The Agora
Atonement Questions

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How Was Christ "Made Sin"?

The testimony of the earliest Christadelphians indicates how 2Co 5:21 and related passages should be read: how, in fact, "sin" can be applied to the sinless one. Christ. The brief quotations that follow are even more powerful in their fuller contexts.

"For He (God) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2Co 5:21).

  1. "The word sin is used in two principal acceptations in the scripture. It signifies in the first place 'the transgression of the law'; and in the next, it represents that physical principle of the animal nature, which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution into dust .. Inasmuch as this evil principle pervades every part of the flesh, the animal nature is styled 'sinful flesh'. that is, 'flesh full of sin'... Sin, I say, is a synonym for human nature' (JT, Elp 126,127).
  2. "To be 'made sin' for others is to become flesh and blood... This perishing body is 'sin'... 'Sin', in its application to the body stands for all its constituents and laws" (JT, Eur 1:247,248).
  3. "Christ made sin, though sinless, is the doctrine of God" (JT, Xd 1873:362).
  4. "(God) sent (forth) Jesus in the nature of the condemned, that sin might be condemned in him. Hence he was 'made sin' " (RR, Xd 1873:402).
  5. "Was he not made sin in being made of a woman, who was mortal because of sin, and could only impart her own sinful flesh to a son begotten of her?" (RR, 1873:463).
  6. "Was he (Christ) 'made sin' (2Co 5:21)?" Answer (RR): "Yes" (Resurrectional Responsibility Debate, Q 93).
  7. "Christ was 'made sin' in being born into a sin-constitution of things" (RR, 1898:390).
  8. "God 'hath made him to be sin...' Partaking thus of the flesh, he was 'this corruptible', though in character sinless, and so needed cleansing and redemption as much as his brethren... As to 'hamartia', it means sin, and not sin-offering: and we speak from a careful comparison of all the passages in the NT and the LXX (Septuagint). In all the 170 or more occurrences in the NT it is never rendered sin-offering" (CCW, 1922:222).
  9. "...2Co 5:21... cannot be rendered 'made to be a sin-offering' without doing violence to the meaning of the word 'hamartia' and forcing upon it a meaning that it will not bear" (WJ Young. 1922:312).
  10. "The Truth is only maintained by faithful contention, and however much we dislike contention, earnest men do not hesitate to contend for the faith... It has been sound Christadelphian teaching from the days of Dr Thomas that Jesus was 'made sin' by being, born a member of the human family... Jesus by birth was made sin... If he was not related to sin, in either nature or character... . then a grave injustice was done when he was allowed to suffer on the cross, and there was no declaration of' God's righteousness... The publishing of such teaching [ie, that which denies this doctrine -- GB] reveals again the absence of that unity... without which union is not possible" (John Carter, 1940:40,41).
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh. God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned SIN IN THE FLESH" (Rom 8:3).

