Daily Inspiration

March 26, 2016

The Substitute

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

We always remember that the crucifixion was vicarious: Christ died for our sins. But the substitutional nature of Christ's death tells only half the story, satisfies only half the equation. Just as important, Christ did not die for his own sins. Any of us could (and absent Christ, would) die for our own sins, and we could die for the sins of others, I suppose. But God would not accept it as a sacrifice. Simply by dying for the sins of another person, we could not relieve them of their own death. We learn from the Exodus and other legal books of the Pentateuch that God will not accept a blemished sacrifice.

Christ’s blamelessness completes and perfects the sacrifice. We use a lamb as a symbol, not only because it was the Jewish custom, but also because a lamb is the most innocent creature in the world. God would not accept a blemished lamb, however, and Christ was spotless. He was perfect. As the Godhead is infinite, so Christ’s innocence was infinite.

Mathematicians use the term “non-zero” or “not zero” when they speak of even enormously unlikely chances. It is like a Limit in differential calculus, a point to which an equation grows continually closer as a variable becomes larger, but which can never be reached. It is Zeno’s turtle, which always moves halfway to the finish line but can never cross it.

The most devout and pure human being, the greatest saint or most pious nun, still has sin which is “non-zero.” But Christ, and Christ alone, by His nature and by His faith, confounded the laws of the supernatural. He lived as a human being with zero sin. It is thus, by our vicarious participation in His death, that we can also be found perfect when He comes to live in our heart and soul. His righteousness will be imputed to us, though we have it not. God is able to look at us and see Christ.

This enormous power we receive can transform our day-to-day lives. It does not patch our clothes; it restores them to new. For countless instants — a period in time which is like a point, not simply short but without any duration at all — we are forgiven and become perfect, freed of sin and born anew by God's forgiveness.

We cannot make perfect amends. As far as the world is concerned, we might try to forgive and forget, and we might get very close, but memory of the sin remains; the effect lingers on. We cannot completely undo a misdeed.

But we know that God can, and will. God will continually restore and renovate our soul during our lives, and we forge ahead, doing our best. One might think we might become discouraged by our repeated failures to live a perfect life. “Holy Father, I have tried again today, and again I have failed.” But we have a secret: Our victory is assured. We might fail, but Christ will not. The bill has already been paid.

So, let Christ do some of the work. We must not stop trying, because success will be ours. We do not have the power, but the power dwells in us, and it is available to us while we are still alive. Let us live by the Spirit, for by the Spirit who dwells in us right now, we will eventually find perfection and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Lord, let me remember to call upon Your Spirit in my life. Amen.

~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer

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