2Corinthians 5 — To a Church in Crisis, With Love

Text: 2Corinthians 5

With love, even God’s own divine love in our hearts, Paul and I speak to you from 2Corinthians 5 today. We want you to join us in being the Amen to God’s promises of reconciliation, of salvation, and of the infilling of the Holy Spirit! Yes! Truth! He has done it in me! You will say the same thing, when you are filled!

If I were to give this a title, it would be, “Compelled by the Love of Christ.” When we cried out for the Lord to change our hearts, He filled us with His Spirit and His divine love, the very love of God the Father and God the Son. And His love compels us (we are glad prisoners of it), in all that we do!

We say these things to you so that you will understand what happens when you obey Jesus’ command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then, you will become a prisoner of the divine love of God, just as He has done with us!

Verses 1-3 —

Paul continues his testimony of ministry in the Spirit from 2Corinthians 4:18, in which Paul said we who are filled with the Spirit do not look at the temporal, but the eternal. 

Now he explains why — it is because we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down (demolished), we have a building from God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens! Jesus Christ has gone to prepare a place for us —

John 14:2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

For indeed in this house we groan (sigh inwardly), because we long (intensely crave) to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven (our spiritual, eternal bodies). We do not want to be found spiritually naked, but clothed with the body that is eternal. Do you know, without a doubt? Do you long for that day when you are clothed with Him? Is He in you, even now?

Verses 4-5 — 

For indeed, while we are in this tent, we sigh inwardly, being burdened (troubled), because we do not want to be unclothed and in our decaying body, but clothed with our eternal body! Then the mortal will be swallowed up (gulped down entirely) by life — eternal life! Do I hear a “Hallelujah!” out there?

God has prepared us for this very purpose, that is, that we would ultimately be clothed with our spiritual body, an eternal body, when our natural bodies die. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality! The change will be in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1Corinthians 15:52-53)! 

And He gave to us the Spirit as a pledge, a foretaste of glory divine! Oh, this wonderful infilling is just the appetizer, beloved! How kind and merciful is our God, to change us in such a wonderful way!

Verses 6-8 —

Because we have this foretaste, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, we are always of good courage (confident). We know that, while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. We are not yet present with Him, in our spiritual bodies, in heaven. but we know we will be!

Paul breaks away in Verse 7 to say why we are of good courage (again, confident). It is because we walk by faith, not by sight! We believe! And we know He has filled us! There is no longer any doubt. To walk by faith is to walk with our eyes on      our heavenly Father, our Lord, and the coming glory!  We do not look at temporal things. They will pass. Persecution is a temporary, light affliction. We press on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14)! We look at the eternal things!

Now, Paul continues on “at home in the body and absent from the Lord.” Paul says, We are of good courage (again, confident), “I say,” Paul says, for emphasis! There is no wavering, no questioning, we know!

Because we are completely confident, we would rather be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord, than be home in the body and absent from Him! So, when we die, beloved, we go directly to the Lord! Glory to God!

Paul writes to the church at Philippi —

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (that is, the prize). 

22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better . . .

Verses 9-10 —

Therefore, our ambition is always to be fully pleasing to Him, whether we are with Him in heaven, or absent from Him and still walking about on the earth. Why? First, because we love Him with His love. We live to please Him, and because He has filled us with His Spirit, we please Him greatly!!

But also, we will all be held accountable, and Paul speaks this particularly to the believers at Corinth, whose motives and actions have shown that they are infants in Christ. Each will receive reward or rebuke, according to his deeds while he was in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

The commentator for the Expositors Bible Commentary rightly says that some believers may “suffer loss” (1Corinthians 3:15) by forfeiting Christ’s praise or losing a reward that might have been theirs, had they obeyed. 

But the eternal destiny of some of the believers in Corinth hangs in the balance. The man who wrote this commentary believes, “once saved, always saved.” But I must disagree, because the Bible is quite clear that though no one will snatch you from God’s open hand, you can leave Him! How?

