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For Our Benefit (A Reformed No-No)

This phrase came up in a passage I quoted during this past Sunday's youth lesson — "for our sake". It was from 2 Cor 5:21 where Paul says, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." It is a curious phrase though, isn't it? The sense of it is taken for granted or assumed. In the Bible (as elsewhere) it doesn't always mean the same thing.

Sometimes it's used to communicated the purpose/reason of something. We see this in Matt 15:6, "for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God". It was their commitment to ungodly traditions that caused them to make void God's word. Other times it's used to communicate that something is for someone's benefit. We see this in our passage of 2 Cor 5:21. We could just as easily understand it as "for our benefit he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God".

I think for many reformed types such as myself that sounds weird. After all, we all know Matt Chandler's famous "the Bible isn't about you" moment. God does things to magnify his glory. That's why he does all that he does. That is true. Still, it is also true that this glory is supremely displayed in his grace. Which is why Paul writes in Eph 1, "In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved." It was to display his glory and we who hope in Jesus Christ benefit from that grand God-centered display.

I fear that in our reverent and essential effort to defend the against the man-centered reality of scripture and for the God-centered reality of scripture (which is a hill to die on) that we have become prone to uncomfortability to statements like "for your sake/benefit". But that totally minimizes the wonder of 2 Cor 5:21. Jesus, the maker of all things, the all-pure and undefiled God, so bore our sins on the cross that Paul could say that he was "made to be sin"... for the benefit of all who call upon his name by faith.

I will always contend for the God-centered reality of all things. I will contend for the Christ-centered and redemption-focused nature of scripture. But these things are not at odds with Peter saying that Christ "was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you" (1 Pet 1:20). They do not contest Paul saying of Gen 15 that "the words 'it was counted to him' were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also" (Rom 4:23-14). God does all that he does to display his glory. But if you've placed your faith in Jesus Christ, this glory display is also for your sake.


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