2nd Corinthians 5:12-21


“For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.  For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God:  or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.  For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:  and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.  Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh:  yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.  Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us:  we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.  For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 


“2nd Corinthians, chapter 5, next Wednesday evening, by the way, Ken Ham will be here.  Ken Ham is a PhD, a scientist, and he will be here.  He’s one of the world’s leading Creationists, and he will be here talking about Creation verses Evolution, brilliant scientist, speaks all over the world.  A great opportunity if you have friends that are skeptical or they’re very pragmatic, and they think that you’re brainwashed and you’re mindless in your belief, ah, wonderful for them to encounter somebody with a higher IQ than they have that believes that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  [If you need evidence from another very high IQ scientist, a molecular biologist, order Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box, available on http://www.amazon.com]  So I’m looking forward to Ken Ham being here.  Then for those of you who love Gail Erwin, he will be here that weekend of the 17th, we have the married couple’s retreat we do on Sunday morning.  And for you Missler-ites, Chuck Missler is blowing through on a magic carpet or something, will be here that Sunday evening, just in time to give us an update on what’s happening in his world, and ours.  So, just wonderful things to look forward to. 


‘You Know What Drives Us, You Know Our Motives’


2nd Corinthians chapter 5, we came as far as verse 11, Paul saying, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord , we persuade men;”, the awe of God, the fear of God.  Now, knowing the terror of the Lord, knowing the consequences, knowing that God is a just judge, knowing that people who spend their lives mocking God, or saying they don’t believe that God is real, that really doesn’t matter to God, it doesn’t mean he’s not going to show up (i.e. his feelings are hurt, so on judgment day he’s not coming).  No,  Paul says “Knowing the fear of the Lord”, that every man will stand before God, that there’s a reality to all this.  ‘Knowing that’ Paul says, ‘we persuade men, it’s our life’s work to persuade men.’  And he talks about the fact that he knows that he is manifest, he is open before God, that there’s no hiding.  We are manifest unto God, we’re laid open before him.  “and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences”, he’s speaking to the Corinthians.  “For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.” (verse 12)  Paul is saying, ‘Look, our lives are manifest, they’re open to God.  The thing that drives us,’ he’s going to say, ‘is ultimately the love of Christ, knowing that that’s available, knowing the terror of the Lord, the fear of God we persuade men.  Our lives are open before God.’  Paul says, ‘We trust they’re open before you.’  Someone that has a genuine faith, there should be something self-evident about that.  Not like: ‘I was down to Atlantic City last week,  and you know, I saw what’s his name, oh yeah, saw him at the crap table, yea, he’s a Christian, says he’s a Christian,  he wears that big cross, that’s about that big, gold one that’s a 12-inch cross that he wears around his neck.’  No, Paul says, ‘We trust our lives are made manifest to you, too, that there’s something that marks us to your conscience, that in your heart you know.’  And what he’s going to talk about is the way their lives are given over to Christ, not in a self-righteous way.  But Paul’s going to say, ‘Because we know the truth, we know the terror of the Lord, we persuade men, the love of Christ constrains us.’  He’s going to talk about the fact that something real is going on in his life that manifests itself to God, God knows and God understands, and he said to the Corinthians ‘And I trust that it’s manifest to your consciences also, you know we’re not phony, when we write to the Church and we speak to the Church.  You may not like everything we have to say, but we trust that we are being made manifest to your conscience.  We don’t have to glory in ourselves to try to persuade you.’  He says, ‘We’re giving you an opportunity to glory in us, and not in those who only care about appearance instead of the heart.’  And there were plenty of false teachers then, and there are plenty of false teachers now.  And a false teacher is the worst kind of thief.  A religious hypocrite is the worst kind of hypocrite.  They inflict mankind with the greatest form of poison, turns away those who are, and most people are, perceptive enough to see, ‘This guy’s phony.  This is wrong, got caught with a woman.’   Or, ‘All he does is talk about money.  Look at the way he lives, there’s his mansion, he’s got three stretch limos in front of his house, one says I’m Justified, one says I’m Sanctified, one says I’m Glorified, this guy’s not real, this guy’s phony.’  Paul says, ‘No, you know our lives, you know what drives us, you know why we persuade men, we’re manifest before God, we trust that we’re manifest to your consciences too.  And instead of trying to win you (the Corinthians) over again, we’re giving you an opportunity that you instead might glory on our behalf, that you might have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance’ (i.e. Paul’s accusers), and not in the heart.’  And Paul would talk about religious hypocrisy.  Jesus would talk about the Pharisees, there are those, Jesus says,  ‘When you give alms, you can give to the poor, don’t do it like the religious hypocrites, who love to be seen of men.  When you give, don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.’  We see whole ministries built around, ‘You know, there’s five people here tonight who are going to give a thousand dollars.  Yeah!’  just so you know what flavour it is, you know [laughter].  ‘Raise your right hand right now!  Where’s that thousand dollars…’  You’re not gonna get any rewards, you might as well save that thousand dollars, eat a thousand pizzas.  [laughter]  Because that guy is either imitating someone he grew up in the ministry under,  or he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Jesus said when you give, don’t give like that, to be seen of men.  Don’t let anybody bring that kind of motive outside of you, of wanting appearance when you stand before people, feeding your ego.  No, when you give, give in secret, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.  ‘When you pray, don’t pray like the hypocrites, who love to make long prayers,’  he says in one place, but go into your closet, shut the door,  talk to your Father privately.  Your Father who sees in private, he’ll reward you openly.  When you fast, you know, don’t walk around [laughter, must have a gloomy face on].’  You know, ‘What’s wrong with you?’  ‘Ummhh.’  He says, ‘Shave, put on some Brill Crème, get dressed up, don’t let anybody know.  It’s not for men that you’re doing it.  Do it in secret, your Father who sees in secret, he’ll reward you openly someday.’  Paul says, ‘We’re giving you the opportunity to glory in us, we’re manifest before God, you know what drives us, you know why we persuade men, you know what we’re all about, we’re giving you an opportunity to speak up on our behalf.  We’re not trying to convince you of our motives anymore.  Instead of standing up for those who just love appearance and are not concerned about the heart.’


