September 23, 2011

Saturday after the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 31, 2 Sam. 16:5-19, 2 Cor. 5:11
Evening - Ps. 29, 30, Mt. 4:12

Commentary
2 Cor. 5:11-21

"Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord" (5:11) refers to the Day of Judgment and the account Paul will have to give of his work as an Apostle of Christ. Some would moderate "terror" to mean reverence or respect, but terror seems to work well here, both as a translation of the Greek, "phobos" and as a description of the soul standing before the Almighty and Holy God. On that Day, many who thought of Him as a gentle giant or a good buddy in the sky will find that He is a Terror, and His power can make eternity misery beyond imagination. It is with this in mind that Paul ministers the Word. It is also with this in mind that he persuades people to repent of sin and trust in Christ. For all will stand before God, and those not dressed in the righteousness of Christ will be cast away forever.

Being "made manifest unto God" means Paul's life and ministry are open and known to God "unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid." But Paul also desires to be as open and known to the people as possible within the limitations of common humanity. He desires to hide nothing of his own self and purpose. His motives are to serve God and His people. He is not about personal gain in any way, and he wants that known because others, claiming to be Apostles and teachers of the Corinthian Church, are about personal gain, using deceit and false doctrine to entice the Corinthians away from the truth and to convince them to give allegiance, and money, to them. Again, let the ministers reading this look to themselves and their motives. Let it be known to the Church that our motives are to serve God and His Church, not to build empires for ourselves, or to enrich our purses.

Thus Paul says he is not commending himself to the people (5:12). He is giving them an answer to the false teachers and false apostles who troubled the Corinthians as well as a way to discern the true from the false. "Glory in appearance, and not in heart," refers to those who count success by material, rather than spiritual, measures. Large crowds and great cathedrals are not proof of pure faith and practice in our time, nor were they in Paul's Remember, God spoke in the still, small voice, not the quake or the storm.

Verse 13 shows that the false teachers in Corinth said Paul's words were just babbling, like someone speaking in tongues. The Greek word translated "beside ourselves" is a form of the word from which we get the English word, "ecstatic" and refers to the emotional excesses into which the Corinthians worked themselves as "proof" that they were possessed by the Holy Spirit. Paul is not defeated by this attack. Rather, he says his words are from God whether they have come from an ecstatic experience or not. It is as though some criticise him saying, "You're just babbling like someone speaking in tongues." Paul replies, "I am not, but even if I were, what I say is still true and for your good."

Verse 11 gives the Day of Judgment as a motivation to speak the truth and do righteousness. Verses 14 and 15 give another motivation, the love of Christ who gave Himself for us. We serve Him because we love Him. We live for Him because He died for us. In His death He gave the most precious gift He could ever give to us. In our lives we give the most precious thing we could ever give to Him.

Verse 17 takes us back to the purpose of God's continuing work in us. He is re-creating us. He is making us into new creatures who will be ready to enjoy Him in Heaven. He is turning us into Heavenly creatures in which all things are new and of God. Paul refers to himself here, as he does also in verse 20. But his words apply to all who believe. The same God who called Paul into faith and fitted him to be an Apostle, calls us into faith and fits us for our work in His Kingdom. The same continuing work of the Holy Spirit, which formed Paul into a new and Heavenly kind of creature, also continues to work in us. The same God who called Paul to the ministry of reconciliation as an ambassador for Christ calls us to that same work today.

Verses 19 and 21 give two beloved statements of the Gospel. Verse 19 tells what God is doing; verse 21 tells how.