Recently I was asked to explain what it means in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“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.”
That is a huge question. If you can be patient I will explain to the best of my understanding.
For some reason this is abhorrent to some believers. I remember a brother who refused to accept the plain statement of the verse and declared that it meant Jesus was a sin bearer. I think his difficulty in accepting the statement of the Bible was his misunderstanding of how Jesus was both fully God and fully human.
Mel Gibson is to be commended for his effort to show the horror of the cross. However, there was no way he could show the horror of Jesus becoming sin. When Jesus became sin he experienced all the sicknesses and mental illness of the world. He knew first hand all the discouragement, depression, anger and emotions of the fallen world. Cancer came on him, Alzheimer, and every known disease of life. All because he became sin who knew no sin.
But, first, we need to understand what are sin and death? Sin as a word comes from archery and means to miss the mark. If you can separate the religious connotations, it simply means an error. When God created the Earth and the universe, there was no error. It was good (Gen. 1:31). Also, because of the condemnation of death in the Bible, we need to understand where death came from. It came from God, not as the destructive force it is now, but as the means to regenerate life. Without the death of cells, the transformation of seed to blade, to ear to full corn could not happen. Death was the means of growth.
But the fall of Adam and Eve changed that. Adam was a created version of God on Earth. He was not God, of course, but he was the image of God so God could rule the Earth through him (Gen. 1.26). Adam was given dominion over the Earth. If he had not sinned he, like Jesus was the express image of God. But God also gave him a free will because God did not want a puppet but a co-ruler with him. He also wanted to expand the Godhead beyond the Trinity (Psalm 82:1 & 6). That is, he wanted a family.
Every member of the Godhead has free will and are independent, but because of two things they are always united. First is all three members have no beginning nor end (Isaiah 43:10, Heb 7:3). Second the agape love of God in all three members defers to one another. Why the Father has the pre-eminence, I don’t know. But the Word, also called the Son, defers to the Father and the Spirit defers to the Word. And if Adam had not sinned, he would have deferred to the Spirit, as would have all humanity.
However, they did not believe God and believed the serpent, which was their error. However, they did not become sinners until they acted upon it. Once they ate the forbidden fruit they changed into sinners. But because they were given dominion over all creation, all creation became sin, too.
I did not understand how this happened until recently. I had always heard about the federal headship of Adam, but it never made sense to me. James said,
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)
which, frankly, is also a little puzzling. It had been explained to me that when something is perfect, and a blemish occurs, then it is no longer perfect. A perfect vase, may get a tiny crack, but eventually that crack will widen and destroy the whole vase. The moment the crack occurred, the vase stopped being perfect.
Then the light bulb went on for me. The moment Adam and Eve sinned a crack in the universe was begun, and all the universe was then marred, and no longer perfect. This was the entrance to of the curse in creation.
All living creatures were affected. All living things died. Not only the living, but the non-living. Physics calls it entropy, that is, every thing is in a state of decay. All creation became sin. Plants would change into thorns and thistles and all living things would age before dying.
We age because our bodies are not able to perfectly replicate itself. It takes 7 years for every cell of our body to die and be replaced. But like a photo copy of a photo copy there is a small amount of error in the reproduction, so that we change. If we were not sin our bodies, after maturation, would perfectly replicate itself, and remain permanently young.
All creation is integrated and symbiotic in design. I believe it is erroneous to think that heaven and Earth are separate creations. I believe that the spirit world is this world, but in another dimension. Sin in Adam began in their spirit, so their spirits fell, or died, before their bodies died.
Jesus is the exception. I don’t understand why the woman did not pass on the sinful nature in the body, but since He was not conceived by a man’s sperm, He was born without sin, even though his created body, soul, and spirit were of the substance of creation, not divinity. It is important to understand that Jesus had a created human spirit as well as the eternal Spirit of God residing in him.
So on the cross when the sins of the world – not just mankind, but all creation – were put on him, he became sin and at that moment, the divine Godhead within him left, which is why he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?: (Matt. 27:46). God as a Spirit did not leave because He could not be in the presence of sin for He can not change and nothing impacts Him (Malachi 3:6). He left because Jesus could not become sin if He remained in Jesus. When God left the man Jesus, on the cross Jesus was totally human and not God at all. His becoming sin meant that the error of Adam’s spirit became his spirit and so too his soul and body.
The wrath of God was then satisfied (Isaiah 53:10) and Jesus suffered totally unto death. But, it was not his sin. Therefore in death, he was judged and found innocent (Zech. 3:1-5), therefore resurrected sinless again. The gift of God was then given to all the world, with one requirement, you believe that the gift was given. Jesus as a man was re-united into God and became the new creation. Divinity and creation joined as one. And through Jesus all the rest of mankind could be restored, nay, improved, better than Adam. Adam did not have the indwelling of the Godhead in him. Now everyone who accepts Christ becomes this new creation of spirit joined with matter via the Godhead.
Jesus did not die just for mankind, although that is what matters to us, but all creation had to be redeemed. Because of Jesus a new heaven and a new Earth (Rev. 21:1) will be ushered in. I believe the crack that began with Adam and Eve will finally tear the heaven and earth apart, then we will have the perfect creation again which will never break again.