Jesus Christ Himself states that a believer may lose his salvation, if he continues to sin. Addressing His disciples (who are believers), the multitudes of Jews who have come to listen to Him, and the scribes and Pharisees who continually persecute Him, Jesus says —

Matthew 5:29 “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

And He also says to Sardis, the church with soiled garments (sinning) that it is possible for your name to be erased from the book of life —

Revelation 3:5 “‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase (blot out, wipe away) his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.’”

Verse 11 —

We persuade (convince) men that they are sinners in need of a Savior, and that they must believe into Jesus Christ in order to receive forgiveness for their past sins and be reconciled to God. And we persuade believers that they must be filled with the Holy Spirit, just according to Jesus Christ’s command. 

Why?  Because we know (understand) the fear of the Lord, that is, the terror of Him, His response if we reject His Son or are found with soiled clothing when we stand before Him. But we are made manifest to God — we appear before Him even now. Because of His work in our hearts, we stand before Him. 

And Paul hopes (expects, is confident) that Timothy and him are shown to the consciences of the believers at Corinth, that they are doing the work of the Lord, and speaking the words of the Lord. 

The believers at Corinth have questioned Paul and Timothy’s credentials because they do not like their exhortations, and because they are listening to “super apostles,” who teach falsely. 

In saying that he expects that the Corinthian church sees the truth, Paul is prodding them to examine their consciences. Do they not see that they are falsely judging him?

Verse 12 —

For none of us who are Spirit-filled commend ourselves to others. We are already commended by God. But we give those to whom we minister an opportunity to be proud of us (to rejoice and to boast in us). 

The false teachers, whom Paul later calls “super-apostles,” and even some of the believers at Corinth, take pride in outward appearances. But they do not consider and evaluate the poverty-stricken condition of their own hearts. 

And the believers at Corinth are prideful about these “super-apostles” that are outwardly dignified and seem wise, and are eloquent speakers. But they do not discern the hearts of those super-apostles that they boast about. And as we have seen throughout 1Corinthians, some in the Corinthian church boast about themselves!

So Paul corrects them, for they should be boasting about Timothy and him! The believers at Corinth have a right to boast about them, because they are truly sent from the Lord to the Corinthians, and their hearts are for the Corinthians, not for personal gain or notoriety. It is the same for all of us who are Spirit-filled!

Verses 13-14 —

Some say we are insane — beside ourselves — because of what we speak! But we say what we say for God. We speak for Him. If we are of sound mind (which we are!), it is for your sakes, O church, so you may know the truth!

For we are compelled and held captive, by the love of Christ. It is not love for Christ, but His divine love, in us! 

His love compels us to go forth with His gospel. Why? We are sure that Christ died for us, and for all mankind. In that way, we have come to a “conclusion” (a judgment). What is the judgment?

If Christ died for all, so they may have eternal life, then all are spiritually dead until they come to Him! All stand condemned, because the Father sent His Son! Had it not been necessary, He would not have done it. I stood condemned, until I believed into Christ and was forgiven and reconciled to God!

Verse 15 — 

And Christ died for all, so that all who turn to Him and believe will live. He died for all, so that they are forgiven, and reconciled to God. 

But they must no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. There is no “might” in the original Greek. It is not “might live,” it is “live!” There is no question about it, when you are filled with His Spirit!

That is why, when Christ was glorified, He poured out the Holy Spirit for all who would stay and wait to be filled with the Spirit! Those who obey His command to stay and wait  will die to their own self-interest (the sin nature) in a moment of time, and they will live life as God has it, while still on the earth and in heaven, serving and adoring and proclaiming Him who died and rose on their behalf! 

Verse 16 — 

Therefore, from now on, we (and the Corinthian believers) should recognize and judge no one according to the flesh. We are to judge no one according to outward appearances. We are to judge no one according to great oratorical skills or outward appearances, or words that tickle our ears. 

