2 Corinthians 5:14
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
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(14) For the love of Christ constraineth us.—The Greek, like the English, admits of two interpretations—Christ’s love for us, or our love for Christ. St. Paul’s uniform use of this and like phrases, however, elsewhere (Romans 5:5; Romans 8:35; 1Corinthians 16:24; 2Corinthians 13:14), is decisive in favour of the former. It was the Apostle’s sense of the love that Christ had shown to him and to all men that was acting as a constraining power, directing every act of every spiritual state to the good of others, restraining him from every self-seeking purpose.

Because we thus judge, that if one died for all.—Better, as expressing the force of the Greek tense, Because we formed this judgment. The form of expression implies that the conviction dated from a given time, i.e., probably, from the hour when, in the new birth of his conversion, he first learnt to know the universality of the love of Christ manifested in His death. Many MSS. omit the “if,” but without any real change of meaning. It is obvious that St. Paul assumes the fact, even if it be stated hypothetically. The thought is the same as in the nearly contemporary passage of Romans 5:15-19, and takes its place among St. Paul’s most unqualified assertions of the universality of the atonement effected by Christ’s death. The Greek preposition does not in itself imply more than the fact that the death was on behalf of all; but this runs up—as we see by comparing Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45, with Mark 14:24, John 15:13—into the thought that the death was, in some very real sense, vicarious: in the place of the death of all men. The sequence of thought involves that meaning here.

Then were all dead.—These strange, mysterious words have received very different interpretations. They cannot be rightly understood without bearing in view what we may call the mystic aspect of one phase of St. Paul’s teaching. We may, perhaps, clear the way by setting aside untenable expositions. (1) They cannot mean, however true the fact may be in itself, that the death of Christ for all showed that all were previously under a sentence of condemnation and of death, for the verb is in the tense which indicates the momentary act of dying, not the state of death. (2) They cannot mean, for the same reason, that all were, before that sacrifice, “dead in trespasses and sins.” (3) They can hardly mean that all men, in and through that death, paid vicariously the penalty of death for their past sins, for the context implies that stress is laid not on the satisfaction of the claims of justice, but on personal union with Christ. The real solution of the problem is found in the line of thought of Romans 5:17-19, 1Corinthians 11:3; 1Corinthians 15:22, as to the relation of Christ to every member of the human family, in the teaching of Romans 6:10, as to the meaning of His death—(“He died unto sin once”). “Christ died for all”—this is the Apostle’s thought—“as the head and representative of the race.” But if so, the race, in its collective unity, died, as He died, to sin, and should live, as He lives, to God. Each member of the race is then only in a true and normal state when he ceases to live for himself and actually lives for Christ. That is the mystic ideal which St. Paul placed before himself and others, and every advance in holiness is, in its measure, an approximation to it.

2 Corinthians


2 Corinthians 5:14

It is a dangerous thing to be unlike other people. It is still more dangerous to be better than other people. The world has a little heap of depreciatory terms which it flings, age after age, at all men who have a higher standard and nobler aims than their fellows. A favourite term is ‘mad.’ So, long ago they said, ‘The prophet is a fool; the spiritual man is mad,’ and, in His turn, Jesus was said to be ‘beside Himself,’ and Festus shouted from the judgment-seat to Paul that he was mad. A great many people had said the same thing about him before, as the context shows. For the verse before my text is: ‘Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.’ Now the former clause can only refer to other people’s estimate of the Apostle. No doubt there were many things about him that gave colour to it. He said that a dead Man had appeared to him and spoken with him. He said that he had been carried up into the third heaven. He had a very strange creed in the judgment of the times. He had abandoned a brilliant career for a very poor one. He was obviously utterly indifferent to the ordinary aims of men. He had a consuming enthusiasm. And so the world explained him satisfactorily to itself by the short and easy method of saying, ‘Insane.’ And Paul explained himself by the great word of my text, ‘The love of Christ constraineth us.’ Wherever there is a life adequately under the influence of Christ’s love the results will be such as an unsympathising world may call madness, but which are the perfection of sober-mindedness. Would there were more such madmen! I wish to try to make one or two of them now, by getting some of you to take for your motto, ‘The love of Christ constraineth us.’

I. Now the first thing to notice is this constraining love.

I need not spend time in showing that when Paul says here ‘The love of Christ,’ he means Christ’s love to him, not his to Christ. That is in accordance with his continual usage of the expression; and it is in accordance with facts. For it is not my love to Jesus, but His love to me, that brings the real moulding power into my life, and my love to Him is only the condition on which the true power acts upon me. To get the fulcrum and the lever which will heave a life up to the heights you have to get out of yourselves.

Now Paul never saw Jesus Christ in this earthly life. Timothy, who is associated with him in this letter, and perhaps is one of the ‘us,’ never saw Him either. The Corinthian believers whom he is addressing had, of course, never seen Him. And yet the Apostle has not the slightest hesitation in taking that great benediction of Christ’s love and spreading it over them all. That love is independent of time and of space; it includes humanity, and is co-extensive with it. Unturned away by unworthiness, unrepelled by non-responsiveness, undisgusted by any sin, unwearied by any, however numerous, foiling of its attempts, the love of Christ, like the great heavens that bend above us, wraps us all in its sweetness, and showers upon us all its light and its dew.

