2nd Corinthians 5:18

2nd Corinthians 5:18-21 (see also Romans 5:15)
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The Calvinist reasons that if God reconciled the world to Himself, then the world would be saved, and the result would be Universalism, and since we know that Universalism isn’t true, we know that a different view of the world must be in focus, namely, that this is referring to the world of ‘those who would be saved,’ namely, God’s elect people. However, this passage isn’t saying that the world is already reconciled. The message is this: “…be reconciled,” as we have been reconciled. As we are, you can be also. Repent and receive Him today. That’s a simple message, but a message which the Calvinist seems to entangle, in order to force Scripture to mesh with Calvinism.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “Paul says (in view of what he just said in verse 19), ‘...we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’ This makes it rather plain that the reconciliation is provisional and conditional since it still remains for sinners to ‘be reconciled’ to God through faith. This is nonsense if the elect were ‘already’ reconciled at the cross (in an unconditional, non-provisional sense). ‘We were reconciled...be ye reconciled’ forces the conclusion of provisional and conditional reconciliation being described by Paul.” 

Add the fact that Pauls pleading for reconciliation includes the mention that He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,” speaks very powerfully for an Unlimited Atonement, rather than an Limited Atonement, when you consider whose behalf the atonement was made for. It does appear that the context is speaking of “the world,” and unless Calvinists wish to object to the meaning of the world here, we do seem to have a powerful argument for an atonement that is universal in scope, though only effective for eternal life, when we believe in Christ, as per John 3:16.

Adrian Rogers: “The reason for the cross is that 
you and I might come to God. Did you know the 
Bible says we’re reconciled to God by the death 
of His Son. God is not reconciled to you. We’re 
the sinners. We’re reconciled to God.” (Why the 
Cross?: 1st Peter 3:18)

Colossians 1:19-20: For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

​Question: How was God, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself?

Answer: First of all, it’s not about God having to reconcile Himself to the world, but rather, the world needing to be reconciled to Him. God needs reconciliation with no one. Second of all, there is no reason to interpret “world” any differently here, than with John 3:16. Thirdly, the fact that it was God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, means that the blood sacrifice of Christ at Calvary is a perfect atonement. Adding to the fact of the unlimited nature of the atonement, Hebrews 2:9 states: “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” This ministry of reconciliation, that Paul had been given, was reconciliation for everyone. That’s why Paul prayed the way he did. (Romans 9:1-3) That’s why Paul evangelized the way he did. (1st Corinthians 1:17) Paul’s passion for the Gospel was not for those who were already secretly reconciled, but for those who could be saved, if they would simply let go, and freely receive what God, in Christ, had already done for them.

John Calvin: “Hence, we conclude that, though reconciliation is offered to all through Him, yet the benefit is peculiar to the elect, that they may be gathered into the society of life. However, while I say it is offered to all, I do not mean that this embassy, by which on Paul’s testimony (II Cor 5:18) God reconciles the world to Himself, reaches to all, but that it is not sealed indiscriminately on the hearts of all to whom it comes so as to be effectual.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.149, emphasis mine)

That sounds like the 4-Point Calvinist view. While I agree with John Calvin that the atonement is unlimited in scope, I disagree that the benefits are for a predetermined, secretly elect group. Instead, I contend that the benefit is peculiar to believers (though, if you define the New Testament elect as exclusively believers, then I would agree that the benefit of the atonement is peculiar to the elect).

​The benefit of Calvary is only for those who look upon Christ, 
just like the benefit of the bronze standard in the wilderness 
was only for those who looked upon it. (John 3:14 & Numbers 

Just as with the Old Testament example, the free offer of 
Calvary was made indiscriminately and distributively for all 
those who are bitten by the sting of sin.

​Question: If there existed a class of Calvinism’s elect who are given Irresistible Grace, as per Calvinism, then why would Paul need to “beg” them to be reconciled?

Answer: This is just another example of how Paul didn’t preach like a Calvinist (1st Corinthians 1:17), didn’t pray like a Calvinist (Romans 10:1), and didn’t think like a Calvinist. (Romans 9:1-3) The reason why is perhaps because he wasn’t a Calvinist. 

When the lost hears your voice in the preaching of the Gospel, with their ears, they may hear your voice, but as Christ’s ambassadors, in their heart, they feel Jesus knocking, that is, making His “appeal through us.” (v.20) That’s how the Gospel is supernatural, “living and active.” (Hebrews 4:12)