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"Three Motivations - Three Perspectives "
2 Corinthians 5:9-21
Wednesday AM Bible Study
August 20, 2008
Much of what we find in this wonderful letter of 2 Corinthians is Paul's own heart-beat as a servant of Christ and minister of the gospel. Here, we find Paul expressing his heart further with respect to his faithful service to the Lord. This is particularly important; because there are hints in the letter that the Corinthians were focused on outward appearances in their teachers, rather than on sincerity of heart before God (see verse 12-13 as an example).
These then are the 'motives' and 'perspectives' that were at work in Paul. May they be our own as well.
I. PAUL WAS DRIVEN BY THREE MOTIVATIONS (vv. 9-15).
A. The day of evaluation (vv. 9-10). Paul made it his aim to be pleasing to the Lord, whether in the body or out of it (see vv. 1-8). In this light, he recognized that, not only he, but all of us, must one day give an account of our labors to the Lord in this body. Therefore, Paul didn't avoid the hard labors of the gospel or seek comfort for himself. He willingly gave himself to the cause of hearing the Lord Jesus one day say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
B. The terror of the Lord (v. 11). The word that is used in this verse is probably better translated "fear". It may be that Paul speaks here of his own sense of reverence and holy awe for the majesty of Christ. But given the fact that it moves him to persuade men, it may be that he speaks here of the dreadful prospect of the lost standing before the Lord in judgment. It's a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31); and so, we should be motivated to warn the lost and appeal to them to trust Christ while they can.
C. The love of Christ (vv. 12-15). Paul begins by affirming that he isn't seeking to commend himself and his co-workers to the Corinthians (see 3:1). Instead, he defends himself on the basis of his own sincerity—that his labors are not on the basis of outward appearances but of a genuine sincerity of heart. If he and his co-workers appear to be beside themselves, it is for God; and if they are sound of mind, it is for the Corinthians. But in either case, none of it is for themselves. It's the love of Christ that exercises a constraining influence on them. They reason that, if One (i.e., Jesus as the head of the race) died, then all died (i.e., have fallen in Adam and are in a state of spiritual death). The death of the Son of God on a cross on our behalf is a clear testimony of the reality of our need. And He died for all (in love), that those who live (i.e., by believing on Him), should no longer live for themselves but for Him (Gal. 2:20). This makes the love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross the thing that not only moved Paul, but that he sought to expound to all and persuade all to respond rightly to.
II. PAUL VIEWED THINGS FROM THREE PERSPECTIVES (vv. 16-21).
A. With respect to all men (v. 16). Because of Jesus' sacrifice, Paul now sought to see all men as God sees them. He no longer evaluated men on the basis of the flesh—even though, at one time, that's how he even evaluated Christ. Just as he now rightly viewed Christ in the light of eternity, that's how he now sees all men. The pressing question concerning people was not what they were in the flesh, but whether or not they were in Christ.
B. With respect to the believer (v. 17). With respect to those who are in Christ, he no longer saw them as what they were. They are completely new creations. Old things have passed away, and all things become new (see also Philippians 3:4-14). Preaching the gospel, then, becomes the most powerful act of 'world-transformation' possible! It doesn't simply change outward social conditions—it changes people from the inside out. It doesn't simply improve people—it makes them new.
C. With respect to himself and his co-workers in the gospel (vv. 18-21).
1. He views all these things as coming from God—not from himself or his co-workers. Rather than bringing anything about himself, he views himself as having been given a ministry by Another—that is, the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation is a change in relationship. It implies that there is a distance between two parties. It was our sins that changed the situation and created the separation between God and man. And reconciliation doesn't involve a change in God Himself. Rather, it means that He has changed us, so that there is no longer anything standing in the way of our entering into a full relationship with Him. This reconciliation was brought about by Christ taking our guilt upon Himself and paying the debt for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).
2. It was Paul's privilege to proclaim the message of this reconciliation through Christ (Col. 1:19-23). It's not that Jesus stepped in and appeased God. It was God Himself, in Christ, who reconciled the world to Himself—no longer imputing the believer's sins to themselves. It was this message that had been entrusted to Paul and his co- workers in the gospel. Now, he viewed himself as an "ambassador for Christ"—not one who creates the message of reconciliation, but one who delivers the message to others.
3. Thus he makes his appeal as if on God's behalf to the lost, that they be reconciled to the God who has done all that is necessary for reconciliation to be possible. God made it possible through His Son's death on the cross—that is, by the fact that He who knew no sin was "made" sin for us (as a substitute), that we might "become" the righteousness of God in Him. (Note: This is not saying that Christ became a sinner on our behalf—as some have erroneously and blasphemously taught. Paul uses the word poieo to explain that Christ was "made" sin on our behalf; but uses the different word ginomai to explain that we might "become" the righteousness of God in Him. The righteousness spoken of is, specifically, that which has God as its source.)
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These motivations and perspectives aren't given simply to give us insight into Paul. Just like Paul, we are called to be ambassadors for Christ in this world; and these are meant to become our own motivations and perspectives. May the Holy Spirit fix them deeply into our hearts—and may we be spurred by them to change our world.
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