We have known Christ according to the flesh — perhaps thinking of Him as a great philosopher or a wise man or just a good man. But we do not know Him that way any longer! 

When He fully indwells us, we no longer think He is real — we know He is real! We know that He is the Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world, and the One who cleaned us up on the inside! I’m dancing!

The believers at Corinth should not judge anyone by outward appearances or great oratory, belittling leaders who do not meet their “standards.” Do you, do such things, beloved?

Verse 17 —

So, are you a new creature? Has the old sin nature gone and the new divine nature come? Then you are “in Christ.” Then you are new!

Some say that you are “in Christ” the moment you are saved. They reason, Well, I’m saved. I must therefore be “in Christ.” 

But that was not my experience when I was yet an infant in Christ, nor is it what I see from infants in Christ in Corinth or in today’s church. The old Sue remained and was still in charge. My sin nature was alive and well. But I became new when I was filled with the Spirit, and so I conclude that Paul equates “in Christ” with being entirely sanctified, filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Word of God confirms that to be “in Christ” means Christ and the Father are literally dwelling in you as He promised in John 14:23. Then the old things (the sin nature and its fruit) have died — the sin nature has been crucified (Galatians 5:24). 

Behold! See! All things have become new! When you are filled, you become a partaker of a new nature — the divine nature of God (2Peter 1:4)!

Believing into Christ surely makes you a child of God. But your heart is not changed, you are not a partaker of the divine nature, until you are filled with the Holy Spirit. Then your sin nature dies, and you become NEW! All glory to Him who does it!

Verses 18-19 —

Now these things — becoming a new creature, dying to sin — are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ. And we who are filled have been given the ministry of reconciliation. 

What is this ministry of reconciliation? Namely, that God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their past sins against them, but forgiving their past sins.

And so, He has committed to us (placed in us who are filled with His Spirit) the word of reconciliation. What is the word of reconciliation that we announce? We proclaim that if you will believe into Jesus Christ, you will be reconciled to God, and your past sins will be forgiven. But that’s not all!

We proclaim “the rest of the story,” as radio host Paul Harvey used to say. We proclaim that after salvation, Jesus Christ commands you to be filled with the Spirit so your sin nature is crucified and you become His witness here!

Verses 20-21 — 

We are ambassadors for Christ, announcing the terms of the kingdom we represent. God makes an appeal through us, to a lost and dying world. Amen!

But brace yourself, O believer. Paul now begs the church at Corinth, on behalf to Christ — be reconciled to God! Remember, he is writing to the believers at Corinth, not to the lost.

What? Didn’t the believers at Corinth come to faith? Yes, through Paul’s ministry! But now, some of them are far from God. They have turned to false teachers. They are in danger of losing their salvation. Their spiritual survival is in jeopardy, unless they will finally heed His words!

At the end of 2Corinthians, Paul beseeches them —

2Corinthians 13:5   Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?

He reminds them that He who had no sin became sin (that is, He took upon Himself the sin of the world) on our behalf , so that they become the righteousness of God in Christ.  

Wait a minute, Pastor Sue. Doesn’t the Bible say, “might become?” We have a choice and don’t have to become the righteousness of God in Christ, right? “Might” is not in the original Greek, beloved. 

But some will say, you are boasting or lying if you say you have become the righteousness of God in Christ! But I will say that we are commanded by Christ to stay and wait and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we become the righteousness of God because His righteousness is literally in us. We boast in Christ —

Galatians 6:14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

We are filled with Him! We are filled with His righteousness! Then, we have become the embodiment of the righteousness of God — the expression of it, to this world. We become His witnesses here. It is His work, and His righteousness!

Paul has exhorted the believers at Corinth to be reconciled to God. In the next chapter, he will warn them not to receive the grace of God in vain (empty-handed) when they stand before Him. He will exhort them that now is the day of salvation! Stay tuned!

Lord Jesus, may your church have ears to hear, that they might know what it is to be compelled by your love, to no longer fear death, and to have a new, changed heart that is filled with Your righteousness! Amen.