Chapter 05 – THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
This chapter is divided into two topics: The Heavenly Dwelling (v1-17) and the Ministry of Reconciliation (v18-21).
I. OUR HEAVENLY DWELLING (v1-10)
A.) The House That Is Not Made With Hands (v1-5)
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
These opening verses are a continuation of Paul’s discourse from the previous chapter about focusing on the unseen rather than the seen. That unseen that Paul was referring to is the Heavenly Dwelling.
Coming from the context of the weak mortal bodies, Paul encourages the Corinthians about the “house that is not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (v1). This metaphor refers to the glorified bodies that believers will receive in heaven. Paul describes our earthly bodies as “the tent that is our earthly home.” In verse 2, he echoes his teaching from the previous chapter that our bodies are subject to suffering and decay (“in this tent we groan,” “being burdened”). This is why he encouraged the Corinthians to not focus on the seen but the unseen; towards our heavenly dwelling. The corruption of our earthly bodies is unavoidable. No matter how much we take care of it, our bodies will return to dust someday (Ecc. 12:7). Paul wants us to look beyond our earthly sufferings and find hope and strength on the promise of a heavenly body that is perfect and eternal, without pain, suffering, or death. To further encourage them, Paul revealed in verse 5 that God gave them the “Spirit” as a “guarantee.” It is like a form of downpayment or deposit, ensuring that God will truly do what He promised.
As an additional doctrinal fact, Paul also revealed in this passage that believers will be “clothed” in heaven. Therefore, believers are not naked spiritual beings there.
B.) At Home in the Body, Away from the Lord (v6, 8-9)
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord . . . Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.”
In this passage, Paul revealed a very important doctrine regarding what happens when a believer dies. According to Paul, a believer can only be in one place: in the body or the presence of the Lord. So, if a believer is in the body (which means he is still alive) he is not in the presence of the Lord. To clarify, this doesn’t mean that God is not present with Him. Rather, it teaches that when a believer dies (away from the body), he goes straight to the presence of God (at home with the Lord). This rebukes the doctrines of soul sleep (believers enter a hibernation state until Christ’s return) and the Roman Catholic teaching of Purgatory (a proposed place where sinners get cleansed to get a chance to enter heaven). But what is Paul trying to teach in this doctrine? Well, Paul said: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him” (v9). Remember, Paul was experiencing a lot of suffering in his ministry. In his letter to the Philippians, he revealed that he already wants to die and be with Jesus (Phil. 1:23). Paul understood that when he joins Jesus in heaven, all of his sufferings will end. But he also admitted that it is not yet his time and God still wants him to serve the church. This is why in the context of being at home or away from the body, Paul stated that we should have “courage.” Our time to leave earth is not for us to decide. That is a decision that exclusively belongs to God. Therefore, since we can’t choose when we’re going to die, the choice that we have is what we’re going to do while we are still here on earth. And for Paul, the best thing to do is to please God.
C.) We Walk By Faith, Not By Sight (v7)
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
In the middle of the passage about being at home or away from the body, Paul inserted this very famous line: “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” This simple line characterizes the overall guideline for Christian living. Christians are commanded to live by faith and not by sight. But why did Paul contrasted faith with sight?
To live by sight is a metaphor that refers to living under our direction. Humans are visually-oriented creatures. We depend so much on what we see. When we lose sight, our natural tendency is to panic. This is why as much as possible, we want to be able to always see. Sadly, we apply this in all aspects of our lives, including our relationship with God. When God tells us to do something or promises us something, our immediate reaction is to evaluate it according to our sight (present circumstances, human wisdom, etc). For example, when God promised Abraham and Sarah that they will have a son, their immediate reaction was to laugh and not believe God because they evaluated their present situation which is their old age (Gen. 18:9-15). But as we all know, God fulfilled His promise and gave them Isaac. Just as God told them, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14). This is the lesson that Paul is teaching here. He wants all believers to live by faith and not by what they can see in their present circumstances. God has proven many, many times that He will always fulfill His promises and He can always do what seems impossible for us.
D.) The Bema Seat of Christ (v10)
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what He has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
In line with the context of the previous verses, Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to live a life that is pleasing to God despite the hardships of this world. Here, Paul used a form of warning to further persuade them. He revealed the concept of the “Judgment Seat of Christ” (also known as the Bema Seat). This is one of the two judgments that will happen on Christ’s return. To get straight to the point, the Bema Seat of Christ is the judgment for the believer’s works. The purpose of this judgment is for the determination of rewards. This is opposed to the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) that is for unbelievers only. In this judgment seat, unbelievers will be judged for their sins. But going back to the Bema Seat, even though salvation is secured for believers, there is still something to be worried about here. Just as Paul revealed in his first letter to the Corinthians, it is possible for a Christian to be saved but live a life that is not pleasing to God, and therefore lose his rewards (1 Cor. 3:15). Certainly, this is a tragedy that Paul doesn’t want to happen to anyone. Based on the idea of rewards alone, it is evident that God wants to bless us with rewards by serving Him.
