Calvary Chapel – Leesville, SC Sunday Morning Service – November 1st, 2020
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is one of reconciliation. Recall that his first letter had been quite harsh in its rebukes of sin – particularly sexual sin – within the church at Corinth, not only chastising the person engaged in the sin himself, but also the entire body for tolerating and condoning the sin among them. Earlier in this second letter, Paul had encouraged the Corinthians to forgive and welcome the person whom he had rebuked so strongly in his first letter back into their body. Paul now extrapolates on that idea of forgiveness and reconciliation to apply it to Jesus’ reconciliation of sinful man into a right relationship with God through His sacrifice on the cross.
Remember that the chapter and verse boundaries in our Bibles were added to the text as an aid to lookup and discussion. They weren’t part of the original text, and although those who added them tried to place them at logical breaks between ideas, sometimes they don’t quite line up. Such is the case with our lesson today. Here in chapter 5, Paul begins with the word “For,” so as always we need to reestablish in our minds the context in which Paul is writing before continuing to study chapter 5. He had written earlier in this letter about the tribulations he and Timothy had experienced over the years in their Gospel ministry together. Then, at the end of chapter 4, he gave a marvelous encouragement to those who suffer for Christ’s sake.
16Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – NKJV
2 Corinthians 5 – Be Reconciled to God
Paul now expands upon this contrast between our physical and spiritual beings by reminding us that like tents, Christians’ bodies of flesh are temporary dwellings which are passing away to be replaced by our eternal dwelling in unity with Christ.
1For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.2 Corinthians 5:1-4 – NKJV
It is vitally important for us who live in these last days to remember this encouragement. Otherwise, the prospect of death and the wholesale rejection of Jesus’ Gospel by a dying world could rob us of our joy in the LORD. All around us in the USA today, we see increasing intolerance for Christian belief and practice. Christian values are seen as being contrary to the popular concepts of social justice. What was unthinkable just a few short years ago has now come about on our streets, and in our social interactions. Christians right here in America are being roasted in the media, and assaulted on the streets for proclaiming the unvarnished Gospel. People have no problem with a watered-down, compromised so-called “gospel” which doesn’t decry sin, but the true Biblical Gospel has become intolerable for many to hear. Paul warned Timothy about this in his final letter.
1But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!2 Timothy 3:1-5 -NKJV
We saw this shameful maltreatment of Christian values in the media most recently during the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Earlier this summer, we witnessed rioters assaulting a Christian evangelist on the street during one of the anti-police riots in America’s cities. These incidents and this trend in American civil discourse are reminiscent of the stark warning Jesus gave His disciples in the upper room on the night He was betrayed.
2They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.John 16:2-4 – NKJV
Yet just as Paul does here in 2 Corinthians 5:1-3, Jesus also reminds us that the death of our earthly bodies is by no means the end of the story. So we should not fear, but rather continue in faith and the strength of His Spirit boldly proclaiming the Truth that He has revealed to us without compromise.
27“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.Matthew 10:27-28 – NKJV
Indeed, as Paul says here, we who are being saved through faith in Jesus’ Gospel not only accept the destruction of our flesh for the sake of the Gospel, but look forward and earnestly yearn for it so that we may receive the eternal habitation with Jesus in Heaven which has been prepared for us. Our earnest prayer is – Maranatha. Come LORD Jesus! I can’t speak for others, but I personally have long since abandoned hope for this wicked and broken world. I yearn for Jesus to reestablish His rule over the Earth and overthrow the reign of the evil one under whom mankind now suffers. This despite the fact that I fully understand it will mean the loss of my current life in the flesh in order that He may reward me with eternal life in His Spirit.
5Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.2 Corinthians 5:5-8 – NKJV
When the Jewish leader Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to ask Him about His ministry, he was shocked and confused by Jesus’ answers.
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”John 3:3-8 – NKJV
God’s Spirit abiding within the hearts of true Gospel believers is our assurance (and reassurance) that Jesus has indeed rescued us out of death. Therefore we can look forward with anticipation to the deaths of our earthly bodies and the assumption of our Heavenly bodies in which we will live forever in the glorious presence of the LORD Jesus!
