If Any Man be in Christ
2 Corinthians 5:10-21
This is the judgment seat, literally, the bema. There is still a bema in Corinth. This was the place where the judges of the city would meet the citizens and would judge them for certain things -- there was no question of life or death. At the judgment seat of Christ only believers will appear. It is not a judgment of the believer's sins, which Christ fully atoned for on the Cross. The judgment is to see whether you are going to receive a reward or not.
When Paul says, "We must all appear," remember that he is writing to believers. All we believers will be judged, that we may receive the things done in the body. We will be judged on the way we lived the Christian life, how we have lived in these bodies down here. When we go into His presence, we will be finished with these old bodies. The question He will ask is how we used these bodies. How did we live down here?
Paul faces this question when he writes to the Philippians. He says in Philippians 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Then he talks of his desire to go to be with Christ but also of his desire to live longer so that he can minister to the Philippians. He wants to stay so that he can preach the gospel of Christ a little longer. And though none of us would complain if the rapture happened now, we have something to live for down here, and we want to see God do more too.
ill--The preacher asked one night, "How many want to go to heaven?" Everybody put up his hand except that one boy. The preacher looked down at him and said, "Don't you want to go to heaven?" The boy answered, "Sure, I want to go to heaven, but I thought you was gettin' up a load for tonight." Like that boy, I don't want to go right away necessarily. Paul didn't want to go. He said he wanted to stay in his body and preach a little longer. He wanted Christ to be magnified in his body that he might be accepted of Him and that he might receive a reward. This is the way I feel. I want to stay in this body and do as much for the Lord as I possibly can.
Here is the first motivation for believers: We are all going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we will answer to the Lord for our lives. We are going to give a report to Him. Let me make it very clear that this is not the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15 where only the unsaved will stand. If you are a believer, your name is written in the Book of Life, and you have eternal life. However, you will stand before the bema, the judgment seat of Christ, to be judged for rewards. You and I will stand before Him. This should motivate us to serve Him acceptably. Then when we come into His presence, He will be able to say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences [2Cor. 5:11].
I think the word terror could better be translated "fear." There is a great deal said in the Bible about the fear of the Lord. We are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (see Prov. 9:10).
One of the tenets of liberalism is that we don't need to be afraid of God. They characterize God as a sweet, indulgent old man whom you can treat most any way. Liberalism teaches the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man, which is one of the most damnable doctrines abroad today. Do you know that the Word of God says: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31)? Let us not preach a watered-down, sunshiny gospel. Our God is a holy God, a righteous God. It is this holy God who loves you. It is this holy God who wants to save you. But, if you don't come to God His way, you will have to come before Him in judgment. "Knowing therefore the terror [fear] of the Lord, we persuade men." There is many a pulpit from which is never preached a sermon on hell. There are few sermons on punishment, few sermons on judgment. As a result, God's judgment is almost a lost note today. We need to fear the judgment of God. We need to recognize that we are going to be held accountable to Him.
For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart [2Cor. 5:12].
In other words, we're not trying to win a popularity contest, but to tell the truth. If we do say that, we are not commending ourselves. I am always afraid of the soft-soap type of thing we hear today. There is so much today that goes the way of psychology, how to become a well-adjusted human being. May I say to you that if you are without Christ, it is not a psychological adjustment that you need. You are a hell-doomed sinner, and you are on the way to hell. What you need is Christ!
It may not make me popular to say this to you, but it is the Word of God. We don't commend ourselves to you. We don't want you to glory in us. The important thing for us to do is to declare the whole counsel of God. Our motivation to get out the Word of God is a recognition of God's judgment. That is the thing that would arouse many a sleepy church member today.
Missionaries come and tell about the needs out yonder. May I say that there is a real need in this land of ours. The United States is one of the greatest mission fields today. People in our land are on the way to hell. You rub shoulders with them every day.
For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause [2Cor. 5:13].
