It is one week before Easter and realizing how great His sacrifice is on the cross it behooves us to remember our gratitude to the Savior. 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that One died for all therefore all died."
The essence of it in the flow of thought for Paul is that he is constrained, compelled, pressured, driven, motivated by the love of Christ. He will defend his ministry in order that its fullness and its richness may be offered as an act of gratitude back to the One who loved him so much.
When it says "For the love of Christ," he's not talking about his love for Christ. He's talking about Christ's love for him, as the context will clearly demonstrate because he follows up by saying, "Having concluded this that One died for all."
In other words, it is the love of Christ manifested in the death of Christ that overwhelms Paul. He writes about the love of Christ a number of occasions. In Galatians 2:20, "it is not longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me."
Paul says that Christ voluntarily gave Himself for us. You remember that Jesus said in John 10:18, "No man takes my life from me, I lay it down by myself." He is saying that the Lord Jesus delivered Himself up for me. It overwhelmed Paul that the Lord would love him with an eternal love that could never be severed and never be changed.
And then in Ephesians 3:19, just to give you a few samples, there are many others, he says something else about the love of Christ. He says, "To know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge." It is an incomprehensible love, it is an unbreakable love, and it is a voluntary love.
That is real love, Paul says. Now back to our text verse tonight. Now what about that word “constrains” or "control"? He is simply saying, “I am pressured by this love that Christ has for me and out of gratitude for that love I want to give Him back everything I have to offer.” And I want to give Him back my life and my ministry as an act of worship.
And then he explains why. "Having concluded this" in other words, because “I have come to a conviction”, or “I have gone through a process that has yielded a confidence”, and the confidence is, "that One died for all, therefore all died."
What is Paul saying? He's saying; let me explain to you why this love is so powerful. Let me explain to you why this love puts such tremendous pressure on me to be grateful. It is because I have come to the conviction that Christ died for all, therefore all died.
Now this is a profound statement and at first it seems somewhat confusing. And you can look at it and pass it by and think you understand it, you can dwell on it for years and think you understand it. It is deep. But let me see if I can't simplify it in a few moments for all of you.
Let's take the phrase "that One died for all." Let's break it down. In the Old Testament Jewish history many died, right? Thousands and thousands, and hundreds of thousands of animals were slaughtered. And they were basically offered as animal sacrifices for an individual so that what you had was many dying for one, right?
But now in Christ you have One dying for all, so you have a completely different concept. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, the writer of Hebrews says, but Jesus Christ by one offering has forever perfected them that are sanctified.
So the single sacrifice of Christ is very important. Jesus Christ in one sacrifice accomplished death for all. In contrast to many animals dying for one, One dies for all. No more need to repeat daily sacrifices for the nation, the family or even the individual.
Now when it says "Christ being the One, died for all," what does this mean here? The Greek phrase means “in the place of”, that's the best explanation. To borrow the words of Galatians 3:13, "He was made a curse for us."
What we have here is the great truth that theologians have long called the doctrine of substitution. And the theological term "substitution" has immense significance. That One, namely Christ, demonstrated His love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, in our place.
That is substitution. Jesus Christ did not die as a martyr to show us how noble it is to die for a cause. He did not die to demonstrate to us some high level of ethics that He would give His life for that. No, He died as a substitute. That is to say, He bore a punishment that should have been ours, right?
Now this is what Scripture teaches. Back to Isaiah 53, the classical Old Testament passage that presents the coming work of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, Isaiah 53 predicting that the Messiah will come and die. And I want you to notice how substitution is the theme of Isaiah 53.
We read about Jesus, that in verse 3 He was despised and forsaken of men. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He was despised and we didn't esteem Him. It describes there Christ in the horrors of His death and rejection.
But then in verse 4 we immediately are thrust into this idea of substitution. "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, our sorrows He carried, yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted."
Now follow verse 5, "But He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities, the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed." At the end of verse 6, "The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him."
At the end of verse 11, "He will bear their iniquities." At the end of verse 12, "He Himself bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors." The whole theme of Isaiah 53 is built around the concept that the Messiah would come and die for us, in our place, as our substitute. That is to say we should die and yet He dies for us.
God's wrath required death, Jesus took that wrath and died in our place and thus satisfied the justice of God, that's why we can say He made propitiation, that is to say He made satisfaction because He satisfied the wrath of God with a perfect sacrifice in our place.
