He Became Sin Who Knew No Sin: What Does 2 Corinthians 5:21 Mean?


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.” King James Version (KJV)

Translation2 Corinthians 5:21
ESVFor our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
NASBHe made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
NIVGod made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
NLTFor God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

He Became Sin Who Knew No Sin: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

5:16-21 The renewed man acts upon new principles, by new rules, with new ends, and in new company. The believer is created anew; his heart is not merely set right, but a new heart is given him.

He is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Though the same as a man, he is changed in his character and conduct. These words must and do mean more than an outward reformation.

The man who formerly saw no beauty in the Saviour that he should desire him, now loves him above all things. The heart of the unregenerate is filled with enmity against God, and God is justly offended with him. Yet there may be reconciliation.

Our offended God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. By the inspiration of God, the Scriptures were written, which are the word of reconciliation; showing that peace has been made by the cross, and how we may be interested therein.

Though God cannot lose by the quarrel, nor gain by the peace, yet he beseeches sinners to lay aside their enmity, and accept the salvation he offers. Christ knew no sin.

He was made Sin; not a sinner, but Sin, a Sin-offering, a Sacrifice for sin. The end and design of all this was, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, might be justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.

Can any lose, labour, or suffer too much for Him, who gave his beloved Son to be the Sacrifice for their sins, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him?

2 Corinthians 5:21 | Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

21. For—omitted in the oldest manuscripts. The grand reason why they should be reconciled to God, namely, the great atonement in Christ provided by God, is stated without the “for” as being part of the message of reconciliation (2Co 5:19).

he—God.

sin—not a sin offering, which would destroy the antithesis to “righteousness,” and would make “sin” be used in different senses in the same sentence: not a sinful person, which would be untrue, and would require in the antithesis “righteous men,” not “righteousness”; but “sin,” that is, the representative Sin-bearer (vicariously) of the aggregate sin of all men past, present, and future.

The sin of the world is one, therefore the singular, not the plural, is used; though its manifestations are manifold (Joh 1:29). “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the SIN of the world.” Compare “made a curse for us,” Ga 3:13.

for us—Greek, “in our behalf.” Compare Joh 3:14, Christ being represented by the brazen serpent, the form, but not the substance, of the old serpent. At His death on the cross the sin-bearing for us was consummated.

knew no sin—by personal experience (Joh 8:46) [Alford]. Heb 7:26; 1Pe 2:22; 1Jo 3:5.

might be made—not the same Greek as the previous “made.” Rather, “might become.”

the righteousness of God—Not merely righteous, but righteousness itself; not merely righteousness, but the righteousness of God, because Christ is God, and what He is we are (1Jo 4:17), and He is “made of God unto us righteousness.”

As our sin is made over to Him, so His righteousness to us (in His having fulfilled all the righteousness of the law for us all, as our representative, Jer 23:6; 1Co 1:30).

The innocent was punished voluntarily as if guilty, that the guilty might be gratuitously rewarded as if innocent (1Pe 2:24). “Such are we in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God himself” [Hooker].

in him—by virtue of our standing in Him, and in union with Him [Alford].

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