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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:
2Co 5:15 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.

John Owen     Death of Death
Another place is 2Co 5:14,15, "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 that died for them." "Here," say they, "verse 14, you have two alls, which must be both of an equal extent. If all were dead, then Christ died for all,--that is, for as many as were dead. Again; he died for all that must live unto him; but that is the duty of every one in the world: and therefore he died for them all. Farther; that all are all individuals is clear from verse 10, where they are affirmed to be all that must 'appear before the judgment-seat of Christ;' from which appearance not any shall be exempted."

Taking the words, as to this particular, in the sense of some of our adversaries, yet it doth not appear from the texture of the apostle's arguing that the two alls of verse 14 are of equal extent. He doth not say that Christ died for all that were dead; but only, that all were dead which Christ died for: which proves no more than this, that all they for whom Christ died for were dead, with that kind of death of which he speaks. The extent of the words is to be taken from the first all, and not the latter. The apostle affirms so many to be dead as Christ died for; not that Christ died for so many as were dead. This the words plainly teach us: "If he died for all, then were all dead,"--that is, all he died for; so that the all that were dead can give no light to the extent of the all that Christ died for, being merely regulated by this. 2. That all and every one are morally bound to live unto Christ, virtute praecepti, we deny; only they are bound to live to him to whom he is revealed,--indeed only they who live by him, that have a spiritual life in and with him: all others are under previous obligations. 3. It is true, all and every one must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ,--he is ordained to be judge of the world; but that they are intended, verse 10 of this chapter, is not true. The apostle speaks of us all, all believers, especially all preachers of the gospel; neither of which all men are. Notwithstanding, then, any thing that hath been said, it no way appears that by all here is meant any but the elect of God, all believers; and that they only are intended I prove by these following reasons, drawn from the text:--

First, The resurrection of Christ is here conjoined with his death: "He died for them, and rose again." Now, for whomsoever Christ riseth, he riseth for their "justification," Rom 4:25; and they must be justified, chap. 8:34. Yea, our adversaries themselves have always confessed that the fruits of the resurrection of Christ are peculiar to believers.

Secondly, He speaks only of those who, by, virtue of the death of Christ, "live unto him," verse 15; who are "new creatures," verse 1 7; "to whom the Lord imputeth not their trespasses," verse 19; who "become the righteousness of God in Christ," verse 21;--which are only believers. All do not attain hereunto.

Thirdly, The article joined with all; evidently restraineth that all to all of some sort. "Then were they all" (or rather all these) "dead." These all;--what all? Even all those believers of whom he treats, as above.

Fourthly, All those of whom the apostle treats are proved to be dead, because Christ died for them: "If one died for all, then were all dead." What death is it which here is spoken of? Not a death natural, but spiritual; and of deaths which come under that name, not that which is in sin, but that which is unto sin. For,--First, The greatest champions of the Arminian cause, as Vorstius and Grotius (on the place), convinced by the evidence of truth, acknowledge that it is a death unto sin, by virtue of the death of Christ, that is here spoken of; and accordingly held out that for the sense of the place. Secondly, It is apparent from the text; the intention of the apostle being to prove that those for whom Christ died are so dead to sin, that henceforth they should live no more thereunto, but to him that died for them. The subject he hath in hand is the same with that he handleth more at large, Rom 6:5-8, where we are said to be "dead unto sin," by being "planted together in the likeness of the death of Christ;" from whence, there as here, he presseth them to "newness of life." These words, then, "If Christ died for all, then were all dead," are concerning the death of them unto sin for whom Christ died, at least of those concerning whom he there speaketh; and what is this to the general ransom?

Fifthly, The apostle speaks of the death of Christ in respect of application. The effectualness thereof towards those for whom he died, to cause them to live unto him, is insisted on. That Christ died for all in respect of application hath not yet by any been affirmed. Then must all live unto him, yea, live with him for evermore, if there be any virtue or efficacy in his applied oblation for that end. In sum, here is no mention of Christ's dying for any, but those that are dead to sin and live to him.

John Gill     Expositor
For the love of Christ constraineth us
. Or "contraineth 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", Sos 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 oi, is anaphoric 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.

Matthew J Slick
At first glance the phrase "He died for all" would lead you to think that Jesus died for every individual who has ever lived. But upon a closer look we see something different revealed. When Paul speaks of people dying, in relation to the death of Christ, he is speaking of the Christians who have died in Christ: "Now if we have died with Christ..." (Rom 6:8); "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world..." (Col 2:20); "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3); "It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him" (2Ti 2:11). The only ones who have died with Christ are the believers, not the unbelievers. Therefore, this verse can only make sense if it is understood that the "all" spoken of is not everyone who has ever lived, but only the Christians: "...that one (Jesus) died for all (the Christians), therefore all (the Christians) died..."

But, you might ask, "If God meant only the Christians, then why did He use the word ‘all'?" I believe it is because from all eternity God knew who He had chosen to be the elect and the eternal plan of redemption was carried out to reclaim "all" He had chosen. Therefore, the "all" to Him is the all for which He intended the death of Christ to atone.

It is important here that you understand that sometimes God uses words differently than we do. For example, the Bible says that God only knows believers, not unbelievers. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27, NIV); "...The Lord knows those who are his," (2Ti 2:19, NIV); "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,'' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Mat 7:21-23, NIV). Of course, God knows who everyone is, He is omniscient. But the way He is using the word in relation to the saved is different than we use it: He knows the Christians, and doesn't know the non-Christians. This knowing is an intimate, familiar kind of knowing.

      You see, it is important to understand that the Bible best interprets itself. We need to see how it uses words and phrases and then, once we have a clearer understanding, attempt to interpret the Word of God.