About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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ch. 4:1-18   ch. 5:1-10    ch. 5:11 - 6:2

Treasures In Jars Of Clay  (ch. 4:1 - 18)


Verse 1 begins with the word, "therefore".  That means what Paul says in verse 1 relates back to what he just said in the last part of the last chapter where he was speaking about being changed into the likeness of Jesus.  So, here in verse 1 of chapter 4 Paul makes it clear that he has this ministry by the mercy of God”.  For this reason only, he does not “lose heart”, he does not give up, although he would have ample opportunity to do so, and I believe felt like it many times.   When we go through hard times, we should think of Paul and what he put up with.  Our troubles in the western world are not like Paul's.


Note the word "mercy" in verse 1.  It is translated from the Greek word "eleeo", which means, "to show pity or sympathy in concrete actions".  The word implies that the one being showed mercy or sympathy needs the mercy and the sympathy.  The idea of "mercy" here is connected with the ministry God gave Paul.  We see from a number of places in Paul's writings that he felt that he could not do what Jesus wanted him to do on his own.  We saw this especially in 2 Corinthians 1:8 to 10.  What Paul is really saying here is that he is a very needy man.  He cannot fulfill the work of the Lord unless Jesus shows active mercy to him in this ministry. 


You might not view Paul as being needy, but in a few senses of the word he was.  In his old life he was needy, even though he felt he wasn't.  All that was important to him was not important to Jesus.  In that sense, he was needy.  Then after his conversion, his life was so difficult that in reality, he was very needy.  He was in need of mercy that only Jesus could give. 


The words "mercy" and "grace" are somewhat related.  "Mercy" is sympathy shown by some kind of action.  "Grace" is God's favour extended to someone who does not merit the favour.  "Grace" is also used in a few cases as "the God given ability to do His will.


One might say that "mercy" precedes "grace".  One has mercy on another, whether they deserve the mercy or not.  Those who don't deserve the mercy then has grace shown to them.  Those who do deserve the mercy simply has the mercy shown to them.                


In light of the above meaning of "mercy", Paul is speaking very highly of the ministry that God has given him.  He felt it a great privilege. He certainly didn't deserve it, but God had pity on him and gave it to him.  Of course, I believe beyond the simple fact of just having mercy on Paul, there were other reasons why God chose Paul.  One might well be because his background was both Jewish and Roman.  His understanding of the Old Testament was very good.  His dedication to a cause was very good.  The list could go on.  Still, God saw Paul's misdirected passion towards a fallen Judaism.  He had mercy on him and redirected his passion.  For this reason, even though I'm sure Paul came close to losing heart at times, he couldn't.  God viewed Paul as one needy person prior to His salvation.  He had dedicated his life to a fallen Judaism.  God must have just shook his head in pity when looking at Paul.       


In verse 2 Paul says that he and his companions have “renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God”, all things that some were most likely doing in the service of the Lord.  Even back in Paul’s day there were some in the ministry who weren’t behaving as they should, as a servant of the Lord.  They were in ministry for money and for pride.  It was these type of men who Paul was in conflict with in Corinth . If you looked at the life of Paul, he lived very humbly, and was actually forced to live that way while in prison much of the time.


Note the word "secret" in verse 2.  Many commentators believe Paul uses this word because of "Gnosticism" that was infecting the church back then.  The word Gnosticism" is a transliteration from a Greek word meaning, "to know" – verb, or, "knowledge – noun".  Gnostics believed they had special, or, secret revelation from God, so they felt they were special, apart from the norm.  Paul would say that no Christian has exclusive, secret, or special knowledge.  There are Christians today that have the same way of thinking. They feel they have special revelation and special knowledge that puts them above the normal Christian.  This should be fought against at all costs.    


Part of this special knowledge Gnostics had was that they believed God could not unite Himself with sinful man.  Therefore, He has a number of angelic representatives that would buffer Him from man.  Of course the main problem with this thinking is that in the end, you deny the Deity of Christ because the doctrine of the Deity of Christ states that God placed Himself into a human body known as the Lord Jesus Christ.   


Gnosticism was a thought process that penetrated a number of cultures and religions.  We're not totally sure when it started, but it was pretty well defined by Paul's day.  Some suggest it could have even began in Judaism five or six hundred years before Christ.  There were Jewish Gnostics, Christian Gnostics, as well as Gnostics in other religions.  The basic premise in their thinking was that "matter is evil".  This is why they say God had intermediates between Him and evil man.  Again, this would destroy the doctrine of the Deity of Christ.  The church fathers in the second centuries fought against this vigorously.  It was one of their major fights.       


Note the word "distort" in verse 2.  It's from the Greek word "doloo", meaning 'to mix".  The point here is to mix the truth of God with false truth, something that is infecting the church today as well.  Mixture has always been a problem with God's people, whether Jews in Old Testament time or Christians in New Testament times.  


Here, in 2012, mixture is now one of the biggest problems in that which is called "Christianity".  "Chrislam" is one such example.  It attempts to mix Christianity with Islam, something that just cannot be done.  It isn't even logical.  Christians believe that Jesus is God in human flesh, thus we call God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Islam believes Jesus was just a prophet.  Islam believes that God has no sons.  The attempts today to unite Christianity and Islam by saying both believe in the same God is nonsense and illogical.  It just isn't true.    


