Premiss of The Shack
The Shack by Wm. Paul Young is a riveting parable which aims to expose the role of the Triune God in tragedy. According to Young, The Shack is a story which creates a space for people to hear whatever the Spirit would be telling them in whatever place they are in their journey (Young, & Young, 2012, Kindle location 24).
In The Shack, we meet a man by the name of Mackenzie who finds a letter in his mailbox in an ice storm. The letter is an invitation to meet Papa at the shack, which infuriates Mack. The reader does not know why the anger wells up at the sight of the letter until the back story is revealed. On a camping trip with his children, his daughter Missy ends up missing. Young takes the reader through the long ordeal of searching for Missy, every minuet precious. A tip comes in which leads Mackenzie and the authorities to an old secluded shack. It is there where Missy’s bloody clothing is discovered confirming the worst. This is why the letter upset Mckenzie. Why would God lead him to the shack? The shack meant only pain and regret.
Mckenzie decides to head to the shack out of a deep seated curiosity and hunger for what God might say. He even totes a gun along in the possibility Missy’s killer might meet him there. When he arrives, he notices the blood stain left by Missy’s clothing. After a time of sorrow he begins to fly off the handle at the perceived absence of God and the sheer absurdity of him even being at the shack, a place of hurt and darkness. Mack even contemplates taking his own life with the fire arm.
As Mack is leaving, the snow begins to melt and the sun permeates the sky. As he looks behind him, he sees the shack is now a beautiful little cottage house. Inside he meets Papa, a large black woman who exudes joy and wisdom. Next, Mckenzie meets Jesus, a hardworking carpenter, and Sarayu, the Holy Spirit.
Needless to say, the sight of the Trinity perplexes Mack. This is not at all how he pictured God, especially Papa. Papa was Nan’s (Mack’s wife) favorite name for God. Mack tended to see God much life Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, powerful, bearded, distant. Mack’s view of God now also included “uninvolved, uninterested” after Missy’s murder. Papa, in this case, was nothing of the sort.
Papa teaches Mack about love and wisdom, Jesus stresses the presence of God and sacrifice, and Sarayu portrays wisdom, joy, and emotion. This is a very shortened list. In this visit Mack walks on water when Jesus is with him, he works in a garden with Sarayu as he learns more of the process of God’s work, and Mack’s defense melts in the presence of Papa more and more.
Mac learns about the role of God in the midst of suffering and grief. Jesus teaches Mac He was there with Missy, He never left her. Mack is allowed to see Missy as she is now, and this brings a sense of healing to him.
Near the end of Mack’s time with God (in this way), Papa (this time revealed as a male hiker) leads Mac to Missy’s body, which included clues left by “the ladybug killer” which Papa brings to Mack’s notice. Retrieving Missy’s body helps bring closure to Mack and Nan.
A theological take-away from The Shack
God’s providence and wisdom is a theological take-away from Young’s work. Deuteronomy 29:29 says “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” A take away the reader might grasp is God’s ways are not always visible or obvious. In fact, Papa did not answer all of Mack’s questions directly. The reader of The Shack might even grow frustrated with the lack of answers. Mack lost his daughter to murder, and who knows what other abuses she endured, so one might feel Mack deserves the answers he seeks. Even in the presence of the Trinity, Mack would encounter the great sadness, as Young put it. The great sadness was Mack’s depression. It would descend at any time, even after a great encounter with God. God’s providence and wisdom helped Mack to trust God, even a little bit. God seemed OK with baby steps towards trust in His providence and wisdom.
A psychological take away from The Shack.
A powerful scene in the book, from a psychological perspective, was from the chapter entitled “Here Come da Judge”. Past a waterfall and it a dark room Mack meets the personification of wisdom. She is beautiful and calming. Mack is asked about his children, about his love for them. Mack unwittingly describes the Father’s love for His children, yet when asked if God loves all His children the same Mack becomes furious and denies the prospect with reckless abandon. How could God love all His children the same when He allowed Missy’s abuse and murder? This made no sense psychologically.
