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"One died for all, consequently, the all died"

"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus:
that if One died for all, then all died" (2Cor 5:14; NKJV).

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

>Greetings Brother Gary, in the name of Jesus Christ.

I love your "Darkness to Light" website—I recently was so blessed to see your exegesis of Acts 13:48—it was such a blessing to me.<

Thank you for the kind comments. It's so nice to know at least one person was benefited by the effort that went into that two-part article!

> I was wondering if you could help me on just one other verse—2Cor 5:14?

First, so you know what I am asking, I will give you a comment by Matthew Henry's concise commentary I picked up off the web--it shows what seems to be a pretty common idea assumed to be supported from this verse. [*asterisks added by me for emphasis]

For observe how the apostle argues for the reasonableness of love’s constraints, and declares, (1.) What we were *before*, and must have continued to be, had not Christ died for us: We *were dead*, v. 14. If one died for all, then were all dead; *dead in law*, under sentence of death; dead in sins and trespasses, spiritually dead. Note, This was the deplorable condition of all those for whom Christ died: they were lost and undone, dead and ruined, and must have remained thus miserable for ever if Christ had not died for them.

However, I just finished listening to a tape by a Dr. S. Lewis Johnson, from the Bunyan Conference from this past year, and his exegesis of this passage, he states that the passage is not saying men were dead *before*, so Jesus died for them. Rather, those that *were dead* [KJV]—were dead "in Christ", **when He died**, or in other words, that they died *when* Christ died.

If such is the case, and taking the rest of the context, this is a good passage that supports the Calvinistic teaching of the definite or limited atonement doctrine. If I am not mistaken, Dr. Murray in his work Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, gives the exegesis of this verse/ passage the same way Dr. Johnson does—dying in Christ. Although Johnson is a Baptist and Murray was paedobaptist, i.e. believed in infant baptism].

My question is—is this conclusion [*dead before the death of Christ by sin*] drawn from the text itself, or because of theological presuppositions brought to the text? It is indeed a Biblical truth that men are dead before they come to Christ, but how do we know that this might not be what this verse teaches?

Any help on 2Cor 5:14 would be much appreciated—if you could lay it out like you did with Acts 13:48.

God Bless you richly
In Christ,

I have Murray's book. In fact, it is on my "short list" of books to read. So I read the section on this verse (pp. 69-72). Murray's comments do make sense. His interpretation is possible. But is it "necessary?" In other words, is it the only possible interpretation?

Looking at the verse in context:
[2Cor 5:13] For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. [14] For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; [15] and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. [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 (NKJV).

Now, when an Arminian sees the phrase, "died for all" he would automatically assume the "all" refers to "all human beings." But the next words are "then all died." In what sense do "all" die? The Arminian might answer "in physical death" or "all are dead in their sins."

While these statements are true: they ignore the conjunction "then." The Greek word is ara. This word is a strong inferential particle. So rather than "then" it would be better translated as "therefore" or "consequently."

The point is, the word does not just indicate temporal progression but logical progression. Paul is saying it is because "Christ died for all" that the "all died." So the logical order is: Christ's death comes first and then the death of the "all" come about as a result of His death.

And interestingly, the Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV) has "then the all died." Note the "the." The LITV has this word because there is a definite article before the "all." This would then be "the article of previous reference." The point being, Paul is making it clear that the exact same ones for which Christ died are the ones who died. And again, their death was the result of Christ's death.

So the whole phrase would be better translated as "One died for all, consequently, the all died."

But an apparent difficulty comes with the phrase, "those who live." Now it is true that only the saved "live" in this context. But, the word "those" sounds a little less definite than "the all." In other words, it might not appear that Paul is still speaking about the same group as the "all."

The Arminian will still try to say that Christ died for "all people" but that it is only "those" who accept Him that "live." And the "those" is a smaller group than the "all."

However, the Greek text is a substantival participial. It would be more literally translated as "the ones living." A simple statement of fact. So there is no contrast between "the all" and "the ones living."