And yet, brethren, I would have you remember that whilst we thus try to paint, in poor, poor words, the universality of that love, we have to remember that it does not partake of the weakness that infects all human affections, which are only strong when they are narrow, and as the river expands it becomes shallow, and loses the force in its flow which it had when it was gathered between straiter banks, so as that a universal charity is almost akin to a universal indifference. But this love that grasps us all, this river that ‘proceedeth from the Throne of God and of the Lamb,’ flows in its widest reaches as deep and as impetuous in its career as if it were held within the narrowest of gorges. For Christ’s universal love is universal only because it is individualising and particular. We love our nation by generalising and losing sight of the individuals. Christ loves the world because He loves every man and woman in it, and His grace enwraps all because His grace hovers over each.

‘The sun whose beams most glorious are

Despiseth no beholder,’

but the rays come straight to each eyeball. Be sure of this: that He who, when the multitude thronged Him and pressed Him, felt the tremulous, timid, scarcely perceptible touch of one woman’s wasted finger on the hem of His garment, holds each of us in the grasp of His love, which is universal, because it applies to each. You and I have each the whole radiance of it pouring down on our heads, and none intercepts the beams from any other. So, brethren, let us each feel not only the love that grasps the world, but the love that empties itself on me.

But there is one more remark that I wish to make in reference to this constraining love of Jesus Christ, and that is, that in order to see and feel it we must take the point of view that this Apostle takes in my text. For hearken how he goes on. ‘The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died, and that He died for all,’ etc. That is to say, the death of Christ for all, which is equivalent to the death of Christ for each, is the great solvent by which the love of God melts men’s hearts, and is the great proof that Jesus Christ loves me, and thee, and all of us. If you strike out that conception you have struck out from your Christianity the vindication of the belief that Christ loves the world. What possible meaning is there in the expression, ‘He died for all?’ How can the fact of His death on a ‘green hill’ outside the gates of a little city in Syria have world-wide issues, unless in that death He bore, and bore away, the sins of the whole world? I know that there have been many-and there are many to-day-who not accepting what seems to me to be the very vital heart of Christianity-viz. the death of Christ for the world’s sin, do yet cherish-as I think illogically-yet do cherish a regard for Him, which puts some of us who call ourselves ‘orthodox,’ and are tepid, to the blush. Thank God! men are often better than their creeds, as well as worse than them. But that fact does not affect what I am saying now, and what I beg you to take for what you find it to be worth, that unless we believe that Jesus Christ died for all, I do not know what claim He has on the love of the world. We shall admire Him, we shall bow before Him, as the very realised ideal of humanity, though how this one Man has managed to escape the taint of the all-pervading evil remains, upon that hypothesis, very obscure. But love Him? No! Why should I? But if I feel that His death had world-wide issues, and that He went down into the darkness in order that He might bring the world into the light, then-and I am sure, on the wide scale and in the long-run only then-will men turn to Him and say, ‘Thou hast died for me, help me to live for Thee.’ Brethren, I beseech you, take care of emptying the death of Christ of its deepest meaning, lest you should thereby rob His character of its chiefest charm, and His name of its mightiest soul-melting power. The love that constraineth is the love that died, and died for all, because it died for each.

II. Now let me ask you to consider the echo of this constraining love.

I said a moment or two ago that Christ’s love to us is the constraining power, and that ours to Him is but the condition on which that power works. But between the two there comes something which brings that constraining love to bear upon our hearts. And so notice what my text goes on to adduce as needful for Christ’s love to have its effect-namely, ‘because we thus judge,’ etc. Then my estimate, my apprehension of the love of Christ must come in between its manifestation and its power to grip, to restrain, to impel me. If I may use such a figure, He stands, as it were, bugle in hand, and blows the sweet strains that are meant to set the echoes flying. But the rock must receive the impact of the vibrations ere it can throw back the thinned echo of the music. Love must be believed and known ere it can be responded to.

Now the only answer and echo that hearts desire is the love of the beloved heart. We all know that in our earthly life. Love is as much a hunger to be loved as the outgoing of my own affection. The two things are inseparable, and there is nothing that repays love but love. Jesus Christ wishes each of us to love Him. If it is true that He loves me, then, intertwisted with the outgoing of His heart towards me is the yearning that my heart may go out towards Him. Dear brethren, this is no pulpit rhetoric, it is a plain, simple fact, inseparable from the belief in Christ’s love-that He wishes you and every soul of man to love Him, and that, whatever else you bring, lip reverence, orthodox belief, apparent surrender, in the assay shop of His great mint all these are rejected, and the only metal that passes the fire is the pure gold of an answering love. Brethren! is that what you bring to Jesus Christ?

Love seeks for love, and our love can only be an echo of His. He takes the beginning in everything. If I am to love Him back again, I must have faith in His love to me. And if that be so, then the true way by which you, imperfect Christian people, can deepen and strengthen your love to Jesus Christ is not so much by efforts to work up a certain warmth of sentiment and glow of affection, as by gazing, with believing eyes of the heart, upon that which kindles your love to Him. If you want ice to melt, put it out into the sunshine, If you want the mirror to gleam, do not spend all your time in polishing it. Carry it where it can catch the ray, and it will flash it back in glory. ‘We love Him because He first loved us.’ Our love is an echo; be sure that you listen for the parent note, and link yourselves by faith with that great love which has come down from Heaven for us all.

