Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

2 Corinthians 5

Verses 11-21


  2 Corinthians 5:11-21

11Knowing therefore the terror [fear] of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in four consciences 12 For [om. For][FN4] we commend not ourselves again unto you, but [we say this to] give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance [in face, ἐν προσώπῳ], and not in[FN5] heart 13 For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to [for] God: or whether we be sober [of sound mind], it is for your cause 14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge [judged], 15that if [om. if][FN6] one died for all, then [therefore] were all dead [all died]: And that [om. that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them [om. for them] and rose again [for them]. 16Wherefore henceforth know we no man after [according to] the flesh: yea [om. yea][FN7] though [and if] we have known Christ after [according to] the flesh, yet now hence-forth 17 know we him no more [so no longer]. Therefore [so that, ὥστε] if any man be in Christ he is new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things [they][FN8] are become new 18 And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus [om. Jesus][FN9] Christ, and hath given [gave] to us the ministry of reconciliation;19To wit, that [because, ὡς ὅτι] God was in Christ, reconciling the [a] world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you [om. you] by us: we pray you [om. you] in Christ’s stead, be ye [om. ye] 21reconciled to God. For [om. For][FN10] he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made [become][FN11] the righteousness of God in him.


2 Corinthians 5:11-12. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord.—This is probably an inference from vv9,10, but doubts have been raised respecting not only that inference but the interpretation of the individual sentences and their relation to one another. Some take τοῦ κυρίου as the genitive of the subject, i. e. since we know the terror of the Lord, and are acquainted with the fear which it inspires, or since we are not ignorant of the fearful things we must meet when we stand before Christ’s judgment seat, and behold His awful majesty. In this case our minds are turned to the fearful judgment which is to reveal all things and to arraign all who have done evil ( 2 Corinthians 5:10). It must be conceded that the expression never has such a meaning any where else in the New Testament and especially in Paul’s writings, where it evidently signifies the fear we have for God. And yet with this latter meaning εἰδότες—[which always refers to beholding (or knowing in consequence of beholding) what is visible to the external sense]—does not seem to correspond; we should rather have had ἕχοντες. Rückert’s explanation, knowing the true fear of the Lord, i. e. in what it consists, introduces something new, for in the context we have had no reference to any false fear to which this would be opposed. But the interpretation proposed by Meyer et al. viz. ‘since we are no strangers to the feeling of a holy reverence for Christ as our Judge;’ has no grammatical objection to it, for the perf. εἰδέναι may have the sense of not only a practical (to understand something), but a theoretical knowledge (comp. Philippians 4:12) [especially when it is derived from an intercourse with the things known]. Neander paraphrases the sentence thus: “we know what the fear of the Lord (Christ) requires of a man; for it will make him act under a sense of his responsibility.”—we convince men.—The same words in Galatians 1:10, have the sense of: to win over to our side by arguments (comp. Acts 12:20). The idea of something immoral is connected with it there, on account of the context; and hence some regard it here, either as a question, (do we persuade men?) which is hardly allowable, or as an indicative sentence expressing a bare possibility: “even if I could deceive men (craftily persuade, or draw over by talking) I should nevertheless be manifest to God.” The mere indicative, however, could not be made to express this, and an arbitrary interpolation of some clause like: “as our opponents say,” would become necessary. But even if the word is taken in the sense of: to convince, we are led to inquire, of what? Some reply: ‘that we know the fear of the Lord,’ or, ‘that we fear the Lord.’ But this is not very agreeable to the relations of the sentence. Others say: ‘that we are earnestly endeavoring to be acceptable to God’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:9), and hence “that we are sincere in our work.” This seems to us most natural; and Neander thus paraphrases it: ‘we are called upon to prove what our disposition is;’ this can be manifest only to God, for man can take cognizance of no such matter. We therefore endeavor to convince men that they do us injustice (by their objections), and that we are actuated by a true Christian spirit. Certainly the subject of discussion in the connection was the person and the ministry of the Apostle; and nothing leads us to think of a persuasion of the general truth of Christianity, as if a motive for the better performance of his work was to be drawn from what is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:10. Such a construction would essentially destroy the idea of any thing to be gained for Christianity.—We now come to the contrast:—but to God we have been already manifested,—and the sentence connected with it:—and I hope also we have been manifested in your consciences,—in which we have an obvious reference to 2 Corinthians 4:2 where he had spoken of commending themselves to the conscience of every man (συνιστάντες ἑαυτοὺς πρὸς πᾶσαν συνείδησιν ἀνθρώπ). Even this, however, refers probably to the manner in which he had discharged his Apostolic duties, and to the honest and sincere efforts he had made to please only God. He knew he was without concealment in the presence of the Omniscient, whose perfect light will reveal not him alone, but all things before the judgment seat of Christ ( 2 Corinthians 5:10). He also hoped that he was made manifest in the consciousness, or the conscience of the Corinthians among whom the Divine light had shone so brightly, and among whom he had given so many impressive proofs of his spirit. Ἐλπίζειν is here expressive of an opinion that something was true, and the confident expectation that it would turn out to be so. Observe the transition to the first pers. sing. on the introduction of a matter so purely personal. From a point which God had so distinctly revealed that it needed no more attention to secure a favorable judgment, the Apostle turns to convince those who could not see his heart and who were too easily influenced by false appearances and the unfavorable remarks of others, that he was not actuated in what he was saying by an idle vanity of which God would disapprove, but by a pious regard for the great day of final revelation. In this conviction is involved also the consequences to himself after all the gain, the confidence and the esteem he might acquire, and of course the opposite prejudices he might have to meet, should be set aside. The object of the sentence, however, is not precisely to assign the motive of his conduct (ἐιδότες), as if he had said: “Since we know” (a form which would best suit Luther’s translation: “So fahren wir schön mit den Leuten,” [also Tyndale’s and Cranmer’s English version: “we fare fayre wyth men], i. e., we do not tyrannize over and drive the people by excommunications, etc., but we teach them by gentle means, etc.; a translation and an interpretation which is opposed to the grammatical sense); but it is to define more particularly the πείθομεν, and to show that it was done in a pious spirit. So far as relates to the essential meaning, it comes to the same result whether τοῦ κυρίου be taken as the genitive of the object or the genitive of the subject. In either case the Apostle intended to assure them in the participial sentence ( 2 Corinthians 5:11) that he acted under a reverential sense of the Divine presence and with reference to that tribunal before which all things were to be revealed. We may, perhaps, explain it thus: we act in full view of the awful things connected with the Judges, or under the reverential fear which the thought of him, i. e., the terror of the Lord the Judges, awakens. The common usage of the language would probably decide us in favor of the former view.—We are not again commending ourselves unto you.—The γὰρ, which some important manuscripts insert after οὐ, has induced some commentators to look for an intimate connection with 2 Corinthians 5:11. The Apostle has been made to say: ‘we hope we have been manifest in your consciences, for we are not commending ourselves, etc. He did not commend himself, for he presupposed that he had already been made manifest to their consciences. I am already assured of your confidence, for I am not thus commending myself in order to recommend myself to you, but it is to give you, etc. But as the best critical authorities are not in favor of the γάρ, a very good connection is made out, by supposing that he is here meeting a possible misconstruction of the confidence he had expressed, or rather of the whole vindication he had made of himself in 2 Corinthians 5:11, comp. on 2 Corinthians 3:1.—But we say these things to give you an occasion for boasting on our behalf.—From the words ἑαυτοὺς συνιστάνομεν, we conclude that λέγομεν ταῦτα (not ἐσμέν) must be supplied before ἀλλὰ—διδόντες. The word ἀφορμή occurs also in 2 Corinthians 11:12; Galatians 5:13; Romans 7:8; Romans 7:11; 1 Timothy 5:14. It properly signifies the point from which an undertaking takes its start, a point of support, a holding point; hence the necessary means for doing or attaining any thing, the materials or means which give occasion for it. In connection with this, καύχημα must mean, not the matter respecting which one glories, but only the honor or glory which is the result of the glorying. The words ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν signify, in our favor, for our advantage, as in 2 Corinthians 7:4; 2 Corinthians 7:14; 2 Corinthians 8:24; 2 Corinthians 9:2-3; 2 Corinthians 12:5 (giving him the honor due for his faithful and sincere labors in planting and sustaining the Church). This idea is carried out in the final sentence:—that ye may have an answer against those who boast in appearance (face) and not in heart.—After ἵνα ἔχητε, either τί or λέγειν τί must be understood. The sense of ἔχειν here is: to have in readiness ( 1 Corinthians 14:26), and πρός must signify: against. They should have something with which they might meet the Apostle’s opponents, with whom they had become so captivated that they needed to have such an occasion given them by him. We have here a delicate reference to the way in which they had been turned against him by the influence of such men. Those against, whom the Corinthians ought to have boasted in his behalf, he calls in an antithetical sentence, men who boasted ἐν προσώπῳ καὶ οὐ καρδίᾳ. By ἐν προσώπω he must have meant either: in the sight of men, in contrast with those who had a true approbation of their own consciences before God, or (in better correspondence with usage in other places 1 Corinthians 3:21, et al.): what was visible in the sight of men. In the latter case, πρόσωπῳ and καρδίᾳ would stand in contrast with one another, as the external and the internal. Πρόσωπον would be equivalent to the face or countenance, and the object of their boasting would be the holiness, the zeal, the love, etc., which might be seen in a man’s presence, not what existed in the heart. The hearts of those to whom he here alluded, he implies were destitute of all that of which they boasted. He designates their act not according to its intention, but according to the fact. (Meyer). Or πρόσωπον may be taken as equivalent to the person (whether it were a man’s own or other people’s person), personal relations, connections, leaders, ancestors, and particularly his external relations to Christ ( 2 Corinthians 5:16; 2 Corinthians 11:18 f.; 1 Corinthians 1:12); and καρδία, in this case, would signify that which is internal and noblest in Prayer of Manasseh, that which God looks upon ( 1 Samuel 16:7) as the seat of faith, the proper ground of all true boasting. (Osiander). As πρόσωπον almost uniformly bears in other places the sense of the face, the first interpretation is probably to be preferred. The sense will then be: those who boast not so much of the heart as of the face, and whose piety, therefore, is seen entirely in the countenance, etc. The reference, therefore, is to hypocrites. [Chrysostom: “He does not bid them glory on his account absolutely, i.e., when no cause existed, and they had no occasion, but when his adversaries began to extol themselves. In all things he looks out for a fitting occasion. His object was not to induce them to make him illustrious, but to silence those who improperly commended themselves to the injury of others. Such gloried in what is seen for display. They did all things out of a love of honor, and they wore an aspect of piety and venerability, while they were empty inwardly and destitute of good works.”]

