A mission fueled by hope
In 2 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul is homesick. He longs for the day when “… what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (v. 4 ESV). Yet, he walks by faith, striving to please God. Paul sets his hope on Christ. And we’re called to do the same. After all, “… we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body” (v. 10 ESV).
I’ve been studying this chapter for the past few weeks. And today, I want us to see what Paul says next. So, let’s look at verses 11-15.
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (ESV).
The church in Corinth is being influenced by false teachers. And Paul is desperately explaining his own heart to them. We see the urgency in Paul’s voice as he seeks to explain his motives and ministry to the Corinthians.
In verse 11, he says, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (ESV). With verse 10 in mind, Paul emphasizes the urgency of the gospel. After all, if “… we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ …” (ESV), there’s a reason to heed Paul’s warning.
So, he seeks to persuade them of his ministry. In verse 12, Paul pours out his heart before the church of Corinth. Rather than boasting in his outward appearance, he shares his heart. And this is in direct contrast to the false teachers in Corinth who are attempting to win the Corinthians over by their outward persona.
He continues in verse 13 by saying, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you” (ESV).
You see, Paul is known among the Corinthians for appearing—well, out of his mind at times. The deep love Paul has for Christ and the Corinthians seems crazy. Yet, the apostle is humble among them. He remains sober minded for the sake of his ministry to them.
Then, in verses 14 and 15, he says the love of Christ controls him. Why? Because Christ has died for His people, and Paul seeks to make this known among the Corinthians. Despite their lack of receptivity to his ministry, Paul is constrained by the love of Christ. And he refuses to give up. After all, Paul is captivated by the hope of the gospel. He has his eyes fixed on eternity. And he wants the Corinthians to experience this, too.
So, now what? We see Paul’s plea to the Corinthians. We see his joy. We see the urgency of his ministry among them. But what does this have to do with us today?
Well, how does our hope for a better home—a heavenly country—influence the way we conduct ourselves today? How urgent is our ministry? Do we genuinely care about those who have hard hearts when it comes to the gospel?
You see, in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul encourages us to live in light of eternity. He encourages us to walk by faith, not by sight. And whether here or there, we seek to please the Lord. But we can’t forget about others. We can’t forget about the lost.
Too often in our Christian lives, we become comfortable with our own salvation while forgetting about others. May the example of Paul inspire us to recognize the urgency of our call as we await our heavenly home.
This is a mission fueled by hope.