  1. "...'that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of 'death that is, the devil', or sin in flesh" (JT, Elp 99).
  2. "Sin... had to he condemned in the nature that had transgressed... . For this cause. 'Jesus was made a little lower than the angels... that through death he might destroy that having the power of death, that is the diabolos', or elements of corruption in our nature, inciting it to transgression, and therefore called 'Sin working death in us' " (JT, Eur 1:106).
  3. " 'Become sin for us', 'sin... condemned in the flesh'... . 'our sins... borne in his body upon the tree -- These things could not have been accomplished in a nature destitute of that physical principle, styled 'Sin in the flesh' " (JT, 873:361).
  4. Question: "What do you mean by sin in the flesh'...?" "Answer: "David, by the Spirit says, in Psa 51:5: 'Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me'. [Paul adds] (Rom 7:17): 'I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.' Now, what is this element called 'uncleanness', 'sin', 'iniquity', etc?... There is a principle, element, or peculiarity in our constitution... that leads to the decay of the strongest or the healthiest. Its implantation came by sin, for death came by sin and the infliction of death and the implantation of this peculiarity are synonymous things... Because the invisible, constitutional physical inworking of death in us came by sin, that inworking is termed sin. It is a principle of uncleanness and corruption and weakness... For this reason, it is morally operative: for whatever affects the physical, affects the moral. If no counter force were brought into play, its presence would subject us to the uncontrolled dominion of disobedience, through the constitutional weakness and impulse to sin... The body of the Lord Jesus was this same unclean nature in the hand of the Father" (RR, 1874:88).
  5. "Sin in the flesh, then, is the devil destroyed by Jesus in his death" (RR, Christendom Astray, p 172, 1910 ed).
  6. " 'Sin in the flesh' will ultimately be the subject of justification through the blood of Christ" (RR, Res Resp Debate, Q 111, paraphrased).
  7. "Sin-in-the-flesh is only the root principle that leads to the various forms of diabolos. All these forms are in harmony with the root... Judas was a devil (Joh 6:70) through the action of sin-in-the-flesh; he hanged himself; that form of sin-in-the flesh was gone; but sin-in-the-flesh survived in all the world. The devil that imprisoned the Smyrnean brethren (Rev 2:10) was a form of sin-in-the-flesh. That form passed away, but generic sin-in-the-flesh continues in all the world. So when it is said that the devil is bound for a thousand years, it is that form of sin-in-the-flesh which exists in the organized governments of the world that is bound: but sin-in-the-flesh remains an ingredient in human nature during all the thousand years, until flesh and blood ceases to exist on earth" (RR, Xd 1898:201). [Aside: It is interesting to note that Robert Roberts uses "sin-in-the-flesh" -- with hyphens -- eight times in this short answer. He does not always use the phrase with hyphens, but he does most often use the phrase in a hyphenated sense: that is, as though it were a unit. There are some today who refuse to use (or to allow others to use) the phrase in such a fashion, who in fact deny that the flesh is related to sin in any meaningful fashion.]
  8. "Paul had to say, 'sin dwelleth in me'. 'I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind'... Sin, as disobedience, arose in (Adam and Eve's) case from a wrong opinion concerning a matter of lawful desire, and not from what Paul calls 'sin in the flesh'. It became sin in the flesh when it brought forth that sentence of death that made them mortal... and implanted in their flesh a law of dissolution that became the law of their being. As a law of physical weakness and death, it necessarily became a source of moral weakness. That which originated in sin became a cause of sin in their posterity, and therefore (is) accurately described by Paul as 'sin in the flesh' " (RR, 1898:343).
  9. "Sin is a term of double import in the Scriptures: it has a physical as well as a moral application... The Apostle Paul is very precise in his references to sin as a physical principle inherent in human flesh... 'the body of sin'... 'Sin... wrought in me'... 'Sin revived'... 'Sin... beguiled me' 'Sin... working death to me... sin which dwelleth in me'. 'The law of sin which is in my members'... Sin as spoken of in these verses must necessarily be considered as something different from actual transgression, It is 'sin' within that leads to sin in action" (BHeb 181,182).
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh. God sending His own Son in the likeness of, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom 8:3).