Note the word "shame" in verse 2.  Those opposing Paul in Corinth were using "shameful" things to reduce Paul's ministry.  This human tendency remains with us still to this day.             


Note the word "deception" in verse 2.  The KJV uses the word "craftiness".  In a modern sense of the word, Paul is not like a "used car salesman".  Not that all used car salesmen are crafty, but many are noted to be.  Again, within Christian circles today, we still have the same problem.  Some preach a crafty gospel in order to benefit themselves.             


Also in verse 2 Paul says that he “commends himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God”.  By “plainly speaking the truth” of the gospel Paul lays all of the cards on the table, so to speak.  What Paul preaches is not some secretive exclusive gospel.  It's plain and simple, something everyone can understand.  He's attempting to make it easy on the conscience of every man. 


The way Paul preaches is important too, as we see in this passage.  Paul lives his life in such a way that the conscience of any man should not be bothered by how he lives.  What he says and preaches is another story.  Many were bothered by the words Paul spoke, but not by the holy life he lived.  The same should be true with us.  Too often our lives don't match our testimony, and that's a problem when it comes to our witness of the Lord.


In verse 3 Paul says, "…if our gospel is veiled".  Paul just said that the gospel he preaches, he preaches in plain simple word so all can understand, but now he suggests that not all will understand.  Some people's understanding have a veil over it.  Those who have this veil over their understanding are perishing. They're on their way to the Lake of Fire .


The word "veil" in this verse is a throw back to chapter 3, verses 7 to 18.  The gospel message is veiled at times to certain people, and sometimes it is the will of God.  Those who believe in predestination might well use this verse in support of their thinking. They might say, if you are perishing, you will not understand the gospel,  But, Paul had the gospel veiled to him and until Jesus changed that.  The simple fact is that the Holy Spirit can take away the veil.  


In verse 4 Paul says that the god of this age has veiled the minds of  unbelievers so that they cannot understand the gospel of Christ.  The god of this world is in reference to the devil.  According to Paul, unbelievers, whether they know it or not, are being hindered in seeing the good news because of the devil’s influence in their lives.  This is why in Ephesians 6 he speaks of the real battle being with the devil, not with people.  This is important when it comes to us dealing with people.  An understanding of spiritual warfare is important in the preaching of the gospel.  We may think we're fighting against human nature, and that's partly true, but it is human nature inspired by the devil. 


Note the last phrase in verse 4, “... Christ, the image of God”.  This speaks to the deity of Christ, meaning, that Jesus is in fact God in human form.   You might say that Jesus is the reflection of God, so we can clearly see what God is like.  Yet when I say that, I don't want you to think I'm saying that Jesus is not God.  He is God, and He is also a human reflection of God.  In His humanity, Jesus reflects God.  In theological terms, this is called "the Deity of Christ", and it is this very fact that is being veiled to the understanding of the unbeliever. The fact that Jesus is God in human form is the most fundamental aspect to our Christian faith.  If satan can mess people up on this, everything else that should be built on this premise will be mixed up.   


When it comes to people's understanding of the gospel being veiled, Paul says here that the devil veils people's understanding.  On the other hand, God Himself veils people's understanding, which we see in chapter 3, verses 7 to 18.


Note the word "age" in verse 4. The devil is "the god of this age".  This does not mean that satan is a "god".  it simply means that he has a measure of rule in this present age in which we live.  That will end when Jesus returns to earth.  We do have to remember that satan can only do things that lie within the parameter God allows.  We should also remember that Adam in one sense of the word was to be the god of this world, meaning, he was to rule and care for creation as stated in Genesis 1:28.    


In verse 5 Paul says that they “do not preach themselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord”.  This is important.  Paul does not merely preach Jesus as Saviour, but as Lord.  Because Jesus is Lord of all things, He can be our Saviour.  If He were not Lord, He could not be our Saviour. We can view Lord in both a Roman or Gentile sense and a Jewish sense.  Lord in terms of Rome would be king.  Lord in terms of Judaism would be Yahweh. 


Too often preachers today claim to preach Jesus, but their style of preaching, the way they prance across the stage, the way they dress, their mannerism, among other things draws the attention to them and not Jesus.  So, even though they preach Jesus, people see them more than Jesus.  I don't think Paul would feel good about this.  It would be a good project to simply sit down and think about what non-Christians actually see when they look at Christianity and the church.  Do they see human creations or do they see Jesus?


If you remember in Acts 9 when Paul gave his life to Jesus, you'll remember that Paul first met Jesus as Lord.  He asked, "are you the Lord"?  Jesus answered by saying that He was Jesus.  Paul met the Lord, and because Jesus was Lord, He became Paul's Saviour.  


Note also the word "servant".  Paul considered himself a servant, and by so doing, that way of thinking put him in the proper place. He never lorded anything over anyone.  He served all those who he came in contact with. I believe the mark of a mature Christian is his ability to serve.  


