Gary Shultz on 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 2 Corinthians 5:14-17


2 Corinthians 5:14-15

In the first seven chapters of 2 Corinthians Paul is defending the integrity of his gospel ministry.71 Second Corinthians 5:11-21 is a significant passage in this first part of the letter, as Paul is here hoping to persuade the Corinthians that his ministry is a credible apostolic ministry (vv. 11-12).72 In verses 14-15, Paul explains why he was devoted to serving God and the Corinthians (v.13). Second Corinthians 5:14-15 reads, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 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.” The reason that Paul ministered to the Corinthians was because the love of Christ compelled him to do so.73 The reason that Paul was convinced of Christ’s love was because he died for all.74 After expressing this conviction Paul then states two consequences of Christ’s death for all. First, the consequence of Christ dying for all is that all died; his death involved their death (v. 14).75 Second, the purpose of Christ’s death was so that those who live in him should live for him (v. 15).76

The pertinent interpretive question in this passage for the extent of the atonement is how extensive the term “all” (pantes) is. Does Paul use “all” to refer to all people without exception, or does he use the term to refer to all believers?77 A related question is who is included in the group “they who live.” Are “they who live” the same group as the “all,” or is Paul referring to a different group of people here? Advocates of particular redemption understand all four expressions (the three uses of “all” and “they who live”) as referring to believers.78 The “all” that died are those who died to sin when Christ died for them on the cross.79 The “all” are the same people as “they who live” because Christ’s death and resurrection are a unity, and all for whom Christ died are the same people for whom he rose.80 This understanding is supported by an appeal to Romans 6:4-8, which asserts that those who died with Christ in the likeness of his death are also made to live with him in the likeness of his resurrection.81

The other possible meaning for pantes is that it refers to all people without exception, or the whole of humankind. The phrase “they who live” may then refer to all people without exception as well, or it may refer to those in Christ. It seems clear that the phrase “they who live” refers to believers.82 This is so for three reasons: because this is how Paul describes believers elsewhere (Rom 6:4), because this would be an odd way to refer to all human beings, and because if this were true, universalism would result.83 If “they who live” are believers, however, then it strongly suggests that pantes refers to all people without exception, and not to believers. Paul introduces a new category of people with the phrase “they who live,” and this category is distinct from the “all.”84 If Paul had meant to indicate that “all” and “they who live” were the same group of people, then why did he not simply continue to use the word “all?” Paul in these verses states that Christ died for all so that all died,85 and so that those who live (believe in him) should no longer live for themselves, but for him, the one who died and rose on their behalf.86 These verses therefore affirm Christ’s substitutionary death for all people without exception.

Shultz, Gary L. “A Biblical and Theological Defense of a Multi-Intentioned View of the Atonement” (Ph.D diss., Southern Baptist Theologican Seminary, 2008) 121-125. [Bold original, italics original; footnotes and values original; and underlining mine.]


71Murray J. Harris, 2 Corinthians, in vol. 10 of EBC, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 315; and David L. Turner, “Paul and the Ministry of Reconciliation in 2 Cor. 5:11-6:2,” CTR 4 (1989): 78.

72Ralph P. Martin, 2 Corinthians, WBC, vol. 40 (Waco, TX: Word, 1986), 118

73For Paul, “Christ’s love is a compulsive force in the life of believers, a dominating power that effectively eradicates choice in that it leaves them no option but to live for God.” Murray J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 419.

74“In the second part of the verse Paul explains that he knows of, and is controlled by, ‘the love of Christ,’ because he became ‘convinced’ that ‘one died for all.’ In other words, Paul’s sense of ongoing compulsion to evangelize (‘controls’) arose from his considered judgment (‘we are convinced’) when he understood that ‘[Christ had] died for all.’ Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 288. This death for all was clearly substitutionary. As Harris states, “When Christ died, he was acting both on behalf of and in the place of all human beings. He represented them by becoming their substitute. Such an understanding suits the repeated phrase huper panton (vv. 14, 15a).” Harris, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 421.

75The two deaths clearly took place at the same time. Harris, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 421.

76Turner, “Paul and the Ministry of Reconciliation,” 80-81.

77Each of the three uses of pantes is referring to the same group. As Harris states, “Each view rightly recognizes that the three successive uses of pantes must have the same referent, since hoi before pantes is anaphoric, pointing to the pan, tej just mentioned, thus ‘they all’; and, whether kai in v. 15a is epexegetic or conjunctive, the phrase eis huper panton apethanen must bear an identical sense in vv. 14 and 15.” Harris, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 420.

