Our aim – to be Well-pleasing to Him
Here is a verse from the previous chapter:
2Co 4:15 All this is indeed working out for your benefit, for as more grace is given to more and more people so will the thanksgiving to the glory of God be increased.
It is clear that Paul had only one mission and focus in his Christian walk … and that was to do everything for the glory of God. Everything that he has said up to this point underscores that.
- He wants to be believed by the Corinthians.
- He wants them to repent of wrong and behave as Christians.
- He wants everyone in the church to be genuine children of God, and not in name only.
- He suffers a lot of persecution as he carries out his ministry
… and all of the above is for the glory of God. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. 1Co 10:31
The wording of a prayer like this comes out of our basic foundational thinking. It reveals our own heart. It reveals our focus.
But let's do this … Let's take Paul's words, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” and let those words be our 'spring board'. Then our prayer would look like this:
“Lord we are gathered together to bring glory to your name. As we try to feed the hungry and comfort the hurting and depressed in this community, it is for the one purpose of lifting up Your name to them.”
Notice the difference in purpose:
Which is first and foremost?
- To make a difference in the community by means of helping people?
- or -
- To turn the spot-light on God (Jesus) by means of helping people?
So Paul moves from his list of things … 'little troubles' he calls them in verse 17 of the previous chapter, things which he gladly endures for the glory of God … he moves from the thought of 'glorifying God' to something more personal. He moves on to talk about 'what we get out of it'. He moves on the 'eternal perspective'.
He says, “2Co 4:18 b it is the invisible things that are really permanent.
2Co 5:1 ¶ We know, for instance, that if our earthly dwelling were taken down, like a tent, we have a permanent house in Heaven, made, not by man, but by God.
Jesus said to his 11 disciples at the final meal that he shared with them, In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places; if there were not, I would have told you, for I am going away to make ready a place for you. John14:2
As we look at Paul's statement … he talks about a tent being taken down, and it is quite obvious that he is talking about our earthly body wearing out and being laid to rest. Then he mentions a permanent dwelling in heaven. And that is not our earthly body because it was laid to rest. So, is he talking about our eternal body – the one we will receive in the resurrection? Or is he talking about a 'mansion over the hilltop'? Generally speaking, we usually think of Jesus' words in John 14 as referring to our mansion. It really sounds like it, but I think you should know that some bible scholars teach that both Paul's and Jesus' words here are talking, not about a dwelling place, but about our new bodies.
Maybe both things are true. Whatever the case, Paul wants us to see our struggles here as being very temporary and that God has something permanent and incredible in heaven for us.
Here we cling to life until it is all but impossible and then we start talking about heaven. But Paul is teaching us to start thinking about heaven now.
2Co 5:2 In this present frame we sigh with deep longing for our heavenly house, 3 for we do not want to face utter nakedness.
2Co 5:4 So long as we are clothed in this temporary dwelling we have a painful longing, not because we want just to get rid of these "clothes" but because we want to know the full cover of the permanent. We want our transitory life to be absorbed into the life that is eternal.
As you read this, do you feel like saying, “Paul, speak for yourself”.
Well, guess what? He is. Paul says In this present frame we sigh with deep longing, and he is speaking for himself. He is describing his life, the conditions that he is enduring and saying … “I just can't wait to get out of here”. He adds, I am not saying that I would just like to lay down and die … no, that would mean I would shed my tent (my clothes) and then where would I be? No, It is not death I am welcoming, it is being with God in my new body that I long for.
So we might ask Paul … You say you don't want to be 'unclothed' … and that you want to be clothed with an eternal body … but are you not afraid of dying? Do you really know for sure that you would be OK?
His answer is: 2Co 5:5 Now the power that has planned this experience for us is God, and he has given us the Spirit as a guarantee of its truth.
So, 'No', Paul would say, 'I am not afraid of dying. God has all of this planned out, and in addition, he has given us the Holy Spirit as the 'down payment'. This means … more and better things to come'.
