There is something very weird about the Christian value system, at least weird from the perspective of the world. For instance Jesus says that except you become like one of these little children, you by no means can enter the Kingdom of God. He also says that the greatest is one who serves… and the first shall be last and the last shall be first. He says that in the world, rulers lord it over their subjects… but this ought not to be so among Kingdom people. Finally, Paul states that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them who perish.
All these and more utterances point to a Christian value-system that seems inverted, and by which we will be judged and evaluated by the world. Paul alludes to his commitment to the values that matter, even if by so doing, he looks foolish. “If we are “out of our mind, ”as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (2 Corinthians 5:13-14)
If you are a parent, you will understand that sometimes, your love for your child cause you to appear to be over-protective. You might be accused of being nosy, and sometimes of not minding your own business. And because Paul had competition from Impostors who would use anything to try to undermine his Ministry, he advises the Corinthians to examine his actions and motivations, so that they may be able to push back on those who were critical of his unimpressive physical appearance (2 Corinthians 5:12), and possible over-indulgence in them. In reverse order, this sets the stage for the fundamental premise of his persistence.
– “ Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others…” It is this compulsive obsessive motivation that drives Paul to do all the things he did, having turned his back on a life of opulence and privilege as an officer of the Chief Priest.
In 2 Corinthians 5:14, he actually spells it out. “For Christ’s love [controls and] compels us… to act on the knowledge that Christ’s death represented the death of all of us, freeing and obligating those who are alive, to dedicate their life to, and live for the One who died for them.
2 Corinthians 2:16 is a bit more challenging. Because of its proximity to verse 15, it would appear that Paul is now focused on our eternal life, and its spiritual nature. It does not matter what is the physical, earthly status of any person. It is his spiritual well-being that matters. Although obviously not one of His disciples, the Apostle Paul was very much acquainted with Jesus and would have made it his duty to be aware of as much as possible about Him. But his knowledge of Jesus would have been from a human perspective, and in no way connected to spiritual values. Now that Jesus has ascended into heaven, any relationship with, and knowledge of Him must be purely spiritual. And the basis for relating to each other must be that on which we relate to Jesus.
This then is the context for 2 Corinthians 5:17. The challenge that this verse poses is that it suggests that after conversion, our old life, fueled by our old nature vanishes in deference to the new creation. We know that that is not true. Paul also knew that that was not true. Just read what he had to say in Romans 7:14-22. So then, what is he saying? For the answer, read 2 Corinthians 5:18 – “All this is from God…” When Jesus takes control of our lives… He comes and brings His abilities and facilities with Him, and that is the whole truth about half of the story. The other half is that the Devil does not disappear, and angered by his loss of a soul, will go out of his way to reclaim his possession, or at least try to intercept the relationship between yourself and God. We have the final say as to whom we will yield our minds and will – to God with all the renewal and transformation He brings, or to the Devil with his guile and wiles to destroy our soul in hell.
But in this passage, the Devil is not even a sub-theme in Paul’s plot. He is totally ignored. The reconciliation ministry of Jesus in re-establishing the relationship between us and God, is one in which Jesus has invited us to actively participate by extending the offer to others. He has given us the ministry and responsibility to make disciples of all men… and thereby reconciling them to God.
It is this ministry of reconciliation that is at the center of Paul’s heart and that informs 2 Corinthians 5:20. Dr. Robertson in his Word Studies translates the imperative as “Get reconciled to God [and do it now]. It is very conceivable that Paul had in mind both positional and functional reconciliation, the latter being a consequent of the former. It was a legal problem that estranged us from God. We sinned, and would literally die, paying the penalty. He can’t dwell where sin is. We were separated from Him. He died, using His sinless life as qualified legal tender to pay for the sins of the people in the world. Having died for us, we no longer have to die. But we must accept His gift, like a child does. That completes the legal positional reconciliation.
It is the functional reconciliation that becomes a daily work in progress for us with the help of God’s Holy Spirit. We need to return to the time when Adam, naked as the day he was born, daily looked forward to fellowship with His Creator. Our desire and willingness to be close to God is a direct function of the absence of unconfessed sin in our life. We are Christ’s Ambassadors. Our mandate is to deliver a message to all those with whom God brings us into contact. “Get reconciled to God… and do it right now.”
Remember to visit RBC’s Our Daily Bread Devotional today at www.ODB.org