Paul says that the people may think he is crazy. That is all right. He is doing this for God. Or some people may think he is sober -- well, it is for their sakes that he is sober.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again [2Cor. 5:14-15].
"Constraineth us" is a phrase that has been misunderstood as though it means restraineth. The thought has been that the love of Christ restricts us or straps us down. That is not the meaning of the word that Paul is using here. He says it is the love of Christ that is pushing us out. It is the love of Christ that is motivating us. It is the love of Christ that causes us to give out the Word of God. The love of Christ constrains us.
"Because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." It was this that sent Paul out to the ends of the earth with the message of the gospel. Mankind is under the sentence of death. When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he was our federal head; he was the head of that old creation. That old creation was on trial in Adam. God told him, "...Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam deliberately disobeyed God. He came under the sentence of death, and when he did that, he took the entire human race down with him, for all were represented in him. You and I have been born into a family of death. All mankind now is under the sentence of death.
ill.--I come from God's country in NM! Right behind our house was Mt. Taylor, 13,800 ft. elevation, the largest volcanic mountain in North America. Now let's think of Mount Taylor as representing Paradise, the place where God put man when He first created him. Adam had everything that was good for him, but there was one thing that God told him he was not to do. Adam was a sinless man and he faced a choice. God had asked him not to do one thing, and that was the very thing which Adam did. He fell. We call it the fall of Adam. He came tumbling down off that high mountain and landed way down in the valley where we are today. After he had fallen down into the valley he began to bring into this world a race of people. They don't come into this world way up where Adam had been on the mountaintop, on the plane where he had been when he was innocent, but down in the valley, the place to which Adam fell.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to this world all the way from heaven. He was the absolutely sinless One. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. He came down here to save sinners. He came down from heaven, but He didn't go to the mountaintop. There are no people there -- He couldn't find any man on that plane of holiness. They are all in the valley. They are all dead in trespasses and sins. So what did He do? He came down into the valley. He came down into the place of death where all men are. "And that he died for all." Because men were dead, He went down into death, and now He brings believers up with Him in resurrection life. Does He take them back up to the mountaintop where Adam had been? No, He takes them with Him into the heavenlies. We who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are now seated in the heavenlies. He has "...raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6).
"If one died for all, then were all dead." He took our place. And those who believe on Him are risen with Him. They are not risen so they can be put back on the mountaintop and come tumbling down again. No, He takes them all the way up to the heavenlies. Christ took our place. And if we are going to live, it is going to be by faith in Him -- that those through faith "should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." Christ died, not only that we should be delivered from death and judgment, but also that we should be brought up from our state of death into newness of life. Now our lives should be devoted to Him that we should live henceforth to the glory of God.
For the child of God this puts a whole new interpretation on the human family.
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more [2Cor. 5:16].
Now we do not know men "after the flesh." Now we see men through different eyes from those we used when we belonged to the world. Out in the world there are only lost men. I have an uncle who is a Ph.D. who teaches at a university. He is a brilliant fellow, but he is a lost man because he is not in Christ. I know a man from the gutter; he is also a lost man because he is not in Christ. "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh." That is to say, we do not evaluate men according to their racial background or their social background or their color. We know that according to the old nature they are all lost in sin. But Christ died for all of them. Christ died for the Ph.D. and He died for the man in the gutter. He died for all.
James writes about this in the second chapter of his epistle. He says it is wrong to give the honored place to a rich man who comes into your midst with a ring on his finger and with fine clothing on his back while you give the poor fellow a place to stand in the back. Why is that wrong? Because as the children of God we are to look upon the whole human family as sinners for whom Christ died. Even the line between Jew and Gentile has been erased. All in the human family are sinners before God. The only solution for all is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not recognize any man after the flesh. All are on the same level.
"Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." I believe that Paul did know Christ after the flesh. I think that he was present at the crucifixion of Christ. I can't imagine that brilliant young Pharisee not being present at the Crucifixion in Jerusalem.
