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16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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16. Wherefore—because of our settled judgment (2Co 5:14),

henceforth—since our knowing Christ's constraining love in His death for us.

know we no man after the flesh—that is, according to his mere worldly and external relations (2Co 11:18; Joh 8:15; Php 3:4), as distinguished from what he is according to the Spirit, as a "new creature" (2Co 5:17). For instance, the outward distinctions of Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, slave or free, learned or unlearned, are lost sight of in the higher life of those who are dead in Christ's death, and alive with Him in the new life of His resurrection (Ga 2:6; 3:28).

yea, though—The oldest manuscripts read, "if even."

known Christ after the flesh—Paul when a Jew had looked for a temporal reigning, not a spiritual, Messiah. (He says "Christ," not Jesus: for he had not known personally Jesus in the days of His flesh, but he had looked for Christ or the Messiah). When once he was converted he no longer "conferred with flesh and blood" (Ga 1:16). He had this advantage over the Twelve, that as one born out of due time he had never known Christ save in His heavenly life. To the Twelve it was "expedient that Christ should go away" that the Comforter should come, and so they might know Christ in the higher spiritual aspect and in His new life-giving power, and not merely "after the flesh," in the carnal aspect of Him (Ro 6:9-11; 1Co 15:45; 1Pe 3:18; 4:1, 2). Doubtless Judaizing Christians at Corinth prided themselves on the mere fleshly (2Co 11:18) advantage of their belonging to Israel, the nation of Christ, or on their having seen Him in the flesh, and thence claimed superiority over others as having a nearer connection with Him (2Co 5:12; 2Co 10:7). Paul here shows the true aim should be to know Him spiritually as new creatures (2Co 5:15, 17), and that outward relations towards Him profit nothing (Lu 18:19-21; Joh 16:7, 22; Php 3:3-10). This is at variance with both Romish Mariolatry and transubstantiation. Two distinct Greek verbs are used here for "know"; the first ("know we no man") means "to be personally acquainted with"; the latter ("known Christ … know … more") is to recognize, or estimate. Paul's estimate of Christ, or the expected Messiah, was carnal, but is so now no more.

17. Therefore—connected with the words in 2Co 5:16, "We know Christ no more after the flesh." As Christ has entered on His new heavenly life by His resurrection and ascension, so all who are "in Christ" (that is, united to Him by faith as the branch is In the vine) are new creatures (Ro 6:9-11). "New" in the Greek implies a new nature quite different from anything previously existing, not merely recent, which is expressed by a different Greek word (Ga 6:15).

creature—literally, "creation," and so the creature resulting from the creation (compare Joh 3:3, 5; Eph 2:10; 4:23; Col 3:10, 11). As we are "in Christ," so "God was in Christ" (2Co 5:19): hence He is Mediator between God and us.

old things—selfish, carnal views (compare 2Co 5:16) of ourselves, of other men, and of Christ.

passed away—spontaneously, like the snow of early spring [Bengel] before the advancing sun.

behold—implying an allusion to Isa 43:19; 65:17.

18. allGreek, "THE."

things—all our privileges in this new creation (2Co 5:14, 15).

reconciled us—that is, restored us ("the world," 2Co 5:19) to His favor by satisfying the claims of justice against us. Our position judicially considered in the eye of the law is altered, not as though the mediation of Christ had made a change in God's character, nor as if the love of God was produced by the mediation of Christ; nay, the mediation and sacrifice of Christ was the provision of God's love, not its moving cause (Ro 8:32). Christ's blood was the price paid at the expense of God Himself, and was required to reconcile the exercise of mercy with justice, not as separate, but as the eternally harmonious attributes in the one and the same God (Ro 3:25, 26). The Greek "reconcile" is reciprocally used as in the Hebrew Hithpahel conjugation, appease, obtain the favor of. Mt 5:24, "Be reconciled to thy brother"; that is, take measures that he be reconciled to thee, as well as thou to him, as the context proves. Diallagethi, however (Mt 5:24), implying mutual reconciliation, is distinct from Katallagethi here, the latter referring to the change of status wrought in one of the two parties. The manner of God reconciling the world to Himself is implied (2Co 5:19), namely, by His "not imputing their trespasses to them." God not merely, as subsequently, reconciles the world by inducing them to lay aside their enmity, but in the first instance, does so by satisfying His own justice and righteous enmity against sin (Ps 7:11). Compare 1Sa 29:4, "Reconcile himself unto his master"; not remove his own anger against his master, but his master's against him [Archbishop Magee, Atonement]. The reconciling of men to God by their laying aside their enmity is the consequence of God laying aside His just enmity against their sin, and follows at 2Co 5:20.

to us—ministers (2Co 5:19, 20).

