THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, March 22, 2009

“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21).


The very heart of the Gospel is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Those who preach this truth preach the Gospel – no matter what other mistakes they make. But those who do not preach the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the Cross have missed the central message of the New Testament – no matter what other truths they proclaim. In the 1880s Spurgeon preached thunderous sermons on the doctrine of Christ’s substitution, because it was being denied by the growing liberalism of the Baptist Union in Britain. Today the problem is somewhat different. Some American TV preachers are teaching that Christ atoned for our sin in Hell.  That is a terrible error!  It is not in the Bible!  But, in most evangelical churches, it is not so much that the doctrine is denied as it is that the doctrine is neglected – sadly and strangely neglected.  The substitutionary death of Jesus on the Cross is hardly ever proclaimed in modern evangelical pulpits. In fact, very little mention is made of Christ’s death in most evangelical churches today. There may be a few words, but very rarely do pastors give whole sermons on this crucial doctrine. I think this is one of the reasons for the large defections of people that are leaving evangelical churches to join Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, where every service is built around the death of Christ. Though not savingly applied, the crucifixion is very prominent in their masses. But in the evangelical churches it is assumed that people already know the all-important doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. And so, it is only mentioned in passing, if at all.  

I spent some time attending a Baptist church where the main emphasis was training Christians. One of the women who was in that church for a quarter of a century came here to our church. I asked her how she hoped to be saved. She said, “By confessing my sins and taking the Lord’s Supper.” The only time her pastor mentioned the doctrine of the atonement was after people confessed their sins in prayer before the monthly Lord’s Supper service. As a result, this lady, a long-time Baptist, had no better understanding of Christ’s substitution than a lost Roman Catholic. The pastor of her church had spent more than twenty-five years teaching the congregation to live the Christian life – and all that time this was a lost person – going to Hell!

I am afraid that various errors about the atonement are in the minds of most Baptists and evangelicals today – because of the general neglect of that all-important subject in our pulpits. The average pastor thinks, “Why, I don’t need to preach on that! The subject is far too simple! I must teach them something that will help them to live the Christian life!” Thus, these pastors spend their whole ministry “casting pearls before swine.” Since the people they are “teaching” have never become real Christians, much of their ministry is wasted. The atonement should be central – but it is seldom mentioned in today’s apostasy in most evangelical churches. 

We know this by listening to people in the inquiry room. Most pastors do all the talking, and never ask questions, or listen to the answers. Therefore these pastors have no idea what their people think! That is why they do not realize that the subject of Christ’s substitution – far from being “too simple” – is not even known or received by their people! It would come as a shock today in many evangelical churches to hear a hard-hitting sermon on Christ's substitution. It would set tongues wagging for a month if they heard a fiery sermon on our text,

“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”
       (II Corinthians 5:21).

I know this by experience after preaching for fifty years.

No wonder most evangelicals have never been converted! No wonder our churches are closing! No wonder the heresies of the “emerging church” are undermining the very future of our existence! No wonder men are now predicting the downfall of evangelicalism as a movement! I say with Spurgeon,

The doctrine of Christ crucified is always with me. As the Roman sentinel [guard] in Pompeii stood [at] his post even when the city was destroyed, so do I stand [by] the truth of the atonement though the church is being buried beneath the boiling mud pots of heresy. Everything else can wait, but this one truth must be proclaimed with a voice of thunder. Others may preach what they will, but as for this pulpit, it shall always resound with the substitution of Christ. “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Blood Shed For Many,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1974 reprint, volume XXXIII, p. 374).

“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”
       (II Corinthians 5:21).

Dr. Ryrie said,

Here is the heart of the gospel: the sinless Savior has taken our sins that we might have God’s righteousness (Charles C. Ryrie, Ph.D., The Ryrie Study Bible, Moody Press, 1978, p. 1759; note on II Corinthians 5:21).

This is the central doctrine of the Gospel – the heart of the Gospel – Christ as the sinner’s substitute. This is the greatest and most important doctrine of all, since men are lost in sin, and God has taken their sin and placed it on His only begotten Son, making Him a sin-offering for us, so he who comes to Christ is made just and righteous in God’s sight. This is the doctrine of the substitution of Christ in the place of guilty men. Has Christ become your substitute?  If He has not, you have no hope of escaping Hell fire.

“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”
       (II Corinthians 5:21).

I. First, who was this who was made sin for us?

“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin…”
       (II Corinthians 5:21).

It was Christ, “who knew no sin.” Throughout His whole life on earth Jesus knew no sin. He was the only sinless man who ever lived. When He said, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” they could not answer Him (John 8:46). Even the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, recognized this. When they said, “Let him be crucified,” Pilate said, “Why, what evil hath he done?” (Matthew 27:23). They could find no sin in Him, and so they had to misquote Him, and twist what He said, or they could not have found any fault with Him at all,

“Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth”
       (I Peter 2:22).

“…and in him is no sin” (I John 3:5).

These are the words of Peter and John, His two closest disciples, men who knew Him best. Peter said, “Who did no sin” (I Peter 2:22). John said, “in him is no sin” (I John 3:5). Who would know this better than them? He was the Lamb of God, without blemish and without a spot of sin!

Christ was able to take the place of sinners on the Cross because He had no sin of His own. Even the thief who was crucified next to Christ said, “This man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41).

II. Second, what did God do with Him who knew no sin?

“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin…”
       (II Corinthians 5:21).

The obvious meaning is that sin was lifted from the guilty sinner and laid on the innocent Christ. The Scripture says,

“The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

“He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).

That is simple language. But if anything could be made more simple, here it is – “He hath made him to be sin for us.”

God laid all the weight of human sin on Jesus. Spurgeon said,

Sin pressed our great Substitute [Jesus] very sorely. He felt the weight of it in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he “sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” The full pressure of [our sin] came upon him when he was nailed to the accursed tree [the cross]. There in the hours of darkness he bore infinitely more than we can tell…we know that he bore shame for our sakes… “Then did they spit in his face.” It was a cruel scorn…We know that he bore pains innumerable of body and of mind: he thirsted, he cried out in the agony of desertion, he bled, he died. We know that he poured out his soul unto death…But there was at the back, and beyond all this, an immeasurable abyss of suffering… “Thine unknown sufferings”... unknowable sufferings. He…endured by it, an amount of anguish of which we can form no conception. I will say no more: it is wise to veil what it is impossible to depict [explain]. This text both veils and discovers his sorrow, as it says, “He hath made him to be sin”… The Lord made the perfectly innocent one to be sin for us: that means more of humiliation, darkness, agony, and death than you can conceive… The cross is [in] many aspects a more full revelation of the wrath of God against human sin than even [Hell], and the smoke of torment which goeth up for ever and ever. Who would know God’s hate of sin must see the Only Begotten [Jesus] bleeding in body and bleeding in soul even unto death… It is more than “He hath put him to grief”; it is more than “God hath forsaken him”; it is more than “the chastisement of our peace was upon him”: it is the most suggestive of all descriptions – “He hath made him to be sin for us.” Oh depth of terror, and yet height of love! (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Heart of the Gospel,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1974 reprint, volume XXXII, pp. 390-391).

III. Third, what may happen to you as a result?

“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”
     
 (II Corinthians 5:21).

Every person who comes to Jesus, and rests in Him is made righteous in God's sight through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. We are made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ – and in no other way.  

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Justified, counted just and righteous, by faith in Jesus,

“…that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).

Come straight to Jesus and He will take away your sin and clothe you in His righteousness!

Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
   (“The Solid Rock” by Edward Mote, 1797-1874).

“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”
       (II Corinthians 5:21).

A Baptist pastor explained all this to a Mormon. Then the pastor said, “Do you understand this?” The man said, “I understand it, but I don’t believe it.” My friend, you must believe it, but you must go a step farther – you must actually come to Jesus and rest in Him! Then you will

“…be made the righteousness of God in him”
     
 (II Corinthians 5:21).

You must be “in him” – in Jesus Christ Himself! Come to Him, rest in Him! Enter in to Christ. “Be made the righteousness of God in him!”

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Corinthians 5:17-21.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus Died For Sinners” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21).

I.   First, who was this who was made sin for us? John 8:46;
Matthew 27:23; I Peter 2:22; I John 3:5; Luke 23:41.

II.  Second, what did God do with Him who knew no sin? Isaiah 53:6, 11.

III. Third, what may happen to you as a result? Romans 5:21; 3:26.