‘The Love of Christ Constrains Me, Motivates Me, Drives Me’


“For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God:  or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.” (verse 13)  You know, that’s ‘Roses are blue and so are you, I’m schizophrenic and so am I.’, “beside ourselves”, you know we’re schizophrenic today, there’s two of us.  The Bible says, “purify your heart, you double minded.”  That was just the idea of “beside ourselves”, mad, somebody that’s talking to themselves, you know.  ‘For whether we be beside ourselves, people think we’re mad [crazy], well it’s to God.’  We’re accused of that,’ Paul says,  ‘Or whether we be sober, that’s for your cause.  You know, if we seem dead serious, that’s for your benefit.’  Why?  “For the love of Christ constraineth us;”, not the ‘love for Christ constrains us.’  He says, “the love of Christ constraineth us…” the love that he has for us, God is always the initiator, man is always the responder.  Paul had already said, ‘No flesh is going to glory in his presence, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the glory may be of God and not of man.’  And he says ‘it’s the love of Christ that constrains us.’  You know, here was Paul, who had hauled Christians off to prison, who had made them blaspheme the name of Jesus at the point of a sword, who had destroyed families and homes and killed Christians.  And yet the Lord had appeared to him on the Road to Damascus and owned Paul, had forgave Paul, and sent Paul out to be a minister, a messenger of his grace.  [i.e. God’s saying “If I can forgive Paul, I can forgive anyone.”  That’s grace.  I’ve heard some people say ‘God will never forgive a person like Adolph Hitler, or Joe Stalin.’  Hey look, if a person like Adolph Hitler or Joe Stalin were to repent, God would forgive him and extend his grace to him.  That is Biblical.  Suck it up and stop being so judgmental, and let God do the judging in those matters that don’t concern you.]  And Paul uses the word “grace” more than any New Testament writer, and Paul says, ‘It’s the love of Christ that constrains us, to constrain, ah, it compels us, it takes hold of us, it restrains us, it contains us, it holds us secure, the love of Christ constrains us,’  He says, ‘If that is effective in my life, why shouldn’t I live that way for someone else?’  Paul said, ‘There is one dominating factor in my ministry, there is one thing that I’ve taken hold of, I’m singular, the love of Christ constrains us.’  You think of what a human being can do that has one emphasis [goal in life].  Alexander the Great, crying at 35 because there was nothing left to conquer, dying in a drunken stupor and pneumonia.  Charlelemagne, think of the tyrants, one focus.  Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Osama bin Laden, think of what one human being with one focus can do, one human being, committed to one thing, and the impact.  Or the other side, Paul, Huss, Wycliffe, Whitfield [Peter de Waldo], Spurgeon, Billy Graham, think of what one person that has the Truth, with one focus can do.  And you’re going to be criticized, if you take that stand, if you say “the love of Christ drives me, I can’t escape it.  I think about it every day.”  If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be overwhelmed with it.  When I sit alone with the Lord, the thing that still overwhelms me is that he loves me.  Because I know who I am.  You don’t.  And you know who you are, too.  Isn’t that something?  Sobering?  But Paul says, ‘Hey, we’re open before him.’  Paul had just said that, ‘we open before God, and he loves us anyway.’  We’re not perfect, we’re in process.  And you sit alone, and you think that you can lift your head to the sky and say “Abba, Father”?  That you can look to a Holy and Almighty God in your and my condition of growth and flux and change, and still trying to lay hold on the calling that he’s put in front of us, forgetting those things that are behind, reaching forward to the high calling of Christ, not having yet arrived at the full stature of Christ, being conformed into his image, and yet every day realizing how short we fall.  And yet, God’s love towards us, not restrained in any way.  ‘The love of Christ,’ Paul says, ‘constrains us, it’s taken ahold of us, this single dominating factor in our lives.’ 


