2 Corinthians 5:15
And that he died for all, that they which live should not from now on live to themselves, but to him which died for them…
I wonder what impression that strange sentence produces upon the mind of an average Englishman. Does it give him any intelligible idea at all? Yet St. Paul undoubtedly regarded that sentence as one of the most important he ever wrote. It reminds us of the striking difference between him and the other apostles. While Christ lived on earth St. Paul never knew Him. Now the apostles and the Jewish Christians generally attached the very greatest importance to the fact that they had thus known Christ. St. Paul, on the other hand, instead of bewailing his disqualification, as they represented it, declared with special emphasis it made no difference at all. You will remember how emphatically in a characteristic passage in Galatians he repudiated the idea that he owed anything at all to the other apostles. They were in no sense his superiors. They were in no sense better qualified for their office because they had known Christ after the flesh and he had not. When he met these apostles who had known Christ in the flesh he declared, "They, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me" (Galatians 2:6). He declares that their knowledge of Christ after the flesh was no advantage to them; and in the passage before us he goes so far as to say that if he himself had known Christ after the flesh he would have rid himself of the knowledge, for that knowledge at that particular time was a danger and a temptation. It led men to exaggerate the importance of those things about Christ which were seen and temporal, and to overlook to some extent those things which alone were of everlasting importance. As a matter of fact, those who did thus know Christ after the flesh either never realised His true glory, or were many long years in coming to the knowledge of Him. Have you ever realised the startling fact that St. Paul never once refers to the lovely life of our Lord as recorded in the gospels? He never mentions any of His miracles, parables, words, or deeds. His silence teaches us, even more significantly than his speech, that the essence of the gospel lies far below the mere details, incomparable as they are, of the human life of our Lord. You and I are particularly interested in this remarkable feature of St. Paul's experience, for we are like him. We are not like St. Peter, who was a disciple from the beginning. We never met Christ, we never heard His loving voice. We may have an immeasurably better knowledge of Him. We may know Him as St Paul himself knew Him, in the deepest sense of the word, better than any one else, except St. John. How did he know Him? His knowledge is expressed in that ever-memorable phrase, "It was the good pleasure of God, who separated me from my mother's womb, to reveal His Son in me." Not outside of me, but in me. O, what does that mean? It means that there are two totally different ways of contemplating Jesus Christ. We may dwell on the known incidents of that lovely life just as we might dwell upon Plato's incomparable account of the trial and death of Socrates. Any such study of the mere fragmentary history of the beautiful incidents in the human life of our Lord is as inspiring as it is ennobling. But it is outside of us. It does not stir the depths of our being. Or, on the other hand, we may think of Jesus Christ in a totally different way — as the Risen Christ, the Living Christ, the Christ in whom we all at this very moment live and move and have our being; the Christ who is literally in every one of us. This, indeed, is what St. Paul called "my gospel" — the gospel which God sent to him by revelation, the gospel which he was better qualified to propound, because he was not confused by any knowledge of Christ after the flesh. St. Paul himself was amazed and perplexed and agitated, and said, What is the matter with me? I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I have kept all the law, and yet I am as wretched as I can be. Then he discovered that it was Christ who made him wretched. At last, he said, "It pleased God to reveal Himself in me. Then I realised that there could be no happiness for me until I submitted to the Divine Saviour. Thank God, I did not know Him after the flesh, for I might then have been prevented from knowing as I know now, that He is the great light of God, who lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Take the case of an agnostic, who declares that he never felt the least religious emotion, a man of high character and very scrupulous conscience. You say to me, How do you reconcile that case with your theory of Christ being in the heart of every man? Quite easily. If in midwinter you wander with me into the wood, would you say it was dead? Not a leaf, not a bud, not a blade of grass. But you are not deceived by the superficial appearance. You wait for the sunshine and the rain, and you shall see the summer. And in the case of this agnostic, wait until your Father in heaven has sent him the sunshine of His love and the rain of His grace, and you shall find strange stirrings in the depths of his soul, for Christ is in him, as He is in all of us. This is, indeed, what St. Paul meant in the first part of my text, where he says, "We henceforth know no man after the flesh." He not only refused to know Christ after the flesh, but he refused to know anybody else after the flesh. He could not think of any man apart from the Divine Christ. He never thought of any man without realising that Christ was in every man. You are not a mere man or woman to me. You are men and women redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. You are human beings dear to God, dearer than you are to yourself or anybody else.
(H. Price Hughes, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.