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2 Corinthians 5:21

    2 Corinthians 5:21 Translations

    King James Version (KJV)

    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.

    American King James Version (AKJV)

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

    American Standard Version (ASV)

    Him who knew no sin he made to be'sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

    Basic English Translation (BBE)

    For him who had no knowledge of sin God made to be sin for us; so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

    Webster's Revision

    Him who knew no sin he made to be'sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God 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.

    English Revised Version (ERV)

    Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

    Clarke's Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:21

    For he hath made him to be sin for us - Τον μη γνοντα ἁμαρτιαν, ὑπερ ἡμων ἁμαρτιαν εποιησεν· He made him who knew no sin, (who was innocent), a sin-offering for us. The word ἁμαρτια occurs here twice: in the first place it means sin, i.e. transgression and guilt; and of Christ it is said, He knew no sin, i.e. was innocent; for not to know sin is the same as to be conscious of innocence; so, nil conscire sibi, to be conscious of nothing against one's self, is the same as nulla pallescere culpa, to be unimpeachable.

    In the second place, it signifies a sin-offering, or sacrifice for sin, and answers to the חטאה chattaah and חטאת chattath of the Hebrew text; which signifies both sin and sin-offering in a great variety of places in the Pentateuch. The Septuagint translate the Hebrew word by ἁμαρτια in ninety-four 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. Had our translators attended to their own method of translating the word in other places where it means the same as here, they would not have given this false view of a passage which has been made the foundation of a most blasphemous doctrine; viz. that our sins were imputed to Christ, and that he was a proper object of the indignation of Divine justice, because he was blackened with imputed sin; and some have proceeded so far in this blasphemous career as to say, that Christ may be considered as the greatest of sinners, because all the sins of mankind, or of the elect, as they say, were imputed to him, and reckoned as his own. One of these writers translates the passage thus: Deus Christum pro maximo peccatore habuit, ut nos essemus maxime justi, God accounted Christ the greatest of sinners, that we might be supremely righteous. Thus they have confounded sin with the punishment due to sin. Christ suffered in our stead; died for us; bore our sins, (the punishment due to them), in his own body upon the tree, for the Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all; that is, the punishment due to them; explained by making his soul - his life, an offering for sin; and healing us by his stripes.

    But that it may be plainly seen that sin-offering, not sin, is the meaning of the word in this verse, I shall set down the places from the Septuagint where the word occurs; and where it answers to the Hebrew words already quoted; and where our translators have rendered correctly what they render here incorrectly. In Exodus, Exodus 29:14, Exodus 29:36 : Leviticus, Leviticus 4:3, Leviticus 4:8, Leviticus 4:20, Leviticus 4:21, Leviticus 4:24, Leviticus 4:25, Leviticus 4:29, Leviticus 4:32-34; Leviticus 5:6, Leviticus 5:7, Leviticus 5:8, Leviticus 5:9, Leviticus 5:11, Leviticus 5:12; Leviticus 6:17, Leviticus 6:25, Leviticus 6:30; Leviticus 7:7, Leviticus 7:37; Leviticus 8:2, Leviticus 8:14; Leviticus 9:2, Leviticus 9:3, Leviticus 9:7, Leviticus 9:8, Leviticus 9:10, Leviticus 9:15, Leviticus 9:22; Leviticus 10:16, Leviticus 10:17, Leviticus 10:19; Leviticus 12:6, Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 14:13, Leviticus 14:19, Leviticus 14:22, Leviticus 14:31; Leviticus 15:15, Leviticus 15:30; Leviticus 16:3, Leviticus 16:5, Leviticus 16:6, Leviticus 16:9, Leviticus 16:11, Leviticus 16:15, Leviticus 16:25, Leviticus 16:27; Leviticus 23:19 : Numbers, Numbers 6:11, Numbers 6:14, Numbers 6:16; Numbers 7:16, Numbers 7:22, Numbers 7:28, Numbers 7:34, Numbers 7:40, Numbers 7:46, Numbers 7:52, Numbers 7:58, Numbers 7:70, Numbers 7:76, Numbers 7:82, Numbers 7:87; Numbers 8:8, Numbers 8:12; Numbers 15:24, Numbers 15:25, Numbers 15:27; Numbers 18:9; Numbers 28:15, Numbers 28:22; Numbers 29:5, Numbers 29:11, Numbers 29:16, Numbers 29:22, Numbers 29:25, Numbers 29:28, Numbers 29:31, Numbers 29:34, Numbers 29:38.