[They referred to his former (ἐξέστημεν) and to his present (σωφρονοῦμεν) state of mind. In his former course (either when ho was at Corinth, or when in some part of his epistles he had commended himself), he might have seemed to some beside himself with zeal and earnestness, but more recently he might have seemed to the same persons unduly reserved and sober. In both cases he may have been charged with acting an interested and artful part; whereas he maintains that he was governed by higher motives, which prompted him to adapt himself to varying circumstances]. The first, however, may have been more especially the judgment of his opponents, and showed the low estimate they had formed of him. It was not that he had overacted his part (Luther: done too much, dealt sharply with the people), nor merely that he had been foolish or had acted foolishly. Nor do we understand by the word here used that he was charged with going beyond the limits either of ordinary intelligence (mysterious contemplations), or of intelligent consciousness (ecstasy); for neither of these things are hinted at in the context. Nor does the extravagance alluded to seem to have been a transgression of propriety by an excessive self-glorification (Schott), nor an immodesty of deportment (R. Cath.). The idea intended is rather that of losing one’s senses, an insanity in contrast with being of good mind, reasonable (σωφρονεῖν). In like manner ἐξέστη is used in Mark 3:21, and μαίνεσθαι in Acts 26:25. The objection to him was not that he had commended himself, as in 2 Corinthians 11:17 f.), in which case σωφρονεῖν would signify, to be diffident in this respect; to God would then signify, for the honor of God; and for your sake would mean simply as a salutary example or as an instance of condescension for you. Such a sentiment would not have been needful after what he had said in 2 Corinthians 5:12. He probably had before his mind the whole course of his action, for this had probably seemed to his opponents as madness. In contrast with the Judaizers especially, he had shown a burning zeal for the advancement of the pure Gospel, for the conversion of souls and for the perseverance and progress of those who had been converted. Did he then have reference to his personal experiences, such as his sudden conversion or his ecstatic state? The contrast as well as the following sentence seem to favor the allusion rather to his whole conduct, his general activity. But even on the supposition that his opponents were right, he suggests that the madness they imputed to him was an extreme devotion to God, in the service of his Lord, and therefore worthy of esteem. But he adds—whether we are now sober minded, it is for you.—If any one saw his conduct in an opposite light, or thought he acted in a reasonable and wise manner, he assured them it was all for their welfare. This explanation, according to which the Apostle speaks of his conduct as it appeared to others and was judged by them, seems to us much more simple and more eligible than that which Osiander defends; according to which he speaks on the one hand of his actual deportment, of his transcendant style of doctrine and practice, and of his highly exalted spiritual life, which he however contends actually redounded to the glory of God; and on the other hand of his more tranquil and judicious manner of action, which was better understood and more generally useful. Had such been the Apostle’s meaning he makes use in the first clause of an ambiguous expression, an amphiboly, in which he refers ironically to his opponents’ insinuation, that he had been enthusiastically extravagant. The signification of ἐξέστη, adopted by Hofmann (Schrigtbew, II. p323): “to be in an exalted state of inspiration” is not favored by the common usage of the words.—For the love of Christ constraineth us ( 2 Corinthians 5:14).—He here gives a reason not for what he had said in the first half of 2 Corinthians 5:13, but for his assertion that his course of action had been sincere, and that whatever might be its appearance before men, it was for the service of God and for the welfare of his brethren. In this sentence the words τοῦ Χριστοῦ are in the genitive of the subject according to the prevalent usage of Paul with respect to this phrase; comp. 2 Corinthians 8:24; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Romans 5:5; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:35; Romans 8:39; Ephesians 2:4; Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 1:9 et al. (The personal object of the ἀγάπη is introduced by εἰς in Colossians 1:4 and 1 Thessalonians 3:12). In what follows also it is evident that the object is to point out the highest manifestation of Christ’s love. Although this love of Christ is a power which produces love to Christ, we are not to suppose both points embraced in the expression here. The verb συνέχει means either, it presses, it drives, or, it holds together. The pronoun ἡμᾶς, however, cannot mean here, you and me (to hold us together in friendship), but, as the context shows, only me. This holding together must be the opposite of those separations which selfishness is apt to produce or occasion. Calvin says: constrains our hearts or affections; Meyer: holds us that we may not pass beyond the limits which are required by a regard for God’s honor and your welfare (θεῷ and ὑμῖν). The former interpretation seems indeed contrary to usage, since everywhere else the word has the meaning of, to press hard, or to afflict; but never, to urge or to impel; only in the passive is it used of the affections by which one is ruled. But why can not the active be used according to the analogy of the passive, of an affection which directly and thoroughly controls a man? With such a meaning the idea becomes more expressive. When the Apostle adds—we having formed this judgment—he introduces the subjective cause of that influence which the love of Christ had over him. That love had led him to form this judgment, i. e., had brought him to this conclusion, to this conviction. Whether this judgment was reached at the time of his conversion (Meyer), or whether the whole meaning of the death of Christ became thus clear to his apprehension at some later period of his life (Osiander), may be left undetermined. Neander remarks that “the aorist was here used because Paul intended to speak of something which happened once upon a time. He means, that ever since he became conscious of the saving love of Christ, a new principle of conduct had entered his heart.” The substance of this conviction, or rather of the judgment then formed was:—that one died for all, and so all died.—If we accept of the reading of the Receptus, which gives us εἰ after ὅτι, we must regard ὅτι ἄρα—ἀπέθανον as belonging together: that (if one died for all) then all died. The hypothetical sentence, however, could have been only formally problematical, since what is there expressed must have been really certain to the Apostle. But if εἰ be left out, ὅτι is either equivalent to: because, and so introduces the antecedent of a proposition (Meyer); or, it is in this instance equivalent to: that, and both clauses depend upon it, i. e., we have judged that one died for all and that all died. (Osiander). Τοῦτο appears to favor this latter supposition (we judged this that, etc.). One thing, however, which would go far to determine us in favor of the causal signification Isaiah, that it brings out more prominently the οἱ πάντες ἀπέθανον as the proper substance of the judgment to which the Apostle says in the context he had come (we judged this, that one died for all and so all died). And yet the whole force of the sentence seems to require that ὅτι in the sense of that should be made to govern both clauses of it. This logical relation, however, would be destroyed if we thus bring in an independent conclusion by means of ἄρα. The inference which the Apostle makes from the proposition that one died for all, argues strongly in favor of its judicially vicarious signification. One was in the place of all, therefore all must be looked upon as dead; one has made expiation, for the offence of all, therefore all are to be looked upon as having suffered punishment. This usage, by which ὑπέρ indicates that something was done or suffered in the name of some one, in consequence of which the latter is regarded as doing or suffering the same thing, prevailed even among classic writers; but among later authors the usage was extended until the word was introduced in connections in which a purer style would have required ἀντί. (Passow s. v. ὑπέρ, A. II:1. p2064 a. b.), [Stanley contends that although ὑπὲρ πάντων has the same ambiguity as the English “for,” ‘in behalf of,’ the idea of service and protection always predominates. Wherever, in speaking of the death of Christ, the idea of substitution is intended, it is under the figure of a ransom, in which case it is expressed by ἀντί. ( Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). Wherever the idea of covering or forgiving sins is intended, it is under the figure of a sin-offering, in which case the word used is περὶ ἁμαρτίας or ἁμαρτιῶν, as in Romans 8:3; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10. The preposition περί, as thus used, has partly the sense of “on account of,” but chiefly the sense of “covering,” as if it were, he threw his death “over” or “around our sins.” Such generalizations contain a truth deserving notice, but we may doubt whether the usage was so strictly conformed to the etymological law. In the actual interpretation of our passage Stanley is compelled to confess that there would be no force to the Apostle’s inference that all were dead because Christ died, except on the idea of Christ’s representing or standing in the place of those who died with Him. See some excellent remarks of Trench (Synn. 2Series, pp163–166) and Tischendorf, Doctr. Pauli de vi mor. Chr.]. But as in the final sentence ( 2 Corinthians 5:15) ὑπὲρ πάντων would belong also to ἐγερθέντι, such a meaning would not seem appropriate to the connection, for we should be compelled to understand the resurrection for all in a sense like that which is expressed in Ephesians 2:5 (comp. Colossians 2:11; Colossians 3:1), i. e., Christ’s resurrection would be regarded as the resurrection of all. Not only the final sentence ( 2 Corinthians 5:15) but that from which the whole reflection is derived (“the love of Christ constrains us”) would probably bring us to the conclusion that the main idea of the passage Isaiah, Love is for love, i. e., corresponding to the love which sacrifices itself for the salvation of all, is a love which renounces all selfish motives and devotes itself to the great purpose of the other love. In such a connection the phrase all died would denote a moral death. The Apostle implies that an essential object aimed at in the sacrifice of one for the redemption of all, was that the latter might forsake the fleshly life of sin which was opposed to this work of love, and which by its very nature was a life of selfishness, having self for its central aim, and in direct contradiction to this self-sacrificing and diffusive love. Olshausen says: that death of Christ for all is the principle or reason for the death of all for Him. But when any have fellowship with Christ this is effected by a faith in which His death for their sakes becomes actually beneficial to them, and they cease to live for themselves. This is what the Apostle means in other places, when he says, we are crucified with Christ, Galatians 2:19; comp. Colossians 3:3; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4. The Apostle speaks of believers who in the very act of faith have entered into the fellowship of Christ’s death, and hence are dead with Him, and are in the sphere of His death, because they have the essential principle of that death in a love which surrenders its personal life of selfishness. (comp. Meyer). We would not be understood as defending that interpretation, which combines and mingles together the subjective ethical and the objective judicial signification of Christ’s atoning death, or which makes out that all are both morally and legally dead by virtue and in consequence of Christ’s death. (Osiander). The only explanation which seems to us correct, and to which the whole connection ( 2 Corinthians 5:13-15) conducts us, is that which represents the death of Christ, which brings salvation to all, as set forth in this passage, according to its ethical meaning, but as a result of love in Him and as a reason for love in men. Neander says: The article before πάντες implies that precisely the all for whom Christ died must have died in Him. That which had been assumed as a principle in 2 Corinthians 5:14 (the all died), is presented in 2 Corinthians 5:15 as a purpose or aim. [It should, however, be remarked that the purpose is limited to those who live (οἱ ζῶντες), whereas no limitation is put to the all (οἱ πάντες) for whom Christ died, and who died in Him. See below]. The Apostle speaks of this living of some as a moral result flowing from the death of Christ for all:—that they who live should no longer live for themselves.—He here resumes the thought involved in the being dead. In that dying the fleshly life of sin had ceased, the man no more lived to himself, the object of all his action was no longer a life of sense in the service of self alone. The positive side in contrast with this is given when the Apostle adds—but to him who died and rose again for themi. e., Christ who had died and risen again for their salvation ( Romans 4:25) should now become the object of all their efforts. But the subjects of what is here spoken of are said to be οί ζῶντες. These are such as have entered into the fellowship of Christ’s death; but, as the invariable consequence, are also in the fellowship of his new life: ἐκ νεκρῶν ζῶντες. Comp. Romans 6:4 ff. Romans 6:13. We regard as defective not only the interpretation which renders ὁι ζῶντες as long as they live (for the article forbids such a rendering), but also that which regards it as meaning those who are alive i. e., those who are conceived of as a part of the same general multitude who had been redeemed and were dead. [It is precisely on account of the article before ζῶντες that we think the Apostle intended to emphasize and distinguish the living here from the more general mass for whom Christ died. Those who make the living in Christ as extensive and the same as those for whom He died, are obliged to take the word died (ἀποθανεῖν) in 2 Corinthians 5:15 in two different significations, one judicial or literal, and the other moral. If on the other hand we make the death in 2 Corinthians 5:15 in each case to mean a legal death, then the living signifies the opposite justification; or if we make it signify a physical death, then the living must be such as partake in His resurrection and are alive in Him who rose again (ἀποθαν. κ. ἐγερθέντι). We may also ask, how it follows from Christ’s dying in any sense, that all or any would die in a moral sense ? Is not this making the Apostle assert a mere assumption? Our English A. V. makes the Apostle to have judged, that if one died for all, then all must have been dead. This is contrary to the aorist tense of ἀπέθανον which signifies literally they died. Even with the sense that His death proved that all were dying creatures, we cannot see how such an argument was pertinent to the Apostle’s line of thought. His object was not to refer to the original state of man without redemption, but to the obligations which that redemption imposed on him. Even those who deny that the dying of all men in consequence of Christ’s death was merely by imputation (Webster and Wilkinson), acknowledge that His death indicated what was due to them, and condemned them unto death; and that the interest of the ὁι ζῶντες extended to the resurrection, as well as to the death of Christ. Comp. Stanley].

