Lesson 47: "All Things Are Become New. . .Be Ye Reconciled to God. . .Ye Are Not Straitened in Us. . .Ye Are the Temple of the Living God." (II Corinthians 5:17,20; 6:12,16)
II Corinthians 5:11--7:1
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #47. Welcome again. The material in this section is (as we said in our last lesson) a continuation of that lesson. As I have pointed out before, there were two general factions at Corinth, at that time: (1) those who accepted Paul as an apostle and (2) those who did not accept Paul. I look upon the first nine chapters of this book, Second Corinthians, as being addressed by Paul primarily to the first group mentioned, those who had repented, accepted Paul and were trying to obey him as an apostle. In these first rune chapters, Paul tried, as one of his leading aims, to provide those brethren with a treatise here in chapters 4-5-6 that would incline them to more spiritual thinking and provide them with ammunition (if you will) that would, when analyzed by these more sober brethren; would cause them to see more clearly the faults, flaws, blunders and mistakes of that other faction, who were Paul's chief opponents. Then, in what we call chapters 10-11-12-13, (the last four chapters) Paul spoke more directly to his opponents. He covered essentially the same material, some of the same thoughts; but, he covered it in a more brazen and much more blunt and corrective spirit, as you expect and as was appropriate to the occasion. So, as we start this lesson, we are right in the middle of Paul's treatise to his more friendly brethren in the Corinthian church.
Let's begin reading in v.ll of ch. 5. We'll read down through v.l of ch. 7. Paul's review here is very spiritually penetrating. The thought is as fresh and needed as much now as in the day it was said. I think it was a review more or less of much that Paul had said and taught when he was at Corinth. We're going to read a big chunk - 30 verses. Are you ready? Beginning in 5:11, here we go. "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. 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 hi heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for mem, and rose again. Wherefore 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. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 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. Now 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. 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. We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and hi the day of salvation have I succored thee: Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, hi afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, hi stripes, hi imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known: as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged, ye are not straitened hi us, but ye are straitened hi your own bowels. Now for a recompense hi the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk hi them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness hi the fear of God."
O.K., quickly, let's back up to where we started reading (5:11). Notice that in v.10, the apostle! had just said: "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done hi his body..." In v.ll, Paul referred to the judgment as "the terror of the Lord." Solomon in the Old Testament emphasized fearing the Lord. Solomon's conclusion as the end of the book of Ecclesiastes was: "Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." Why Solomon? "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Thus, to go to the judgment unprepared is a terrorizing thought, that should wake us up; if we'd ever take the time to think about it. In Proverbs 9:10, Solomon said: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..." Understanding that, therefore (v.ll), Paul said "we persuade men." And, believe me that judgment scene can be a pretty persuasive argument; when it is perceived. Do you remember near the end of ch. 1, Paul said he and his co-workers had no dominion over the Corinthians' faith. He said: "By faith ye stand." Now notice that hi v. 12-13-14 all three verses begin with the word: "for", F-O-R. The word "for" connects up and precedes a reason, or an explanation. Alright, "for" what Paul? "For we commend not ourselves again unto you.,." You see this goes back to those letters of commendation his opponents were waving. When the Corinthians got that judgment business in perspective; they would not glory in appearance, as the false teachers were doing. A little perspective here would take away a lot of nonsense. Study v. 12 with a critical eye. Then it's obvious, v.13 is another illusion to Paul's critics and another of their charges. The false teachers had undoubtedly said Paul was beside himself; i.e., Paul's zeal and self-denial was to them radical and to the extreme. In other words, Paul was insane, they were saying. So, Paul said hi effect, (v.13) I'll let you decide that point. If we be beside ourselves "it is to God." (See that?) And, if you should conclude we are sane, (i.e., "sober" is the word in the KJV; then "it is for your cause," i.e., for the spiritual benefit of you Corinthians and don't forget it! Then hi v. 14-15-16, Paul's thought is something like this: "For the love of Christ constraineth us...," i.e., when you Corinthians start thinking about how much the Lord loved us, to die for us that our sins might be remitted; then the result will be that everyone at Corinth will conduct themselves differently. "If any man be hi Christ (v.17), he is a new creature..." Christians are different. They are not insane; but, they are different. "Old things are passed away...all things are become new." You see, the false teachers were holding on to the old things; their emphasis was upon the old, not upon the new. Then, Paul swung a lick with all his force (v.18): "God.,.hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ..." There's enough material in that statement for several sermons. Do you remember John's prologue? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then skip down to v.9 of John ch. 1. "That was the Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world...as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God..." Sound familiar? That POWER TO BECOME was conditional and delegated from God. What does "reconciliation" mean? Just in case you don't know, my dictionary says: a change of relationship between God and man based on changed status of man through the redemptive work of Christ. Paul said, "God...hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ." V.21 says, "he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." And the, in the last part of v.18, Paul said that God gave us a part in that reconciliation process, "and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (end v.19). Now, the word "us" in v. 19 and word "we" at the beginning of v.20 means the apostles (Paul and the other apostles of Jesus). I used to think the word "ambassador" hi v.20 meant Christians and you'll find a lot of preachers that use the word "ambassadors for Christ" (here in v.20) to mean Christians and particularly to mean preachers. But, (hang on to this) that is a wrong connotation. An ambassador is one who is sent from one sovereign nation or power, to another sovereign nation or power and can make decisions and act on behalf of his country. The apostles of Jesus could do that. • You and I cannot. Jesus told the apostles, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven..." (That's Matt. 16:19). In John 20:23, Jesus told the apostles: "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; atid whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." In Mark 16:19-20, the last two verses, mark said: "So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them (i.e., the apostles) he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they (i.e., the apostles) went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." You and I do not have the powers Jesus gave to his "ambassadors," the apostles of Christ. Those apostles and their associates, by inspiration, wrote the rule book, this book we call the New Testament. We learn these things from the apostles themselves; Paul wrote this book So, get it from Paul, don't get it from me. Paul was an ambassador, I'm just a mailman, a messenger boy. A mailman is a minister. A minister is a servant, not an ambassador. The letter is from Paul. So, keep it in perspective. In ch. 10 of the book of Revelation; John in discussing the "little book" said in the last verse, "And he said unto me, (that's talking about the angel, the angel said to John) Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." I used to wonder, how could John do all of that prophesying, i.e., teaching by inspiration when John was apparently at the very end of John's Me. How could John do that after he was dead? But, John still prophesies even today through his inspired writings that you're holding in your hand. Once you get the right key and get the right focus; the New Testament will come out right every time. Don't try to force it! It says what it says. Well, I got carried away on "ambassador;" but, a lot of people needed that. If you'll analyze v.20 (JJ Cor. ch. 5) with a good magnifying glass; you'll find that what Paul said here verifies the "ambassador" idea, that we have just discussed. Paul said, "we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you ( i.e., the Corinthians) by us: "we pray you in Christ's stead..." Think about it! Then in v.l of ch. 6, Paul continued: "We," i.e., the apostles, "as workers together with him..." Who is him? Workers together with God. The parenthesis of v.2 is a quote from Isa. 49:8, to make the point that the reconciliation here discussed should be given immediate attention. Now, what did Paul (the ambassador) request of the Corinthians? Look at it close: "We...beseech you" (v.l), i.e., the Corinthians: "that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." Don't offend in any thing (v.3). "But in all things" (v.4) they should concede, approve and commend Paul as an apostle of Christ. On this point, Paul began to elaborate in the last of v.4 with a long list that continues all the way down through v. 10 (a space of six verses). Paul's life was an open book. The Corinthians didn't need letters of commendation as proof of Paul's apostleship; all they needed was to think back to the times when Paul was with them. In this list, Paul supplied them with food for thought and memory. Much more meaningful to the Corinthians than to us, I'm sure. Qualities that Paul and his companions had exhibited in their life back when they were at Corinth and prior to that time; but, the Corinthians were privy to that information. And I suppose, we could profitably spend a whole lesson on this six-verse-list; but, I'm going to leave it with you. I trust you! Please take the time to comb it down good.
Paul had exhibited much patience, a quality or virtue that describes one who has been tested. Afflictions with an "s" on it, is the second quality mentioned. Surely, I don't have to salt your imagination here. They knew, v.8, Paul had been honored as a heathen god and then stoned and left as dead at Lystta, i.e., honored and dishonored. They knew the apostle was often slandered, i.e., evil reported of, v.8. As we move on to the llth chapter of this book; Paul reiterated much of this list again for the benefit of his opponents. We'll get to that later. As you read this list; try to bring it down home, to us. Much of our world today displays a sort of consumer oriented religious mentality, if you will. Religion is a pick and choose, cafeteria style, consumable entity, so to speak. Where can I get a bargain? Peace of mind at the best price? The dispensers of these modern day spiritual products; research the market. They produce what the consumer wants and dispense it like fast-foods. As we read Paul's long list, observe; the gimmicks are missing. Christianity is not a pick and choose
bargain basement; what does it offer me? and what does it do for me? consumable product. Whafs the mark of a real Christian? Have you thought about it? Then look at v.12! Paul said to the Corinthians: "Ye are not straitened in us..." Notice, that word is S-T-R-A-I-T-E-N-E-D, i.e., a narrow passage like a tight hallway. "But ye are straitened in your own bowels," i.e., they were restricted only by their own conscience, by their own thoughts, and by their own faith. Then in v. 14-7:1, Paul dispensed a strong warning and a strong plea for the Corinthians to take action according to truth. "Come out from among them (v.l7) and be ye sesarate, saith the Lord." Paul quoted this from Isa. 52:11. We'll pick up here in our next lesson. Until then, have a good day!