Knowing This Motivates Us To Please The Lord; Knowing We Will Appear Before The Judgment Seat Of Messiah Motivates Us To Do What Is Good And Not Do What Is Bad; The Ministry Of Reconciliation
Paul and his team started Messiah’s Community in Corinth, one of the most prominent cities in Greece. After being there for a year and a half, Paul left the city, having starting a significant community. After he left, the community started to divide. Some of the people were supporting their favored leader and criticizing, opposing and undermining other leaders – even great leaders like Paul. To address this problem, and other problems, Paul and Sosthenes wrote the letter that is known as 1 Corinthians.
After Timothy returned to Corinth, he informed Paul that the divisions in the community had gotten worse. The faction who opposed Paul was growing in influence. This motivated Paul to change his plans and visit them immediately. But this visit was a disaster. It was a painful visit where Paul experienced more attacks from opponents while the rest of the community provided little support.
Paul returned to Ephesus and wrote a severe letter to the Corinthians and sent it to them by Titus. The purpose of this letter was to communicate his love for the Corinthians, urge the people to repent, and demand the punishment of the leader of the opposition who opposed Paul. The community united and confronted the man who had been leading the opposition against Paul. He repented and most of the Corinthians became favorable toward Paul. The Rabbi, along with Timothy, then wrote another letter, known as 2 Corinthians.
Correction: A couple of weeks ago I said Paul and Timothy wrote 1 Corinthians. That was a mistake. Paul and Timothy co-authored 2 Corinthians. Paul and Sosthenes co-authored 1 Corinthians.
Even though the crisis in Corinth was over, damage had been done. Paul had been unfairly criticized. Seeds of doubt about him and his ministry had been planted. That’s bad. God’s people need to be able to trust their spiritual leaders. So, in this letter, Paul addressed the criticisms. He defended himself and his ministry. And, as he did so, he taught Messiah’s followers some glorious truths.
One truth: After our body dies, we will receive a much better body. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Paul and Timothy compared our future bodies to a house and our present bodies to a tent. Houses are better than tents. They are stronger, more enduring and more valuable. Our present bodies are impermanent. They are mortal. They are subject to death. Our future bodies are permanent; immortal; they will never die.
Our present bodies are built with human hands. They are the result of the union of a man and a woman. Since they come from imperfect beings, they are imperfect. They have flaws. They have defects. They have imperfections. Our future bodies, however, will not be built by human hands. They will be built by God, whose work is perfect. They will be perfect.
We know that if our earthly bodies die, we will receive a perfect body that will never die. Knowing that something much better awaits us in the future, however, can cause disappointment in the present. If you have a job but are offered a much better job that’s much more interesting and pays twice what you are getting paid, and you give two weeks notice, you might feel some sadness as you work those two weeks, knowing your new job will be so much better than your present one.
Knowing we will live in better bodies that are perfectly suited for life in Heaven can create sadness while we live in these bodies that have flaws, disabilities, limitations and experience pain. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. In the World To Come, we won’t be pure consciousness, spirits floating around without a body. We will have bodies, real bodies, heavenly, eternal bodies.
If you are a teenager who is driving an old beat-up car that barely runs, and your father promises to buy you a brand new car on your next birthday – until you get your new car you might feel some disappointment as you drive your old, beat-up car. We can feel a similar sadness knowing a much better body awaits.
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. In this world, death swallows up life. Everyone dies. Our bodies die. In the World To Come, life swallows up death. No one dies. We live forever in bodies that live forever.
Will we really live forever in eternal bodies? Yes, and the Rabbi and Timothy give two reasons: Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. The first reason we will live forever in eternal bodies is because God fashioned us for this purpose. One of God’s purposes is to create beings in His image who become His glorious sons and daughters, His beloved friends and companions who will live with Him forever in a real place – the new heavens and Earth and the new Jerusalem. For that to happen, we will need immortal bodies.
The second reason we will live forever in eternal bodies is because God has guaranteed it. Everyone who transfers his loyalties to the Father and the Son is given the Holy Spirit. The giving of the Spirit is like receiving a deposit for a transaction. Among people, once a deposit has been made, the purchaser is obligated to go through with the transaction. The giving of the Spirit is like a deposit, guaranteeing that God will fulfill all of His promises connected to our salvation – including us receiving our future bodies.
Knowing that when we die, we will live forever in a better body, gives us confidence. Therefore we are always confident. Always confident – confident when we are experiencing peace and confident when experiencing opposition.
