Who Is The World’s Greatest Sinner? Why Is The Answer So Relevant Today?

for blogIn Bible studies I have at times asked a provocative question to stimulate discussion, “Who is the world’s greatest sinner? Who is the most sinful; the vilest person the world has ever known?” In response to this question I often get answers like, Bin Laden, the Unibomber, Hitler, Ted Bundy, Saddam Hussein, etc… After several moments of brainstorming on this subject, I usually throw out an uncharacteristic answer to simply grab people’s attention, “What about Jesus Christ?” Without hesitation I find that I am bombarded with dropped jaws and thoughts of, “I don’t know if our pastor is serious, trying to be funny, or is just a heretic.” Actually, as you read this you may be ready to label me a heretic and delete this article from your screen, but hold on just for a moment, let me explain now that I have your attention.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Isaiah 53:6 it says that Jesus, the suffering servant, was made to be sin; God laid all our wrongdoings on Him. On the cross Jesus didn’t become a sinner but God charged all that is sin in us against Christ. In Matthew 27:46 we see the anguish of Christ on the cross when He cries out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” That Good Friday from 12:00-3:00 PM, God the Father forsook Jesus. This was in judgment of the sin that was laid upon Jesus, your sin and mine. In other words, with our sin and guilt, Christ felt God’s wrath, verdict of condemnation, and rejection in His soul, just as if He had personally committed all the sins of mankind.  Then at 3:00 PM Jesus said, “Τετέλεσται,” it is finished.

How can anything be more relevant and matter more than this?  Nothing can!  Hear why this is relevancy at its best:

“Whenever you feel remorse in your conscience on account of sin, look at the bronze serpent, Christ on the cross (John 3:14–15). Against your sin, which accuses and devours, you will find there another sin. But this other sin, namely, that which is in the flesh of Christ, takes away the sin of the world. It is omnipotent, and it damns and devours your sin. Lest your sin accuse and damn you, it is itself damned by sin, that is, by Christ the crucified, ‘who for our sake was made to be sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor. 5:21). Thus in your flesh you find a death that afflicts and kills; but you also have a contrary death, which is the death of your death and which crucifies and devours your death. All these things happen, not through the Law or works but through Christ the crucified, on whose shoulders lie all the evils of the human race—the Law, sin, death, the devil, and hell—all of which die in Him, because by His death He kills them.”[1]

Have a blessed Holy Week and especially a blessed Good Friday, as we remember the one who was made to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God.




[1] Modified quote (for syntax) from Martin Luther.  Luther, Martin.  (1999). Vol. 26: Luther’s works, vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (159–160). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.


About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.


Who Is The World’s Greatest Sinner? Why Is The Answer So Relevant Today? — 112 Comments

  1. Newsbusters has had a number of articles about the fifth-column media’s censorship/blackout of the Gosnell trial, including this April 11th article, “Four Reasons Why Media Isn’t Covering Gosnell Mass Murder Trial,” which notes:

    “Since the Gosnell trial began three weeks ago, ABC, CBS, and NBC have given the story ZERO seconds of coverage on either their morning or evening news shows. They have not covered Gosnell once since his arrest in January 2011, and even then, only CBS did so.”

    “The Washington Post has not published original reporting on this during the trial and The New York Times saw fit to run one original story on A-17 on the trial’s first day. They’ve been silent ever since, despite headline-worthy testimony.”

    “AP has not applied the “abortion” tag to any of its 19 “Big Stories” about Kermit Gosnell.”

  2. “ἐποίησεν” – (I Corinthians 5:21)

    Made to be – seems unequivocal. He knew no sin, but the Father not only introduced Him to sin, but made Him sin that we might become, in the economy of salvation, righteous. Luther called it best:

    “This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them.”

    Having carried all sin into the bowels of hell nano-seconds after His death and the shattering of the gates of hell, He buried all sin so deeply that even God cannot remember our sin anymore.

    That Christ became the “sinner” is the true “scandal” of the Gospel.

