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.
Note 17 at 2Co 5:21: There has been a great controversy in the church recently over this passage of Scripture. Some teach that Jesus literally became sin, thereby becoming alienated from God, and suffered in hell before His rebirth and resurrection. Others teach that this is a heresy that denies the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and those who believe this is heresy have been very vocal, calling names and damaging ministries.
This issue has been, and could continue to be, debated for a long time. However, Jesus said one way to discern who is being motivated by God is to look at the fruit they produce (Mt 7:15-20 and Lu 6:43-45). Using this criterion, the heresy hunters do not compare well. They criticize ministers who are reaching hundreds of times more people than they do. Plus, those who follow the heresy hunters become critical, divisive, and condemning. Those who swallow their poison lose the joy and victory that was theirs when they supposedly were under the "deception" they now call heresy.
All anyone is saying through this verse is that Jesus paid all the wages of our sin. Whatever that entailed, Jesus paid it. The Scripture does not make a major issue of how this payment for sin was accomplished, so there's no need for us to do so. Suffice it to say that Jesus became what we were and suffered what we should have suffered so that we could become what He is and experience what He has.
Note 18 at 2Co 5:21: In order for a person to pay the price for sin's redemption, he or she must first be sinless (Isa 53:9; Joh 8:46; Heb 4:15, 7:26; and 1Pe 1:19). If Jesus had not been sinless, a savior would have been required to die for Him, but how could Jesus escape the sin that had been passed down from Adam?
Ro 5:12 states, "Wherefore, as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (brackets mine). The answers to our questions lie within the truth of the virgin birth. It was the seed of the woman, not the man, that God said would crush the head of Satan. It was the virgin birth that guaranteed the sinless nature of Jesus and omitted the fallen Adamic nature that would have been passed down through Adam if Jesus had had a human father (see note 1 at Lu 1:27).
Note 19 at 2Co 5:21: Typical Christians have accepted the first part of this verse but rejected the second half. They believe Jesus bore sin for us all, but don't believe He actually made us righteous. They relegate that to something that happens off in the future in eternity.
However, Paul made the forgiveness of our sins and our becoming righteous a "package deal." That is to say, if one part is true, then the other part is true. It's like a coin. Coins have two sides. You can't have only "heads" or only "tails." All coins have both. Likewise, any person who accepts that Jesus paid for our sins also has to accept that He made us righteous (see notes 1-2 at Ro 5:15 and note 7 at Ro 5:19).
Note 20 at 2Co 5:21: Imputed righteousness was predicted in the Old Testament (Ge 15:6 with Ro 4:23-25, and Ps 32:1-2) and revealed in the New Testament through the Gospel of Christ (Ro 1:17). This righteousness is described in Scripture as the righteousness of faith (Ro 4:13, 9:30, and 10:6), the righteousness of God in him (this verse), the righteousness of God without the Law (Ro 3:21), Christ Jesus being made righteousness unto us (1Co 1:30), Christ as righteousness to everyone who believes (Ro 10:4), everlasting righteousness (Da 9:24), the LORD our righteousness (Jer 23:6), the gift of righteousness (Ro 5:17), the robe of righteousness (Isa 61:10), being found in Him (Php 3:9), etc.
To reject this gift of righteousness given us through Christ's atonement is referred to as being ignorant of God's righteousness (Ro 10:3), going about to establish a righteousness of one's own (Ro 10:3 and Php 3:9), submitting not to God's righteousness (Ro 10:3), and stumbling at the "stumblingstone," which is Christ Jesus (Ro 9:32-33).
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