16. Therefore we henceforward know no one after the flesh. And if we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him not.
We, as dead, risen, living in Christ, and for Him. alone, no longer regard, respect, or love any human being” for considerations of earth, whether Jews or Gentiles, rich, or poor, relatives or strangers, aliens or citizens, but only with reference to Christ, and for God’s sake. And if formerly we have known Christ Himself in the flesh during His mortal life (he says this in the name of other disciples of Christ, who regarded him with simply personal, affection, as Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas observe), we have learned now to regard Him with a higher and more spiritual reverence, as our God, Redeemer, and Lord. Probably some of Saint Paul’s opponents, who were Jews, had listened to the teaching of Christ in Judea, and took advantage of this circumstance to claim authority as teachers; and it is to such persons that Christ referred in Matt 7:22-23, I know you not.
17. If there is therefore in Christ a new creature, the old has passed away: behold all things are become new.
And what is true of us, the Apostles, is equally true of you, and of all baptised Christians. Your baptism has been a new creation. The old world has passed away. Its affections, ambitions, objects of desire, are all, for you, past and over. They are replaced by a new life and a new world, new motives, new objects, a new principle of existence; to you, as to us, all things are become new.
18. And all of God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ: and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation.
This new creation proceeds wholly from God, the Author of all good. The Syriac version joins the words to the preceding, all things are made new by God; Who has reconciled us, formerly His enemies by sin, to Himself by the merits of Christ. And He employs us, the Apostles, as His messengers and fellow workers in this reconciliation: not only the office of proclaiming it, but also of effecting it by baptism and remission of sin. All power is given to Me; go ye therefore; teach, and baptize. As My Father sent Me, I also send you.
19. That in truth God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing to them their faults, and placed in us the word of reconciliation,
This is a fuller statement of what is said in the last verse : 1. That God is the Author of our reconciliation in Christ ; 2. God is the source and origin of the power which Christ gave to his Apostles. The Syriac version, followed by St. Chrysostom, and the Greek Fathers, understand the Apostle to say that it is God Who, through Christ, reconciled the world to Himself. Many Latin writers, ancient and modern, understand it, God was in Christ by unity of essence. The Father in the Son, because their substance is the same: for where there is no difference, there is unity. The Latins accordingly make use of these words to prove the unity of the Father and the Son. God was in Christ, not reconciling Himself to the world, for the salvation of man proceeded from His mercy, but the world to Himself, to induce them to accept this mercy, not imputing to them their faults. This task of reconciliation of the world He entrusted to the Apostles. O, the depth of the clemency of God! For the Father sent the Son as His legate, and beheld Him put to death by those who needed reconciliation. Yet, even then. He did not abandon us, but entrusted to His Apostles the ministry of reconciliation, to bring back to God those who had rebelled against him.—Theophylact.
20. For Christ, therefore, we discharge an embassy. As if God were exhorting you through us, we entreat you in Christ’s name be reconciled to God.
For Christ therefore we are ambassadors. That which God the Father once did through Christ made man, He continues now to do through us, the vicars of Christ.—Theophylact from St. Chrysostom. So precious in God’s sight is the race of man, that for us He gave His Son to death, and appointed us His Apostles.—Omnia Propter vos, iv. 15. It is not we who exhort you: Christ entreats you: the Father implores and beseeches you.—St. Chrysostom. Wonderful instance of indulgence, kindness, humility! God is the offended party, yet He sends an embassy to implore pardon, as if He had done wrong to us. We are to forgive God, and enter into His grace.—Theophylact.
21. Him, Who knew not sin. He made sin for us, that we might be made the justice of God in Him.
Him Who knew not sin. He who is without sin, is ignorant of its nature, says St. Augustine. Christ was so alien from sin that it was as if He could not even understand it. He was justice itself. Yet God made him sin for us; delivered Him to death as a sinner and the worst of men. Punished Him in our place, as if He had been sin itself, guilty of all sin. Himself the universal sin. Probably, however, the words are intended to signify an offering for sin; the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world. God put upon Him the iniquity of all of us. (Isa 53:6.) That we might be made the justice of God. Just by the grace of God, perfectly just before God, participators in God’s justice. That sinners might be justified with God in Christ—Ambrose. And, St. Anselm: He is sin, and we are justice; not our own, but God’s; not in us but in Him. Just as He is sin, not His own, but ours, not in Himself, but in us, by the likeness of the flesh of sin, in which He was crucified.