2 Corinthians, Lesson 8: Being Reconciled with God

Statues (610x351)Having just said that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” Paul and Timothy now point to God’s solution for that coming Day: “Being reconciled with God” on “a day of salvation.”


The Law: Fearing the Lord

Read 2 Corinthians 5:11


Excursus: Fear of the Lord: The Old-Testament Background

God’s presence and judgment should evoke dread and terror for those who choose to walk in their own way instead of in God’s way.

Genesis 3:10: “I [Adam] heard You [God] in the garden and I was afraid…”

Jeremiah 5:22: “Do you not fear Me?” This is the Lord’s declaration [to a people who have chosen their own way].

But for God’s people, the “fear of the Lord” refers to proper worship and conduct before Him. This fear recognizes our ongoing sinfulness, and so such “fear” never disappears in our relationship with God. “If you, O Lord, were to keep a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that you may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4). The “fear of the Lord” expresses being in a state of holy awe and reverence when in His presence—He is holy and, apart from Him, sin ruins everything.

Exodus 19:16: On the morning of the third day [when Moses was on Mt. Sinai] there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain [denoting God’s presence], and a loud trumpet sound, and all the people in the camp shook with fear.

Deuteronomy 4:9-12: The day you [the Israelites] stood in the presence of the Lord, your God, at Horeb, He said to me, “Assemble the people before Me to hear my words, so that they will learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth and may instruct their children.”

As long as we have sin, we never outgrow the need to “fear” the Lord. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t hear the implication behind the “fear of the Lord” being the beginning of wisdom (Sirach 1:14) and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). The implication of this is that the fulfillment of wisdom is not the “fear of the Lord” but wisdom itself: “Wisdom is the fulfillment of the fear of the Lord” (Sirach 21:22). This wisdom is trust, faith, in the Lord! The Apostle Paul revealed that to Pastor Timothy, referring to the Old-Testament Scriptures: “From infancy, you have known the Scriptures, which have the power to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

And we find King David speaking this way, about how the “fear of the Lord” leads one beyond such fear:

I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all of my fears…. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.… Fear the LORD, you saints of His, for those who fear him lack nothing! [Psalm 34:4, 7, 9]

And then on the cusp of the New Covenant, Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Zechariah (John the Baptizer’s father) spoke both ways about “fearing” God:

His [God’s] mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. [Luke 1:50]

…we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him [Jesus] without fear, in holiness and righteousness all our days. [Luke 1:74-75]

And we will see Paul and Timothy move from the “fear of the Lord” to the “love of Christ.” But each at its proper time!


  • “Knowing the fear of the Lord,” Paul and Timothy persuade others. What does this entail?


Read 2 Corinthians 5:12-13

Those in the Corinthian congregation who boasted about outward appearances were those who came with letters of recommendation (2 Corinthians 3:1) and were of Jewish origin (2 Corinthians 11:22).

“beside ourselves”: Greek, existami, to be out of one’s senses. Here’s it means “crazy.”

  • Why can the Corinthians “boast” about Paul and Timothy?


The Gospel: The Love of Christ

Although the false teachers at Corinth asserted that Paul and Timothy were “crazy,” they state that they have a “right mind” for the Corinthians. They then say how that “right mind” expresses itself.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:14

  • Verse 13 finished with “for you.” What is the “for you” message that Paul and Timothy have for the Corinthian Christians?


  • Who “died for all”?


  • If Christ died for “all,” then what has objectively happened to “all”?


The Gospel Bearing Fruit in One’s Life: Sanctification

Read 2 Corinthians 5:15

  • Although Christ died for “all [Greek, panton]” and, because of that, “all have died,” what word describes those [Greek, eutois] who have life?


  • How can we make sense of this?


Excursus: God Making Us Righteous

What God Does Objectively

Scripture teaches that God objectively justifies everyone (makes everyone righteous).

