Pristine Grace

What Does Made Sin Actually Mean?
Part 2 of 4
by Brandan Kraft

August 9, 2019

What Does Made Sin Actually Mean?

Note:  You can read part one of this article here.  You can read part three of this article here.

     I've still been thinking about the "made sin" controversy.  I've received some feedback on my last article, but mostly not much of a response.  I want to get to the bottom of this and clarify even further what I think really is going on.

     Joe Terrell has written an article that I believe represents well the "more than imputation camp."  I want to go through it, dissect it, and add my comments.   I want to honestly review it and show that the made sin camp is not preaching another Gospel.  I believe personalities and people following is getting in the way.  And the alliances and disagreements about people have all been distorted or clouded by a doctrinal issue.  My goal here is to help remove barriers to fellowship for some folks and I hope and pray to see Henry Mahan's free grace movement come back together.

     My premise is that folks are mostly in one of two camps.  The two camps are as follows:

  1. The phrase made sin in 2 Cor. 5:21 encompasses the full atonement.  This includes Christ taking on the burden or guilt on the cross.  It involves the full suffering and the full weight of sin including the guilt and shame of the sin of His people. I call this the made sin camp. You might hear some of them say in response to camp number 2 that imputation is legal fiction.  They might have a point if folks in the imputation only camp didn't believe Christ suffered and died because of sin.  
  2. The phrase made sin in 2 Cor. 5:21 only encompasses the estimation or the imputation of sin to Christ.  This is not legal fiction, but imputaton did result in Christ suffering the full weight of sin including the guilt and shame of the sin of His people.  Imputation is real.  I call this the imputation only camp.  Many folks in this camp accuse those in made sin camp of believing that Christ's being was polluted with sin in its very essence.  That is they believe folks in the made sin camp believe Christ became an actual sinner on the cross.  

     There is a third camp that actually does believe made sin refers to the Christ being polluted with the actual rebellion of His people.  I don't really know anyone that holds to this.  And if that's the case, why are the free grace churches split?  God has His reasons.  Are folks really divided over the meaning of made sin?  Whether made sin really encompasses the full atonement, or is speaking of imputation only (which results in the full atonement), isn't this needlessly splitting hairs? 

Joe Terrell's Article

     You can read Joe Terrell's article on Christ being made sin in its entirety here: He Has Made Him Sin

     I will dissect it line by line.

Joe Terrell: The Lord Jesus being made sin for us must extend beyond the idea of the imputation of our sin to Him.

     I disagree.  The phrase made sin doesn't have to extend beyond the idea of impution only.  I would say that the atonement does though.  So the question is, does the phrase made sin mean the atonement, or only God's estimation?  

We would never be made the righteousness of God in Christ as a result of His being merely charged with our sin.

     Again, it all depends on what the word "made" means.  I do disagree strongly with the words merely charged.  To be charged with sin means that the consequences of that sin will be brought to fruition.

No, He must also suffer for those sins. He must not merely bear our sins, but must bear them on the tree of curse and punishment. To bear the sins of someone else and suffer in their place is the very definition of a sin offering, so we understand Paul to mean that the sinless Christ was made a sin offering for sinful us.

     I agree with that!  Yes, Christ had to suffer for those sins.  Notice that Joe uses the words sinless Christ?

Nor is our being made the righteousness of God in Christ merely an act of imputation. In the case of our being “made” the righteousness of God, the word signifies a change in the very essence of a thing.

     Again, I disagree.  I fall in the imputation only camp.  But this disagreement isn't based on the results of imputation and the atonement.  It's simply a disagreement on the scope of the phrase made sin or made righteous.

In being made a sin offering, Christ’s status before God was changed, as the word signifies; but His essence remained unchanged.

    BOOM!  There ya go!  That is the quote that both camps were looking for.  Do you notice something here?  Joe is not impugning our Lord with rebellion and sinfulness.  He is saying what I believe.  Christ remained the Lamb without spot.

But, in being made the righteousness of God, our very essence is changed. Christ’s sacrificial death did not make us the righteousness of God in Him, but opened the door to the other works of God’s grace which do, indeed, make us the righteousness of God. Christ’s work for us made possible God’s work in us. Thus, beginning with the New Birth and finishing with our glorification to be like Christ, we are quite literally made into something different from what we were at our natural birth: our nature is changed by God.

     There is a lot to take in here... But overall, I really don't disagree that all of this happens.  Now do I believe the phrase "made the righteousness of God" means this?  Not really.  But I do believe that this statement is true (if taken out of context).  I don't believe any doors were really opened in God's estimation either.  But I do believe that believers are given new life in Christ when they believe.  I also believe that they will become impeccable saints when they are taken home in glory.  And it is true, we are quite litterally made into something different from what we were at our natural birth.  We do have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and God's law has been written on our hearts!  

     When in glory, we shall not be righteous only by a legal act of imputation, but we shall be essentially righteous, even as the Lord Jesus Christ is righteous. And even now, the born again child of God possesses a new nature called spirit – the restored image of God – which is flawless in every respect. It is the beginning of the New Creation and bears the image of the One Who made it. It is incapable of sinning, for it is the offspring of its Perfect Creator. The child of God – who still finds no good thing in his flesh – is yet flawless in his spirit; and in those things the spirit does, he acts without sin. - Joe Terrell

     Again, I agree with the general premise of this statement!  I'm just not sure the phrase made the righteousness encompasses all of this.  And you know what?  I don't think it matters all that much!  Seriously brothers and sisters, if we are going to break fellowship over semantics, we're hurting ourselves.

My Challenge To You!

     If you find yourself in the imputation only camp, I challenge you to read and really listen what the other camp is saying.  Are they truly saying that Christ was infused with our sinfulness and intimately knew our rebellion?  

     And if you find yourself in the made sin camp, I challenge you to read and really listen to what the other camp is saying.  Are they truly saying that Christ was just charged with the sins of His people, but didn't truly suffer or bear their guilt and shame in the atonement?  

     There are good brothers and sisters sitting in each of these camps.  They are all sitting under preachers that are disagreeing about the scope of the phrase made sin, but essentially believe the same truth.  They believe the same Gospel.  And they love the same Savior.  If you are unsure, just ask them if they agree with Gary Shepard's Article: He Offered Himself Without Spot to God.  Please, I appeal to you, don't cut yourself off from them over semantics and the clouded personality alliances.  Take time to listen and judge righteously.  

     Grace and Peace,

You can read part three of this article here.