  1. "Sinful flesh being the hereditary nature of the Lord Jesus, he was a fit and proper sacrifice for sin" (JT, Elp 128).
  2. "Children are born sinners or unclean because they are born of sinful flesh; and 'that which is born of the flesh is flesh', or sin. This is a misfortune, not a crime" (JT, Elp 129).
  3. "Joshua [in Zec 3:3,4]... clothed in filthy garments... represents the Christ... clothed with the 'flesh of sin', in which, Paul tells us, 'dwells no good thing' " (JT, Eur 1:58).
  4. "His nature was flesh and blood (Heb 2:14), which Paul styles 'sinful flesh', or flesh full of sin, a physical quality or principle which makes the flesh mortal; and called 'sin' because this property of flesh became its law, as the consequence of transgression" (JT, 1873:501).
  5. "In what sense did Christ come in sinful flesh?... Rom 7, immediately preceding, supplies the sense of the words 'flesh of sin' used in Rom 8:3. Gal 5 [which defines the 'works of the flesh' -- GB], and all New Testament allusions to the subject, teach that the flesh of human nature is a sinful thing" (RR, The Slain Lamb, p 19).
  6. "Jesus was the sin-nature or sinful flesh of Adam... that sin being thus laid on him he might die for it" (RR, 1873:407,408).
  7. "How could Jesus have been made free from that sin which God laid upon him in his own nature, 'made in the likeness of sinful flesh', if he had not died for himself as well as for us?" Answer (RR): "He could not" (Res Resp Debate, Q 715).
  8. " 'Sinful flesh' is a generic description of human flesh in its total qualities" (RR, 1895:24).
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same: that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14).

  1. "What is that which has the power of death?... It is the 'exceedingly great sinner SIN', in the sense of the 'Law of Sin and Death' within all the posterity of Adam, without exception. This, then, is Paul's Diabolos... 'He that committeth sin is of the diabolos, for the diabolos sinneth from the beginning'... All this is perfectly intelligible when understood of 'Sin's flesh' " (JT, Eur 1:249).
  2. "Sin in the flesh, then, is the devil destroyed by Jesus in his death" (RR, Christendom Astray, p 172, 1910 ed). [This "sin" was not ceremonially laid upon Christ at some point during his life, or even as he hung on the cross: it was part of him from the moment of his birth, in his very nature and flesh and mind. We must appreciate this fundamental truth.]
  3. "The release began with himself. He destroyed that hold which the devil had obtained in himself through extraction from Adam... The devil was not destroyed out of Christ. He was destroyed in him. We have to get into Christ to get the benefit. In him we obtain the deliverance accomplished in him" (RR, 1875:375).
  4. "What is meant by the devil in those places (Heb 2:14 and 1Jo 3:8)?" Answer: "I believe it means sin in the flesh" (The Good Confession, Q 120).
  5. " 'The Devil is a scriptural personification of Sin in the flesh, in its several phases of manifestation...' This old Christadelphian definition [from the Declaration -- GB] is palpably true, and does not need revising; and no exception to its application can be made in Heb 2:14... Dr Thomas wrote upon the subject with a grasp and lucidity that were almost apostolic... 'Sinful flesh was laid upon him "that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil", or sin in the flesh (Heb 2:14)' [Elp Isr Part 1, ch 3]... Yes, 'the Devil' that had the power of death is 'Sin', and Christ has 'destroyed' him 'through death' in himself individually, and will yet destroy him from off the face of the earth" (CCW, 1913:539,541).
"(Christ) who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being, dead to sins should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (1Pe 2:24).

Notice how the New Testament passage is a citation of the Old Testament: "All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way, and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa 53:6).

