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2 Corinthians 5:14–15

“The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Paul and his ministry companions, as we saw in 2 Corinthians 5:12–13, were not motivated by a desire for applause or for the sake of self-advancement. In other words, they had pure motives in proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. Today’s passage gives us the chief of these motives—the love of Christ.

The Apostle notes in verse 14 that “the love of Christ controls us.” Everything he and his co-laborers in the gospel do in serving the church and preaching the gospel finds its impetus and sustenance in the love of Jesus. In light of what he says next about this love, it could not be otherwise. The Apostle notes that “one has died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (vv. 14–15). Here Paul is alluding to his teaching in other passages regarding how Christ undoes the sin of Adam. All those who are in Adam—all those who descend from him by ordinary generation, as Westminster Shorter Catechism 16 explains—sinned when Adam sinned. As a result, we became enemies of our Creator, bound for eternal death in hell. The only way for sinners to be reconciled to God was for the last Adam—the Lord Jesus Christ—to die. As part of His obedience, Jesus died to constitute as righteous all those who are in Him (see Rom. 3:21–26; 5:12–21). Note the qualifier “in Him.” Jesus did not atone for the sin of all people but did so only for His sheep (John 10:11). His people and only His people—believers in Christ—died in Jesus when Jesus died. The penalty of sin is death, and this penalty was satisfied because we died in the death of Christ. We were then raised with Christ and justified—forgiven of our sins and declared righteous—so that we will live for God (Rom. 4:23–25; 6:1–4). All who are in Jesus by faith alone are thereby reconciled to God just as all who are in Adam are separated from God’s grace.

The Apostle’s teaching in today’s passage is an abbreviated statement of the meaning of Christ’s death just described. When we understand the great love in all our Savior’s work, we cannot help but be motivated to serve Him for His sake, not our own. John Calvin comments, “We are dead in Christ, in order that all ambition and eagerness for distinction may be laid aside, and that it may be felt by us no hardship to be made as nothing; and farther, that we owe to Christ our life and death, because he has wholly bound us to himself.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

When we truly understand the work of Christ on our behalf, we see such great love that there is no other proper response than to live for Jesus in thankfulness for His great work and out of love for Him. The greatest antidote to selfishness is to remain conscious of Christ’s great love for us as seen in His death in our place.


For Further Study
  • Psalm 36:7
  • John 3:16–17
  • Romans 5:8
  • 1 Corinthians 15:22

For God and His People

Regarding No One According to the Flesh

Keep Reading The Christian Way

From the September 2021 Issue
Sep 2021 Issue