, when we are told that the Lord Jesus Christ is “made” unto every heaven born soul Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption. Without question, the Word of God declares that God’s elect were redeemed, justified, sanctified and blessed of God from eternity (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-6) in and by Christ the Lamb of God who stood forth as our Wisdom (Proverbs 8) in the covenant of Christ. To deny that is to deny that which is plainly written in Holy Scripture.
It is equally clear that all who experience God’s saving grace in Christ in time were redeemed, justified and sanctified at the cross, when the Lord Jesus died in our stead (Hebrews 10:9-14).
But the word translated “made” in John 1:14, 2:9 and in 1st Corinthians 1:30 always refers to a transformation. It always refers to something experienced. Those who say, suggest, or imply that it is a legal (forensic) term either betray their ignorance in doing so, or betray their willingness to pervert Holy Scripture, molding the Word of God to their opinion and refusing to mold their opinion to the Word of God.
In 1st Corinthians 1:30, when Paul tells us that Christ is made of God to us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption, he is telling us what transpires in the experience of grace, when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither our experience of grace nor our faith in Christ make him our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption; but you can never know Christ as your Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption until you trust him, until you believe on the Son of God.
That is what the Holy Spirit tells us, when he describes Abraham’s faith as an illustration of saving faith. When Abraham believed the record of God concerning his Son, the Lord Jesus, it was imputed to him for righteousness (Romans 3:24-26; 4:3-11; 6:11). When you run across the words “reckon,” “account,” “counted,” “charge,” “conclude” and “impute” in the Scriptures, all those words are different translations of the same word. The word is never used with reference to Christ being made sin for us. It is always used with reference to the believer’s sweet experience of grace. When the sinner believes on the Son of God, by faith in him God imputes to the saved sinner’s conscience the righteousness of Christ; and teaches the heaven born soul to reckon himself righteous in Christ, just as God does (Romans 6:11).
As our Lord Jesus was “numbered” with transgressors, when he experienced being made sin for us, we are numbered with him, when we experience being made the righteousness of God in him. All for whom Christ was obedient unto death “shall be made the righteousness of God in him” (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21) in the sweet experience of grace, when they are born again by God the Holy Spirit and he creates faith in them. As Joseph Hart put it…
“The moment a sinner believes
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
Redemption in full through His blood!”
The third word translated “made” in the New Testament is a word that carries the idea of something wondrously, mysteriously, unexplainably made, caused to be or created. That is the word the Holy Spirit used in 2 Corinthians 5:21, when he tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ was “made sin for us.”
All men were made sinners in a legal sense by Adam’s transgression; and all God’s elect were made righteous in a legal sense by Christ’s obedience unto death as our Substitute. Believers are made the righteousness of God in Christ in the sweet experience of God’s saving grace, when we trust his Son, being born again by his Spirit, who graciously creates faith in us. But we could never have obtained righteousness, we could never have been made the righteousness of God in Christ had not the Lord Jesus been made sin for us, as the Holy Spirit here declares.
Recently, I heard a man say, with regard to Christ being made sin for us, “I see nothing mysterious about it. It is a legal matter.” When I heard that, I shook my head in disbelief. Is it possible for a person to see nothing mysterious, nothing wondrously mysterious about the Son of God being made sin for us? Immediately, I thought of our Savior’s words in Lamentations 1:12. — “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.”
The fact is the word translated “made” in 2nd Corinthians 5:21 means precisely that — “mysteriously, wondrously made, made in a profoundly mysterious way that is beyond explanation.” It is not a legal (forensic) word. Our Lord Jesus was wondrously, mysteriously, profoundly caused to be sin for us, that we might be made (in the experience of grace) the righteousness of God in him.
Traditionally, it is said that Christ was made sin by imputation. I have said that myself; but that is not really true. The Word of God never says that. Our Lord Jesus was not made sin by imputation. The Scriptures forbid the possibility of that (Proverbs 17:15). Our sins were imputed to him because he was made sin. There is no place in the Book of God where a legal (forensic) term is used with reference to Christ being made sin. It is certainly true that our sin was imputed to our Savior. Had it not been imputed to him, he could never have suffered the wrath of God for our sin. But he was not made sin by imputation.
Our sins were justly imputed to him because he was made sin for us! The Book of God does not say our sins were pasted on him in a legal, ceremonial way. The Book says, “He hath made him sin for us!” The Scriptures do not say he was treated as though he were sin. The Book says, “He hath made him sin for us!” The Word of God does not say he was accounted a transgressor. The Book says, “He hath made him sin for us!” And the Holy Spirit does not here say that he was made a sin-offering. The Book of God says, “He hath made him sin for us!”
Here he manifests forth his glory! Mysteriously, profoundly, wondrously in a way that defies explanation, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Darling of heaven, who knew no sin, did no sin and could not sin, was made sin for us.
This is the good wine of the gospel. Truly, it makes glad the heart! When Christ was made sin for us, it was he and he alone who trod the wine-press of his Father’s wrath as our Substitute, when the Lord bruised him and put him to grief. This is the wine that cheers both God and men. When God’s justice took the full draught of it for the sins of the redeemed, the Lord declared himself well pleased. And when the poor sinner, by sovereign grace, is first made to drink of the blood of the Lamb, he feels constrained to cry…
“Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings;
Through His blood I now am saved.”
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