2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest to God…
How was he conducting this ministry, of which he had spoken so much and had yet more to say? It was in full view of accountability to the day of judgment. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men," adding motives to affect them, and not remaining content with arguments to convince their understandings. And in this work he now felt God's approval; before he had declared, "we are confident," and he reaffirms it in the words, "we are made manifest unto God." Every hour he stood at the bar of his conscience an acquitted man, and this conscience was a manifestation of God. Honestly was he striving to please God, as honestly labouring to save them, and in this spirit he was ever seeking to manifest himself to their consciences. If he were a temporizer, a man pleaser, he might adopt worldly arts and captivate them. No; he would address their consciences; the best in them should come to his side or he must lose them. "Savour of life unto life" or "savour of death unto death;" no other alternative. But do not misunderstand us. Commendation is not our object. If we have, as we trust, manifested ourselves to your consciences, then let your consciences speak in our behalf, and let their voices boast in this - that we are truthful in the sight of God and man. This is the way to answer our enemies who "glory in appearance and not in heart." Suffer he would rather than be wrongly vindicated. Do it in the highest way or not at all. "Your cause" is the great interest. No doubt we seem "beside ourselves," or we may appear "sober," but you may boast of this - "it is for your cause." And in this devotion to your well being what motive presses with weight enough to make us endure all things for your sakes? "The love of Christ constraineth us." And wherein is this love so signally demonstrated as to embody and set forth all else that he did? It is love in death. Looking at this Divine death, we form this judgment or reach this conclusion, that he "died for all" because "all were dead -" dead under the Law of God, dead in trespasses and sins, dead legally, morally, spiritually. Nothing less than such an atoning death for all men - so it seems to us the apostle meant - could exert on him this constraining influence. And how should this influence operate? "They which live should not henceforth live unto themselves." The very self had been redeemed by Christ's vicarious death; body, soul, and spirit had been bought with a price, and the price was Christ's blood; and with such a constraining motive, the most potent that the Holy Ghost could bring to bear on the human mind, how could men live unto themselves? If, indeed, the constraining power had its legitimate effect, only one life could result, a life consecrated to "him which died for them and rose again." If, therefore, all being dead, one died for all, that all might live in freedom from selfishness and be the servants of him who had redeemed them from sin and death, we can know henceforth no man after the flesh. The very purpose of Christ's death was that the fleshly life of sin might pass out of view (might be covered over and thus disappear from sight), and another life be entered on, a life in the redeeming Christ. Admitting that this passage presents the moral aspects of Christ's death and the obligations consequent thereupon as they act on moral sentiment, yet the fundamental idea of the apostle is that Christ stood in the stead of sinners, took their guilt upon himself, and made an offering of his life for their rescue. To strengthen this doctrine, he says that, though he once knew Christ after the flesh (as a mere man), he knew him now in a very different way. We are not to suppose that he had seen him in his earthly life, but merely that he knew of him. St. Paul, after his conversion, had an experimental knowledge of Christ as his Redeemer through the sacrificial death of the cross; nor was there any room in his heart for moral sentiment, nor any spiritual force in Christ's teaching and example, nor ground for any trust or hope, till he as "chief of sinners" had realized the righteousness of God in the atoning blood of Calvary. Such a change was a creation. He was "a new creature," and whoever experienced this power of the Lord's death was a new creature. Old things had passed away - the old self in taste and habit, the old unbelief rooted in the fleshly mind, the old worldliness - and all things had become new. No wonder that "all things" had become "new;" for "all things" pertaining to this change in its cause, agency, instrumentalities, "are of God." Strong language this, which sounds even yet to many as the rhetoric of excited fancy; but not stronger than the blessed reality it represents. Nay; words cannot equal the fact. A man may overstate his own experience of Divine grace; never can he exaggerate the grace itself. "All things are of God;" and how is this fact manifested? In the method of reconciliation which is God's act through Christ. "Who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ." To understand what is implied in reconciliation, we must remember that much more is involved in it than the moral state of a sinner's mind toward God. The enmity of the carnal man has to be subdued, and in this sense he is "a new creature," but the possibility of this creation rests upon an antecedent fact, viz. a changed relation to the violated Law of God. What has been done for him must take precedence, as to time, of what is done in him. We must know how God as Sovereign stands to us, and by what means the sovereignty cooperates with the fatherhood of God, before we can accept the offered boon of mercy. There must be a reason why God should pardon in advance of a reason why we should seek pardon. A principle of righteousness must be established as preliminary and essential to the sentiment of Christianity, since it is impossible for us by the laws of the mind to appreciate the power of any great sentiment unless we have previously felt it as connected with a great principle. "Whom God set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith, by his blood, to show his righteousness, because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the Justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:25, 26, Revised Version). There is a "ministry of reconciliation" because "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing [reckoning] their trespasses unto them." Forgiveness through Christ, the Propitiation, is free to all who believe in him. Nor are we left in doubt as to the substance of our belief. It is faith in Christ, God in Christ, the Reconciler, who pardons our sins and makes us new creatures in him. To make this reconciliation known, to demonstrate its infinite excellence as the method of grace, to show its Divine results in the very men who proclaimed the gospel, Christ had instituted the ministry, and its title was, "ministry of reconciliation." Recall, O Corinthians, what I have said in defence of my apostleship. Recall my sufferings in your behalf. See the reason of it all. Whom are these factious Judaizers fighting? Whom did those beasts at Ephesus try to destroy? Who is this man, troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, cast down, dying everywhere, dying always? This is the character he sustains, the office he fills - an "ambassador for Christ." Has he manifested himself to your consciences? Does he look forward to the day of judgment as a day of revelation as well as a day of reward and punishment? Know we not a man, not even Christ, after the flesh! Behold your minister, your servant, as an "ambassador," commissioned to offer you the terms of reconciliation. "We pray you in Christ's stead [on behalf of Christ], be ye reconciled to God." Nothing remains to be done but tot you to accept the offered reconciliation. And he enforces this idea by stating that he who "died for all," since "all were dead," had been made "sin for us, who knew no sin." "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;" yet he was "made to be sin for us," made a substitute or ransom, an offering, whereby the wrath of God was turned away. Reconciliation is accomplished not by our repentance and confession of sin, nor by any suffering on our part, nor by any merit of our work, but altogether by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf. God's righteousness is thus set forth. The plan of salvation changed nothing in the character of Almighty God. Neither his righteousness nor his love was modified integrally by Christ's atonement. "God is righteous," "God is love," are no truer facts now than they eternally were. What the gospel teaches is that the righteousness and the love of God have assumed special forms of manifestation and operative activity through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is righteousness, not in the normal relation of Law to the original transgressor, but in an instituted relation of Law to one who took the place of the transgressor. It is love as grace, the form of love that provided for the righteousness on which St. Paul lays such an emphasis. It is not a change in the Law, but in the administration of Law, and the glory of it lies in the fact that the Divine government presents in this higher form the resplendent spectacle of that progression from the "natural" to the "spiritual," which St. Paul discusses in his argument on the resurrection. Whatever obstacles existed in the way of this sublime advance have been removed by Christ. "Mercy and truth have their existence as attributes of the Divine nature; they have met together." "Righteousness and peace are not to be confounded, but they have kissed each other." - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.