[The Vulgate and some ancient expositors include καινὴ κτίσις in the antecedent portion of this sentence (si qua ergo in Christo nova creatura, i.e., if any man be a new creature in Christ), but such a construction makes the whole sentence tautological [inasmuch as the second or concluding member (vetera transierunt, i. e., old things have passed away) assert the same thing with the first]. The interjection (ἰδού) gives great animation to the discourse as in 1 Corinthians 15:51; Revelation 21:5. [“It transfers the reader as into the sudden sight of a picture. The moment a man is a Christian, a new creation rises up; the ancient world passes away as in the final dissolution of all things, and behold! a new scene is discovered, the whole world has in that instant become new.” Stanley]. If τὰ πάντα should be left out of the text, γέγονεν καινά must have its subject in τὰ ἀρχᾶια (old things have passed away, they have become new); unless we translate it: a new thing has taken place. The expression: it (the old) has become new, implying a complete change of the previous state, is certainly a bold one. [The aorist (παρῆλθεν) indicates that the old things passed away at a particular time, while the perfect γέγονε describes the state which succeeded and still continues. Calvin has attempted to render the first member of the verse with a verb supplied in the imperative mood: if any man would be in Christ, let him become a new creature. He supposes that the Apostle is rebuking the ambition of false teachers and telling them that if they would be what they aspire to be, they must be much changed. The context, which has nothing of an ironical or hortatory character, is entirely opposed to this view. Comp. Hodge]. This great change the Apostle now proceeds to refer to its original principle. [Osiander: “he mounts from this idea of the new creation to God the source of all life, and traces the mental change of which he had been speaking to the great fundamental improvement of all human relations by the atonement of Christ”].