78For example, Bavinck, Sin and Salvation, 465; Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 396; Kuiper, For Whom Did Christ Die?, 29-30; Letham, Work of Christ, 241; Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 69-72; Nicole, “Definite Atonement,” 205; Owen, Death of Death, 238-40; Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:480; Symington, Atonement and Intercession, 224-25; Tiessen, Who Can Be Saved?, 488-89; and Wells, Price for a People, 76-82.

79“Paul’s point is this: when Christ died, His people died to sin. Once more we see what we have seen again and again: Paul speaks of the result of Christ’s death as ‘having taken place right there at the cross, when he was crucified.” Wells, Price for a People, 78. See also Martin, 2 Corinthians, 131.

80“In approaching this passage, we recall that Paul consistently see Christ’s death and resurrection as a unity. Here Christ is said to rise in union with those who live for him and not for themselves. In other words, he rises in union with his believing people. For his death to be other than in union with these would introduce a disruption into what everywhere else Paul maintains as a unity. The context is governed by the theme of Christ’s union with his people and can hardly support a different reference.” Letham, Work of Christ, 241.

81“We have found already that according to Paul’s teaching all for whom Christ died also died in Christ. He states that truth emphatically here–‘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.’ If we were to suppose that the expression ‘all who live’ is restrictive and does not have the same extent as the ‘all’ for whom Christ died, this would bring us into conflict with the explicit affirmations of Paul in Romans 6:5, 9 to the effect that those who have been planted in the likeness of Christ’s death will be also in the likeness of his resurrection and that those who died with him will also live with him. The analogy of Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:4-8 must be applied to 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15. 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.” Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 71-72.

82“The hoi zontes appears as those who are spiritually alive as people, freed from the bondage of sin. He who accepts the atonement of Christ puts to death his ‘unregenerate life’ [Gen 2:7; Rom 6:23], in which the old sinful self was regarded as the proper centre of reference, and begets a new life which is centred upon Another.” Martin, 2 Corinthians, 132.

83Harris, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 421.

84The very addition of the expression hoi zontes suggests that a new, distinct category is being introduced; while all persons ‘died’ when Christ died, not all rose to new life when he rose from the dead.” Ibid., 421.

85The death that the all died was not a death to sin or self, as this would indicate that all of humanity is saved. It is also not a potential death (contra Barnett, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 289-91), as the language here indicates an actual death. The death that all die in Christ’s death is most likely the death that all deserve because of their sin. All have died in the sense that Christ in his death suffered the penalty for all sin, and therefore for all death. As R. V. G. Tasker states, “Christ’s death was the death of all in the sense that they should have died; the penalty of their sins was borne by him (1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 5:20); He died in their place.” R. V. G. Tasker, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, TNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 86. See also David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, NAC (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1999), 279; and Harris, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 422.

86“While all persons died, in one sense, when the Man who represented them died, not all were raised to new life when he rose. Paul is not suggesting that irrespective of their response and attitude, all people have new life in Christ or experience selfless living. There is universalism in the scope of redemption, since no person is excluded from God’s offer of salvation; but there is a particularity in the application of redemption, since not everyone appropriates the benefits afforded by this universally offered salvation.” Harris, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 423. This truth accords with Rom 6:4-8, where Paul is speaking of believers who die and rise with Christ because they are united with him through baptism (which is the evidence of faith). Paul does not speak of unbelievers in Rom 6:4-8. Advocates of particular redemption are correct to understand the unity of dying and rising with Christ for believers from Rom 6:4-8, but they are incorrect when they say that Rom 6:4-8 demands that only believers died with Christ in 2 Cor 5:14-15.

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2 comments so far

David Bishop


John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:26-27 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

What does that mean, Mr. Shultz? If they did not believe because they were not of His flock, and He came only to die for His flock, then what’s that mean for your argument?

November 11th, 2011 at 7:31 am

Hey David,

Your comments do not actually speak to the post at hand. If you could keep that in mind.

Regarding the argument from John 10:11, see my rebuttal essay here: Christ Lays His Life Down for His Sheep (John 10:15): An Argument for Limited Atonement. Comment there if you would like.

The conjunction of John 10:11 and John 10:26-27 with John 10:11 does not sustain a case for limited satisfaction.

And you would have to demonstrate that “sheep” in John 10:27 does not mean “obedient followers” or some cognate idea? If Sheep in this context means followers, then all Jesus is saying that they do not believe because their disposition is that of rebellion and disobedience. The sheep metaphor is a classic OT metaphor. The pharisees were classics examples of “sheep” gone astray, following other masters.

I am sure that will not convince you tho. But for your part, you would have to 1) demonstrate why the it is okay in the case of Jn 10:11 to infer a universal negation from a simple positive, and 2) that “sheep” here means elect qua elect, that is, elect simply considered as elect.

Other than that, how would you demonstrate that with regard to 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 Shults is wrong?

Thanks for stopping by.

November 11th, 2011 at 8:58 am

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