In verse 6 Paul refers back to creation when God created light.  He says that in the same way that God created light in the beginning, He caused spiritual light to shine in man’s heart so he could understand the gospel.  Once the light came to Paul, the devil’s hold would be gone. As Paul said earlier, it is the devil that has veiled our hearts from the truth, but once God shines his light into our hearts, the devil’s influence ends.  It has been destroyed by the process of God shining His light into our heart’s.


Concerning the Genesis account of God creating light, some people, those who believe in the gap theory, suggest that darkness was in the world because of the sin of a prior race of people, or even the devil and his angelic friends.  This is speculative, but worth noting. Paul is spiritualizing this Genesis darkness, and so I present you with the idea that the Genesis darkness might have a spiritual element in it as well.     


Paul uses the phrase, “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus” in verse 6.  The special knowledge that the Gnostics claim to have was a false knowledge.  The real knowledge is plain and simple.  It's about the Lord Jesus Christ, God in human flesh.  Gnostics make things too complicated. Paul makes them simple. The simple fact is that God the Father has chosen Jesus to demonstrate his glory to the world.  It can be seen on His face, and in turn should be seen on our faces.


Speaking of the glory of God and the power of God that goes with His glory, in verse 7 Paul says that we have all of this in “jars of clay”, meaning our earthly bodies.  This results in a clear distinction between what is from God and what is from man.  God’s power should be clearly seen when compared to our humanity.


It is important to keep things in proper perspective.  Even the apostle Paul considered himself a jar of clay.   He was earthy.  He was frail.  These things didn't bother him.  As a matter of fact, this was a good thing, because if he could allow the Lord to work through him, everyone would clearly see it was the Lord and not him.  This speaks to the doctrine called the "Depravity of Man".  Man is so sinful that he cannot properly serve God on his own or properly minister the way God wants.  It's only through the Holy Spirit within us that the glory of God can be seen.        


Concerning this humanity and the earthly existence to Paul’s life we see in verse 8 through 10he says, “we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.  We are always carrying around in our bodies the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies”.  Once again, Paul did not live an easy life.  That made no difference to him, because the harder of a life he had, the more God’s life would be seen in it.  This kind of talk does not go over well in the modern church.


An important thing we learn from Paul's words here that flies in the face of modern positive thinking and the Prosperity Movement is that if one suffers doesn't mean he is out of the will of God.  Paul suffered greatly, but he was in God's will.  Prosperity teaching implies that if we suffer in any way, whether physical, financial, or in any other way, we are outside of God's will, outside of His blessings, and without faith.  This is so far from Biblical truth I can't understand why anyone would believe such a thing.  


The simple point here in verses 8 through 10 is that suffering does not mean one is outside of God's will or His blessings.  Western Christianity really needs to hear this message, especially in the days ahead when we might experience the judgment of God on our nations.  If we live for Jesus, we will go throw times of brokenness.   


In verse 10 Paul says that the death of Jesus was always at work with and in him.  This is a theme throughout Paul's writings.  The fact is that if we live for Jesus, there will be problems.  There will be suffering. 1 Peter 4 agrees with Paul.  Suffering for Jesus was the norm for the first century believer.  


Verse 11 says it clearly, “for we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal bodies”.  Paul is quite willing to experience this death because as death “is at work in him”, life is a work in the Corinthians.  Paul experiences the hardships of being a servant so that the Corinthians can receive all of the benefits of the good news.


This is very important for Christian leaders.  They should have the mentality that they will sacrifice in order for God's people to be better off, but this is not always the case in today's church.  


In verse 10 Paul says that death lives in them so that the life of Jesus might be seen in our bodies.  This is just the opposite to the Prosperity Gospel which says' abundant life is seen in our bodies, in all things outward, so people will be drawn to Jesus by seeing how we are blessed.  That's not what Paul says here.  He says that people will be drawn to Jesus by seeing Jesus in us, not our outward blessings.  Really, if we major on the outward blessings, that is what people see, not Jesus, and that is what they are drawn to, as we see today.    


In verse 12 Paul says that death works in him and those who minister with him, resulting in the fact that life comes to the Corinthians.  Paul laid down his life for the Corinthians, and by so doing, they were blessed.  Again, this is a man with a real pastor's heart.   


At this point we should ask what does Paul mean here when he speaks of death working in him and those with him. I see this death as death to self, death to the old human nature.  This death comes about in many ways.  One way it comes about in Paul's life is through all the hardships he went through.  These hardships  broke Paul's human nature so he would fully trust in Jesus.   


Paul quotes Psalm 16:10 in verse 13 when he says, “it is written, I believe; therefore I have spoken”.  Paul says that with this same spirit of faith, he can speak based on the conviction of truth that he stands firm on.  Part of that truth is the resurrection from the dead, that some day we, with Jesus, will be raised and be presented to God.  We should think the same way as Paul here.  We say we believe, and if that is so, we then should speak what we believe, and speak with conviction.  Too often we say we believe, but our lives don't back this up.  


When Paul quotes Psalm 16:10 in connection with faith, he is implying that there is no difference between Old Testament faith and New Testament faith.  This too is important, because there is no difference.  Faith or trust is the same in both ages.  In New Testament terms our faith has been more defined, that is, it is in Jesus. In the Old Testament faith was in Yahweh.  That being said, Jesus is Yahweh in human form.  


