Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Sweet Exchange

Please, take the time and effort to get the Gospel right: your eternal destination depends on it! 

This post from pastor Bob Glenn is so awesome, liberating, and filled with truth it bears reading. Does this teaching sound alien to you? Maybe your church doesn't preach the gospel: just saying!   

What is "The Sweet Exchange"? It's Martin Luther's "Great Exchange" 1,300 years before he was born!
Consider this quotation from the second century anonymous Epistle to Diognetus:
For what else could cover our sins but his righteousness? In whom was it possible for us, in our wickedness and impiety, to be made just, except the Son of God alone? O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits, that the wickedness of many should be concealed in the one righteous, and the righteousness of the one should make righteous many wicked.

Luther put it like this:
Learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and, despairing of yourself, say, "Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given me what I was not."
Theologically speaking, the Epistle to Diognetus and the quotation of Martin Luther are referring to the doctrine of imputation, which teaches that, by grace alone, we are justified (declared not guilty) in God's sight because, while we were still sinners, God attributed (= imputed) our sins to Jesus, inflicting on him the just punishment we deserved and at the same time attributed Christ's righteousness to us, bestowing on us every spiritual blessing he deserved. This is the very heart of the gospel - the great and sweet exchange of our sins for Christ's righteousness sheerly as a gift of God's grace.

It is often suggested that the notion of imputation is a theological innovation originating in the Reformation. The Epistle to Diognetus is proof positive that Christian thinkers from the earliest days of the church recognized the significance of this doctrine. But the reason for this continuity is that the notion of the imputed righteousness of Christ is a thoroughly biblical idea. The most succinct expression of it comes from 2 Cor 5:21: "He made him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in him."
This is the sweet exchange! This is the great exchange! Our sin for Christ's righteousness freely as a gift by God's grace (see also Rom 5:17). 

And what this means on a practical level is life-changing. It means that we never walk around with a deficit in our righteousness. Our record is the record Jesus amassed for us through his sinless life. When the Father sees us, he sees children robed in the perfectly comprehensive righteousness of his beloved Son. You don't have to feel like you didn't do enough to day. You don't have to feel like God is somehow withdrawing his love from you because your labors for his kingdom were lacking. You don't have to feel as if you need to make up for your daily waywardness. The Father sees you as perfectly righteous in Christ.

Now you might think that this would lead Christians toward a lackadaisical or lackluster obedience. Or toward a cavalier attitude toward sin. Not at all! The reality is that the more and more we understand what it means for us to have the righteousness of Christ through the great and sweet exchange, the more genuine Christian want to obey. Only instead of our obedience functioning as a kind of currency to keep God close to us, our obedience functions as a joyous and wondrous expression of gratitude for what is already ours through the gospel.

Can you taste the sweetness? Can you see the greatness of this exchange? Celebrate it - it's all yours in Christ.

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