Romans 3:23-24: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and they [the “all” just mentioned] are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:18-19: So then, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression [the Fall into sin], so also through one righteous act [the salvation Jesus accomplished for us] there is justification and life for all people. For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. [Note: “the many” is a Hebrew idiom meaning “all people.”]

The Apostle Paul contrasts the first Adam with the second Adam, Jesus Christ. The first Adam brought death to all; the second Adam, Jesus Christ, brought life to all. The sin of the first resulted in universal condemnation; the obedience and sacrifice of the second brought about universal (or objective) justification.

So then, why isn’t everyone saved?

God’s Objective Righteousness for All Applied Subjectively, to the Person

The completed, objective reality of God’s “not-guilty” verdict in Christ is real. It is an-already accomplished fact and reality. God’s verdict of “not-guilty” stands for the entire world, regardless of someone’s knowledge or belief. Yet, this truth must be personally applied to each person for him to receive the benefit of God’s verdict. This is where faith comes into the picture.

At Antioch, Paul preached:

So, brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you [in other words, objectively, this is an-already accomplished event by Jesus Christ]. Everyone who believes in Him is justified from every sin [the objective work of Christ is applied personally, that is, subjectively], a justification you could not obtain under the Law of Moses [Acts 13:38-39].

Faith is trusting in Christ for life and salvation, which is a gift God the Holy Spirit gives to someone.

Ephesians 2:1, 5: As for you, you were once dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and its spiritual ruler…. Although we were dead in transgressions, God made us alive with Christ. You are saved by grace!

Colossians 2:13: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ and forgave us all our sins.

That’s why, although we are physically alive and can do physical things, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). And the Apostle Paul teaches: “So then it does not depend on human will or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16).


  • How do “those who live” live?


The New Creation

Read 2 Corinthians 5:16

We must continue to remember the context of this passage. “We” still refers to Paul and Timothy. Now, what they say is meant for all Christians—but those in Corinth were not living that way. Later, in vs. 20, that “we” will command the Corinthian congregation to “be reconciled to God.” Thus, in this passage, “we” refer to Paul and Timothy.

“according to the flesh”: Here, this means “according to human standards.”

  • Why should Christians no longer “regard Christ according to the flesh,” that is, human standards?


Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 3:26-27

  • How does someone get to be “in Christ”?


“if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation”: The Greek lacks “he is.” “Anyone” could also be translated as “someone.” Here is your pastor’s translation: “If someone is in Christ—new creation!” This new creation is not just the person, but even the new heaven and earth on the Last Day (2 Corinthians 5:19).


Paul and Timothy: “Ambassadoring” for Christ

Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

  • What is the “ministry of reconciliation”? (vs. 19)


“ambassador”: Greek, presbeuo. This verse does not use “ambassador” as a noun but as a verb. Even more, “ambassador” is the verb form of the noun presbyter (elder), which was one of the New Testament words for a pastor (the other in episcopos, overseer). A more-literal translation of this verse reads: “Therefore, for Christ, we are ambassadoring [eldering] you… be reconciled to God.” The only other use of “ambassador” in the New Testament is by the Apostle Paul. He had “boldly made known the mystery of the Gospel, for which [he] was ambassadoring in chains…” (Ephesians 6:19-20).

  • Because Paul and Timothy were “ambassadoring” this “ministry of reconciliation” for Christ, what did they then say to the Corinthian congregation? (vs. 20)


“be reconciled”: an imperative verb, but also passive! Paul and Timothy command this of the Corinthian congregation. But the passive voice denotes that they don’t have the power to do the reconciling that Paul and Timothy command of them!

How then does this being reconciled to God take place with God? Paul and Timothy answer that next.


Being Reconciled to God

Read 2 Corinthians 5:21-6:2

  • What is the Corinthian congregation not to do? (vs. 1)


  • What are they to do? (vs. 2)


  • To whom and how is the Corinthian congregation to “listen” so “a day of salvation” comes to them? [Note: “a day of salvation” is used both times]


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