27 February, 2017

II Corinthians 5:14-15—“… he died for all …”

For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is new creature: old things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:14-19).

For various reasons, this text has been used to support the idea of a death of Christ for absolutely all men that have ever existed, head for head, bar none, in distinction from (or even parallel to) the Reformed doctrine of Limited Atonement, which teaches that Christ died for the elect only.


Arthur W. Pink

[Source: The Sovereignty of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1984), pp. 67-68]

In 2 Cor. 5:14 we read, “One died for all.” But that is not all this Scripture affirms. If the entire verse and passage from which these words are quoted be carefully examined, it will be found that instead of teaching an unlimited atonement, it emphatically argues a limited design in the death of Christ. The whole verse reads, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead.” It should be pointed out that in the Greek there is the definite article before the last “all,” and that the verb here is in the aorist tense, and therefore should read, “We thus judge: that if One died for all, then they all died.” The apostle is here drawing a conclusion as is clear from the words “we thus judge, that if … then were.” His meaning is, that those for whom the One died are regarded, judicially, as having died too. The next verse goes on to say, “And He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” The One not only died but “rose again,” and so, too, did the “all” for whom He died, for it is here said they “live.” Those for whom a substitute acts are legally regarded as having acted themselves. In the sight of the law the substitute and those whom he represents are one. So it is in the sight of God. Christ was identified with His people and His people were identified with Him, hence when He died they died (judicially) and when He rose they rose also. But further we are told in this passage (v. 17), that if any man be in Christ he is a new creation; he has received a new life in fact as well as in the light of the law, hence the “all” for whom Christ died are here bidden to live henceforth no more unto themselves, “but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” In other words, those who belonged to this “all” for whom Christ died, are here exhorted to manifest practically in their daily lives what is true of them judicially: they are to “live unto Christ who died for them.” Thus the “One died for all” is defined for us. The “all” for which Christ died are the they which “live,” and which are here bidden to live “unto Him.” This passage then teaches three important truths, and the better to show its scope we mention them in their inverse order: certain ones are here bidden to live no more unto themselves but unto Christ; the ones thus admonished are “they which live,” that is live spiritually, hence, the children of God, for they alone of mankind possess spiritual life, all others being dead in trespasses and sins; those who do thus live are the ones, the “all,” the “them,” for whom Christ died and rose again. This passage therefore teaches that Christ died for all His people, the elect, those given to Him by the Father; that as the result of His death (and rising again “for them”) they “live”—and the elect are the only ones who do thus “live;” and this life which is theirs through Christ must be lived “unto Him,” Christ’s love must now “constrain” them.



Louis Berkhof

[Source: Systematic Theology (Banner of Truth, 2005), pp. 67-68]

Closely related to the passages to which we referred in the preceding, are those in which it is said that Christ died for all men, Rom. 5:18; I Cor. 15:22; II Cor. 5:14; I Tim. 2:4, 6; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:9; II Pet. 3:9. Naturally, each of these passages must be considered in the connection in which it is found. For instance, the context clearly shows that the “all” or “all men” of Rom. 5:18, and I Cor. 15:22 includes only those who are in Christ, as contrasted with all who are in Adam. If the word “all” in these passages is not interpreted in a limited sense, they would teach, not merely that Christ made salvation possible for all men, but that He actually saves all without exception. Thus the Arminian would again be forced into the camp of the absolute Universalist, where he does not want to be. A similar limitation must be applied in the interpretation of II Cor. 5:14, and Heb. 2:9, cf. verse 10. Otherwise they would prove too much, and therefore prove nothing. In all these passages the “all” are simply all those who are in Christ. In the case of Tit. 2:11, which speaks of the appearance of the grace of God, “bringing salvation to all men,” the context clearly shows that “all men” really means all classes of men. If the “all” is not restricted, this passage too would teach universal salvation. The passages in I Tim. 2:4-6, Heb. 2:9; II Pet. 3:9 refer to the revealed will of God that both Jews and Gentiles should be saved, but imply nothing as to the universal intent of the atonement. Even Moses Stuart, who believes in universal atonement, admits that in these cases the word “all” cannot be taken in a universal sense.



Robert L. Reymond

[Source: A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), p. 678]

All those for whom Christ died are said in Scripture, by virtue of their spiritual union with him, to have died with Christ and to have risen with him to newness of life (Rom. 6:5-11; 2 Cor. 5:14-15). This definitive breach with the old life of sin affords the basis for the inevitable experiential and progressive sanctification which flows out of that same union with Christ (Rom. 6:14, 17-22). But neither Scripture, history, nor Christian experience justifies the conclusion that all mankind in actual fact have lived, do live, or shall live out their lives as victors over the power of sin by virtue of and in the power of that union with Christ of which the Scriptures speak. This victory may be ascribed only to believers in Christ, only to “saints” who “died with him and rose with him to newness of life” (Rom. 6:2-4), who “no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them” (2 Cor. 5:15). Accordingly, it follows that the “all” for whom Christ savingly died are equivalent to God’s elect, Christ’s “saints,” that is, his church, and must be restricted in our thinking to the same.9


9. See John Murray, Redemption—Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1955), 69-71.



More to come! (DV)

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