Rev. Slopsema is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan.

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 for them, and rose again. 

II Corinthians 5:14, 15

There were those in the church of Corinth who bitterly opposed Paul, Very wickedly they accused Paul of dealing with the Corinthians out of evil and ulterior motives. They also said that Paul was beside himself—out of his mind, insane.

Paul responds to these dreadful charges by assuring the Corinthians that, whether he was in his right mind or not, all he did in Corinth was to the glory of God and for the advantage of the church.

In the verses we consider for this meditation, Paul adds that he and his co-laborers were constrained to work in this manner by the love of Christ. The love of Christ is Christ’s love to His church. Paul and his coworkers labored in the awareness of this great love. That love constrained them to labor only out of the pure motive of God’s glory and the welfare of the church.

Paul goes on to explain. In His love Christ died for the church, including Paul and his co-workers. Christ’s purpose in all this is that they no longer live unto themselves but unto Him who gave His life for them. The great love constrained Paul and his fellow-workers to put aside all self-seeking motives and labor zealously for the cause of God.

Pray that the love of Christ may so constrain us.

We thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.

The one who died is Jesus Christ. The death He suffered was the death of the cross. This death was beyond description in its horror. For at the cross Jesus endured the punishment of God’s wrath for sin that the ungodly will only begin to taste in an eternity of hell.

Jesus endured this agony for others. Personally Jesus had no sin. There was nothing in His life that made Him liable to this horrible punishment. But others had sinned. Jesus died for them, suffering the terrors of hell in their place.

In fact, Jesus died for all. This does not mean that Jesus died in the place of every individual of the human race. We know from the rest of Scripture that this is not the case. The context is the church. Paul is seeking to convince the church of Corinth that his motives have been pure as he dealt with them. The contrast, therefore, between “the one” and “the all” is between Jesus and the members of the church. The one (Jesus) died in the place of all the members of the church. And let us bear in mind that the membership of the church is determined by God’s eternal election. If one died for all, then were all dead.

A proper understanding of this requires an understanding of legal representation. We have a legal representative before God. Originally our representative was Adam. He represented the whole human race in the garden in such a way that all bear personal responsibility for his actions. Hence, when Adam sinned, all sinned in and through him so that all are liable to the punishment of eternal death.

God has graciously given the church a new representative in the place of Adam. He is our Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, Jesus has, become responsible before God for our sins and the punishment of these sins. That punishment Jesus bore on the cross. Because He is our representative, we died in and through Him.

If one died for all, then were all dead.

This death we died through Christ is our salvation. For it renders us righteous before God, worthy of all His favors and blessing!

All this is connected to the love of Christ.

Christ loves us! Christ loves exactly because the Father has chosen us and given us to Him. Christ knows each of us individually and loves every one of us.

It was that love that sent Christ to the cross to die for us and secure our salvation.

Stop and consider!

What else, but love, could have moved Christ to die for us?

What a horrible thing was the death of the cross. We really can not fully comprehend it. Jesus had to endure the agonies of hell, not just for someone else but for a countless throng. How He dreaded that hour. It was the one great event that cast a shadow over His whole earthly life. He spent much time in prayer to receive strength to face it. Just the anticipation of it caused the agony of Gethsemane.

Certainly it was love and love alone that moved Jesus to surrender to the cruelty of the cross. No sense of obligation alone could have brought Jesus all the way to the cross. It had to be love, and eternal and infinite love, for His people!

Jesus died for us that we should no longer live unto ourselves, but unto Him.

One either lives unto himself or he lives unto Christ. A third alternative there is not.

To live unto yourself means that your chief concern is yourself. You live for yourself. You are self-seeking self-serving. Your pleasure, your comfort, your honor is the only thing that really matters to you. Hence, all you do is calculated somehow to advance and realize your self-centered goals.

The opposite of this is to live unto Christ.

To live unto Christ means that your chief concern is not yourself but Jesus Christ. His cause and kingdom are the all-important things to you. Everything else in life (whether it be riches, pleasure, comfort, honor) you are ready to sacrifice for the cause of Jesus Christ. Your whole life is calculated to advance the cause of Jesus’ kingdom.

The sorry fact is that the natural tendency of every human being is to live to himself. This is the result of the fall of the first man, Adam, in paradise. His fall left the whole human race spiritually dead. The chief characteristic of this spiritual death is that it makes mankind hopelessly self-centered and self-serving. There is no longer any room for God or the Lord Jesus Christ in man’s life. All is for self.

Jesus died for us exactly that we should no longer live unto ourselves but unto Him.

This purpose of Jesus in His death was the purpose of love.

This will become clear when we understand what a horrible thing it is to live unto ourselves. Those whose minds are darkened by unbelief do not understand that. They imagine that living to themselves is the key to a happy life. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. The life lived unto self is a meaningless, empty life. Those who live it find true joy to be elusive. The reason is that happiness is not to be found in earthly things, earthly honor, or earthly pleasures. If you doubt the truth of this, read what Solomon relates in the book of Ecclesiastes. He found the self-centered life He lived for years to be nothing but vanity (emptiness). If, having read Solomon’s woeful tale, you still have doubts, then consider all the broken marriages, broken homes, and broken lives the world over. They all find their source in lives lived unto self. If that is not enough, consider that the life lived unto self also has its eternal reward—hell.

True and lasting joy is to be found only in a life lived unto Jesus Christ.

This is true for two reasons.

First, the life lived unto Christ is a life of fellowship and companionship with the ever-blessed God. Those who live unto Christ are able to walk and talk with God as friend with friend. This is the true joy of man.

Secondly, the life lived unto Christ has its eternal reward—the perfect enjoyment of God’s friendship and fellowship in heavenly glory.

What a great blessing to be delivered from a life lived unto self to a life lived unto Christ!

To this end Christ both died and was raised.

What moved Him was love. He loved us with the love of the Father. In love He surrendered Himself to the horrors of the cross that we might no longer live unto ourselves but unto Him.

This love of Christ constrained Paul to live, not unto himself, but unto Christ, who died for him.

Let us understand Paul’s situation.

Because he was born again in Jesus Christ, Paul’s life had been changed. The basic direction of His life was towards Christ. However, the work of grace was not complete in his life. There was much that was still inclined to live unto self.

What held these sinful tendencies in Paul in check and also compelled him to live daily unto Christ was the love of Christ. Paul lived in the consciousness that Christ loved Him. In love Christ gave Himself to the horrors of the cross exactly that we might live unto Him. How could Paul, then, live unto Himself? To do so would be to despise the great love and sacrifice of His Savior!

The love of Christ constrained him to live unto Christ.

May that same love also constrain us to live unto Him who died for us and rose again.