In verse 14 Paul speaks of the resurrection, not just the resurrection of Jesus, but of the saints.  If you study 1 Corinthians 15 you will have a good understanding of the resurrection.  The reason why the believers will be resurrected to be with Jesus is that Jesus was first resurrected to be with His father. 


The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus is fundamental to Christianity.  If Jesus was not raised from the dead, all we believe is nonsense.  Our faith is founded on the resurrection of Jesus.  Without the resurrection, Jesus would still be dead.  He would not have ascended to heaven.  He would not be the final authority over all things.  He could not return to the earth, meaning, there is no hope in the future.  There would not be a new earth at the end of the thousand year rule of Christ, which there wouldn't be either.  I could go on and on.        


In verse 15 we note that Paul’s life is a life that was given to people, “for their benefit”.  All the things that he is telling them and the reality that is found in Jesus is for their benefit.  He says that “more and more people” are finding this to be true and that this should bring thanksgiving to the lips of the Corinthians.  Therefore, as it says in verse 16,  Paul doesn't give up or lose hart.  One of the driving forces in Paul's life was to serve people by winning them to Jesus and then teaching them the ways of the Lord. 


Also in verse 16 Paul says that despite the fact that “our outward man is wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  Despite the gifts of the spirit that include healing of our bodies, Paul says that our outward man is wasting away.  What does this say to those “ultra faith” people who believe that we should be living in perfect health?  It is the inward man that is important, something that our generation spends very little time on.  Our efforts of self-improvement seem to be directed towards our outwards self, and in those circles that try to improve their inner self, it is more humanistic than godly.  The New Age movement is thus one example of humanistic inner self improvement.


In verse 17 Paul speaks of “his light and momentary troubles”, which to us would be far from light and momentary, yet he views these troubles in light of eternity.  The troubles he is going through now means little with the eternal consequences resulting from these troubles.  My guess is that if we went through the same troubles as Paul, many of us would lose heart.  We would just give up.  We expect life to be so easy, that if it ever got harder, we'd have a hard time.  I believe as time goes on, our lives as Christians will get a lot harder.  These hard times might well separate the sheep from the goats, so to speak.  


Because of the importance of eternity Paul thus says in verse 18, “we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”, just the opposite to what our modern age tells us.  We therefore should be dedicating more of our lives to the present unseen kingdom of God .  We're too often caught up in the kingdom of men, in worldly things, in things that mean little to eternity.  This should not be the case. 


I'm convinced that if we thought in terms as Paul did concerning eternity,  we'd live a much different life.  We'd be more willing to sacrifice worldly pleasures for Jesus and those who belong to Him.   It's hard to not let the world influence us, but the reality is that if we forsake now, we'll be rewarded in the next life beyond measure.  If this was primary in our thinking, we'd be living much differently right now than we do. 


I strongly believe that what Paul says here in the last part of chapter 4 is just the opposite to the modern day Prosperity teaching.  We need to sit down, read this passage over and over, meditate on it, study it, and let if become part of our lives.  Do we fix our eyes on what is unseen?  More often than not, we fix our eyes and lives on what is seen.  Materialism is one powerful god.       



Our Heavenly Dwelling  (ch. 5:1 - 10)



Paul opens chapter 5 in verse 1 by stating, “if our earthly tent that we live in is destroyed, we have a heavenly building from God…”  The “earthly tent” refers to the body we have here on earth.  Paul speaks of it as a tent, because a tent is more temporary than a building.  He also was a tent maker, and, with his Hebrew background, the Old Testament tabernacle or tent, was the dwelling place of God.  He later describes our new bodies as a “building”, being more permanent and eternal. Once again, that which is  important is found in eternity, not in this present life.  We should therefore think and live accordingly.


Concerning the Old Testament tabernacle, or tent; if Paul relates it to our present bodies, then the Old Testament Temple, a permanent building, would represent our heavenly bodies.  


Note the word "destroyed" in verse 1. The KJV uses the word "dissolved".  The Greek implies "utterly destroyed".  Note the word "if" in connection with the word "destroyed".  I do not believe that Paul is suggesting that some bodies will be destroyed and others won't.  I believe Paul believed that "all" bodies would be destroyed at death.  He expected his body to rot away to nothing.


We might now think about cremation instead of having your body buried.  In the end, either way, your body is destroyed.  Cremation simply makes the destructive process come quicker.  I do not believe being cremated is a sin.  What happens with the body that is burned in a fire, of which?  Many first century Christians were killed by fire.  The only thing you might want to consider concerning cremation is that it appears to be a pagan practice rooted in Old Testament days.       


Paul goes on to say that we have a heavenly building or body that's eternal and not made with human hands.  For some, the context suggests that we will be in that human body when we die.   Others believe this heavenly body awaits us at the resurrection of the dead as seen in 2 Thessalonians 4:16-18 and 1 Corinthians 15;35 and on.  Jesus, in the first part of John 14 speaks of Him going to heaven where He will make these bodies for us. 


