In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Thus, the Bible, a divine tapestry woven with complex and deeply layered threads, stands as a testament to the unfathomable wisdom of the Almighty. For it is written, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Let us, therefore, gird our loins with the belt of truth and prepare our minds for action, as we strive to uncover the eternal truths revealed in this sacred text as we strive to understand the Creator, in whom all wisdom and knowledge dwell.
One passage that has puzzled and intrigued scholars and believers alike is 2 Corinthians 5:21, which reads, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This verse is a powerful and transformative statement that speaks to the heart of the Christian faith.
Here’s a prime example of exactly not how to interpret this passage. Here, notorious blasphemer, Todd White, mangles this passage to mean something it does not mean at all.
To be clear, Jesus did not “become sin” in any ontological sense and that is not what this passage is saying. What this preacher said in this video clip is heretical and should be rejected outright. If Jesus were to become these sinful things in an actual way, then he would not be the sinless, perfect lamb of God.
Therefore, we need to do better than what this unqualified preacher has done. To fully understand this verse, we need to examine it through the grammatical-historical method of interpretation, which involves analyzing the grammar, syntax, and historical context of the passage to discern its original meaning. By doing so, we can uncover the deeper layers of meaning and significance that lie beneath the surface of this text.
Let’s begin by looking at the context of this passage. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians to address various issues in their church, including defending his apostolic authority and encouraging the believers in their faith. In chapter 5, Paul discusses the hope of eternal life and the ministry of reconciliation. He emphasizes the transformation and reconciliation that take place when an individual becomes a new creation in Christ.
Moving on to the grammar and syntax of the verse, we see that Paul uses several key terms to convey his message. The word “poieō” indicates an active and purposeful action on God’s part, emphasizing that God is the initiator of the process described in this verse. The phrase “hamartia,” which refers to missing the mark, error, or failure, highlights Jesus’ perfection and innocence. This phrase signifies the act of becoming a sin offering or a bearer of sins, which does not imply that Jesus became sinful, but rather that he took upon himself the sins of humanity as a sacrificial offering. This is the doctrine of imputation. Here, our guilt is imputed, or assigned to Christ in a legal transaction.
The preposition “huper” denotes substitution or acting on behalf of someone else, indicating that Jesus took our place and bore the consequences of our sins. This is where we get the doctrine of penal substitution, or the penal substitutionary atonement. The conjunction “hina” introduces the purpose or result of the action, showing the intended outcome of Jesus becoming a sin offering. The phrase “en autō” denotes union with Christ, highlighting believers’ intimate connection to Jesus through faith.
Finally, the phrase “dikaiosynē theou” refers to the moral standard or divine approval that is characteristic of God, signifying the status of being declared righteous before God, which believers receive through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the other half of the doctrine of imputation as Christ’s righteousness is imputed, or credited to us in this same legal transaction mentioned above.
The historical background of this passage is also critical to understanding its meaning. In the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were offered to atone for sins, temporarily providing a means for people to be declared righteous before God. Paul’s audience in Corinth would have been familiar with this sacrificial system, and his use of this imagery would have resonated with them. By comparing Jesus to a sin offering, Paul emphasizes that Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin, providing a permanent means of atonement and reconciliation with God.
So what does all of this mean for believers today? Through Jesus’ sacrificial death, believers are reconciled to God and become new creations in Christ. This powerful message of hope, transformation, and reconciliation lies at the heart of the Christian gospel and serves as a foundation for the ministry of believers. Christians are called to share this message of reconciliation and hope with others, calling them to taste and see the goodness of God in the sacrifice of the spotless lamb on the cross.
This passage is definitional to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith and demonstrates God’s love for us by bearing the punishment on the cross that we deserve as sinners. By examining this passage and rightly interpreting it through its biblical and historical context, we can truly understand its meaning and significance. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death, believers can be reconciled to God and become new creations in Christ, experiencing the transformative power of his mercy and grace, and we can confidently share this message with others, calling them to turn to Christ in repentance in faith.