2 Corinthians 5:6-17 – The love of Christ urges us on

Updated: Feb 4

We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.


Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not 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 urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!


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This is the Epistle selection from Episcopal Lectionary for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 6. This will next be read aloud in church by a reader on Sunday, June 17, 2018. This is important as Paul makes it clear that Apostles do not know Christ from a human perspective, but from a personal spiritual identification, which allows them to see false shepherds that boast outwardly, without truly knowing Christ.


Omitted from this reading is verse 5, which states, “Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.” The word translated as “pledge” is “arrabōna,” where “a pledge” is like “a down payment,” as is “earnest money.” It is given with the expectation of continued payments, for a continued benefit.


This then leads to Paul stating, “We are always confident,” where such confidence is based on having been given the Holy Spirit of God. The word read as “confident” is used in a context of “boldness” and “good courage” (from “tharreó”). This means God is seated in their hearts of His chosen ones, and it is from that source that “good courage” comes. It is not any form of intellectual “confidence” intended here.


The courage of a lion is heart-centered.


The translation above can seem quite confusing when one reads how Paul said, “we are at home in the body.” It forces one to ask, “How else can one feel about one’s life, other than ‘at home in one’s body’?”


The words actually written in verse 6 are telling of the present tense of being, which is relative to the presence of a soul (spirit) in a body (matter). The Greek word “Tharrountes” (a capitalized first word stating importance via capitalization) means, “Being confident,” more than “we are confident.” As a mate to this present state of being, the Greek word “endēmountes” means, “being at home.” This together (where two commas state the importance of knowing – “eidotes” – that link confidence made aware in a body), Paul is stating the Holy Spirit being at home in the body is where all that confidence comes from.


By Paul writing, “We are away from the Lord,” the meaning is human bodies are separate and apart from the spiritual realm. Still, the Lord is present through the Holy Spirit having become one with the soul that gives life to the body. Thus, “we walk by faith” (where “pisteōs” is another statement of “confidence”), “not by sight” (a sensory mode of the body in the physical realm).


When Paul then wrote, “we make it our aim to please him,” this cannot be seen as an intention of one’s brain, as the word “aim” might imply. That word of translation (“aim”) was not written. Paul simply stated that regardless of being – either in-body (soul baptized by the Holy Spirit) or out of body (soul freed to the heavenly realm, via prayer, meditation, or eventual soul release through death) – the presence of God within one means one’s willing subjection to the Lord. One lives to serve God.  That represents a complete sacrifice of one’s self-ego, as a servant-slave to God. In that sense, the only “aim” is forever to please the Lord.


The translation that says, “For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ” has to be read as furthering this statement of subjection to the Lord. The key word of this statement is actually set apart by commas, where “phanerōthēnai” is read as “must appear,” when it more accurately states, “be revealed.” Rather than a call “to appear” or “show up” as a volunteer, “all” who Paul wrote to (and himself and his own) had to go through a state of transparency before God. This means “all” of the sins brought forth by a soul in a human body “must be revealed” before God, as both confession and plea of repentance. This is one’s appearance “before the judgment seat” of the Lord.


When we read, “the judgment seat of Christ,” it must be realized that God is our ultimate judge. When “Christ” is added, we can grasp in our minds that Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God and through him all who will be saved must go. However, God sits upon the throne and only those who sit at His right hand are allowed into Heaven; and that means all Apostles-Saints are judged as worthy of becoming the Christ, when before God’s judgment seat in a human state of existence.


This means that the forgiveness of all sins transforms a flawed mortal with a dirty soul into a reproduction of Jesus Christ. To become Christ, one must have all sins expunged by God’s judgment, which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This in turn makes the “judgment seat” be one’s heart, where God sits upon the throne of His devoted subject, who is to be reborn as His Son Jesus Christ. This then says that Paul, all the Christians of Corinth, and any other Apostles and Saints forevermore have been and will be the same in spiritual character through God’s judgment; and this is “so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.”


