2 Corinthians 5:1 - 6:2

Be Reconcilers

2000, J.W. Carter
     www.biblicaltheology.com              Scripture quotes from KJV


If satan still has one stronghold in my life, it is in the form of a critical spirit. His claws have been so deeply imbedded in me for years that it has been difficult to wrestle free. It has always been very easy for me to express my judgemental opinion on any event that takes place around me, particularly when that event surrounds someone else's actions. No one, great or small, or no organization great or small is entirely protected from my firm opinions. As a self-proclaimed expert on every subject, I could always give you an opionion. I never made a claim at being perfect, but was always ready to voice the many and varied imperfections of others. My wife also shares this stronghold, so we reinforce each other’s criticism at a time when we both really want to shed ourselves of this unholy spirit.

Our natural bent is to follow our own feelings and desires. Such a position leaves us self-centered with our focus on our own opinions. You see this often in conversations when people interrupt, interjecting their own opionion, and appear quite oblivious and uncaring to the opionion of others.

What effect does such an attitude have on:

If, indeed, such a spirit is contrary to God's purpose than it is useful to look at its opposite, one that should be consistent with God's will. What is the opposite of a judgmental spirit? If a judgmental spirit serves to divide, the Holy Spirit would serve to bring together; to establish and build relationships rather than to avoid or tear down. The Holy Spirit seeks to reconcile relationships. Consequently, it is appropriate that, if the Spirit is to work through me, and through us, then we should be an agent of reconciliation, not an agent of opinion.

Therefore, what should be the spirit that is within us? God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, yet we suppress it so easily when we live by self-centered, worldly, and temporal principles.

Because of God's Spirit within us, we have the opportunity to be His agent for His purpose during our short life. Paul had a hightened sensitivity to the relationship between the temporal, physical body, and the eternal spirit that it houses.

2 Cor 5:1.

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

What was Paul's opinion concerning the purpose of the physical body? "In verses 1-10, Paul gives the pictures of a tabernacle or a tent and a permanent building. He uses these metaphors to describe the human existence, the physical body and the heavenly existence. The earthly existence will be folded up like a tent. This is an excellent metaphor for Paul, because he was a tent maker. Paul could also be thinking of the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple which was the permanent building" (E.E. Elliott.)

We know that when this body dies, the spirit that is within us will be provided another home, one that God has provided for us. There has been much speculation concerning the nature of this "resurrection body." However, it’s eternal context varies so much from the physical world we know, there is no reference point from which to understand the properties of God’s eternal home. We may not know the properties of the "house in heaven," but we do know its nature is that of God.

2 Cor 5:2-3.

For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

Verse 3 is one of those verses we may have to struggle with. If indeed, also being clothed, not naked we shall be found. The way the Greek reads it means nakedness after being clothed. Some of the early copyists thought it could not say this and changed endusamenoi to ekdusamevoi. The Greek word endusamenoi., is a first aorist participle, middle, meaning to sink into or to enter into clothing. The key to this verse is naked. Naked was the condition of those captured in battle. It is also the condition of those who stand before God in judgment as he perceives the intent of their hearts. This idea is further advanced in verse 10, when he speaks about the judgment seat of Christ, tou bhmatod tou cristou. The bema was the platform where the judge’s chair was placed when he pronounced judgment. It was one step higher than the floor. All believers will stand before Christ to be judged.

This side of heaven we suffer with the unholy strongholds that vex us, like a critical, prideful, or self-centered spirit. We are reminded in the eigth chapter of Romans and the first chapter of James that these vexations have the God-ordained purpose of making us more Christ-like, more patient, wiser, and more useful for His kingdom. It is by overcoming these attitudes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that we mature spiritually. As we do so, the instances when the stronghold takes power decrease in frequency and strength, until they are defeated and no longer part of our nature. Until then, we groan, earnestly desiring when these strongholds vex us no more.

2 Cor 5:4.

For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

What is Paul talking about here? To what does groaning refer? To what does naked refer? Groaning refers to the burdens of this life. It refers to living in this world. Being found naked refers to being unprepared for the judgment. The word for naked is used for one on a battlefield who is found without protection or preparation. It refers also to the one who is on the bema seat, the level below the judge where the one who is being judged is sitting or standing.

Actually, where Paul talks about groaning, few of us groan. Rather, we are typically satisfied that our own way is best, the most comfortable. Rather than being concerned about being clothed in righteousness, we are satisfied to be clothed our own way. We look at others as we look at ourselves, and judge each others worth, value and actions based upon our own views. By being clothed in our own righteousness, we are unprepared for the Kingdom, and naked. This is not what God created us for.

2 Cor 5:5-7.

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 6Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

What is the purpose that God has for us? (1) That His Spirit would indewell us so that (2) by faith, we would (3) have fellowship with Him and (4) minister to one another. As long as we are in the physical body we have this purpose. Verse 5 reminds us of a very important, and comforting truth: the Holy Spirit within us is a guarantee of what is to come. Some people teach that once we have received the Holy Spirit, we can lose Him, and lose our salvation. Such a doctrine may be logical from man’s point of view, but is not consistent with God’s purpose, or nature, and is not consistent with scripture. Paul clearly taught that the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life is a permanent, unremovable seal that was not obtained by any work of the flesh, and consequently will not be lost through any work of the flesh.

