St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The Message Heard Round The World

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Text: For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We will soon celebrate Independence Day, when the Declaration of Independence was passed in Philadelphia. However, sometimes we forget that the revolution started over a year prior at Lexington and Concord. There the minutemen turned the British back, as they were searching for ammunition and other supplies. The first shots that were fired were at the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. This was the first time that there was armed resistance to the British crown. This event was later immortalized in a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson called “Concord Hymn.” He described the events of the day with the phrase, “the shot heard round the world.” What happened on that date would affect so many, as we think about our country’s beginnings. It was a major event in the world’s history. This morning, as we look at Paul’s words recorded in 2 Corinthians, we think of an even more monumental event and the impact it has had on the world. So, today we look at THE MESSAGE HEARD ROUND THE WORLD. First of all, we are going to look at 1. The Message and then, 2. How This Messages Affects Those Who Hear It.

This life altering message is spelled out for us in the last verse of our text, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In this one verse, we have summarized all that God did for our salvation. We are going to take it apart phrase by phrase and marvel at God’s amazing love for us. First of all, it says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin.” This is referring to the work that Jesus Christ did. He “had no sin.” Jesus had no sin, since he was born without it. This us because he was not only born of the virgin Mary, but also that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He did not have the sinful nature that every other person on this earth is born with. Furthermore, he lived his entire life here on the earth without sin. In spite of the many temptations that were placed in front of him to disobey his Father, Jesus did not sin. In other words, he was holy.

It is this fact that makes the next phrase so amazing. “God made him who had no sin to be sin.” God the Father so covered his Son with the sins of the whole world that Christ became, as it were, sin itself. He was sin personified. Every single sin that has ever been committed was poured out upon Jesus. This includes the first sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the last sin that will be committed when the world comes to its end. First of all, just think about how many sins that entails! The sheer amount is staggering. Secondly, God poured all of these sins and his subsequent wrath against sin upon his only Son. Jesus was perfectly innocent, yet God punished him as though he were the worst of all sinners.

This brings us to the next phrase, and it is one that really gives us pause. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.” Whom did Jesus suffer and die for? It was for people like you and me. God took all of your sins and my sins and placed them upon Jesus. All of my sins of lying and stealing and greed were all placed upon Jesus. Every one of my hateful words that I have ever spoken were there. Every time that I did not love my neighbor as I should was there. Jesus did not suffer and die for angels. He suffered and died for the sins of the world. How blessed we are to know that he did not just become sin for the world. He became sin for you and for me.

What was to be the goal? “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” “In him” reminds us that there is absolutely nothing we do to gain God’s favor. It is only through what Christ has done for us. “We might become the righteousness of God” tells us the end result. We become the righteousness of God. Just as Jesus became sin personified, we have become the righteousness of God personified. When God looks at you and me, he only sees holiness. He sees perfection. Since perfection is necessary for entrance into eternal life, we know that heaven is waiting for us. Dr. Martin Luther summarized this verse in a prayer, “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You have become what you were not so that I might become what I was not.” This is the message that Paul speaks of here. This is the life-altering message that God has shared with us.

Please note that I do not use the words, “life-altering,” lightly. This is not a message that you hear and say, ‘That’s nice,’ and then go back to life as it was. This message affects our lives every day. Paul writes in verse 15, “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Because the Holy Spirit has revealed this message to us, we no longer live to gratify myself. I do not look at life for ways to make myself happy. I live for Jesus. My whole life is one where I look for opportunities to thank Jesus for all that he has done for me. I have this ability because, as Paul writes in verse 17, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” When I was brought to faith, the old sinful nature in me was put to death. I am a new creation that is dedicated to serving Jesus. Unfortunately, we know that, this side of heaven, we will still continue to sin. That, however, does not give us the excuse to throw our hands into the air and say, ‘What’s the use? I can’t be perfect, so why even try?’ When we slip and fall, we acknowledge it, and then, with the Lord’s help we go out and serve him. We curb our tongue. We help those who need our help. We are satisfied with what God has given to us. This message affects the way that I live my life.