When Paul then states how Apostles and Saints know “fear of the Lord,” the Greek word “phobon” can translate as “fear, terror, alarm,” but also “reverence” and “respect.” The use of “fear” is more the “sense of awe” that comes from knowing the presence of God within and never wanting that presence to cease.


This means that Paul saying, “we try to persuade others” is not in any way an attempt to talk someone into believing in God and Jesus Christ (through some intellectual attempt to persuade), but instead the Greek word “peithomen” states the “urge” within one to answer any question that others might have about God and Christ, so they can likewise come to know the confidence of an Apostle-Saint, on their own terms. In no way does “fear of the Lord” mean that a disciple should coerce someone to believe in God and/or Christ, by such means as predicting God’s judgment for evil deeds done that may go unforgiven.


God gave Man (males and females they made them) the gift of free will, prior to God sending a Savior to save Man from the sins that will come freely.  Man, therefore has the right to reject God, Christ, and good, as a decision made by the self.  Fear, as an emotion that can become used to enslave mankind by Satan, will never be present in Apostles and Saints as what led them to serve the Lord.  Once they have personally known God within, then a fear of losing that presence is a motivator to remain loyal to God.  Fear of the Lord is no longer a fear of punishment by God, but a fear of losing Salvation that has been gained.


In that regard, Paul wrote, “we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences,” as a reminder that none of the Christians in Corinth, who became Apostles after having meeting Paul and his fellow Apostles, were told to be Christian “or else.” Instead of reading “pephanerōmetha” as “ourselves well known” [“to God” is prior in a statement ending with a period and not part of this statement], Paul simply pointed out “we have made ourselves clear.” That “clarity” is then hoped “to have been made clear” in the “consciences” (or “moral judgments”) of those true Christians in Corinth. While Paul and partner(s) did not make a “hard sell” of what to believe, they made sure all the questions the Corinthians had were satisfactorily answered, so those who were seeking the truth could make their own moral decisions regarding God and Christ.


By Paul writing, “We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us,” he was saying his letter was not intended to make a “follow-up sell,” because Paul knew one who becomes a Saint will not backslide … because of a “fear” of losing redemption and the presence of God within. Instead, his epistle would serve to enhance the faith of those converted, while giving those who are disciples needing more answers an opportunity to hear from Paul, knowing the truth he tells matches the truth told by the Corinthian Christians. The word stating “boasting” (written “kauchēmatos“)is then used in the context of giving glory to God as exultation to be shared joyfully.


This ability to point out how to recognize one who is truly filled with the Holy Spirit, where one is worthy of boasting about, then serves the purpose of separating the truth from the lies. Paul added, “So that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart,” which was a statement of false shepherds as well as those who want to say they are filled with the Holy Spirit but have not yet made a total commitment to God. That totality of commitment is made in the heart, which is the love center of the body. It means only those who have indeed felt the presence of the Lord within them, through marriage to His Holy Spirit, as one’s baptism of the soul, can give a seeker ALL the answers one is seeking to find. Those who have not yet become married to God, as His faithful subjects through self-ego sacrifice, are then unworthy of boasting about, because they can only offer Scripture as the answers, when Scripture becomes the source of the questions.


When Paul then wrote, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God,” “beside ourselves” (from the Greek root “existémi”) implies “astonishment.” Still, it has the connotation of “being out of one’s mind, mad” and “removed from a standing position.” In the written text, following the comma after “besides ourselves,” is simply the word “Theō,” which says, “to God.” This means the “astonishment” that comes from the presence of God within one comes from having sacrificed one’s self-ego and then taking a position that is “removed from expressing self concerns.” One becomes “amazed” by the way God leads one to act in ways that were previously unnatural to self (soul in a body of flesh in a world of temptation), because God has one act as His Son, Jesus Christ, absolutely free of sin.


The translation that has Paul offering, “If we are in our right mind, it is for you,” the translation of “sōphronoumen” as “right mind” means, “sober-minded” and “exercising self-control” (as well as “of sound mind”). This, then, becomes an extension of being “removed from a standing [typical human] position,” when Apostles and Saints must exercise self-control” by their marriage to God and the submission of self that demands.


