For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21
This verse should startle us and cause us to tremble. It is not a verse to be read quickly and passed over. We will never comprehend the awesome price that Jesus paid to cleanse us of our sin and to give us His righteousness. The prophet Isaiah summarized the human condition: “We are all like an unclean thing, / And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).
Even the high priest, Joshua, in his exalted position among God’s people, was clothed in filthy rags before God (Zech. 3:3). The apostle Paul, who labored arduously to be righteous before God, realized that his most strenuous efforts to please God were no more valuable than rubbish (Phil. 3:4–10). The plight of humanity is that nothing we could ever do could satisfy God’s desire for righteousness. But the miracle of God’s mercy is that God exchanges our “filthy rags” for “rich robes” of righteousness (Zech. 3:4). In this awesome exchange, God placed the sin of humanity upon His righteous Son. Jesus became so identified with our sin that Scripture says God made Him to be sin on our behalf. The holy Son of God could not possibly do more for us than this! Experiencing the Father’s wrath upon the sin He carried would have been more painful to endure than any human rejection or physical suffering. Never take the righteousness God has given you for granted. Never take the forgiveness of your sin lightly. It cost God a terrible price in order to forgive you and make you righteous. Walk in a manner worthy of the righteousness He has given you.