When asked to judge Mack feels shocked and totally inadequate. Wisdom’s assault was unrelenting. Do those who beat their wives or children deserve judgement? What about those who…..abuse and kill girls? “YES!” screams Mack, “Damn him to hell!” Mack had no problem pronouncing judgement on such a monster, for it is this type of man who caused him unmentionable psychological pain. The problem is, says Wisdom, how far back do you go? To judge one is to judge God. God will enact justice, to be sure, but in light of the sacrifice of Christ. The episode ends in Mack taking a baby-step toward Christlike selflessness in offering himself in place of his children, the end object of the judgement path. The psychological impact must have been enormous for Mack (and for the reader).
In the beginning of the book we read about a man who had basically shut down, enjoyed ice storms for the solace they bring, and had resigned himself to the sentence of animosity toward God. His mind was always in the bulls-eye of the great sadness. He did not know where or when his depression would descend, but after this episode of meeting the personification of wisdom, he began to experience a psychological breakthrough. The depression might return, but the renewing of his mind aided in the defense against its permanence.
An emotional take-away.
The Shack is an emotional book. One cannot help but to feel for Mack and Nan. The reader shares the hurt they carry and empathizes with their agonizing questions, however logically unreasonable they might be.
After the reader finishes The Shack, he or she will most likely feel quite spent. The emotions of the water rescue, the loss of Missy, the hope she is ok! Missy is not ok, she has been murdered. The essence of the murder and abuse of an innocent girl pervades the book. All questions of justice and God’s providence are stemming from the murder. This is the framework and the reader experiences all the words of God while still reeling from this preventable tragedy.
Since this is a reflection, I Reuben, must interject here. Reading The Shack was an emotional experience, I read in bated breath, laughed, choked back tears, experienced anger, and deep liberating joy. Even the next day, my worship to God had changed. Since this section is on emotion, I find it difficult to put this into third person speech. I cannot understand how one reads The Shack devoid of emotion. All the best parables are emotional! Yet, the emotion of the story is a cause for caution.
Evaluation and Recommendation.
The Shack is recommended with some caveats. It is a parable, a story, and a work of fiction. The book is not intended as theology, yet it contains specific theological statements. For example, Jesus says “I have no desire to make them Christians” (p. 182). The term Christian is not a purely human invention, the term Christian is explicitly biblical (see Acts 11:26, 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16). James Be DeYoung even asserts Wm. Paul Young is an universalist in his book Burning Down the Shack, a claim which Wm. Paul Young denies (DeYoung, 2010, Kindle location 94).
The emotion of the story is so strong, the imagery so striking, the scenes so memorable, a reader could misinterpret some of the statements and see them as doctrine. The Shack contains very little scripture quotes. If one understands it as a parable, and not as systematic
theology, the point of the book can be quite liberating.
Ultimately The Shack is about forgiveness. God forgives all who repent, and because of His example, we can forgive even the vilest of crimes. God does not will anyone parish (see 2 Peter 3:9). It feels like a thousand pounds removed from the shoulders to fully realize redemption is God’s domain. We declare the gospel, yet the work of the gospel is done (John 19:30).
The Shack is recommended to those who are grieving and are stuck in their spiritual growth. In his book Finding God in the Shack, Randal Rouser praises The Shack for addressing “the dark night of the soul” and for bringing us face to face with the possibility of forgiveness for even a child killer (Rouser, 2008, Kindle location 71). It is not recommended to new Christians, for they are best served through biblical discipleship. It is best the reader approach the work with the full knowledge of its fictional persuasion. A concern would be one would quote passages of The Shack instead of the Word of God, seeing this parable as a special revelation, which it is not. The Shack is a shining example of the power of story to accomplish a strong point. The best parables are emotional and evoke reactions. On this account, The Shack does its job superbly. The power of forgiveness rings true in its pages, “Forgiveness is not about forgetting…it’s about letting go of another person’s throat” (pg. 272).
DeYoung, J. B. (2010). Burning down “The shack”: How the “Christian” bestseller is deceiving millions. Washington, D.C.: WND Books.
Rauser, R. D. (2009). Finding God in The shack. Colorado Springs, CO: Paternoster
Young, W. P. (2007). The shack (C): A novel. Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media.
Young, W. P., & Young, W. P. (2012). The shack: Reflections for every day of the year. Newbury
Park, CA: Windblown Media.
Reuben Smith 12-2011
Luke 2:21-40 NIV
INTRO: God made clear proclamations of the first Christmas via prophesies in the Old Testament (such as Isaiah 7:14), the angelic visitations to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, and in a different way the Magi. Mary and Joseph had direct visitations from heaven, they needed such encounters. God knew they would need to draw on the memories of them for the hardships and joys of the future.