But how can I speak about echoes and responses when I know that there are scores of men and women whom a preacher’s words reach who would be ashamed of themselves, and rightly, if they exhibited the same callousness of heart and selfishness of ingratitude to some human, partial benefactor as they are not ashamed to have exhibited all their lives to Jesus Christ. Echo? Yes! your heartstrings are set vibrating fast enough whenever, in the adjoining apartment, an instrument is touched which is tuned to the same key as your heart. Pleasures, earthly aims, worldly gifts, the sweetnesses of human life, all these things set them thrilling, and you can hear the music, but your hearts are not tuned to answer to the note that is struck in ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me.’ The bugle is blown, and there is silence, and no echo, faint and far, comes whispering back. Brethren, we use no one else, in whose love we have any belief, a thousandth part so ill as we use Jesus Christ.

III. Now, lastly, let me say a word about the constraining influence of this echoed love.

Its first effect, if it has any real power in our hearts and lives, will be to change their centre, to decentralise. Look what the Apostle goes on to say: ‘We thus judge that He . . . died for all, that they which live should not live henceforth unto themselves.’ That is the great transformation. Secure that, and all nobleness will follow, and ‘whatsoever things are lovely and of good report’ will come, like doves to their windows, flocking into the soul that has ceased to find its centre in its poor rebellious self. All love derives its power to elevate, refine, beautify, ennoble, conquer, from the fact that, in lower degree, all love makes the beloved the centre, and not the self. Hence the mother’s self-sacrifice, hence the sweet reciprocity of wedded life, hence everything in humanity that is noble and good. Love is the antagonist of selfishness, and the highest type of love should be, and in the measure in which we are under the influence of Christ’s love will be, the self-surrendering life of a Christian man. I know that in saying so I am condemning myself and my brethren. All the same, it is true. The one power that rescues a man from the tyranny of living for self, which is the mother of all sin and ignobleness, is when a man can say ‘Christ is my aim,’ ‘Christ is my object.’ ‘The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ There is no secret of self-annihilation, which is self-transfiguration, and, I was going to say, deification, like that of loving Christ with all my heart because He has loved me so.

Again, let me remind you that, on its lower reaches and levels, we find that all true affection has in it a strange power of assimilating its objects to one another. Just as a man and woman who have lived together for half a century in wedded life come to have the same notions, the same prejudices, the same tastes, and sometimes you can see their very faces being moulded into likeness, so, if I love Jesus Christ, I shall by degrees grow liker and liker to Him, and be ‘changed into the same image, from glory to glory.’

Again, the love constrains, and not only constrains but impels, because it becomes a joy to divine and to do the will of the beloved Christ. ‘My yoke is easy.’ Is it? It is very hard to be a Christian. His requirements are a great deal sterner than others. His yoke is easy, not because it is a lighter yoke, but because it is padded with love. And that makes all service a sacrament, and the surrender of my own will, which is the essence of obedience, a joy.

So, dear friends, we come here in sight of the unique and blessed characteristic of all Christian morality, and of all its practical exhortations, and the Gospel stands alone as the mightiest moulding power in the world, just because its word is ‘love, and do as thou wilt.’ For in the measure of thy love will thy will coincide with the will of Christ. There is nothing else that has anything like that power. We do not want to be told what is right. We know it a great deal better than we practise it. A revelation from heaven that simply told me my duty would be surplusage. ‘If there had been a law that could have given life, righteousness had been by the law.’ We want a life, not a law, and the love of Christ brings the life to us.

And so, dear friends, that life, restrained and impelled by the love to which it is being assimilated, is a life of liberty and a life of blessedness. In the measure in which the love of Christ constrains any man, it makes for him difficulties easy, the impossible possible, the crooked things straight, and the rough places plain. The duty becomes a delight, and self ceases to disturb. If the love of God is shed abroad in a heart, and in the measure in which it is, that heart will be at rest, and a great peace will brood over it. Then the will bows in glad submission, and all the powers arise to joyous service. We are lords of the world and ourselves when we are Christ’s servants for love’s sake; and earth and its good are never so good as when the power of His echoed love rules our lives. Do you know and believe that Christ loves you? Do you know and believe that you had a place in His heart when He hung on the Cross for the salvation of the world? Have you answered that love with yours, kindled by your faith in, and experience of, His? Is His love the overmastering impulse which urges you to all good, the mighty constraint that keeps you back from all evil, the magnet that draws, the anchor that steadies, the fortress that defends, the light that illumines, the treasure that enriches? Is it the law that commands, and the power that enables? Then you are blessed, though people will perhaps say that you are mad, whilst here; and you will be blessed for ever and ever.

