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The Apostle

Updated: Jul 2




Rev. Rob Jones                                                                                              June 12, 2024


2 Corinthians 5:6-17

So, we are always confident, even though we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, 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 be pleasing to him. 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive due recompense for actions done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people, but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not 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 urges us on because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died. 15 And he died for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for the one who, for their sake, died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we no longer know him in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!

 

Prayer

What more can I ask, Lord, than help me understand your plan, hear your message, and abide by your will today? Amen.

 

The Apostle

The Apostle Paul did many things in his early life and ministry, but one of his notable qualities was his education and skill in rhetoric. Paul was adept at expressing his thoughts and emotions. The Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament is the primary source of information about Paul's life, with about half of its content dedicated to documenting his travels, preaching, and miracles. Paul was not among the Twelve Apostles and did not have any personal acquaintance with Jesus while he was alive. According to the Acts, Paul spent his early years as a Pharisee. He actively participated in the persecution of the early followers of Jesus, potentially those Jewish individuals in Hellenistic Greek regions outside of Jerusalem who embraced Christianity before he converted. After Paul gave his approval for one of the first Deacons of the church, a man named Stephen, to be killed, he was traveling to Damascus when something extraordinary happened. A very bright light appeared, and Paul fell to the ground. He heard the voice of Jesus Christ, who asked why he was persecuting Christians. This experience blinded Paul, but then healed by a man named Ananias. After this, Paul became a believer and started telling everyone that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the Son of God.

 

The Book of Acts tells us the Apostle Paul embarked on three significant missionary journeys to spread the Christian message to non-Jewish communities across Asia Minor, the Greek regions of Achaia (uh-chi-a), Cyprus, and Macedonia, as well as Judea and Syria. Thirteen of the twenty 27 books in the NT claim Paul as their author. The letters, such as Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians, are considered the most essential sources as they show, in Paul's own words, what his life was like and his thoughts about Christ. Paul directed these letters to specific occasions at particular churches. Suppose the Corinthian church had not encountered challenges with its observance of the Lord's Supper. Today, we might not be aware of Paul's beliefs about this particular practice or his other opinions about how a Christian should live. We could also assume that additional issues within the early church were overlooked because there were no crises that required Paul to address them.

 

In his writings, Paul provides the first written account of what it truly means to be a Christian, offering a profound description of Christian spirituality. According to many scholars, his writings are among the most impactful books in the New Testament, following only the Gospels of Matthew and John. They not only provide a unique insight into the early Christian community but also serve as a guide for us as Christians, making them a crucial part of the religious canon. In 2 Corinthians chapter 5, we see all of Paul's learning, beliefs, and skills in action. He talks about the assurance, hope, and longing for the heavenly glory that the believers have. He also discusses the hard work and dedication of himself and other Gospel ministers in spreading the word and explains why they do it. Finally, he praises the Gospel ministry and emphasizes its importance and central message.

 

Specifically, in today's lesson, Paul expresses one crucial aspect of a Christian life: conviction. This conviction of an embodied life after death gave the Apostle a spirit-shaped faith that could say, " So we are always confident" (V .6). Verse 6 forms an incomplete sentence; verse 7 offers a sudden clarification. Verse 8 resumes verse 6 and completes the original thought. Listen when we read it this way, "So we are always confident, even though we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." The term translated "Confident" from the Greek tharreo means "daring, courageous, bold," and even "audacious." Paul expresses not arrogance but the conviction that God will not let death have the final word. That means the opposition he faces, no matter what antagonists might do to him, will never be victorious. He confesses his conviction is "By faith, not by sight." If he were to rely on external observation for the likelihood of success, he would reconsider his mission. If he were to rely on the external realities of people, in Christ dying, he might rework his entire theology. However, his argument today is grounded in a resurrection-based faith.

 

So intimate was Paul's relationship with the Lord that while he conceded we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord, his eyes are fixed on the Lord here in this life. Although his claim is misunderstood at times, Paul is not degrading the earthly body here. Instead, he contrasts it with the greatness of the Lord's presence. To paraphrase Paul, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. A resurrection-based understanding of the gospel gives Paul confidence in God's final judgment, which allows him to preach the gospel. His motivation, which itself shaped his conviction, gave him this resurrection-based understanding. It is undoubtedly grounded in the love of Christ, which he claims urges us on. Now, is it our love for Christ, or is it Christ's love for us that gives us such confidence?

 

When we look at verses 14 and 15, we see that Christ's sacrifice is the apocalyptic act of God's gracious love. The death of Christ, a death that undoes death itself, turns death into eternal life. This act of God, which also includes the gracious gift of the Holy Spirit, urges us to carry on in confidence. "14 For the love of Christ urges us on because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died. 15 And he died for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for the one who for their sake died and was raised." The Spirit gave Paul the ability to see beyond death and systemic evil to perceive God's transformative act in Christ, which sets things right. This perspective empowered him with a resurrection outlook, as opposed to a human viewpoint. A human perspective, clouded by death, systemic evil, sin, and sickness, fails to grasp what is truth. It lacks the courage to persevere and often looks upon others with cynicism, succumbing to hopelessness. However, Paul's vision of humanity is shaped by what God accomplished in Christ—He sees Christ not only as one crucified but also as "the crucified and risen king." He views humans not as part of the "old creation" but as part of the "new creation" where everything has been made new.

 

Paul's faith in resurrection gives him the insight to recognize that everything comes from God and that it is God in Christ who is reconciling the world to Himself. Regardless of our position, situation, or location, we should be open to the Spirit granting us a resurrected perspective, enabling us to see beyond evil and perceive God's goodness in creating a new world. The question we face today is: are we willing to fully trust in Christ with the same confidence as the Apostle?

 

May we trust in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

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