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During this four-week period, Epistle readings from the Revised Common Lectionary are from a section of the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians sometimes referred to as the “great digression”. In chapter 2 verse 14, the Apostle digressed from travel plans to praise God for calling him to preach the Lord Jesus Christ. His Epistle returns to addressing his travel plans in chapter 7 verse 5.
Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians 5: 6-17 (NIV)
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
The remarks made two weeks ago are pertinent here too: The Apostle Paul knew that the church in Corinth had received visitors who claimed to be apostles but who preached a message very different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed to Paul. He wanted his listeners to be equipped “to answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart” (verse 12b). It was not self-justification that motivated Paul but the love of Christ.
As he wrote: “Christ’s love compels us …”. Paul was convinced that Jesus died for all so that those who live, whether the ones to whom he initially wrote this letter or those of us who receive it almost two millennia later, should no longer live for themselves but for Jesus. Jesus is the One, the only One, who died for them and for us and was raised again.
Living not for ourselves but for Jesus is a challenge which each one of us must face every day. Our objective should be to surrender to him completely. How are we to achieve that?
As his new creations, we are to live by faith and not by sight (verse 7). To do this we need the continual indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that he governs our wills to bring our wills into accord with his will. Only then will we achieve that goal which was Paul’s goal: “to please him” (verse 9).