    Besides the above places, it occurs in the same signification, and is properly translated in our version, in the following places: -

    2 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles 29:21, 2 Chronicles 29:23, 2 Chronicles 29:24 : Ezra, Ezra 6:17; Ezra 8:35 : Nehemiah, Nehemiah 10:33 : Job, Job 1:5 : Ezekiel, Ezekiel 43:19, Ezekiel 43:22, Ezekiel 43:25; Ezekiel 44:27, Ezekiel 44:29; Ezekiel 45:17, Ezekiel 45:19, Ezekiel 45:22, Ezekiel 45:23, Ezekiel 45:25. In all, one hundred and eight places, which, in the course of my own reading in the Septuagint, I have marked.

    That we might be made the righteousness of God in him - The righteousness of God signifies here the salvation of God, as comprehending justification through the blood of Christ, and sanctification through his Spirit or, as the mountains of God, the hail of God, the wind of God, mean exceeding high mountains, extraordinary hail, and most tempestuous wind; so, here, the righteousness of God may mean a thorough righteousness, complete justification, complete sanctification; such as none but God can give, such as the sinful nature and guilty conscience of man require, and such as is worthy of God to impart. And all this righteousness, justification, and holiness, we receive in, by, for, and through Him, as the grand, sacrificial, procuring, and meritorious cause of these, and every other blessing. Some render the passage: We are justified through him; before God; or, We are justified, according to God's plan of justification, through him.

    In many respects, this is a most important and instructive chapter.

    1. The terms house, building, tabernacle, and others connected with them, have already been explained from the Jewish writings. But it has been thought by some that the apostle mentions these as readily offering themselves to him from his own avocation, that of a tentmaker; and it is supposed that he borrows these terms from his own trade in order to illustrate his doctrine; This supposition would be natural enough if we had not full evidence that these terms were used in the Jewish theology precisely in the sense in which the apostle uses them here. Therefore, it is more likely that he borrowed them from that theology, than from his own trade.

    2. In the terms tabernacle, building of God, etc., he may refer also to the tabernacle in the wilderness, which was a building of God, and a house of God, and as God dwelt in that building, so he will dwell in the souls of those who believe in, love, and obey him. And this will be his transitory temple till mortality is swallowed up of life, and we have a glorified body and soul to be his eternal residence.

    3. The doctrines of the resurrection of the same body; the witness of the Spirit; the immateriality of the soul; the fall and miserable condition of all mankind; the death of Jesus, as an atonement for the sins of the whole world; the necessity of obedience to the Divine will, and of the total change of the human heart, are all introduced here: and although only a few words are spoken on each, yet these are so plain and so forcible as to set those important doctrines in the most clear and striking point of view.

    4. The chapter concludes with such a view of the mercy and goodness of God in the ministry of reconciliation, as is no where else to be found. He has here set forth the Divine mercy in all its heightenings; and who can take this view of it without having his heart melted down with love and gratitude to God, who has called him to such a state of salvation.

    5. It is exceedingly remarkable that, through the whole of this chapter, the apostle speaks of himself in the first person plural; and though he may intend other apostles, and the Christians in general, yet it is very evident that he uses this form when only himself can be meant, as in 2 Corinthians 5:12 and 2 Corinthians 5:13, as well as in several places of the following chapter. This may be esteemed rather more curious than important.

    Barnes' Notes on 2 Corinthians 5:21

    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.


    Wesley's Notes on 2 Corinthians 5:21

    5:21 He made him a sin offering, who knew no sin - A commendation peculiar to Christ. For us - Who knew no righteousness, who were inwardly and outwardly nothing but sin; who must have been consumed by the divine justice, had not this atonement been made for our sins. That we might be made the righteousness of God through him - Might through him be invested wi th that righteousness, first imputed to us, then implanted in us, which is in every sense the righteousness of God.

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