2 Corinthians 5:21
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

King James Bible
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Darby Bible Translation
Him who knew not sin he has made sin for us, that we might become God's righteousness in him.

World English Bible
For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Young's Literal Translation
for him who did not know sin, in our behalf He did make sin, that we may become the righteousness of God in him.

2 Corinthians 5:21 Parallel
Commentary
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

For he hath made him to be sin for us - The Greek here is, 'for him who knew no sin, he hath made sin, or a sin-offering for us.' The design of this very important verse is, to urge the strongest possible reason for being reconciled to God. This is implied in the word (γὰρ gar) "for." Paul might have urged other arguments, and presented other strong considerations. But he chooses to present this fact, that Christ has been made sin for us, as embodying and concentrating all. It is the most affecting of all arguments; it is the one that is likely to prove most effectual. It is not indeed improper to urge on people every other consideration to induce them to be reconciled to God. It is not improper to appeal to them by the conviction of duty; to appeal to their reason and conscience; to remind them of the claims, the power, the goodness, and the fear of the Creator; to remind them of the awful consequences of a continued hostility to God; to persuade them by the hope of heaven, and by the fear of hell 2 Corinthians 5:1 l to become his friends: but, after all, the strongest argument, and that which is most adapted to melt the soul, is the fact that the Son of God has become incarnate for our sins, and has suffered and died in our stead. When all other appeals fail this is effectual; and this is in fact the strong argument by which the mass of those who become Christians are induced to abandon their opposition and to become reconciled to God.

To be sin - The words 'to be' are not in the original. Literally, it is, 'he has made him sin, or a sin-offering' ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν hamartian epoiēsen . But what is meant by this? What is the exact idea which the apostle intended to convey? I answer, it cannot be:

(1) That he was literally sin in the abstract, or sin as such. No one can pretend this. The expression must be, therefore, in some sense, figurative. Nor,

(2) Can it mean that he was a sinner, for it is said in immediate connection that he "knew no sin," and it is everywhere said that he was holy, harmless, undefiled. Nor,

(3) Can it mean that he was, in any proper sense of the word, guilty, for no one is truly guilty who is not personally a transgressor of the Law; and if he was, in any proper sense, guilty, then he deserved to die, and his death could have no more merit than that of any other guilty being; and if he was properly guilty it would make no difference in this respect whether it was by his own fault or by imputation: a guilty being deserves to be punished; and where there is desert of punishment there can be no merit in sufferings.

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. It is a corner stone of the whole system of religion, that in all conceivable senses of the expression he was holy, and pure, and the object of the divine approbation. And every view which fairly leads to the statement that he was in any sense guilty, or which implies that he deserved to die, is "prima facie" a false view, and should be at once abandoned. But,

(4) If the declaration that he was made "sin" (ἁμαρτίαν hamartian) does not mean that he was sin itself, or a sinner, or guilty, then it must mean that he was a sin-offering - an offering or a sacrifice for sin; and this is the interpretation which is now generally adopted by expositors; or it must be taken as an abstract for the concrete, and mean that God treated him as if he were a sinner. The former interpretation, that it means that God made him a sin-offering, is adopted by Whitby, Doddridge, Macknight, Rosenmuller, and others; the latter, that it means that God treated him as a sinner, is adopted by Vorstius, Schoettgen, Robinson (Lexicon), Dr. Bull, and others. There are many passages in the Old Testament where the word "sin" (ἁμαρτία hamartia) is used in the sense of sin-offering, or a sacrifice for sin. Thus, Hosea 4:8, "They eat up the sin of my people;" that is, the sin-offerings; see Ezekiel 43:22, Ezekiel 43:25; Ezekiel 44:29; Ezekiel 45:22-23, Ezekiel 45:25.