Judging After The Flesh verses Judging After the Spirit


“because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:” (verse 14b)  The Bible says that Jesus Christ, if one died for all, all were dead. Now it’s hard to convince your friends and relatives that that isn’t true.  “…all were dead:  and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (verse 15)  So that those who realize that, the love of Christ constrains us, those who come to the Truth should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who loved them and died for them.  Paul says ‘I’m crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live for the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me.’  He’s given us through his forgiveness, through the power of the Holy Spirit, through his love, the ability to escape the darkest dungeon on earth, and that is the dungeon of self.  There are people in prison behind bars, Frank goes to prison all the time with guys in church who are in prison ministry, and they meet believers there in prison that are filled with the joy of the Lord.  And yet there’s people ouside, riding around in a Rolls Royce, they are miserable.  They got everything and they got nothing, because they are in the prison of self.  They think about themselves when they wake up, they think you think about them.  They think you care what they look like and what they wear, what they drive.  We’re infected with that.  If we took a group picture of the study tonight and put it on the wall, you come in next week, who’d be the first person you’d look for?  [laughter]  ‘Oh I hate this picture, look how dumb I look.’  What about the other two thousand people who look great, the heck with all of them, you look dumb.  We’re infected with that.  But there is love.  He said it’s free, that we don’t have to live for self.  Man, what  an aimless wandering that was.  That we have something higher, that he’s lifted our hearts and minds above this world, “but unto him which died for them, and rose again.  Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh:  yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” (verse 16)  We don’t judge men after the flesh anymore, Paul says.  Because he’s going to say in the next verse if any man’s in Christ, he’s a new creation, something that’s not on the outside.  You notice that when you got saved, if you went and looked in the mirror, you didn’t get younger, your hair didn’t grow back, your missing teeth didn’t return.  But you know, as time goes by, there’s a light on your face, your countenance looks much better, you actually look alive.  What changed was something that was inward.  And Paul says ‘henceforth we judge no man after the flesh.’  He says, ‘We knew Christ after the flesh.’  Paul was part of the Sanhedrin,  Paul was there that night at Caiaphas’ house when Jesus was brought before them and beaten and brutalized.  When Caiaphas put him under an oath, and said ‘I abjure thee by the Living God, now you tell the truth, are you the Christ, are you the Messiah?’  And Jesus said, ‘Well, let me put it this way, Caiaphas, the next time you see me, I’ll be coming through the heavens with clouds and great glory.’  Pretty convincing, Paul was there.  He was a member of the Sanhedrin, giving his assent to Stephen being stoned, saw his face glowing like an angel, listening to his words.  “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh:  “yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more…” and the idea is we don’t know him that way anymore, we know who he is now, we know after the Spirit, we didn’t just see a carpenter from Galilee.  We realized, you know, the outward appearance did not tell us who he was, he came in the form of human flesh, that he might die for humanity.  Paul says we don’t see him that way anymore.  ‘And then we don’t know any man that way anymore.’  Now here’s the tough thing for you.  You get saved, go to your relatives, you’re all excited, your family, they can’t see what happened on the inside of you, they can only see the outside, you don’t look a whole lot different.  What’s been going on, on the inside for years has confused them completely about you.  I mean, when I got saved, you know, my parents said, ‘OK it’s Jesus now.  It was LSD, it was Meditation, it was Yoga, it is Jesus now, it’ll be flying saucers next.’  And you know, Paul says that a prophet is not without honor except in his own house, amongst his own family.  Because the problem is they do know you in the flesh.  ‘Oh, you got Jesus now, yea, yea, God talks to you?  Hmmm’ [laughter]  ‘OK, the Lord led you to buy that, told you to give me this?’  They don’t believe you, because they judge you after the flesh.  It’s difficult, because they’ve known you for so many years that way.  Paul says, ‘We don’t do that anymore, we want to make a proper appraisal of one another, filled with the Spirit.’  I mean, look around this room, I think society owes us a debt.  Think of how much it would cost this city if you were running around the way you were, [laughter] just in medical bills and rehabs and prison and you know, just think about that one.  