Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 4 * BOOK 47
2 Corinthians 5:14-20
Let’s get back to where we left off in the last lesson and that would be in Hebrews chapter 2, and now we’re going to go into the next verse which is verse 17. Remember now all these verses are building on the fact that Christ, Who Israel knew as Jesus of Nazareth, was indeed God the Son. And it’s in the Son that all power was delegated to Him for creation and for bringing about this tremendous plan of salvation.
“Wherefore (since it came by the seed of Abraham, through the Nation of Israel) in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren,…”
He became not just a man but He became a Jew. You know I’m always emphasizing that in Christ’s earthly ministry, how did He live? He lived under the Law. He went to the synagogue on the sabbath day just like any other Jew, and He kept the Law. Oh, a lot of times they accused Him of not keeping it, but nevertheless, He kept the Law in all of its purity as a Jew. So, the Apostle Paul is appealing to these Hebrew people on that basis, that this One that he is lifting up in all of His power and glory was from the seed of Abraham. Verse 17 again.
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, (like the children of Israel) that he might be a merciful and faithful (now a word is going to pop up for the first time in Hebrews and what is it?) high priest…”
We haven’t seen that before. Do you see how the Scripture builds? See, we’re going to be getting into the priesthood here in Hebrews and it’s not going to be the Aaronic priesthood, but rather it’s going to be Melchisedec. And Melchisedec was not the priest of Israel, but rather He was the priest of the Most High God, which was reference to what people? Gentiles. That’s why the verse we looked at in the last program in Deuteronomy 32:8, what did it say?
“When the most High (the term of God concerning Gentiles) divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” So the Most High is the term of Deity that reflects on the Gentile world. Now here in Hebrews chapter 2 is the first mention of a high priest in this book.
“…that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Now that word reconciliation, if I’m not mistaken, is almost exclusively used by the Apostle Paul. I don’t know of any other place that it’s used, but I always stand to be corrected, and I should have checked this word out before I came to class today, but I think it is a Pauline term. Now let’s go back to Romans chapter 3, and we’ll just build on this whole premise in these last few moments, how that now we have reconciliation as a part of our salvation experience.
I suppose that it never hurts to define terms does it? What does it mean to be reconciled? Well the best place we can use it in everyday living is husband and wife. A husband and wife can have something come up that just totally drives them apart. Iris and I have found over the years that it can be the least of reasons, and invariably it will do just that. We have found over and over for example that a tragedy strikes a couple, and the one that I’m thinking of right now, is their home burned to the ground, and one or the other had failed to send in the payment for their fire insurance, and so they ended up with no coverage. It ruined their marriage and ended up in divorce, because one accused the other.
We’ve known others where a child committed suicide and it drove that couple to divorce, it became a dividing point, as one blamed the other. Now there’s only one remedy for such a thing and what is it? Reconciliation. By bringing them back together again, and that is exactly what has happened to the human race. When Adam sinned, what happened? There was a great division that developed between God and the human race. Just like a husband and wife who have had a tremendous falling out by a tragedy, but the tragedy in Adam’s case was what? He ate of the fruit. Now that’s simple, and through the tragedy of his eating he lost fellowship with his Creator, and so what did they need? Reconciliation. He needed to be brought back into fellowship with God.
Now we don’t use reconciliation as a doctrinal word, as I see some of you are looking in your concordance for that word, and if you find one let me know, because I’m just sort of shooting from the hip on this word, but I don’t think reconciliation is a term until we get to Paul. It was a concept, but it wasn’t actually used, but here in Romans chapter 3, some verses that we even used earlier this afternoon. Let’s just start with verse 25.
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: (in other words the Righteousness of God) that he (God, Christ) might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Now there in that word propitiation is the first implication then of God’s role of reconciling lost mankind to Himself, and this is His whole premise, it’s His whole reason for bringing about the work of the cross. Now to use the word more explicitly than it is here in Romans, follow with me to II Corinthians chapter 5. And here again I hardly know where to drop in, but let’s just start with verse 14, because this is just too serious a subject to take lightly. This whole idea that God wants to reconcile lost humanity to Himself and bring us into full fellowship as a husband and wife who have been estranged and are brought back together. That’s what God wants to do with lost humanity. So this is a good place to look at that for a few moments.