Also note in verse 1 that our eternal house is in heaven, as in, presently in heaven.  Paul is not saying we will spend eternity in heaven, only that our eternal house, or body, is in heaven waiting for us.    


In verse 2 Paul says, “meanwhile we groan…”   Paul and his fellow Christians “groaned” for the day that they could put this earthly body aside and be clothed with the new body that Jesus had for them.  This groaning is a longing for the future. It is a strong desire to be with Jesus in Heaven.  For those who put great emphasis on the present Kingdom of God , excluding any hint of the future Kingdom, we can see how Paul feels about such things.  Paul does not put much emphasis on the present.  All that he does is in light of the spiritual, and his eternal future.  His present existence has only one meaning, and that is to preach the gospel to as many as possible so as many as possible can be saved and enter eternity with Jesus.


Paul's thinking here isn't seen much these days.  We are too much in love with this world to want to depart as quickly as Paul.  We should have Paul's mentality. 


In verse 3 Paul speaks of being “unclothed” or naked.  I don't believe he felt that he was presently naked.  He had his earthly body to be clothed in.  What he is saying here is that once he dies, he will not be naked because he will have a heavenly body to be clothed in.  The implication might be that those who don't know Jesus will be naked after death.  


Although I do suggest that Paul felt he was presently clothed, albeit in an earthy body, it was as if this earthly body was so old and warn out, it was like being naked.  That seems to be his thinking in verse 4.


Also in verse 4 Paul says, "for while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up with life”.  Once again we see Paul’s strong desire for the future reality.  Paul’s earthly existence was a temporary thing in his thinking.  It was something that he had to go through in order to get to the future.  Was Paul so heavenly minded that he was no earthly good?  No he wasn’t.  Even though Paul was used by the Lord, his heart was not in this world.  His heart was in the future Kingdom of God , where he would not be naked.  He would be clothed in his heavenly body that Jesus had prepared for him.


As a matter of fact, in verse 5, Paul says that “God made us for this very purpose”, that  is, so we could be clothed with a heavenly body.  This tells me that God's original intension, even before the fall of man, even before creation, was to have a heavenly body.   But until that day comes, he says that “we have the Spirit  as a deposit, guaranteeing that which is to come”.  Most of us are so far removed from this kind of thinking because of our pre-occupation with the present.  


With Paul, the taste of being with Jesus in the next life has soured his stomach in this life, so to speak.  Once you get a taste of something better than what you are presently eating, it's hard to go back to the food you are eating.  This is how Paul feels about life.    


Concerning God making man to have a heavenly body, you might wonder if Adam and Eve had a heavenly body, and if our bodies will look like the bodies they had before the fall.   I can't say for sure.  I don't think anyone knows the answer to this, but my guess is that our bodies will be different than the ones Adam and Eve had.  In some respects we were created like animals, that is, they had real bodies with flesh, blood and bones, like us.  Our heavenly bodies I believe will be more angelic, but human looking, probably like the body Jesus had after the resurrection.   Also,  all things will be new on the new earth as seen in the book of Revelation.   For this reason, I think our bodies will be new and different than anything experienced on earth before, and that includes Adam and Eve's bodies.      


Some over the years have stressed the earthly Kingdom of God so much, that they have never given any thought to the future Kingdom of God , thinking that if we thought about the future too much, we’d forget about today, and the work that needs to be done.  Yet this was not so with Paul.  His heart’s desire was for that future Kingdom, and because of that he worked as hard as he could in the present Kingdom of God .


In verse 6 Paul goes as far to say that “as long as we are at home in this earthly body, we are away from the Lord”.  In one real sense of the word, Paul felt separated from Jesus to a degree, even though he had the Holy Spirit within him. He clearly says in this verse that he felt “away from the Lord”.  This reminds me of things he said in his first letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 13.  He said such things as “we see in part”.  Everything in our lives as Christians is in part because “we are away from the Lord”.  As a result he says “that we live by faith and not by sight”.  We live by trusting Jesus for the future, because the future has not yet arrived.  We do not as yet have the future in “sight”, we only “live by faith”, believing Jesus for that future Kingdom of God .


Even though Paul, and us too, have the Holy Spirit in our lives, there is still an element of being away from the Lord.  Some over spiritual types seem to suggest that they are so close to Jesus that they'll in constant communion with Him and aren't apart from Him.  I suggest most of this is pure false imagination.


In verse 7 Paul says, "we live by faith and not by sight".  Paul often says such things as "we live by faith", or, "the just will live by faith".  This is in reference to Habakkuk 2:4 where it says, "the just shall live by his faith".  The Septuagint translates this verse as the "just shall live by His faithfulness".  The question thus arises, does Paul think he is living by his faith, or, by God's faithfulness?  I suggest the latter is more fundamental to Paul's thinking, but not to the exclusion of the prior. Our faith is faulty.  God's faithfulness is not faulty. 


Just to be clear, faith, or trust, is passive.  It's not aggressive.  It's not a commodity that we can get more of.  Faith is simple trust.  Faith in God is relaxing, is handing your life over to Him without fear.  From this passive position, from this trust, we actively do good works.  Real faith, real trust, which again is passive, will produce real and active good works.