Just days after the birth of the Christ Child Luke records two very different Christmas revelations and we can learn much from these two events. I feel it’s especially important for us today.
Luke was not an eye-witness to these events. There are three “we sections” in the book of Acts which record events to which Luke was a participant. These sections are quite detailed, especially the shipwreck of Acts 27, perhaps the greatest document of antiquity of sea-faring dangers and disasters. Luke is a detailed writer, very meticulous & careful. By his own words he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning…(to give an) orderly account…so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” His writings record many decades so when he pens an episode such as today’s text it is good to mine it’s riches. The Holy Spirit is in control here. We see an aged man and women continue the testimony of Christ that dominate Luke’s narratives.
They had no specific encounter w/ angels. They were ready to meet the Messiah.
In verses 22-24 we see that Mary and Joseph were the careful to follow the law. This is not unlike the life of Christ for He was the fulfillment of the law itself! I believe these verses are theologically loaded.
They brought grace into the temple according to the law. Jesus’ body is the Temple’s fulfillment! The temple was not God’s idea, it was David’s. God preferred a tent, hence the church! But that’s another message!
We know nothing of Simeon before or after this text. He was apparently a “layman”, not a priest or rabbi, not that we see here anyway. He was a student of the word and man of God no doubt. Nothing indicates the Simeon of Acts 13 is this Simeon. This was not an uncommon name by any stretch for the name Simeon (or Simonites) was mentioned 42 times in the Old Testament. God uses common men and women with common names, lives and families.
Simeon had qualities we are good to exhibit ourselves. We see he was….
Righteous – Right w/ God
Devout – Not double-minded, he was committed to the one true God
Waiting for the consolation of Israel – Patient concerning God’s promises
Holy Spirit was upon him – Anointed. Did not grieve the Spirit
Move into the temple courts by the Spirit – Listened to the Spirit
Recognized Jesus as the truly unique Son of God – There were surely other babies to be seen that day however he recognized Jesus’s uniqueness. For an amazingly poetic Old Testament passage on the uniqueness of Christ see Song of Songs 5:9-16. He is far superior and to be desired above all others! Jesus Christ is completely unique.
His prayer: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
Notice he begins with God’s sovereignty as did the first corporate prayer of Christians in Acts 4. This is important because God’s sovereignty is a recognition of both His power and will (see Acts 4:28.) Simeon hung on to God’s sovereignty for many years as we see in his famous prayer above (as you have promised, dismiss your servant, your salvation, you have prepared, a light for revelation, the glory of your people.…)
He saw is graduation into glory as something to look forward to. For years he longed to see Yahweh God face to face but did not want to enter heaven’s gates without first seeing the Messiah of God! Think of it, holding one who is all God and all man outweighed the streets of Gold!! Imagine living with the promise to see the Christ before leaving and dwelling in glory!!! This is a sign of Christian maturity for even Paul felt the upward desire for home but the draw to continue here until his race was finished.
His prophecy: He turns to Mary and says “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
This again is full of riches. Mary would need to hear these sayings, as hard as they must have been to hear at the time. This is a “statement-of-fact” prophecy not unlike Agabus in Acts 21. It was not meant to discourage her young heart, it was to prepare her and confirm again that God’s hand was indeed on her and the events she experienced and witnessed. Mary would feels as though she had been “stabbed with a dagger” (CEV) in witnessing the Passion week and all thoughts would be revealed.
This passage is worth reading in the Message Bible: “This child marks both the failure and the recovery of many in Israel, A figure misunderstood and contradicted—
the pain of a sword-thrust through you—
But the rejection will force honesty,
as God reveals who they really are.”
Not only did Simeon recognize the Christ Child, he blessed Mary and Joseph and by the Holy Spirit prepared them for the joys and sufferings that were ahead. Paul was prepared for sufferings also so we see that this is in alignment with God’s love and methods.
Anna was a prophetess. The only other place in the New Testament where we see prophetesses are Philip’s four daughters in Acts 21.
Anna was known for her faithfulness. She was once married but became a widow after seven years of marriage. Depending on how the greek is rendered she was either 84 when she died or she was a widow for 84 years. She was a worshiper. She fasted and prayed. These qualities precluded the recognition of the Christ Child.
