In 2 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul five motives for his ministry of evangelism and church planting. The first is fearing the Lord. Recognising that we will all be accountable before God because one day we are going to be judged – v 10.
Paul’s second motive for preaching the gospel is the love of Christ.
CHRIST’S LOVE COMPELS US
. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
Before we consider what Paul says there, let’s jump to the end where Paul explains his understanding of the significance of Christ’s death in verse 21
“Christ was without sin, but God made Him to BE sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
There is a double meaning in the word sin here as the footnote in the 2011 NIV shows. The word for sin is used in the Greek Old Testament the Septuagint for example in Leviticus 4:24 and 5:12 to mean a sin offering. God made Christ to be a sin offering for us.
Leviticus 5 11 ‘ “If, however, they cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, they are to bring as an offering for their sin a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour for a sin offering. They must not put olive oil or incense on it, because it is a sin offering. 12 They are to bring it to the priest, who shall take a handful of it as a memorial portion and burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the LORD. It is a sin offering.
God made Christ “to be sin” – or “to be a sin offering” for us.
The Good News Bible translates the verse like this.
21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.
The Living Bible expresses this verse beautifully. “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us.”
The second century Bishop Irenaeus explained this “great exchange” like this. “Christ became what we are in order that we might become what he is.” God became a human being so that we could become God’s children. On the cross Christ became sin so that we could become righteous. Martin Luther said, “Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness but I am your sin. You took on You what was mine; You set on me what was Yours. You became what you were not that I might become what I was not.”
Graham Kendrick puts it beautifully.
If in my foolishness I stray, Returning empty and ashamed,
Exchanging for my wretchedness Your radiant robes of righteousness,
I love the way You father me.
We rejected God! God never rejected us. We sinful proud selfish human beings rejected God! Ignored his laws. Refused him the worship of which He is worthy. All we deserve is to be rejected by God in return. But instead of rejecting us – God rejects his one and only Son. The Son who was one with the Father from eternity, before space and time were created. The Son who from the very moment of his human birth lived in unbroken fellowship with God. The Son who was always the delight of God’s heart, kept by his Father right from birth. The Son for whom the Father spoke from heaven and put his seal of approval upon his life, saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:17b; Mark 1:11). There is absolutely nothing in the Son to cause the Father to turn His back on Him. Yet there on the cross the Son of God is hung up to die, forsaken, abandoned, rejected.
“The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God His Father. Jesus humbles Himself and takes upon Himself the eternal death of the Godless and the Godforsaken, so that the Godless and the Godforsaken can experience communion with Him.” (Moltmann)
Amazing love, O what sacrifice, The Son of God given for me.
My debt He pays, and my death He dies, That I might live.
The sacrifice of the omnipotent Father is as great as the sacrifice of the helpless Son. God’s deity is divided! The Holy Trinity, God eternally three-in-One, is split apart by OUR sin as Christ the Son shares our rebellion and separation from God the Father!
“Guilty, vile, and helpless, we; Spotless Lamb of God was He:
Full atonement—can it be? Hallelujah! what a Saviour!”
This language of the Messiah being an offering for sin was clearly foretold in Isaiah 53
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
We thought about this in our sermons on Isaiah. Jesus clearly understood his own death as fulfilling the prophecies of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. In the Upper Room at the Last Supper Jesus quotes verse 12 , “He was numbered among the transgressors.” In passing round the cup Jesus speaks about his life being poured out and his dying for the many is echoed in different places, not least in Mark 10:45.
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
So Paul says, “Christ was without sin, but God made Him to BE sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
There are some people who don’t like this language of a sin offering, and the idea that Jesus died in our place, the idea called substitutionary atonement. But we find the same idea in other places in the writings of the apostle Paul.
Romans 3 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.
God’s way of bringing people back into a right relationship with himself clearly rests on the death of Christ as a sacrifice for sin.
NEW LIVING TRANSLATION 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.
So Paul says, we share in Christ’s death and in Christ’s dying. We saw this in 2 Corinthians chapter 4
4 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
That is why Christ died. The great exchange. He became sin for us so that we can become the righteousness of God. But back to chapter 5 verse 14. Because Christ showed his love by dying for us, this motivates us to serve him and speak for him.
14 For Christ’s love compels us,
The love of Christ compels us. Paul is not referring to the love we have for Christ, although that is a motivation for our serving God. Rather he is pointing to the love Christ has for us, as shown by His death on the cross for us.
