We Have This Treasure
12/31 – If Anyone Is in Christ . . . (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)
Introduction — Here Paul gives a clear purpose for why he does what he does. Paul and his team are new creations in Christ. They know the fear of the Lord. They live in awe of Him. And because they live in awe of Him, they urge people (we persuade men) to be right with God through Christ. Paul says that the love of Christ controls this band of believers. They are fully aware that Christ died so that they no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Alive in Christ, they do not see Christ in a superficial way, and neither do they view people by externals only. Paul and crew are convinced that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. If anyone is in Christ, then he will live in awe of Christ. If anyone is in Christ, then he will plead for Christ, working to persuade people to trust Christ. If anyone is in Christ, then he will be an ambassador for Christ. If anyone is in Christ, then he will live openly before God and others. That new person in Christ lives under the reign of Christ. Christ’s love controls him. The person who is in Christ lives for Christ. That person no longer lives for himself or herself. That person lives for Him who died and rose again. To be a new creation in Christ is to receive God’s gift of telling others how to be right with Him through Christ. That Paul and company told others this good news is obvious. They urged people to be right with God. They persuaded people to be right with God. They directed those in this church of Corinth to be right with God. How about us? Do we urge people to be right with God? Do we tell them how? Do we live honestly before God and others? Do we live for Christ supremely? Do we live as new creations in Christ?
We who are in Christ are new creations. We no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again for our sake. Our focus on Christ is set. We who are in Christ live in awe of Him. We love Him. We plead with others to know Him. We urge others to be right with God through Him. We in Christ are clearly different. We stand out in the best way.
We know the fear of Christ. (11-15)
11 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.12 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. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 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.
Comment: Paul has his eye on eternity. He knows that all people will one day appear before Christ. Paul knows, therefore, the fear of the Lord. Paul lives in awe of Christ. And because he lives in awe of Christ, Paul urges people (we persuade men) to be right with God through Christ. Paul says that the love of Christ controls this band of believers. They are fully aware that Christ died so that they no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Indeed, to know the fear of Christ is to know His sacrificial, guiding, and purposeful love. And to know His love is to know that we live for Him. We live for Christ. Question: Do you know the fear of Christ? Are you in awe of Him? Does His love control you? Do you live for Him? Application: Read through 2 Corinthians, chapters 4 and 5 this week. Note the ways Paul speaks of God’s glory. Consider his view of eternal matters. Think about standing before Christ. See Christ in His glory. Tremble in awe at Christ. Keep thinking about Christ, His life and death and resurrection. Pray through this entire passage at least once. Stand in awe of Christ. Know the fear of Christ.
We see the work of God in Christ. (16-19)
16 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. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 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.
Comment: Here Paul recounts the work of God in Christ. Paul shows how that reconciling work changes people. Paul now sees people from a new vantage point. Alive in Christ, he does not see Christ in a superficial way, and neither does he view people by externals only. Paul and crew are convinced that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this work is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself—not counting our trespasses against us. In Christ, God, who did nothing to break away from us, provided the way for us to be reconciled to Him. And God gave us who are now in Christ the ministry of being right with God. And God entrusted to us the message of being right with Him. Question: Do you see the work of God in Christ? And do you marvel at this work? Do you see the new creation work of God in Christ? Do you see the reconciling work of God in Christ? Application: One way to live out this passage is to look at people beyond the surface level. See people for who they are (or could become) in Christ. So, don’t let tattoos trip you. Don’t let skin color blind you. Another way to live out this passage is to marvel at the work of God in Christ. God reconciled us to Himself in Christ. God did hold our sins against us. In Christ, God made a way for us to be right with God. WOW. WOW. WOW.