    McCall – stop the accusation of “>em>troll” nonsense. It only makes you seem to lack answers. You need to persuade by what you say, or you, sir, are the “troll.”

    Accept the mystery. Pax – jb

  3. It’s all harmless fun, but you folks seem to be repeating yourselves a lot. I predict the issue won’t be resolved in a healthy manner.

  4. @Carl Vehse #2

    Re “AP has not applied the abortion tag to any of its stories” … the proper term should be “infanticide” on a “mass murder” scale. If it took place anywhere but an abortion mill, there would be nothing else on the front page of any paper!

    Calling attention to it, of course, would be admitting that 40 years after abortion was legalized, women are still going to filthy “back alley” killing fields, suffering permanent damage and losing their own lives all too often, in addition to the murder of the child.

    “Safe, legal and rare” is being shown up for the myth it is….or would be shown up, if there wasn’t a media blackout because it doesn’t fit the Planned Parenthood agenda!

    [Mollie’s commentary hasn’t been seen here either, but we’ve got room for three pages of (LQ style) circular argument about something we will never understand this side of heaven!]

  5. @jb #3
    jb, I’ll accept your “mystery” when you provide Scriptural or Confessional support for it. And as for the “troll” thing, in your own words, “if the shoe fits…” :-) As you also like to say, might I point out that you have refused to answer my question. Where in the Scriptures or the Confessions is Christ referred to or called a “sinner”?

  6. @Elizabeth Peters #50
    Please stop and read the texts you quoted again. He reckoned Him among the transgressors. He did NOT reckon Him a transgressor. Do you see the leap you are making here? It is one that Scripture doesn’t make. Your thinking says: Jesus was numbered among the transgressors, therefore He must be a transgressor. That use of logic is not Scriptural and simply not true. Therein lies the paradox I am getting at. That’s truly Lutheran thinking. Jesus was numbered among the transgressors, yet Himself was not a transgressor. He knew no sin and yet bore all our sin. He was innocent and yet declared guilty.

  7. Rev. McCall,

    Do you think God condemned Jesus without imputing to him the sins of the world? Answer that question. Answer it. Did God condemn Jesus without imputing to him the sins of the world?

    If he did condemn him without imputing sin to him, he is a wicked god.

    The mystery, of course, is that God accounted him a sinner who knew no sin. If you can’t grasp this, then just be silent.

    You need to understand the reality of imputation. I, though a sinner, am righteous. God said so. He also said that Jesus, the righteous, was a sinner. That’s why he killed him. As far as God was concerned, he was not killing a righteous man. He was killing the greatest sinner who ever lived.

    God made Jesus sin. That’s what the Bible says. If that doesn’t mean that God reckoned Jesus a sinner, then it means nothing. And what God reckons is.

  8. By the way, what do you think “bearing the sins of the world” means? That it was on Jesus’ back? Metaphorically or literally? Bearing the sins of the world means being accounted a sinner.

  9. Do you agree with this:

    …”the apostle Paul’s intended meaning in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is that Jesus was always without sin actually, but at the cross He was made to be sin for us judicially. While Jesus never committed a sin personally, He was made to be sin for us substitutionally. Just as the righteousness that is imputed to Christians in justification is extrinsic to them, so the sin that was imputed to Christ on the cross was extrinsic to Him and never in any sense contaminated His essential nature. As one Bible expositor put it, “The innocent was punished voluntarily as if guilty, that the guilty might be gratuitously rewarded as if innocent.””

  10. @Elizabeth Peters #9
    By the way, what do you think “bearing the sins of the world” means? That it was on Jesus’ back?

    Actually, yes, I do think so, just like the cross. He bore the sins of many, was a ransom for many, suffered on our behalf, made restitution for the transgressors …none of those things say He was a sinner Himself. If He hadn’t been the perfect Lamb, His sacrifice could not have atoned for the world.

    I could carry a sack of grain on my shoulders [once], but that didn’t make me chicken feed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.