2 Tim. 1:12. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

Living on this side of heaven, how do we maintain confidence in this as Paul had? As long as we are in the body, we are to live by faith, not by sight. Our culture is one in which we want immediate answers and proof for anything we are to believe. It is not until we can move beyond this earthly culture and rely on our faith, will we realize this confidence that Paul has.

2 Cor 5:8-10.

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

A key word here is ALL, in verse 10. We all must appear before the bema seat. As we look on one another, we should recognize that each of us is under a promise of a much greater judgment than that which we currently witness. Rather than looking on others in judgment as if we are any better than them, we see that we are all at the same level: unworthy of God’s confidence in us. However, those of us who are clothed in righteousness should have a particular concern about those who are not.

2 Cor 5:11.

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

Consequently, we try to persuade people to come to Jesus. This speaks to the motivation we have to witness; the motivation of our ministry. God reconciled us to Himself through Christ, yet, the agent for that reconciliation of all mankind is another Christian. As Christians we are now the agents of reconciliation. We carry the responsibility to share the good news with those who do not yet know it so they will not be found unprepared, naked, without the seal of the Holy Spirit, before the judgement seat. Paul states that our conscience, which is now led by the Holy Spirit, reveals to us that this is true and plain to us if we will only listen.

In verses 11-21, Paul continues to support the authenticity of his apostleship. In doing so he presents both the basis of his motives and some of the great theological truths on which he has founded his ministry; chiefly how God has reconciled us to himself through Christ.

2 Cor 5:12-14.

For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. 13For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. 14For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

Verse 14 is a blunt statement about the consequences of Christ’s death on the cross. Who the all are in this statement has been debated fiercely. Paul in this passage does not define "all." Implied in the statement that one (Christ) died for all is the same concept Paul presented in his letter to the Romans where he describes Jesus as the second Adam who is identified with humanity and is the representative for all mankind. The word uper translated "for" in verse 14 means "on behalf of" or "substitution for." A.T. Robertson’s Greek studies of the papyri established firmly that this is a primary meaning of this preposition. The Greek construction of the "love of Christ constrains us" in verse 14 allows this to be read either, the "love we leave for Christ" or the "love Christ has for us."

Paul was being heavily criticized by members of the church in Corinth. His apostleship was being questioned, as well as the truth of his message. In this defense, Paul gives the reason for his zealousness that even of itself generates criticism. He states in verse 14 that he is compelled by the knowledge of what Christ has done for us. Likewise, when we truly realize what Christ has done for us, we are compelled to live a life that is obedient to Him, and by so doing, we are open about our faith. We are called to give an account of our faith at every opportunity to do so. We are not to take the light of the Holy Spirit and "hide it under a bushel", but let it shine, because the nature of the Holy Spirit that is now in us cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14-16. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

2 Cor 5:15-18.

And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 16Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

From the point of our salvation, our view of others should have a radical change. We no longer view others from a worldly point of view, as we once regarded in Christ. We see others as either a "new creation", or people who have the potential to be so. When we look at a lost person, we should not be focusing on their sins, which we so easily criticize, but on their potential as a child of God, and their need for salvation.

In verses 18-19, God takes the initiative to reconcile the world to himself. The Scripture is crystal clear that the natural man is at enmity with and hostile toward God. This is but one of the many passages which verifies how seriously God takes sin and the depth to which he is willing to go to defeat it.

2 Cor 5:19-20.

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

It is so easy for us to count men’s sins against them. By doing so, we separate ourselves from those whom we criticize. Note that when we are reconciled to God through Christ, He no longer counts those sins against us. God is not an accountant that balances our good deeds with our bad, as many people seem to think.

Isaiah 64:6. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

The truth is that we have no good deeds; our own righteousness is as "filthy rags," an extremely graphic metaphor that refers to blood-filled rags that had to be ceremonially disposed of, and when touched, the person who touched them had to be ceremonially cleansed. In the Hebrew culture, these rags were considered to be the filthiest thing that one could touch. God does not count the works of the faithful against them. By so doing, God has assigned each Christian the responsibility of being an ambassador to the lost world, with the purpose of bringing the lost to Himself. Paul begs those who have not been reconciled to do so, and those who have been reconciled to be ambassadors for Christ.

2 Cor 5:21.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

"Verse 21 is one of the most magnificent verses in Scripture. This verse means that Jesus bore the curse of Gods judgement on sin for us; and we are declared in right standing before God." (EE.Elliot) As unrighteous as we are in of ourselves, God places His righteousness over us, he covers us with it, and we are no longer "naked."

2 Cor 6:1-2.

We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2(For he saith, "I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee:"Isaiah 49:8 behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

The first part of the sixth chapter is a continuation of the last part of chapter 5. Paul explains that his critics are free may examine his life, ministry and motives. This causes them to open their hearts to him.   Our lives are open to the examination of all of those around us.

Likewise, it is appropriate that we examine our life, our ministry and our motives. When we model our lives in a manner consistent with our calling by Christ, we will find that we are ambassadors, agents of reconciliation, seeking to raise the level of the downtrodden, defend the defenseless, seeking to bring all people to find the most important purpose in their lives: Jesus.