Anna goes down in history for recognizing the glorious event of Simeon with Jesus. This shows she was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s ways. She began to tell all who were looking for Jerusalem’s redemption of the Christ Child.
They possessed qualities which enable the most enjoyment of Christmas: the richest and most satisfying Christmas experience. Of course, this is not walled into this time of year only.
They had no shopping deadlines or Christmas countdowns. The announcement was prompted by the Holy Spirit (who always points to Christ!). They were also unashamed in their proclamations.
What Luke records in these short verses are meant to bless, encourage, and even warn today.
Perhaps the most important revelations we see here is found in verse 30 – Jesus is Salvation. He is the hope for all nations. He is your hope today. If you have not made Him Lord of your life there’s no time than the present to call out to Jesus as your Lord. He is not a Baby anymore but a risen Lord, Supreme Authority, who washes away the sins of all who call to him with a repentant heart towards God. He loves you with an everlasting love. Come to Him today, you will be made brand new!
Simeon and Anna provide the best examples of the true thankfulness of Christmas, they were folks who longed as a part of life. Their longing was fulfilled in Christ! May it be so with us!
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” NKJV
I. “I can do…”
a. God has called us “to do”
1. In the NKJV the term “good works” is mentioned 15 times. All within the context of Christian expectation and conduct.
2. Though good works cannot save God expects them of us, for we were created good works.
b. He Himself, is not a God of inaction He is active in our lives.. This should comfort us….
“Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.” Isaiah 40:26 NKJV
I can do!….
II. All things through Christ
a. The things we are called to do should
1. be done in God’s strength
2. edify (or build-up) the body of Christ
2 Corinthians 12:19 says “We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.”
b. the Greater works…
Jesus said in John 14:12-13 – “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
The Greek word for greater (meizōn) is mentioned about 45 times in scripture and is indeed usually translated greater. It can be translated greater and also bigger, taller, or even stricter.
I believe Jesus is speaking in terms of quantity not quality. Because He sent the Spirit the Church should be active doing and thus the quantity of works will increase immeasurably. Jesus work on the earth, through us the church, should be a constant.
III. Who strengthens me
a. When we are called to work for God He comes along side to strengthen us, we never work alone!!!
1. “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” 2 Timothy 4:17
2. “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” Psalm 17:14
b. His strength is found when we are weak
“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Let’s look at 2 opposing world-views……
“Upon close inspection, this gospel offers no hope that you cannot generate yourself and only the comfort of having been true to yourself.” – Andy Crouch WSJ – FALSE!!!
“Some have wishes. Others like Joshua have purposes. A whole generation of Israel wished, and died still wishing. They had a wishbone, but no backbone. By faith in God Joshua turned “wishes” into land, cities, homes and possessions.” – REINHARD BONNKE
The latter view is correct. Let’s do some spiritual self-examination. Are we doing all things through Christ? Are we striving forward, forgetting what is behind and pressing onward? Or are we bowing down to the pressures of this life and thus beginning a downward spiral?
Look at Samson. He was a judge who did mighty works for God. He was a one-man army! Yet, he failed by repeatedly giving in to temptation and in the end broke his Covenant with God. He ended up being a laughing stock to the Philistines. He was put on display in a hall filled with God’s enemies. Let’s read his very last prayer…
“Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” Judges 16:28
God answered him.
Even in the end God was faithful. If you have failed it can turn around.
Press on! Get up! Submit to Christ and let Him bring the victory!!
In chapter 6 Paul is taking on an appropriate tone of urgency. What is normal in God’s eyes is a full and immediate response to His graceful call when it is made. The 12 disciples are good examples of this. They were busy men but left all to follow Jesus. They also eventually gave all. The rich young ruler did not heed the call of Christ and went away sorrowful and stunned (see Mark 10:20-22.)
Paul says to not receive God’s grace in vain, or in an empty way. He also made it clear in VS 1 that the call is from God (Working together with Him.) The call of God is a good thing, precious, and should be obeyed.
Concerning this call specifically Paul sites Isaiah 49:8 in VS 2: “In an acceptable time, I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you. Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation.“
“Now is the day of salvation” should be understood broadly as the time between Christ’s first and second comings & specifically the moment someone hears the gospel. Some have argued that Paul was in a way identifying his ministry with Isaiah’s prophetic calling. This could very well be true because Paul defends his ministry in this letter frequently and strongly. See 2 Corinthians 11:23-33; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17
VS 3-11 Paradoxes of true Christian Ministry
Paul placed high value in ministry, he avoided dishonoring it at all costs. In VS 3-11 he lists things that had followed his ministry. The first 1/2 of his list reads like this…..