See Whitby's note on this verse. But whichever meaning is adopted, whether it means that he was a sacrifice for sin, or that God treated him as if he were a sinner, that is, subjected him to sufferings which, if he had been personally a sinner, would have been a proper expression of his hatred of transgression, ands proper punishment for sin, in either case it means that he made an atonement; that he died for sin; that his death was not merely that of a martyr; but that it was designed by substituted sufferings to make reconciliation between man and God. Locke renders this: probably expressing the true sense, "For God hath made him subject to suffering and death, the punishment and consequence of sin, as if he had been a sinner, though he were guilty of no sin." To me, it seems probable that the sense is, that God treated him as if he had been a sinner; that he subjected him to such pains and woes as would have been a proper punishment if he had been guilty; that while he was, in fact, in all senses perfectly innocent, and while God knew this, yet that in consequence of the voluntary assumption of the place of man which the Lord Jesus took, it pleased the Father to lay on him the deep sorrows which would be the proper expression of his sense of the evil of sin; that he endured so much suffering, as would answer the same great ends in maintaining the truth, and honor, and justice of God, as if the guilty had themselves endured the penalty of the Law. This, I suppose, is what is usually meant when it is said "our sins were imputed to him;" and though this language is not used in the Bible, and though it is liable to great misapprehension and perversion, yet if this is its meaning, there can be no objection to it.

(Certainly Christ's being made sin, is not to be explained of his being made sin in the abstract, nor of his having actually become a sinner; yet it does imply, that sin was charged on Christ, or that it was imputed to him, and that he became answerable for it. Nor can this idea be excluded, even if we admit that "sin-offering" is the proper rendering of ἁμαρτία hamartia in the passage. "That Christ," says an old divine commenting on this place, "was made sin for us, because he was a sacrifice for sin, we confess; but therefore was he a sacrifice for sin because our sins were imputed to him, and punished in him." The doctrine of imputation of sin to Christ is here, by plain enough inference at least. The rendering in our Bibles, however, asserts it in a more direct form. Nor, after all the criticism that has been expended on the text, does there seem any necessity for the abandonment of that rendering, on the part of the advocate of imputation. For first ἁμαρτία hamartia in the Septuagint, and the corresponding אשׁם 'aashaam in the Hebrew, denote both the sin and the sin-offering, the peculiar sacrifice and the crime itself. Second, the antithesis in the passage, so obvious and beautiful, is destroyed by the adoption of "sin-offering." Christ was made sin, we righteousness.

There seems in our author's comment on this place, and also at Romans 5, an attempt to revive the oft-refuted objection against imputation, namely, that it involves something like a transference of moral character, an infusion, rather than an imputation of sin or righteousness. Nothing of this kind is at all implied in the doctrine. Its advocates with one voice disclaim it; and the reader will see the objection answered at length in the supplementary notes at Romans 4 and Romans 5. What then is the value of such arguments or insinuations as these: "All such views as go to make the Holy Redeemer a sinner, or guilty, or deserving of the sufferings he endured, border on blasphemy," etc. Nor is it wiser to affirm that "if Christ was properly guilty, it would make no difference in this respect, whether it was by his own fault or by imputation." What may be meant in this connection by "properly guilty," we know not. But this is certain, that there is an immense difference between Christ's having the guilt of our iniquities charged on him, and having the guilt of his own so charged.

It is admitted in the commentary, that God "treated Christ as if he had been a sinner," and this is alleged as the probable sense of the passage. But this treatment of Christ on the part of God, must have some ground, and where shall we find it, unless in the imputation of sin to him? If the guilt of our iniquities, or which is the same thing, the Law obligation to punishment, be not charged on Christ, how in justice can he be subjected to the punishment? If he had not voluntarily come under such obligation, what claim did law have on him? That the very words "sin imputed to Christ" are not found in scripture, is not a very formidable objection. The words in this text are stronger and better "He was made sin," and says Isaiah, according to the rendering of Dr. Lowth, "The Lord made to meet upon him the iniquities of us all. It was required of him, and he was made answerable." Isa, Isaiah 53:6.)

Who knew no sin - He was not guilty. He was perfectly holy and pure. This idea is thus expressed by Peter 1 Peter 2:22; "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth;" and in Hebrews 7:26, it is said he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." In all respects, and in all conceivable senses, the Lord Jesus was pure and holy. If he had not been, he would not have been qualified to make an atonement. Hence, the sacred writers are everywhere at great pains to keep this idea prominent, for on this depends the whole superstructure of the plan of salvation. The phrase "knew no sin," is an expression of great beauty and dignity. It indicates his entire and perfect purity. He was altogether unacquainted with sin; he was a stranger to transgression; he was conscious of no sin; he committed none. He had a mind and heart perfectly free from pollution, and his whole life was perfectly pure and holy in the sight of God.