WARNING – Some denominations teach a doctrine that declares we must somehow “prove” we are born of the Spirit by exhibiting signs publicly. Specifically, they teach that one is not truly born again unless and until one speaks in an unknown tongue. This flies in the face of scripture, and is a false doctrine. Even worse, it leads to people faking the spiritual gift of tongues in order to be accepted within the group. Hopefully, we put this issue to rest in our study of 1 Corinthians 12 in which Paul deals thoroughly with the variety of gifts of God’s Spirit and the manifestations of those gifts within the Body of Christ. We don’t have time to repeat that study now, but those confused about the manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit would do well to review 1 Corinthians 12.
Paul reminds us here in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that “…we walk by faith, not by sight.” As we consider that, it is helpful to remind ourselves of how Paul defined faith in the introduction to the “Great Hall of Faith” passage – Hebrews 11.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.Hebrews 11:1 – NKJV
9Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat [βῆμα bēma] of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.2 Corinthians 5:9-10 – NKJV
Regarding His return, Jesus Himself said that even He (in His worldly flesh) didn’t know the time.
31Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. 32“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.Mark 13:31-33 – NKJV
Therefore, since we don’t know how long we have left to proclaim the Gospel among men, we need to be about our Father’s business continually and wholeheartedly. The way for us to do that is to be filled by His Spirit, and to allow Him to direct us in all things. In His parable of the ten virgins who were awaiting the arrival of the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus likened His Spirit’s filling of the hearts of His believers to the filling of the virgins’ lamps with oil as they awaited the groom. Let us ensure our “lamps” remain full by seeking Him diligently and continually so that we may be ready to meet Him when He returns.
Do not confuse the Judgement Seat of Christ Paul mentions in this passage with the Great White Throne Judgement found in Revelation 20 and Daniel 7. Every person who ever lived will face the judgement of God at the Great White Throne. Some will face eternal torment in the lake of fire, and some will receive eternal life in the glorious presence of God Almighty. This judgement will not be based on our earthly works as pope Francis and many others have said, but will be solely determined by whether or not our names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life when we believed His Gospel of repentance and resurrection, and confessed aloud His lordship over us.
In addition, Jesus will judge His followers who have believed in His Gospel and confessed His lordship at the Judgement Seat of Christ Paul writes of here in 2 Corinthians, sometimes known by the Greek word for throne – βῆμα bēma. This judgement will not determine our eternal destiny as the judgement at the Great White Throne does, but will determine our heavenly rewards based on our earthly works. Jesus also spoke of this to His disciples.
“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.Matthew 16:27 – NKJV
He also reiterated this promise in His Revelation to the apostle John.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.Revelation 22:12 – NKJV
11Knowing, therefore, the terror [φόβος phobos] of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. 12For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, [ἐξίστημι existēmi] it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you.2 Corinthians 5:11-13 – NKJV
In these few verses, Paul states once again that he seeks no commendation from people, but only the commendation of God. We too must not place faith or confidence in people regardless of their position. Pope Francis remains nothing more than an ordinary man who happens to hold an extraordinary position. The same applies to our own pastors as it also does to great evangelists such as Charles Spurgeon and Billy Graham. Even Paul, Peter, John, Timothy, James, Moses, Abraham, David, Noah, Joseph, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, and all the other “heroes” of the Bible remain ordinary men who have been redeemed out of the sinfulness that pervades all mankind purely by the grace of God alone through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The worship of some of these men who have been deemed as “saints” by the Catholic church is nothing more than a form of idolatry. As such, it is despised by the LORD as it should be by us. Jesus Himself spoke of this, and the leaders of the Roman Catholic church would do well to heed His words. The same applies to “holy” titles such as “Reverend” bestowed on leaders in Protestant denominations.
9Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.Matthew 23:9-12 – NKJV
Before we move on, let’s take a closer look at verse 11. The Greek word φόβος phobos in this verse from which we get our English word phobia is perhaps poorly rendered in the KJV and NKJV (and other translations). The word is translated “fear” in the NIV, ESV, CSB, and NASB, but even that translation doesn’t quite capture what I think Paul was meaning here. Perhaps the best translation in this case is the NLT which renders the verse this way.
Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.2 Corinthians 5:11 – NLT
The phrase “beside ourselves” in verse 13 is also noteworthy. The Greek word here is ἐξίστημι existēmi. It is also translated as “out of our mind” (NIV, CSB, and NET) and as “crazy” (NLT). Paul is referring here to the overflowing and outpouring of God’s Spirit sometimes exhibited in Gospel preachers. Recall that when the Holy Spirit first fell on the apostles in the upper room on the day of the first Pentecost following Jesus’ ascension in Acts 2, it appeared to some of those in the crowd that gathered in response to the sound of rushing wind, that the apostles were drunk. This is the so-called “baptism” of the Holy Spirit Paul refers to here as being “beside ourselves.” Notice that Paul says this manifestation of God’s Spirit is for God’s own benefit, but that at other times evangelism by preachers who are “of sound mind” benefits their listeners.
14For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.2 Corinthians 5:14-16 – NKJV
Paul is referring here to his gratitude at Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Paul speaks here not only of his personal gratitude for his own salvation, but also of everyone’s rightful gratitude at the splendor of God’s overall plan of salvation conceived by Him from before the beginning of creation, and steadfastly carried out by Him throughout history until His culmination of His magnificent redemption of mankind to Himself by Jesus’ birth, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead. Paul exhorts us here to live entirely for God in our joy and gratitude toward Him for what He has done – having rescued believers out of death by His own death and resurrection on our behalf.
17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.2 Corinthians 5:17 – NKJV
It is important to consider 2 Corinthians 5:17 carefully because it has been widely misused, and is a mighty tool of our enemy despite the magnificent promise it contains. Practically every addiction recovery ministry in all of Christendom takes this verse as their touchstone. By the power of Christ we are re-born as new creations when we first believe His Gospel and profess His lordship over our lives. This is the rebirth and essential re-creation in His Spirit that Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus. We who have been rescued out of besetting sins take joy at the reminder of our re-creation in Christ found in this verse.
My issue with this idea is what happens when we stumble back into those same besetting sins. Our great enemy seizes that opportunity to accuse us, trying to convince us that we were never truly saved. This is an abject lie, and we need to recognize that, lest the enemy be able to steal our joy in the LORD, and destroy the effectiveness of our Gospel witness although even he knows he can’t take away our salvation in Christ. Jesus spoke of this in His wonderful declaration – I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:7-30).
27My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30I and My Father are one.”John 10:27-30 – NKJV
But what about those times when Jesus’ sheep stumble back into sin? How do we answer the devil’s accusations against us? We need to remember that although our redemption out of death is sealed by God’s Spirit in the very instant we first believe His Gospel and make Him the LORD of our hearts and lives, our re-creation into the image of Christ is an ongoing process that continues throughout our lives. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi gives us some great encouragements in this regard.
3I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;Philippians 1:3-6 – NKJV
12Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:12-14 – NKJV
18Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – NKJV
In these few verses, Paul gives us both a succinct presentation of the Gospel and a call to action by those who are being saved. As Paul says here, our salvation has nothing to do with our own works, but like all of Creation is solely of God. He conceived His plan of salvation for sinful mankind before He even created us, and has been working it out around and within us ever since. We as Christians of course accept this Truth at face value. But then in verse 20, Paul throws down a gauntlet of challenge. Having been reconciled to God solely by Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf, how then should we live out our lives in Christ until He returns to claim us as His bride or calls us home to be with Him in His glory? As Paul and Timothy were, so are we to be “ambassadors for Christ,” allowing God to submit His plea of redemption through the thoughts words and deeds of those who have already been redeemed to those who have not yet accepted the redemption of God from their sins. This is both the blessing and the curse of the free choice that God in His infinite love has given us. Yes. Our redemption is there for us to claim purely by God’s own grace and works, but God leaves us to choose whether or not to claim it for ourselves. Those of us who have chosen to claim His redemption and proclaim His lordship over us must do as Paul does – imploring those who have not yet claimed their redemption to “be reconciled to God.”
21For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:21 – NKJV
Paul concludes his plea for our redemption with a reminder of the character of our Redeemer. In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul went to great length to describe the nature of Jesus – who even in the flesh of sinful man lived a perfectly sinless life so that He could become the spotless Lamb of sacrifice required for our redemption out of death in our sins.
14Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.Hebrews 4:14-15 – NKJV
Because of Jesus’ perfect righteousness, He is able to clothe us in His righteousness in the place of the sinfulness in which we lived before He made us new creations in His image.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,Isaiah 61:10 – NKJV
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.