Moreover, the real kicker here is the "consequently" before the "all." There is a logical progression: Christ dying for "all" consequently, "the all" dying, then these same ones are "the ones living." The progression is there. So yes, I do believe this is the correct and "necessary" interpretation. But I got a feeling it might be hard to get an Arminian to "see" this progression.

In other words, after one has accepted limited atonement then it does seem clear this verse supports it. But, I doubt that this verse would be useful in trying to get an Arminian to accept limited atonement. There are other verses that are much clearer (like Acts 13:48). But this could be a verse to go to after an Arminian is beginning to "see the light" just to show how pervasive the doctrine is in Scripture.

Excerpts from Murray

Below are excerpts from Murray's book on 2Cor 5:14 and related matters:

The second biblical argument that we may adduce in support of the doctrine of definite atonement is that drawn from the fact that those for whom Christ died have themselves also died in Christ. In the New Testament the more common way of representing the relation of believers to the death of Christ is to say that Christ died for them.

But there is also the strand of teaching to the effect that they died in Christ (cf. Rom. 6:3-11; 2Cor 5:14; Eph. 2:4-7; Col. 3:3). There can be no doubt respecting the proposition that all for whom Christ died also died in Christ. For Paul says explicitly, "one died for all: therefore all died" (2Cor 5:14)-there is denotative equation.

The significant feature of this teaching of the apostle for rest is, however, that all who died in Christ rose again with him. This also Paul states explicitly. "But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him" (Rom. 6:8, 9).

Just as Christ died and rose again, so all who died in him rose again in him. And when we ask the question what this rising again in Christ involves, Paul leaves us in no doubt-it is a rising again to newness of life ... [verses cited: Rom. 6 :4,5; 2Cor 5:14; Col. 3 :3]....

To die with Christ is, therefore, to die to sin and to rise with him to the life of new obedience, to live not to ourselves but to him who died for us and rose again. The inference is inevitable that those for whom Christ died are those and those only who die to sin and live to righteousness. Now it is a plain fact that not all die to sin and live in newness of life. Hence we cannot say that all men distributively died with Christ. And neither can we say that Christ died for all men, for the simple reason that all for whom Christ died also died in Christ. If we cannot say that Christ died for all men, neither can we say that the atonement is universal-it is the death of Christ for men that specifically constitutes the atonement...

In concluding our discussion of the extent of the atonement it may be well to reflect upon one or two passages which have frequently been appealed to as settling the debate in favour of universal atonement. 2 Corinthians 5:14,15 is one of these. On two occasions in this text Paul says that Christ "died for all." But that this expression is not to be understood as distributively universal can be shown by the terms of the passage itself when interpreted in the light of Paul's teaching.

We have found already that according to Paul's teaching all for whom Christ died also died in Christ. He states that truth emphatically-"one died for all: therefore all died." But elsewhere he makes perfectly plain that those who died in Christ rise again with him (Rom. 6 :8). Although this latter truth is not stated in so many words in this passage, it is surely implied in the words, "he (Christ) died for all in order that those who live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto him who died for them and rose again."...

Hence those referred to as "those who live" must have the same extent as those embraced in the preceding clause, "he died for all." And since "those who live" do not embrace the whole human race, neither can the "all" referred to in the clause, "he died for all" embrace the entire human family. Corroboration is derived from the concluding words of verse 15, "but to him who died for them and rose again." Here again the death and resurrection of Christ are conjoined and the analogy of Paul's teaching in similar contexts is to the effect that those who are the beneficiaries of Christ's death are also of his resurrection and therefore of his resurrection life.

So when Paul says here, "died for them and rose again" the implication is that those for whom he died are those for whom he rose, and those for whom he rose are those who live in newness of life. In terms of Paul's teaching then and, specifically, in terms of the import of this passage we cannot interpret the "for all" of 2 Corinthians 5:14,15 as distributively universal. So far from lending support to the doctrine of universal atonement this text does the opposite (pp. 69-72).

Green, Jay P. Sr. Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV). LaFayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1976 - 1998.
Murray, John. Redemption—Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids, Mich: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955.
New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982. Copied from Lardian PalmBible. Copyright 1998 by Craig Rairdin. All rights reserved. Portions Copyright 1998 by Jeff Wheeler. All rights reserved.

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