In John 6 Jesus Himself even speaks of the substitution aspect of His death. Verse 51, "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven, if anyone eats of this bread he shall live forever and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh." In other words, I'm going to die to bring life to the world. I'm giving My life for the world.
Let's look at some of the epistles. Go to Romans 5:6, "While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." End of verse 8, "Christ died for us." Verse 10 says, "While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son."
The only way that the death of Christ could benefit the sinner was by substitution. If He didn't die in our place, then we have to die for our sins and that spells eternal death. He dies in our place, that's what we believe and that's what we preach.
The question is who are the all? And maybe someone would immediately say, "He died for the world." The all means the world, all the people who have ever lived. But when he says One died for all here, if the sentence ended there we might conclude that he was referring to that general sense in which the death of Christ can be applied or has benefit to all, but he qualifies it by that second phrase, "Therefore all died."
Let’s look at this sentence again, “The One died for all, therefore the all died.” Now follow the logic. We can conclude then that the all that He died for are the all who died, true? That's not too tough. The all that He died for, says Paul, are the all who died.
What it says is One died for all therefore all died. It's not talking about a condition, it's not talking about a state, He is talking about an event. He's saying that He died for the all who died when He died.
What Paul means by that is He died for the all who died in Him. That's the only way you can interpret it. It can't be the whole human race because the whole human race didn't die in Christ, did they?
Paul's saying, I'm astonished that Christ loved me so much that the Christ, the One, died for all and I was part of the all who died in Him. What shocked Paul is that while he was still a sinner, Christ was bearing his sins on the cross. He died and when He died He was dying for my sins.
The believer is joined to Christ in His death and resurrection. When you come to Jesus Christ, God accepts you because you repent and you believe. That's what's required. But there's something required before that and that is a sufficient atonement had been made for your sins.
Let me say this, Christ is the Savior of the whole world. His work is abundantly sufficient to secure the salvation of all who put their faith in Him. But Christ not only in His atonement expressed an unlimited feature, but a limited one in that in a special sense He procured on the cross for only those who were in Him a real salvation.
So when we talk about substitution, we now are talking about the limited aspect of it. It is limited to those who died in Christ. Now who are those who died in Christ? To answer that, look at Romans 3:25, “in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness.” God displayed Christ for that.
So God is talking about Christ's redeeming work, His justifying work, His work of salvation. And then in verse 26 it says, "to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” There is the qualifier.
Who are those who died in Christ? Answer: those who have faith in Jesus. It is in that sense that we can say Christ died for His own. He died for the church. In the substitutionary sense He died only for those who died in Him. So He is the substitute only for those who believe.
Look at Ephesians 5:25 for a moment. "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church," and here you have this limited scope again, "and gave Himself up for her."
Christ substituted Himself for the church, to set her apart from sin, to cleanse her, to present her to Himself so that she should be holy and blameless. So here you have Christ clearly dying to bring the church to Himself.
In Acts 20:28 it says, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood." Here Jesus purchased the church. He laid His life down for the sheep. There is the limited sense in which the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ actually procured salvation for those who belong to Him.
It is not easy to harmonize all these things. It leaves us with apparent paradoxes and mysteries. I can only tell you what the Scripture tells us and leave the sorting out to your own heart and mind and some day to the clarity with which we will all understand when we are in the presence of the Lord.
And so it is true that Jesus Christ did die for the whole world. He commands men to repent and believe but only a remnant does. And somehow, mystery of mysteries, God understands in the substitutionary sense that Jesus bore only the sins of those who ultimately would put their faith in Him because they were His.
He made an actual atonement for those who were placed into His death so they can be truly reconciled to God. The death of Christ then opens a way for an offer of salvation by God to all who will come and believe.
So what should we do now to make others know about this offer of salvation? Let’s look what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:9- 11, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”
We need to introduce others to Christ because He has trusted us as Christians with the gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Many times we think that we maybe do not need to tell this particular person about God because God will use other means to do that. Maybe you felt intimidated or uncomfortable or it wasn’t the right time or there might be many other reasons why you do not share the gospel. However when God gave us the Great Commission He ordained you as Christians to share the gospel as the only plan that He designed, there is no back-up plan.
Please do not get distracted by all the worldly needs that do not matter in eternity. There are hundreds of things that you might want to do for yourself, but do they matter to God’s Kingdom? Because of what Christ has done on the cross we need to focus on what is most important and that is to know Christ.
So think about who you can approach intentionally in your specific sphere in life. Pray about that person and ask God to give you an opportunity to share your faith with him or her. You will be blessed!