In following Christ we will have times of unhindered ministry (see Acts 28:30-31) and times of hardship.
The following list is of paradoxes, vs 7-11 and is a little more difficult to interpret. I think the best way to look at it is what is seen in the flesh and/or temporal (slander, deceivers, poor, etc) is not the ultimate reality though it all was going on. Good report, true, making many rich, etc. was the reality. Ministry encompasses many aspects but there awaits a reward for the faithful, and God will encourage, enable, an anoint along the way.
VS 14 – 16 Don’t be mismatched with unbelievers
Paul gives a stern commandment. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, the HCSB uses the term “mismatched” with unbelievers. This does not mean to avoid friendships with those who are not Christians and it does not mean to have an exclusive Christian commune until Jesus returns. No hermits or Lone Rangers in the Kingdom!
Think for a moment of this logic in farming……the absurdity of yoking or hitching up two different types of animals together to accomplish a job. You would never yoke an ox and a chihuahua together to plow a field! They are completely different animals and will not walk and work in agreement.
The ESV Study Bible says it well….” It is thus an image for being allied or identified wrongly with unbelievers…..one person’s conduct and direction of life strongly influences or controls the others.”
The implications are obvious: marriage, close personal friends, starting a business together, etc. When a believer (who walks in the light) is mismatched with an unbeliever (who walks in darkness) how can they, in Paul’s words, have partnership, fellowship, agreement, or have all things in common? Light cannot fellowship with darkness and Christ has no agreement with demons (Belial means useless or worthless and can be seen as an epithet of Satan.)
There is no agreement between God’s sanctuary and idols! “The word for temple (Gk. naos) refers to the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence was manifested over the ark of the covenant, not to the more general temple complex or building…” (ESV Study Bible) This leads into Paul’s main point for the rest of the chapter and into 7:1….
VS 16 – 7:1 Come out from Among Them
“16b-18 These verses assemble a number of OT texts. Verse 16b is stated first in Lv 26:12 and repeated in Jer 31:33; 32:38. This was God’s promise of His presence to His covenant people, now fulfilled in the new covenant instituted by Christ (Heb 8:7-13). Verse 17 cites Isa 52:11, referring to Israel’s future holiness when they will be restored to the Lord’s favor. 2 Cor 6 Verse 18 is found first in 2Sam 7:14 in God’s covenant promise to David, but it is echoed in Isa 43:6; 49:22; 60:4; Hos 1:10. In these passages the Lord promised a family relationship between Himself and His people.” – HCSB Study Bible
These verses emphasized a truth found in Leviticus 19:2 & 1 Peter 1:16 – “Be holy for I am Holy.” These verses are also exceptionally personal and warm. When we are united with Christ & live in holiness by His power He will walk among us (before the fall the LORD would walk with man – Gen 3:8). He will welcome us, be a Father to us, and we will be His sons and daughters.
I have included 7:1 because it continues Paul’s thoughts here. Because of these great promises we have a great responsibility. It is interesting because it says for us to “wash ourselves.” Jesus cleanses from every sin. He cleanses us. We cannot remove sin by our own power. This is also not talking about water baptism. It’s best understood as the daily cleansing the believer should experience. Sometimes we need to do specific things to rid ourselves of impurities of the flesh and spirit.
Because of the fear of God we should rid ourselves of impurities. Flush the alcohol. Trash the pornography. Think before you respond. Love when you are insulted. Say no to sin. You get the point. Jesus forgives and heals but we must also have the discipline to live the free life.
What do we take away from this today?…
- Immediately respond to God’s call when we hear it
- Value the ministry (whatever you are called to do) and bring no dishonor to it
- Touch no unclean thing and live holy. Repent if you fall. He promises to be near and walk with us.
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.
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.”
VS 1-3 Living Letters
Here Paul teaches an interesting lesson. It’s not letters of recommendation that qualify ministry: it’s the fruit you bear. The subject of commendation is frequent in 2 Corinthians. This passage reveals a sobering truth: the real success is revealed by the lives of those you minister to. Notice the progression that follows….
