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Guilt and Substitution
2 Corinthians 5:21
There is nothing in all the world so tormenting as guilt. I do not doubt that the very fires of hell that cannot be quenched are relentlessly fueled by an indescribable sense of guilt tormenting the soul. The worm that never dies in the pit of the damned, that undying worm that forever gnaws upon the fully awakened consciences of the damned is guilt.
But even in this world, there is nothing more tormenting to a man than a sense of guilt. I do not mean merely a sense of guilt with regard to men, but a consciousness of guilt before the infinite, holy, eternal God. Are you struggling with such guilt? Does your screaming conscience torment you day and night? You try to silence it with prayers, Bible reading, moral reformation, and religious duty. But when you toss upon your bed in the lonely watches of the night, alone before God, you find that your bed is too short and your covering too narrow; and you cannot rest. Your refuge of lies is swept away in a moment before the bar of God’s holiness, justice, and truth. In your very soul, you cry and weep, tremble and quake with an overwhelming sense of guilt and the fear of eternal damnation. You cannot rest. You have found, and find day after day, that there is “no rest for the wicked.”
Believers with Guilt
Some of you who are my brothers and sisters in Christ, true believers, some of you who are born of God, yet struggle with a horrible sense of guilt. You know that Christ paid your sin debt; but you still carry the weight of guilt. Oh, what an unbearable weight it is! You know that the Lord Jesus has redeemed you from the curse of the law; but you still carry the weight of the condemned in your soul. You know that Christ is the Lord your Righteousness, that you are made the righteousness of God in him; but your soul is still filled with guilt. Why? Because you are keenly aware of your own, inward lusts and sin. You still bear your own iniquities in your soul.
There is nothing that makes the life of a poor, tender soul so painfully bitter as this oppressive, unbearable load of sin and guilt. Satan knows that there is no yoke so oppressive, no bondage so cruel to your soul as this. Therefore, he constantly accuses you. He raises Moses up to condemn you, and your flesh says, “Amen,” to his accusations.
A Message from God
I have a message from God for you. It is specifically to you who carry the weight of sin and guilt in your souls. If God the Holy Spirit will give you eyes to see and a heart to believe what he declares to us in 2nd Corinthians 5:21, you will find the message of this text worth more than a mountain of gold to your soul. — “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
In this portion of Holy Scripture (2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2), Paul is calling sinners to faith in Christ. He urges us to be reconciled to God upon the basis of reconciliation already made at the cross, promising righteousness, the very righteousness of God, to all who trust Christ. This message he urges us to believe, and to believe now. His message is both urgent and authoritative, for it comes to us from one who speaks as the very ambassador of God. Indeed, it is God himself speaking to us by him.
But the entire message of this passage, indeed, the entire message of the Bible is built and hangs upon this one profoundly glorious fact. — “He hath made him sin.” We cannot be made new creatures in Christ until “He hath made him sin.” God cannot reconcile us to himself until “He hath made him sin.” We cannot be reconciled to God until “He hath made him sin.” We cannot be made the righteousness of God in Christ until “He hath made him sin.” We cannot receive grace until “He hath made him sin.”
Nothing in all the world can silence an accusing, condemning, screaming conscience but this: — “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Guilty sinner, look away to Christ. Trust the Son of God, the sinners’ Substitute; be reconciled to God, and live forever in the blessed peace of guiltlessness and perfect righteousness before God. When Satan raises Moses up and accuses you of guilt, my brother, my sister, look out of yourself to Christ, your Substitute, your Righteousness, and send the serpent slithering away in silence. “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”