Isn’t it interesting though, as time goes by, as time goes on, I know after my Mom got saved, she said, “You know, we thought you were nuts, then you started talking about Jesus we were convinced you were nuts.  But we watched.  And you didn’t change anything else after that.  You were kinder, you asked forgiveness, we saw change in your life.  We saw it in your marriage, we saw it with your kids.”  Of course my parents are both believers now.  I get to spend eternity with them.  It’s a great thing.  But it’s tough, because that’s all they can do is judge us after the flesh [the unconverted world, our friends and relatives in the world].  You know, you and I, we can get around another believer and we have this fellowship that goes on.  They don’t understand that.  I have a close relative who was team-leader of Seal-Team 6, the most clandestine…and I said to him, “What is it, what draws you [to be a Navy Seal]?”  And he said, “I know when the guy next to me is gonna breathe, I know what he’s thinking, I know when he’s gonna pull the trigger, I know when he’s sweating, I know what he’s thinking, it’s the camaraderie” he said.  I said, “You want fellowship, you need to get saved, that’s what you’re looking for.  You’ll have a great time in the church.”  Because isn’t it funny, you can run into somebody, you know, Cathy and I, we’ll go to the movies, we saw Monsters.  This is not an advertisement, it’s what we see.  We have kids, and there isn’t really anything suitable out there.  So we really bring in all the G-rated movies.  But we’ll go to the movies and we’ll see somebody walking out of an R-rated movie from church, and go [facial expression…laughter]…and we immediately have this communion, ‘Hey, how you doing?  Uhhm, hi Pastor Joe, [loud laughter], ‘Just watched the previous and left, it’s just something we wanted to see [laughter].”  And you know, you know what it’s like when somebody’s backslidden, and then you ‘’Oh, I know I shouldn’t be doing this, oh, I know, I man, pray for me.’  You know, they’re so miserable, you know they’re a believer [laughter], because they feel the same way you do when you’re blowing it.  You know, God’s given us this capacity to love and to perceive, and to have discernment in the Spirit.  And that we know somebody because of their worth, you look at somebody, and you think ‘They’re blood-bought, they are as important to God as I am.  They are filled with the same Holy Spirit.  What has been pronounced upon them is the same righteousness that’s been pronounced upon me.’   But we want to be so judgmental.  [Comment:  Differing parts of the Body of Christ act this way too, Sabbath-keeping Churches of God toward Sunday-keepers, and Sunday-keepers toward the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God, even to the point of calling them cults, same Holy Spirit in both groups, but same judgmental spirit being exercised by both at times toward each other.  This is truly sad.]  If you’re married, you know, how judgmental you can be, to somebody you love and you’re married to.  And when Cathy and I have an argument, and we don’t but I’m saying that for your benefit [loud laughter], she’s confessing my sins to me, and I’m confessing her sins to her, that’s an argument---instead of us both confessing our own sins to the Lord.  And it’s hard, because sometimes you don’t want to be judgmental, you’re under conviction, but the other person’s ready to go [off], ready to joust.  You know that feeling, husbands, when your wife asks you a question, and you hesitate for a long time, because you think, ‘I want to give the right answer [laughter], I really do’ you’re thinking to yourself, ‘I don’t want to give the answer I want to give, I want to give the answer she wants to hear, I really do.  And if I don’t give the right answer, I’m going to pay for this for a long time, that’s not what I want to do, I want you to be happy with what I say.’  And it’s hard, because you take for granted those you’re so close to.  And sometimes I think, my poor wife, she’s the only woman in the church without a pastor, she’s married to me.  [laughter]  Was that, ‘Ah, I feel sorry for her, or Ah, it ain’t that bad?’   I just, I’ll take the positive side of that, thank you, because you don’t know me after the flesh, you know me after the Spirit.  Paul says we don’t judge that way anymore.  Now he’s trying to encourage these Corinthians, who were doing everything we’re laughing about.  ‘I’m of Apollos, I’m of Peter, I’m of Paul,’, suing each other, you remember the first Epistle, they’re getting drunk at the Communion [Christian Passover] table, they’re not caring about the poor Christians in Corinth that were getting to the Agape Feast, they’re doing all of the things that we’re laughing about, and shouldn’t be doing.  Paul says, “no.”  Paul says, ‘We don’t judge Christ that way anymore.  He looked like a Galilean carpenter from Nazareth, we were wrong.  He was the Messiah, he was Yahweh-God in human flesh.’  And he says, ‘Now that same Spirit lives in us, the same Christ.  So we don’t judge each other after the flesh anymore, but according to the work of Christ in every believer.’  That’s what we should respect and relate to in the life of someone else. 


