Pristine Grace

What Does Made Sin Actually Mean?
Part 1 of 4
by Brandan Kraft

August 5, 2019

What Does Made Sin Actually Mean?

     The made sin controversy has been brought up again in my mind.  It's been nearly 15 years since Mark Daniel was fired from his position at Eager Avenue Grace Church in Albany, GA for preaching and refusing to recant that Christ became an actual sinner on the cross.  If you're interested in hearing the actual sermon, and reading my response to it, I urge you to read my article about it.  I have heard that this article was printed, read, and passed around in the churches, including at 13th street.  I probably would have taken more time to write it, and maybe change some of the language used had I known it was going to be so widely read.  However, after re-reading it, I still stand by the basic premise it communicated today.

2 Cor 5:21, (KJV), 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.

     Don Fortner and others were not happy about the termination of Mark Daniel and he made no bones about it.  He let folks know that he thought what the folks did in Albany is wrong.  He then went on to defend that Christ being made sin and the elect of God being made righteous was more than imputation.  There was talk of imparted righteousness and the mystery of Christ being made sin, etc...  And there was also a lot of rhetoric that was used on the imputation only side.  Folks were equating Mark Daniel's error with Fortner and many of these churches split in the controversy.  Folks had to pick a side!  There was no room for a good theological discussion when righteous anger existed on both sides of the debate.  I myself sinfully got caught up in it all, thinking I was absolutely right and the opposing camp didn't have a valid point. 

     Well I for one do not want to ascribe error where error has not occurred.  To this date, I have not heard anyone defend that Christ became sinful on the cross.  I've heard a lot of unclear rhetoric though!  Appeals to mystery and righteous rhetoric were heavily used by the "made sin is more than imputation" camp.  Righteous rhetoric was made in the "imputation" camp.  Clarity was lacking, I believe, on both sides of the debate.  And I for one am maybe the most guilty of not providing accurate clarity on the issue.  I've re-read the article I wrote, and I see a lot of room for improvement.  Although I still stand by it, I do believe it lacked clarity because it did not fully try to see the perspective of the other camp. Lack of clarity leads to misunderstanding, lack of trust, and improper judging of motives.

     How you define made sin will determine which camp you fall in.  

  1. If you define made sin as something more than God's forensic view of Christ including Christ's suffering, putting on the guilt of His people and bearing their shame, and suffering the wrath of God, you will fall into more than imputation only camp.  
  2. If you define made sin as God's forensic view resulting in Christ suffering, Him putting on the guilt of His people and bearing their shame, and suffering the wrath of God, you will fall in the imputation only camp.  
  3. If you define made sin as Christ's absolute substitution, meaning you believe that Christ experienced sin in His very person and became an actual sinner, you fall in the false doctrine camp.

     I urge you to read and re-read each bullet point above, taking care to understand what I mean by each sentence.  

     I don't think either of the first two camps deny that sin is imputed or that Christ bore the guilt of His people.  There is also a mystery of the atonement in the sense we cannot understand fully what it meant for Christ to suffer under the wrath of God and bear the shame of His people.  But the mystery that has been revealed is that we have been redeemed.  

     When our savior went to the cross, He truly suffered.  He suffered the wrath of God and He suffered the shame and pain that was put upon Him by the roman soldiers.  But even more so, He put on the guilt of His people.  We cannot reduce the atonement to only a forensic legal-only transaction.  The imputation was real.  Imputation is not "legal fiction" as has been claimed.  Christ suffered the guilt and penalty of sin, but in doing so, He did not experience or know in any way the very sin itself for which He suffered.  And it is this last point that I believe the "more than imputation" camp has failed to proclaim in my opinion.  Instead, heels have been dug-in, appeals to mystery, and personalities and alliances are defended all while defending the person of Mark Daniel and not the doctrine which he preached.

     The same goes for the imputation of righteousness.  When God's people are made righteous, not only does God forensically reckon them as righteous in Christ, but He actually makes them righteous. They have to put off the flesh and be given a new body, but it does happen.  All of God's elect will be righteous in their very person when they finally experience their glorification.  This in effect is an imparted righteousness.  But I don't like to use that term at all, because we all are so sinful in our very person.  We have no righteousness of our own.  Our righteousness is the righteousness of Christ and it always will be.   Right now we wear that robe of righteousness - in the sight of God.  And we are aware of it by faith alone.  We are also set apart in this world and we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  But this is not imparted righteousness. We will become impeccable saints incapable of sinning in glorification.

     Anyway, I do apologize that there has been some slandering on both sides of the debate.  Not enough folks have sat down with each other and attempted to reason with each other.  Friendships have been lost.  Churches have been split.  And mistrust has been sowed amongst the believers.  We have our personality alliances and we have all been sinful in this debate.  Some people have even defended and fought for personalities and alliances, not doctrine.  

     If anyone really believes and teaches that Christ became sinful on the cross - that is, He knew sin and experienced the rebelliousness that we have, then yes, that is a reason to part ways.  That is a reason to divide.  But if we are dividing over semantics, then we all need to step back for a moment and try to reason with each other in patience and love.  I hope this article is well received.  And I am very sorry for whatever discord, however unintentional it may be, that I might have sowed amongst Christ's brethren.  If we know and love Christ, let us be humbled and realize that we are all rotten sinners saved by God's amazing Grace.  Let us come together doing our best to communicate clearly, and also trying our best to understand the other side of the debate in deference and love.

     Grace and Peace,

Note: I name Don Fortner by name because he is without a doubt the most visible and influential person in all of this.  I have been greatly edified by his ministry over the years and I do not mean any disrespect toward him.   I also admit that I have no first hand experience with any of the discussions that may or may not have taken place.  All of this has been based on hearsay and observation of published bulletins, e-mails, and articles.  I do ultimately desire for the truth to magnified and sweet fellowship in Christ to be renewed amongst God's people.  Henry Mahan's free grace Gospel movement is too precious to see it broken up like it has been.  I do appeal for people to start talking, start thinking, and approaching one another again in love without compromising on Gospel truth.  Thanks for reading!

Part Two of this Article can be read here.