2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” The very nature of Christ is selflessness. His purpose, His being, His every emotion revolve around the service of others and the glory of God. Christ explains this in John 17:1-5. He came to this world as a man to serve and to bring the underserved gift of salvation to those who would accept His call. Also consider Isaiah 42:1-4, a prophecy that clearly explains the mission of Christ – to willingly leave His place at the right hand of God and fulfill His divine ministry. So that’s what I would like to talk about now. The term “divine exchange” comes from the act of Christ exchanging His glory for our sin. By bearing the burden of the cross, Christ acted as a perfect offering to wash away the guilt and shame that is acquired by all of us because of sin before we come to know God.
I want to explain to you what the scriptures say about this divine exchange and why it is that each of us needs to follow Christ’s Holy example. I’ll do this by first explaining man’s lost state, and how it is that man ended up in this condition. Then I want to show you what Christ had at the right hand of God, and why it is that He sacrificed all of it for us.
In the first few chapters of the book of Genesis, we read about the creation of this universe and the first breath of life into Adam, a man, made in the image of God. Adam is described as a “foreshadow of [Christ]” in Romans 5:14, in that God created him with free will. Adam’s free will was what separated him from all the rest of God’s creation, and it continues to separate us today. The conscious awareness of our existence, and the ability to make rational or irrational decisions are God’s gifts to mankind. Everything was provided for Adam and Eve and they lived a life in what we would call a paradise. But the two of them had no knowledge of good and evil, until Eve, the woman, was quite deceived by the serpent and partook of the forbidden tree, which granted to the two of them knowledge of good and evil.
Again, in Romans 5, we read that sin entered the world through this act, and sin reigned in the world for quite some time. Man became so sinful that at some points God even regretted creating this world! Because of this sin, God enacted the Old Law, a series of commands that guided the lives of His followers (Galatians 3:19). The Old Testament Law, given to Moses at Mt. Sinai, came as a prerequisite to the perfect Law that was to come at Christ’s death. But even this Old Law wasn’t able to remove the transgressions of men, for there was no sacrifice perfect enough to accept the shame of sin.
Turn with me to Hebrews 9:13-14. Until Christ came, lambs and goats were used as sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. But lambs and goats aren’t perfect, and they don’t have the ability to offer themselves willingly. The only thing that saves us – the only sacrifice perfect enough – is the body and blood of Christ. And this is for all men (Acts 17:30). Christ says in John 12:46 that, “I have come as a light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.”
Humanity is in a state of darkness without God – a state of darkness that we bring upon ourselves – lost and hungry! When a person reaches a certain age at which he or she can understand the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, he or she is then held accountable to his or her sins. In Acts 17:27, we read, “that they should seek Him, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him.” Spiritually, man has nothing by himself. In his natural state, man is demonic, empty, impure, and covetous (James 3:15). All the works of man are vanity and striving after the wind. We cannot make it to Heaven on our own! Therefore, something else, that is Christ, must be necessary to bring us to the Light.
Understand that this was from the beginning. God did not simply make this up as He went. “Oh well, the Old Law didn’t work, so I guess I have to try something else.” No! Everything worked together to fulfill God’s ultimate, supreme plan of salvation (Isaiah 46:8-11).
Part of comprehending the sacrifice that Christ made comes from understanding what He gave up by coming to this world to live as a man. Let’s take a look at John 1:1-3. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Christ was there the day that man was created. From the beginning, Christ has been a witness to the existence of man and all of his transgressions. Aside from the Father Himself, nobody knows better the nature and fallibility of mankind.
It wasn’t just from His lofty position in Heaven that Christ witnessed the worst in man, either! He came down to this world and experienced the full force of human hatred, bearing a burden so heavy and a pain so deep. He had thousands of years to think about this sacrifice and to comprehend it. This wasn’t just a sudden decision or a random act of mankind. The death of Christ on a cross was a meticulously plotted and well-planned mission by God. Prophecy after prophecy revealed details about Christ’s life and the crucifixion, as if it had already happened! Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, Isaiah 42, Daniel 7:13-14, Jeremiah 23, and possibly a thousand other foreshadows dot the Old Testament. Christ knew what His death would be like.
Yet even with His foreknowledge, Christ never once faltered from His course. He maintained purity and composure. Everything He did was what God wanted Him to do, therefore, He was considered worthy to be raised up to His glorious seat at the right hand of the Father (Philippians 2:5-11). Even in His glorious state, Christ is, as we read, glorifying the Father!