Jesus Christ walked on this earth nearly 2,000 years ago. He was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, walked in Galilee, began His ministry in Cana of Galilee, went to Jerusalem, died on a cross there, was buried outside the city in Joseph's tomb, rose again the third day, appeared to those who were His own, and ascended back into heaven. We don't know Him anymore as the Man of Galilee, friend. There is no man of Galilee today.
At Christmastime there are a great many people who make a trek to Bethlehem. The place is crowded. What are they looking for? Are they looking for the Babe? He isn't there! Jerusalem is crowded with tourists at Eastertime. Our risen Lord isn't there. You see, we don't know Him after the flesh anymore.
Right now, at this very moment, He is up yonder at God's right hand. He is the glorified Christ. "Though we have known Christ after the flesh," now we don't know Him that way anymore. We are not identified with the One who walked on this earth over nineteen hundred years ago; we are identified with Him who is in glory. That is why it says that we have died with Him and have risen with Him and are now in Christ Jesus in the heavenlies.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new [2Cor. 5:17].
Here we have a tremendous statement. Allow me to change the word creature to the word creation. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation." We hear this verse often at testimony meetings. People will quote this verse and tell about their conversion. They say they no longer indulge in certain bad habits that they had before their conversion, and they consider this change in their habits to be a fulfillment of this verse.
If you and I are a new creation in Christ Jesus, what are the old things that have passed away? Remember that we have talked about all mankind living at the bottom of the hill where all of us are sinners. Now that we have trusted Christ, those old relationships have passed away. We are no longer identified with Adam. We are no longer identified with the world system. We are now identified with Christ. We have been baptized into the body of believers and we belong to Him. The old things have passed away, and the new thing is this new relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are now in a relationship with the glorified Christ.
Let's be very practical about this. You may ask, "I know that is a wonderful verse, but how may I know absolutely that I am a new creation in Christ?" Listen to what the Lord Jesus said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). Have you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you trust Him? If you do, He assures you that you have eternal life and will not come into judgment; you have passed from death unto life. This makes you a new creation, no longer subject to judgment and death. You have passed into life.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation [2Cor. 5:18].
The ministry of reconciliation is actually God's call to lost men everywhere to come to Him with all their sins, all their burdens, all their problems, all their difficulties, and to be reconciled to God. The word is used twice in this verse, twice in the next verse, and once in the following verse. This Reconciliation is not the same as salvation. Reconciliation goes a step further. It is more than having our sins forgiven and divine justice being satisfied. Reconciliation involves a changed relationship -- completely changed. It means to change something inside out and upside down and right side up. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation."
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God [2Cor. 5:20].
Who is an ambassador? Webster says an ambassador is a minister of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the official representative of his own government or sovereign. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ." We are in a foreign land -- Peter says that we are pilgrims and strangers down here. Paul says, "For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20). Since our citizenship is in heaven, we are ambassadors down here.
When one government sends an ambassador to another government, it means they are on friendly relations. God is still friendly with this world. He has sent us as His ambassadors. One day He will call His ambassadors home. Then judgment will begin.
When man sinned, God in His holiness had to turn away from the world. But God loved man, so He sent His own Son to die on the Cross. Now God can hold out His arms to the world and say, "You can come." We are His ambassadors. As His ambassadors, we are to tell folk, "God will save you!" All God is asking any man to do is to come to Him. God will not try to get even with you. He doesn't want to punish you. He doesn't want to lay a hand on you. He invites all people everywhere to come to Him.
On Him almighty vengeance fell That would have sunk a world to hell, He bore it for a chosen race, And thus becomes our hiding place.
God is reconciled. You don't need to do one thing to win Him over. You don't have to shed tears to soften the heart of God. He loves you. He wants to save you. Why?
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him [2Cor. 5:21].
He took my hell down here so that I might have His heaven up yonder. He did that for me.
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