When Jesus Was Made Sin
[2 Cor. 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 idea of Jesus being “made sin,” has been a topic of some controversy. Some interpret it, that while Jesus was on the cross, God made Him to be all manner of sin. One teacher goes so far as to name individual sins, that Jesus became. He said,
“Jesus became a gossip, a murderer, full of strife, deceit and malice. Imagine Jesus as a gossip. He didn’t do it, He became it. Jesus became an inventor of evil on that tree. Jesus became child pornography on that tree. Jesus became a Satan worshipper on that tree. Jesus became a hater of God on that tree.”
Is this what Paul meant when he said that God “made Him sin?” Did God make Him to be all manner of abominable sins on the cross? No, this is not what God did, nor what Paul meant. We shall find out, this points to Christ being made “an offering for sin.”
One thing we must first notice, is the phrase “to be ” is italicized. This means it is not in the original text of the NT, but was supplied by the translators. This happens quite often. The translators will often supply words to a verse, that they believe helps to give its proper sense. However, sometimes when they add words to the text, it doesn’t help, but only tends to confusion or misunderstanding, as is the case here.
The actual text of what Paul wrote here, does not say that God made Jesus to be, or become sin. It states that God made Him sin. Paul is actually restating parts of Isaiah 53.
When Paul said that Jesus, “knew no sin,” he was restating what Isaiah 53:9b says, “although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” For Jesus not to know sin, means He had no intimate, experiential converse with it in Himself. He had no sin nature, and never walked in submission to it. Neither sin nor Satan had any place in Him [Jn. 14:30]. He never acted nor spoke contrary to the law of God. He always did those things that pleased the Father [John 8:29].
This One, who had no personal experience with sin, God made sin. What does this mean? Does it mean what the quoted teacher above says it does, that Jesus actually became all types of horrific sin? Or does it mean something else? Again, Isaiah 53 holds the answer for us. When Paul wrote, that God, “made Him sin,” this is what he meant.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his 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.
Notice the phrase above, “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.” This gives us the answer of what is meant by, Jesus being “made sin.” Isaiah tells us God would make “the soul” of His Servant, the Messiah, “an offering for sin.”
What does Isaiah mean by “make his soul an offering for sin”?
What we should first notice, that it is not only the offering of His body [Heb. 10:10], but also by the ‘soul’ of Jesus that an offering for sin was made. We have been led to think that it was the offering and death of Jesus’ physical body alone, that made atonement for sin on the cross. However, even though the two are connected, (i.e., His soul and His body, for the body cannot live without the soul), we must put the horse before the cart. It is His soul that animates His body, as it is with all men. So what does it mean that the soul of Jesus was made an offering for sin? The soul of Jesus represents His earthly life, as a man.
Soul — Hebrew: h5315 ne'fesh. The below is a screenshot of the meaning of ne'fesh, from the BlueLetterBible.com.
When we look at all the variations of the meanings for ne’phesh, we can see it is quite varied. However, we can also see it describes that which makes a person a living being. It is that which gives a person their sense of humanity, i.e., life, breath, senses, emotions, will, mind, and character. The Bible goes further to describe the importance of the soul, or ne’phesh.
In Leviticus 17:11, we read,
11 For the life (nephesh) of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls(nephesh): for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul(nephesh).
Notice that the life or ne’phesh, of the flesh (physical body) is in the blood. The ne’phesh is in the blood. That which animates the physical body is the ne’phesh, which is in the blood.
It is the blood or the ne’phesh which makes an atonement for the soul. The point here, is that the life of the offering, the ne’phesh of the sacrifice, is what makes atonement for the soul of man.
It was the blood of God, that was offered upon the cross as a sin offering for man. See what Paul says in Acts 20:28 to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, “feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
So by the term, soul, we see Isaiah means the very life blood of the Servant of the Lord, would be made an offering for sin. This is in perfect keeping with the Levitical principle of a blood offering upon the altar of God, for the atonement of sin.
Offering for Sin — h817 ‘āšhām
- guilt, offense, sin, guiltiness
- offense, sin, trespass, fault
- guilt, guiltiness
- compensation (for offense)
- trespass or sin offering
This word, a’sham, is used to denote either a trespass offering or a guilt offering. In either situation, it is a sin offering. What does it mean that God made His soul an offering for sin? We have already seen what He means by soul. We now know what is the offering for sin. How does it work?
