We need motivation. We need reminders to help us reach the goals that we have in life. Whether it comes to our dieting or some other goal we have, we need motivators. We need certain pillars to lean on that will help us continue to the goal. The apostle Paul is giving Christians motivators for the Christian life. Paul is sharing with these Corinthians what motivates him. We have seen in 2 Corinthians 3-4 that what motivates Paul and all Christians is beholding the glory of God as seen in the gospel of Jesus. Further, motivation is found in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 that we look to the unseen things because there is life after our physical body is laid in the ground. We noticed another motivator last week in 2 Corinthians 5:10.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)
It is so easy to live our lives not thinking about this truth. This is a truth we want to avoid. It is a truth that we desire to deny. Perhaps there is no greater deterrent to sinning than remembering that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ where we will receive what is due to us for what we have done in the body. Paul’s words must be jarring to our hearts. Living our lives in denial of this truth will not help us. When you have this reality before your eyes and in your hearts then it changes how you live. The apostle Paul points out how these motivators change how we live.
We Persuade Others (5:11)
Knowing that all people must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, then we persuade others. “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” We know what is going to happen at the end. We know that judgment is coming. We know that we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We cannot ignore this reality. So we persuade others about Christ. Paul made this point earlier in chapter 4 that when you behold the light of the glory of the gospel of Jesus, then you have to tell others. We have to tell others when we see something glorious. We cannot help it. So also Paul says that he knows the gospel and the result of the gospel message and he must persuade others. He is the clay jar carrying the treasure of the gospel everywhere he goes. He is the aroma of the triumphal procession, a fragrance that leads to life for some and death to others (2:14-16). Knowing the fear of the Lord creates in us an intensity to persuade others about Jesus.
We Live Life In All Sincerity (5:11-13)
“But what we are is known to God.” We live our lives so that it is not hypocritical. We do not live our lives showing people that we love God, but in secret maintaining another life. We are not double minded. We do not live two lives. We do not have a public life and a private life. We live knowing that God sees all areas of our lives. Our lives are not hidden before the eyes of God. So we live with all sincerity before God. We then hope that others will see that integrity and sincerity that we have before God. People will hopefully see that this is our goal and our aim. Our lives will reflect that we love God. People will see it.
But even if we live in all sincerity before God, it does not mean that we will not be maligned and accused by others. Paul says in verse 12 that the reason he is expressing his sincerity of heart is because people are saying that they are not godly or sincere. There are some people that just care about outward appearances. Since Paul did not make a big deal about himself, then he must not be truly an apostle of God. Paul defends himself by pointing to his integrity and sincerity. Being a Christian is not about being loud and boisterous so people make much of us. In fact, it has been my experience that those who make noise about themselves and what they are doing are found to not be sincere in their faith. Paul did not want to commend himself but wanted to give these Corinthians the ability to answer those who boast in their ministry and outward appearance. Paul says that he has a sincere heart toward God and for you in the work. Hypocrites lack integrity. Paul indicates that his opponents consider him to be out of his mind in 5:13 (“out of his mind” — NIV, CSB, NET). The kind of devotion and sacrifice God calls us to will cause people to think of us in this way.
The Love of Christ Controls Us (5:14-15)
I want us to see how often in this chapter and how often in this letter to the Corinthians Paul is describing his motivation. In chapters 3-4 he described the glory of the Lord as his motivation. In 5:11 it is knowing the fear of the Lord that motivates him to persuade others and live with all sincerity. In 5:14 Paul also says that the love of Christ controls him. We live this way, persuading others, sacrificing our lives, and living with integrity because the love of Christ controls us. We have beheld the light of the gospel of the glory of the Lord in Jesus and that controls our lives. It exercises a constraining effect in our lives.
Now this is what Paul is trying to explain to his readers. When you see the love of Christ as revealed in the gospel, it changes your life. If we really are disciples of Jesus, if we have truly grasped the love of Christ, then there is only one conclusion to draw: “one has died for all, therefore all have died.” Jesus died for us so we die to ourselves. Jesus died for us so we die to our life. People will think we are out of our minds, like people thought Paul was out of his mind. But this is what the gospel causes. The true reception of the gospel in the heart means we die to self. Jesus died so that “those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” This controls us! We live for him and not for ourselves. We die because he died. We live for him because he died for us.
