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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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8 Answers 8

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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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Good Q. There is a deep meaning to this that takes some time to realise - a lifetime! It's expressed through Rom 6:11.

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

While we have been included in Christ's ascended life, made 'alive' in a whole new way, we must continue to plumb the depths of how we have died.

Sin had hold over us, as we could not do anything to be free from the penalty of death - ever! Paul wants us to understand that sin's hold is no longer. We are freed from being a prisoner to sin and death... through Jesus. To the point that Gal 2:20 expresses

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.

Any time we fall into old ways of sin, it is because we have lost sight of who we are in Christ. We have offered ourselves again to the law of sin and death - not that it has hold over us, but we have chosen, through carelessness or rebelliousness, to live out of the old man, not the new man in Christ.

An analogy would be the how Israel wanted to go back to the 'leeks and garlic of Egypt' rather than forge ahead to the new land. (Num 11)

We might picture it this way. We were chained to this world and law of sin and death. Jesus has smashed the chain - totally freeing us, but some of the links remain attached to our ankle. We can run as far as we like from the old, but the baggage (links) of who we were - slaves to sin, are an ever present reminder.

As we joyously consider the new life, let us also consider that it is only lived to the extent that we grasp how dead the old one is!

We look forward to our change - the remaining links have disappeared and we are finally like He is!

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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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"logic" is not really in view here. Paul's argument in 2 Cor 5:14 is building up to what has become known as the great "divine trade" in 2 Cor 5:21, "God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

This was necessary because of:

  • Rom 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God".
  • Rom 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [The only way sin can be atoned for is by death but Jesus died on our behalf so that we do not need to eternally die.]

Paul expands on this idea in Rom 5:12-20, let us examine v19: For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners [by inheriting sinful ways], so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus and His sacrifice] the many will be made righteous.

Lastly, while the Holy Spirit brings to and teaches us about Christ (John 16:13), it is Christ's love that motivates us to be like Christ, Heb 12:2, 3, 1 John 2:6, Rom 8:29, 12:1, 2. The characteristic of lovingness among the brethren is to be their distinguishing trait, John 13:34, 35, 15:12, 1 John 4:8, 11, 19, Eph 5:1, 2.

It is Paul's succinct sentence in 2 Cor 5:14 that summarises all these ideas:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, therefore all died.

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All is ALL. Every person since Adam is included in Christ's sacrifice.

Acts 10:43 All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name."

Acts 4:12 "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

1 Tim 2:3-4 ...'God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved...'

Sure it says, 'everyone who believes', God grants the gift of repentance, so if He doesn't want to lose one, we'll have to leave it up to Him to do what and when He chooses.

And 'therefore'... Saying the same thing from a different angle. Because Christ died for ALL men, ALL are included in Him, all are effectively dead to sin and (potentially) alive in Him too.

Rom 6:4 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection

Another way of saying, Jesus' death is SO ALL encompassing (not just man, but all creation is redeemed in Him) that there is no way all are not covered by His sacrifice.

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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, 2018 at 13:59
  • Interestingly, the Bible makes no such distinction.
    – user25930
    Dec 14, 2018 at 18:25
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The act of sacrifice is motivated by love, 2 Corinthians 5:

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

"all" refers to everyone, believers and non-believers.

15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

In this context, "all" refers to people.

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

It refers to all people, Christians and non-Christians. Christ died for all people, the righteous and the unrighteous. It was a sacrificial act motivated by love. So I can say with certainty to a non-Christian: Christ died for you because he loves you.

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  • you say "because he loves you ". How does God love people to whom he does not give the grace to believe? as in Eph "by grace you have been saved".
    – C. Stroud
    Oct 6, 2021 at 16:31
  • Good questions. Sorry, I don't know the answer.
    – user35953
    Oct 6, 2021 at 16:52
  • Hope you don't mind me jumping in and giving a few scriptures. For to this we toil and strive, because we have hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers 1 Tim 4:10 Those who have been called by God now and given the faith to believe have a special salvation. All others will be saved from death as well. For as indeed in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in the own order: Christ the firstfruit, then those of Christ at His coming, then the end, when He shall hand over the kingdom to the God and Father, 1 Corinthians 15:22-24
    – Sherrie
    Oct 6, 2021 at 23:19
  • @Sherrie Having read your comment I am wondering if you have read this question on this site: "Those who believe are "especially" saved?
    – C. Stroud
    Oct 7, 2021 at 11:26
  • C. Stoud, I have not seen or read that question on this site.I definitely would like to see it. Do you have a link to it? Started studying this particular subject over 20 years ago Intensively and God shattered the box I had put Him.
    – Sherrie
    Oct 7, 2021 at 13:43
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It means what it says. Because Christ died in place of all, each of us have died in him and with him. This is probably one of the centers of the Gospel itself along with being carried along in Christ’s Body as we wait for the resurrection of our bodies on the Last Day.

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