The statement in 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,” tells us that Jesus became sin (for us). Is this what this verse is communicating regarding Jesus? Did the perfect, holy Lamb of God really become sin? Let us consider this proposition in greater detail.

Old Testament type was a pure and holy offering

When God established the Mosaic sacrificial system, an animal to be sacrificed was to be without spot or blemish.

If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering,” Leviticus 4:3.

Or if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish,” Leviticus 4:23.

And unto the children of Israel thou shalt speak, saying, Take ye a kid of the goats for a sin offering; and a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, for a burnt offering,” Leviticus 9:3.

An animal that was a sin offering never became an unholy sacrifice. Anyone who touched the sin offering became holy.

Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy: and when there is sprinkled of the blood thereof upon any garment, thou shalt wash that whereon it was sprinkled in the holy place,” Leviticus 6:27.

Jesus was a pure and holy offering

Jesus was without blemish, a perfect holy offering for our sin.

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14.

But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter 1:19.

Jesus became our sin offering, not sin

The Hebrew term for sin and sin offering is the same – hattat (חַטָּאת). The context determines the meaning. When hattat was used in reference to the animal substitute it was understood as a “sin offering.”

The Greek word hamartia, in 2 Corinthians 5:21, is understood in the same way as the Hebrew word hattat – either sin or sin offering. The LXX (Septuagint) uses hamartia in Leviticus 4:24 and 5:12 for sin offering.

Adam Clarke comments: “It signifies a sin-offering, or sacrifice for sin, and answers to hechattaah and chattath of the Hebrew text; which signifies both sin and sin-offering in a great variety of places in the Pentateuch. The Septuagint translates the Hebrew word by αμαρτιαin ninety-four places in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, where a sin-offering is meant; and where our version translates the word not sin, but an offering for sin.”1

Isaiah 53:10 refers to the substitutionary offering of the Messiah as a “sin offering.” “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”

Romans 3:25, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God,” and 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” speak of Christ as an offering.

William MacDonald says, “We must beware of any idea that on the cross of Calvary the Lord Jesus Christ became sinful in Himself. Such an idea is false. Our sins were placed on Him, but they were not in Him. What happened is that God made Him to be a sin-offering on our behalf.”2

Albert Barnes states: “But, If the declaration that he was made “sin” (ἁμαρτίαν hamartian) 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 sin; and this is the interpretation which is now generally adopted by expositors…”3


Jesus was the perfect Lamb of God. He became our substitute, our offering, that all who trust in Him have their sins forgiven. He never sinned and never became sin; He became God’s perfect sin offering.

End Notes

1 Clarke, Adam, Adam Clarke’s Commentary of the Bible,

2 MacDonald, William, Believer’s Bible Commentary: A Complete Bible Commentary in One Volume, Hardcover, Thomas Nelson Publishers, March 13, 1995

3 Barnes, Albert. “Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5”; “Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible“; 1870.