The specific thing that Paul is trusting God for in this passage is his heavenly body that he will receive in the future.  He has full confidence in God that what he presently hopes for will be realized.  


The words "not by sight" might have a bit of symbolism.  Many feel that Paul had an eye-sight problem.  Therefore not being able to see well would make him live more by faith, or, by God's faithfulness.  Still, the point here is that we should not live by what we see around us.  We should not live by our own human reasoning.  We must acknowledge Jesus in all things and live by His faithfulness.     


In verse 8 Paul speaks plainly by saying that “we are confident, and would prefer to be away from the body and present with the Lord”.  Do you see what Paul is saying?  His preference was not to live here on earth as he was living. He’d rather be dead on earth , and alive with Jesus in Heaven. In Philippians 1:23 Paul says that he would rather die and be with Jesus.  The only reason why he has any desire to stay on earth is to care for God's people.  


Yet as we see in verse 9, no matter what happened, whether away from this body or at home with the Lord Paul wants “to please” Jesus?  Why does he want to please Jesus?  Because as he says in verse 10, “we will all appear before the judgement seat of Christ”.  At that point in time Paul says that each one of us will receive a reward for the things we have done in this body, whether the things are good or bad.  Salvation is based on our trust in Jesus.  Rewards are based on what we have done in this life.  Therefore Paul wanted to please Jesus.


It's important to understand that when Christians appear before this judgment seat, we will not be judged on matters of sin.  They have been washed in the blood of Jesus.  We will be judged on what we've done in the service of the Lord and how we have done it.  There are rewards in heaven.  


I'm sure that we can't imagine what that day of the Lord will be like.  Yet, if you try to imagine, I wonder how many of us will be embarrassed for the lack of things that we have done in the service of the Lord in this life.  



The Ministry Of Reconciliation (ch. 5:11 – 6:2)


In verse 11 Paul tells his readers that he tries his best “to persuade” men of the gospel.  His reason for this persuasion is based on the fact that he knows what it means to “fear the Lord”.  Fearing the Lord is one aspect of our Christian life that seems to have fallen by the wayside.  There should be an element of actual fear of the Lord in our lives, that is being afraid of Him because of who He is.  There is also an element of extreme reverence that we should hold towards Jesus for who He is. 


There is a balance in the New Testament between fearing Jesus and being loved as a brother by Him.  A Scriptural picture of this balance can be seen in Revelation 5 when John stands in the presence of the Lord, or the Lion of the tribe of Judah , as he puts it.  Upon seeing the Lion John is quite fearful and wants to run from Him, yet on second thought after he sees that the Lion is actually the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world, he runs to the Lord.  Jesus is both Lion and Lamb.  We fear the Lion, and we love the Lamb.


The KJV  uses the word "terror" instead of the word "fear", and that is a good word as well.  The Greek word that Paul uses here is "phobos".  You will recognize this word because this is where we get our English word "phobia".  "Phobos" finds its roots in the word "flight", as in "fleeing because of being afraid".  Therefore, I believe, in one real sense of the word, we are to be afraid of God, yet as I've said, when we want to flee from Him in fear, we have no place to run but back to Him.  


Paul would have been a very good lawyer.  I am sure that he was very capable of “persuading” people and causing them to believe his message.  He did his best in this persuasion, even though we know that he did not depend on human reasoning alone to spread the good news of Jesus.  He depended on the Holy Spirit and His power.  Paul was not afraid to enter in a dialogue or debate with anyone, including the educated philosophers of his day.  You can see this over and over again in the book of Acts.


Note Paul's use of the word "conscience" in verse 11.  He has used this before.  Paul tries his best to speak plainly, clearly, and in such a way that the conscience of those listening will not refuse him or what he is saying.  


In verse 12 Paul says that that he and his companions are not trying to “commend” themselves to the Corinthians.  He is not trying to convince them of his authenticity.   As he puts it, “that is plain to God”.  Any question about Paul’s authority and ministry  is not the issue, at least in his thinking.  Anything that Paul says concerning himself is “an opportunity for them to take pride” in Paul and his        fellow workers.  Once again, this would not be a boastful pride that would pit Paul against Peter.  This kind of pride is an overwhelming acceptance of Paul.  Paul would like the Corinthians to fully accept him and feel good about him, for their own benefit. 


The reason why Paul wants them to boast in him is because he would like those who “take pride in what is seen” to notice their acceptance of him.  In verse 12 Paul comes back to this point of things that are seen and things that are not seen.  Those people who take pride in things seen, do not take pride in the things “of the heart”.  It is in the heart that the Holy Spirit comes to a person.  It is in the heart where the important things of life are found.  This is why the writer of the Proverbs says, “guard your heart with all diligence  for out of it are the issues of life”. (Proverbs 4:23)  What matters most to you and I are in our hearts affections.  We must constantly be guarding these affections.    


Likely there were many who believed that Paul was completely out of his mind as is alluded to in verse 13, although Paul himself would obviously say that he was in his right mind.  For this reason Paul says that whether in his right mind or not, all that he does, he does for the sake of those he ministers to.  The criticism that he gets along the way matters nothing to him.  He stands before God and it is to His Lord that he will give account to some day.


