Study Notes

2Corinthians 5:12-21

Here in the fifth chapter of 2Corinthians, Paul has been saying that his desire is to please God with his life. Knowing that he will be rewarded for what he does and how he does it, he had great courage to speak of Christ. Again, he doesn't want to sound like he's bragging when he tells them about these good things.

5:12 Pride In Appearance, Not In Heart

Many people take pride in their appearance and could care less about what's on the inside. Paul was nobody to look at, but his heart was beautiful.

It's amazing to me how people will spend and hour and a half every morning to make themselves pretty or handsome. Fixing their hair, their makeup, their clothes, but spending no time at all fixing up their hearts.

Our entire society reinforces our flesh's desire to work on the outside, not the inside. But God is constantly telling us to work on the inside, not the outside. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who thought they were fine as long as they appeared religious outwardly, regardless of how wicked their hearts were.

Matt. 23:25-26 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also."

Even godly people can be deceived by looking at the outer appearance. The prophet Samuel was sent by God to a man named Jesse to pick the next king of Israel. Jesse had eight sons, the eldest named Eliab. Jesse called his seven oldest sons in to see Samuel.

1Sam. 16:6-7 Then it came about when they entered, that he looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

All too often, even great men of God like Samuel fall into the world's way of thinking. "He's tall and handsome and strong. This must be the one that God has chosen." But the one God had chosen was a little red-haired boy - the youngest of the 8 brothers. His name was David.

God doesn't care what you look like. He cares about the condition of your heart. If you're going to focus in on something to improve in your life, you don't need a haircut or a facelift. You just need a heart for God.

5:13-15 Beside Ourselves

Paul says, "Hey, if we look crazy, it's just because we're serving God against all human understanding. In 1Cor 4, Paul made the statement,

1Cor. 4:10 We are fools for Christ's sake

If you're serving God and someone says you're crazy, then you're in good company, because they said the same thing about Jesus. They said, "He has lost His senses" (Mk 3:21) and "He has a demon and is insane." (Jn 10:20)

Yes, it is crazy to go up to someone who hates you and tell them about the love Jesus Christ has for them. Yes, it is foolish to quit your job and move somewhere you've never been to be a missionary. Yes, it is nuts to abandon all worldly security to follow Jesus. Yes, it is practically psychotic to walk all over the place to tell people about the gospel when they are going to rob you, beat you, stone you, and try to kill you. But Paul says, "the love of Christ controls us. Since He died for me, I can certainly die for Him."

One Died For All

In verse 14, Paul says that one died for all. Jesus did in fact die once for all. Romans 6 says,

Rom. 6:10 For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all...

And Hebrews 7 tells us,

Hebr. 7:27 (He) does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Jesus Christ died for you. He bought you with His blood. Therefore, your life is no longer yours to hold onto selfishly. You should no longer be living for yourself, but for Christ. Galatians 2:20 says,

Gal. 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

If you've been bought by Jesus Christ, then your life is no longer your own.

1Cor. 6:19-20 ...Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

When you buy a car, you're free to bang it up, scratch it, even take it off road and abuse it if you want to - it's yours. But when you lease a car, it doesn't belong to you. You're just being allowed to use it, and you will give account for what you've done to it at the end of the lease term.

If you're a Christian today, Jesus Christ owns you. You're no longer your own.

2Cor. 5:15 ...they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Jesus died for me, I'll live for Him, and give my life to Him.

5:16-17 A New Creature

Paul says, "because of this, we don't look at outward appearances anymore. We don't judge people based on their past. Because when someone becomes a Christian, they are a completely new creation. The old things are completely gone, wiped out."

Remember that this great man, the apostle Paul, was a murderous, Christian-hating Pharisee. He was on his way to Damascus with letters from the Sanhedrin, authorizing him to arrest Christians and take them back to Jerusalem to stand trial and face death. But then he met Jesus Christ. He was born again. Unfortunately, he still had the same face, the same body, and Christians were afraid of him. Acts 9 tells us,

Acts 9:26-27 ...When he had come to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.

Paul may have had the same face and body, but he had a completely new heart and mind. That's what happens when you come to Christ. You become a new creation.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Have you ever wondered about that term, "born again"? It's exactly what it sounds like. You're born again into a completely new and different life. God changes your mind and your heart. You're starting all over again with a different life. Peter wrote,

1Pet. 1:3-4 ...according to His great mercy (He) has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you

Blessed be God for giving us this new life! May we, like Paul, not judge people according to their past or their appearance.

5:18-19 Reconciliation To God

The word "reconciliation" means, "to change from enmity to friendship." Romans 5 says,

Rom. 5:8-10 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath {of God} through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

God paid for our sins while we were His enemies. Now we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. What does that mean? It means that we are to proclaim the gospel - not the Americanized, watered-down gospel of "Wouldn't you like to go to heaven? Won't you accept Jesus into your heart to solve all your problems?" The true gospel that every person is a sinner.

Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

That sin has separated them from God, and destined them to be apart from God forever:

Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death...

And that Jesus Christ is the only way to avoid paying that death penalty themselves.

Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God offers reconciliation to every person. He paid the death penalty of each person's sin, and all they need to do is accept that payment. Christian, you have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. What are you going to do with it?

5:20-21 The Sinless Became Sin

The Bible says over an over again that Jesus Christ never sinned.

Hebr. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as {we are, yet} without sin.

Hebr. 7:26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;

1Pet. 2:21-22 ...Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH;

1Pet. 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, {the} just for {the} unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

1John 3:5 And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.

And yet, somehow, supernaturally, when Jesus Christ was nailed up to that cross, sin itself was being nailed up there. Back in Numbers chapter 21, we read an interesting account:

Num. 21:5-9 And the people spoke against God and Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food." And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live." And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

This story paints an interesting picture. All they had to do was turn their heads to look at this thing, and they would be healed. Bronze in the Bible is the metal that speaks of judgment. The serpent in the Bible is a picture of sin. The standard was a wooden pole with a crosspiece to hold up the flag of an army or tribe. So look at the picture - there is sin judged on a cross. If anyone would merely look at it to be healed from the effects of this judgment, they will live. Jesus said in John 3...

John 3:14-16 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Jesus Christ is offering you eternal life this morning. You don't have to buy it, you don't have to work for it, you don't have to earn it.

You've been bitten by sin, and it has separated you from having a relationship with God. When you die, you will be apart from God for eternity in hell. But He has offered you a free solution. He paid for your death penalty, He judged sin 2,000 years ago on the cross. If you would just look to that cross, you will be healed.

Go to next study

Go to previous study