[The use of the aorist participle δέμενος, here, is remarkable. We should have expected καὶ ἔθετο, and a slight anacoluthon cannot be denied (Olshausen). The word cannot be connected back with θεὸς ῆ̓ν, since such a connection of an aorist part, without an article and an imperfect verb, would be not only without an example but without an appropriate sense (God hath committed to us, or deposited in us, etc.). Our English version assumes that this phrase (θέμενος ἐν ἡμῖν) signifies, hath committed or intrusted to us, or laid upon us, the work of preaching the outward word of reconciliation. And yet the phrase is so peculiar that we cannot but look for an additional and a deeper meaning. Beza long ago finely remarked, that “among the Hebrews one was said to put words in the mouth of another who used his agency in making something known to others. But when this formula is applied to God it has a special emphasis, and signifies that the heart is impelled and the tongue is directed by the Lord to speak in a particular way, and that the person is chosen by God and authorized to speak in the name of God.” From the force of the middle voice, we infer that the Apostle speaks of the mental act or purpose of God, rather than of the external ordination of the Apostles (Jelf’s Gram. § 363, Winer, 39, 2); or as Wordsworth prefers to take it, in a more special sense reflexively: “having deposited for Himself the treasures of His grace in us, as in vessels chosen for that purpose, earthen and fragile though we be”]. The words δὲσθαι would then mean, to put into the mouth ( Exodus 4:15), or to put within us, to inspire us that we may communicate it to others [not, however to the entire exclusion of the idea of a more external intrusting of the Gospel to us]. With respect to the impropriety, for grammatical reasons, of connecting θέμενος with ῆ̔ν, comp. Meyer. The word (λόγος) of reconciliation in this passage is similar to λὄγος τοῦ σταυροῦ (the word of the cross) in 1 Corinthians 1:18, and it signifies here the word, the substance of which is the reconciliation. The particles ὡς ὄτι are equivalent here to utpote quod (seeing that, because, for, in a very different connection from the same words in 2 Corinthians 11:21), and connect our passage with 2 Corinthians 1:18. Everything is represented as proceeding from God, “who has reconciled us to Himself by Christ.” For God in Christ has truly entered upon a process by which He is reconciling the world. He makes believers perceive in their own experience that God has reconciled them to Himself by Jesus Christ; He brings them into the state of reconciliation which He has established with the world.” The Apostle now proceeds to describe further the method in which this was effected, so far as relates to its general principles. Or, rather, he gives the reason for the assertion, that the change mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:17 b, in which old things had passed away and all things had become new, was to be ascribed to God, who had reconciled believers to Himself through Christ. In this way he brings before us the vast extent of the Divine agency in saving men. Inasmuch as God in Christ exercised such a comprehensive agency, that great change must be referred to the same God who was reconciling us to Himself by Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21.—In behalf of Christ then we are ambassadors, as though God were exhorting by us.—[“It is indeed doubtful whether γὰρ, for, belongs to the text, as it is omitted in many of the oldest manuscripts. Its omission only renders the transition more abrupt, for the relation of the passage remains the same.” Hodge]. The particle οῦ̔ν (then, therefore) refers to that which had been said in the preceding verse. [As God is reconciling men and hath committed to us the work of reconciling men, I turn to you Corinthians as a part of the community to whom I am sent, and as partially unrecovered or strayed from the right way, and I commence my work with you]. The words, we are ambassadors for Christ, imply as their logical antecedent that the ministry of reconciliation had been committed to them ( 2 Corinthians 5:18). The reconciliation (καταλλ.) was in fact communicated to men through Christ, and had its origin in Him ( 2 Corinthians 5:18 f.); and of course it was Christ’s cause which the Apostles represented among men. The verb πρεσβεύειν signifies to be a messenger (“sometimes merely to deliver a message to another without being empowered to do any thing more than to explain or enforce it.” Bloomfield). It is found also in Ephesians 6:20. The preposition ὑπερ signifies here, not instead of (Luther), but in the interest of another, and especially in behalf of Him who is the Mediator and Author of the reconciliation. It refers to those to whom the ministry of this reconciliation had been committed, and through whose agency this reconciliation was to be effected and Christ was to be glorified. From the same fact that it was God

who had committed unto the Apostles the word of reconciliation, it followed further that when those Apostles fulfilled their commission, it was as though God exhorted by means of them. [Chrysostom: “The Father sent the Son to beseech and be His Ambassador unto mankind. When then He was. slain and gone, we succeeded to the embassy, and in His stead and the Father’s we beseech you”]. It is implied here that in our work as messengers we stand in the place of God; our exhortation should be looked upon as given by God through us; or we perform the duties of our office with the feeling that it is God who addresses or admonishes men through us. This participial sentence, however, may be easily connected with what follows: as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, etc. But as the complete sense of this participial expression can be understood only by means of ὑπεπ̔ χριστοῦ, it seems more appropriate to connect it with that which precedes it. But even then the idea of substitution is not the only one which is suitable. The prayer which the Apostle utters is presented in behalf of Christ in the sense just explained. We pray on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.We pray (δεόμεθα) is the language of the most condescending love (Osiander). The tenor of the prayer is that they would be reconciled to God. This is a most urgent appeal to those who had not yet believed in Christ, or participated in the blessings of salvation (not to those who had already believed, and for the purpose of exciting them to continued advances in repentance and faith). [Dr. Hodge remarks that the word καταλλάγητε is in the passive voice, and cannot mean, ‘Reconcile yourselves; but, ‘Be reconciled, embrace the offer of the reconciliation.’ C. F. Schmid (Bibl. Theol. Vol. II, p318) notices that the word has here not a medial but a passive signification, implying that we have merely to accept an influence or act of God, under which we were originally passive. We were at first ἐχθροί and objects of the Divine ὀργή), and in ceasing to be these we become reconciled to God]. According to the way in which we translate the words, ‘Reconcile yourselves, or be ye reconciled (comp Romans 5:10), or, allow yourselves to be reconciled,’ the meaning must be, ‘Accept the reconciliation God has extended to you by Christ, accept what He presents to you, take the hand of reconciliation He reaches forth to you.’ The Apostle in this passage evidently had no thought of a reconciliation of themselves by laying aside the minding of the flesh and putting on the minding of the Spirit (Rückert). Such a process was looked upon by him as merely the necessary result of the reconciliation; or the application of the reconciliation by means of faith (comp. Meyer, Osiander).

