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A View from the Altar / If one died for all
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If one died for all

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.  2 Corinthians 5:14-15

The strength of this passage is built as much on what it presupposes as on what it actually says.  Look at the word if in the rhetorical clause, “if one died for all.”  The clause is rhetorical because it’s built on an idea that the writer expects none of his readers to dispute, namely that Christ died for everybody.  Therefore the word if has the grammatical sense of since; that is, since one died for all, etc.

He then reasons from the universal scope of Calvary to the universal condition of man, which is that man is dead in sin.  Since one died for all, then all were dead.  Man-centered modern folk tend to argue the opposite way, from man’s need to God’s response in meeting that need.  All men were lost; therefore, Jesus died for all men.

Paul’s argument runs 180 degrees from this, that Christ died for everybody; therefore everyone is dead in trespasses and sins.  My Calvinist friends who normally advocate the doctrine of the limited atonement are typically fond of presuppositional argumentation.  Brethren, here’s a presuppositional argument on stilts, steroids, and caffeine.  Paul says man’s universally lost condition presupposes a universal scope for Christ’s atonement.

5 Comments

  1. earl

    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. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

    Hi Steve. 🙂

    Now as to the above. Would you say that Jesus “rose again” for all? I ask because just before “rose again” is the part that says “unto Him which died for them”.

    Posted on 01-Sep-09 at 18:28 pm | Permalink
  2. He died and rose again as a matter of historical fact. His representation in the atonement extended to all humanity. Whether that can be limited by considering it from the angle of the resurrection is something of a new question. My short answer would be that — in English, at least — the grammar doesn’t justify “particularity” in either one.

    Posted on 02-Sep-09 at 16:02 pm | Permalink
  3. earl

    “that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves”

    Sounds particular to me.

    Posted on 02-Sep-09 at 16:47 pm | Permalink
  4. That phrase doesn’t address anything that Jesus actually did, however. It addresses only what believers ought to be doing in response to his works.

    Posted on 03-Sep-09 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  5. earl

    “but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

    Notice that the verse says He died and ROSE again for who?
    “For them”…so did Jesus also rise for those He died for even if they die in unbelief?

    “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”

    In the above verse the words us and we are the “all”. As in all who believe.

    Posted on 06-Sep-09 at 14:16 pm | Permalink

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