Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 for Ash Wednesday

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.

Of these three interpretations the first is the more full, significant, and vigorous, and the one more consonant with the usage of Scripture, which frequently speaks of an expiatory victim as sin. Cf. Hos 4:8;  Lev 4:24 and  Lev 4:21;  Ezek 44:29. The reason of this metonymy is that all the punishment and guilt of the sin were transferred to the expiatory victim, and so the sin itself might seem to be also transferred to it. In token of this the priest was accustomed to lay his hands on the victim, and call down on it the sins of the people; for by the hands are signified sinful actions, which are for the most part executed by the hands, as Theodoret says in his notes on Leviticus i. Therefore the laying of hands on the victim was both a symbol of oblation and a testimony of the transference of guilt to the victim, showing that it was expiatory, and that it bore the sin itself, with all its burden of guilt and punishment. In this way the high-priest on the great Day of Atonement turned a goat into the wilderness, having imprecated on it the sins of the whole people. Cf. Lev 16:20.

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 1:30. 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.

2Co 6:1 And we helping do exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain.

And we helping do exhort you. We, as workers together with God, beseech you to accept this proffered reconciliation, spoken of in vers. 18, 19, and 20, of the preceding chapter.

That you receive not the grace of God in vain. He receives grace into a vacuum, says Anselm, who does not work with it, who does not give it his heart, and who, through sloth, makes that grace ineffectual, by not doing, all that he can to express it in good works. In other words, do not suppose that faith alone is reconciliation, for a good life and good works are also indispensable. So Theophylact, following Chrysostom.

Observe that the Apostle applies the word grace to the general benefit of reconciliation of the world through Christ’s redemption; for it was of this that he had just been treating. Nevertheless, under that he comprehends that particular grace which Christ has merited for each one, and which God gives to each one, to enable each one to become a partaker of the general redemption wrought by Christ.

2Co 6:2 For he saith: In an accepted time have I heard thee and in the day of salvation have I helped thee. Behold, now is the acceptable time: behold, now is the day of salvation.

For he saith, in a accepted time have I heard thee. (Isa 49:8). The Apostle proves that now is the time of grace and reconciliation, in order that we way not receive this grace in vain, from the fact that Isaiah had foretold that this would be the time of grace. He is anticipating an objection which might be raised. It might be said by some one: “It is not in my power to receive the grace of God; for to give it or not to give it depends on the will of God. How, then, can you exhort me to receive it?” Paul replies. Now is the time accepted, now is the time of salvation, now is the time of grace, when, as Isaiah foretold, God offers His grace to all, and hears the desires and petitions of all.

In an accepted time. This time is the period of the law of grace, or the present life of Christians, during which they have the opportunity of doing good works and obtaining merit. But after this life it is not called “a time accepted;” for in this time only has God been pleased to offer to all men, through Christ, His grace of reconciliation, loving-kindness, and salvation. It is called accepted and acceptable, i.e., most welcome, and worthy of being received with the greatest possible rejoicing and praise, since it brings salvation to the world through Christ.

These words are addressed by the Father to the Son. I have heard, i.e., since the prophetic eye sees the future as already present, I will hear Thee, My Son, making request for Thy members, and in Thy faithful members, and asking for help, and grace, and, salvation. And in the day of salvation, in the time of grace, when I will call all men to eternal salvation by Thee, 0 Christ, have I helped Thee, i.e., I will succour Thee, so that you shall obtain in, Christians, as Thy members, the salvation that is offered them by Thee. So Ambrose, Chrysostom, Anselm. Cf. Isa 61:2, where Christ says that He is sent to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn. This acceptable year was typified by the year of jubilee. The whole time, therefore, that Christ preached, and after that the whole time of the New Law, was, and is, to them that obey Christ and accept His free gift, a year of jubilee, of mercy, peace, forgiveness, salvation, and freedom. In this year, after the long-standing. wrath of God against us, we are restored to His grace, good-will, to our glorious inheritance, and all the original good things which we had in the state of innocence in Paradise. The same time, the same year, was the day of vengeance on our foes, when God avenged the human race on its enemies by delivering them from their tyranny.

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One Response to Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 for Ash Wednesday

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for Ash Wednesday | stjoeofoblog

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