How Did Christ Become Sin For Us?

Sometime back, a friend asked me the following question: 2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” So does this mean that Christ gave up His holiness at the cross?   How could this be if God is inherently holy?

This is a very significant question, so let me pass along the answer I gave because I’m sure others have wondered the same thing.

Because we know that Christ was without sin, the phrase “to be sin” requires a careful understanding.  It does not mean that Christ became a sinner.  As God in human flesh, He could not possibly have committed any sin or in any way violated God’s law.  It is equally unthinkable that God, whose “eyes are too pure to approve evil” (Hab. 1:13), would make anyone a sinner, let alone His own holy Son.  He was the unblemished Lamb of God while on the cross, personally guilty of no sin.  Isa. 53:4-6 describes the only sense in which Jesus could have been made sin.  It says:

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  5But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.  6All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

Jesus was not made a sinner, nor was He punished for any sin of His own.  Instead, the Father treated Him as if He were a sinner by charging to His account the sins of everyone who would ever believe.  All those sins were charged against Him as if He had personally committed them, and He was punished with the penalty for them on the cross, experiencing the full fury of God’s wrath unleashed against them all.

This is what we call “imputation.”  In the same way that Christ was made “to be sin” by our sin being imputed to Him, so also, the righteousness of Christ was imputed to our account so that we were made to “become the righteousness of God in Him.” We are not sinless and righteous, but through imputation in which Christ’s righteousness is charged to our account, God looks on us as being as pure and sinless as Jesus Christ.  So imputation works both ways—our sin was imputed to Christ, and His righteousness was imputed to us.  He remained absolutely holy and sinless, but was treated as though He had sinned; we are absolutely corrupt and sinful, but are treated as though we have never sinned.  What incredible, marvelous grace!

Love is not Rude

Many years ago, the Irish play writer, George Bernard Shaw, wrote that “Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it.” Now, Bernard Shaw’s sarcastic criticism of Christians may disturb some of us, but in being cynical he actually makes a valid point, and that is that our faith in Christ is to [...] . . . → Read More: Love is not Rude

Encouragement

Recently, I received a letter from a man, asking for some biblical guidance in the area of encouragement. Not only was he interested in finding out the meaning of en-couragement, but he also desired some practical advice on how to give encouragement and how to receive it. He wondered if the reason some [...] . . . → Read More: Encouragement

Responding to Laws We Don’t Like

Sometime back a Christian friend of mine received a traffic citation for not wearing his seat belt when driving his car. He was incensed, giving the usual complaints about the enforcement of such safety laws as a waste of law enforcement’s time (“they should be catching true bad guys instead of harassing fathers taking [...] . . . → Read More: Responding to Laws We Don’t Like

How Did Christ Become Sin for Us?

Sometime back a friend asked the following question: “2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” So does this mean that Christ gave up His holiness at the cross? How could this be if [...] . . . → Read More: How Did Christ Become Sin for Us?

A Lesson in True Integrity

In the movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance” released in 2000, Matt Damon plays Rannulph Junuh, a former golfing great. One of the final scenes of the movie demonstrates personal character and integrity in a way rarely seen in today’s secular films. Junuh, who has been greatly impacted by his experiences in World War I, is [...] . . . → Read More: A Lesson in True Integrity

What About Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?

When I was 18 years old, somebody told me about Jesus Christ and the message of salvation. I am so grateful that this person loved me enough to tell me that I was a sinner and needed to be saved. But there are millions of people who have never heard the gospel, and countless others [...] . . . → Read More: What About Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?

Should Pastors Teach the Doctrine of Election?

As I write this blog, I am in the country of Honduras, having just finished speaking at a Bible conference. For the last several days I have been teaching verse by verse through Romans chapters 9-11 about God’s righteousness in His dealings with Israel. Among the many issues taught by the Apostle Paul in these chapters [...] . . . → Read More: Should Pastors Teach the Doctrine of Election?

The Importance of the Gospel

Apart from the gospel, nothing else matters. Don’t read that statement and make the assumption that I am just using hyperbole. I am not. No human achievement of any kind will matter when you stand before God. The only thing that will matter is who is going to pay for your sins. It will either be [...] . . . → Read More: The Importance of the Gospel

Essentials for Christian Growth – Part 1

The health and success of your Christian life depends on what you do with your Bible. If you neglect it, you will stagnate in your spiritual growth. However if you get into the Bible, if you open and study your Bible and dig into God’s word, you’ll become spiritually strong which will lead to growth in the Lord. You’ll get to know Jesus Christ in a way you did not realize was possible. Your faith will increase and your life will be blessed. A Christian who regularly studies the Bible knows and experiences not only the joy of the Lord, but also knows the comfort of the Lord in times of trouble. The importance of the Bible cannot be underestimated. . . . → Read More: Essentials for Christian Growth – Part 1