Him who knew not sin He made to be sin for us ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). According to the true reading of the text, the Apostle here introduces without a connecting particle γάρ (asyndeton), a motive which should induce his readers to comply with his prayer or exhortation. This was the work which God’s holy love had accomplished in Christ for effecting reconciliation. Now enters the notion of the ἱλασμός, the propitiation. Comp. Romans 3:25; Romans 8:3; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; Hebrews 2:17. By τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν he means Christ in His perfect sinlessness (what Chrysostom calls in the positive sense τὸν αὐτοδικαιοσύνην ὄντα), He who knows no sin, to whose internal nature or outward action all contradiction to God or departure from the Divine will was a complete stranger, altogether beyond His personal experience or consciousness. The μή is here required [instead of οὐ] not by the participle with the article (comp. 1 Peter 2:10; Ephesians 5:4), but it expresses the denial of the thing as it appears to the mind, i. e, in the representation of the mind itself. [Winer’s Gram, § 59, 3 b.]. This may be in the mind of men (i. e, in the minds of Christians); in which case it says of Christ that we Christians regard Him as One who knew no sin, or it may refer to the mind of God, and so it tells us how Christ appeared before the Divine mind. As God is here the subject of the Apostle’s remarks, the latter is undoubtedly the correct interpretation. Hofmann in his Schriftbeweis, Vol. II, 36, says: “God has made Him in His sinlessness to be sin. It is from this denial of sin in Christ according to the Divine judgment that we must explain the use of the relative negative particle.” When it is said that this sinless Being was made sin for us (ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποιήσεν), ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν stands first to give it more force; and it seems very natural to take the phrase in the sense of a substitution. And yet this is not absolutely necessary, nor does it seem quite appropriate in both instances in which the word is here used, since God could not make us sin at first, inasmuch as we were in our own selves sinners. The ύπὲρ is here therefore to be taken as equivalent to: for our good, and finds its explanation in the final sentence beginning with ἵνα. The idea expressed in making Him to be sin must be that God made Him the bearer of sin when He suffered, inasmuch as by His sufferings and death as a malefactor He was treated as a sinner (ἁμαρτωλὸς), or was given up to the fate of those who were sinners. The interpretation of ἁμαρτίαν as a sin offering is consistent neither with usage, with the context ( τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν) ), nor with the contrast (δικαιοσύνη). Comp. Hofmann, Schriftbew, II, p329. Sin becomes actualized in one in whom there is no sin, when he becomes a sinner in outward appearance, though he is not so in reality. God allows sin to become an actual experience to him who has never committed it in fact. So was it with Christ when God determined He should experience what befel Him. In like manner, Galatians 3:13. If Paul had intended to say that God designed to set forth Christ as one in whom sin is concentrated and represented in its completeness, and with whom it is in certain respects identified (Osiander), he could do no better than to say, “He made our sins to be His.” The idea expressed in ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν is further carried out when it is added: that we might become God’s righteousness in Him.—The righteousness of God is probably equivalent to being righteous with God (δίκαιοι παρὰ θεῷ); or, provided we take θεοῦ in the sense of ἐκ θεοῦ as in Philippians 3:9, it would have the meaning of being made righteous by God (δικαιωθέντες ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ). Ewald: “we thus become in Christ (to use the old sacrificial language) a legal offering before God and well pleasing in His sight; an expression much like what is used in 2 Corinthians 2:15.” From the nature of the case, a righteousness which came from God must be sufficient in His sight. Neander: “A perfect righteousness, the ideal of a holy life, like the sufferings in which this holy life was perfected, is given to our humanity. For all, and in the place of all, He has borne the burden of human guilt, and made this ideal a reality. All who enter into communion with Him appear in God’s sight δίκαιοι ἐν Χριστῷ; for their surrender into His hands is a pledge that this ideal of holiness will be actualized in them also.” [Chrysostom thinks that there was a profound reason for using the abstract for the concrete form here: “the word δικαιοσύνη expresses the unspeakable bounty of the gift; that God hath not given us only the operation or effect of His righteousness, but His very righteousness, His very self unto us. Paul does not say that God treated Christ as a sinner, but as sin, the quality itself; in order that we might become not merely righteous men, but the righteousness of God in Him. “TheReceptus which our English A. V. follows uses here the present (γινώμεθα) instead of the aorist (γενώμεθα)]. But as there is no reference to time in this place, and the object is to express the simple occurrence once for all time without regard to the instant of its accomplishment, the aorist was preferable. There were also internal reasons for using a tense applicable to all time. In ἐν αὐτῷ is expressed the fellowship with Christ which takes place by means of a faith which is by its nature a putting on of Christ. In fellowship with Him we become a righteousness of God, for whoever is in Christ is looked upon by God as righteous, or as possessed of a just title to life. Comp. on 1 Corinthians 1:30. The necessary fruit of this is holiness, but the two things are not to be confounded. (Hofmann, p230, says: “We become in Christ the righteousness of God, because we have it in His person. We need nothing else to make it ours than to share in His fellowship”).

[After all the efforts which have been made to show that this passage (τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἀμαρτίαν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτ. ἐποίησεν) cannot mean that Christ bore the punishment of human sin, we cannot divest it of that essential signification. Granting that it does not mean strictly that Christ became an actual sinner, it surely signifies that He bore the consequences of sin, if not in the personal anger of God toward Himself, at least in being surrendered to the malice of evil beings, and to the endurance of those evils which God has decreed shall be the curse of actual sin. Why may we not then use the Scriptural language by saying He endures our curse, that Isaiah, the evils which are the ordinary curse of our sinful humanity? And why should we not say in strict accordance with our verse, that God’s object was that we might be delivered not only “from sin itself” (J. Young, Life and Light of Men, p309,335), but “from the punishment which is its necessary result;” yea, that we might be placed in the position of completely righteous persons, and not only “rightened in spirit,” but justified from all guilt and invested with all the benefits of righteousness? While with Billroth and Calvin, we may concede that ἁμαρτία cannot be strictly rendered a sin-offering (for which Paul gives us no example in his acknowledged writings), it is plain that the idea of an offering, whereby the wrath of God was turned away, lies at the foundation of all that Paul teaches concerning the reconciliation of God to men. Comp. 1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 5:2 etc, with Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and Ephesians 2:3”].


1. It is a wonderful expedient of holy love that a sinless being should be given up to endure the fate of sinners, and so should bring about a Divine righteousness, a perfect Divine title to life for all sinners in fellowship with Him. Sin involves a desire to be as God in the way of self-exaltation, and it is a complete denial of God’s prerogatives. It necessarily provokes a reaction of these prerogatives. This reaction is the Divine ὀργή, which disowns the right which man in the image of God originally possessed to have fellowship in the Divine life, and gives him over to death. But as this reacting power is nothing but God’s eternal unchangeable love, which seeks to communicate itself to men, and knows how to bring all that opposes it into subserviency to its purposes, a restoration has been secured in which it will find complete satisfaction. Into that very world in which this Divine reaction against sin Was displayed One has been introduced, to whose nature all ungodly thoughts and purposes (sins) were completely foreign. In the bodily and mental sufferings which His holy love to God and men led Him to endure while He was in that state, He appeared to be just the reverse of what He really was. He appeared to be sin, and thus the reaction against sinners was in fact abolished. God Himself thus brought it to an end by means of that Son who is essentially one with Himself. In accordance with His righteous will, that Son denied Himself, completely entered our sinful humanity affected as it was by that reaction, and as the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, as another Adam, suffered death for the benefit of all our race. This abolished the influence which denied the title of all men to life, or rather restored it to them altogether. Now every one who enters into fellowship with that Sinless One, who has thus been made sin, (i. e. whoever believes in Him) becomes possessed of this Divine title. When we are in Christ, i. e, in fellowship with this Sinless One whom God has made sin for this very purpose, we affirm or justify that reaction which fell upon Him who deserved it not, that it might not fall upon us who deserved it (γνόντας ἁμαρτίαν). We justify God in His opposition to us, condemn ourselves, confess our absolute unworthiness and Christ’s perfect worthiness; and we present for acceptance before God nothing in ourselves but only what there is in Christ. Such is the work of holy love by whose efficacy our restoration has become possible.

2. It is therefore in the work of expiation which God’s holy love has devised and accomplished, that we must find the basis of the work of reconciliation. This reconciliation is simply a restoration of the friendship which once existed between God and our race (the world) perverted from Him by sin and lying under His wrath. It is a work which must be ascribed entirely to God. He it was who reconciled the world unto himself, and two things may be especially remarked in what He is doing for its accomplishment: 1. He imputes not to men their sins, He blots out the record of them in His book; 2. He has committed to the hearts and lips of those who are called to the ministry, the word of reconciliation (comp. Colossians 2:13 f.; Ephesians 2:17; Romans 10:14 f.). These messengers in God’s name, with great earnestness make known the Gospel to men, that they may procure for Christ the best reward for all His suffering, as they urgently press those for whom He died to accept the reconciliation He has provided, to be reconciled to that God who has bestowed such great things ( 2 Corinthians 5:21), and with full confidence in Him to renounce every thing inconsistent with His will.

