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.
I. THE PERSONAL CHARACTER OF CHRIST. "He knew no sin." The virtues of others are only comparative: their excellencies are counterbalanced by defects. How seldom do men appear to the same advantage in public and in private. There are virtues which are in some degree incompatible: the circumstances which go to form the contemplative character, are unfavourable to the active; and contrariwise. Some virtues border closely on defects: — courage degenerates into temerity; caution becomes timidity. It not unfrequently happens that men, after having established their claim to some particular quality, fail in those points in which their chief excellence consists. It was thus with the faith of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, and the patience of Job. Even where there is no flaw in the character which strikes the eye of the public, or which is noted by private friendship, the individual himself is deeply conscious of his deficiencies. Confessions of this kind are found in the diaries of Luther. In all the particulars referred to, our Lord stood out in marked contrast to the most distinguished servants of God. His virtues were not comparative, but absolute: there was no inconsistency — no disproportion, His was not the excellence which arose from the predominance of some one virtue, but from the union and harmony of all: in the active and contemplative, He was alike eminent. In none of His virtues was there any exaggeration or excess. This purity did not arise from the absence of temptation. Some who have risen superior to greater trials, have been overcome in smaller. To lighter trials our Lord was not less exposed than to severer ones; nor was His conduct in regard to the one, less admirable than in regard to the other. Jewish fishermen would never have drawn that character if they had not seen it.
II. HIS MEDIATORIAL OFFICE — "He was made sin for us." To assert, and to found the assertion on the text, that Christ, having the guilt of our sins imputed to Him, may be considered as the greatest sinner on earth, is language utterly indefensible. It is not to explain the language of Scripture, but to distort it. Guilt is a personal quality: it is incapable of being transferred. At the very time that Christ was expiating the guilt of sin upon the Cross He was the Holy One of God — the just suffering in the room of the unjust. He who was not guilty suffering in the room of those who were. Some understand the word "sin" to mean sin-offering. The word rendered sin-offering, as the marginal reading indicates, strictly signifies sin. The terms are singularly emphatic. God made, or treated, or permitted Christ to be treated, not merely as sinful, or a sinner, but as sin itself. Look in proof of this to the records of His life. Consider the estimate which His enemies formed of His character. They did not speak of Him merely as a sinner, but as a friend or favourer of sinners. They did not impute to Him merely gluttony and intemperance, but the indictable offence of blasphemy. "Away with Him," was their cry, "let Him be crucified." Had there been nothing more in the treatment of Christ than what has been here mentioned, the propriety of the language in the text would have been sufficiently vindicated. But whence the agony in Gethsemane?
III. HIS BENEVOLENT UNDERTAKING. "That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." This clause is to be explained on the same principle with the former. If by the expression, being made sin for us, is to be understood His being treated as a sinner, the corresponding expression, being made the Righteousness of God in Him, must imply, that we, on His account, are treated as if we were righteous. The sinner on believing in Christ is acquitted, and treated as if he were righteous. This view of the design of Christ's sufferings, independently of the direct testimony of the text, follows from the fact of His innocence. If suffering and death are the penalty of sin, as He could not have suffered for His own sins, He must have suffered for the sins of others.
(R. Brodie, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.