Ambassadors to the Lost Say: Be Ye Reconciled, not “God Is In Love With You”
II Corinthians 5: 15—“And He died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sake both died and was raised.”
Who are the all? Is the verse talking to everybody? Or is II Corinthians 5:15 only talking to Christians? If Christ did not die for a person, how in the world could that person be commanded to live for Him who died for Him.?
Those who teach an universal atonement (which then fails to atone!) use II Corinthians 5:15 to try to prove that Christ died for everybody. They assume that that we want to tell everybody to live for Christ. The false gospel tells us, that, in order to tell everybody what to do, we first need to tell them that Christ died for them.
II Corinthians 5:15 is about a substitutionary representation: the same all for whom Christ died is the all who died. This death is not the new birth. This death is death by imputation, legal union with Christ. Romans 6:3 explains: “to be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into His death.”
So when we read II Corinthians 5:15, we should not fly off into rhetorical Arminianism. We ask: which people are being addressed by II Cor 5:15? Who is Paul talking to? And when the ambassadors say “be ye reconciled”, who are they talking to?
We can’t say: this means that God is in love with you. We need to ask: are you in the new covenant yet? Have you even been justified yet? Are you reading somebody else’s mail?
Surely we know that God will not start loving a person. Either God already loves a person or not. Surely God will not start loving a person conditioned on that person doing something or accepting something. We do love each other that way, and we should.
But God does not love a person based on a regard for what that person has done or will do. How then do you know if you are one of the ones God loves and for whom Christ died?
II Corinthians 5:10—“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us will receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.”
Since the judgment for all whom God loves (the elect) has already happened at the cross, there will no future judgment for Christians. There will not even be a side-judgment where extra goodies and rewards are passed out.
Why then is the text, II Corinthians 5, which is talking to Christians, bringing up the judgment? The answer is that Christians are being told in this text that they are “ambassadors”, not to each other but rather to those who are still lost
Some of those who are still lost are the elect, who even though God loves them and has always loved them, are right now ignorant of the gospel. And their ignorance, their Arminianism, their legal fears, all of that is evidence that these elect have not yet been justified by God.
And since the ambassadors to whom Paul is talking don’t know which of the lost are elect or not, they are to present the good news to all sinners, and to command all sinners to “ be reconciled”. The ambassadors don’t say: some of you have already received the reconciliation but just don’t know it.
The reconciliation is received passively (by imputation) and that has not yet happened for those who are still ignorant of the gospel and still living in legalism. Look back at the time language of Romans 5:10-11—“now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved by His resurrection. We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
So why is Paul bringing up the judgment seat, when Christians have already passed through the judgment by imputation? Paul brings up “the fear of God” (Ii Corinthians 5:11) because the justified ambassadors need to remember that there are lost people around them who have not yet been justified who need to hear the gospel and be commanded to be reconciled.
We don’t say: well if Christ died for them, then they are already reconciled and justified. They are not. Nor do we say: well, anyway, it’s sure to happen. God works in history. God imputes in time what Christ has paid for in time. And God uses the gospel as the message heard and believed by the elect as they are being justified.
II Corinthians 5:20—“we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Even though the chapter is addressed to Christians only, the message taken by Christians to the lost is not for the elect only. “Be ye reconciled” is for those who have not yet been already justified.