3 Aspects of New Life in Christ
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
This passage is part of a long digression which describes authentic Christianity. Here is yet another striking description.
Read vs 17. Christianity is not an addition to or improvement of the old life; it is a new life altogether. When you receive Christ you become a fundamentally new person, with new resources-which makes possible a whole new way of life.
In this passage, Paul discloses 3 aspects of this new life . . .
New Motivation (vs 14,15)
The first aspect is a radically new source of motivation for your life (read vs 14,15).
Read vs 15b: Talk about a radical change! It is possible to be liberated from living for yourself to live for Christ.
PAUL as the EXAMPLE (distill Phil 3: turned his back on a successful life as "dung" & gladly lived as a vagabond, finally being executed for his loyalty to JC) >> Phil. 1:21; Gal. 2:20.
How does God motivate this change?
Not by fear-threat. Not by duty-obligation. Unfortunately, Christians have usually resorted to these to motivate people to live for Christ ("GOD WILL GET YOU;" "HE HAS DONE SO MUCH FOR YOU - YOU ARE OBLIGATED TO RETURN THE FAVOR"). Both of these can produce behavioral change, but the change is superficial: you do the bare minimum, you comply grudgingly, etc. The church is filled w/ people living this way and it is a tragedy because God never intended or desired this.
God motivates this change by love (vs 14a: sunecho - impels; urges on).
There is no more powerful motivator in the human realm than love (MYSELF: "The ones who have loved me the most have changed me the most."). Nothing produces zeal and loyalty and the willingness to gladly go beyond what is required like love.
The same is true in the spiritual realm. God's love has the ability to completely revolutionize your life. This is why Paul always prayed that his converts would keep growing in their comprehension of God's love for them (read Eph. 3:18,19).
How do you get motivated by Christ's love?
Notice the connection between vs 14a & vs 14b: it is the result of forming conclusions (krinantas) about the meaning of Christ's death - that he died in your place and for you. As you learn what the Bible teaches about the cross, and as you choose to believe it, the Holy Spirit enables you to experience the motivating power of his love in your life (Rom 5:5).
This is why new Christians are so motivated to serve Christ. They don't serve him because they are afraid of him, or because they feel they "have to." They can't stop themselves from talking to him & talking about him to others, etc. Why? Because they have "tasted of the kindness of the Lord" (1 Pet. 2:3) - they have freshly experienced the power of Christ's love by believing in his work on the cross to forgive them.
But this motivation wanes unless it is cultivated by continuing to learn more about the work of the cross, and reflecting on it and believing in it.
Are you an unmotivated Christian - just going through the motions to keep up appearances, or out of duty to God? You need to ask God to illuminate your heart to grasp in a fresh and deeper way the work of the cross - and then go to the Bible's explanation of it. Remind of 2 Cor. 3:18;4:16,18.
New Way of Evaluating People (vs 16,17)
The second radically new thing Paul mentions is a whole new way of estimating or evaluating people. God replaces the old way with a new way.
Read vs 16. What does it mean to evaluate people "according to the flesh?"
This refers to faulty human standards rather than according to God's way. Human standards are arbitrary & superficial.
7th GRADE: One the basis of clothing, shoes, hair length, and who said "hi" in the halls, people were either accepted or rejected. I was intimidated and corrupted by the "in" crowd, and I despised and rejected the "out" crowd.
We laugh at how foolish this is, but it doesn't really change in the adult world: DEGREES; SALARY; JOB; POSSESSIONS; NEIGHBORHOOD. How much of your life is dominated by evaluating others in this way, and responding to them in the above way?
The proof that this is faulty is that it leads to a faulty evaluation of Christ (vs 16b). According to the world's standards, JC was a total loser: JEW; NAZARENE; CARPENTER; SMALL FOLLOWING; REJECTED BY JEWS & ROMANS; CRUCIFIED. Yet he was the Messiah, God-incarnate, the most important Person in the world and the One who has indisputably affected humanity more than anyone else.
Instead, we are to evaluate people in terms of their potential in Christ (vs 17). This is the way Jesus viewed people (NICODEMUS; WOMAN AT THE WELL; PETER).
No matter how great you are, you still need Christ or you are fundamentally missing the purpose of your existence. As we take on this perspective, we can be freed from intimidation to help these people by sharing Christ with them.
No matter how goofed up you are, you are still significant to Christ and he is able to redeem you and give you a meaningful life. As we take on this perspective, we can be freed from writing people off to helping them realize their potential in Christ.
New Purpose (vs 18-21)
The third radically new thing that Jesus gives us is a whole new purpose for life.
No matter how young or old, new or mature spiritually, etc. - we have all been given the most significant ministry (service) in the world - the ministry of reconciliation (read vs 18).
Reconciliation means "bringing estranged parties together into a relationship of love and unity." As those who have been reconciled to God, we have the privilege of helping others do the same.
In vs 19-21, Paul tells us how to be effective in this ministry. Notice 2 things:
First, we are to emphasize that God is ready to get reconciled with people just the way they are. He does not hold their sins against them as a barrier to knowing him and experiencing his life-changing love.
We are not to stress their sins and God's judgment. This only confirms people's misconception that he doesn't want to know them, that he has written them off, etc. This is why I wince at the BIBLE THUMPERS: they are misrepresenting God's attitude toward people.
Does this mean that God is soft on sin? Not at all. Sin was a very real barrier to God & he hates sin with a deadly seriousness. The point is not that God takes sin lightly, but that he has dealt with the sin issue completely through the death of JC.
Vs 21 is the definitive description of grace (undeserved favor). Because Christ was willing to receive what he did not deserve (all of your sins & the infinite wrath of God against them), God is free to offer you what you don't deserve (perfectly right standing w/ him as a permanent and completely free gift).
So we are to explain and emphasize the grace of God: he has dealt w/ your sins; he is ready to be reconciled to you as you are.
Secondly, we are to personally invite and urge people to respond to God's offer and be reconciled to him (vs 20).
The grammar makes it clear that Paul is not urging the Corinthian Christians to be reconciled to God (the "you" is not in the Greek) - they already are (vs 18a). Rather, he is telling them what we should urge non-Christians to do.
You know what it means to be reconciled to someone. Turn to him personally. Call out to him. Tell him that you are willing to lay down your alienation from him. Tell him that you want to know him. Tell him that you trust Christ's death to make you acceptable to him. This is all that it takes. You don't need to clean yourself up before you can come to him. You don't need to promise him that you'll never sin again. Just come to him as you are be reconciled to him.
Vs 18a. Praise God for the new life that is possible through Christ!