Here is what Paul is giving to us. If we have not made this kind of life change, then you have not seen the love of Christ, you are not considering the fear of God and the judgment seat we must stand before, and you have not beheld and savored the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ. These are the motivations. These are the things that change us. If we are not changed, then we are not seeing it. We are missing it. I hope you will consider for yourself this morning if you are seeing the love, glory, and fear of the Lord or if you are missing it. Are you living for yourself or for God? If you are still living for yourself then you do not know the love of Christ. The love of Christ compels us. The love of Christ controls us. The love of Christ changes us.
The Love of Christ Changes How We Look At Life (5:16)
The love of Christ changes how we look at people. The love of Christ even changes how we look at Christ. We do not look at these things from a worldly perspective. We do not have a human point of view anymore. We are seeing the unseen things now. We have a different evaluation of people. We do not measure others by what the world says is important but by what God says is important. We do not regard Christ by physical measurements. We do not consider Christ by what we get from him. He died so we die. We consider Christ with a new perspective. We see life differently. We see the world differently.
New Creation (5:17)
The change of life is so radical that Paul says if we are in Christ we are a new creation. Some translations read that you are a new creature. While this is true, the picture is broader than that. The newer translations all read “new creation.” Is there a personal renewal that happens if you are in Christ? Yes, just as Paul described in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. But it is more than that. The new creation means that not only you are changed, but the way you look at life has changed and you live under a new order and rule. What it means to be in Christ is that you have changed and everything has changed. New creation is what God promised through the prophets would happen when the Messiah and Savior came. Let’s look at some of those pictures.
For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. (Isaiah 51:3 ESV)
Notice that Isaiah pictures a time when God will comfort his people, transforming the wasted places and wilderness into Eden, the garden of the Lord. A whole new way will be found in Zion where there is joy, gladness, thanksgiving, and singing. Do not think that Isaiah was picturing the return from Babylonian exile. Read the next sentence.
Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. (Isaiah 51:4 ESV)
This is the new covenant that will go out of Jerusalem and that teaching and justice will be a light to nations and the peoples. When Christ comes, there is going to be renewal and restoration. A new creation is coming when the Lord comes to comfort Zion.
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. (Isaiah 43:18–21 ESV)
Notice the same picture is given. New things are coming from the hand of the Lord. Do not consider the old things. Waters will flow through the deserts. God is going to bring a new creation and his people will declare God’s praise.
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:17–25 ESV)
When Christ comes, everything you know is going to change. Listen to how Isaiah ends his prophecy.
For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord. And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. (Isaiah 66:18–24 ESV)
God says that is going to gather in all the nations and languages. They all will come and see the glory of the Lord. They will go to the nations and declares the glory of God among the nations. They will call and bring in physical Israel also from the nations. Not only this, some Gentiles will be taken for priests and for Levites. Now we read the Old Testament and we know that Gentiles cannot be priests and Levites. But now they will be. How? Because it is a new heavens and a new earth that God will make. New people and a new system is coming. Those who rebel against God and his new system will be eternally judged. This is how Isaiah ends. The promises of God were that a new creation and new order was coming. The old is done and the new has arrived. Not only has the new covenant replaced the old covenant, but the new life in you has replaced the old life you used to have. This is why Paul could argue the new creation when the question of circumcision arose in Galatians.
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:14–15 ESV)
This is how God could promise this:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26–27 ESV)
People would see the love of Christ, behold the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, and possess the fear of the Lord so that they will die to self and live for God. They are controlled by Christ and compelled to live differently. The world is different to them now. They see people differently. They live differently. They act differently. New creation! Listen to what Paul said in verse 17. If you are in Christ, then you are a new creation. If you are not a new creation, then you are not in Christ. The picture is that simple. If we look like the world then we are not a new creation. If we think at all like the world then we are not a new creation. The solution is see the love of Christ. Remove the veil from the face and behold the glory of Christ. Let the gospel change your heart, change your eyes, and change your mind. God created a whole new world order. Do you see it? Are you looking at the unseen things or still living according to the flesh?