2 Corinthians 5:11-21
G. The New Covenant Hope - 4:16-5:10
H. The New Covenant Message: Reconciliation - 5:11-21
1. the motivation of his ministry - 5:11-15
In sum, it is not the commendation of men but the fear of the Lord and the constraining love of Christ which motivate and move Paul to ministry.
a. negatively stated: Paul does not seek the commendation of men - vv. 11-13
· Paul is motivated by the fear of the Lord. This is not the fear of being rejected by God (which Paul says in Rom. 8:1 will never occur for those in Christ). It is not condemnation, but commendation, or rather, the absence of it, that he has in mind.
· Paul's ministry consists of persuading men (of the gospel, not of his integrity or apostolic rights; in other words, persuasion = evangelism; see Acts 17:4; 18:4; 19:8,26; 26:28; 28:23).
· Paul conducts his ministry knowing that he is seen and known by the omniscient God before whom his life is laid bare.
· Paul refers to two aspects of his behavior: he is "beside himself" for God and is "of sound mind" or "self-controlled" for the Corinthians. What does the former mean?
The word translated "beside ourselves" is exestemen. It is used nowhere else by Paul, but is found in Mark 3:21 - "And when his own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of him; for they were saying, 'He [i.e., Jesus] has lost his senses." This word is also used in the NT as an expression of amazement (Mt. 12:23; Mark 2:12; Luke 8:56; Acts 2:7,12; 8:13; 9:21; 10:45; 12:16).
Options: (1) His zeal for ministry, his intense passion for Jesus and the gospel, and thus his occasional disregard for conventional norms of propriety, laid him open to the charge that he was mad (see Acts 26:24). (2) Perhaps this is a reference to his own exercise of tongues, which in 1 Cor. 14 he describes as being prayer and praise "to God". (3) Some insist he is referring to his "third heaven" experience described in chp. 12.
b. positively stated: Paul is constrained by the love of Jesus Christ - vv. 14-15
· The love of Christ is Christ's love for Paul (and us), not his (our) love for Christ.
· The word control or constrain literally means "hemmed in"; hence, "I'm on a road on which I can't veer left or right, nor can I retreat. I'm pushed forward by the transforming power of knowing that Jesus loves/likes me!"
The nature of Christ's death: He died for us
"Plainly, if Paul's conclusion is to be drawn, the 'for' must reach deeper than this mere suggestion of our advantage: if we all died, in that Christ died for us, there must be a sense in which that death of His is ours; He must be identified with us in it; there, on the cross, while we stand and gaze at Him, He is not simply a person doing us a service; He is a person doing us a service by filling our place and dying our death!" (James Denney)
The purpose of Christ's death: we live for Him
Note: There are two motives for ministry in these verses: the fear of Christ (ours toward Him) and the love of Christ (His toward us). "The one relates to Jesus' role as Judge, the other to his role as Savior. The 'fear of the Lord' is not cringing terror, but profound, awe-filled respect for the Lord as Judge; the 'love of Christ' is no sentimental thing, but his unconditional burden for those lost from God that he expressed in his gift of himself in sacrificial death for them (see Gal. 2:20). The love of the Savior who is also the Judge is both profound and serious" (Barnett, 288).
2. the transformation of his perspective - 5:16-17
a. on people in general - vv. 16a,17
· The phrase, "according to the flesh", means "by the world's standards: race, socio-economic position, education, title, gender, etc." The only thing of importance to Paul is whether one is "in Christ" (and thus a new creation) or "not in Christ".
· The "new birth" or being "born again" does not mean merely the mending of one's ways, the changing of bad habits, embracing a new list of do's and don'ts. It refers to a radical, pervasive spiritual re-creation of the inner being.
· Paul's language here of a "new creation" is an allusion to the "new heaven and new earth" of Rev. 21-22. Simply put, the glory of the age to come has impinged upon or broken into the present. We are re-born microcosms of the eschatological macrocosm.
· What are the "old things" that "passed away" when we were born again? Among other things, he would include godless, selfish living, "according to the flesh" living, enmity against God, hardened minds, calloused hearts of unbelief, etc. The "new things" that have come include justification, new life, forgiveness, adoption, hope, joy, wisdom, knowledge of God, etc.
b. on Christ in particular - v. 16b
Did Paul know of Jesus prior to his conversion? Certainly he had heard of him. Jesus spent considerable time in Jerusalem during his years of public ministry, as did the young rabbi, Saul of Tarsus. Whether or not he met him personally prior to his Damascus Road experience is not stated (but is doubtful, in my opinion). Paul probably means to say that he no longer knows or judges Christ by worldly standards; he no longer regards him as a blasphemer (cf. Acts 22:3-4; 26:9-11) but as Lord, Messiah, Savior.
