2 Corinthians 5 – Ambassadors For Christ

    Chapter 4 is not yet published because I was the best-man at a wedding the corresponding weekend. Thank you to Dr. Lambeth for teaching in my absence.

You may read the entire chapter here

2 Corinthians chapter 5 begins by revealing, putting into words, the longing and yearning the believer has for their new home. The chapter concludes with a grand charge.  Paul deals with the weighty subjects of eternity and mystery.

VS 1-10 We walk by faith, not by sight

Eternal/temporal, seen/unseen, clothed/unclothed.  Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is describing spiritual realities. Paul’s use of the terms “earthly house” and “tent” are referring to the physical body.  Houses and tents may be destroyed. The first verse has a contrast between temporary houses (our bodies) and an eternal grand building from God.  This reflects the language in Hebrews 11:10 “For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” 

In fact, we “groan” while in this body.  Here groan is the Greek is στενάζω. This means to “sigh, murmur, pray with grief, groan, grudge, sigh.” (HCSB Study Bible Greek Notes)  We long to be with Christ.  We long for what’s ahead yet we are to work while we are here.  Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.” 

Paul gives further details of this theology, including the responsibilities and work while were are in the body, in Philippians 1:21-26.

We do not want to be simply “unclothed” or “naked”.  This would refer to our spirit being apart from our body (disembodied) with no destination or home.  This is desirable to some world religions but not for the redeemed.  It is also impossible.  The dead have a destination.

We desire to be clothed, which we learned is our house from heaven in VS 2. It is a normal, God-given, desire to be with our Lord.  It is an upward call we feel while we are here. We know that what is seen here (mortality) will be, as Paul put it, swallowed up by life.  This really is astonishing.  Real (eternal) life will engulf mortality. The Christian has much to look forward too!  And anything we endure on this side will be worth it!

In VS 6-10 we learn that our confidence does not come by sight (what we perceive with our senses,) it comes only by faith.  When the Christian dies he/she will be at home with the Lord for they will be clothed in the glory from God.   Because of this knowledge we aim to please God. Good works do not save us, only the shed blood of Christ does, but we are saved for good works.  We will appear before Christ to be repaid for the good or bad done in this body (the temporary tent.)

VS 11-15 And He died for all so….

The believer understands, or should understand, the fear of the Lord. Now this is a lengthy subject, more than we have room for here, but it needs to be addressed.  Fear (Greek phobos) is a reverential awe, worshipful submission, & obedient respect (HCSB bullet notes.)  I am not a Greek scholar but I discover from researching this word that it is very strong for fear could be rendered exceedingly afraid or terror for example.  Our context in 2 Corinthians 5 reveals a lot, namely VS 10.  The updated HCSB renders the Greek βῆμα (transliterated as bēma) as tribunal.  It is more often translated as “judgement seat” of Christ.  The point is that we will all be judged.  Therefore we persuade people. If there’s ever a reason to be persuasive in presenting the gospel we read it here.

In VS 11b we see a contrast between the attitude of true and false teachers, not only the content of their teaching.  Transparency.  Paul says “We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your consciences as well.”  False teachers often operate in secrecy, especially leaders of cults.  In contrast to this true leaders are open and honest.

VS 13, “For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you.” can be difficult but we read in Acts 26:24-26 Paul making a similar statement before Felix and Agrippa.  There he was accused of being mad or insane because of the preaching of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In this passage we may infer that the Corinthians thought much the same thing concerning Paul’s teaching, whatever the specifics were.  Paul’s rebuttal was that he was very much in control…and that was a benefit to them.

VS 14-15 says “For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.”  This is a great summary of the gospel message.  When Paul says “…than all died” I believe he is saying died to themselves.  Notice two driving forces in 2 Corinthians 5 for delivering an undiluted gospel: The fear of the lord and Christ’s love compels us.

VS 16-21 The Ministry of Reconciliation

Know….in a purely human way.  At our core we are spiritual and we perceive God in a spiritual way, though manifestations may effect the physical body.   We also don’t regard each other as merely human for living in such a way was not encouraged at all, see 1 Corinthians 3:3.  We no longer (since we’ve been born-again) see Christ in a purely human way.

VS 17 contains what may be one of my favorite verses in all of scripture and it it’s truly good news: ” “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”  All things are new for the believer and he is no longer subject to the old way of life.  He/she has moved from darkness to light and from death to live.  This is made possible with the mercies that are “new every morning.

The ministry of reconciliation.  Stan Norman defines reconciliation as “Bringing together of two parties that are estranged or in dispute. Jesus Christ is the one who brings together God and man, with salvation as the result of the union. Reconciliation basically means “change” or “exchange.” The idea is of a change of relationship, an exchange of antagonism for goodwill, enmity for friendship. Attitudes are transformed and hostility ceases.”  For the rest of his definition and for further study see http://bit.ly/p7HIwT

God reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus and has committed the same ministry to us therefore we are ambassadors for Christ. “He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

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