Here is where some people would wonder … But Paul, how can you be so sure? Is the Holy Spirit a feeling? How do you know that there really is something called the Holy Spirit and the it is living in you?
And here comes the answer that you probably have heard before: Paul knows, first of all, by faith not by feeling. And then second, he knows by observation of evidence. There are various things that the Holy Spirit does that are discernible. Jesus told Nicodemus, in John the 3rd chapter, that just as wind, which is invisible, can be discerned by its effects, so can the Spirit be discerned in the same way. Some of the effects of the Spirit were told to us by Jesus. He said when the Spirit comes He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (Jn 16.8). The Spirit guides us into truth (Jn 16.13). The Spirit deposits into each of us a 'gift'.
Paul told us this in his first letter to the Corinthians.
1Co 12:7 The Spirit openly makes his gift to each man, so that he may use it for the common good.
8 One man’s gift by the Spirit is to speak with wisdom, another’s to speak with knowledge. 9 The same Spirit gives to another man faith, to another the ability to heal, 10 to another the use of spiritual power. The same Spirit gives to another man the gift of preaching the word of God, to another the ability to discriminate in spiritual matters, to another speech in different tongues and to yet another the power to interpret the tongues.
11 Behind all these gifts is the operation of the same Spirit, who distributes to each individual man, as he wills.
These 'effects' of the Spirit are evidence that the Spirit is real. Do each of us have similar effects evidenced in our lives? Not really. We may have some, based on what gift we have.
But what if we personally don't have the same evidence that Paul had?
First … look around for evidence that the Holy Spirit is real. In other words, Can you see the Holy Spirit working through someone else?
Second … examine your own situation. Have you recognized that your sin has separated you from God? Have you repented of your sin and asked for forgiveness based on Jesus' sacrifice for you? Have you told Him, 'I need Jesus to save me.'? Paul tells us, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Rom 10.13).
Even if you don't have all the evidences of the Spirit in your own life, If you called on Him to save you from sin, death and hell … He did it. This means you are saved, born again, a child of God. This is something that you just have to believe.
So now, as a child of God … you will be able to see the effects of the Spirit all around you in the gifts He has given to the body.
Once again the verse in our present chapter:
2Co 5:5 Now the power that has planned this experience for us is God, and he has given us the Spirit as a guarantee of its truth.
Paul now goes on:
2Co 5:6 This makes us confident, whatever happens. We realise that being "at home" in the body means that to some extent we are "away" from the Lord, 7 for we have to live by trusting him without seeing him. 8 We are so sure of this that we would really rather be "away" from the body and be "at home" with the Lord.
Now that is a heavenly, eternal perspective! That is the perspective we all need to move toward. We need to be so sure of our salvation and so sure of the word of God, … that we would rather be in heaven.
We don't have the choice of staying here or going to heaven. Paul gives us more insight on his personal situation a littler later on. But for now he says,
2Co 5:9 It is our aim, therefore, to please him, whether we are "at home" or "away".
There are two parts to this … while we are 'away' from heaven, it is our aim to please Him. But once we are at home (in heaven) it will also be our aim to please Him.
And to what extent we pleased Him in this life will be determined once we get there, at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
2Co 5:10 For every one of us will have to stand without pretense before Christ our judge, and we shall each receive our due for what we did when we lived in our bodies, whether it was good or bad.
(Williams Translation :2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment-bar of Christ, that each may get his pay for what he has done, whether it be good or bad.)
Just to be clear, There are three judgments in the future. First we will look at 'when' or the timing of their occurrence.
1. Right after the rapture
The first one will be for believers only, and it take place right after the 'rapture' of believers. The biblical support for this is:
Re 11:15 The seventh angel blew his trumpet. There arose loud voices in Heaven and they were saying, "The kingship of the world now belongs to our Lord and to his Christ, and he shall be king for timeless ages!"