3. The proper fruit of all this must be a complete change and renewal. The love of Christ giving Himself up to atone for sin, swallows up the individual life of all in His own death for them. The selfishness which made its own gratification the only end and centre of all its efforts, is exchanged for a life devoted to Christ. In the eyes of His followers Christ will be surrounded with a glorious radiance. Every unworthy thought of Him will be renounced, He will be glorified by the Divine Spirit in our hearts, and He will be acknowledged to be exceeding great, their all in all. Another result of His influence will be that each of these followers will regard his brethren and his fellowmen, whoever they may be, in an entirely new light, not according to their natural and external relations, but according to what they are or should be in Christ, i. e. what they are in consequence of His redeeming work and the fellowship of His general mercy. Their hearts will be thus greatly expanded and strengthened in love, selfish passions will be restrained and overcome by the love of Christ and a burning zeal, for the cause of God (which will probably seem like insanity to those who know not the love of Christ), or, if the salvation of souls demand it, a wise moderation and a prudent circumspection will be manifested in all their conduct.

4. Augustine:—“Behold our Mediator! Not God without humanity, nor man without divinity; but intermediate between mere Deity and mere humanity, he is a human divinity, and a divine humanity” ( 2 Corinthians 5:19).

5. The whole scheme of salvation is the offspring of Divine love. No one should imagine the absurdity that God has changed and become any more merciful and loving in Himself since Christ has interposed for our salvation than He was before. That scheme and Christ’s work only removed obstructions to the manifestation of a love which was forever the same. By what Christ does for man and in Prayer of Manasseh, He makes it consistent for God to pardon and have fellowship with men. And on the ground of such a manifestation of love, we have a right, and we who have heard of it are bound to call on every human being, in every possible condition, to be reconciled to God. To all who reject this scheme of mercy it is right to proclaim the terrors of the Lord still, for there remaineth no other sacrifice and no power in the universe to save a man who neglects so great a salvation. Comp. Barnes Observv. on the whole chapter].



2 Corinthians 5:11. (On Luther’s translation: schön fahren). Christ ought to be preached in a way which is attractive and appropriate to the nature of the Gospel, but so that men may be truly converted. Happy is it for that preacher who in all his duties and aims is so manifest to God that he can humbly and truly enjoy a good conscience. A faithful pastor will so walk that the consciences of all who hear him will be deeply impressed with a conviction of his ability, his fidelity, and his uprightness.

2 Corinthians 5:12. If a faithful minister is bound to convince his hearers of his uprightness, they are equally bound to defend him against every attempt to destroy his reputation ( 2 Corinthians 12:11).

Ver13. Hedinger:—When a man is grieved by the severity of his minister, he should remember that it was done on God’s behalf, and if God was pleased, why should he find fault and be angry? Jeremiah 6:27. of all persons in the world the minister of Christ should see that he is both loving and severe in due moderation ( 2 Timothy 2:24 f.).

2 Corinthians 5:14. In His incarnation and in all He did and suffered, our Lord acted as a Mediator for the whole human race. In God’s sight we are all dead and risen with Him. It is a glorious mark of a true servant of God when the love of Christ is the moving principle of all his duties and his zeal. Such a one cannot but be truly simple and sincere ( 2 Corinthians 2:17). The hireling, on the other hand, who loves only himself and the world, will be silent when he ought to speak and speak when he ought to be silent.

2 Corinthians 5:15. If sanctification is taken away from redemption, grace is turned into licentiousness; but if redemption is taken away from sanctification, Christianity becomes difficult, yea, impracticable. By a believing application to ourselves of redemption by Christ, we are delivered from the guilt and punishment, but by sanctification, its fruit, we are delivered from the dominion of sin. Justification and sanctification are always to be united. The purer and the richer the appropriation of mercy the easier and more perfect the performance of duties. When faith receives the mercy, it sets the heart to work by love. Thus the whole of Christianity consists in faith receiving and love giving. Whoever receives much has much to give. To receive much and give nothing proves that you do not properly receive, and to give without receiving proves that you do not properly give. You receive not, and you give not, from God.

2 Corinthians 5:16. Hedinger:—Christians should esteem one another in proportion as they discover upon each other the tokens of the Spirit’s presence and of a new creation. All else is of no importance ( Matthew 12:46 f.).—Hedinger:—Let it be your first object to know whether a man is in and through Christ a new creature. That, and that alone, is what God looks at.

2 Corinthians 5:17. Everything depends upon the new man in Christ, upon regeneration and an active faith ( Galatians 5:6). We may apply to the kingdom of grace what our Lord says of the kingdom of glory ( Revelation 21:5). Hedinger:—How often we hear of old usages! In Christ everything is new and is renewed day by day. What is old in opposition to the Scriptures, old without growth is good for nothing. Hedinger:—Golden truth! God is reconciled, peace proclaimed, Christ a sinner for us, and we righteous and holy in Him. The curse, sin and death, what harm can they do to one who is in Christ ( Ephesians 2:5 f.; Romans 8:1) ? The principal point for those who give instruction under the New Testament Isaiah, in what way reconciliation with God takes place, and how each of us can have part in it ? But he who is himself unreconciled to God, and especially with his neighbor, dispenses to others what he rejects for himself.

2 Corinthians 5:19. Hedinger:—There are two kinds of non-imputation: 1, When God lays upon His Son the sins of the world ( Isaiah 63:5 f.), that all men may be freed from the necessity of satisfying God’s Law, either by perfect obedience or by punishment. This is the general grace which is prepared for all, but is not actually imparted to all. But when faith appropriates our Lord’s merits, there immediately follows another and truer kind of non-imputation; 2, When the sinner is justified, i. e, is absolved from all guilt and becomes a partaker in all Christ’s benefits, yea, in Christ Himself and everything that belongs to Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:20. Spener:—If one had committed an offence against a great sovereign, and had forfeited his life, it would be looked upon as a great matter if that sovereign condescended to give him mercy when he humbled himself to ask for it. But what would be said if that sovereign should send messengers and entreat him to be reconciled? And yet God has done this, and shown a love beyond all comprehension. Always present God’s word in such simplicity and purity that all shall see and feel that it is God who teaches, exhorts and comforts through thee. When listening to God’s ministering servant remember that it is God’s voice you hear, and that it is with God you have to do.

2 Corinthians 5:21. Spener:—As God made Christ to be sin, who had no sin in Himself, and hence divine justice saw none of his own righteousness, but only imputed sin in Him, so God makes us who are in Christ to be righteousness, and henceforth He beholds no more the sins which are in us and have been forgiven, but only righteousness. We thus become righteousness; not in appearance or in imagination merely, but in deed and in truth. Oh, the depth of God’s wisdom and love!

Berlenb Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:11 :—The fear of the Lord makes us anxious to possess those powers of persuasion which are so needful among men. Fear and love thus act together.

2 Corinthians 5:13. Not unfrequently what seems extravagant, and beyond all bounds of discretion, may be really right, and spring from the exceeding greatness of one’s love to God. A discreet gentleness is a truly divine gift, for which we have much reason to pray.

2 Corinthians 5:14. The love of Christ is a cordial affection which Christ has toward the new born soul, and which the soul has for Christ. The one highly esteems, properly recognizes, embraces and longs for; the other is willing to do any thing to please the beloved one; avoids everything which is likely to grieve, injure or displease him; adapts himself honestly to his wishes; endeavors to unite with him more and more, and has a complete fellowship with him in all things. It makes each Christian careful and quick to understand the will of his beloved Lord, and to know what will be agreeable or disagreeable to Christ, what will be injurious or beneficial to Christ’s kingdom, and what will be disgraceful or honorable to Christ’s cause. It makes him compliant and submissive to his Lord’s will; it frees him from the necessity of pleasing the world, and takes away all fear when he is called to testify against prevailing corruption. Ministers especially should allow nothing but this love to control them in their preaching and in their lives. The surest sign that we have it Isaiah, when it urges us to a loving obedience, to fidelity, truth and uprightness, to love our neighbor and even our enemies, to be merciful and forbearing toward those who are in trouble, to help those who are oppressed, and to give counsel and assistance to all who stand in need. Those who hunger for Christ’s love, have already begun to love Him, and the more this desire is awakened, the more will their love increase, until it will become strong enough to overcome all earthly love. And yet this love is of a delicate nature and habit, for it can easily be injured and lost. ( Revelation 2:4). The enemy can never bear to have a soul know, and hear, and speak only of the love of Christ. Even well-meaning persons often think that such a one does too much. (Martha, Mary). The whole of Christianity springs from the death and life of Christ as our Saviour and our Head. The ministry of the Gospel is therefore a ministry of death and life.