We plead with others to be right with God through Christ. (20-21)
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Comment: Paul wraps us this section with a reminder that those in Christ are ambassadors for Christ. Paul now spoke on Christ’s behalf, God making His appeal through Paul. Like Paul, we, too, plead with others to be right with God through Christ. We are messengers. We are messengers of hope. We are messengers of joy. We are messengers of peace. We say, “Be reconciled to God.” And to underscore the high cost and the wondrous result of being reconciled to God, Paul writes, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And so, we must urge others to be reconciled to God. We must plead with folks to be right with God through Christ. Question: Do you see the urgency of the message we must speak? Do you see the marvel of the message we must speak? Do you have any desire to speak up for Christ? Do you see yourself as an ambassador for Christ? Application: You and I must make this appeal. You and I must say to others, “Be reconciled to God.” Let’s ask God for boldness to speak. Let’s ask God for moments to speak. Let’s ask God for a willingness to speak. Then, let’s speak this gospel, this treasure given us by God. As His new creations, let’s stand out for Christ.
Word Study for 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
11 knowing (oida—understand; see; remember, recall from memory; honor)
11 fear (phobos—source or occasion of fear; reverence; panic; terror; respect)
11 manifest (phaneroo—cause to be seen; make known; display; reveal; clearly seen, openly)
12 appearance (prosopon—face; countenance; expression; surface)
14 controls (synecho—hold together; confine; close; guard; crowd around)
16 recognize (oida—understand; see; remember, recall from memory; honor)
16 known (ginosko—know; learn; perceive; understand; acknowledge; be familiar with)
16 now (nyn—just now; the present; at the present time; but now)
17 new (kainos—fresh; previously unknown; recent in time; newest, implying something different)
17 creature (ktisis—creation, exclusively God’s work; formation; building)
17 old things (archaios—ancient; former; from the beginning; long standing)
17 have come (ginomai—come to exist; be; become; happen)
18 committed (tithemi—put; set; place; deposit; explain, make clear; appoint; assign)
20 ambassadors (presbeuo—be a representative; embassy; delegate; be the elder; take precedence)
20 making an appeal (parakaleo—ask for earnestly; invite; comfort; exhort; encourage)
20 beg (deomai—pray; beg; ask; plead; implore; beseech)
21 sin (hamartia—failure; guilt; sins; wrong; offence)
21 righteousness (didaiosyne—justice; be put right with; justification; acquit; show to be right)
Application 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Let’s know the fear of the Lord.
Let’s be honest before God and before one another.
Let’s be controlled by the love of Christ.
Let’s no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf.
Let’s look beyond the surface when we see people.
Let’s celebrate that if anyone is in Christ, then that person is a new creation.
Let’s be aware that God gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
Let’s be aware that God has placed in us the word of reconciliation.
Let’s know that we are ambassadors for Christ.
Let’s be in awe of God’s work through Christ to make us right with Him.
Gospel Connections for 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Christ died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. If anyone is in Christ, then that person is a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them. God entrusts the message of reconciliation to those who trust Christ. They are ambassadors for Christ, urging others to be reconciled to God.
Thoughts and Quotes for 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sanctification center, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed. ~ Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands
If there is to be reconciliation, first there must be truth. ~ Timothy B. Tyson
We build too many walls and not enough bridges. ~ Isaac Newton
Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us. ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound—that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. ~ John Newton
A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. ~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Living for Jesus who died in my place, bearing on Calv’ry my sin and disgrace; such love constrains me to answer His call, follow His leading and give Him my all. ~ Thomas O. Chisholm
Commentary of 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
5:17 In this next verse Paul makes four crisp antithetical statements. They are launched by a condition, “If anyone is in Christ.” This phrase, “in Christ,” can mean several things that are not mutually exclusive: that one belongs to Christ, that one lives in the sphere of Christ’s power, that one is united with Christ, or that one is part of the body of Christ, the believing community. Paul’s assumption is that being in Christ should bring about a radical change in a person’s life.
The next statement is very terse and reads literally “new creation.” The subject and the verb must be supplied. Translations usually choose between two options: “he is” (NIV), implying that the person is a new being, or “there is” (NRSV), implying that a new situation has come into being. The pronoun “anyone” seems to imply that Paul has individuals in mind. In the context, he is talking about changing one’s way of looking at things; and this change, which occurs at conversion, is a subjective experience. Later rabbinic texts refer to proselytes becoming new creatures, and a similar idea may have been part of Paul’s thinking.