With the establishment of the Law of God, sin is now seen for what it is, transgression.
[1 Jn. 3:4]
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
Here we have an official definition of sin, i.e., transgression of the Law. So, what happens to a person who sins, i.e., transgresses the law? What can they expect?
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The “wages of sin,” or the expected return for sin, is death. Adam experienced this as both physical and spiritual death. God told Adam, the day he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would die. When he ate of the tree, he died both physically and spiritually. His physical death took over 800 years to manifest, but his spiritual death was immediate. He and Eve were immediately driven from the garden. The garden was their place of fellowship with God, where they would commune together in the cool of the day.
Death is the natural consequence of sin, both physical and spiritual death. Paul states that before our coming to Christ Jesus, we were “dead in trespasses and sin.” Being dead in sin, we all,
“Walked according to the course (age) of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:”
Among whom also, i.e., among the children of disobedience,
“We all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” [Eph. 2:3]
The Lord has determined that each soul should bear the responsibility for its own sin.
Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.
He repeats this again a little later in the same chapter.
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
Each soul answers for its own sin. The soul that sins, it shall die. As we have already stated, “the wages of sin is death,” or “the soul that sins, it shall die.”
However, God in his rich and abundant mercy, made a way for man to be forgiven his sin debt. This is the message of the entire Levitical sacrificial economy, which illustrates God’s plan for forgiveness for mankind. The answer to man’s sin, is a sacrifice. This sacrifice must meet specific requirements. The offerings for sin in the Levitical system, must be perfect and without blemish or spot.
In man’s circumstance, an animal sacrifice is of no effect for man’s sin.
4. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
The only possible sacrificial substitute for man’s soul, is the soul of a perfect, sinless man. This perfect, sinless man would need to be innocent of any guilt or stain of sin. There is only one possible answer to this, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” [Rom. 3:23].
God needed a perfect, sinless man, willing to give his life in the place of all men. He could find no one on earth. God knew if you wanted something done right, you have to do it yourself. God prepared a body for His Servant, the Messiah. So God sent, “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” God sent His Son for the express purpose of addressing man’s sin issue. How did He address it?
In the Levitical system, which is a picture or shadow of Christ’s offering, the guilty party would symbolically transfer his sin to the sacrifice by laying his hands on its head. This can be seen in the following references: Lev. 3:2, 8, 13; 4:4, 15, 24, 29, 33.
When Jesus was arrested, both Jewish and Gentile hands were laid upon Him.
We have the witness of Isaiah, [53:6c] the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This witnesses to the transference of the sin of all men upon the one perfect, innocent sacrifice.
[Isaiah 53:4] Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:
[Isaiah 53:5] he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
[Isaiah 53:8b] for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
This is the meaning of Isaiah’s statement, “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.” It is also the meaning of Paul’s statement, that God, “made him sin, who knew no sin.” Taken together, both Isaiah and Paul are saying the same thing, that Jesus was made a sin offering for man, even though He knew no sin, i.e., he had no intimate acquaintance or dealing with it; “he was holy, harmless, undefiled,” [Heb. 7:26].
This has nothing to do with Jesus becoming all manner of detestable, and abominable sins. When Paul said, God “made Him sin, who knew no sin,” he was quoting Isaiah, who said, “The Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” Our sin and trespasses were laid upon him, who had “done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”
When Paul states God “made Him sin,” the word, sin, is the Greek word, ἁμαρτία — hamartia. It is also singular in its number. Why is this important? This denies the argument that Jesus was made "to be" all manner of sins on the cross. He was made a singular offering for sin. In the Hebrew phrase of Isaiah, “make His soul an offering for sin,” the phrase “offering for sin,” is the Hebrew word, a’sham, which is also singular in number. Also, in the Greek OT passage of Isaiah 53:10, the phrase “offering for sin,” is the Greek, hamartia, again in the singular.
So what is the point to this? In Paul's statement, as in the Hebrew and Greek text of the Isaiah, the Hebrew word, a'sham, and the Greek word hamartia, are singular. This points to one offering for sin, not to an array or lists of sins. In both 2 Cor. 5:21 and Hebrews 10:10, the singular word, hamartia, stands for a once for all time offering for sin. This comes from the Hebrew text of Isaiah 53:10, which points to one offering for sin, by the offering of the soul of the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah. This is the essence of the Gospel message. That Jesus offered up His Life for the sin of man, so that man might be saved.