‘We’re A New Creation In Christ’


He says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold, old things are become new.” (verse 17)  King James says “creature”, the idea is he is a “new creation.”  He should be a new creature, but he’s a new creation. “old things are passed away” and Paul is glad of that, because his conscience could have hounded him for eternity.  “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;” (verse 18)  All things are new, we’re a new creation in Christ, we have new values, we have a new warfare.  When you got saved, one battle ended, and a new one started.  You notice that?  And it’s wonderful to see people get saved, you’re translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light, but there’s a new set of struggles that come there.  Paul’s talking about some of them, and we’ll talk about more of them.  But a new creation, you know, it’s so remarkable to know that change that has taken place in your life, and then still be surrounded with your old friends, who want to put you in a box.  ‘Hey, remember when we did this?  Remember when we did that?  We were in this fist-fight, remember when we got these guys, remember when this happened, remember when we were in this bar, remember when we were in this club, remember when we got high, remember when we bought this cocaine?’  And all they do is have you in this box, they have you in this old framework, and it doesn’t give you any room to grow, or to be who Christ wants you to be.  That’s why it’s so important for you to have fellowship with other believers, with other people that have been brought out of the world into the Kingdom.  Because if you just go hang around your old friends, and we’re never talking about being “holier than thou”, you should reach out to your old friends, not to find fellowship with them, he’s going to talk about that in the end of the next chapter---but to evangelize them, to share the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ.  But if you go to find fellowship with them, several things happen.  First of all, there isn’t any fun, you go to a party with your old friends, and you’re looking around thinking, ‘I hope the Rapture’s isn’t gonna happen while I’m hanging around with these guys, look at this, “No thanks, don’t want any of that, thanks, no, no, better not do any of that…”’  And you’re thinking you feel so alone, so isolated, thinking, ‘Maybe the house will catch on fire and I can run out the front door, somebody pull the fire alarm.’  And Peter says your friends wonder why you don’t run to the same excess of riot.  That’s what your old life was, excess of riot.  So that’s one thing, you don’t fit in.  And they put you in a box.  They don’t give you room to grow.  And ultimately, they infect you.  Again if you take a German shepherd and you let him run with a pack of wolves, do the wolves become domestic?  Or does the German shepherd become wild?  I mean, it’s self-explanatory.  So, new creation in Christ, to be judged in a new way.  The Body of Christ should be the place where you can be encouraged, you can be edified, you can be built up.  Old things are past away. 


