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In 2 Cor 5:14, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died." NIV

  • v11 "we" =people in the church.
  • v12 "We","us",and "you" are all people in the church.
  • v13 only people within the church are being mentioned.
  • v14 "the love of God controls "us". "us" = Christians.
  • v14 "one has died for all". Context suggests all of us.
  • v14 possibly means: since Christ has died for all Christians there should not be any Christian who does not consider themselves dead. Dead to outward appearance[v12].
  • v15 Dead so that "all" might no longer live for themselves.

Despite the above it appears that some would say "all" = all the world in v14.

Therefore, in v14, what is the meaning of "all"? Is it, just Christians or all the world?

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By 2nd Corinthians 3-6 Paul defended the ministry of the apostles (particularly his) to the Corinthian church. So whenever Paul mentions "we" in those chapters he is referring to the apostles.

Now when you get to 2 Corinthians 11-14, Paul's main point was to show the Corinthians that, unlike the false teachers who were doing their ministry for money and self-fulfillment, that they (including him, an apostle) - in their new nature in Christ - were doing this out of love for the Corinthians and Christ.

In context, verse 14 was Paul was talking ideally about the entire church. Those who believe in Christ's death also die to their flesh and no longer live for themselves according to the flesh's desires, but for Christ. This is further elaborated in verses 16-17.

"16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

This, in turn, leads to chapter 6 where Paul tells the Corinthian church to - in practicality - stop hanging out with false teachers that have corrupted them and in chapter 7 where Paul begs them to repent from their filthiness.

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For "all" to only refer to the church I think there would need to be more qualifiers. Note the immediate context...Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men...who are these men? I believe most would consider these men non-believers. What would they be persuading them about? Mostly like they are persuading the men who are not included in the "we's" and "us's" that Christ died for them too. Also, notice in the last verse, it's not "we" and "us" it's "they, them, and their" so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. 12 We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

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There are two ways to tackle this problem of "all" in 2 Cor 5:14: semantically (words and grammar only) and theologically (what else did Paul say on this topic).

Semantics

The central issue here is the scope of the Greek word "panton" (= all); or to put it more correctly, what category is implied? A simplistic (and theoretically possible) answer to be to take "all" as the same as "us" a few words earlier. The "us" is clearly those to whom Paul is speaking, namely Christians controlled/compelled by the "love of Christ". Whether the genitive "of Christ" is nominative (Christ's love for us) or objective (our love of Christ) the "us remains Christians who are compelled by love. [Side note, Paul uses this phrase elsewhere to indicate a nominative preference: Rom 5:5; 8:35; 1 Cor 16:24; 2 Cor 13:14.)

This does not exclude the theoretical possibility that "all" still refers to all mankind but simply says that the immediate context does not demand it.

Theological Approach

There are numerous statements elsewhere in the New Testament that are similar whose scope is clear. Here is a sample:

  • John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave …”
  • John 12:32, “I [Jesus] … will draw all people to myself.”
  • Acts 17:30, “God … commands all people everywhere to repent.”
  • Rom 3:23, 24, “… for all have sinned … and all are freely forgiven...”
  • Rom 5:8, 10, “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … if, while were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him by the death of His Son, …”
  • Rom 5:15, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s [Adam’s] offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to the many.” [Note the same word, “many” applies to all people.]
  • Rom 5:18, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all people, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all people, resulting in justification of life.”
  • 2 Cor 5:18, 19, “…God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ …”
  • 1 Tim 2:3, 4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  • 1 Tim 2:6, “[Jesus Christ] gave Himself as a ransom for all people.”
  • Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to all people.”
  • Heb 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
  • 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
  • 1 John 2:2, “He Himself [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours [Christians to whom John writes] only but also for the whole world.”

Ellicott concludes this about 2 Cor 5:14:

The thought is the same as in the nearly contemporary passage of Romans 5:15-19, and takes its place among St. Paul's most unqualified assertions of the universality of the atonement effected by Christ's death.

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  • +1 as most helpful. You mention John 1v29. Would you agree "sin of the world" refers to sin which belongs to this world for which redemption is possible as oppose to heavenly sin [of fallen angels] for which redemption is not possible?
    – C. Stroud
    Dec 14 '18 at 13:59
  • Interestingly, the Bible makes no such distinction.
    – user25930
    Dec 14 '18 at 18:25

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