E.) Live for the Sake of Christ (v11-15)
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Paul’s final encouragement in the context of living to please God is the reminder of what Jesus did for all of us. In verse 15, Paul said: “and He [Jesus] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” Paul revealed that since Jesus sacrificed His life for us to live, it is only right that we commit our lives for His glory and purposes. Logically speaking, if Christ didn’t sacrifice His life for us, we won’t be able to live anyway. Because of our sins, we are all subject to the punishment of death (Rom. 6:23). To live for Christ is the simple request that God is asking us back. He wants us to stop living for ourselves. This means we should stop living selfishly. We should stop pursuing our worldly goals and ambitions and dedicate our lives to God instead. Those are witnessing for Christ, sharing the Gospel, making disciples, having fellowship with other believers, and serving the church (fellow believers). Again, this is not an empty purpose for God has prepared rewards for everyone who will live a life according to His will. This is why Paul is “persuading” the Corinthians (v11). He wants them to imitate and follow him because it is truly the only way of life that has meaning, purpose, and satisfaction.
II. THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION (v16-21)
A.) A New Creation (v16-17)
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
In this passage, Paul is giving his concluding thoughts about his discourse on our earthly bodies. According to him, he no longer regards anyone according to the flesh, even Christ, which this verse implies that Paul seems to have met Him before His death (v16). Paul revealed that every person who believes in Christ is supernaturally reborn; he becomes a “new creation.” To be a new creation means to have a totally new identity. According to Bible scholars, this is a powerful concept for this is the only time that God uses His power of creation again aside from Genesis 1. It means that when a person believes in Christ, the whole power and magnificence of the events of Genesis 1 is replicated in that person. This is one of the most powerful revelations in the Bible.
Since a believer is a new creation, he is encouraged to step away from his previous lifestyle (particularly his lifestyle of sin). A believer is now included in the family of God (John 1:12). Therefore, aside from the perks and privileges, he is encouraged to live and act like a true child of God. There are many more changes to be discussed, but for now, what is important is that every believer must understand that He is now a new creation, and because of that, he should forget and avoid his previous sinful life and live according to the new identity that he has with Christ.
B.) The Ambassadors of Christ (v18-20)
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Speaking of a new identity, Paul revealed that one of our new calling in life is to be the Ambassadors of Christ.
In this passage, Paul revealed the Ministry of Reconciliation. This is the core message of the Gospel. This doctrine teaches the underlying message of the Gospel. The Gospel is not just about entering heaven. According to Paul, its true purpose is to reconcile us to God. That’s it. That’s the true message of the Gospel. It is a message of peace and reconciliation.
First of all, Paul clarified that “all of this is from God.” This means the initiative to make peace with us came from God. This is surprising for God was the offended party. According to our ways, it should be the offender who must reach out to the offended. It is the offender who should take the initiative to make peace. But this is not the case with God. Even though He was the offended party, it was Him who reached out to make peace with us. WHY?! Why would God do that? well, the only answer we can think of is that God truly values us. He loves us so much that He wants to reconcile with us. Worst, the way to be reconciled to us came with a very high price: the life of His only Son, Jesus Christ. This also reveals that there’s no other way to make peace with God but through Jesus Christ. He is the only way to peace with God. Without Him, we remain to be God’s enemies who will face the fullness of His wrath when the time comes.
The ministry of reconciliation is truly the perfect image of the Gospel message. That is why as the ambassadors of Christ, Paul wants us to share the Gospel so that many more people can be reconciled to God (v20).
C.) The Mechanics of the Gospel: SUBSTITUTION (v21)
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
As Paul continues with His explanation about the Gospel, his last statement reveals the mechanism of the Gospel: substitution. If reconciliation is the message of the Gospel, substitution is the mechanics of the Gospel. This verse reveals how Jesus was able to pay for our sins and reconcile us to God. According to Paul, Jesus became the sin for our sake (despite Him being sinless). On the other end, we receive His righteousness. So in simple terms, Jesus received our sins and the punishment for them, while we receive His righteousness in return. Is this fair? NO! of course not! Even for human standards, this can never be fair. But again, this is God. He can do what we can’t. He can make the sacrifice that none of us can do. This is why the Gospel is so beautiful and powerful. It perfectly represents the love, grace, and mercy of God for sinners like us. This is why we praise and worship Him; IT IS TRULY AN AMAZING GRACE!!
ALL PRAISES AND GLORY TO JESUS, OUR GREAT LORD AND SAVIOR!!!
God Bless!! 🙂