We Have Been Given The Ministry Of Reconciliation


And he says, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given us the ministry of reconciliation;” and that’s our ministry.  And what is that?  “to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (verses 18-19)  That is what God has given to us, that we are able ministers of the New Covenant, that he has committed to us a ministry of reconciliation.  What is that ministry?  That God was in Christ, on the cross, reconciling the world to himself.  Now isn’t it interesting, people, sometimes they draw a line between them, between Jesus and God.  ‘I got up this morning, I talked to Jesus for awhile, ‘Jesus, could you please ask God not to be mad at me?’  And somehow they think Jesus is saying, ‘Now quick, get out of here, the Father’s mad, now Father, calm down Father, get out of here, you’re gonna get smoked!  God please don’t…’  People do that, don’t they?  What does God look like?  Sometimes when people come up to get saved…[tape switchover, some text lost]…’You don’t even know who he is.  What do you mean you don’t know who he is, he’s God.’  The Indians have a buffalo god, what does he look like?  He looks like a buffalo.’  That’s right, we’re making progress.  ‘Babylonians worshipped a sun god.  What did he look like?  Well, he looked like the sun.  Right.  We’re worshipping the one true and living God.  What does he look like?  Thank you [loud laughter].  What does he look like?  Perfect intonation.  I’m going to get that tape.  That’s me mom, [sound of mouth-trumpet blowing] [laughter].  Give that to the relatives for Christmas.  ‘See, he’s the same old guy, he’s not saved.’  They’re going to judge you right after the flesh.  Thought we were going to get Raptured there for a second.  [laughter]  OK, please, please, come back with me to the Bible, B.I.B.L.E. let’s sing it once, that’s the book for me.  Here we are.  “God, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.”  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And the Word become flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1)  Jesus would say, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  What is God’s heart towards us?  It’s a tragedy.  You know, we so often, there’s so many that I care about, I hear their stories, they have a broken situation, there’s a divorce in the home, or never really known their dad, or they know who their dad is, but there’s nothing that cooks between them, or they’re an orphan or come from a foster-child program.  And you think, ‘You know, they’re kind of robbed, in one sense, because, hopefully they get into a Christian home, something wonderful happens.’  But there’s just something so wonderful about a family that’s in order.  Well it’s a bigger tragedy for anyone to go through life, and not know who their Father in heaven is, just spend your whole life in this world, and think that God, if he’s there he’s unjust, he’s letting people starve, there’s war, if he’s up there he’s mad.  No, no.  No, no, he came to walk among us, your Father, and he came to reveal himself to us, and it’s your Father, hanging on a wooden cross, bleeding his life into the ground so that you can live, and you can be forgiven.  That’s who your Father is.  We see God, in Christ, on the cross, reconciling the world to himself.  That’s the ministry that we have, to tell people about the love of God in Christ Jesus.  That’s the ministry of reconciliation.  It’s the Good News, that when Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished.”  He didn’t say, ‘It’s almost finished.’  ‘it’s finished and this is your contribution.’  ‘It’s finished and if you do this.’  ‘It is finished, and there is nothing that anybody could ever do in time or eternity to add to it, or God the Son is a liar.’  He said “It is finished.”  He didn’t say ‘He is finished.’ He’s not finished with us.  He said “It is finished”, the price of redemption is paid, we’re bought by the blood of Christ, and we’re paid off all at once, “It is finished”, and now by his Spirit he works in us.  Not to save us, to conform us, to change us, not to save us.  We’re saved, God looks down, the ministry of reconciliation has taken place, you’re accepted in the beloved, and your Father loves you so much.  Instead of remaining distant, he came, and he stepped into our world, and he shed his blood in Christ.  God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses, not putting it on their account, “and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”  Knowing the fear of the Lord, Paul says, we persuade men, that’s what our life is about, that God now has committed that ministry of reconciliation to us.  Please, think about that, he’s given you the ministry of reconciliation.  And what is that?  That was God in Christ reconciling the world to himself.  It’s so important in this day, because now we’re hearing with these big memorial services ‘All Gods are the same God, Hare Krishna and Buddha and Allah, it’s all the same God’---it’s not the same God!  There’s one name, one name, THERE’S ONE, ONE NAME GIVEN ON EARTH AMONG MEN WHEREBY WE MUST BE SAVED, AT THE NAME OF JESUS, ONE NAME, JESUS.  