Ever since I came across this interpretation a couple of months ago, I've been skeptical of it. According to St. Augustine, the "world" in 2 Corinthians 5:19 is referring only to the Church. I've been hesitant to use this example in UOJ debates for fear of being accused of advocating a limited atonement. But according to the grammar as shown by the passage itself, coupled with Pr. Rydecki's orthodox explanation of it, and along with the interpretation of other Fathers in the faith (particularly Luther, Melanchthon, and the Confessions), it seems that Augustine might not be too far off. If God was in Christ "reconciling" (-ing; an ongoing process) sinners by faith through the Ministry of the Word, then it follows that He was and is only reconciling those who have and will have faith -- those who are of the universal, invisible Church. Those whom He elected from eternity after He foresaw would, in time on earth, have faith in Christ (N. Hunnius explains election in view of the gift of faith). I also find Augustine's interpretation interesting when compared to what Luther says in the Confessions: "But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness [CJS - or reconciliation of the sinner], as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]." But before I definitively make up my mind about Augustine's interpretation, I'd like to hear from you, dear reader, as to what you think of Augustine's approach. As follows is the quote in the context of his exposition of John 15: 17-19:
"2. But alongside of this love we ought also patiently to endure the hatred of the world. For it must of necessity hate those whom it perceives recoiling from that which is loved by itself. But the Lord supplies us with special consolation from His own case, when, after saying, These things I command you, that you love one another, He added, If the world hate you, know that it hated me before [it hated] you. Why then should the member exalt itself above the head? Thou refusest to be in the body if you are unwilling to endure the hatred of the world along with the Head. If you were of the world, He says, the world would love its own. He says this, of course, of the whole Church, which, by itself, He frequently also calls by the name of the world: as when it is said, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19 And this also: The Son of man came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:17 And John says in his epistle:We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also [for those] of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2 The whole world then is the Church, and yet the whole world hates the Church. The world therefore hates the world, the hostile that which is reconciled, the condemned that which is saved, the polluted that which is cleansed.
3. But that world which God is in Christ reconciling unto Himself, which is saved by Christ, and has all its sins freely pardoned by Christ, has been chosen out of the world that is hostile, condemned, and defiled. For out of that mass, which has all perished in Adam, are formed the vessels of mercy, whereof that world of reconciliation is composed, that is hated by the world which belongs to the vessels of wrath that are formed out of the same mass and fitted to destruction. Finally, after saying, If you were of the world, the world would love its own, He immediately added, But because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. And so these men were themselves also of that world, and, that they might no longer be of it, were chosen out of it, through no merit of their own, for no good works of theirs had preceded; and not by nature, which through free-will had become totally corrupted at its source: but gratuitously, that is, of actual grace. For He who chose the world out of the world, effected for Himself, instead of finding, what He should choose: for there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace. And if by grace, he adds, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. Romans 11:5-6"
Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701087.htm>.