He is my Rock, my Shield....my Sin?
Updated: Jan 23
The Bible states in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “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.” The statement that the Lord Jesus was "made to be sin for us" has impacted people’s view of the atonement in various ways. One interpretation says that God literally made Christ to be the embodiment of sin. Or similarly, that God transferred the sins of mankind onto Christ and he literally became guilty. These are examples of theological positions that lack reason, for sin is not a substance that someone can become, nor can it be transferred from one person to another. While these views may be claimed by some people in order to keep their belief systems intact, I suggest that they are not necessary, nor do they coincide with what the Bible says elsewhere on the topic.
Regardless of what one thinks about this verse, it cannot mean that Christ literally became “sin” or a “sinner.” Many will argue that the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) reveals that the term for “sin” here means “sin-offering” in its context. I agree with this view, yet I can refer to the standard English translation of our time, the KJV, and allow it to interpret itself to arrive at the same conclusion. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:10,11 – “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his (Christ’s) soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Other verses support this view of the atonement, that Christ became an offering for sin, but not sin itself, which is an impossibility. To say that Christ became sin for us appears to be a figure of speech signifying that he became an offering for our sins. Consider the following verse: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” Did Christ literally become a curse for us? Of course not. This is metaphorical speech telling us that Christ sacrificed himself so that we could be released from the penalty that comes from breaking the law. Furthermore, when the Bible says the Lord Jesus would “bear their iniquities”, it did not mean that he would take the sins of the world upon himself as if they were his own.
What about 1 Peter 2:24? “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree…” Notice what Matthew had to say: “When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” The Lord healed people, thus he “bare their sicknesses.” This does not mean that their sicknesses were somehow transferred to the Lord so that he became sick. Likewise, there is no reason to say that the Lord bearing our sins in his own body necessarily means they were literally placed upon him or transferred to him.
The Bible is a literal book, but it uses a lot of metaphors to depict literal truths. Christ did not literally become sin, or a sinner, nor did he literally become a curse for us, but as our sin-bearer, his substituted suffering and death met the governmental demands of the moral law against us so that God can forgive us of our sins if we will come to him on his terms.