2 Corinthians 5:14-15
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 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.(ESV)
Paul here declares that he is being controlled. But what might this mean? The Greek word tranlated “controls” means to “hold together”. In Luke 8:45 Jesus is “surrounded” by a crowd, pressing in on every side. In Luke 19:43 enemies “hem” you in on every side. In Luke 22:63 soldiers are “holding” Jesus in custody. Men “covered” their ears in Acts 7:57 as they rushed to stone Stephen. Christ’s love “controls” us in 2 Cor 5:14. The basic idea seems to be surrounded and thereby limited. Paul is saying that he is surrounded by and limited by the unconditional love of Christ.
This isn’t the kind of control that removes Paul’s volition. Paul isn’t claiming to be robotic and mechanical in his response to God. He is not claiming that his capacity to choose has been removed. Rather, the options available to him have been reduced because every direction he turns he runs smack into God’s unconditional love. Why is Paul surrounded by and limited by the love of Christ? The next statements make this clear by beginning with “because.” He is surrounded and limited by Christ’s love “because” of what follows.
1. Because we have concluded. Paul has made an internal judgment between alternatives. He has concluded something. This verb indicates that there was a moment in the past when he actively made a determination that resulted in his experience of being surrounded and limited by God’s unconditional love.
2. Because we have concluded that one died for all. The first thing Paul concluded was that Jesus death was substitutionary. Jesus died in our place, as our substitute. We will never be surrounded by and limited by Christ’s unconditional love until we actively conclude that Jesus died for us.
3. Because we have concluded that one died for all, therefore all have died. Not only has Jesus died for us; we have died in him. When He died, we died in Him. Not only did Jesus die in our place, Jesus’ death is the place where we died. We will never be surrounded by and limited by Christ’s unconditional love until we conclude that we ourselves are dead because Christ has died.
4. Because we have concluded that he died…that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Because Jesus died for me and because when Jesus died I died too, I no longer live for self. For my “self” to die in Christ is to no longer be ruled by what I think, feel and want. It is to no longer live for self.
So there are two ways to live. On the one hand I can live for self, pursuing what I think, feel, and want. On the other hand, what I think, feel, and want can be hemmed in, surrounded, held captive – controlled. But this control is not a control by rules or law. It is not a control from obligation or fear. It is a control flowing from Christ’s unconditional love. The clear conclusion is that if I am living for self, unconstrained, uncontrolled, it is because I do not clearly see Jesus’ death on the cross and my place in relation to His death. On the other hand, if I rightly view the cross and my relationship to the cross, I will discover that I am surrounded by an unconditional love that, though limiting me from being governed by what I think, what I feel, and what I want, is the only way to truly live.