19. God was in Christ, reconciling—that is, God was BY Christ (in virtue of Christ's intervention) reconciling," &c. Was reconciling" implies the time when the act of reconciliation was being carried into effect (2Co 5:21), namely, when "God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us." The compound of "was" and the participle "reconciling," instead of the imperfect (Greek), may also imply the continuous purpose of God, from before the foundation of the world, to reconcile man to Himself, whose fall was foreseen. The expression " IN Christ" for "by Christ" may be used to imply additionally that God was IN Christ (Joh 10:38; 14:10), and so by Christ (the God-man) was reconciling … The Greek for "by" or "through" Christ (the best manuscripts omit "Jesus"), 2Co 5:18, is different. "In" must mean here in the person of Christ. The Greek Katallasson implies "changing" or altering the judicial status from one of condemnation to one of justification. The atonement (at-one-ment), or reconciliation, is the removal of the bar to peace and acceptance with a holy God, which His righteousness interposed against our sin. The first step towards restoring peace between us and God was on God's side (Joh 3:16). The change therefore now to be effected must be on the part of offending man, God the offended One being already reconciled. It is man, not God, who now needs to be reconciled, and to lay aside his enmity against God (Ro 5:10, 11). ("We have received the atonement" [Greek, reconciliation], cannot mean "We have received the laying aside of our own enmity"). Compare Ro 3:24, 25.

the world—all men (Col 1:20; 1Jo 2:2). The manner of the reconciling is by His "not imputing to men their trespasses," but imputing them to Christ the Sin-bearer. There is no incongruity that a father should be offended with that son whom he loveth, and at that time offended with him when he loveth him. So, though God loved men whom He created, yet He was offended with them when they sinned, and gave His Son to suffer for them, that through that Son's obedience He might be reconciled to them (reconcile them to Himself, that is, restore them WITH JUSTICE to His favor) [Bishop Pearson, Exposition of the Creed].

hath committed unto usGreek, "hath put into our hands." "Us," that is, ministers.

20. for Christ … in Christ's stead—The Greek of both is the same: translate in both cases "on Christ's behalf."

beseech … pray—rather, "entreat [plead with you] … beseech." Such "beseeching" is uncommon in the case of "ambassadors," who generally stand on their dignity (compare 2Co 10:2; 1Th 2:6, 7).

be ye reconciled to GodEnglish Version here inserts "ye," which is not in the original, and which gives the wrong impression, as if it were emphatic thus: God is reconciled to you, be ye reconciled to God. The Greek expresses rather, God was the RECONCILER in Christ … let this reconciliation then have its designed effect. Be reconciled to God, that is, let God reconcile you to Himself (2Co 5:18, 19).

21. For—omitted in the oldest manuscripts. The grand reason why they should be reconciled to God, namely, the great atonement in Christ provided by God, is stated without the "for" as being part of the message of reconciliation (2Co 5:19).


sin—not a sin offering, which would destroy the antithesis to "righteousness," and would make "sin" be used in different senses in the same sentence: not a sinful person, which would be untrue, and would require in the antithesis "righteous men," not "righteousness"; but "sin," that is, the representative Sin-bearer (vicariously) of the aggregate sin of all men past, present, and future. The sin of the world is one, therefore the singular, not the plural, is used; though its manifestations are manifold (Joh 1:29). "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the SIN of the world." Compare "made a curse for us," Ga 3:13.

for usGreek, "in our behalf." Compare Joh 3:14, Christ being represented by the brazen serpent, the form, but not the substance, of the old serpent. At His death on the cross the sin-bearing for us was consummated.

knew no sin—by personal experience (Joh 8:46) [Alford]. Heb 7:26; 1Pe 2:22; 1Jo 3:5.

might be made—not the same Greek as the previous "made." Rather, "might become."

the righteousness of God—Not merely righteous, but righteousness itself; not merely righteousness, but the righteousness of God, because Christ is God, and what He is we are (1Jo 4:17), and He is "made of God unto us righteousness." As our sin is made over to Him, so His righteousness to us (in His having fulfilled all the righteousness of the law for us all, as our representative, Jer 23:6; 1Co 1:30). The innocent was punished voluntarily as if guilty, that the guilty might be gratuitously rewarded as if innocent (1Pe 2:24). "Such are we in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God himself" [Hooker].

in him—by virtue of our standing in Him, and in union with Him [Alford].