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Devotions from Second Corinthians

OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST
2 CORINTHIANS 1-7

OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST  2 Corinthians 1-7  (17)

A New Direction Proceeds from That Blessed Union

2 Corinthians 5: 16-17(NKJV)

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson

Río Grande Bible Institute

Introduction

 

It is with a real measure of trepidation that I approach again this section. We see the life and service of the Apostle Paul through the lens of God's dealings with him. The Holy Spirit now reveals to us the finished work of Christ. Paul came to know what it means to "live no longer for himself, but for Him who died for Him and rose again."

Paul has been shut up to Christ and his Cross. To Christ we also have been shut up to the consequences of his death. His death has become our death and the consequences in life and service are most far reaching.isdeath become We can no longer be "ourselves", exhibit our talents, even in his name. Our death  in him has dealt equally with the "ego" and the merit or demerit we bring.  How subtly the flesh seeks to serve the Lord under the banner of "for his glory"! But the Judgment Seat of Christ will reveal so much of our life and service as "wood , hay, straw" (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).This is not necessarily a negative view of ourselves but all too often a realistic view.

Paul's New Direction in the Area of Personal Relationships.   2 Corinthians 5:16

I must confess that I often read and quickly passed over 2 Corinthians 5: 16: Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him no longer."  This verse is a radical challenge to the believer in the area of life's most intimate and heart searching relationships. 

Observe carefully a word which we pass over so readily: "Therefore". On the basis of a new relationship with Christ on the cross, having died to one's self, now dead and raised to a new life in union with the crucified, I can no longer let former relationships dictate my treatment of them, This is ground to impact and rearrange my relationships of even the dearest or the most difficult in the past or present. The Cross frees us from ourselves to love and forgive.

Let our Lord's example and words be our guide. In Jesus' ministry the crowds often followed him. On one occasion his mother and his brothers stood outside waiting to speak with him. When he was so advised, what was his response? No doubt courteous but firm. "Who is my mother and who are my brothers. And He stretched for this hand toward His disciples and said, Here are my mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:48-50). Notice carefully the descending order, even though the mother's role would normally be the first.

Constrained by His love and Enabled by His Life, We Know Not Even Christ after the Flesh

The emphasis on our union with Christ in death and resurrection illuminates for me the discipleship demands of Christ. Those legitimate demands don't depend on the sheer force of my will to choose but are gloriously possible through my standing constrained by or shut up to his eternal love. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot  be my disciple" (Luke 14:26) . Jesus later adds in the next verse: "And who ever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple." We understand the force of this Hebraism – the most forceful statement of no rivalry whatsoever. This is to know no one after the flesh.

A New Horizon Provided by the Cross

Paul and Jesus were saying that the work of the Cross moves us into a new realm of reacting and living.  On the human plane we obey gladly the biblical injunctions of honor, obedience, fidelity, support but on a higher plane we relate first and foremost to him and only to him; then we are enabled to know others as God knows them. What new horizons for counseling and relationships. Such a truth might bypass much of which passes as biblical counseling which is often more self effort and faith!

The command to love our enemies, pray for those who despitefully use us now becomes our joy.  What a freedom from revenge, bitterness, self compassion and ministerial jealousy! In God's gracious providence as one in leadership, you are attacked and criticized and maybe even "expelled." What freedom to never raise the issue and come later to openly support their ministry.  We don't ever even the score of past wrongs or injustices.

This is the spirit of Joseph toward his brothers: "I beg you please forgive the trespasses of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you . . . Joseph said . . . "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?  But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to same many people alive" (Genesis 50:17, 19, 20)

Another "Therefore" in the Context of His Death Becoming Our Death to Self    2 Corinthians 5:17

The verse that follows has generally been given as a standard verse in evangelism. We assign it to the unbeliever as a motivation for what Christ can do. There is truth in that statement, but it does not directly follow from the context or the rest of the chapter.  Paul says it to believers in the overarching power of the Cross in his life.

Paul now purposefully broadens the thrust of verse 16 from relationship to the total newness of the state in which the believer moves -- a new birth, new heart, new life, new relations to God in Christ.[1] "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creations; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (verse 17).

Moule's foot note in his paraphrase omits the "all" of all things. The sense is not quantitative but qualitative.  This distinction may seem slight, but it is so much more an accurate statement for the believer who is growing daily in maturity before the Lord. To say that all things have passed away and that all things are new in the life in the believer is to say too much. Much always remains to be transformed. But the process of the work of the Cross continues.

There is, however, an absolute newness in what God does. He does not re touch or remedy piecemeal the flesh. He nailed it to the cross because it is incorrigible. We cannot depend on a shred of its goodness. This is a most radical view echoed by Paul: "We are the circumcision (cutting), who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 4: 3).

To the Galatians Paul concludes his epistle which rules out entirely merit or demerit by affirming: "But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avail anything, but a new creation (Gal. 6: 14,15).

This interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:17 so commonly quoted is more in line with the verses that are indeed all encompassing. "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5: 18).  The work of the Cross has equipped us, as no other means, to assume the privilege of being valid ambassadors for Christ and veritable spokesmen for God himself.  What higher honor could be ours!

Yours in the Message of the Cross,

Gordon E. Johnson

  correspondence,  gejohnson1928@gmail.com exegetical studies,   On the web page of my friend K. Neill Foster who has passed on to glory; click on my name:  www.kneillfoster.com for all the studies in both languages



[1] Handley C. G. Moule, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd), 1962, p.51. (I am greatly indebted to the devotional writings of  his Greek scholar who combines erudition and spiritual insight.)

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