5:9-15 The apostle quickens himself and others to acts of duty. Well-grounded hopes of heaven will not encourage sloth and sinful security. Let all consider the judgment to come, which is called, The terror of the Lord. Knowing what terrible vengeance the Lord would execute upon the workers of iniquity, the apostle and his brethren used every argument and persuasion, to lead men to believe in the Lord Jesus, and to act as his disciples. Their zeal and diligence were for the glory of God and the good of the church. Christ's love to us will have a like effect upon us, if duly considered and rightly judged. All were lost and undone, dead and ruined, slaves to sin, having no power to deliver themselves, and must have remained thus miserable for ever, if Christ had not died. We should not make ourselves, but Christ, the end of our living and actions. A Christian's life should be devoted to Christ. Alas, how many show the worthlessness of their professed faith and love, by living to themselves and to the world!For the love of Christ - In this verse, Paul brings into view the principle which actuated him; the reason of his extraordinary and disinterested zeal. That was, that he was influenced by the love which Christ had shown in dying for all people, and by the argument which was furnished by that death respecting the actual character and condition of man (in this verse); and of the obligation of those who professed to be his true friends 2 Corinthians 5:15. The phrase "the love of Christ" (ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ agapē tou Christou) may denote either the love which Christ bears toward us, and which he has manifested, or our love toward him. In the former sense the phrase "the love of God" is used in Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 13:13, and the phrase "love of Christ" in Ephesians 3:14. The phrase is used in the latter sense in John 15:9-10, and Romans 8:35. It is impossible to determine the sense with certainty, and it is only by the view which shall be taken of the connection and of the argument which will in any way determine the meaning. Expositors differ in regard to it. It seems to me that the phrase here means the love which Christ had toward us. Paul speaks of his dying for all as the reason why he was urged on to the course of self-denial which he evinced. Christ died for all. All were dead. Christ evinced his great love for us, and for all, by giving himself to die; and it was this love which Christ had shown that impelled Paul to his own acts of love and self-denial. He gave himself to his great work impelled by that love which Christ had shown; by the view of the ruined condition of man which that work furnished; and by a desire to emulate the Redeemer, and to possess the same spirit which he evinced.

Constraineth us - (συνέχει sunechei). This word (συνέχω sunechō) properly means, to hold together, to press together, to shut up; then to press on, urge, impel, or excite. Here it means, that the impelling, or exciting motive in the labors and self-denials of Paul, was the love of Christ - the love which he had showed to the children of men. Christ so loved the world as to give himself for it. His love for the world was a demonstration that people were dead in sins. And we, being urged by the same love, are prompted to like acts of zeal and self-denial to save the world from ruin.

Because we thus judge - Greek "We judging this;" that is, we thus determine in our own minds, or we thus decide; or this is our firm conviction and belief - we come to this conclusion.

That if one died for all - On the supposition that one died for all; or taking it for granted that one died for all, then it follows that all were dead. The "one" who died for all here is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus. The word "for" (ὑπὲρ huper) means in the place of, instead of; see Philippians 2:13 and 2 Corinthians 5:20. It means that Christ took the place of sinners, and died in their stead; that he endured what was an ample equivalent for all the punishment which would be inflicted if they were to suffer the just penalty of the Law; that he endured so much suffering, and that God by his great substituted sorrows made such an expression of his hatred of sin, as to answer the same end in expressing his sense of the evil of sin, and in restraining others from transgression, as if the guilty were personally to suffer the full penalty of the Law. If this was done, of course, the guilty might be par doned and saved, since all the ends which could be accomplished by their destruction have been accomplished by the substituted sufferings of the Lord Jesus; see the notes on Romans 3:25-26, where this subject is considered at length.

The phrase "for all," (ὑπὲρ πάντων huper pantōn) obviously means for all mankind; for every man. This is an exceedingly important expression in regard to the extent of the atonement which the Lord Jesus made, and while it proves that his death was vicarious, that is, in the place of others, and for their sakes, it demonstrates also that the atonement was general, and had, in itself considered, no limitation, and no particular reference to any class or condition of people; and no particular applicability to one class more than to another. There was nothing in the nature of the atonement that limited it to anyone class or condition; there was nothing in the design that made it, in itself, anymore applicable to one portion of mankind than to another. And whatever may be true in regard to the fact as to its actual applicability, or in regard to the purpose of God to apply it, it is demonstrated by this passage that his death had an original applicability to all, and that the merits of that death were sufficient to save all. The argument in favor of the general atonement, from this passage, consists in the following points:

(1) That Paul assumes this as a matter that was well known, indisputable, and universally admitted, that Christ died for all. He did not deem it necessary to enter into the argument to prove it, nor even to state it formally. It was so well known, and so universally admitted, that he made it a first principle - an elementary position - a maxim on which to base another important doctrine - to wit, that all were dead. It was a point which he assumed that no one would call in question; a doctrine which might be laid down as the basis of an argument, like one of the first principles or maxims in science.

(2) it is the plain and obvious meaning of the expression - the sense which strikes all people, unless they have some theory to support to the contrary; and it requires all the ingenuity which people can ever command to make it appear even plausible, that this is consistent with the doctrine of a limited atonement; much more to make it out that it does not mean all. If a man is told that all the human family must die, the obvious interpretation is, that it applies to every individual. If told that all the passengers on board a steamboat were drowned, the obvious interpretation is, that every individual was meant. If told that a ship was wrecked, and that all the crew perished, the obvious interpretation would be that none escaped. If told that all the inmates of an hospital were sick, it would be understood that there was not an individual that was not sick. Such is the view which would be taken by 999 persons out of 1,000, if told that Christ died for all; nor could they conceive how this could be consistent with the statement that he died only for the elect, and that the elect was only a small part of the human family.