It's apparent that some thought Paul was out of his mind.  Maybe it was because of his numerous visions.  Maybe because he spoke in tongues more than most.  Maybe they thought he was out of his mind because he accepted so many hardships as being from God.  We just don't know for sure, but for you and I, if we are following Jesus as we should be, some will surely think we are out of our minds. 


In verse 14 Paul says that “the love of God compels us, because we are convinced…”  It is the love of God that drives Paul in his ministry.  He is totally convinced of the reality of Jesus and His love so that he can do nothing else than to be a servant of the Lord and spread His message. 


There is a paradoxical relationship between love and fear, between fearing the Lord as seen in verse 11, and being compelled by God's love in verse 14.  In today's church we tend to emphasize loving God, and being loved by Him.  At the same time we tend to de-emphasize the point that we should fear God, because He is one to be feared.  We need to find the proper balance.  I am convinced that to the degree in which we understand that God is to be feared, will be the degree in which we can know the love of God.  I'm also convinced that many who claim to know and understand God's love, don't, because they do not fear God.  One can only love God properly once he fears God.   


Note the word "compel" in verse 14.  This is a very strong word in Greek.  The love of God was a very powerful motivation in Paul's life.  Whether it's God's love for Paul or Paul's love for God, we can't be sure from the grammar of the text.  It could well be both.  Paul felt that he had no other choice in life than to serve Jesus out of love and because of His love.


Note also the word "convinced".  It's a word that is becoming less used in modern Christianity because of the worldly thinking that one really can't be convinced of anything.  Not so with Paul.  He was convinced of many things and in this case He was convinced that Jesus died for everyone, and in so doing, in one sense of the word, everyone died when Jesus died.  This is a theological issue that is hard for some to get around.  We did not physically die when Jesus died, but because He took our place in death, before God, we have died.  We have been punish with death for our sins.  We now only have to accept this truth.    


Paul goes on to say in verse 15 that Jesus “died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died…”    Followers of Jesus are expected to be like Jesus in the sense that Jesus did not live for Himself, and so His disciples should not live for themselves either.  The Christian life is meant to be a life of giving.  We have all of eternity to receive the pleasures of life.  This is the age of servanthood.


What does Paul mean in verse 16 when he says that “he no longer regards anyone from a worldly point of view”?  It helps to understand this when we understand the last part of this verse when Paul says that "we no longer regard Christ in this way".  The simple fact is that Jesus while on earth was God in human form.  Paul no longer regards Jesus in the same way his disciples would have when they walked the shores of the Galilee with Him.  Jesus has not only been raised from the dead.  He has ascended into heaven with a new glorified body.  He is no longer the suffering servant.  He is the Lord over all there is. We should view Jesus as He presently exists, not as He existed while on earth.  He is a new creation, and so are we.  We are not what we will be, but on the other hand, we are not what we once were.  We like Paul, should view others in the Body of Christ as these new creations.   We should view each other, not in the way we once were, but in the way we now are.  That being said, we are still fragile sinners saved by grace.              


In verse 17 Paul says that if you are really “in Christ’, you are a new creation.  This confirms what I just said. What does Paul mean when he speaks of us as being a new creation once coming to Jesus?  I believe it has to do with what Jesus said, when He said that you “must be born again”.  When one receives the Holy Spirit when they get saved, they are born again, born twice.  Remember that Paul said he was “born late”, or out of season. (1 Corinthians 15:8)  Both Paul and Jesus thought in terms of being born again.  So in this sense of the word, Paul understands being born again as being a new creation. It only makes sense.


Does being a new creation mean that we are no longer without sin?  No.  Paul would also admit that we still have the “old nature” to struggle with.  The difference is that we now have the Holy Spirit within us.  It is He that brings about the born again experience and being a new creation.  With the Holy Spirit within us, we should expect changes in our lives as a result.  If there is no change at all, then you can question the fact that the Holy Spirit is actually in a person and that conversion has not really taken place.  There should be some minimal change, or fruit of repentance when someone claims salvation. 


Now the second half of verse 17 says that the “old man has gone, and the new man has come”.  How should we interpret this in light of what I have just said.  Paul distinctly says that the “old man has gone”.  We have to interpret this in light of other things that we have seen Paul say in other letters, such things as the fight against the flesh in Romans 7.   If indeed the old man has gone, his effects are still lingering with us after salvation.  This is what I believe Paul is saying here.  Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, this by and far out weighs the old man.  The Holy Spirit is now in charge, not the old man.  There is no comparison to the power of the Spirit and the power of the old man.  Besides, “figuratively speaking”, the old man was killed with Jesus on the cross, yet in reality as we live our lives he is still alive. 


It is similar to imparted and imputed righteousness.  God declares us as totally righteous, even as He Himself is righteous.  In one sense of the word we are righteous, yet in another sense we are not.  The same with the old man. In one sense of the word he has died, and in another sense he is alive.


Further to this, once being born again, once becoming this new creation, we should experience some kind of struggle with the old creation we once were.  If we don't, I suggest that we have given into our old nature and therefore there is no battle to be fought.  I believe Romans 7 gets to the heart of this battle between our new self and our old self. 