On the other hand, Paul also conceives that Christ’s death and resurrection marks a radical eschatological break between the old age and the new. Christ is the divider of history.”780 Paul also never uses the noun “creation” (ktisis) to refer to an individual person (see Rom 1:2, 25; 8:19–22, 39), and the concept of a new creation appears prominently in Jewish apocalyptic texts that picture the new age as inaugurating something far more sweeping than individual transformation—a new heaven and a new earth. The translation “there is a new creation” would mean that the new creation does not merely involve the personal transformation of individuals but encompasses the eschatological act of recreating humans and nature in Christ. It would also include the new community, which has done away with the artificial barriers of circumcision and uncircumcision (Gal 6:15–16; see Eph 2:14–16) as part of this new creation.
Christians see the world in a new way and become new when they are joined to Christ. Beasley-Murray comments: “United to the risen Lord, the believer participates in the new creation of which Christ is the fount and the life.” Translating the words literally, “new creation,” without inserting a pronoun would allow for both options since the eschatological reality of the new creation effected by Christ’s advent makes possible that subjective change in individuals who become new creations in Christ. Paul’s declaration is the corollary to his earlier affirmations that we are being transformed (3:16, 18; 4:16–17)—so much so that the believer becomes a new creation. The new heaven and new earth and the complete transformation of believers remain a future hope, but for Christians they are so certain to be fulfilled that their lives are controlled by this new reality that still awaits consummation. For individuals to become a part of this new creation, they must choose to be in Christ.
“The old has gone!” Again, this phrase can be interpreted to refer to the “old order” or to everything that controlled the individual’s pre-Christian existence. Both are true. The old order is passing off the stage (1 Cor 7:31). The individual’s whole being, value system, and behavior are also changed through conversion. We are dead to sin but alive to God in Christ (Rom 6:11). Denney writes of Paul: “The past was dead to him, as dead as Christ on his cross, all its ideas, all its hopes, all its ambitions were dead in Christ, he was another man in another universe.”
“The new has come!” Paul believes that the “new thing” that Isaiah foretold God would do has come to pass in Christ. It is greater than the exodus from Egypt (Exod 14–15) and greater than the deliverance from Babylon (Isa 48:18–19). God has now delivered us from the bondage of sin and led us back from the exile of our estrangement from God to a new reconciled relationship. The NIV omits the particle “behold” (idou) that prefaces this statement, probably because it sounds archaic, and inserts an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence instead. This word, however, “is ordinarily used by biblical writers to mark an unusual moment or deed” (cp. Rev 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new”). “Behold” also prefaces Paul’s interpretation of Isa 49:8 in 6:2: “Behold, now is the time of God’s favor, behold now is the day of salvation.” The important new thing is God’s reconciliation that enables us to become the righteousness of God (5:21) and brings us salvation (6:2). This new thing not only begets new values, it also begets new behavior (1 Cor 6:9–11).
5:18 In 5:18–21 Paul shifts from a focus on Christ to what God has done and reflects on the role his apostleship plays in God’s redemptive plan of reconciling the world. The Corinthians can only appreciate Paul’s apostolic work when they understand it as part of God’s work to reconcile the world. If they want to see God’s glory, they can see it most clearly in Paul’s reconciling ministry to the world that requires self-sacrifice and inevitably results in suffering. This explains why this passage about God’s reconciling work appears in Paul’s defense. In this section Paul is not primarily concerned to set forth his doctrine of atonement but to establish the basis of his ministry of reconciliation. Everything begins with God’s initiative: “All this from God.” He then amplifies what he means with two parallel statements:
God reconciled us to himself through Christ gave us a ministry of reconciliation
reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
He concludes by listing the results of God’s initiative:
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf:
Be reconciled to God.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This unit contains three key assertions. (1) God is the driving force behind the redemption of humankind. Reconciliation comes solely at God’s initiative. (2) God acted through Christ’s death, and Christ alone is the means of reconciliation. (3) God continues to act through those who have been reconciled. They have the privilege and responsibility to share in this great divine enterprise and are to call others to be reconciled to God.