2Corinthians 5:14-21

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 17, 2009

Introduction – (first play Hungary-Russia video)

In his book Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper tells a story about an elderly man who came to Christ at his father’s church.  Piper writes:

The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone’s amazement he came and took my father’s hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face, “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!”

Philip Ryken, in his sermon, "David's Last Words," www.preachingtoday.com

In a sense, no life is wasted that comes to Jesus Christ.

But I get what the old man was saying.  It’s pretty frustrating to think that you’ve wasted so much of your life on things that really don’t matter.

I hope that this message will encourage us to think about what we’re designed for, about what God wants for us.

:14 For the love of Christ compels us,

loveagape – this is God’s special kind of love.

It is not our love for Christ, but the love of Christ for us.

(John 15:13 NKJV)  "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

compelssunecho (“with” + “to have”) – to hold together; to press together with the hand

It’s used to describe the channel leading into a harbor, where the entrance gets more and more narrow, forcing the ship to go in a certain direction.

It’s used to describe a sickness that has a person in its grasp (Luke 4:38)

It’s used of the multitudes pressing in on Jesus when the woman grasped the hem of His garment (Luke 8:45)


What moves you?

When someone sets out to serve the Lord, we often start off just fine.
But if we’re not careful, we can get off track and start serving the Lord for the wrong reasons?
We might do things just to get attention.  Some of us do things because we think it will help us feel less guilty.  Others do things because of competition, jealousy, or envy.
It’s good if you are motivated by your love for Christ, but there may be times when your love for Him will struggle.
If your motivation is Christ’s love for you, you won’t be able to stop.  His love never stops.
Jesus' love for Paul keeps him doing what Jesus asks him to do, no matter what people may say of him.
Jesus had a concern for the church of Ephesus.  They had accomplished a lot of things.  But they had one huge problem.  Jesus said,
(Rev 2:4-5 NKJV) "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. {5} "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place; unless you repent.

When we start out in the Lord, we are so overwhelmed with His love for us.

It's all we can do to serve him.

Here is a picture of a church that still was doing good things for Jesus, but their motivation had gotten off the mark.  They no longer did works out because of love but out of duty.

Jesus' word is to remember, repent, redo the first works (those done out of love).

:14 because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;

forhuper – in behalf of, for the sake of

This is a pretty important word.  It’s the basis for our salvation.  Jesus died for us.  Jesus died for me.  He took our place.

Some people have this crazy notion that Paul invented Christian theology, including ideas like this, that Jesus died for us.

But the entire Old Testament prepares us for Jesus.
The theology of the Old Testament sets up the idea that one life can be sacrificed to take the place of another.
A lamb dies and its blood is placed on the doorposts of a house.
When the sinner placed his hands on the head of the sacrificial animal, it was as if that animal was going to take his place.  When the animal died, the sinner died with it.

This is justice.  Sin requires a penalty.  The penalty must be paid.  We can’t afford to pay it.  Jesus pays it for us.

One died for all.  He died for us.  He took our place.

Because He took our place in death, then in God’s eyes, we’ve died.

:15 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.

forhuper – in behalf of, for the sake of

We are no longer to live “for” or “on behalf of” ourselves, but to live “for” or “on behalf of” Christ.

This is being motivated by Christ’s love.

His death and resurrection is everything to us.

It is no longer important to live for ourselves, but to live for Him.

One of the reasons that Jesus died for us is so that we would stop living for ourselves and start living for Him.

Futility comes when we live to please ourselves.

Fulfillment comes when we live to please God.


The Christian way is different:  harder, and easier.  Christ says “Give me All.  I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work:  I want You.  I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.  No half-measures are any good.  I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down.  I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself:  my own will shall become yours.”
-- C. S. Lewis

As pastors, we set the lead in this.  Do our people see us doing this?

:16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.

regardeido – to see; to know; pay attention to

God doesn't look on outward appearances.  So ought we.


Looks can be deceiving

We need to stop looking at people and forming our initial opinions based on how they are dressed, what car they drive, or how they smell.
The first king of Israel, Saul, was taller and more handsome than everyone else.
The second king of Israel, David, was much different.
When the prophet Samuel showed up at Jesse’s house to look for the new king, Jesse had all his sons parade before Samuel.
(1 Sam 16:6-7 NKJV)  So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him." {7} But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
Samuel looked at five more of Jesse’s sons, but none of them were the one that God was calling.  Finally, little David was called in from the fields where he was taking care of the sheep.

It was the youngest son that God had called, not the oldest.

God looks at hearts, not at outward appearances.
This is a difficult thing to get over.  We grow up thinking that the bigger, better looking, smarter person is the one that can do more things.

