‘…therefore all died’

Natalie and I joined a Bible study group as part of St Augustine’s Moreland last night. It was a real treat. We read 2 Cor 5 together. And I know God promises to feed us through his word. But this was a feast!

One morsel I’m still chewing on is this:

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.

It’s a pretty well-worn favourite. But it brought me up short because I think if I’d been writing this I might have said something like, ‘the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore none need die’.

That’s certainly how the logic of lots of the illustrations we use to explain how Christ’s death for all works: he threw himself on the grenade for me, he hurled himself in front of the truck to push me out of the way, etc. I deserve to die but Jesus dies in my place; I get to live!

But the way Paul puts it turns things upside down. He died for us — as our substitute and (I think this is what the logic of this passage forces us to say) as our representative as well. He dies for all — whether that’s all without distinction (ie. both Jews and Greeks) or all without exception — therefore, because he represents all, all die in/with him.

I’m not sure I’ve grasped all the implications of this yet. But one thing I do have a sense of is how it might help unravel the ‘legal fiction’ knot — that is, the objection that the only way it can be fair for God to punish Jesus for us is if he pretends that our actions don’t really stick to us so that the punishment can get transferred to him. But if we died with him — and are punished in him (assuming that’s what Paul means) — then there’s no fiction here. Right?

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5 comments

  1. Like you I think ‘all who die’ suggests something universal (Christ’s death is the final condemnation of humanity, it consigns all to the realm of death.). Those who live (believers only) is a narrower category.

    1. Oh. OK. Thanks, John! That makes sense, because ‘those who live’ is embedded in the purpose clause in the next verse: ‘he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them’. V14 gives the scope of (one aspect of) Christ’s death and v15 gives the aim of (another aspect of) it.

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