I think 2 Corinthians 5:21 has been a greatly misunderstood text. Most translations read something like this:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21; NIV)
The problem immediately arises: What does it mean that Jesus was made to be sin? How can a person be made sin? Perhaps more importantly, how can the perfect Son of God be made sin? Unfortunately, none of the major translations were willing to add the implied words (though a few versions have the implication noted in their margins). But the New Living Translation renders this verse properly:
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (NLT)
Notice the word “offering” is added by the NLT. God made Christ to be the sin offering for our sins so that we could be made right with God. This makes the most sense of the text and fits the New Testament teaching that Jesus was the lamb of God offered up for our sins.
But is it okay for the word “offering” to be added? Has the NLT done something wrong? No, because all of the translations add this word “offering” or “sacrifice” in the letter to the Hebrews.
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.’”
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). (Hebrews 10:6-8; NIV)
I have italicized the word “offerings” in verses 6 and 8 (as the NASB does) because the word is not actually there in the manuscripts. It was added by the translators because it is understood. The addition makes better sense of the text. Verse 6 literally says, “with burnt offerings and sin you were not pleased.” The same is true in verse 8, which literally says, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings, and sin you did not desire….” The word “offerings” is added in all major translations in Hebrews 10:6,8, but not in 2 Corinthians 5:21.
The NLT is correct. Paul’s argument in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is that God made the perfect and innocent Jesus a sacrifice for sins so that humanity could be reconciled to God.