Ver15. It is by a profound consideration of the death and resurrection of Christ that we are brought most effectually to deny ourselves, and to renounce what we before loved. The love which led Jesus to suffer and die for us will so affect our hearts, and His resurrection will awaken in us a love so peculiar, that we shall live for Him, depend upon Him, eat and drink for Him, sleep and awake for Him, walk in and with Him, and find every thing sanctified and sweetened by His love. What a wild fancy to think of having part in Christ and in His glory while we continue in sin! Accursed delusion, to make the infinitely Holy One a minister of sin! To live wholly for ourselves is to live far from God and in corruption. It is nothing but hell and death for a man to consult only his own interest, to think of, to love and to have others love no one but himself, and to make a god of himself. Christ’s death should draw us off from all such wretched idolatry as this. Self-denial takes from us nothing, but it restores us much which we had lost.

2 Corinthians 5:16. They who die with Christ for all, can never more know or depend upon man according to the flesh. ( Deuteronomy 33:9). They love even their own children only in and for God. The more we are devoted to God, the more acceptable and the nearer we are to Him. Childhood must give way to youth and manhood. We must not always remain satisfied with Christ’s humanity, but venture to be familiar with His Divinity. For the very idea of the sons of God implies that those who have been alienated from God are reunited with Him in spiritual friendship.

2 Corinthians 5:17. The new creation is the life of Jesus in us, it is being born of God, it is a holy life. In it the old must completely pass away; and henceforth we must never creep back, but be ever pressing forward. We live among shadows no longer, but with Christ Himself. ( Colossians 2:17).

2 Corinthians 5:18. God’s eternal love has given us all things and has found means of restoring peace and friendship between us and Him by Jesus Christ ( 1 John 2:2 f.) whom He has therefore exalted above all things. ( Hebrews 1:3).

2 Corinthians 5:19. God has committed all things to Christ; it is with Him, therefore, that we have to do, and to Him we must apply. The world had to be reconciled to God, for His wrath was upon it. He was not, indeed, our enemy, for then He would have sent His wrath upon us; but He loved us even when we were His enemies. Had he not extended mercy to us we should never have turned to Him. The whole world has now a right to mercy. Christ has acquired for all men a non-imputation of those sins which they had committed in the days of their ignorance; for He has taken them upon Himself and offered a sacrifice for them, so that God can now be gracious and extend mercy to sinners. He has thus become a Christ for us. The Holy Spirit may now lay hold upon those sins which reign in our hearts, expose them, and make them so painful and grievous to us, that we shall be willing to renounce them. They are eradicated from our souls, and we are freed from their power. Not imputing our trespasses unto us will not therefore make us feel secure in sin, but drive us in our extremity to exclaim, Who is a God like unto Thee, etc. ( Micah 7:18)? The work of preaching the Gospel is the most exalted of all employments, and yet never exalts the preacher. As he must always be entreating and enduring the wrath of his fellowmen, and as he is perpetually dealing with the miserable, he must surely find enough to smother a spirit of pride. The creative word by which all things came into being, is the same word which reconciles and reunites the creature with the Creator, and which so sanctifies and justifies all who receive it, that they become meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

2 Corinthians 5:20. God’s reconciliation reaches not only to the world in general, but to each one of our race in particular. Jesus Christ offers each man abundant means of acquiring an interest in His blood. Those who are sent to us with the Gospel, entreat us to allow the work of salvation in our hearts, to put ourselves in the way of reconciliation, and to accept of its conditions, in order that our disordered minds may have fellowship with God

2 Corinthians 5:21. When the great truth that a sinner may be looked upon in Christ as righteous, has once become established in the heart, every other essential truth of the Gospel must follow. Christ Himself enters the heart, and the sinner becomes righteous even as He is righteous. ( 1 John 3:7).


2 Corinthians 5:11. Whoever lives habitually in the light of that day ( 2 Corinthians 5:10), will do those things from the fear of God which will gain the confidence of his fellow-men. He feels constantly open to an inspection far more perfect than that which he looks for from men.

2 Corinthians 5:12. Many can so manage matters in the sight of men as to gain esteem for their doctrines and lives for a season; but not only does God know their hearts, but occasionally even a human eye penetrates this outward form, and discovers that such are not what they seem.

2 Corinthians 5:13. When we find those who are condemned for doing too much, and acting in an extravagant, unreasonable and irregular manner, if it is honestly done for God and His truth, we should bear with them, wait for more light, and rather leave the tares to grow than to root up the surrounding wheat. Let us only be careful that our forbearance springs from a good conscience, and not from that lukewarm spirit which our Lord has pronounced so loathsome.

2 Corinthians 5:14. Love to Christ should have reference to two very different aspects of His character. On the one hand we find that His zeal for His Father’s house made Him break through established usages, and expose Himself to the deadly malice of His enemies; and on the other He yielded much that He might spare the plants which His Father had planted. Christ bore us all upon His heart when He suffered unto death, and if we would share in His passion, we must not find our pleasure in ourselves and in external advantages, but strive to exhibit the proper fruit of His life and death by dying ourselves to sin and living unto righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:16 f. Such a knowledge of Christ, when it has power in the heart, will never more allow us to judge of things according to the outward appearance, the opinions of the multitude or the prejudices of our own hearts. A thorough knowledge of Christ dying and rising again for us, will destroy confidence in every thing else, and make us glory only in His cross (we shall especially put no reliance upon our own personal intercourse with Jesus, etc.).

2 Corinthians 5:18. The doctrine of Christ dying and rising again, one for all, is doubtless far above human reason; and yet we soon learn from experience that it perfectly tallies with all that God’s law and grace utters in our consciences. The great work of reconciliation commenced in the bosom of God, when he pitied us in our apostasy, our enmity, and our utter inability to return to Him. And yet the actual work of reconciliation had to be accomplished by Jesus Christ, whose obedience, and sufferings, and death glorified God’s righteousness, and implanted a permanent hatred to sin in our hearts, without which we could never come to God. And yet with all this provision for our reconciliation on God’s part, much would have been wanting if there had been provided no means of actually implanting faith in our hearts; the work of love was, therefore, not complete until the ministry of reconciliation had been appointed and sent forth to proclaim what had been done, and to beseech men to be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:19 f. God has Himself provided the Lamb on which He has laid the iniquities of us all, and has determined that the Son whom He has sent to effect reconciliation must suffer for us; but He has promised and fulfilled the promise, that that Son should appear before God in the Holiest of all with an offering which is sufficient for the sins of the whole world, and should send forth messengers to preach forgiveness in His name to all who penitently believe on Him. Whoever now bears the burden of sin and is lost, it must be because he will not believe, but despises the offered reconciliation. This word of reconciliation is the very kernel and substance of God’s testimony in the Scriptures, and if we desire to promote His designs of mercy to men, we must seek to bring men to Him through faith in this word.

2 Corinthians 5:21. By the utter rending of the flesh of Christ, the innocent and spotless Lamb, the sin which has penetrated every part of our nature has been so condemned, that His righteousness may be imputed to us. He has become sin by the imputation of our sins, and by the imputation of His righteousness to us we have become the righteousness of God; and we now have a legal and unquestionable right to an access to God in His kingdom, and an heirship to all things like that which the Son of God Himself possesses. Hallelujah!


2 Corinthians 5:14. What an admirable universality ! ministers constrain, hearers are constrained, and both because Christ died for them!


2 Corinthians 5:11. The Christian not only loves but fears the Lord; and this fear is by no means a feeble power in his heart. Our conduct is known to Prayer of Manasseh, our hearts to God. No one can have infallible knowledge of another’s heart; and yet we may see enough of a Christian brother to give him our unreserved confidence.

2 Corinthians 5:12. A minister’s reputation should be precious to his people, for it belongs to them; and they should be supplied with such materials as are necessary to maintain it.

2 Corinthians 5:13. A fervent Christian’s zeal is sure to seem like extravagance and enthusiasm in the eyes of the indolent and lukewarm.