Sometimes we can run into trouble in the church when we pick a handsome or talented person to lead something, if they have not learned to walk with the Lord first.

Sometimes we look at people who are “cool”, the “rock star”.  We think, “Oh if that person could only come to the Lord”.  But that might not be how God wants to work.  God wants attention drawn to Himself, not to the rock star.

Paul said in 1Corinthians 1:26-29 that God prefers to use things that are weaker, smaller, and foolish.
Sometimes God wants to use things that are weaker, smaller, and foolish.
(1 Cor 1:26-29 NKJV)  For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. {27} But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; {28} and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, {29} that no flesh should glory in His presence.
I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of glad that you don’t have to be extremely smart or good looking for God to use you.
Are there people that seem a little “stupid” to you?  What if that person was the next Gideon or Jeremiah?  Would you treat them a little differently?

:16 Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.

knowginosko – to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel; to become acquainted with, to know

This might mean that Paul actually knew Jesus as a person before his conversion.

It is more likely that Paul is saying that he no longer looks at Jesus according to earthly, human standards.

(2 Cor 5:16 NLT)  …Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now!

:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

newkainos – new; fresh, recent; of a new kind, unprecedented

God gives us a “fresh” start.

oldarchaios – that has been from the beginning, original, primal, old ancient

have passed awayparerchomai – to go past, pass by

All that is important is whether or not a person is in Christ of not.

If any person accepts Jesus, they get a new start in life.


Quick change, slow change

There is a sense that when a person gives their heart to Christ, everything is different.
The old has passed away.  All things are new.
For some people, there are dramatic changes that take place, and take place quickly.
For others, the changes still take place, but may take a little more time.
Boston’s Charles Street jail used to be home to the city’s most notorious characters. Among its former inmates was Frank Abagnale, Jr., the con artist portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the feature film “Catch Me If You Can” (Steven Spielberg, 2002). Once considered the best of prison architecture, the facility fell into disrepair by the 1960s, when it became overcrowded, riotous, and filthy with pigeon droppings. The building was condemned in 1973, and the last inmates transferred in 1990.
Seventeen years and $150 million dollars later, the Charles Street jail is now Liberty Hotel, which boasts luxury accommodations that cost from $319 to $5,500 per night. With restaurants named Clink and Scampo (Italian for “escape”) and a bar named Alibi, designers celebrate the building’s past.
Former inmate Bill Baird visited the hotel on the 40th anniversary of his arrest and was amazed at the renovation. “How you could take something that was so horrible,” he observed, “and turn it into something of tremendous beauty, I don’t know.”

Brandon O'Brien, assistant editor, PreachingToday.com; source: Denise LaVoie (Associated Press), "Infamous Boston Jail Now a Luxury Hotel" (11-8-07)

There is a sense in which the change to the building took place when the building was sold.  There were new owners.

But what the building is today took some time.  It took some renovation.

Jesus changes lives.  Some changes are quick.  Some changes take time.

:18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,

has reconciled uskatallasso – to change, exchange coins for others of equivalent value; to reconcile individuals who are at odds

When you travel to a foreign country, if you are going to pay cash for anything, you might need to “exchange” your currency. You exchange your “dollars” for the currency of the land. Dollars for rubles, dollars for shekels, pesos, or euros.

Note that the act of reconciliation was accomplished by God. (vs.18)

We had nothing to do with the accomplishment of reconciliation.  It was all done by God.
Our sin is like a huge wall standing between us and God.  We can do nothing to tear down the wall.  All we can do is make the wall bigger.  But God, on His own, has torn the wall down.

ministrydiakonia – what a servant does.  God is the one who has made reconciliation possible. Our part is to serve God by seeing that people get the message.

The ministry of reconciliation is our task.

Now that reconciliation has been made possible, God has entrusted the message to us.
It is our job to take reach out to those people that are separated from God and let them know that God loves them and offers them forgiveness.

:19 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.

imputinglogizomai – to reckon, count, compute, calculate.  This is an accounting term.  It has to do with entering numbers into a ledger.

committedtithemi – to set, put, place

God has taken this incredible message that man can be right with God, and He’s put it on us.

How are the lost going to be saved unless we bring them the message?

:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.

ambassadorspresbeuo – to be older, to be an ambassador

We are ambassadors, foreigners, people from another country.  As ambassadors, we live abroad in a foreign country, representing our home country.

I guess you could look at me as an ambassador of the United States to Russia.  But I didn’t go representing the United States, I went representing the kingdom of heaven.

We are all ambassadors for the kingdom of heaven.