That we might be made the righteousness of God - This is a Hebraism, meaning the same as divinely righteous. It means that we are made righteous in the sight of God; that is, that we are accepted as righteous, and treated as righteous by God on account of what the Lord Jesus has done. There is here an evident and beautiful contrast between what is said of Christ, and what is said of us. He was made sin; we are made righteousness; that is, he was treated as if he were a sinner, though he was perfectly holy and pure; we are treated as if we were righteous, though we are defiled and depraved. The idea is, that on account of what the Lord Jesus has endured in our behalf we are treated as if we had ourselves entirely fulfilled the Law of God, and bad never become exposed to its penalty. In the phrase "righteousness of God," there is a reference to the fact that this is his plan of making people righteous, or of justifying them.

They who thus become righteous, or are justified, are justified on his plan, and by a scheme which he has devised. Locke renders this: "that we, in and by him, might be made righteous, by a righteousness imputed to us by God." The idea is, that all our righteousness in the sight of God we receive in and through a Redeemer. All is to be traced to him. This verse contains a beautiful epitome of the whole plan of salvation, and the uniqueness of the Christian scheme. On the one hand, one who was perfectly innocent, by a voluntary substitution, is treated As if he were guilty; that is, is subjected to pains and sorrows which if he were guilty would be a proper punishment for sin: and on the other, they who are guilty and who deserve to be punished, are treated, through his vicarious sufferings, as if they were perfectly innocent; that is, in a manner which would be a proper expression of God's approbation if he had not sinned. The whole plan, therefore, is one of substitution; and without substitution, there can be no salvation. Innocence voluntarily suffers for guilt, and the guilty are thus made pure and holy, and are saved. The greatness of the divine compassion and love is thus shown for the guilty; and on the ground of this it is right and proper for God to call on people to be reconciled to him. It is the strongest argument that can be used. When God has given his only Son to the bitter suffering of death on the cross in order that we may be reconciled, it is the highest possible argument which can be used why we should cease our opposition to him, and become his friends.

continued...

2 Corinthians 5:21 Parallel Commentaries

Library
The Great Reconciliation
"God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." 2 COR. V. 19. Such considerations as we have had before us, are of far more than theoretical interest. They are of all questions the most practical. Sin is not a curious object which we examine from an aloof and external standpoint. However we regard it, to whatever view of its nature we are led, it is, alas, a fact within and not merely outside our experience. And so we are at length brought to this most personal and most urgent inquiry,
J. H. Beibitz—Gloria Crucis

Pleasing Christ
'We labour that whether present or absent we may be accepted of Him.'--2 COR. v. 2. We do not usually care very much for, or very much trust, a man's own statement of the motives of his life, especially if in the statement he takes credit for lofty and noble ones. And it would be rather a dangerous experiment for the ordinary run of so-called Christian people to stand up and say what Paul says here, that the supreme design and aim towards which all their lives are directed is to please Jesus Christ.
Alexander Maclaren—Romans, Corinthians (To II Corinthians, Chap. V)

"But if the Spirit of Him that Raised up Jesus from the Dead Dwell in You, He that Raised up Christ from the Dead Shall Also
Rom. viii. 11.--"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." It is true the soul is incomparably better than the body, and he is only worthy the name of a man and of a Christian who prefers this more excellent part, and employs his study and time about it, and regards his body only for the noble guest that lodges within it, and therefore it is one of the
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

The Life of Mr. Hugh Binning.
There being a great demand for the several books that are printed under Mr. Binning's name, it was judged proper to undertake a new and correct impression of them in one volume. This being done, the publishers were much concerned to have the life of such an useful and eminent minister of Christ written, in justice to his memory, and his great services in the work of the gospel, that it might go along with this impression. We living now at so great distance from the time wherein he made a figure in
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

Cross References
Numbers 7:64
one male goat for a sin offering;

Isaiah 53:12
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

Jeremiah 33:16
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the LORD is our righteousness.'

Acts 3:14
"But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,

Romans 1:17
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

Romans 3:21
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

Romans 3:25
whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

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