Lesson 5 Winter Quarter
Lesson Text: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Golden Text: 2 Corinthians 5:17
Our lesson this week is, of course, the first lesson of the new year; it is also the first lesson in a new unit (month) of lessons. The new unit of lessons for this month is titled: Blessing of the Gospel. Last month, we celebrated the birth of Christ, and as I said all of last month, Christ was given to the world for a reason. So, this month, we are going to dive into the blessings of Christ.
What is a Blessing?
Before we jump into our lesson this week, I do want to briefly talk about what a blessing is and what it means to be blessed. To be blessed is to be happy; to be happy in your soul. Therefore, a blessing is something that brings about happiness in your soul.
Now, with that said, we need to understand that the blessings of the Lord are drastically different from a “blessing” coming from anyone or anywhere else. A “worldly blessing” can only provide our soul with a happiness that is temporary. In the gospels, we will see that when Jesus taught about the Lord’s blessings, we learn that God’s blessings will sustain us always.
On one occasion, Jesus pointed to the lilies of the field and how they grew; they were cared for by the Lord and did not have to worry for anything — they were blessed. Jesus then said to the people, “do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matt. 6:31, 33).”
The blessings of the Lord will sustain you daily and you will be made happy in your soul. James said it best when speaking about the blessings of the Lord when he wrote, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (Jas. 1:17).” God’s blessings are unique and perfect for you; they are to make you happy and content in your soul always.
Preaching the Gospel
Our lesson this week opens with Paul writing to the Corinthians and saying, “knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences (v.11). To be well known by the Lord speaks of one being in fellowship with the Lord. You and I, all who are in fellowship with the Lord because we are of faith and love Him, are well known by Him.
Preaching the terror of the Lord
So, what is the terror of the Lord? The terror of the Lord, we should understand, is His punishment – wrath – against sin. Sin is all that stands in opposition against the Lord. As we know, the Lord does not care for disobedience and the only reason why we, all of His creation, still exists today is because of the Lord’s mercy.
However, history shows us repeatedly how the Lord deals with sin. In the book of Genesis, during the days of Noah, He sent a great flood because of the wickedness of mankind (Gen. 6:1-14). After the great flood, the Lord moved against Sodom and Gomorrah, again, because of the wickedness in the two cities (Gen. 19:1-29). When the children of Israel broke their covenant with the Lord on the journey to the Promised Land, they were greatly punished.
The Lord does not tolerate sin. Yes, because of His mercy, man still lives and His creation has not been totally destroyed. However, we know that Christ spoke of and taught about the end times and the final judgment to the apostles. The book of Revelation is filled with information about those days as well. In other words, we know what awaits all that is of sin.
As Paul said, we know that God is going to cast sin away from His presence eternally. Those who choose to be obedient to sin and live in it, will be cast away from the Lord to suffer without Him for eternity. The spiritual death, I want you to understand, is the terror of the Lord.
Humbly convincing the world
Paul then stated that he and others did not have anything else to commend (prove) to the Corinthians; though they did move in a manner that was truthful and proper in the faith so that the Corinthian believers could be proud about (v.12). To me, this speaks about the brother and sisterhood of our faith. We minister, not for ourselves, but for all of those around us – both believers and non-believers.
Are you familiar with the thought of being stewards of God? Paul touched on the thought of being stewards of God and judged by others as stewards in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:1-5). A steward is one that represents; we are representatives of the Lord, and at the same time, we are representatives of each other as well. With that said, it is best that we live in a manner that is true to the faith rather than as hypocrites.
So, Paul and the others lived in a manner that would represent both the Lord and others well. You see, those Corinthian believers would go on to share in the Great Commission of ministering the gospel with those around them. The last thing those believers needed was for Paul and others to be out and about making a mockery of the faith by not doing right.
Paul admits that word may get back to the Corinthian believers that he and others may sound “beside themselves” (crazy). However, Paul made it clear that they were not crazy but were of sound mind for them and would accept being called crazy for having faith in God (v.13). Personally, I don’t care much if others believe I am a fool for having faith in the Lord; I know that I am not a fool but of sound mind in teaching and preaching the good news. You and I cannot let what others have to say about our faith have any power over us and stop us from ministering the gospel.