(3) this interpretation is in accordance with all the explicit declarations on the design of the death of the Redeemer. Hebrews 2:9, "that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man;" compare John 3:16, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." 1 Timothy 2:6, "who gave himself a ransom for all." See Matthew 20:28," The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many." 1 John 2:2," and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

(4) the fact also that on the ground of the atonement made by the Redeemer, salvation is offered to all people by God, is a proof that he died for all. The apostles were directed to go "into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature," with the assurance that "he that believeth and is baptized shall he saved;" Mark 16:15-16; and everywhere in the Bible the most full and free offers of salvation are made to all mankind; compare Isaiah 55:1; John 7:37; Revelation 22:17. These offers are made on the ground that the Lord Jesus died for people; John 3:16. They are offers of salvation through the gospel, of the pardon of sin, and of eternal life to be made "to every creature." But if Christ died only for a part, if there is a large portion of the human family for whom he died in no sense whatever; if there is no provision of any kind made for them, then God must know this, and then the offers cannot be made with sincerity, and God is tantalizing them with the offers of that which does not exist, and which he knows does not exist. It is of no use here to say that the preacher does not know who the elect are, and that he is obliged to make the offer to all in order that the elect may be reached. For it is not the preacher only who offers the gospel. It is God who does it, and he knows who the elect are, and yet he offers salvation to all. And if there is no salvation provided for all, and no possibility that all to whom the offer comes should be saved, then God is insincere; and there is no way possible of vindicating his character.

(5) if this interpretation is not correct, and if Christ did not die for all, then the argument of Paul here is a non sequitur, and is worthless. The demonstration that all are dead, according to him is, that Christ died for all. But suppose that he meant, or that he knew, that Christ died only for a part, for the elect, then how would the argument stand, and what would be its force? "Christ died only for a portion of the human race, therefore all are sinners. Medicine is provided only for a part of mankind, therefore all are sick. Pardon is offered to part only, therefore all are guilty." But Paul never reasoned in this way. He believed that Christ died for all mankind, and on the ground of that he inferred at once that all needed such an atonement; that all were sinners, and that all were exposed to the wrath of God. And the argument is in this way, and in this way only, sound. But still it may be asked, What is the force of this argument? How does the fact that Christ died for all, prove that all were sinners, or dead in sin? I:answer:

(a) In the same way that to provide medicine for all, proves that all are sick, or liable to be sick; and to offer pardon to all who are in a prison, proves that all there are guilty. What insult is it to offer medicine to a man in health; or pardon to a man who has violated no law! And there would be the same insult in offering salvation to a man who was not a sinner, and who did not need forgiveness.

(b) The dignity of the sufferer, and the extent of his sufferings, prove that all were under a deep and dreadful load of guilt. Such a being would not have come to die unless the race had been apostate; nor would he have endured so great sorrows unless a deep and dreadful malady had spread over the world. The deep anxiety; the tears; the toils; the sufferings, and the groans of the Redeemer, show what was his sense of the condition of man, and prove that he regarded them as degraded, fallen, and lost. And if the Son of God, who knows all hearts, regarded them as lost, they are lost. He was not mistaken in regard to the character of man, and he did not lay down his life under the influence of delusion and error. If to the view which has been taken of this important passage it be objected that the work of the atonement must have been to a large extent in vain; that it has actually been applied to but comparatively a small portion of the human family, and that it is unreasonable to suppose that God would suffer so great sorrows to be endured for nothing, we may reply:

(1) That it may not have been in vain, though it may have been rejected by a large portion of mankind. There may have been other purposes accomplished by it besides the direct salvation of people. It was doing much when it rendered it consistent for God to offer salvation to all; it is much that God could be seen to be just and yet pardoning the sinner; it was much when his determined hatred of sin, and His purpose to honor His Law, was evinced; and in regard to the benevolence and justice of God to other beings and to other worlds, much, very much was gained, though all the human race had rejected the plan and been lost, and in regard to all these objects, the plan was not in vain, and the sufferings of the Redeemer were not for nothing. But,

(2) It is in accordance with what we see everywhere, when much that God does seems to our eyes, though not to his, to be in vain. How much rain falls on ever sterile sands or on barren rocks, to our eyes in vain! What floods of light are poured each day on barren wastes, or untraversed oceans, to our eyes in vain! How many flowers shed forth their fragrance in the wilderness, and 'waste their sweetness on the desert air," to us apparently for nothing! How many pearls lie useless in the ocean; how much gold and silver in the earth; how many diamonds amidst rocks to us unknown, and apparently in vain! How many lofty trees rear their heads in the untraversed wilderness, and after standing for centuries fall on the earth and decay, to our eyes in vain! And how much medicinal virtue is created by God each year in the vegetable world that is unknown to man, and that decays and is lost without removing any disease, and that seems to be created in vain! And how long has it been before the most valuable medicines have been found out, and applied to alleviating pain, or removing disease! Year after year, and age after age, they existed in a suffering world, and people died perhaps within a few yards of the medicine which would have relieved or saved them, but it was unknown, or if known disregarded. But times were coming when their value would he appreciated, and when they would be applied to benefit the sufferer. So with the plan of salvation. It may be rejected, and the sufferings of the Redeemer may seem to have been for nothing. But they will yet be of value to mankind; and when the time shall come for the whole world to embrace the Saviour, there will be found no lack of sufficiency in the plan of redemption, and in the merits of the Redeemer to save all the race.