And that’s the ministry of reconciliation.  [applause]  We see God in Christ, on the cross, reconciling the world to himself.  That is Almighty God’s means of redemption, in Christ, on the cross, reconciling the world to himself.  And he’s committed that to you, the ministry of reconciliation, to spread that word, without apology, without watering it down, without trying to be politically correct.  None of that [politically correct garbage] changes the world.  What is world-changing, is what is life-changing, because it changes the world one life at a time.  He’s committed to us, isn’t that amazing, committed to us the word of reconciliation.  “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us:”--- We’re ambassadors for Christ, as though God were beseeching you through us, God is beseeching a lost world through you, we’re [all] ambassadors for Christ.---“we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (verse 20)  i.e. ‘We’re begging you in Christ’s place that you be reconciled to God.’  We’re ambassadors, pilgrims, passing through this world, citizens of another homeland.  We’re away from home here.  He said that earlier in the chapter, we’re ambassadors.  When you’re an ambassador, you don’t give your own opinion.  When someone from the United States now is being an ambassador around the world, trying to hold that coalition together [in Afghanistan], they’re not over there giving their own opinion.  ‘Ya, I know what George W. says, but if it was up to me I would, blab, blab, blab, blab…’ you know that guy’s not going to be an ambassador very long.  You’re an ambassador.  Isn’t that amazing?  You thought ambassadors were in Washington.  They’re here.  Look around the room.  Would you pick ambassadors that look like this?  [laughter]  You see, it’s the C.I.A., you know, it’s a covert operation.  Because the way we look we can sneak into enemy territory without anybody noticing, and bringing the ministry of reconciliation, we’re ambassadors for Christ.  What a great thing, “as though God did beseech you by us”, as God is begging the world through us, praying in Christ’s place [for others] to be reconciled to God.  “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (verse 21)  “For he hath made him to be sin for us,” the love of Christ constrains us, made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.  That’s the sin of human history, by the way, not just your sin.  That’s the sin of every tyrant, that’s the sin of every child pornographer, that’s the sin of every murderer, it’s the sin of human history.  God poured it all into him, the sin of the world, unimaginable.  He made him “to be sin for us, who knew no sin”, it was the most foreign thing for him imaginable.  The reason that he sweat blood in Gethsemane wasn’t because he was afraid of getting beat up by Roman soldiers.  He sweat blood at Gethsemane because of the sin of the world was going to be placed upon him, and then the Father was going to answer that sin by firing down all of his holy wrath upon his own Son, an eternal punishment in some great mystery would take place.  And we hear it when Jesus says, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  He’s cut off, without information.  ‘Why?’ he asks.  It’s the only time we here it.  Other than that it’s ‘I know the Father doesn’t do anything unless he tells me,’…’Father I know that you hear me before I even ask, but I pray for those that are standing here.’  All of a sudden, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  Because of our sin, because of my sin.  Someone just told me lately that someone had been talking to Arlen Specter, whose Jewish by faith, we ought to as people pray for him.  And there are some Christians around him, who love him.  And some Christian said to him, ‘Well it was your people that killed my Saviour.’  And that was a Christian, supposedly, ill-informed.  The Jews didn’t kill Christ.  The Romans didn’t kill him.  I killed him.  You killed him.  It’s our sin.  He became sin, ‘who knew no sin, the sin of the world, that you and I might be the righteousness of God, we might be made to become the righteousness of God in him.’  You know, that’s a good trade.  I don’t know what you guys know, that’s a good trade. [The ministry of reconciliation is none other than the commission Jesus has given the Body of Christ to get out the Gospel to the world.  When did he give us this assignment?  See: http://www.unityinchrist.com/mathew/Matthew%2028-1-20.htm.   And what is the Gospel, anyway?  See: http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel%20.htm.  I’ve heard one pastor say “The church is not supposed to be evangelical, because it is God who chooses whom he’s going to call, John 6:44.”  Yes, but we don’t know whom it is God wants to call, and we are his agents in preaching the Gospel, which is an evangelical message.  And then we’ll know God is calling those who respond favourably to the Gospel we have preached.  You don’t think the apostles Peter and Paul weren’t evangelical?  Come on now.  Read http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1.htm and you tell me.]  Now look what he says in these next few verses. 


