Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Response To Catholic Nick On Imputation And 2 Corinthians 5:21

  • Discussion:
           -A blogger named Catholic Nick wrote an article titled Is imputation taught in 2 Corinthians 5:21?, which is an attempt to refute the standard "Protestant" interpretation of that text. We begin this critique with a quote from the author:

           "First, the text does not suggest we become righteousness in the same way Jesus becomes sin, i.e. by a double imputation, because Paul uses two different Greek words here, "made [sin]" and "become [righteousness]."

           Just because someone references Greek, does not mean that his or her argument is convincing. The author does not provide a reason why the two different words necessarily rule out imputation.

           If Roman Catholic infusion is correct, then should we conclude based on 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ("Christ was made sin") that the essence of Jesus was corrupted? Was evil infused into Christ?

           "Second, the curious phrase "made sin for us" cannot be presumed to include Christ's perfect obedience to the Law, especially since the Protestant says this phrase refers specifically to having our sins imputed to Christ."

           What does it mean to say that Christ was made sin for us? Dr. Ron Rhodes has some pertinent observations here:

            "In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the phrase “on our behalf” (“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf ”) derives from the Greek term huper. This word can bear a number of nuances, not all of them substitutionary in nature. As professor Daniel Wallace has noted in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, however, there are a number of factors that argue in favor of a substitutionary use of the word in New Testament times. For example, the substitutionary sense of huper is found in extra-New Testament Greek literature (see, e.g., Plato, Republic 590a; Xenophon, Anabasis 7.4.9–10), the Septuagint (e.g., Deut. 24:16; Isa. 43:3–4), and in the papyri (e.g., Oxyrhyn chus Papyrus 1281.11–12; Tebtunis Papyrus 380.43–44).7 One papyri example relates to a scribe who wrote a document on behalf of a person who did not know how to write. In all, Wallace counts 87 examples from the papyri in which huper is used in a substitutionary sense, and this by no means exhausts the extant papyri data. Wallace thus concludes that “this evidence is over whelming in favor of treating huper as bearing a substitutionary force in the NT era.”8 The Friberg Greek Lexicon likewise affirms that the word is used “with a component of representation or substitution in the place of, for, in the name of, instead of.”9

            Christ’s death, as the Lamb of God, was “for” (huper) us in the sense that it was on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21). The word is used in this same on-behalf-of sense elsewhere in Scripture. Jesus at the Last Supper said: “This is My body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19, emphasis added here and in the verses that follow). Likewise, in John 10:15 Jesus affirmed, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” Paul thus exults that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8; see also Gal. 3:13; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9). Jesus “gave Himself for us to redeem us” (Titus 2:14), “the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18; see also 2:21). The idea of substitution richly permeates these verses."

           "Third, the Bible never speaks of imputing sin from a sinner onto an innocent substitute, such that guilt is transferred from one person to another, so to say “made sin” refers to imputation has no Biblical basis whatsoever. Thus, Christ being “made sin” must be assumed to refer to something other than imputation."

           This point is rather weak considering the background of the Old Testament sacrificial system, which is all about the transfer of guilt. Look at Genesis 22, Leviticus 16, and Exodus 12. In all three cases, there is an innocent substitute. The lamb died in the place of a person, etc. It does not require a genius to properly understand these passages.

           The very idea of forgiveness (not counting people's trespasses against them) is legal in nature.

           "Fourth, the meaning of “made sin” need not only refer to Imputation or Infusion, for that’s a false dilemma fallacy. The Church Fathers shed valuable light on what “made sin” refers to."

           The meaning of 2 Corinthians 5:21 is crystal clear. Jesus took our sin and gave to us His righteousness. We do not deserve His righteousness, anymore than He deserved to bear our punishment. That is the legal, binding transaction which takes place in the court of God. He has voluntarily paid an infinite sin debt on our behalf because of His love for us. He saved us because He is gracious. He is our sin offering.

           "Fifth, the context clearly explains the goal of God the Father sending His Son was to bring about our reconciliation, thus undermining the whole presumed forensic-imputation theme Protestants project onto verse 21."

           Why would a context speaking of reconciliation with God be inconsistent with a forensic-imputation theme? If we are to be reconciled with God, it requires the questions of sin, righteousness, and judgement to be dealt with (even from a Roman Catholic perspective).

           What is the way that God reconciled us? How did He do it? That is what the Apostle Paul is talking about. Therefore, a forensic-imputation theme completely fits with the flow of Paul's message. He is making the appeal precisely because of the reality of imputation. That is the very reason we may be reconciled to a holy God. So, Catholic Nick's argument with 2 Corinthians 5:21 and imputation does not hold water.

1 comment:

  1. Good job Jesse. Your argument is further corroborated by 1Peter 2:24: "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." 2Cor tells us of the imputation. Peter tells where and when it happened. Isaiah 53 also substantiates your argument as Peter quoted at the end.

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