Friday, December 30, 2011

the caption of the cross

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The Word for today:
2 Corinthians 4.7-5.10

mark this: 2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

You might be surprised to know that I own very few Christian books that aren't a Bible. I have never read, outside of the gospels, any biography of Jesus. I have never read a single work of Christian fiction. I haven't read a single how-to-be-a-better-Christian book. (I know, wise guy, you can tell!)

I own one Bible commentary, by (of course) the late, great J. Vernon McGee. And about a million years ago, some well-meaning person gave me "The Late, Great Planet Earth," which I read all the way through because the girl (we were young then) who gave it to me was cute and I thought reading it would advance my unsanctified cause.

That's about it for Christian books that aren't a Bible. But in the category of Christian books that are a Bible, I overdid it! In my little kitchen/office where I live and move and have my being, I can count 48 of them. And there are a few more upstairs.

Among them are the various translations--the KJV (of course), the ESV (highly recommended!), the NKJV (for when I'm not feeling Elizabethan), the NIV (better than its rep), the American Standard of 1901 (worse than its rep), the NLT (the old Living Bible, without the funk), the Living Bible (funk intact), the RSV (from whence came the ESV), the HCSB (for my inner Baptist), the NASB of 1977 (solid) and the updated (why?) NASB of 1995.

I have the Scofield Reference Bibles of 1909, 1917, and 1967. I have a Thompson Chain Reference Bible (reserve yours now for next Christmas!), the MacArthur Study Bible, and a now out-of-print Starting Point Study Bible, with a glossary to die for.

You start to see the magnitude of my "problem." But when you get three per year (on my birthday, Jesus' birthday, and fathers' day) things tend to get unmanageable after just the first decade…

So I'm often asked, by those who have managed to squeeze into this shrinking space, which one is my favorite. Or I've been asked essentially the same question in more colorful ways: "Which would you grab if the house were afire?" or "If you were exiled to the Isle of Patmos for the duration, which would you stow away?" Without hesitating long enough to blink, I invariably reply, "The 1917 Scofield." When it comes to the last dance, I will only have eyes for her.


I've also been asked questions which boil things down even further. A few times--because I lean so heavily, in my teaching, on Old Testament pictures of New Testament concepts--I have been asked which of the Testaments is most important. Stubbornly (because I do not recognize any but a man-made distinction between them) I won't give an answer!

Many, many times I have been asked which Bible "book" I consider to be most important. After hemming and hawing about Genesis, Psalms, and Romans, I usually opine "Matthew."

Every now and then, I am asked (usually for the pure speculative fun of it) which is the one essential verse of the Bible.

As a Bible student, I wouldn't know where to begin with a question like that. But as a Bible teacher, I can tell you that here, in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, we have reached the most instructive verse in the Bible:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Pastor Joe and I, lo these 1000 blog articles later, have often commented that 2 Corinthians 5:21 seems to serve, more than any other verse we're aware of, to crystallize so many of the crucial concepts of scripture.

But, you might say, that's just Joe and me--a Youth Pastor and a rank amateur--talking hermeneutical, pedagogical trash. So we found a real expert (you know, somebody who lives more than 500 miles away!) who says the same thing about this verse--waxing more rhapsodical than we do, with superlatives more outlandish than ours:

2 Corinthians 5:21 is not the puzzle of the New Testament, but the ultimate solution of all puzzles; it is not an irrational quantity that has to be eliminated or explained away, but the key-stone of the whole system of apostolic thought. It is not a blank obscurity in revelation, a spot of impenetrable blackness; it is the focus in which the reconciling love of God burns with the purest and intensest flame; it is the fountain light of all day; the master light of all seeing, in the Christian revelation.

Whew! That's the opinion of James Denney, who wrote a classic, enduring commentary on 2 Corinthians (1).

Tomorrow, we'll take a closer look at this indispensable verse.

(1) James Denney, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 1903.

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