Paul’s Motives - Page 4 of 5 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)
by John Lowe
But Paul never reasoned in this way. He believed that Christ died for all mankind, and on the ground of that opinion he inferred 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?” The answer is clearly stated in the following points:
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 an insult it would be to offer medicine to a healthy man; 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, who was none other than the Son of God, 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 such great sorrows unless a deep and dreadful malady had spread over the world. The deep anxiety; the tears; the toil; the sufferings, and the groans of the Redeemer, show what his sense of the condition of man was, 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 the objection to the view which has been taken of this important passage is that the work of the atonement must have been to a large extent in vain; that it has actually been applied to a comparatively small portion of the human family, and that it is unreasonable to suppose that God would endure such suffering and great sorrows for nothing, we may reply:
i) 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 important that it has been rendered consistent with God’s nature to offer salvation to all; it is significant that God could be seen to be just and yet pardoning the sinner; it was meaningful when his determined hatred of sin, and His purpose to honor His Law, was revealed; and in regard to the benevolence and justice of God, it is significant that, though most of the human race had rejected the plan and been lost, the plan was not in vain, and the sufferings of the Redeemer were not for nothing.
ii) 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 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 it is 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.
A legitimate question at this point is “Who are the elect?” or “How do I know if I am one of God’s elect?” My answer is simply this, “If you are saved, then you are one of His elect. If you are not saved, you may or may not be one of His elect. But if you desire to be saved, as Cornelius did, you are probably His elect and the Holy Spirit will eventually bring you to have faith in Him, and you will rejoice, and I will join you, and the angels in heaven will rejoice.
Then all died
All were dead in sin; that is, all were sinners. The fact that he died for all proves that all were transgressors. The word "dead" is frequently used in the Scriptures to denote the condition of sinners. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). It doesn’t mean that sinners are in all senses, and in all respects like a lifeless corpse, for they are not. They are still moral agents, and have a conscience, and are capable of thinking, and speaking, and acting. It does not mean that they have no more power than one in the grave, for they have plenty of power. But it means that there is a striking similarity, in some respects, between one who is dead and a sinner. That similarity does not extend to everything, but in many respects it is very striking, as shown by the following points:
(1) The sinner is as oblivious to the glories of the heavenly world, and the appeals of the gospel, as a corpse is to what is going on around or above it. The body that lies in the grave is unaware of the voice of friendship, and the mesmerizing effect of music, and the hum of business, and the plans of affluence and ambition; and so the sinner is insensitive to all the glories of the heavenly world, and to all the appeals that are made to him, and to all the warnings of God. He lives as though there is no heaven and no hell; no God and no Saviour.
(2) There is need of the same divine power to convert a sinner which is needful to raise up the dead. However, the same cause does not exist, therefore, the existence of that power is unnecessary, but it is a fact that a sinner will no more be converted by his own power than a dead man will rise from the grave by his own power. No man has ever been converted without direct divine intervention, any more than Lazarus was raised without the direct command of Christ. And there is no more just or sad description which can be given to a man, than to say that he is dead in sins. He is insensitive to all the appeals that God makes to him; he is insensitive to all the sufferings of the Saviour, and to all the glories of heaven; he lives as though these did not exist, or as though he is not at all concerned about them; his eyes see no more beauty in them than the sightless eyeballs of the dead do in the material world; his ear is as inattentive to the calls of God and the gospel as the ear of the dead is to the voice of friendship or the charms of music; and in a world that is full of God, and that might be full of hope, he is living without God and without hope.
15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
And He died for all
This verse is aimed at explaining the reasons for the apostle’s conduct. He had not lived for himself. He had not lived to amass wealth, or to enjoy pleasure, or to obtain a reputation. He had lived a life of self-denial, and of toil; and he here states the reason why he had done it. It was because he felt that the great purpose of the death of the Redeemer was to obtain this result. To that Saviour, therefore, who died for all, he consecrated his talents and his time, and sought in every way possible to promote His glory.