Compelled by love
Therefore, Paul preached, and we also preach today with the goal to persuade others to turn away from wickedness. I really want to put emphasis on the word persuade because that’s what we ought to be doing, opposed to commanding or attempting to dictate to others. The goal for the believer is to convince others by their own choice to walk in fellowship with God. You see, we cannot make anybody walk in fellowship with Him.
Ministering the gospel should be done out of love and with great humility; I do not believe that this point can be expressed enough to believers. Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ compels us because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (vss.14-15).”
We minister the gospel out of love because we know that it was the love of God that saved us! Frankly, for us to minister the gospel in another way or choose not to minister the gospel at all would be rather hypocritical and selfish. God did not withhold His love from us so why should we withhold our love from others? God was faithful to us so why should we not be faithful and obedient to Him?
Along that same line, for us to live disobediently would be very ungrateful for what God did for us by giving us His only begotten Son. Whether we are ministering or just living, we should do so with love in our hearts; we should live and minister according to the love that God showed to all of us.
Judging by spiritual sight
This is a point that we will see Paul make in the next couple of verses. When you and I minister the good news, we should do so by spiritual sight rather than according to what we can physically see.
Paul, we will see, wrote that we ought not regard (judge) anyone according to the flesh (their outward appearance) (v.16). To this point, we will see that Paul wrote about how this was once done by those who knew Christ – those that physically witnessed Him. However, like John said in his gospel, the Word was made flesh but as many that received Him, the world did not know Him (John 1:9-14).
Why were many unable to recognize Christ? They were unable to recognize Christ because He did not come in the manner – the appearance – in which they thought Christ would. So, in other words, their physical sight fooled them. If they were looking upon Christ spiritually, they would have recognized Him. We who are of genuine faith, Paul concluded, don’t seek for or recognize Christ according to what we see physically but according to our spiritual sight.
How are we able to now judge things by spiritual sight? We judge according to the spirit that resides in us. Our spirit, because we have genuinely believed in the only begotten Son, has been and still is being worked on by the Holy Spirit. The inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit is transforming us from what we once were into a new creation.
This is what led Paul into stating, “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new (v.17).” The thought of the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit takes us into the meat of our lesson for this week.
Reconciled by God
You see, the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit is what sets us apart from those who lived and were of faith in the Old Testament days. The children of Israel were given the law to abide by and keep. You and I who are of faith today, we have been commanded by Christ but we also have the Holy Spirit abiding within to guide us. The Holy Spirit is a blessing – a gift – coming from the work that the Lord did for mankind when He gave us His only begotten Son.
God reconciling the world to Himself
What is the work that God did for us? The work that the Lord did for us was a work of reconciliation. To reconcile means to restore to friendship or to harmony. Because of sin, the Lord separated Himself from mankind (Is. 59:2), however, by giving us His only begotten Son, He sought to restore mankind to Himself.
Paul write, “all things are of God, who has reconciled (restored) us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation (vss.18-19).
God created all things and at the end of creating, the Lord looked at everything and said it was very good (Gen. 1:31) – creation was without sin. Sin did not enter into creation until after man sinned in the garden. From that point forward, up until He gave His Son, the Lord was separated from His creation. After dying for our sins, and being risen, harmony was brought between the Lord and His creation.
God, again, gave His Son out of love with a hope to bring about peace. So, we must understand that the “ministry of reconciliation” is a ministry of love and peace; the “word of reconciliation” is also a word of love and peace.
This brings us back to what we touched on earlier: we should move (live) with peace and love dwelling in our hearts. Paul concludes that we are ambassadors (stewards) for Christ to implore those that are lost in sin, to turn away from sin to the Lord (v.20). We cannot do such a thing by moving in any other way than the way of Christ. The ministry of reconciliation is a ministry to restore one to the righteousness of God — this is the blessing of reconciliation.