Paul’s Motives - Page 3 of 5 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;

For the love of Christ
In this verse, Paul brings to the forefront the principle which motivated him; the reason for his extraordinary zeal. That is, that he was influenced by the love which Christ had shown in dying for all people, and by the perspective which was provided by that death with regard to the actual character and condition of man; and of the obligation of those who professed to be His true friends (v. 15). The phrase “the love of Christ” may denote either the love which Christ has for us, and which he has manifested in his sacrificial death, or our love for Him. In the former sense the phrase “the love of God” is used in Romans 5:8{5] and 2 Corinthians 13:13-14{6], and the phrase “love of Christ” in Ephesians 3:19{7]. The phrase is used in the latter sense in John 15:9-10{8], and Romans 8:35{9]. It is impossible to determine the sense in which it is used here with certainty, and it is only through the perspective which one has of Christ’s death and man’s need that we shall 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 compelled to continue to follow the course of self-denial which he exhibited. Christ died for all. All were dead. Christ showed his great love for us, and for all, by giving himself to die a most horrible death; 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 compelled by that love which Christ had shown, and by the view of the ruined condition of man which showed how very necessary that work was; and by a desire to emulate the Redeemer, and to possess the same spirit which he manifested.

Compels us
Compel means to force or drive, especially to a course of action; also to press on, urge, impel, or excite. Here it means, that the impelling, or exciting motive behind the hard work and self-denial of Paul, was the love of Christ—the love which he had showed to men. Christ so loved the world that He gave Himself for it. His love for the world was proof that people were dead in sins. And we, being urged by the same love, are prompted to do similar acts of zeal and self-denial to save the world from ruin.

Because we judge thus
Having well weighed, and maturely considered the facts in the matter, “we judge thus” that is, we have determined in our own minds, or we have decided; or this is our firm conviction and belief—we come to this conclusion.

That if one died for all
Paul is saying, “Taking it for granted, or supposing, that one died for all, then it follows that all were dead.” The "One" who “died for all” is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus. The Greek word rendered "for" means in the place of, instead of. It means that Christ took the place of sinners, and died in their stead; that he endured what was equivalent to all the punishment which would be inflicted if they were to personally suffer the full penalty of the Law. If this was done, of course, the guilty could be pardoned and saved, since all the objectives which could be accomplished by their destruction have been accomplished by the substituted sufferings of the Lord Jesus (Rom. 3:25-26{10]).

The phrase "for all," obviously means for all mankind; for every man. This is an extremely 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 universal and had no limitations with regard to class or condition of people; and was not more applicable to one class more than to another. Paul maintains, in this verse that the merits of that death were sufficient to save everyone. The argument in favor of the general atonement, found in this passage, consists of the following points:
1. That Paul assumes that this principle was well known, indisputable, and universally accepted, that Christ died for all. He did not believe it was necessary to enter into the argument to prove it, or even to state it formally. It was so well known, and so universally accepted that he made it an elementary perception—a precept on which to base another important doctrine—namely, that all were dead. It was a point which he assumed that no one would call into question.
2. That it is the clear and obvious meaning of the expression—the opinion which is held by everyone, unless they have some theory to support the opposing opinion; and it requires all the inventiveness which people can ever command to make it appear even plausible, that this is consistent with the doctrine of a limited atonement, and that the apostle doesn’t really mean “all.” If a man is told that all the passengers on board a cruise ship were drowned, the obvious interpretation is, that every individual was drowned. Such a view 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 consistent with all the revealed and expressed declarations relating to the death of the Redeemer; some of which are shown below:
• Hebrews 2:9—“that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.”
• 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.”
• 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 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 be saved;” (Mark 16:15-16); and everywhere in the Bible the most full and free offers of salvation are made to all mankind; compare the following verses:
• Isaiah 55:1—“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters . . .”
• John 7:37—“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”
• Revelation 22:17—“And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”

These offers are made on the ground that the Lord Jesus died for people (John 3:16{1]). 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 did not die in any 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 enticing them with offers that He doesn’t intend to keep, 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 could be saved, then God is insincere; and there is no possible way to vindicate 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 (a statement containing an illogical conclusion.), and is worthless. The proof 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 could the argument stand, and what weight would the argument have? Imagine, if you will, that Paul had said the following:
• "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."

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