Re 11:18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
Jesus mentions this same event:
Mt 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Mt 24:31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
This was the first judgment. The second one:
2. At Jesus' return to earth right after the wedding feast in heaven and right after he comes down and ends the rule of nations in the battle of Armageddon.
This second one Jesus mentions in Matthew 25:
Mt 25:31 ¶ "But when the Son of Man comes in his splendor with all his angels with him, then he will take his seat on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men from each other like a shepherd separating sheep from goats.
And the third and final one is recorded in Revelation 20.
Re 20:7 Then, when the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and will set out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, and to lead them into battle. They will be as numerous as the sand of the seashore. 9 They came up and spread over the breadth of the earth; they encircled the army of the saints defending the beloved city. But fire came down from the sky and consumed them. 10 The devil who deceived them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulfur to join the animal and the false prophet. And there they shall be tortured day and night for timeless ages.
Re 20:11 ¶ And then I saw a great white throne, and One seated upon it from whose presence both earth and sky fled and vanished. 12 Then I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and the books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books concerning what they had done. 14 Then death and the grave were themselves hurled into the lake of fire, which is the second death. :15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life he was thrown into the lake of fire.
So there is the sequence of the future judgments. First in heaven after the rapture, Second on Earth when He comes down with His 'Bride'. And the third, a thousand years later.
Just briefly let's refresh our memories on who these Judgments are for.
The general rule is, every human being who ever existed will appear at one of the judgments.
At the first judgment, it will be the believers from Adam up to the time of the rapture. All dead unbelievers will remain where they are for quite a while.
At the second judgment, (after the rapture, after the wedding supper in heaven and after Jesus and His bride descend for the battle of Armageddon) the remaining, living unbelievers will be judged. As I just stated, this judgment occurs after Jesus has descended with His bride. This is also right after the battle of Armageddon. So that means that the millions of unbelievers who sided with the Antichrist and joined in the Battle against Christ … all died. They won't be at this judgment. They have just joined all the rest of the unbelievers in hell who have been there ever since Cain died (assuming that he never repented and came to God)
So, what unbelievers are left alive after Armageddon? According to the verses in Matthew there will still be quite a few. After all, it would not have been the entire population of the world gathering for the Armageddon battle. Obviously many mothers, Grandmothers, Grandfathers and children would not have been expected to go to Armageddon. The Matthew account adds to this. He says that there will be both sheep and goats.
Mt 25:32 All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men from each other like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. 33 He will place the sheep on his right hand an right hand and the goats on his left.
The sheep would include all those who came to faith in Jesus right after the rapture. But they missed the rapture. And therefore they missed the judgment-bar in heaven.
The goats would be the remaining unbelievers after Armageddon. It would appear, that immediately after this judgment, all the 'goats' are sent to eternal punishment.
Mt 25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
At the third judgment, two groups will be present. First, all unbelievers from Cain to the end of millennial reign.
And second, all living humans who have just experienced the millennial reign, many of whom were born during the thousand year period. Of these living humans, some did not accept Christ while they had a chance … they will stand at this judgment as unbelievers whose names do not appear in the book of life. Other living humans did accept Christ during the thousand year reign and their names will appear in the book of life. They will be rewarded for their works just the same as the believers who appeared at the judgment seat of Christ a thousand years earlier.
Now, getting back to WHY Paul mentions the judgment seat of Christ:
2Co 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. (ESV)
Paul knows that judgment day makes things final. How faithfully (or not) we have served Christ will be evaluated. What reward Jesus wants to give you will happen there. What rewards you could have had (which will be an indicator of your service to Christ) will cause you to experience the pain of loss. Paul said, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” 1Co 3:11-15
Thankfully all pain, tears and sorrow will be wiped away after that.
So in the meanwhile, says Paul, because it will be all over after the judgment, if we are going to rescue people from the terror of that day, we need to persuade them to become believers now.