In verse 18 Paul says that all of this change in our lives “is from God who has reconciled us to Himself in Christ”.  The way in which we become a new creation is in the fact that God has reconciled us, or restored the relationship we have with Him “through Christ”.  “Through Christ” means his sacrificial death on the cross.  It also means that Jesus is the only way in which real change can come in our lives.  We are powerless to make lasting and effective change on our own, at least the type of change that God is interested in. 


Not only has Jesus paved the way for this reconciliation, but Paul says that God has given him the ministry of reconciliation. Paul’s ministry of preaching the gospel brought man back into a right relationship with God.  We too could say that we have this same ministry.  It is important for us as Christians to know that we all have a job to do.  Our job is to preach reconciliation; to help people come to God through Jesus.  


How does God reconcile men to Himself?  The gospel that Paul preached stated that God no longer “held men’s sins against them”.  This is in deed the good news. This can be true in men’s lives if they only accept the terms of God’s salvation.  Not holding our sin against us allows God’s Spirit to come and live in us, thus accomplishing reconciliation. 


The words "not counting men's sins against them" are so very important.  If people could only understand how sinful they are.  Then, if they could understand that God no longer counts their sins against them, they'd come to Him in a heart beat.  Once saying this, there is another thing to understand and that is we must receive this forgiveness of sins from God.  If we don't, then we reject both Him and Jesus' sacrificial death for us.  The only thing left is a worse punishment than what was ours before Jesus cancelled our sins.  If you study the book of Hebrews, you will know this to be true.   


In verse 20 Paul says that he and his companions “are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us”.  Paul is saying that he is a spokesman on behalf of God Himself.  God is appealing to mankind through Paul.  He will also appeal to mankind through you and I.  The fact that we as Christians represent Jesus to the world is something I think we don't understand as well as we should.  Jesus is no longer here in physical form, but we are here, and, we are to represent Him in the same way that He would represent Himself if He were here.   


Paul says, “we implore you on Christ’s behalf.  Be reconciled to God”.  This is an example of how Paul preached.  He next to pleaded with people with a strong command; “be reconciled to God”.  The feeling this verse gives is that people are in immediate danger of losing their lives, and Paul has to scream at them and plead with them to get right with God.  If you saw a small child walk into the path of a car, you would scream and yell and run and do your best to save the child. This is how Paul feels about the people he is preaching to.


Why does Paul feel this way?  Because he knows that we are lost in sin, but also he says “that God made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin”.  Jesus not only took our sin to the cross and was punished for it.  He actually became sin while hanging on the cross.  These are two different and distinct aspects of the cross of Christ.  The reason why Jesus did this Paul says is that “in Him we might become the righteousness of Christ” as seen in verse:21.  Just imagine.  Jesus who is completely alienated  from sin became sin, and we who live continually in sin become righteous in the sight of God.  This is the good news of the gospel.  God views us as righteous, even though we are far from it, and one day, we will be righteous just as He is righteous.  This is something that really needs to be burned into our hearts and souls. 


What Paul says here also tells us how God feels.  If Paul "implores" people on behalf of God, we must understand that this "imploring" is found in the heart of God.  We cannot begin to fathom how God feels about our situation.


Chapter 6 verses 1 and 2 closes out this section of Paul’s letter.   He says, “as God’s fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain”.  Note here that Paul calls himself a “fellow worker” with God.  This is an important job to have.  Do we actually feel that we and God work together.  We don't work alone, and neither does He.  As the last verse in the book of Mark says.  We preach the gospel and Jesus provides us with the spiritual ability.  It's a joint effort between us and Jesus. 


Again, I wonder how often we really feel that we are working with the Lord of all there is in promoting Him and His kingdom.   If we work alongside someone, we have a good measure of contact and communication with the person we work with.  Do we have the same with the God of all things, or, are we out there on our own?   Being co-workers with God is one very serious matter.


These people had already received God’s grace, and now Paul is urging them not to “receive it in vain”.  If these people go astray and the grace of God becomes of no effect in their lives, then they would have received God’s grace in vain, and all of Paul’s efforts would be in vain as well.  Paul is always conscious of the fact that God’s grace can be received in vain.  To him this would be  a very sad state of affairs.


We must understand that we can receive God's grace in vain.  I believe taking God for granted, as we so often do, is taking His grace in vain.  Not working with Him, but working apart from Him, would be taking His grace in vain.  There's all sorts of examples how we can take God's grace in vain.  I'd suggest that this is one very bad sin.


Paul closes this section by saying, “now is the time of God’s favour, now is the time of salvation”.  With God, “now” is always the time to make things right with Him.  You don't wait until tomorrow, because there might not be a tomorrow.  


The word "now" might actually not be used by Paul in a personal sense, as in "get saved now".  "Now" might well be used in the sense that since the cross of Christ, "we now live in the age of salvation".   Of course both are true.   


When Paul uses the word "now", it is an example that he is actually "imploring" those people he is speaking to.  We saw the word "implore" a couple verses back. The word "now" puts an emphasis on salvation that it can't be put off for another day.  We must come to salvation right now.   


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