Verse 20. "We are ambassadors for Christ" - uper cristou- presbeuomen. We execute the function of ambassadors in Christ's stead. He came from the Father to mankind on this important embassy. He has left the world, and appointed us in his place.
Ambassador is a person sent from one sovereign power to another; and is supposed to represent the person of the sovereign by whom he is deputed. Christ while on earth represented the person of the Sovereign of the world; his apostles and their successors represent the person of Christ.
Christ declared the will of the Father to mankind; apostles, &c., declare the will of Christ to the world. We are ambassadors for Christ.
"As though God did beseech you by us" - What we say to you we say on the authority of God; our entreaties are his entreaties; our warm love to you, a faint reflection of his infinite love; we pray you to return to God, it is his will that you should do so; we promise you remission of sins, we are authorized to do so by God himself. In Christ's stead we pray you to lay aside your enmity and be reconciled to God; i.e. accept pardon, peace, holiness, and heaven; which are all procured for you by his blood, and offered to you on his own authority.
"What unparalleled condescension and divinely tender mercies are displayed in this verse! Did the judge ever beseech a condemned criminal to accept of pardon? Does the creditor ever beseech a ruined debtor to receive an acquittance in full? Yet our almighty Lord, and our eternal Judge, not only vouchsafes to offer these blessings, but invites us, entreats us, and with the most tender importunity solicits us not to reject them." The Rev. J. Wesley's notes in loc.
This sentiment is farther expressed in the following beautiful poetic version of this place, by the Rev. Charles Wesley:- "God, the offended God most high, Ambassadors to rebels sends; His messengers his place supply, And Jesus begs us to be friends.
Us, in the stead of Christ, they pray, Us, in the stead of Christ, entreat, To cast our arms, our sins, away, And find forgiveness at his feet.
Our God, in Christ, thine embassy And proffer'd mercy we embrace; And, gladly reconciled to thee, Thy condescending mercy praise.
Poor debtors, by our Lord's request A full acquittance we receive; And criminals, with pardon blest, We, at our Judge's instance, live."
Verse 21. "For he hath made him to be sin for us" - ton mh gnonta amartian, uper hmwn amartian epoihsen? He made him who knew no sin, (who was innocent,) a sin-offering for us. The word amartia occurs here twice: in the first place it means sin, i.e. transgression and guilt; and of Christ it is said, He knew no sin, i.e. was innocent; for not to know sin is the same as to be conscious of innocence; so, nil conscire sibi, to be conscious of nothing against one's self, is the same as nulla pallescere culpa, to be unimpeachable.
In the second place, it signifies a sin-offering, or sacrifice for sin, and answers to the hafj chattaah and tafj chattath of the Hebrew text; which signifies both sin and sin-offering in a great variety of places in the Pentateuch. The Septuagint translate the Hebrew word by amartia in ninety-four places in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, where a sin-offering is meant; and where our version translates the word not sin, but an offering for sin. Had our translators attended to their own method of translating the word in other places where it means the same as here, they would not have given this false view of a passage which has been made the foundation of a most blasphemous doctrine; viz. that our sins were imputed to Christ, and that he was a proper object of the indignation of Divine justice, because he was blackened with imputed sin; and some have proceeded so far in this blasphemous career as to say, that Christ may be considered as the greatest of sinners, because all the sins of mankind, or of the elect, as they say, were imputed to him, and reckoned as his own. One of these writers translates the passage thus: Deus Christum pro maximo peccatore habuit, ut nos essemus maxime justi, God accounted Christ the greatest of sinners, that we might be supremely righteous. Thus they have confounded sin with the punishment due to sin. Christ suffered in our stead; died for us; bore our sins, (the punishment due to them,) in his own body upon the tree, for the Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all; that is, the punishment due to them; explained by making his soul-his life, an offering for sin; and healing us by his stripes.
