“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 which died fro them, and rose again.”
Paul was under constraint!
There is some kind of figure in this text: as a flowing stream is urged onward by a narrowing bridgehead, so Paul is urged on by the love of Jesus Christ.
And this love of Christ in Paul causes him to judge something relative to the Corinthians.
And what is this judgment which is as an irresistible stream? It is this: he judges that if One died for all, then were all dead!
What does this mean?
It is a very loveable judgment. For it believes of the church of Corinth that they are children of God. And therefore Paul judges of them that they should live according to that state.
Let us look into this.
Everything here is wonderful! One died for all!
Especially so when we remember that He that died is the very Son of God! It is as it is written by Paul in I Tim. 3:16, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
God came down in the form of a man, and took on our entire human nature.
And standing as the Great Innocent before the Throne of God, He began to die, and He died the eternal death.
And for whom did He die?
Let us first see what this cannot mean.
This cannot mean that all and every man that ever live, now live, or shall live is embraced in this text. All does not mean all men, head for head and soul for soul.
Now, there are many texts in Holy Scripture which teach the particular character of Christ’s atonement, but, it seems to me, that John 10:11, 26 are the clearest of all.
In verse 11 the Lord says: “I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”
But in verse 26 the Lord Jesus says to the Jews: “But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you.”
This is so plain that not one word can be said against it. Christ simply did not die for all men, as it is so often stated by pseudo-expositors of God’s Word.
He died for the elect. And election is the viewpoint here. And then you can say: He died for all!
It means that Jesus is our Head, our Surety, our King.
And He is that from all eternity. There He was given unto God’s people whom He foreknows in the foreknowledge of His everlasting love, to be our Head, King and Surety. And He was that both int eh juridical and in the organic sense. Hence, coming into the world, He was responsible for all those whom the Father gave unto Him. In fact, Jesus received commandment from the Father that He lose none of them.
And so Jesus at once came into the state of the guilty. He was made sin for us.
And so He died for us all. If you add sin and guilt on the one hand, and loving obedience to the Father on the other hand, the sum of them is eternal death for Jesus.
Dying the death out of love and obedience to His Father, and for the love of His sheep.
And what a death!
No one in all eternity will be able to approximate the understanding of that death. There is a little rhyme in the Holland saying that if you would understand a poet, you must have been in his native country.
Well, apply this to Christ. If you are to understand fully His poems in the Old Testament Psalms, crying and groaning in His death agony, you will have to go to hell first. Attend to the Psalms 25, 42, 43, 44, 69, 77, 88, etc.
But He died for all of us. Hallelujah!
Now let us look at the fruit of that death of Christ.
Paul argues: if Christ died for all, then all are dead!
And that was his loveable judgment of the church of Corinth.
And just how, loveable it was we will now see.
“Then were all dead”!
What does that mean?
It means this: when Jesus died on Golgotha then all the elect died with Him. And they died there unto sin, unto the cursing law, and unto corruption. Attend to the following Scriptures: 1) Eph. 2:15, “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” 2) Col. 2:14, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.” 3) Rom. 8:3, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”
Now these Scriptures teach plainly that the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ is imputed unto the elect. And according to its power it is granted unto them in regeneration.
Henceforth sin has no longer any right to rule over me. That is the legal side.
But there is more: since Jesus died on the cross, sin has no power, principally, to rule in the elect. And that is what Paul has in mind. The Corinthians were regenerated, which means that the death of Christ as a spiritual power had the ascendancy in them. They were dead, for Christ died for them, and in their stead. They were dead unto sin and corruption. The power of the death of Christ had changed them from willing slaves of sin unto willing workers in the Kingdom of Christ. They were dead unto sin and all corruption.
There you have the loveable judgment of Paul, constrained by the love of Christ.
That is the way God judges over us.
And that is the way Jesus judges over His church.
Juridically God so judges from everlasting to everlasting, and—absolutely!
Organically, spiritually, God judges thus in principle, and in the sweet bye and bye, perfectly.
Legally, juridically, God never saw any sin in His elect, because they were always safe in Christ Jesus in God’s eternal counsel.
And organically, in time, He regenerates them, so that the life of Christ is the predominant factor in their lives. They are renewed according to the image of Christ.
And it is dependent on that Cross. And therefore that Cross must be constantly preached.
And hearing that Cross of Jesus, I am constantly justified by faith; and that means that all my sins are gone, that I am adopted unto a child of God, have a right to eternal life and have peace with God.
And hearing that Cross I am constantly sanctified and crucify myself unto sin and all corruption.
That was Paul’s judgment over Corinth’s church.
And here is his purpose.
If it is true that Jesus died for you; and if it is true that therefore you are regenerated and dead unto sin, so that you are no longer a willing slave unto sin—then it follows that you no longer live unto yourselves!
Only the wicked, hard, unregenerated world lives unto itself. They act as though they are gods. They act this way because Satan injected that poison in their hearts at the beginning of history.
When you live unto yourselves you do all things for your own sakes. You must be pampered, loved, cherished, petted, and what have you! That is the root sin of the human race.
But Paul is loveable in his judgment. He says to the Corinthians: Christ died for you, and according to its right and power, it found you. Its power regenerated you, so that in the depth of your souls and hearts you love God.
And according to that judgment he treated the Corinthians, in other words, he rebuked them, and admonished them, and scourged them with the Word of God. That is love!
And hence, he told the Corinthians that they should not live unto themselves.
The preaching of the Cross of Christ is the deathblow to all selfishness.
That we should live unto Christ who died for us and rose again!
The first question here is: what does Christ live? And the answer is easy: Christ lives unto the Father! Even according to the Godhead, Jesus is always turned to the Father: He is with the Father! Is His express Image.
But also in His incarnation, Christ always lives unto the Father. He exegetes Him, He declares Him, He manifests Him. He could say to Philip: If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father!
But this is outstanding: the Cross! If anything, that Cross shows and proves that Jesus certainly did not live unto Himself, but that He lived, and died unto God. It is the proof of absolute and loving obedience to God the Father.
And thus we should live.
Not unto ourselves. That is very death.
But that we should live unto God in Christ.
Such a life gives real joy and peace! Amen.