2nd Corinthians 6:1-3


“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.  (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee:  behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)  Give no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed…”  He’s talking to these Corinthians.  You know, ‘We hope you haven’t received the grace of God in vain,’ because there was so much sin still in Corinth [the Corinthian church of God], so much compromise still in Corinth.  If God, you know, isn’t real enough to change the present circumstance, how was he going to be real enough to change your eternity.  If you’re saying, ‘Oh I believe, I believe’ and there’s no change, there should be a transformation in our lives. Paul said, ‘You know, we’re praying that you haven’t received the grace of God in vain, (for he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted,’ quoting what God said.  [Comment:  the apostle Paul was quoting Isaiah 49:8, and apparently misquoted it in a tiny way, as Isaiah 49:8 states, “Thus saith the L0RD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee:…”  i.e. we’re in “a day” of salvation.  Implied, there will be others coming along, in other dispensations.]  ‘and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee,  I’m the One that’s drawn you, behold now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.’  If you’re here tonight and you don’t know Christ, you have to understand, ‘now is the accepted time,’ that’s what God says, ‘I’m the one that drew you.’  If you’re here tonight and you don’t know Christ, and you’re thinking, ‘You know, I can’t wait till this guy stops so I can get outa here.’  Well look, God couldn’t get you into a normal church, so he got you here.  That’s how much he loves you.  And he’s the one, he says here, that’s drawn you, and says ‘now is the time, now is the acceptable day of salvation, now, now, because my Son, Christ,’ he made him to become sin, who knew no sin, in your place so that you then, there’s the possibility of you then receiving into yourself the very righteousness of God.  He’s willing to trade places, to swap, to take your place in death and punishment, so you can have his place next to the Father in heaven as a son or as a daughter.  He’s willing to take your place in emptiness and vanity and loneliness, to take your drug addiction, to take your pornography, to take your bitterness and your unforgiveness, and to take all of that into himself, to become all of those things, so that you can be set free, and be the very righteousness of God.  Paul says we beseech you, don’t receive that in vain.  Because God is the one who said, ‘Now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation, I have drawn thee,’ “behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.)  Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed.” (verses 2b-3)  We don’t want to do any of this in a way that the ministry would be blamed.  Paul said we want everything to be on the level, we want it to be true, and we want it to be honest…[transcript of a connective expository sermon on 2nd Corinthians 5:12-21 and 2nd Corinthians 6:1-3, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]    


related links:


What is “the Ministry of Reconciliation”?  See:




Peter and Paul were evangelical to the max.  See: