A crucial verse In God’s word is verse 21, for there we are faced with the essence of the Substitution by the Lord Jesus Christ.
What doctrines must we keep in mind when we speak of His substitutionary atonement?
We read in 2 Corinthians 5:21,
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.
God begins this verse with “For”, which ties in with the sentence going before. “We beseech you, on behalf of Christ, Be ye reconciled to God, For (and here the Greek text says) Him, who knew no sin, He hath made sin, or a sin-offering, for us”.
But what is meant by this?
It cannot be that Christ became literally sin.
This expression must be understood in a figurative sense.
Also it cannot be that Christ became a sinner, for the context says “Him, who knew no sin”.
Also it cannot mean that Christ became guilty, for no one is truly guilty who is not personally a transgressor of the Law. And if Christ was in the proper sense guilty, then He deserved to die and His death would have no merit for any one else, for He would no longer be the spotless Lamb of God.
All those views that make our holy Redeemer a sinner, or guilty, or deserving of the sufferings which He endured are incorrect, and are abhorrent to the spirit essence of the Scriptures.
But if the declaration that He was made “sin” does not mean that He was sin itself, or a sinner, or guilty, then it must mean that He was a “sin-offering”, an offering or a sacrifice for someone else’s sin. It means that He made an atonement; that His death was not just that of a martyr, but that it was designed to make reconciliation between man and God.
In other words, “For God had made Him subject to suffering and death, the full punishment and con-sequence of sin, as if He had been a sinner, although He was guilty of no sin”.
When we say that our sins were imputed on Him, we must understand thereby that God treated Him as if He was a sinner, as if He has been guilty, whereas in all senses He was perfectly innocent. Throughout His atonement Christ must remain the spotless Lamb of God.
Moreover, 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “Who knew no sin”. He was not guilty. He was perfectly holy and pure. And the same truths are reflected in 1 Peter 2:22, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth”.
And in Hebrews 7:26, “He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners”. If the Lord Jesus had not been holy and pure, He would not qualify to make an atonement. The phrase, “He knew no sin”, is an expression of great beauty and dignity. He had a mind and heart perfectly free from pollution. That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Look at the contrast: He was treated as if He was a sinner, although He was perfectly holy and pure, and we are treated as if we are righteous, although we were defiled and depraved. We who thus become righteous, are justified by a scheme which God has designed, in order that we, in and by Him, might be made righteous, by a righteousness imputed to us by God, which we receive in and through a Redeemer.
This is the meaning of Substitution.
By Alfred Chompff