- You are our letter (of commendation)
- This letter is written on our (the minister’s) hearts, which is read by all
- Ultimately you are Christ’s letter also
- Written by us (since our ministry came from Him)
- This is written by the Spirit of God on human hearts
Paul will contrast the old and new covenants later in this chapter so his words “..not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh” was clearly precluding it. For examples and further study see Ex. 24:12; 31:18; 32:15; 34:1; Deut. 9:10 & Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26
VS 4-6 True competence in ministry
Because of the great harvest and growth the Corinthians have shown this gave deep satisfaction to the Apostle. He realized, as we should, that our competence comes from God. It does not come from men.
Edward Sheldon said “God will look you over, not for medals or degrees, but for scars.“
As much as human preparation is important it is God who wins the battle. He should be given the praise and credit.
Notice the wisdom of God in VS 6. There is purpose in God’s commendation. We are ministers of the New Covenant, it is of the Spirit, who gives life. Any less is insufficient at best and damaging at worst.
VS 7-18 Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom
The lesson here is learned in contrasts, the new and the old covenant. A covenant was an agreement or contract between two parties (or families) which could only be broken in death. There were often meals involved. Paul will use words here that must have shocked to his original audience: “Ministry of death” & “ministry of condemnation” in reference to the old covenant. He uses titles such as these to show what the purpose of the old covenant really was. It was a guardian until the time of Christ. The law can diagnose sin but cannot remove it. The law says “you are wrong” and “you must pay.” For an extended passage on the purpose of the law see Galatians 3:19-26.
There is no doubt, the law is good, it is not evil. This is made abundantly clear in Romans 7:7-8.
The new covenant brings life because Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice to God for the sins of all mankind. The new covenant is described here as the “ministry of the Spirit” and “ministry of righteousness.” God’s wrath against sin was forever satisfied in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After the resurrection Jesus sent the Spirit to empower us to be His witnesses and through us reconcile the world to God the Father. We see in VS 12 that such hope gives us boldness. What great news!!
The new covenant is what is in effect now, the old covenant has been completed and fulfilled in Christ.
Because the term covenant cannot be thoroughly discussed here and because of the need of further study I highly recommend a book by Malcom Smith entitled The Power of the Blood Covenant. Go here for the book on Amazon: http://amzn.com/1577948165 It’s also available as a Kindle edition: http://amzn.com/B00486U462 It is also available for the Nook: http://bit.ly/nHb1Nl
Paul uses a well-known story about Moses as an example. You can read the account it Exodus 34:29-35.
Moses experienced the glory of the old covenant and his face glowed bright! It was so bright that no one could look at him. This caused him to put a veil over his face until the glory faded. The radiance of Moses’ face resulted from him spending 40 days and nights on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. It is interesting if you visit the text in Exodus to find that the people were afraid to look at Moses and when Moses talked with Yahweh he removed the veil.
If the old covenant was glorious how much more glorious is the new? It does NOT fade away. Here we learn that the old covenant is not glorious today at all
The veil had a spiritual lesson. It represents the blinding of the non-Christian. When the law is read they are blinded from the truth. Man-made arguments and reasoning will not remove the veil. Spiritually the veil lies over their hearts. In Moses’ day it was over their minds (VS 14.) We see here one must open their heart to God. Paul in clear…”because it is set aside [only] in Christ….whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” VS 14b & 16b. Jesus Christ, who ushers in the New Covenant, takes away the veil which blinds.
In VS 17 we read a well-loved verse: “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This is often quoted in the context of the freedom the Lord allows during worship services. While that may be true that is not the context here. Paul is strategically using the word freedom to highlight what belongs to the Christian in the new covenant. This is in contrast to the veil which is blind to salvation. When we come to Christ we now have liberty not bondage!
VS 18 says “We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” We together (as Christians) fully behold the glory of the Lord (in the Spirit) and reflect that same glory (still united together as the church) and are being transformed into the image of the Lord (God’s original plan when creating man – Genesis 1:26-27) from glory to glory (ascending or progressive in glory.) All this is from the Lord, the Lord is the Spirit.
What does 2 Corinthians 3 teach for us today?….
- God qualifies us
- Real success is faithfulness to God in the fruit we produce
- Look fully to and participate in God’s glory. This is found in Christ alone.
Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture is taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible ® Copyright © 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.