II Corinthians 5:9–6:2. Paul Explains His Mission.
Key Notes: A dialog on judgment. Productive and nonproductive fear of God. The work of reconcilation and an invitation.
In the previous lesson, we learned Paul’s teaching about death and the after-life—the Intermediate State. We extended the discussion to learn new approaches to talking to people who are concerned about “where they go next.” In this next lesson, Paul takes up the logical implications of ife after death.
How are we to behave in the meantime, during our earthly life? This passage (IICor.5:9–6:30) is a logical series of a dozen important statements:
We make it our aim to please to please Him.
We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Knowing the fear of the Lord we persuade men.
The love of Christ constrains us.
Those who live must live no longer for themselves.
We regard no one from a human point of view.
If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature.
God in Christ is reconciling the world to Himself.
We are ambassadors for Christ.
For our sake He made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be the righteousness of God in Him.
Do not accept the grace of God in vain.
Now is the day of salvation.
Any one of these statements could be studied by itself, as a sermon topic or an hour’s Bible discussion group. Together, however, they form a coherent statement of Paul’s philosophy of ministry and give us much solid information about our salvation. They begin with a note of personal responsibility and end with an invitation that is a puzzle in itself.
This study is presented in dialogue format, as if we could talk to Paul.
IICor.5:9–10 Whether in this life or the next, we make every effort to please the Lord, for we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive good or evil, according to what we have done on earth.
Just a minute, Paul. Aren’t you contradicting yourself? You have already told us that “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom.8:1–4). And Jesus said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. “ (Jn.3:19).
True, Dr. A., but I have told the truth. “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Rom.14:10).You recall that I said “Everyone’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it because it will be revealed with fire and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (ICor.3:13). And again, “…the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and disclose the purposes of the heart. Then everyone will receive his commendation from God”. (ICor.4:5)
And Jesus said “I tell you, on the day of judgment, men will give an account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt.12:36). And again, “For the Son of Man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and He will repay everyone according to what He has done. (Matt.16:27)
So the answer is that there is indeed no condemnation in Christ; that is, we are saved from Hell. But we are still liable to answer for our behavior as Christians before Him.
Paul, I can’t imagine what that would be like. I have made so many mistakes in my life, not to mention the really bad—awful sins that I am ashamed of. How could I stand in front of One who knows everything I ever did or thought? Will He say “Hmmmm….what shall we do with this one?”
Dr. A., please remember: “He chose us that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Eph.1:4). “He is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of His glory with rejoicing:” (Jude.24).“And you…He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before Him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast….” (Col.1:21–23)
So, Paul, there’s a catch—“provided that”. Is our behavior a test of our salvation? You said “Examine yourselves whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? –unless, indeed you fail to meet the test. “ (IICor.13:5)
Paul: Yes, that is true. “The unexamined life is not worth living” to quote one of the Greeks, but the primary motivations for our new lives are different.“We make it our aim to please Him”. We know the fear of the Lord—a fear of displeasing Him.
We live for Him because He died for us. We have great gratitude. IICor.5:15
“You believe in Him and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of gladness.” (IPet.1:8). We have great joy.
“The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.’ (Rom.8:6)
Dr.A.: Then there is the fear of God, bad fear and good fear. The useless steward feared his Master and lost his place. He did not trust Him and perhaps he thought his investment would fail and he would have nothing to report. The other stewards respected their Master and were rewarded. Lk.19:11–27
Paul: Yes.It would be better to say productive and nonproductive fear of God, than bad or good fear. Jesus also said “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.’ (Lk.12:32). If we know Him as Father, our fear should be tempered by this loving relationship. Proverbs has a useful message: “The fear of God is to hate evil.” (Prov.8:13).
Dr. A.: “Knowing the fear of God, we persuade men." We have been taught to be non-directive, non-confrontational. Many preachers think they should not press their congregations. Some parents want their children to decide their religion (but not their politics) for themselves.
Paul: That is the third aspect of the fear of God. Jesus speaks of the outer darkness, the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matt.8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). Mark adds another forbidding word: “…where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mk.9:48). Seven times Jesus gave us the warning of eternal damnation. That is the fear of God which drives us to be effective persuaders. Being non-directive suggests that we neither fear God nor love people.
Some say we are beside ourselves. I experienced an ecstatic uplifting toward God, but I have a very sober attitude toward the ministry. I have been called insane before. (Acts 26:24). The Corinthians are very difficult to persuade. But the love of Christ grips us; it holds us fast. The love of Christ grips us because we are persuaded that He died for all. With Him we all were crucified, dead and buried, and raised. (Rom.6:1–14). And out of gratitude we want to live our life for Him. We don’t see people in the same way anymore. Since we have been given new life, we see everyone as having—or needing—new life.
Paul, you cannot do other than preach the Gospel. (ICor.9:16). The love of Christ grips you but maybe it doesn’t grip the rest of us. Are we under the same obligation as you? We didn’t persecute the church, you know. And God has not spoken to us from Heaven.
Dr. A., Have you forgotten Jesus last command to His disciples? “Go ye into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matt.28:18)
Ok. I’ll grant you that, but Paul, let’s look at the concept of everyone being 'a new creature. ' Aren’t you concerned that people may use their new life as an excuse to ignore all the sins of their old life? Like gluttony, bankruptcy, divorce, or addiction?
Well, Dr. A.."...we are convinced that One has died for all; and therefore all have died. And He died for all that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sakes died and was raised. "
"Are we to continue in sin that grace ay abound? By no means! Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death" (Rom.6:1).
Our task, having been reconciled to God ourselves, is to work for the reconciliation of the world to God. So we are ambassadors of Christ, God making His appeal through us. An ambassador represents his King. He is resident in a foreign land, learning to speak another language, attempting to make friends for His Kingdom. He does everything possible to show His Kingdom in the best light. His words are not his own. He says what the King tells him to say.
The ultimate fact of our reconciliation is that God put our sin on the Lord Jesus, and put His righteousness on us: He became Sin for us so that we might become His Righteousness. This verse is a digest of Isa. 53. The truth lies in mystery. But the concept is very important: we are not saved by our works but by grace. And in this brief sentence, Paul says that God’s righteousness has been put on us and our sin was put on Him.
Paul, why do you entreat the Corinthians not to accept the grace of God in vain? And why are you appealing to the Corinthians to be saved? You said in your first letter to them that they were endowed with every spiritual gift. (ICor.1:7) How much more saved could they be?
Dr. A, in every church body there are the surely converted, and those who are coming into the Fold, those who are threatening to leave and those who never entered. You know that Heb. 3:6–13 deals with those Hebrew believers who are threatening to leave the fold. The writer fears that they may have an evil, unbelieving heart, leading them to fall away from the Living God.
Listen to the concerns of the writer of Hebrews for his Christian friends:
Drifting away, neglecting salvation 2:1
Falling away 3:13
If they commit apostasy 6:6
Neglecting to meet together 10:12
Sinning deliberately 10:26
Throwing away their confidence 10:35
Growing weary, faint-heated 12:3
Like Esau, they fail to obtain the grace of God 12:15
Their situation is not unique. It is the state of the church everywhere.
Behold, now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.
We are ambassadors for Christ.
Do not accept the grace of God in vain.