There are some Mid-Acts dispensationalists nowadays promoting (and boy do they ever) a new teaching that says since Christ died on the cross for the sins of the whole world that means the lost are already forgiven. They say that the forgiveness of sins does not equal salvation, and that those who die lost will go to hell for unbelief, not for their sins since they are forgiven. Some of them arrogantly claim that those who disagree with them do not understand the gospel and are probably not saved.

Their primary proof-text is 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.

18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

This is just another example of isolating a text and giving it a private interpretation while ignoring clear passages that teach on the contrary.

To reconcile is to make peace where there was enmity (Col. 1:20). The enmity was on our part and the reconciliation is on God’s part. God reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ (by the way, there are various reconciliations taught in Paul’s epistles, but that is another study for another day). Those who have been reconciled have been given the ministry of reconciliation which means it is our responsibility to preach the “word of reconciliation” which has been “committed unto us.” Who better to give the message of reconciliation than those who have been reconciled? Lost sinners are not ambassadors for Christ! How did Christ make reconciliation? The answer is found in the remainder of the passage (2 Cor. 5:19-21).

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

  • God was in Christ – When Christ shed His blood on the cross it was the pure blood of God (Acts 20:28).
  • reconciling the world unto himself – He did a work through His death, burial, and resurrection that made it POSSIBLE for the world to be saved. God will not accept man’s attempts at reconciliation (religion). He has been sinned against and He alone sets the terms for reconciliation.
  • not imputing their trespasses unto them – The word “impute” means to put on the account of. God took the sin of the world off its account and put it on Himself (v.21). Christ died for OUR sins (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-22), but that payment is only applied to those who are IN CHRIST.
  • that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him – Those who receive the offer of reconciliation by faith also have the righteousness of Christ imputed to their account. Reconciliation is based on imputation. It is unbiblical to say a sinner does not have his sins imputed to him without also having the righteousness of Christ imputed to him. The negative and positive aspects of imputation go together in reconciliation and cannot be separated!

The scriptural answers to the following questions prove the lost are not already forgiven.

  1. Does this passage, or any other, say that the lost are forgiven before they believe the gospel? No.
  2. What is reconciliation? Making peace between enemies. A sinner cannot have “peace with God” without being justified by faith (Rom. 5:1).
  3. Does reconciliation also include the righteousness of Christ being imputed? Yes.
  4. Is reconciliation automatic? No. Reconciliation is available but not automatic. Otherwise, we would not need to beseech (implore with urgency) sinners to be reconciled to God. It is “unto all” but only “upon all them that believe” (Rom. 3:22-24).
  5. Does the scripture say we must RECEIVE the forgiveness of sins? Yes (Acts 26:18). Receiving the forgiveness of sins is redemption (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14) and there is no redemption outside of Christ.
  6. Does scripture speak of the lost being in hell for their sins? Yes (Eph. 5:5-7; Rev. 21:8).
  7. Is unbelief a sin? Yes (Rom. 14:23). Therefore, to say the lost will not be in the lake of fire for their sins but for their unbelief is nonsense since unbelief is a sin (Rev. 21:8).
  8. Would God be just for putting someone in hell that He already forgave? No.