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This dichotomy of exchange should be exactly what we expect to see in Christianity. In fact, it illustrates for us exactly what we need—to shed our sinfulness and put on righteousness. These two cannot coexist; ultimately, there can only be one or the other.

The Lord speaks through Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Is. 5:20). A major theme running through all of Scripture is that of exchanges—trading something in for something else.
The whole scheme of redemptive history frames for us a dichotomy between only two ultimate realities; our Lord says it himself: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Mt. 12:30). We are either friends of God or friends of the world . . . of the seed of the woman, or of the seed of the serpent. So as a result, what we see continually throughout Scripture is example after example of trading in God’s command for sinful impulses, exchanging His design, conceived for our good, for our own desires, leading to destruction.

Adam and Eve & God’s Chosen People

This theme of exchange is seen almost immediately in Scripture. The very first sin, committed by Adam and Eve, was an exchange of God’s perfect command for Satan’s lie. God’s charge to Adam and Eve was clear, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). It was a command intended for their good; they were required to rely on nothing but God’s perfect revelation to them for their knowledge, and so live in perfect fellowship with Him forever. Satan flatly contradicted God’s statement by telling Eve that she would not surely die from eating the fruit, and because of her lustful desires for the fruit and its promise of wisdom, she traded in God’s rule of law for a sinful lie.
Another example may be found in the book of Exodus. It did not take God’s chosen people long to rebel against Him after He so clearly and mightily delivered them out of slavery. With the extended absence of God’s representative, Moses, on Mount Sinai, Israel grew impatient. They demanded Aaron to make for them gods in order to replace Moses, and by extension, the One True God, crediting their golden image with their redemption (Ex. 32:1-4). Psalm 106 even tells us explicitly “They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass” (Ps. 106:19-20). An exchange was made, a transaction that rid them of the True God and His law and instead left them to their own idols and sinful worship.

Paul’s Letter To The Romans

Paul brings this theme of sinful exchange fully to light in his letter to the Romans. We are told outright that sinful man exchanges God and His glory for the pursuit of their own glory. That they “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator…” (Rom. 1:25). As an example of the outward manifestation of this spiritual reality, Paul uses homosexuality; a complete reversal, a total exchange of that which is natural and God-ordained, for that which is unnatural and exalts man.
We could conceive of numerous other examples of this exchange that we see in our world. Abortion is one plain illustration of what Isaiah is talking about. It is something expressly wicked that people call “good.” It is evil, darkness, and bitterness being given status over God’s goodness, light, and sweetness; a most wicked exchange going on in our midst.

The Church Is Susceptible

However, this tendency to make sinful exchanges is not merely characteristic of the unbeliever, for even the church is susceptible to this kind of sin. There is a tendency to trade in the explicit, full-orbed gospel message for a more palatable, ultimately false gospel in order to draw more people, or become popular with the world. Paul warns us of this kind of attitude taking hold (2 Tim. 4:3-4). We will often exchange the difficulties and sufferings that accompany a consistent Christian life for an easier, more comfortable life marked by compromising Scripture. What we are in fact called to is to make the opposite exchange. We are commanded to trade in our worldly possessions and the comforts of this life for the purpose of glorifying God and building His Kingdom (Mt. 19:29, Ph. 3:8).

This dichotomy of exchange should be exactly what we expect to see in Christianity. In fact, it illustrates for us exactly what we need—to shed our sinfulness and put on righteousness. These two cannot coexist; ultimately, there can only be one or the other. Our problem is that, by our sinful nature, we always fall on the wrong side—the side of unrighteousness, the side that earns punishment, that earns death.

Sin Exchanged For Righteousness

What is absolutely necessary for us is that our sin be fully exchanged for righteousness, and this is exactly how God saves us. “For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is The Great Exchange, the one that we so desperately require. Jesus takes from us all of our sin; he deserved no punishment, he earned no penalty for himself; he lived a perfectly righteous life as a man.
The exchange that happens is that, as a free gift of grace, through faith, God credits all of our sin to Jesus Christ and punishes him for it — it is paid for; and for us, we are given the righteousness of Christ — his perfect obedience. This exchange, made by Almighty God, is unchangeable and permanent; it is a complete reversal of our status.
The call to us, then, is to repentance. We are commanded to repent of our sinful exchanges, for replacing God with our own idols and desires, and to turn to faith in Christ. We are called to trust in the reality of the great exchange — that God accounts all of our sin to His perfect Son, that it is paid for by his atoning death, and that we are completely blanketed in his righteousness, as confirmed to us by his resurrection . . . conquering death. This is the exchange we require, and that God has provided.
Luke Griffo is a member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA. Click here for more RCSH Blog posts.
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