14. For—Accounting for his being "beside himself" with enthusiasm: the love of Christ towards us (in His death for us, the highest proof of it, Ro 5:6-8), producing in turn love in us to Him, and not mere "terror" (2Co 5:11).

constraineth us—with irresistible power limits us to the one great object to the exclusion of other considerations. The Greek implies to compress forcibly the energies into one channel. Love is jealous of any rival object engrossing the soul (2Co 11:1-3).

because we thus judge—literally, "(as) having judged thus"; implying a judgment formed at conversion, and ever since regarded as a settled truth.

that if—that is, that since. But the oldest manuscripts omit "if." "That one died for all (Greek, 'in behalf of all')." Thus the following clause will be, "Therefore all (literally, 'the all,' namely, for whom He 'died') died." His dying is just the same as if they all died; and in their so dying, they died to sin and self, that they might live to God their Redeemer, whose henceforth they are (Ro 6:2-11; Ga 2:20; Col 3:3; 1Pe 4:1-3).

The love of Christ signifieth either that love towards the sons of men which was in Christ before the foundation of the world; for even then (as Solomon telleth us, Proverbs 8:31) he was rejoicing in the habitable part of the earth, and his delight was with the sons of men: which love showed itself in time, in his coming and assuming our natures, and dying upon the cross for us; John 15:13: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Or else it signifieth that habit of love to Christ, which is in every believer; for it is true of either of these, that they constrain a believer’s soul.

Because (saith the apostle) we thus account, or reason, that if one died for all. All here is interpreted according to the various notions of men, about the extent of the death of Christ. Some by the term understanding all individuals; some, all the elect, or all those that should believe in Christ; others, some of all nations, Jews or Gentiles. Be it as it will, that point is not to be determined by this universal particle, which is as often in Scripture used in a restrained sense, as in a more general sense. The apostle here concludeth,

that if one died for all, then were all dead; which is to be understood of a spiritual death, as Ephesians 2:1. And the apostle’s argument dependeth upon this, that if all, for whom Christ died, had not been dead in sin, there then had been no need of his dying for to expiate their sin, and to redeem them from the guilt and power of it; but be they what they would, for whom Christ died, whether all individuals, or all the elect only, his dying for them was a manifest evidence that they were dead.

For the love of Christ constraineth us,.... Or "containeth us"; holds and keeps us in our station and duty, as soldiers are held and kept together under a banner, or ensign displayed; to which the church refers, when she says, "his banner over me was love", Sol 2:4. Nothing more effectually keeps ministers, or other believers, in the work and service of their Lord, or more strongly obliges and constrains them to a cheerful discharge of their duty to him, and one another, than his love displayed in his covenant engagements, in his assumption of human nature, and particularly in his dying for them, which is the instance given in the text:

because we thus judge; having well weighed, and maturely considered the affair,

that if one died for all, then were all dead; or "seeing one died for all"; for it is rather an assertion than a supposition, upon which the apostle reasons. The person designed, who died for all, is Jesus Christ, though not mentioned, and is to be supplied from the former clause. The doctrine of Christ's dying for men was well known, so that there was no need to mention his name; he is called "one", in distinction to the "all" he died for, and as exclusive of all others, he being sufficient of himself to answer the ends of his death; and therefore is to be looked unto, and believed on, alone for salvation, and to have all the glory of it. The manner of his dying is for, or in the room and stead of all; so that he died not merely as a martyr, or by way of example, or only for their good, but as their substitute, in their room and stead, having all the sins of his people upon him, for which he made satisfaction; and this the nature of his death shows, which was a sacrifice, a ransom, a propitiation and atonement. The persons for whom Christ died are all; not every individual of mankind, but all his people, all his sheep, all the members of his church, or all the sons he, as the great Captain of salvation, brings to glory. Wherefore this text does not make for the doctrine of general redemption; for it should be observed, that it does not say that Christ died for "all men", but for "all"; and so, agreeably to the Scriptures, may be understood of all the persons mentioned. Moreover, in the latter part of the text it is said, that those for whom Christ died, for them he rose again; he died for no more, nor for others, than those for whom he rose again: now those for whom he rose again, he rose for their justification; wherefore, if Christ rose for the justification of all men, all would be justified, or the end of Christ's resurrection would not be answered; but all men are not, nor will they be justified, some will be condemned; hence it follows, that Christ did not rise from the dead for all men, and consequently did not die for all men: besides, the "all" for whom Christ died, died with him, and through his death are dead both to the law and sin; and he died for them, that they might live, not to themselves, but to him; neither of which are true of all the individuals of mankind: to which may be added, that the context explains the all of such who are in Christ, are new creatures, are reconciled to God, whose trespasses are not imputed to them, for whom Christ was made sin, and who are made the righteousness of God in him; which cannot be said of all men. The conclusion from hence is,

then were all dead; meaning, either that those for whom Christ died, were dead in Adam, dead in law, dead in trespasses and sins, which made it necessary for him to die for them; otherwise, there would have been no occasion for his death; yet it does not follow from hence, that Christ died for all that are in such a condition; only that those for whom Christ died were dead in this sense, admitting this to be the sense of the passage; though death in sin seems not to be intended, since that all men are dead in sin, would have been a truth, if Christ had died for none; and much less is this an effect, or what follows upon the death of Christ; nor does it capacitate, but renders men incapable of living to Christ: wherefore a mystical death in, and with Christ, seems rather to he meant; and so the Ethiopic version reads it, "in whom everyone is dead". Christ died as the head and representative of his people, and they all died in him, were crucified with him, and through his death became dead to the law, as to its curse and condemnation; and to sin, as to its damning power, being acquitted, discharged, and justified from it; the consequence of which is a deliverance from the dominion of it, whereby they become capable of living to the glory of Christ. The sense of the passage is not, that Christ died for all that were dead, but that all were dead for whom he died; which is true of them, whether in the former, or in the latter sense: the article is anaphorical or relative, as Beza and Piscator observe; and the meaning is, that if Christ died for all, then all "those" were dead for whom he died.