But that it may be plainly seen that sin-offering, not sin, is the meaning of the word in this verse, I shall set down the places from the Septuagint where the word occurs; and where it answers to the Hebrew words already quoted; and where our translators have rendered correctly what they render here incorrectly. In EXODUS, Exod. xxix. 14, xx16: LEVITICUS, Lev. iv. 3, 8, 20, 21, 24, 25, 29, 32-34; Lev. v. 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12; Lev. vi. 17, 25, 30; Lev. vii. 7, 37; Lev. viii. 2, 14; Lev. ix. 2, 3, 7, 8, 10, 15, 22; Lev. x. 16, 17, 19; Lev. xii. 6, 8; Leviticus xiv. 13, 19, 22, 31; Lev. xv. 15, 30; Lev. xvi. 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 15, 25, 27; Lev. xxiii. 19: NUMBERS, Num. vi. 11, 14, 16; Num. vii. 16, 22, 28, 34, 40, 46, 52, 58, 70, 76, 82, 87; Numbers viii. 8, 12; Num. xv. 24, 25, 27; Num. xviii. 9; Num. xxviii. 15, 22; Num. xxix. 5, 11, 16, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, 38.
Besides the above places, it occurs in the same signification, and is properly translated in our version, in the following places:- 2 CHRONICLES, 2 Chron. xxix. 21, 23, 24: Ezra, Ezra vi. 17; Ezra viii. x25: NEHEMIAH, Neh. x. x23: Job, Job i. 5: EZEKIEL, Ezek. xliii. 19, 22, 25; Ezek. xliv. 27, 29; Ezekiel xlv. 17, 19, 22, 23, 25. In all, one hundred and eight places, which, in the course of my own reading in the Septuagint, I have marked.
"That we might be made the righteousness of God in him." - The righteousness of God signifies here the salvation of God, as comprehending justification through the blood of Christ, and sanctification through his Spirit or, as the mountains of God, the hail of God, the wind of God, mean exceeding high mountains, extraordinary hail, and most tempestuous wind; so, here, the righteousness of God may mean a thorough righteousness, complete justification, complete sanctification; such as none but God can give, such as the sinful nature and guilty conscience of man require, and such as is worthy of God to impart. And all this righteousness, justification, and holiness, we receive in, by, for, and through HIM, as the grand, sacrificial, procuring, and meritorious cause of these, and every other blessing. Some render the passage: We are justified through him; before God; or, We are justified, according to God's plan of justification, through him.
IN many respects, this is a most important and instructive chapter.
1. The terms house, building, tabernacle, and others connected with them, have already been explained from the Jewish writings. But it has been thought by some that the apostle mentions these as readily offering themselves to him from his own avocation, that of a tentmaker; and it is supposed that he borrows these terms from his own trade in order to illustrate his doctrine; This supposition would be natural enough if we had not full evidence that these terms were used in the Jewish theology precisely in the sense in which the apostle uses them here. Therefore, it is more likely that he borrowed them from that theology, than from his own trade.
2. In the terms tabernacle, building of God, &c., he may refer also to the tabernacle in the wilderness, which was a building of God, and a house of God, and as God dwelt in that building, so he will dwell in the souls of those who believe in, love, and obey him. And this will be his transitory temple till mortality is swallowed up of life, and we have a glorified body and soul to be his eternal residence.
3. The doctrines of the resurrection of the same body; the witness of the Spirit; the immateriality of the soul; the fall and miserable condition of all mankind; the death of Jesus, as an atonement for the sins of the whole world; the necessity of obedience to the Divine will, and of the total change of the human heart, are all introduced here: and although only a few words are spoken on each, yet these are so plain and so forcible as to set those important doctrines in the most clear and striking point of view.
4. The chapter concludes with such a view of the mercy and goodness of God in the ministry of reconciliation, as is no where else to be found. He has here set forth the Divine mercy in all its heightenings; and who can take this view of it without having his heart melted down with love and gratitude to God, who has called him to such a state of salvation.
5. It is exceedingly remarkable that, through the whole of this chapter, the apostle speaks of himself in the first person plural; and though he may intend other apostles, and the Christians in general, yet it is very evident that he uses this form when only himself can be meant, as in verses 12 and 13, as well as in several places of the following chapter. This may be esteemed rather more curious than important.