We love because God first loved us
1 John 4 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.
Christ has taken our sin on himself. He loved us so much. Therefore we serve Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. Paul explains this obligation we have to live new lives not for ourselves but for Christ in verse 15.
. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So we live new lives and proclaim the gospel for at least three reasons, Because we fear God and we know we are accountable to God for all our words and our actions. Because Christ’s love motivates us to speak for him. And because he has died for us and shares his resurrection life with us. But there’s more as Paul goes on the explain in a sentence what is this good news we have been given to share?
THERE IS A NEW CREATION
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!
Note the translation in the 2011 New International Version here. There is a new creation. The new creation has come. Earlier translations always used to say, “He is a new creation.” OR “that person is a new creation.”
So for example NLT 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
The Message Translation expresses that meaning well. “Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new.” That sense is even clearer in the Living Bible. When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same any more. A new life has begun!
He is a new creation. He is a brand new person inside. But that is not exactly what the Greek says. The latest NIV translation is surely correct. “There is a new creation.” “The new creation has arrived!”
NRSV makes the same point 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Actually there is no connective here at all. The Greek simply says this. “If anyone is in Christ – new creation!”
New creation! This is not just something subjective in the experience of the individual Christian. The scope is not just individual. It’s cosmic! We are part of something much bigger – God’s new creation! God is not just dealing with the consequences of sin in the lives of individual believers. God’s plan is to renew the whole of creation. And we are caught up in that glorious cosmic masterplan of salvation. As Christians as we share in the dying and in the rising of Christ, we are sharing in the blessings of this new creation. In Christ – new creation!
Becoming a Christian is not about turning over a new leaf. Becoming a Christian is about beginning a new life. God doesn’t just call us to follow the example He has given us in Jesus Christ or just to live by Jesus’s teachings. God actually makes it possible for us to share in Jesus’s life! So as Christians we enjoy a brand new life. That newness of life is not just “less old”, like changing to a newer car. Nor is it like so many washing powders are advertised, just some “new improved” version of the old. This is not the kind of superficial change you see in all those makeover programmes. God’s work in our lives is not merely cosmetic surgery. It is a heart transplant. God gives us a brand new life – a dramatic transformation from the old, like the butterfly emerging from the caterpillar. “If anyone is in Christ – new creation!”
But God does not want Christians to keep this amazing good news to ourselves.
WE ARE CHRIST’S AMBASSADORS
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is God’s message of reconciliation. It is the way God brings people back into a right relationship with himself. It is the way God brings people into his new creation and lets us experience new birth and new life. It follows that Christians are Christ’s Ambassadors. We are His representatives. We are His Messengers. What an amazing privilege. And what an awesome responsibility, The glorious task of an Ambassador is to draw attention to the one they are representing, not to themselves. Ambassadors do not have any choice about whether they deliver their Sovereign’s messages or not. That is their job: that is their responsibility. They may be scared of the reaction their message may provoke. But ambassadors don’t have the option of staying silent. Their whole task is to represent their leader and speak on their behalf. And God appoints us as Christians to be Ambassadors for Christ.
If we find ourselves anxious or afraid of fulfilling our responsibilities as Ambassadors for Christ, the one thing we should bear in mind is the source of an ambassador’s authority. They never speak on their own authority. They always speak on the authority of the ruler who they represent. In the first century a Roman Ambassador was no less than the personal representative of the Roman Emperor himself. Similarly, Christians do not talk about Jesus on our own authority. We don’t share the gospel on our own authority. We do so because Almighty God commands us to. He has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation.
… as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us.
We are speaking for Christ, on His behalf. The message is not our message but God’s message. We are not delivering the Good News on our authority but on the authority of the One we represent, even Almighty God. We speak because Jesus has authorised us and sent us to speak for him.
Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
So we don’t only share Jesus because we know we will be held to account for our words as much as for our actions. It isn’t just because Christ’s love compels us, although it does. It isn’t just because we share in the blessings of Christ’s death and resurrection. It isn’t even because we have experienced in our own lives the miracle of new creation. Our fifth motivation for sharing the gospel and talking about Jesus and seeking to help others to become His disciples is that we are doing so in obedience to the command of Jesus Himself; Jesus who God has declared to be the highest authority in heaven and on earth, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus has appointed us to be his Ambassadors. We are his representatives, his messengers. We are simply delivering his wonderful Good News. God loves people – and we will want everybody else to know God’s love for themselves as well.