The words “pleading” and “imploring”, means that something is pretty urgent.

pleadingparakaleo – to call to one’s side, instruction, to beg, entreat.  The word is about encouraging others to action.

imploredeomai – the word speaks about dealing with a great need.  This is not polite, quite asking.  This is heartfelt, needy, begging.


The Urgent Message

The English term posthaste goes back to the time of Henry VIII. Postmasters were given relays of horses to carry messages for the king to important cities in England.  Because some couriers were irresponsible and wasted time in taverns and inns on the way, a drastic law was put into effect demanding that every dispatch carrier should “ride for his life.”  The king’s edict meant that anyone caught delaying his messages would be publicly hanged.  Often there was drawn upon important letters the figure of a man suspended from a gallows. Beneath was this ominous warning:  “Haste, post, haste! Haste for thy life!”  A number of men did suffer death because of their inefficiency, but in the 19th century the practice was discontinued. However, the old expression still remains as a reminder that the utmost speed and urgency is required when the king’s business is involved!
And yet for us it’s a little different.  It’s not our lives that are in peril, it’s the lives of the people we speak to.
In the early days of our church, we had an unusual fellow hanging around.  We were meeting at the YMCA, and they had asked a fellow named Bill Cable to keep an eye on us.  Bill was an interesting guy.  We sometimes wondered if he was homeless.  He was in his late fifties.  He rode a bicycle everywhere.  He had a very unique laugh.  Bill was Jewish.  Initially Bill would just sit out in the lobby while we had church in the gymnasium.  But our people continued to love on Bill and talk to him about Jesus.  He eventually accepted a Bible from us.  And then, after two years, the day came when one of our elders had the opportunity to introduce Bill to Jesus.  It was a happy day in our church.  Two weeks later, Bill was riding his bicycle in the middle of the night on a main street in Fullerton, and was killed by a hit-and-run driver.  We were devastated.  And we were in awe of the timing.
We don’t know how long we have.
There should be a sense of urgency in our message.

on Christ’s behalf – as though He were pleading through us …


In 1936 a radio broadcast was transmitted to America from England. Just before the voice of King Edward VIII was to be heard, someone stumbled over a wire in the control room of WJZ (now WABC, New York) and snapped the only line of communication between the two great countries.  The engineers were frantic. Then, with only a few moments remaining before air time a quick-thinking apprentice grasped the two broken ends of the wire and bridged the gap.  Seconds later the King addressed the nation. In a real sense, his words were being transmitted through the body of that man!

Our message is get right with God.

As ambassadors, as God speaks through us, our message is for people to “get right” with God.

:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

This is how God has reconciled us to Himself.  He’s made a great “exchange”.

Jesus was the one who “knew no sin”

God took the punishment that was supposed to be ours and put it on Jesus, even though He was blameless”

He paid a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.

This is what Isaiah the prophet looked forward and saw:

(Isa 53:6 NKJV)  {6} All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

But God didn’t just take our sin away from us.  He exchanged our sin for His righteousness.

I remember hearing a pastor raising the question, “Why did Jesus have to wait thirty-three years before dying on a cross?”

We believe that Jesus’ purpose for becoming a man was to die for our sins.  So why didn’t He just make it a “weekend project”?
Why would He become a little baby, spend thirty years growing up, three more years in ministry, and then die on a cross?
When John the Baptist argued with Jesus and said that he wasn’t worthy to be baptizing Jesus, Jesus said,
(Mat 3:15 NKJV)  But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him.
Jesus spent thirty-three years on planet earth living a life of righteousness, a life of doing the right things.

During that time, He healed people, raised the dead, fed the hungry, released the demon-possessed, and many, many other things.  Those good deeds were His “righteousness”.

God’s great exchange goes like this – I give God my sin and God gives me the righteousness of Christ. That means that in your account in heaven you now have all the credit for things like healing people, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, and casting out demons.


Win the lost

We began by talking about purpose in life.  Have you been through that “midlife crisis” yet?  That’s what a man goes through when he begins to think he’s lost purpose in his life.
One of our purposes ought to be the winning of the lost.
(2 Tim 4:5 NKJV)  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
You may not be an evangelist, but you can encourage, equip, and help facilitate those that are.
I may not be an evangelist, but I will continue to be sure that the gospel is preached regularly at our church.
It’s not hard to get side-tracked in life. 
Sometimes we’re sidetracked with business at work.  Even at church we might be worrying about who is going to make the coffee, or who had their feelings hurt at the last get together.
If we’re not careful, we forget that there’s an entire world outside our little church … an entire world that is lost and going to hell, and we have the answer to their problem. We have the ministry of reconciliation.