{8} For the love of Christ {l} constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if {m} one died for all, then were all dead:

(8) He continues dismissing all suspicion of desire of estimation and boasting. For the love of Christ, he says, compels us to this, that seeing he died for us all, who were dead when as we lived to ourselves (that is, while we were yet given to these earthly affections) we in like sort should consecrate our whole life which we have received from him, to him. That is, being endued with the Holy Spirit to this end and purpose, that we should meditate upon nothing but that which is heavenly.

(l) Wholly possesses us.

(m) He speaks here of sanctification, by which it comes to pass that Christ lives in us.

2 Corinthians 5:14 f. Paul now proves what was implied in 2 Corinthians 5:13, that his whole working was done not in his own interest (comp. μηκέτι ἑαυτοῖς, 2 Corinthians 5:15), but for God and the brethren; the love of Christ holds him in bounds, so that he cannot proceed or do otherwise. According to Rückert, Paul wishes to give a reason for the εἰ ἐξέστημεν θεῷ. But he thus arbitrarily overleaps the second half of 2 Corinthians 5:13, though this expresses the same thing as the first hal.

ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ] not: the love to Christ (Oecumenius, Beza, Grotius, Mosheim, Heumann, Hofmann, Maier), but: the love of Christ to men (so Chrysostom and most others); for the death of Christ floating before the apostle’s mind is to him the highest act of love (Romans 5:6-7; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:19; Romans 8:35; Romans 8:37); and with Paul generally (not so with John) the genitive of a person with ἀγάπη is always the genitivus subjecti (Romans 5:5; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:35; Romans 8:39; 2 Corinthians 8:24; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Ephesians 2:4; Php 1:9; also 2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3 is not here relevant), while, when the person is the object of love, he expresses this by εἰς (Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:12), and denotes by the genitive only an abstract as object (2 Thessalonians 2:10); in Romans 15:30, τοῦ πνεύμ. is the genitivus originis.

συνέχει ἡμᾶς] cohibet nos, holds us in bounds, so as not to go beyond the limits marked by θεῷ and ὑμῖν, and to follow, possibly, affections and interests of our own. Comp. Calvin (constringere affectus nostros), Loesner, Billroth, Hofmann, Castalio: “tenet nos.” Most, however, follow the Vulgate (urget nos): it urges and drives us.[229] So Emmerling, Vater, Flatt, Schrader, Rückert, Olshausen, Osiander, Neander, and others; also Chrysostom (ΟὐΚ ἈΦΊΗΣΙ ἩΣΥΧΆΖΕΙΝ ΜΕ) and Theodoret (ΠΥΡΠΟΛΟΎΜΕΘΑ). But contrary to the usage of the word, for ΣΥΝΈΧΕΙΝ always expresses that which holds together, confines, and the like, and so may mean press hard, but not urge and drive (Luke 19:43; Luke 8:37, al.; Php 1:23; also Acts 18:5). Comp. Plato, Polit. p. 311 C; Pind. Pyth. i. 37, al.; Philo, Leg. ad Caj. p. 1016 E; also LXX. in Biel and Schleusner, Thes. Ewald: it harasses us, “so that we have no rest except we do everything in it.” Thus συνέχει would revert to the notion of pressing hard, which may be a harassing (Luke 12:50; Wis 17:11, and Grimm’s Handb. in loc.). But this is not given here by the context, as, indeed, that further development of the meaning does not flow from the connectio.

κρίναντας τοῦτο] after we have come to be of the judgment, namely, after our conversion,[230] Galatians 1:16. This judgment contains that, in consequence of which that restraining influence of the love of Christ takes place—the subjective condition of this influenc.