How can we always be confident even though we’ve never seen Heaven or one of those future bodies? We live by faith, not by sight. We live by faith – believing something, being sure of something, knowing something apart from seeing it; apart from experiencing it. By faith we know that God is real; that He has promised us salvation and new bodies and eternal life in Heaven; and we are sure that He will fulfill His promises. Living by faith and not by sight enables us to overcome fear and timidity and be bold, confident and courageous.
Having faith that we will receive those better bodies and be in the presence of our glorious Lord causes us to prefer to be in those bodies and with the Lord. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. If you have a happy home, it’s better to be at home than away from home. It’s better to be in the presence of the risen Lord than away from the Lord. It’s better to be in our future body than in our present body. Who doesn’t want to be in a perfect body, in Heaven, the best of all homes, with our glorious Lord who loves us so much? To be able to see Him face to face, and be with Him and talk to Him and enjoy Him? It makes sense to prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Knowing how much the Lord has done and will do for us motivates us to please the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. If someone does something nice for you, it’s right to reciprocate and do something nice for him. We know that the Lord has done and will do the greatest things for us – come to Earth for us, live a perfect life for us; die for us; overcome death for us; give us glorious new bodies perfectly suited for eternal life in the new heavens and new Earth. Therefore it’s right to reciprocate by making it our goal to please Him.
If we know we will meet someone and live with him in his home, we won’t want to do anything that will make meeting and living with that person unpleasant. We will want to do those things that will please him. We will not want to do anything that will displease him. Knowing that a time is coming when we will be at home with the Lord makes us want to please Him – now and then.
Paul and Timothy give us another motivation to do what is good and not do what is bad. We won’t be just meeting the Messiah and living with the Messiah. We will all be judged by the Messiah. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. All the followers of Messiah will appear before Him and be judged by Him for the things we did during our lives on Earth. We won’t be judged and condemned to Hell, like the wicked, but we will be judged. We will be commended and rewarded for the things we did that were good. We will be reprimanded and lose rewards for the things we did that were bad. Knowing that we will appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, who knows all, and whose judgment is perfect, who will commend us or reprimand us for the things we’ve done while in the body, motivates us to do what is good and not do what is bad.
We need to be motivated to do what is good and not do what is bad, and the Lord knows how to motivate us. He uses a combination of positive and negative; the carrot and the stick; reward and punishment; pleasing the Lord and fearing the Lord.
Knowing the Lord is the judge who is to be feared should motivate us to persuade others to get right with Him so they won’t be judged and punished. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. Do you believe that the Lord will punish those who ignore Him, want to live without Him, reject Him, disobey Him, disbelieve Him and the truths of His Word? Then persuade others of who He is and His great saving power before it is too late for them.
Paul and Timothy again defended themselves from criticism. They are honest, sincere men. They are not hiding anything. They are faithfully serving God and fulfilling the responsibilities God has entrusted to them. God knows this is true and all of Messiah’s followers in Corinth need to know this is true. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 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. Paul and Timothy were not motivated by pride, like some were accusing them. They were not commending themselves in order to exalt themselves but to defend themselves so that all the Corinthians could trust them and be proud of them and correct those who had a shallow and wrong opinion of them.
The Rabbi and Timothy defend themselves from another criticism; that they were out of their mind. 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. God was the one who told them to think and act the way they did. If they seem crazy, it’s because they were being faithful to God. Therefore, the ones accusing them of being out of their mind were accusing God of making them crazy. Did they really want to accuse God of causing them to be out of their mind? And if they were not out of their mind, they were in their right mind. They were thinking and acting as servants of God entrusted with great responsibilities should think and act. It wasn’t craziness to give up everything to serve the Lord and suffer to proclaim the Good News. It was faithfulness, faithfulness which benefitted the Corinthians.
If being out of their mind wasn’t the reason Paul and Timothy and their team worked so hard, risked constant danger from those outside the community and those within and sacrificed so much – what was the reason? For Messiah’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 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. It wasn’t just God the Father who so loved the world; it was also the Son of God who so loved the world. Messiah so loved the world that He came into the world to die – for all. And if He died for all, it means that all needed Him to die. And everyone needed Him to die because all were dead – dead in their trespasses and sins.
