EXCHANGE IS A BASIC PRINCIPLE OF LIFE
The world functions on the basis of exchange. For example:
- Through trees and plants, sunlight is exchanged for oxygen
- Through our bodies, food is exchanged for energy
- Through steam turbines, coal is exchanged for electricity
- Through bulbs, electricity is exchanged for light
- Through employment, labor is exchanged for money
- Through markets, money is exchanged for goods
- Nothing is free. Every benefit has a cost, involving some kind of exchange. And in the spiritual realm, we learn from the Bible that:
- Through Jesus Christ, our sin is exchanged for God’s righteousness
SACRIFICE IS A COMMON TYPE OF EXCHANGE
Because some kind of exchange underlies every benefit, it’s assumed by most people that we must pay to get benefits from God. In religious terminology, these supposed exchanges are called ‘sacrifices’ (what man gives to get God’s favor). The religions of the world specify thousands of sacrifices of various kinds: giving of offerings, doing certain things, refraining from doing certain things, performing rites and rituals, etc.
The ultimate benefit we can get from God – new life (see Topics 56, 59 and 62) requires an exchange. However, the exchange doesn’t require a sacrifice from us. Instead, it requires only personal acceptance of a sacrifice already made for us by him!
A big difference! Only God could provide a sacrifice that’s an adequate exchange for all of our sins.
JESUS CHRIST MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
In the Old Testament – before Christ came – God directed people to make sacrifices to him in order to make amends for their wrongdoings. The most important kind of sacrifice was a blood sacrifice (see Topic 33). This demonstrated the exchange principle with regard to sin: forgiveness is given in exchange for a blood sacrifice.
Why blood? Because blood is the essence of life.
It’s the highest price anyone can pay.
The Old Testament sacrifices help us understand what Christ did by dying (literally shedding his blood) on the cross. Without seeing the exchange principle, we might think his death was just a tragedy at the hands of misinformed men. But the Bible says his death was not a mistake. It was the main reason he came to earth... to exchange his life for ours... to take our sin and give us his righteousness.
In simple language, here’s what the Bible says: Our sins will be punished. That’s a fact, consistent with God’s holiness and justice. There’s no way around it.
The only question is, will our sins be laid on us or laid on Jesus Christ? If they’re laid on us, we’re punished in hell. If they’re laid on Jesus, we escape hell and (being sin-free) are rewarded in heaven.
That’s the marvel of the great exchange. Because God is not only holy and just, but is also love, he gives us the opportunity to willfully exchange our sin for Christ’s righteousness!
It’s an absolutely staggering thought. It’s so simple that even a child can understand it, yet so profound that the wisest philosopher cannot fully grasp it.
God’s spiritual designs – like his physical designs – are mind-boggling to us, yet they are evident enough for us to use and enjoy, and they are downright exciting.
CHRISTIAN LIFE IS AN EXCHANGED LIFE
God offers us new life through Jesus Christ. A Christian is one who has accepted the offer.
A Christian has exchanged his old life for a new one, and in this exchange his sin is replaced by Christ’s righteousness. Therefore, he’s no longer guilty in the sight of God and thus is ‘saved’ from hell. (For information about heaven and hell, see Topics 50,51, 97 and 98. Recognize also that not everyone who says he’s a Christian really is, as explained in Topics 11 and 62-64.)
The Bible uses the word ‘redeemed’ to express this exchange concept, and Jesus Christ is called our ‘Redeemer.’ Then, as now, the term means to exchange something of lesser value for something of greater value. The term had emotional meaning in Bible times because it also referred to a kinsman who buys back a family member who had been taken into slavery.
The concept of an exchanged life is so incredibly simple, yet so profound, that we can hardly comprehend it. Said another way, here’s the simplicity of it:
No one can get to heaven unless he’s totally righteous... Christ offers to give us his total righteousness... so that (if we accept him) when God looks at us he sees Christ’s righteousness rather than our sin.
The irony is that God’s plan is so simple and so easy that most people won’t believe it. Not only do we get eternity in heaven, but we get a better life right now (weight of sin lifted from us, warmth of God’s love, holy spirit within, etc., as explained in Topics 44 and 71-90). It all seems too good to be true!
Because it’s so easy, God’s plan goes against our nature. There’s something within us that says we should work or pay for heaven, in our own way. The idea that our righteousness, even at its best, is not good enough for heaven is insulting to us, and it’s difficult for us to humble ourselves enough to acknowledge to God that we are unworthy of heaven.
When it comes to the moment of decision, our sinful nature is threatened and tells us to wait until a later time to exchange our life (give it up) for Christ’s life (a new nature we take on). The Bible says, however, that a person is not a Christian until he purposefully and willfully makes this exchange with God.
Bible statement about the exchange
Godʼs offer of exchange is made and explained in many ways and places in the Bible. Hereʼs an example, from II Corinthians 5:17- 21:
ʻTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting menʼs sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christʼs ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christʼs behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.ʼ
The conflict between our sin (deserving punishment) and Godʼs character (holy-just-love) is reconciled by this exchange plan which he implemented through Jesus Christ.
Hereʼs a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
God ʻcreditsʼ Christʼs righteousness to us
God destroyed the barrier and ended the hostility through Jesus Christ
Christians are ʻredeemedʼ by the blood (death) of Jesus Christ
For help, see Topic 29.