Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

2Co 5:17  If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new.

If then any be in Christ a new creature. If any one is with me regenerate in Christ, and recreated and changed, as it were, into a new creature, even as I am not what I was, Saul being changed into Paul, then the old rites of Judaism, the old former affections and judgments, such as knowing any one according to the flesh, have all passed away. In such an one all is made new: he has new affections, new thoughts about the realities and hopes of Christianity, a new life, a new hope of the resurrection, new grace, sanctification, and justification. On this newness, cf. S. Anselm and S. Augustine (de Cantic. Novo. vol. ix.).

S. Bernard (de Assumpt. B. Mariæ) assigns its cause He says: “All things are made new, i.e., the old fortress is overturned, a new one raised. Lust having been banished, the heart expands with a mighty longing; and after its arrival the mind yearns far more for heavenly things than it had ever before longed for earthly. Now is the wall of continence raised up, the bulwark of patience. But this work rises on the foundation of faith, and grows by 1ove of one’s neighbour till it reaches even to the love of God.”

2Co 5:18  But all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.

But all things are of God. All these new things were created and given by the gift and grace of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation, in order that through our preaching we may persuade men to repent and receive the faith of Christ, that so we may reconcile them to God.

2Co 5:19  For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins. And he hath placed in us the word of reconciliation.

God indeed was in Christ. I.e., as the Son by oneness of Essence. So Ambrose and Primasius. Hence S. Ambrose (de Fide ad Gratian, lib. iii. c. 5) says that God, i.e., everlasting Divinity, was in Christ, and Christ reconciled the world because He was God. Secondly, and better: “God was in Christ,” i.e., through Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Thirdly, Cajetan takes it: God reconciled to Himself the world in Christ, or the world that believes in Christ. But this seems forced and harsh.

Not imputing to them their sins. Not imputing but freely forgiving their trespasses, not by imputation of the righteousness of Christ, as the heretics think, but by a real infusion of it. So Chrysostom and Anselm.

Observe the Hebraism. (1.) When the Scripture says that God imputes or does not impute sin, it does not mean that He acts against the reality of things, for so would God be false, but rather, since the judgment of God is most pure, He regards things and sins as they truly are. (2.) The same appears from the fact that the whole law, and consequently every sin against the law, depends on the judgment of God, i.e., on the eternal law which is in the Mind of God. (3.) And the chief reason is that all remission of sins depends on the forgiveness of God: but to forgive is not to impute; for sin, belonging to the sphere of morals as an offence against God, is removed by forgiveness, which equally belongs to the moral world. But the generous goodness of God infuses, together with this forgiveness, grace, charity, and all virtues, that we may be adorned with them as real gifts of God, may be justified and become worthy of the friendship of God.

And he hath placed in us the ministry of reconciliation. He hath given us the duty of preaching the word of God, by which we are to reconcile men to God, as was said at the last verse. By metonymy, word may be put for the reality as sign for the thing signified. In this way the word of reconciliation would be reconciliation itself, or the power and ministry of reconciling men to God.

2Co 5:20  For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us, for Christ, we beseech you, be reconciled to God.

As Christ’s ambassadors, even as if Christ were entreating you by us, we implore you to give up your wills to be reconciled to God. See what diligence, what energy, what zeal the Apostle displays in his endeavours to convert the Corinthians.

2Co 5:21  Him, who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us: that we might be made the justice of God in him. Sin for us… That is, to be a sin offering, a victim for sin.

Him, who knew no sin. Experimentally, says S. Thomas, Christ knew no sin, though by simple knowledge He did, for He did no sin.

He  hath made sin for us. For us, says Illyricus, who were sin; because, he says, sin is the substance and form of our soul. But to say this of ourselves is folly, of Christ blasphemy. (1.) The meaning is that God made Christ to be the victim offered for our sin, to prevent us from atoning for our sins by eternal death and fire. The Apostle plays on the word sin, for when he says, “Him who knew no sin,” he means sin strictly speaking; but when he says, “He made Him to be sin for us,” he employs a metonymy. So Ambrose, Theophylact, and Anselm. In Psa_40:12, Christ calls our sins His. (2.) Sin here denotes, says S. Thomas, the likeness of sinful flesh which He took, that He might be passible, just as sinners who are descended from Adam are liable to suffering. (3.) Sin, in the sense of being regarded by men as a noteworthy sinner, and being crucified as a malefactor. So the Greek Fathers.

That we might be made the justice of God in him. (1.) That we might be made righteous before God, with the righteousness infused by God through the merits of Christ. So Chrysostom. He says righteousness and not righteous, says Theophylact, to signify the excellency of the grace, which effects that in the righteous there is no deformity, no stain of sin, but that there is complete grace and righteousness throughout. (2.) The righteousness of God was Christ made, in order that its effects, or the likeness of the uncreated righteousness of God, might be communicated to us by His created and infused righteousness. So Cyril (Thesaur. lib. xii. c. 3).  (3.) Christ is so called because God owes not to us, but to Christ and His merits, the infusion of righteousness and the remission of our sins. Cf. Augustine (Enchirid. c. 41). Cf. also 1 Cor 1:3030. Heretics raise the objection that Christ was made for us sin, in the sense that our sin was imputed to Him and was punished in Him; therefore we are made the righteousness of God, because it is imputed to us. I answer that the two things are not parallel; for Christ could not really be a sinner as we can really be righteous, nor does the Apostle press the analogy. He only says that Christ bore our sins, that we through Him might be justified. Moreover, Christ actually was made sin, i.e., a victim for sin (this is the meaning of “sin” here), and therefore we truly become the righteousness of God. So easily and completely can we turn the tables on these Protestant objectors.

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One Response to Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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