In all of this Paul has been affirming that he has a clear conscience before God. He says that he does not want it to sound like he is boasting about who he is … but that he would like to give them the opportunity to be proud of him rather than to be ashamed that they know him. He puts it like this:
2Co 5:12 ¶ No, we are not recommending ourselves to you again, but we can give you grounds for legitimate pride in us — if that is what you need to meet those who are so proud of the outward rather than the inward qualification.
Apparently some of Paul's critics were calling him 'crazy'.
2Co 5:13 If we are "mad" it is for God’s glory; if we are perfectly sane it is for your benefit.
2Co 5:14 The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ. We look at it like this: if one died for all men, then, in a sense, they all died, 15 and his purpose in dying for them is that their lives should now be no longer lived for themselves but for him who died and was raised to life for them.
When people truly come to Christ is salvation … they will no longer live for themselves. There will be an 'about face'. The change will stand out clearly. Paul says this about himself, but I think he is expecting the Corinthians to take a good look at their own church body, and ask the question, 'Is that true of all of us? Really?' Many of the Corinthians were not Paul supporters. How were they expressing there distrust of Paul … their dislike of Paul. It would appear that many of them were not being very 'Christ-like' about it.
So I believe is Paul is encouraging the real believers to see the heart of the people who are being critical. When a persons heart is changed, their actions will also change. When we see 'unchanged and worldly' behavior it will cause us to wonder about that persons true heart relationship with Jesus.
2Co 5:16 ¶ This means that our knowledge of men can no longer be based on their outward lives (indeed, even though we knew Christ as a man we do not know him like that any longer).
2Co 5:17 For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether — the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.
Paul is saying this as a general truth. There will a total change in how the new believer sees the world. They will not only see it as something to be avoided, but they will see it as people needing to be saved. But Paul, in all of his writings gives instructional and corrective words to believers. He does this because we still have an old nature that affects our new nature so that not all of our attitudes are as changed as they should be. The life of every believer is a life of 'putting off' certain practices by replacing them ('putting on') new ones.
Paul goes on talking about the change that happens at conversion:
2Co 5:18 All this is God’s doing, for he has reconciled us to himself through Christ; and he has made us agents of the reconciliation. 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
There seems to be a difference of opinion as to who has the ministry of reconciliation. Who is the 'us'? The Williams translation has taken this view: 2Co 5:18 This has all originated with God, for He through Christ has reconciled me to Himself and has given me the ministry of reconciliation.2Co 5:19 For it was through Christ that God was reconciling the world to Himself instead of debiting men’s offenses against them, and He has committed to me the message of this reconciliation.
However, most other translations and bible commentators take it to mean that all of us true believers have the ministry of reconciliation … that is, we all take part in being soul-winners.
2Co 5:20 We are now Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were appealing direct to you through us. For Christ’s sake we beg you, "Make your peace with God."
The word (or ministry) of reconciliation is a restatement of what salvation is. In the old days, (and perhaps even now) we had the job of reconciling our checkbook with our bank statements. That is, at the end of it all, our checkbook should show our actual balance … the same balance that the bank says we have. If it did not agree, we double and triple checked until we found our mistake … or until we found the bank made a mistake. At any rate, when we were done the balance would be accurate.
What was in our balance? That depends on what kind of spender we were. Perhaps the balance was seriously in the red. In Paul's statements regarding being reconciled … we find ourselves totally and hopelessly in the red. Reconciliation brings us into the black … only as Jesus makes a huge bank deposit into our accounts.
2Co 5:21 For God caused Christ, who himself knew nothing of sin, actually to be sin for our sakes, so that in Christ we might be made good with the goodness of God.
That is true reconciliation. What an exchange! This is a very powerful and clear statement. He paid off our whole negative bank account. He deposited into our bank account an unlimited amount of His currency. His goodness in exchange for our sin.
With Paul we cannot help but realize, that after what Christ has done for us … our aim is to be 'well-pleasing' to Him.