· John 17:5 says, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” Before Christ came to this world, He had glory with the Father.
· John 16:14-15 says, “He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” Before Christ came, He had possession of all knowledge.
· Finally, John 17:20-21 reads, “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those who believe in Me through their word; that they mall be one, even as Thou, Father, are in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us ; that the world may believe that Thou did send Me.” Before Christ came to this world, He was ONE WITH GOD!
What more can He be asked to sacrifice to atone for our sin? We live this comfortable life, in the most apathetic country in the world. Our society seems to drift closer and closer to the idea of self-reliance – that man is strong enough on his own and has no need of God – when, in fact, mankind needs so much to make God a part of its existence! People can be so arrogant sometimes, and that’s what it all boils down to! When we choose not to be faithful to Christ and the Father, we are essentially saying, “Okay, you’ve given EVERYTHING for me, including a horrible, slow, painful death on a cross . . . is that all? What else can I get from you, Jesus?”
Galatians 3:10-14 describes Christ as becoming a curse for our sakes. The Old Law was a series of commands given to the people of that time. But because Law is not based on faith, according to this passage, and because nobody is perfect, and cannot, therefore, keep every part of the Law all the time, man is cursed under the Old Law. Therefore, now that Christ came to take the curse upon Himself, all men now have the opportunity to live freely under a law of faith. Galatians 5:1 says, “it was for freedom that Christ set us free.”
A valuable aspect of Christ’s sacrifice was the fact that He didn’t have to go through with the crucifixion. It was His choice all along whether or not to accept His mission. Christ said it Himself in Matthew 26:53-54. Do you think Christ enjoyed the torment and the suffering? Surely a cross is not an easy burden to bear? What we need to realize, beyond all of this, is that Christ did what none of us could. We sometimes make the mistake of believing that if we were to die on a cross, we would be able to save ourselves – as if Christ hung on a cross “in my place.” That is a misinterpretation of His sacrifice, however, because He did what was impossible for me. It was not the crucifixion itself, but the self-sacrifice of the perfect lamb that saves all of us. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men… looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession…” (Titus 2:11-14).
“That you through His poverty might become rich…”
So here’s our choice; do we choose to accept the call of Christ and obey Him and fully partake of the blessings of faithfulness, or do we choose to arrogantly reject the gift of Christ? God’s plan of salvation is the only road to salvation, and it is the time-tested answer to all the troubles, temptations, suffering, and worries of life. He prepared the way to Heaven at the very beginning of man’s transgressions, and promised glory to all of the descendants of Abraham through faith (Galatians 3:6-9). All the works of man are vanity; therefore, we need something else. So where do we look? Look for it in the blood of Christ! We must realize that there is great wealth in obedience to God – wealth that is much deeper than the temporal things of this world! When we have the Lord in our lives, we have the blessings of an omniscient God who sees every trouble that we face and promises that He will not forget us (Psalm 55:16-18, 22). He will never allow His righteous ones to be shaken!
What God asks of us is not impossible. All He wants is obedience and a desire to spread the same pure Word that saves your soul when you accept it. Through the act of baptism, we gain access to the saving blood of Christ (Romans 6). Baptism is not a difficult act! God also knows our limitations and has promised that we will not be tempted beyond what we are able to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Christian life isn’t always easy, but it is definitely worth it when one compares the passing pleasures of this life to the eternal reward of peace in Heaven. When we focus on God and serving Him, the way that Christ focused on serving us, then we find new meaning and purpose in life.
· Moses is a good example. Read Hebrews 11:24-26. Moses had a clear choice: stay in Egypt and live like a king for the rest of his life or follow the will of God and lead the Israelites into the desert where he would spend the rest of his life wandering. He made the right decision and Moses is in Heaven right now being comforted by God.
· Abraham is another example. He was asked by God to leave his home and travel to a place far away. God promised that His descendants would like the sand of the seashore and that through his seed, the Branch of the Lord would come. Yet, in Hebrews 11:13 it says that Abraham died without ever seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise, except from a distance.
· One example of a man who did not choose to serve God is in Matthew 19:21-24. Because this man had too much faith in his worldly possessions, he would not part with them to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. We must put the proper amount of faith into God, or else we will not be considered worthy to partake of everlasting riches.