2 Corinthians 5:19
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
A W Pink Sovereignty of God
In 2Co 5:19 we read, "To wit that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself". What is meant by this is clearly defined in the word immediately following, "not imputing their trespasses unto them". Here again, "the world" cannot mean "the world of the ungodly". for their "trespasses" are "imputed" to them, as the judgment of the Great White Throne will yet show. But 2Co 5:19 plainly teaches there is a "world" which are "reconciled", reconciled unto God, because their trespasses are not reckoned to their account, having been borne by their Substitute. Who then are they? Only one answer is fairly possible - the world of God's people!
In like manner, the "world" in John 3:16 must, in the final analysis, refer to the world of God's people. Must we say, for there is no other alternative solution. It cannot mean the whole human race, for one half of the race was already in hell when Christ came to earth. It is unfair to insist that it means every human being now living, for every other passage in the New Testament where God's love is mentioned limits it to His own people - search and see! The objects of God's love in John 3:16 are precisely the same as the objects of Christ's love in John 13:1: "Now before...., having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end". We may admit that our interpretation of John 3:16 is no novel one invented by us, but one almost uniformly given by the Reformers and Puritans, and many others since them.
John Owen Death of Death
Divers other places I find produced by Thomas More, chap. 14. of the "Universality of Free Grace," to be pretended end in hand; which, with that whole chapter, shall be briefly considered.
The first insisted on by him is 2Co 5:19, "God was....unto them."
Ans. 1. Really he must have no small confidence of his own strength and his reader's weakness, who from this place shall undertake to conclude the universality of redemption, and that the world doth here signify all and every one therein. They who are called the "world," verse 19, are termed "us," verse 18, "He hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ;" as also verse 21, where they are farther described by Christ's being "made sin for them," and their being "made the righteousness of God in him." Are these things true of all in the world? If this text may receive any light from what is antecedent and consequent unto it, - if the word any interpretation from those expressions which are directly expository of it,- by the world here can be meant none but elect believers.
Ans. 2. God's reconciling the world unto himself is described evidently either to consist in, or necessarily to infer, a non-imputation of sin to them, or that world; which is farther interpreted to be an imputation of the righteousness of Christ, verse 21. Now, in these two things consist the blessedness of justification in Christ, Rom 4:6,7; therefore this whole world, which God in Christ reconciles to himself, is a blessed, justified world, - not all and every one of the sons of men that ever were, are, or shall be in the world, the greatest part of whom lie in evil.
Ans. 3. This God in Christ reconciling, holds out an effectual work of reconciliation. Now, this must be either an absolute reconciliation or a conditionate. I absolute, why are not all actually and absolutely reconciled, pardoned, justified? If conditional, then, - First, How can a conditional reconciliation be reconciled with that which is actual? Secondly, Why is no condition here mentioned? Thirdly, What is that condition? Is it faith and believing? Then the sense of the words must be either, - first, "God was in Christ, reconciling a believing world unto himself," of which there is no need, for believers are reconciled; or, secondly, "God was in Christ reconciling an unbelieving world unto himself, upon the condition that it do believe;" that is, upon the condition that it be not unbelieving; that is, that it be reconciled. Is this the mind of the Holy Spirit? Fourthly, If this reconciliation of the world consist (as it doth) in a non-imputation of sin, then this is either of all their sins, or only for some sins. If of some only, then Christ saves only from some sins. If of all, then of unbelief also, or it is no sin; then all the men in the world must needs be saved, as whose unbelief is pardoned. The world here, then, is only the world of blessed, pardoned believers, who are "made the righteousness of God in Christ."
That which, Thomas More brings to enforce the opposite signification of the word is, in many words, very little. Much time he spends, with many uncouth expressions, to prove a twofold reconciliation intimated in the text, - the first of God to us by Christ, the other of us to God by the Spirit; which we also grant, though we do not divide them, but make them several parts of the same reconciliation, the former being the rule of the latter: for look, to whomsoever God is reconciled in and by Christ, they shall certainly every one of them be reconciled to God by the Spirit; - God's reconciliation to them consisting in a non-imputation of their sins; their reconciliation unto him, in an acceptance of that non-imputation in Jesus Christ. And as it is the rule of, so is it the chief motive unto, the latter, being the subject or matter of the message in the gospel whereby it is effected. So that, the assertion of this twofold reconciliation, establishes our persuasion that the world can be taken only for the elect therein.