As such, by saying “it is for you,” the only purpose for an Apostle or Saint is to serve others as God’s chosen ones. The can never be any self-glory or self-aggrandizement coming from being God’s chosen people, as all honor and glory is God’s alone, for having sent His Son into the world to save others from their sins. Salvation means the sacrifice of self, in complete and total service to the Lord, for the benefit of others. As Paul was writing to other Apostles and Saints, the purpose of all his epistles were for that purpose; and that is how his letters still serve the Lord today and beyond.


Paul next supported this by stating, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” The first part of that says that sacrificing a love of self has brought about the love of God, which is a consummated love that bring the Christ Spirit into one’s being. There is no love lost for having made that sacrifice, because Christ becomes the presence of love that is all motivating. This presence is not an act that convinces one (as the Greek root word “krinó” is better translated as “a good judgment,” whereby the presence of Christ’s Spirit is based on the merit of self-sacrifice, due to love of God), but a foregone “conclusion.” That conclusion is that Jesus Christ died so his spirit could be freed to be duplicated in ALL Apostles and Saints. For that rebirth to occur, ALL who will receive a “love of Christ” must likewise die of self. This is not a physical death, but the cleansing of one’s soul by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Christ, as the Son of God, cannot be reborn into any selfish (thus sin retaining) soul.


Paul then reinforced this point as he addressed the true Christians of Corinth by saying, “therefore all have died.” Saul died and became Paul. Jacob died and became Israel.  Abram died and became Abraham.  Every Apostle and Saint has equally been changed the same, sacrificing their birth name for that of Christ. Apostles of Christ all understand the truth in those words because they all know the love of Christ. With that they all know the urge to have Jesus Christ be reborn in others, so they serve God in that capacity. Because they have all died of self, they have no one else to serve, nor do they seek to serve anyone other than God.


To advance this universality of dying in self, Paul added, “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” This says that all mortals are sinful souls born into temporal bodies, where that flesh will die. Without the soul being cleansed by the Holy Spirit, every soul is born to die and repeat, through reincarnation. God sent His Son into this world for the purpose of giving life (from the Greek word “zōntes”) to that which had previously faced mortal death. Those “who live” will be given life through becoming Jesus Christ (“no longer themselves”). That requires the baptism of the soul by the Holy Spirit and the surrender of the self-ego as the death that allows Jesus Christ “to rise again” (from the use of the Greek word “egerthenti” – “having been raised again”).


This sense of death is then why Paul wrote, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view.” The word translated as “human” is “sarka,” which means “human nature,” but also “flesh” and “body,” alluding to one’s sense of “personality.” This is a confirmation of self-ego, where the body of flesh acts as the “point of view” for the spiritual soul. When the soul has been freed from the limitations of its temporal body, it no longer is “near-sighted” in “regard” (from the Greek word used, “oidamen”) to that body.


This foundation is why Paul then stated, “Even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.” The “human point of view” is that Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth of ancient Israel, as a human being, a man born of a woman. Those who followed him then told how he was killed by being hung on a cross, and then buried in a tomb, from which he rose and walked again among his disciples, until he ascended into heaven.


That story of Jesus of Nazareth cannot garner true believers that the man was in fact the Christ, simply because of the same reasons human beings discount ancient stories of gods and heroes. We call such stories mythology; and even though good ideas, principles, and concepts can be gleaned from myth, it still does nothing to lead human beings today to a belief that is based on personal experience.


Imagery of some Olympians. prior to the I.O.C. putting them in athletic shorts.)


In the Episcopal Church’s Eucharistic Prayer A, the celebrant leads the congregation with the words, “Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith,” to which all recite, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” This has to be recognized as a statement of faith that is past (“has died”), present (“is risen”), and future (“will come again”). By stating faith in the present tense, “IS risen,” the present says ALL who proclaim that “mystery of faith” ARE the risen Christ. It is not a reflection back to the good ole days when witnesses said they saw dead Jesus of Nazareth walking around, letting disciples feel his wounds, while he ate broiled fish. That would be a proclamation of belief of a past event, as “was raised.”


