We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:20-21).
How is a man made righteous? Here are two basic views: Some teach the error that the sins of Adam are transferred to all men. Then, the sins of men are transferred to Christ. After which, Christ’s righteousness is transferred to the saved. The truth of the matter is, personal sins are taken away, resulting in righteousness. God does not simply hide our sins under the robe of Christ.
Does Second Corinthians 5:20-21 teach that Jesus literally became sin, as the denominational world teaches? Or, does God teach that Jesus was made our sin-offering?
The Error Expressed
From centuries past, John Gill expresses the error of Jesus becoming sin:
He was made sin itself by imputation. The sins of all his people were transferred unto him … and placed to his account. He sustained their persons and bore their sins. And having them upon him, and being chargeable with, and answerable for them, he was treated by the justice of God as if he had been not only a sinner, but a mass of sin (Exposition of the Entire Bible).
Don Fortner, pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Danville, Kentucky, agrees. He says:
The Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, suffered and died under the justice and wrath of God as the greatest sinner who ever lived. He was charged with all the sins of all his people. He was made to be sin for all God’s elect at once (grace-for-today.com/652.htm).
Christ Was/is Sinless
In opposition, Albert Barnes responds:
But all such views as go to make the Holy Redeemer a sinner, or guilty, or deserving of the sufferings which he endured, border on blasphemy, and are abhorrent to the whole strain of the Scriptures. In no form, in no sense possible, is it to be maintained that the Lord Jesus was sinful or guilty” (Commentary).
Christ’s sinlessness is declared in the text itself —“knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus declares His own sinlessness (John 8:46). Peter and John, who were eyewitnesses of His life, declare His innocence (1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Paul also teaches that the Lord was “without sin” (Heb. 4:15), though He was “in all points tempted like as we.”
Closer Study of Second Corinthians 5:21
Second Corinthians 5:21 corresponds to Israel’s “sin-offering.” Hebrew scholar Adam Clarke observes, “The Septuagint translate the Hebrew word by amartia in 94 places in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, where a sin-offering is meant; and where our version translates the word not sin, but an offering for sin.”
Let me give just one example of the 94 places referenced by Mr. Clarke: Exodus 29:36 “… thou shalt offer every day a bullock for a sin offering for atonement.” Jesus is/was our sin-offering. He died on our behalf. He is not the “greatest sinner”
One more thing: The animals that were sacrificed were not sinners. It was not necessary for Jesus to become guilty of sin in order to accomplish the design of His death.
The Sinless Died for the Sinful
Peter said Jesus died for our spiritual healing (1 Pet. 2:24-25). He was not only the sacrifice but the priest who made the sacrifice (Heb. 9:27-28). Because of Christ’s sacrifice for sin, God does not write our sins to our account (2 Cor. 5:19 ASV). “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses.”
He wipes the slate clean. “A lad was told by his mother not to play near a certain pond. One day the temptation was too much, and, venturing too close he fell into the water. He was very conscious of his wrongdoing, and most uncomfortable. So he wrote on his school slate: ‘Dear mother, I am sorry I have been bad. If you to forgive me, please rub it out.’ Back came the slate, perfectly clean!” How like the love of God Who said, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins…” (Isa. 44:22).
By becoming our sin-offering, Christ enabled the sinner’s sins to be washed away (Acts 22:16), not simply hidden under the robe of Christ. He made it possible for the saint’s sins to be cleaned off the slate (1 John 1:9).