ὅτι εἷς ὑπὲρ πάντων κ.τ.λ.] that one for all, etc. Who is meant by εἷς, is clear from ἡ ἀγάπη τ. Χριστοῦ, and was known to all the hearts of the readers; hence there is the less ground for breaking up the simple sentence, and taking εἷς ὑπὲρ πάντων as in apposition: “because He, one for all, died” (Hofmann). As for ὅτι, it is simplest, although εἰ after ὅτι is not genuine (see the critical remarks), to take it, not as because, but as that, corresponding, according to the usage elsewhere, to the preparatory τοῦτο (Romans 2:3; Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 10:11; Ephesians 5:5, al.); in such a way, however, that ἄρα κ.τ.λ. is likewise included in the dependence on ὅτι, and does not form an independent clause (in opposition to Rückert). For the contents of the judgment as such must lie in ἄρα οἱ πάντες ἀπέθανον, of which the historical fact, εἱς ὑπὲρ πάντ. ἀπέθ., is only the actual presupposition serving as its ground. The way in which the two clauses are marshalled side by side (without εἰ or because) makes the expression more lively, comp. 1 Corinthians 10:17. Hence it is to be translated: that one died for all, consequently they all died, i.e. consequently in this death of the one the death of all was accomplished, the ethical death, namely, in so far as in the case of all the ceasing of the fleshly life, of the life in sin (which ethical dying sets in subjectively through fellowship of faith with the death of Christ), is objectively, as a matter of fact, contained in the death of the Lord. When Christ died the redeeming death for all (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:21), all died, in respect of their fleshly life, with Him (Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι, Galatians 2:19; ἀπεθάνετε, Colossians 3:3); this objective matter of fact which Paul here affirms has its subjective realization in the faith of the individuals, through which they have entered into that death-fellowship with Christ given through His death for all, so that they have now, by means of baptism, become συνταφέντες αὐτῷ (Colossians 2:12). Comp. Romans 6:4. Here[231] also, as in all passages where ὙΠΈΡ is used of the atoning death (see on Romans 5:6; Galatians 3:13), it is not equivalent to ἈΝΤΊ (comp. on 2 Corinthians 5:21), for which it is taken by most commentators, including Flatt, Emmerling, Rückert, Olshausen, de Wette, Usteri, Osiander, Gess, Baur, Maier, but: for the sake of all, for their benefit, to expiate their sins (2 Corinthians 5:192 Corinthians 5:14-16. IT IS NOT THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST IN HIS EARTHLY LIFE, BUT THE LOVE WHICH CHRIST HAS FOR MAN THAT IS THE CONSTRAINING POWER OF PAUL’S PREACHING.

14. For the love of Christ constraineth us] i.e. the love which Christ has not only displayed, but imparted (De Wette). He refers to Romans 8:35; Ephesians 3:19 (which however must be read in the light of 2 Corinthians 5:17-18). The word translated constrain signifies to coop up, keep within narrow bounds. Cf. Luke 12:50, where the same word occurs. It is also used by St Luke of diseases, as in Luke 4:38; Acts 28:8, and of a multitude crowding, as in Luke 8:45. Here it means ‘prevents us from doing anything but serve you for Christ’s sake.’

because we thus judge] Not merely equivalent to think, but strictly judge, i.e. form an opinion upon sufficient evidence.

that if one died for all, then were all dead] Most modern editors omit the ‘if,’ which is not contained in any of the best MSS. nor versions (except the Vulgate), and render thus, ‘That one died for all: therefore all died, not ‘were dead’ as in the A. V. The meaning of the Apostle would seem to be not that all men were dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore needed one to die for them, but that the death of Christ, Who had taken upon Himself to represent mankind before His Father’s throne, was in a sense a death of all mankind (οἱ πάντες—all collectively. Wordsworth). “What Christ did for Humanity was done by Humanity.” Robertson. Cf. Romans 6:6; Romans 6:10; Romans 7:4; Romans 7:6 (margin); Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20-22; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10. Also Galatians 2:19-20,‘I through law died to law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ.’

2 Corinthians 5:14. Γὰρ, for) The same sentiment is found at 2 Corinthians 11:1-2; but greatly augmented in force of expression; for he says here, we have acted without moderation [whether we be beside ourselves] and the love of Christ, etc., there, in my folly and I am jealous.—ἀγάπη) love, mutual: not only fear: 2 Corinthians 5:11, the love of Christ, viz., toward us, in the highest degree, and consequently also our love towards Him [That, which the apostle in this passage calls love, which may perhaps seem to go beyond bounds, he afterwards calls jealousy, which may be roused by fear even to folly, 2 Corinthians 11:1-3.—V. g.]—συνέχει, constrains [‘distinet’ keeps us employed]) that we may endeavour to approve ourselves both to God and you.

Verse 14. - The love of Christ. It matters little whether this be interpreted as a subjective genitive, "Christ's love to man," or as an objective genitive, our love to Christ;" for the two suppose and interfuse each other. St. Paul's usage, however, favours the former interpretation (2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 Corinthians 16:24). Constraineth. The word means that it compresses us, and therefore keeps us irresistibly to one object (Luke 12:50). That if one died for all, then were all dead. This is an unfortunate mistranslation and wrong reading for that one died for all, therefore all died. What compels Paul to sacrifice himself to the work of God for his converts is the conviction, which he formed once for all at his conversion, that One, even Christ, died on behalf of all men (Romans 5:15-19) a redeeming death (ver. 21); and that, consequently, in that death, all potentially died with him - died to their life of sin, and rose to the life of righteousness. The best comments on this bold and concentrated phrase are - "I died to the Law that I might live to Christ;" "I have been crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:19, 20); and, "Ye died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). When Christ died, all humanity, of which he was the federal Head, died potentially with him to sin and selfishness, as he further shows in the next verse. 2 Corinthians 5:14The love of Christ

Christ's love to men. See on 1 John 2:5.

Constraineth (συνέχει)

See on taken, Luke 4:38; see on Acts 18:5. It is the word rendered I am in a strait, Philippians 1:23. Compare Luke 12:50. The idea is not urging or driving, but shutting up to one line and purpose, as in a narrow, walled road.

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