The Apostles of Jesus Christ, as him reborn in the present time, can then know that “Christ will come again,” as there is no end to that resurrection.  As long as there are Saints with personal experience of “Christ being risen” around to answer all questions posed by seekers of the truth, Apostles and Saints are always present.  To confess “we await his coming in glory” (Episcopalian Eucharistic Prayer B), as if one is stating a belief that Jesus never has returned (not even in the first Apostles, or Paul, or any other Epistle writer), while we believe he is promised to return … some day … at an unknown time in the distant future … maybe … that is a complete misunderstanding of the return of Jesus Christ.  Christ returned at 9:00 AM the day after he Ascended (on Pentecost).  He has remained on earth, through Apostles and Saints, ever since.


When one has this personal experience of Jesus Christ, while one’s soul still resided in human flesh, then one can never return to a time when the historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth is how one knows he was Jesus Christ. This is how true faith is not a lesson in rote memorization and saying what others have told one to say. Belief can only come from personal experience; and once one has experienced the Holy Spirit and God’s presence within, then one truly knows the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Paul then stated, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” The words “en Christō” are correctly translated to state “in Christ.” This is a clear statement of the condition (“If”) that “anyone” who is a human being with a soul is “with Christ,” then that one’s soul has been cleansed of sins. That soul then becomes “in Christ,” as a statement of sacrifice and salvation. The old self has then become transformed into a “new creation.”


The use of the Greek word “ktisis,” meaning “creation,” brings out the divinity of all “creation,” as God’s work. Therefore, one is “in Christ” only through the grace of God, and not by self-will; and “in Christ” is the same as “in the name of Jesus Christ,” where Jesus is the human name and Christ is the divine presence that joins the material to the Spiritual … the body to the blood of Christ.


This selection from Paul’s letter then ends by his writing, “Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” The use here of “Everything” is a paraphrase, where the actual text simply says “old things have passed away.” The Greek word “archaia” can be better stated as “the original,” or “the primitive,” which has to be seen less in light of “things” and more as the “old self” that has passed away. This then leads to “the original” having “emerged anew” (the text written – “gegonen kaina”), where the same old soul has been given new life by God’s love.


As a selection presented on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry to the Lord should be underway, the beauty of Paul’s words go deep into what brings about true ministry. It is the depth of meaning that comes from his words that fill the hearts of Apostles and Saints with the joy of realization: “Yes! Yes! That IS the way it is!”


Such amazement and astonishment can only mean that Paul the human being did not originate these words, but his hand was moved to write the precise words that God called upon him to write. Only one who is equally filled with the insight and wisdom of the Holy Spirit can grasp that beauty and understand completely what his words state.  A true seeker of truth will be called to investigate this depth.  A true Apostle will be called to help others look to see this depth.


This selection states how ministry in Christ is for the benefit of others. It is to provide answers to natural questions, which are more than surface quotes of Scripture. For one to come to the personal decision to forever let one’s self-ego die, to be in the name of Jesus Christ, one has to have the truth be told that will guide them to that decision.


When one who does not have God in one’s heart tries to lure the innocent to an addiction that demands one listen to a false shepherd for guidance, then one will eventually find reason to disbelieve.


That too comes by personal experience. This means an Apostle and Saint will always have God in their hearts, so the truth can be told.


The truth might be told in words that are difficult to make sense of immediately … while standing in front of the speaker; but the truth becomes planted like a seed that grows and grows. Paul’s epistles are then like the mustard seeds of which Jesus spoke in the Gospel of Mark (which this reading accompanies). Paul wrote in spiritual wording, where only tiny particles seem to make sense. However, when planted in fertile ground, his words take root and spreads within one’s flesh, as personal awareness that proves true to the self.  One then grows into a large tree, under whom others will find a home.  A home that has a heart that welcomes questions.


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