If someone, at great cost to himself, saves your life, you owe that person a debt. Messiah, at great cost to Himself, died for all. Therefore all who have been saved from death by His death owe Him their lives; owe it to Him to live for Him and not for themselves. Messiah’s love that resulted in His death and our salvation is what motivated Paul and Timothy and those who worked with them to live so little for themselves and so much for Messiah. And Messiah’s love for us should motivate us in the same way.
Everyone saved by Messiah has been brought from death to life – like Messiah was. That means they are not the same as they were before. They are different. They are new people. And that’s the way we are to regard each other, even Messiah. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Messiah in this way, we do so no longer. Messiah’s life before He died is not the same as His life after He die. We don’t regard Messiah in the same way as His followers did while He was on Earth. He is no longer the humble carpenter-turned Rabbi. He is the risen and ascended and all-powerful Lord of Heaven and Earth.
Just as we don’t regard Messiah in the same way before He died, we don’t regard Messiah’s followers in the same way we were before Messiah gave us new life. We have a new nature, new values, new ways of thinking and acting. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Adam and Eve sinned and were alienated from God. God could have given up on them and their descendants, but He didn’t. Instead, the Father, at great cost to Himself and His Son, sent Messiah to be the final offering for sin, so we can be reconciled to God. What God did for us, He wants us to do for others. All this is from God (saving us; forgiving us; giving us a fresh start), who reconciled us to himself through Messiah and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: It’s not just Paul and Timothy and their team who were given the ministry of reconciling people to God. All of us have been given that responsibility.
And here is the message that brings reconciliation to a world that is alienated from God: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Messiah, not counting people’s sins against them. So, here’s what we must tell people. The entire world is alienated from God, headed to death, not life; to Hell, not Heaven. The entire world are sinners who need to be forgiven in order to be reconciled to God. The only way to be reconciled to God is by knowing that Messiah came into the world, died and overcame death.
God the Father will not bring people the message of reconciliation. Messiah will not bring the message of reconciliation. The good angels from Heaven will not bring people the message of reconciliation. It’s you, and it’s me who have been committed with the message of reconciliation. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Paul and Timothy were sent by God to represent Him. They were God’s ambassadors. We are therefore Messiah’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you (ask with urgency) on Messiah’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. It’s not just non-believers who need to be reconciled to God. Believers can do things that alienate them from God. God’s ambassadors wanted the Corinthians to be absolutely certain they were truly and fully reconciled to God.
If you are alienated from God in any way, you need to be reconciled to Him. Turn away from those things that create that alienation. Get right with Him. Get close to Him.
How did the holy God make it possible for sinful human beings to be reconciled to Himself? God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. We are to know, and we are to tell others that the Father sent His Son to live a sinless life and die as the ultimate sin offering, enabling all of our sins to be forgiven, enabling us to be reconciled to God, enabling us to be us righteous; enabling us to have a relationship with God that is right and true; enabling us to believe the right things and live the right way.
If I worked with closely with the CEO of General Motors; if the head of GM was my co-worker, and I asked you to do something, you would probably give my request serious consideration. Paul and Timothy worked with someone much greater than the CEO of GM. They worked with the CEO of the universe. They were God’s co-workers. As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
Is it possible to receive God’s grace in vain? To receive God’s grace and squander it because you lived for the wrong things? Yes. These two great Messianic Jews reinforce this truth with a quote from the Word of God, from Isaiah 49, which is a Messianic prophecy and a promise made by the Father to the Son. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Just as there was a right time for the Father to help the Son, and the Son to respond to the help offered by the Father, there is a right time for us to respond to the grace God offers to us.
And, that right time is now; today; this moment. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. Be reconciled to God; serve the Lord with all your heart. Live for Him and not for yourself; be His ambassador and bring the Good News to a world that needs to be reconciled to God.
Avinu Malkaynu, our Father and our King, help us always be confident, knowing You will give us new and glorious bodies.
Knowing that we will see You face to face, may we be motivated to please You.
May the knowledge that we will appear before Your Son, who will judge us and reward us or reprimand us and cause us to lose rewards for the things we do in this life, cause us to do good and avoid doing what is bad.
Heavenly Father, You have done and will do so much for us. Help us understand that how much we owe You. Help us pay our debt by living for You and not for ourselves.
Heavenly Father, You are in Heaven, seated on Your glorious throne. And Your Son, Yeshua the Messiah is seated on His throne at Your right hand. You and Your Son will not come to Earth with the message of reconciliation. You have delegated that responsibility to us. Help us take that responsibility seriously. Help us fulfill that responsibility the way we should, with passion and with urgency.