  1. "The flesh was the 'filthy garments' with which the Spirit-Word was clothed (Zec 3:3); the 'iniquity of us all' that was laid upon him; 'the soul made an offering for sin" (Isa 53:6,10)" (JT, Eur 1:108).
  2. "If the principle of corruption had not pervaded the flesh of Jesus... sin could not have been condemned there, nor could he have borne our sins 'in his own body' " (JT, Eur 1:203).
  3. "The filthy garments of flesh, styled his' 'iniquity' " (JT, Eur 2:19).
  4. In a reference to the baptism of Jesus: "Jesus, with the sin of the world thus defined, rankling in his flesh, where it was to be condemned to death when suspended on the cross (Rom 8:3), came to John as the 'Ram of Consecration', that his inwards and his body might be washed" (JT, 1873:501).
  5. " 'Iniquities laid on him'. This is a figurative description of what was literally done in God sending forth His Son, made of a woman... This was laid on Jesus in his being made of our nature" (RR, 1873:400),
  6. "If... our sins were laid on him in the same way as... on the... animals... (ceremonial... imputativeness)... where then is the substance of the shadow? The ceremonial imposition of sins upon the animals was the type; the real putting of sin on the Lamb of God in the bestowal of a prepared sin-body wherein to die, is the substance" (RR, 1873:462).
  7. "He kept himself from 'his iniquity' [RR, 18:23]... he must at all times have possessed perfect knowledge of any thought or impulse arising from the flesh contrary to the purpose of his Father, thus leading him to view his temptations as 'iniquities' more numerous than the hairs of his head (Psa 40:12). While the 'iniquity' that took hold of him was in his flesh, in which dwelleth no good thing... the character which he manifested was perfect... He could say: 'There was no soundness in his flesh' [Psa 38:7] because He himself said the flesh profiteth nothing (John 6:63). This testimony is amplified by the spirit in the apostle Paul thus: 'In me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.' Jesus also could say: 'There is no rest in my bones because of my sin' when realizing fully, as he did, that there could be no freedom from temptation so long as he was of flesh and blood nature" (Henry Sulley, 1921:499,500).
"(Christ) who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's for this he did once, when he offered up himself" (Heb 7:27).

  1. "(From Paul's statement in Heb 7:27), it follows that there must be a sense in which Jesus offered for himself also, a sense which is apparent when it is recognized that he was under Adamic condemnation, inhering in his flesh" (RR, 1873:405).
  2. "If Christ's offering did not comprehend himself... how are we to understand the statement of Paul (in Heb 7:27)?" (RR, 1873:466).
  3. "It was 'for us' that he came to be in the position of having first to offer for himself... 'He was made sin (for us who knew no sin), and does not sin require an offering?" (RR, 1875:139).
  4. "As a sufferer from the effects of sin, he had himself to be delivered from those effects; and as the mode of deliverance was by death on the cross, that death was for himself first" (RR, 1875:375).
  5. "There is no doubt Jesus fulfilled the Aaronic type of offering for himself" (RR, Res Resp Debate, Q 290, paraphrased).
  6. "As the anti-typical High Priest, it was necessary he should offer for himself..." (RR, 1896:341).
  7. "He did these things ('was made perfect', 'was saved from death', 'obtained redemption')... 'for himself' first... for us only as we may become part of him" (RR, LM 174).
  8. "The sacrificial work... 'For himself that it might be for us' " (RR, LM 178).
  9. "Does Heb 7:27 teach that Jesus offered for his own sins?... Yes, it says so plainly" (CCW, 1902:148).
  10. "That Christ had to offer for himself is testified in Heb 7:27... The reason why is revealed, namely, that he might himself be saved by his own blood. See Heb 13:20" (CCW, 1910:547).
  11. "His sacrifice... was first for himself, and then for the people... To say that it was... not for himself, is to contradict the word of God, and to take a step at least towards that doctrine of Antichrist... The salvation was by 'the blood of thy covenant' (Zec 11:11), by which both the 'King' himself and his 'prisoners of hope' are 'brought again from the dead'. These things have been faithfully upheld as principles of the Truth from the beginning, and contradictory teaching has not been tolerated and should not be now" (CCW, 1921:313).

The Scriptures speak of Jesus as being "made... sin". This statement leads inexorably to the conclusion that Jesus needed to offer for himself as well as for us. In fact it was only in offering for himself that he could offer for us. If he had not offered for himself, and obtained eternal redemption for himself, then what possible benefit could there be for us in being baptized so as to be "in him"? He only obtains for us what he has already obtained for himself. The suggestion that Christ's death was merely a ceremony or ritual by which we draw near to God, and that there was no real benefit in it for him, is in direct contradiction to the teachings of John Thomas and Robert Roberts and other early Christadelphians. Therefore it is a theory very much to he repudiated, on that ground as well as the ground of the Scriptures.

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