2 Corinthians 5:15. The ultimate object of the atoning death of Jesus was a holy Church, thoroughly consecrated to His service. A real Christian therefore longs, and his constant prayer Isaiah, to be freed from self-will

2 Corinthians 5:16. Our relationship to Jesus is far higher than that of family or of country ( Matthew 12:48 f.).

2 Corinthians 5:17. Christ has founded a new world in every respect; the world itself is to have a new form, and society new principles; and as to an individual Prayer of Manasseh, when the spirit of Christ takes possession of his heart, he must become a new creature, his mind and heart must be completely changed, and all his springs of action must be renewed (a good text for a new year: Have we actually lived to see a new year)?

2 Corinthians 5:18. God is the original author of salvation, and the whole scheme was formed by Him, but Christ executed it. In Him God came down to man. Only by His incarnation could our freedom from sin become possible. The greater then the guilt of those who neglect so great a salvation! The ministerial office, through which the mediatorial work of Christ is itself mediated to Prayer of Manasseh, must continually hold up the offer of reconciliation through Christ alone. This must be the salt of every sermon.

2 Corinthians 5:19. It is by Christ’s entrance into our humanity, His sufferings for sin and His fulfilment of all righteousness, that man can be absolved from condemnation and worthy of the Divine favor. God was not before our enemy, for He is nothing but Love; but only through Christ is it possible for Him to exercise complacency as well as benevolence toward man. Only in consequence of His blood can our sins be forgiven and we be redeemed from wrath ( Matthew 20:28; Matthew 26:26; John 1:29; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).—- 2 Corinthians 5:20. Christ cannot in person come to each individual of our race; and hence he sends his messengers into all the world, to every creature. Their exhortations are, in fact, God’s; for as He speaks in God’s name, so must they. And yet the spirit in which they speak is not that of command but of entreaty. Their words are words of pleading love: “Be ye reconciled to God; accept the reconciliation He offers you in Christ; put confidence in God, that He loves you, and that He can and will forgive you.” Whoever thinks of preaching the Gospel, must present Christ as an atoning Saviour, and must himself know what it is to be reconciled to God. If you would be the trumpets of grace, yield yourselves entirely up to grace. If we would honor Christ Himself, we must honor this ministry.

2 Corinthians 5:21. Only He who was Himself guiltless, and could bear a guilt not His own, will be the destroyer of sin.

W. F. Besser:

2 Corinthians 5:11. If we have been redeemed from the wrath to come, we need not be tormented with fears of our future Judge; yet we should have a holy reverence for that glorious Being who will reward every man according to his works ( 1 Peter 1:17), and we should be watchful lest we displease Him by unfaithfulness to our vows and an unholy life.

2 Corinthians 5:14. One for all. Here we have the sweetest kernel and best sample of Christ’s love. Faith in one who died for me and in whom I died, can only come by hearing of this wonderful exhibition of His love. My faith creates no Saviour for me; it is only the act by which I receive a Saviour offering Himself to me.

2 Corinthians 5:17. Although those who know Christ by faith may endure many conflicts with the flesh, they are really new creatures, for the Holy Spirit will keep alive the spark of faith, even in the hearts of weak believers. The Apostle’s “Behold,” refers to every Christian, though he may be never so imperfect. For though our fleshly nature may retain much which is old, it is only what is dead and dying by a daily repentance; but the old guilt and the old dominion of sin is gone ( Romans 8:1; Romans 8:12).

2 Corinthians 5:18. Everything in our salvation begins with God and nothing with us. It is of God, that he can now receive and love us ( Titus 3:5; 1 John 4:10).

2 Corinthians 5:19. Christ’s death was an act of reconciliation, for it was in fact His own act.

2 Corinthians 5:20. As the king’s own majesty is supposed to accompany the ambassador by whom he is represented, so those who preach the Gospel have something of the dignity of Him who sends them.—God beseeches us! Such entreaties have power, because God lays aside all His wrath and cordially offers us all His treasures with a fatherly admonition, that we despise them not but truly accept of them, and turn to Him with a childlike spirit ( Hebrews 12:25). He who prayed for us in the days of His flesh with many tears, since His ascension, as our merciful High Priest, to the right hand of God, directs His most affecting prayers now to us, as the voice of His blood comes through His messengers, crying: Be ye reconciled to God.

Ver21. Nay, He says not: “Come and make reconciliation for yourselves! Bring something of your own!” Nothing of this. He demands nothing from us. Atonement, grace, and eternal life, are all prepared through the blood of the Lamb! Repentance, faith, life and all needed strength are given and effectually wrought within us by the quickening energy of that blood.


2 Corinthians 5:20. Think how needful it is to seek, how easy it is to find, and how blessed it will be to have, this reconciliation.

[We have in this passage: I. Man’s original condition1. He was sin ( 2 Corinthians 5:21), and lived after the flesh ( 2 Corinthians 5:10); 2. Was alienated from God, and an enemy of God (needing reconciliation); 3. Was under Divine wrath, although still loved and not abandoned by God ( 2 Corinthians 5:11). II. Man’s redemption by Christ1. This originated wholly in God’s love ( 2 Corinthians 5:18); 2. Christ was made sin for us ( 2 Corinthians 5:21); 3. Man’s trespasses were not imputed to him ( 2 Corinthians 5:19); 4. He can be made the righteousness of God through Christ ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). III. Application of this redemption to Prayer of Manasseh 1. It must be made known to men through the ministry of Christ and His people ( 2 Corinthians 5:18-19); 2. Men must be persuaded ( 2 Corinthians 5:11), and be reconciled to God ( 2 Corinthians 5:20); 3. They must die in Christ, and live as new creatures unto Him who died for them ( 2 Corinthians 5:15-17).

F. C. Robertson:

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (Abridged): I. The reconciliation of God to man. God needed a reconciliation, for there was wrath in Him towards sinners. This was shown in the punishment of sin, in the convictions of our own consciences, and in the anger which Christ showed toward sinners. God is indeed immutable, but when man changes, God’s relation to him changes. Love to good is hatred to evil. Distinguish the true from the false notion of the Atonement. II. The reconciliation of man to God. Here is first Christ’s priestly work, to which man can add nothing; and secondly, the work of the ministry, which consists in declaring God’s reconciliation to Prayer of Manasseh, and in beseeching men by every variety of illustration and every degree of earnestness to be reconciled to God].


FN#4 - 2 Corinthians 5:12.—The testimony in behalf of γὰρ is not convincing; it is omitted by the best authorities [B. C. D. (1Cor.) F. G. Sin, the Lat. Syr. and Copt. versions, Chrysost. and Theodoret et. al. Tisch. inserts it however, and thinks it betrays no evidence of being an emendation].

FN#5 - 2 Corinthians 5:12.—Lachmann has μὴ ἐν before καρδίᾳ [and he is sustained by B. and Sin. et. al.] but it is not sufficiently authenticated. It was probably an emendation to adapt the passage to the subjective explanation [Winer’s Gram, § 59,1. In D. (1st. Cor.) E. F. we have instead οὑκ έν].

FN#6 - 2 Corinthians 5:15.—The εἰ before εἷς is left out in the best MSS.; it was probably an interpolation to make out a better logical connection. De Wette thinks it was left out by a mistake of transcribers, or because a hypothetical form of expression seemed improper on such a subject [Tischendorf inserts εί, but acknowledges the high authority of B. and D. (to which must now be added Sinait.) against him. He was much influenced by the testimony of the Vulg. and Copt. versions and his favorite C. Alford and Meyer omit the word].

FN#7 - Lachm. and Alford have εἰ καὶ; Rec. has εἰ δὲ καἰ].

FN#8 - Tisch. agrees with the Rec. in inserting them, but Alford and Stanley (with B. C. D. (1Cor.) F. and Sin. et al.) omit them].

FN#9 - 2 Corinthians 5:18.—Rec. has Ἰησοῦ before χριστοῦ, but the best MSS. B. C. D. (1Cor.) F. and Sin, most of the versions and Chrysost.) omit it].

FN#10 - 2 Corinthians 5:21.—In the best MSS. γὰρ is wanting.

FN#11 - 2 Corinthians 5:21.—Authorities are decidedly in favor of γενώμεθα. Rec. has γινώμεθα, [Alford says, “with none of our MSS.; ” but it has many cursives to sustain it].

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.