II Corinthians 5:14a
“For the love of Christ…”
Now just stop and think. If a husband and wife had lived together for years, they’ve worked together, they’ve gone through thick and thin together, and raised their children together, and all of a sudden they’ve had this tragedy that separates them, what spark still has to be there to bring them back together? Love! Love has to still be there to rekindle, and bring them back. Now it’s the same way with God. Remember, God’s love hasn’t died down to a fading ember, it is always vibrant, but mankind’s love is a different story. So we have to kindle that spark of love that will respond to the love of Christ.
Now again, I could just go all day I guess. You remember way back when we talked about creation, what was the main purpose in God’s thinking, in creating man in the first place? Well, to have a creature that He could extend love to and have it returned. So it’s the same way in the marriage relationship. It’s an extension of love, and a return of that love. Now this is exactly what Paul is talking about. The love of Christ that is constantly being extended to lost mankind.
II Corinthians 5:14-16a
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one (Christ) died for all, (the whole human race) then were all dead: (and in need of reconciliation) 15. And that he died for all, that they which live (spiritually) should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (Paul’s Gospel of salvation that we must believe.) 16. Wherefore (Paul says, ‘because Christ died, and rose from the dead’) henceforth know we no man after the flesh:…” A reference to Christ’s earthly ministry. Paul couldn’t keep salvation based on Christ’s earthly ministry of miracles and signs and wonders because that’s not where salvation rested. Salvation rested in His finished work of the cross. So he says in verse 16 again:
II Corinthians 5:16a
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh,…”
I hope when you read something like that, that you know what you’re reading. I tell people constantly when they come up and say, “Well I never understood this until I heard you read it.” I said, “You know why? Because I’m constantly making people aware of what it’s saying.” Most people just read it, and don’t get what it says. So do you see what it says here in verse 16? Paul says I have known Christ after the flesh. Well what does that mean? Paul was living contemporary with Jesus of Nazareth. I think they were both born within a year of each other. I think Paul, or Saul of Tarsus, was a young man of 30 about the same time that Christ began His earthly ministry, so yes, Saul knew Christ in the flesh. Now knowing Him is not recorded in Scripture until we get to the stoning of Stephen, but listen, Old Saul of Tarsus knew all about Jesus of Nazareth, and don’t think for a minute that he didn’t, and that’s what he’s referring to here.
II Corinthians 5:16b
“…though we have known Christ after the flesh,…” Paul knew all about His signs, wonders, and miracles, but Paul thought He was an imposter and blasphemer – that’s why he became the chief persecutor.
II Corinthians 5:16b
“…yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now (this side of the cross) henceforth know we him no more.”
See, that’s why Paul will never mention Bethlehem or His earthly ministry, because that’s moot. The closest he comes is in Galatians 4:6 when he refers to Christ’s birth, not as being born in a stable in Bethlehem, but all he says there is, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” Now that’s as much as Paul gives us, because that had nothing to do with the message that Paul had for the world and that is, that Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead. See, that’s where it’s at, and so now he says, henceforth know we him no more, and that’s why he doesn’t make reference to his earthly ministry. Now verse 17.
II Corinthians 5:17-19a
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: (it’s the new birth) old things are passed away; (the old lifestyle, the old habits, the old desires) behold, all things are become new. (and here comes our word in verse 18.) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself (How?) by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19. To wit, (that is to say) that God, (the Triune, Creator God) was in Christ,…”
Now let’s back that up with another Scripture, Colossians chapter 2 verses 8 and 9. Now remember why we’re going to Colossians, we have been reconciled by the God Who was in Christ.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, (world based religions) and not after Christ. (now here it comes in verse) 9. For in him (Christ) dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead (how?) bodily.” Do you see how plain that is? Now fit the two together. In Christ sits the whole Godhead bodily according to Colossians, but now coming back to II Corinthians chapter 5, and it’s in the reverse word form, but it’s the same meaning.