John Gill Expositor
To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, This expresses and explains the subject matter of the ministration of the Gospel, especially that part of it which concerns our reconciliation with God; and declares the scheme, the author, the subjects, the way, and means, and consequence of it. The phrase, "in Christ", may be either joined with the word "God", as in our version, "God was in Christ reconciling"; that is, he was in Christ drawing the scheme, fixing the method of reconciliation; his thoughts were employed about it, which were thoughts of peace; he called a council of peace, and entered into a covenant of peace with Christ, who was appointed and agreed to, to be the peacemaker. Or with the word "reconciling", thus, God "was reconciling in Christ"; that is, by Christ; and so it denotes, as before, actual reconciliation by Christ. God, in pursuance of his purposes, council, and covenant, sent his Son to make peace; and laid our sins, and the chastisement of our peace upon him; this is the punishment of sin, whereby satisfaction was made for it, and so peace with God: or with the word "world", thus, "God was reconciling the world in Christ"; by whom are meant, not all the individuals of mankind, for these are not all in Christ, nor all reconciled to God, multitudes dying in enmity to him, nor all interested in the blessing of non-imputation of sin; whereas each of these is said of the world: but the elect of God, who are chosen in Christ, whose peace Christ is, whose sins are not imputed to them, and against whom no charge of any avail can be laid; and particularly the people of God among the Gentiles are here designed, who are frequently called "the world" in Scripture; being the world which God loved, for whose sins Christ is the propitiation, and of the reconciling of which mention is particularly made, Joh 3:16; 1Jo 2:2; Rom 11:12,15. And this sense well agrees with the context, which signifies, that no man is regarded for his natural descent; it is no matter whether he is a Jew or a Gentile, provided he is but a new creature: for Gospel reconciliation, and the ministry of it, concern one as well as another.
Moreover, this reconciliation must be considered, either as intentional, or actual, or as a publication of it in the ministry of the word; and taken either way it cannot be thought to extend to every individual person in the world: if it is to be understood intentionally, that God intended the reconciliation of the world to himself by Christ, and drew the scheme of it in him, his intentions cannot be frustrated; his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure; a scheme so wisely laid by him in his Son, cannot come to nothing, or only in part be executed; and yet this must be the case, if it was his design to reconcile every individual of mankind to himself, since a large number of them are not reconciled to him: and if the words are to be understood of an actual reconciliation of the world unto God by Christ, which sense agrees with the preceding verse, then it is out of all question, that the word "world" cannot be taken in so large a sense as to take in every man and woman in the world; since it is certain that there are many who are not reconciled to God, who die in their sins, whose peace is not made with him, nor are they reconciled to the way of salvation by Christ: and should it be admitted that the ministry of reconciliation is here designed, which is not an offer of reconciliation to the world, but a proclamation or declaration of peace and reconciliation made by the death of Christ; this is not sent to all men; multitudes were dead before the word of reconciliation was committed to the apostles; and since, there have been great numbers who have never so much as heard of it; and even in the times of the apostles it did not reach to everyone then living: besides, the text does not speak of what God did by the ministry of his apostles, but of what he himself had been doing in his Son, and which was antecedent, and gave rise unto and was the foundation of their ministry. There was a scheme of reconciliation drawn in the counsels of God before the world began, and an actual reconciliation by the death of Christ, which is published in the Gospel, which these words contain the sum and substance of: and this reconciliation, as before, is said to be "unto himself"; to his offended justice, and for the glory of his perfections, and the reconciling of them together in the affair of salvation:
not imputing their trespasses. This was what he resolved upon from all eternity, that inasmuch as Christ was become the surety and substitute of his people, he would not impute their sins to them, or look for satisfaction for them from them; but would reckon and place them to the account of their surety, and expect satisfaction from him; and accordingly he did, and accordingly he had it. And this will, not to impute sin to his people, or not to punish for it, which existed in God from everlasting, is no other than a justification of them; for to whom the Lord does not impute sin, he imputes righteousness, and such are properly justified.
And hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation; or put it in us, as a rich and valuable treasure; for such the doctrine of peace and reconciliation, by the blood of Christ, is; a sacred deposition, committed to the trust of faithful men, to be dispensed and disposed of for the use and purpose for which it is given them.
Matthew J Slick
Again Paul speaks of God reconciling the world to Himself. This verse is even more clear than Rom 11:12,15, for it states what the reconciliation of the world entails: not counting their trespasses against them. This clearly means salvation for only the Christians who are forgiven and reconciled. The word "world" here can only mean the Christians. Its interpretation makes the most sense in the Calvinist camp.