If we’re to have a proper understanding of people, we must have a proper understanding of Christ.
Those who have any church experience whatsoever are likely aware of evangelism. Whether we engage in evangelism or not is a different story. Even still, if a preacher encourages us to share the gospel with people, we probably know what he means. But here’s the thing: unless there’s a right understanding of who Christ is, evangelism won’t happen. If we don’t know who Christ is, how are we supposed to make Him known?
In 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, the apostle Paul reveals the importance of understanding who Christ is.
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (ESV).
Paul shares with the Corinthians how he once regarded people in the flesh. In other words, he didn’t see the spiritual need people had beyond the surface. What’s more? He once regarded Christ in the flesh. As one commentator notes, “Paul had looked for a temporal reigning, not a spiritual Messiah.” But now that Paul has a proper view of Christ, he has a proper view of people. After all, those in Christ are a new creation. This leads Paul to highlight the importance of evangelism.
Last week, we saw Paul’s plea to the Corinthians. He was urgently calling the Corinthians to a right relationship with God. And now, this mission fueled by hope is specified even more in verses 18-19 as Paul begins to describe just what this ministry is.
He writes, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (ESV).
As followers of Christ, we are called to the ministry of reconciliation. But what does this mean? Well, we’re called to bring people back to God through the gospel. As we share our lives and message with one another, God uses us to restore people back to Himself.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to emphasize just how urgent this call to reconciliation is.
He writes, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (5:20-6:2 ESV).
It’s an urgent ministry we have to make Christ known.
Paul uses words like “implore” (v. 20) to emphasize just how important it is for the Corinthians to be reconciled to God. Paul is pleading, praying, and beseeching these Corinthians to receive Christ for who He is. And this is no haphazard task. It’s an urgent call.
We are ambassadors on Christ’s behalf. We are His representatives, living as citizens of another country. And as we “walk by faith, not by sight” (5:7), “we make it our aim to please him” (5:9). And part of our pleasing Him is sharing the gospel with those who don’t know Him.
This is the Christ who became sin for us, so that “… we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21).
This leads Paul into the early part of chapter 6 as he further emphasizes the urgency of this ministry. He says, “… we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (6:1). And as he quotes Isaiah 49:8, he shares how today is the day of salvation. Now is the “favorable time” (6:2). Because this ministry we have to make Christ known is urgent.
I hope this study through 2 Corinthians 5 encourages us to recognize our heavenly home, our present aim, and our urgent ministry. But until we have a proper understanding of who Christ is, our greatest efforts are in vain.
May you know Christ and make Him known as you continue your pilgrimage through this world.