There is one area of service in particular that Paul notes in these verses. He says, “[God] has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” This life-altering message is to be shared with others. It is for that reason that we maintain our pastor and teacher training institutions. We want this message to be shared far and wide with as many people as possible, because we know that it is only through this message that people are saved. This message of reconciliation is for all people. We know this, for Jesus commands his Church, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

Yet, it is not just to those who have gone to school to be specifically trained for this that God has given this command. Each one of us is to be an ambassador of Christ. Each one of us represents Christ to the world around us. As we do this, we want to keep something in mind. Paul speaks of this in verse 16, “We regard no one from a worldly point of view.” We no longer think of people according to their social status, wealth or poverty, race, nationality, or the like. The world does this. It gravitates toward those that they think are worthy of their time or effort. If there is something pleasing about that person, you go to that person. If they are different, you shy away from them. Rather, as Christ’s ambassadors, we see each person for whom they are: a person that Jesus loved so much that he came to this world to save them from an eternity of punishment in hell. There is no such thing as a church person. All are equally in need of knowing that they are sinners. All are equally in need of knowing that Jesus is their Savior. We are to be ambassadors of Christ with this message of reconciliation to all people.

So, how exactly do we go about being Christ’s ambassadors? The first way is by living the life that glorifies God for all that he has done for us. When we are helpful to others, we imitate Christ’s service to others. When we have a kind word for others, even though they may not deserve it, we reflect the love that Christ has for all. When we do the best that we can at our jobs, we are establishing connections. While this is sometimes called “pre-evangelism,” it is a very important part. People see you as someone who is different, someone that they can trust, someone that they can come to when things are going haywire in their lives. That is the first part of getting the message of reconciliation to those around us.

However, we cannot stop there. As we live this way, God is going to give us opportunities to verbally be his witnesses, as well. When that opportunity arises, what do we say? Paul summarizes the message by saying, “Be reconciled to God.” The fact that reconciliation is necessary means that there has been a conflict. Therefore, where there is sin, it must be pointed out. It might be that someone is troubled by the morality that they see around them. People may say that there is no absolute right or wrong. What is right for you may not be right for me, but each viewpoint is just as valid. When we point out sin, we do not do so in a holier-than-thou way. We come to them out of love and show them that there is a right and a wrong. Once this is pointed out, then you have the wonderful privilege of pointing them to Jesus who has come to the world to rescue it from eternal punishment. If someone is troubled about death, either their own or that of someone else, you have the opportunity to share with them the knowledge that Jesus has conquered death and opened the kingdom of heaven. There will be countless opportunities that God will give us to tell others about Jesus. We pray that God would open our eyes to them and then give us the willingness and the strength to act upon them. When we are reminded of all that God has done for us, we cannot help but echo the words that Peter and John spoke in Acts 4:20, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” This message of reconciliation affects us in our own lives and as we speak to others about what is truly important.

The shot heard round the world sparked the beginning of the American Revolution. That shot has affected us as we have the wonderful opportunity to live in this country. The message that is heard around the world is even greater. It is a message of God’s amazing love that moved him to sacrifice his own Son on the cross so that all of the sins would be paid for. We praise our God that this message has affected our lives, as well. It gives us a peace and calm because we know that we do not need to fear to stand before God on the Last Day. We have become the righteousness of God. We know that we have a God who loves us and has promised to take care of us during this lifetime. This message gives us a different outlook on life. We have the privilege every day to thank God for all that he has done for us. This message also gives us a different outlook on the people with whom we come into contact. We see them as Jesus sees them. This message also gives us the motivation to be Christ’s ambassadors. We want others to know what we know. The message is just too good to keep to ourselves. It is a message that Jesus wants to be heard round the world. May God help us to that end. Amen.