3. the proclamation of the gospel - 5:18-21
a. reconciliation: its procurement - vv. 18-19
See Rom. 5:10-11; 11:15; 2 Cor. 5:18,19,20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20,22.
1) the objective dimension
There are several different, but related, kinds of reconciliation:
· John persuades Frank and Tom to give up their anger against one another. John, being a third party, reconciles the two men to each other.
· Tom persuades Frank to give up his anger against Tom.
· Frank gives up his own anger against Tom.
But we need yet another category to describe what God has done for us.
· At His own initiative, God removes that which is the cause of His anger against us, namely, our sin. He removes the cause of spiritual alienation by transferring His wrath against us to a proper substitute.
Thus the objective element in reconciliation refers to the activity of God whereby his enmity or wrath against sinners is consumed by another, namely, our substitute the Lord Jesus Christ. Reconciliation, therefore, is the restoration of harmony by the removal of whatever was the cause of alienation (i.e., our sin). This reconciling work . . .
a) is wholly of God - v. 18a
b) is a finished work - v. 18b
c) entails the non-imputation of sin - v. 19a
d) constitutes the message of the gospel - vv. 18c,19b
2) the subjective dimension
The subjective element in reconciliation refers to the fact that the activity in Christ whereby God disposed of his enmity against us must be received by faith. That is to say, we in turn, by his grace, must dispose of our enmity against him.
"What is it that makes a Gospel necessary? What is it that the wisdom and love of God undertake to deal with, and do deal with, in that marvelous way which constitutes the Gospel? Is it man's distrust of God? Is it man's dislike, fear, antipathy, spiritual alienation? Not if we accept the Apostle's teaching. The serious thing which makes the Gospel necessary, and the putting away of which constitutes the Gospel, is God's condemnation of the world and its sin; it is God's wrath, 'revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men' (Rom. 1:16-18). The putting away of this is 'reconciliation'; the preaching of this reconciliation is the preaching of the Gospel.
When St. Paul says that God has given him the ministry of reconciliation, he means that he is a preacher of this peace. He ministers reconciliation to the world. . . . It is not the main part of his vocation to tell men to make their peace with God, but to tell them that God has made peace with the world. At bottom, the Gospel is not good advice, but good news. All the good advice it gives is summed up in this – Receive the good news. But if the good news be taken away; if we cannot say, God has made peace, God has dealt seriously with His condemnation of sin, so that it no longer stands in the way of your return to Him; if we cannot say, Here is the reconciliation, receive it, -- then for man's actual state we have no Gospel at all.
When Christ's work was done, the reconciliation of the world was accomplished. When men were called to receive it, they were called to a relation to God, not in which they would no more be against Him – though that is included – but in which they would no more have Him against them. There would be no condemnation thenceforth to those who were in Christ Jesus" (James Denney).
b. reconciliation: its proclamation - vv. 20-21
1) ambassadors on behalf of Christ - v. 20
2) atonement by means of Christ - v. 21
a) the role of God the Father in the death of God the Son - Ps. 22:1,15; Isa. 53:4,6,10 (cf. Jn. 10:17ff.; Heb. 10:7ff. PT: the Son was not an unwilling victim)
b) the sinlessness of God the Son - John 8:29,46; 9:16; Heb. 7:26; 1 Pt. 1:18-19; 2:22; 3:18; 1 John 3:5; Acts 3:14; 4:27-30.
That as God he is without sin goes without saying, "but what is of vital importance for us and our reconciliation is that as Man, that is, in His incarnate state, Christ knew no sin, for only on that ground was He qualified to effect an atonement as Man for man" (Hughes, 212).
c) how was Jesus "made to be sin" for us?
· First, sin may be considered in its formal nature as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4); i.e., sin as an act. In this respect we are sinners.
· Second, sin may be considered as a moral quality inherent in the person who sins; i.e., the sin principle (Rom. 7:14-25). In this respect we are sinful.
In neither of these senses can it be said that Jesus was "made sin" for us, for he neither committed sin (and thus was not a sinner) nor possessed a nature infected by it (and thus was not sinful).
· Third, sin may also be considered in its legal aspect, principally as guilt; i.e., the liability to suffer the penal consequences of the law. It was in this sense, then, that Jesus was "made to be sin on our behalf."
d) the doctrine of imputation
|Adam's Sin||Imputed to||Us||=Original Sin|
|Our sin||Imputed to||Christ||=Atonement|
|Christ's Righteousness||Imputed to||Us||=Justification|
e) the purpose or end in view of which Christ died
"Such we are in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God himself. Let it be counted folly or frenzy or fury or whatever. It is our wisdom and our comfort; we care for no knowledge in the world but this: that man hath sinned and God hath suffered; that God hath made himself the sin of men, and that men are made the righteousness of God" (Thomas Hooker).
f) the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement
See Isa. 53; Gal. 3:13; Ps. 22:1-8,14-18; 1 Pt. 2:24.