2 Corinthians 5-9
(Reconcile to God)
December 4th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

- 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

This group of chapters spans various topics, including reconciliation, relations with non-believers, and Christian giving. In chapter 5 Paul uses the analogy of tents versus houses to explain the difference between our temporary homes on earth and our eternal life in heaven. Paul says that because we know of our eternal home we seek to please God by serving him and “each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:9 - NIV).”

Paul explains the primary service is to act as Ambassadors of Christ as we seek to help convince people regarding the truth of the Bible. In doing so, we (the ambassadors) will assist people in their reconciliation to God. The Biblical Scholar Kenneth Foreman explains that the final verse of this chapter can be considered an effective summary of the concept of Atonement (1):

    God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    -2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

In chapter 6, Paul provides two related warnings. In the first part he warns us not to receive God’s grace in vain, meaning that if we accept the grace without taking any action then we have accepted it in vain. He then quotes from the prophet Isaiah to emphasize this point:

    As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

      “At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
         and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

    See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

    - 2 Corinthians 6:1-3 (NRSV)

    Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;

    - Isaiah 49:8 (KJV)

Paul describes the suffering that he and his colleagues have gone through, and explains the paradox of what he has sacrificed in the material world versus what he had already gained in the spiritual world as an example of not accepting grace in vain. In the second half of the chapter he warns the Corinthians not to become “yoked together with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14 - NIV).”

Chapter 7 reveals Paul’s joys regarding the state of the church in Corinth and his feeling of self-vindication. He notes that he had regretted sending a letter that was apparently harsh and hurtful (not 1 Corinthians but some other letter). However, Paul says he is now happy because that pain led to repentance.

    I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss.

    Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

    -2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (MSG)

Paul shifts gears again in chapters 8 and 9. He is very encouraging and complimentary to the Corinthians as he urges them to continue their generous contributions for the church and people in Jerusalem who are suffering due to a famine and possibly other causes. He assures them that the money will be protected by a team of men to avoid pilfering or theft. He also explains how generous givers are blessed with righteousness and their giving causes other people to give thanks to God for the gifts they have received.

Reflection and Application

Paul was an expert in tents because he was a tent-maker, so the analogy of tents versus eternal houses in 2 Corinthians 5:1 was one with which he was very familiar. Tents are made to be temporary and portable, while a house is expected to last permanently during our lifetime. Of course, the heavenly home lasts even longer – for all eternity. And the highway to that heavenly home is our faith in God and acceptance of his grace - not our own works, which could never get us there.

Paul points out that we serve because we are saved, not in order to be saved. The verse in 2 Corinthians 5:10 refers to the judgment that each of us will face one day and says each receives what is due could be misinterpreted. One interpretation could be used to validate the argument that we are saved by works, but Paul has been very deliberate in saying that we are saved by faith not works. Therefore he must be referring to something else here. One explanation is that there are different types of rewards in heaven depending on what we have done. I find this suggested meaning to also be difficult, as I have assumed that other than the Holy Trinity we are all equal in heaven. Maybe this area needs more study.

In either case, we have been given a great gift, as Paul explains in chapter 6 – more valuable than all the treasures or recognition on earth, worth any imaginable sacrifice and pain.

Note that Paul encourages us to reconcile to God. What does that mean? In the financial world, when someone reconciles a pair of accounts he or she can approach it with the assumption that either account could be right or wrong so that when a difference appears both accounts must be investigated, Alternatively, he or she can assume one account is right and reconcile the other one to it, assuming that any differences are the fault of the second account. This might be our assumption when we reconcile our checking accounts versus a bank statement, assuming that the bank is correct. This is how it is with God. He is the Master Banker of our souls. We can safely assume he is right and investigate any differences within our own heart.

In chapter 6, Paul warned the Corinthians not to be “yoked” to the nonbelievers. The concept of yoking may not be entirely familiar for those of us who are suburbanites or city dwellers. But we may have seen the technique of yoking in pictures of farmers prior to the industrial age who drove a team of oxen or other beasts to plow the land or perform other tasks. The act of yoking two animals together means that one leads the other down a particular path. The more experienced animal guides the newbie because they are hooked together. The younger one may try to go its own way, but will feel resistance and perhaps some degree of pain because the experienced animal is strong enough to dominate the relationship.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus uses this same analogy when he offered his yoke, noting that it’s an easy one – he leads us gently down the right path. By contrast, the unbelievers could drag us into a pit from which we cannot escape. We can associate with the nonbelievers because they are part of our world and we can have opportunities to witness, but we have to be careful not to get yoked in.

This nasty-gram that Paul refers to may or may not be incorporated into a later chapter in 2 Corinthians. We will read one particularly harsh set of statements in a subsequent section, but perhaps the letter that Paul refers to was even harsher. The folks in Corinth did not like Paul’s previous tone, but apparently it was effective at making them aware of their sins, which led to a change in behavior. Each one of us may need a different approach to wake up and change our ways – Paul must have known what worked with this group. What will it take for us to change? A gentle nudge, a logical explanation, a ranting mentor, or a verbal intervention from the Creator (like what Paul experienced when he was knocked off his horse).

When we give a gift the blessings are truly multiplied. Paul gives a great explanation in chapters 8 and 9 reminding us that our gifts lead to extra thanks to God.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What experiences have you had sleeping in a tent?
    2. What types of experiences have helped you to change course and move towards a reconciled state with God?
    3. What do you think Paul meant in verse 5:10 (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)?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we thank you for the gift of eternal life. Help us to reconcile to you.

    Prayer Concern
    Home builders and restorers


    (1) Foreman, Kenneth J., The Layman’s Bible Commentary, V21, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, John Knox Press, Richmond, VA, 1961

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 2 Corinthians 10-13 (Be Faithful and You Shall Be Commended)

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