on 2-corinthians 5 :14
For the love of Christ constraineth us - We have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, and this causes us to love God intensely, and to love and labor for the salvation of men. And it is the effect produced by this love which συνεχει ἡμας, bears us away with itself, which causes us to love after the similitude of that love by which we are influenced; and as God so loved the world as to give his Son for it, and as Christ so loved the world as to pour out his life for it, so we, influenced by the very same love, desire to spend and be spent for the glory of God, and the salvation of immortal souls. By the fear of God the apostles endeavored to persuade and convince men, and the love of Christ constrained them so to act.
If one died for all, then were all dead - The first position the apostle takes for granted; viz. that Jesus Christ died for All mankind. This no apostolic man nor primitive Christian ever did doubt or could doubt.
The second position he infers from the first, and justly too; for if all had not been guilty, and consigned to eternal death because of their sins there could have been no need of his death. Therefore, as he most certainly died for All, then all were dead, and needed his sacrifice, and the quickening power of his Spirit.
on 2-corinthians 5 :14
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.
on 2-corinthians 5 :14
5:14 For the love of Christ - To us, and our love to him. Constraineth us - Both to the one and the other; beareth us on with such a strong, steady, prevailing influence, as winds and tides exert when they waft the vessel to its destined harbour. While we thus judge, that if Christ died for all, then are all, even the best of men, naturally dead - In a state of spiritual death, and liable to death eternal. For had any man been otherwise, Christ had not needed to have died for him.