II Corinthians 5:19
“To wit, that God was in Christ, (how much of God? All of Him! The whole Triune God, the Father the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all embodied in God the Son, and as such then)reconciling (or bring that estranged mass of humanity) the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us (I think here Paul not only speaks to himself, but all of the believers) the word of reconciliation.” Now verse 20, and to me this is a far more sensible commission than anything in the Four Gospels. This is something that you can set your teeth into without question.
II Corinthians 5:20a
“Now then (we as believers with the message of reconciliation) we are ambassadors for Christ,…” Now again we need some definition don’t we? What’s an ambassador? And ambassador is someone living in a foreign country, but he’s a representative of his home country, you all know that. Well what are we according to the old hymn “This world is not my home, we’re just strangers passing through,” that the quartets use to sing? Well we’re ambassadors, as that’s so true, so where is our home? In heaven! Our citizenship Paul tells us, is in heaven, and we’re strangers, we’re in foreign territory, so what are you then? You’re ambassadors? You’re not in your home territory, you’re in a strange country, so we’re ambassadors for Christ. Continuing on with verse 20.
II Corinthians 5:20b
“…through God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead,…”
So we pray you in Christ’s place, since He’s ascended to glory, and since He’s now imputed this responsibility, He’s given us the Scriptures, the power of the Holy Spirit, that every one of us can be an ambassador. That doesn’t mean you’re all preachers, or teachers or missionaries, but rather you’re playing the role of an ambassador to reflect Christ. So everywhere we go we should be reflecting the Lord Jesus with our language, with our appetite, with our lifestyle, because the world can tell. Hey don’t tell me they can’t tell. I went to the university and I was in the Army, and I know that the guys would come up and say, “What have you got?” And I wasn’t a goody, goody gum drop or anything like that, but the troops knew that I was different. In fact I was just thinking last night as I was lying awake in bed that every bull session in our barracks was around the head of my bunk. And it was never filthy stories or anything like that junk, as we were always talking about the things pertaining to the Scriptures.
At that time I didn’t realize or think anything of it, but when guys would ship out, they would come up to my place of duty, and guys I never even knew, and they would say goodbye, they were heading out for Korea, and they would share with me, that I had shown them that there was something that they didn’t have. Well I wasn’t the kind that was constantly pushing at people. No way, I’m not that way, but I maintain that we can reflect the Lord Jesus with just simply our everyday behavior, our language, and the things that we talk about, the things that we think about, and every believer can be that kind of an ambassador. Now completing the verse.
II Corinthians 5:20c
“… be ye reconciled to God.”
Don’t go through life estranged, don’t go out into eternity estranged, but be reconciled to God, and be brought back into that relationship with Jesus the Christ, the God of glory. Well there was another one that I thought of a moment ago and I believe it was in Ephesians chapter 2. Let’s see if that’s the one I wanted, I may have to look a second. Yeah, Ephesians 2:16. Where once again we have this word reconciliation.
“For he (Christ) is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;” Now here Paul is speaking as a Jew, and that God has taken away that partition in the temple area as it was mostly made known between the Jew and Gentile. That partition is no longer there.
“Having abolished in his flesh (that is through the work of the cross) the enmity, even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances; (that’s all been abolished) for to make in himself of twain (the two, Jew and Gentile) one new man, (that’s the uniqueness of the Body of Christ) so making peace; 16. And that he might reconcile both (not just Gentile or just Israel, but both) unto God in one body (there’s not a separate Body of believers for Jews and a separate Body for Gentiles, as we all come in on the same level playing field, and we become one in the Body of Christ) by the cross, (and through the work of the cross, what has He done?) having slain the enmity thereby: 17. And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, (Gentiles) and to them that were nigh. (Israel) 18. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Now, I’ve got one more in Colossians chapter 1.
“And, having made peace (see, that’s the whole idea of reconciliation isn’t it? When people have been estranged – my, imagine when they get together they can fight like cats and dogs, but if we can reconcile them and let love take over, then you see we can have the same thing we see here, having made peace) through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile (bring back together) all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21. And you, (speaking to Gentiles in particular) that were sometime alienated and enemies (of God) in your mind by wicked works, (nobody knew how to be wicked better than the Gentiles of Paul’s day. I mean they were practiced at it) yet now hath he reconciled.” They have been brought unto Himself, and that’s what faith and faith alone can do!