FROM NOW ON
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
I. The Termination of the Self-Life (14-15)
The meaning of that word “constrains” is both powerful and precious. The Greek denotes the thought of being “confined within the limits of a certain course of action which never deviates from one set purpose.” Jesus put it this way, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). This is the same word. For Jesus it meant the path of the cross, even unto death, that he might be readied to the glory of God the Father.
What then is God trying to accomplish in our lives?
A. The Extinguishing of the Old Self.
He says, “we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died” (14)
When Paul looked at Calvary he saw Christ not only representing his sin, but also his old self-life. This is why he could say, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20).
This is one of the greatest discoveries we can make. When Jesus died at Calvary he not only died for us, but we died with him. This means our self-life is dead. Any attempt to return to that way of life is a repudiation of our union with Christ. We have given our allegiance to Christ and denounced our old way of life.
He died that we might live through Him: “God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). This is our experience of salvation, eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. But He also died that we might live for Him, and not live unto ourselves (2 Cor. 5:15). This is our experience of service. It has well been said, “Christ died our death for us that we might live His life for Him.” If a lost sinner has been to the cross and been saved, how can he spend the rest of his life in selfishness?
In 1858, Frances Ridley Havergal visited Germany with her father who was getting treatment for his afflicted eyes. While in a pastor’s home, she saw a picture of the Crucifixion on the wall, with the words under it: “I did this for thee. What hast thou done for Me?” Quickly she took a piece of paper and wrote a poem based on that motto; but she was not satisfied with it, so she threw the paper into the fireplace. The paper came out unharmed! Later, her father encouraged her to publish it; and we sing it today to a tune composed by Philip P. Bliss.
I gave My life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might’st ransomed be,
And quickened from the dead;
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou given for Me?
Christ died that we might live through Him and for Him, and that we might live with Him. “Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thes. 5:10). Because of Calvary, believers are going to heaven to live with Christ forever!
When an immigrant comes to America, before he can become a citizen he must renounce all his commitments and allegiance to his former homeland and pledge 100 percent allegiance to America. Then and only then will the U. S. government grant him citizenship. That’s the way it is with Jesus. When you accept Christ as Savior and Lord you renounce sin, self, and Satan completely.
Illegal immigrants are in this country. They fake being a citizen. They go through all of the motions of becoming a citizen, but their heart, their allegiance never changes. There are also illegal church members.
So once you accept Jesus as your Savior you become a new person. You are no longer a slave to sin and Satan. Does that mean you can now do whatever you want with your life? Let’s continue the passage and discover the Relinquishing of the New Self
B. The Relinquishing of the New Self (15)
When Paul declares “I have been crucified with Christ” he does not end it there but goes on to say, “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 gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20)
While the old self is crucified at Calvary, the new self had to be yielded to Christ in order to complete his response to the constraining love of Christ.
We must say, “From Now On I give my all to Him.”
When you are willing to give your life to Christ, you will begin to see things in a different light. This is the Introduction of the Faith-Life.
II. The Introduction of the Faith-Life (16-17)
All things had certainly become new for Paul. Everywhere he looked he saw things differently. One of the most remarkable changes for him was the NEW CONCEPTION OF MAN.
A. The Faith-Life Accepts a New Conception of Man
Read again verse 16 “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh” (16) Paul stopped being concerned about how a person looked on the outside. His race, color, wealth, rank and even culture no longer mattered. He looked at the man’s spirit. The only thing of importance was rather or not the man had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
To show just how much he had changed Paul affirmed that even his judgment of Christ had been totally altered by is understanding of what had happened at Calvary. “Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” Before Paul understood Calvary, Jesus was nothing more than a man who was born in obscurity, lived in restricted surroundings, and died a humiliating death; in fact, because of this evaluation of Jesus, he dismissed him as an imposter and killed his followers.
But after his conversion on the Damascus road, al was changed. Jesus was now the Redeemer of al men for “He died of all.”
From now on all men were equal—irrespective of color, class, or creed.
What Paul says next can revolutionize your world. From now on you will think of yourself totally different if you apply this next verse.
B. The Faith-Life Accepts a New Creation of Man (17)
Paul’s conclusion is the regenerating experience that had taken place in his life could take place in others.
III. The Operation of the Christ-Life (18)
Christ becomes central in all our actions and conduct. The phrase that sums up the supreme operation of any Christian is what Paul terms here “the ministry of reconciliation” (18). This is the purpose for which Jesus came into the world. From the cradle to the cross, from the cross to the crown, he was and is concerned with one great operation: reconciliation.
Reconciliation involves two things:
A. There is a Word to Preach (19)
We have a message that is distinctive and dynamic.
Paul was so convinced of this Word that he could face the city of Rome and say: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
It is a message of a Savior who died, who lives and reigns to change men, to change society, to change the world.
One day the Gospel is going to effect a universal transformation; but, in the meantime, it is God’s purpose to effect individual transformations.
From now on God’s word can change your heart. It can reconcile you with God and other people.
The key idea in this paragraph is reconciliation. Because of his rebellion, man was the enemy of God and out of fellowship with Him. Through the work of the Cross, Jesus Christ has brought man and God together again. God has been reconciled and has turned His face in love toward the lost world. The basic meaning of the word reconcile is “to change thoroughly.” It refers to a changed relationship between God and the lost world.
God does not have to be reconciled to man, because that was accomplished by Christ on the cross. It is sinful man who must be reconciled to God. “Religion” is man’s feeble effort to be reconciled to God, efforts that are bound to fail. The Person who reconciles us to God is Jesus Christ, and the place where He reconciles us is His cross.
Another key idea in this section is imputation. This is a word borrowed from banking; it simply means “to put to one’s account.” When you deposit money in the bank, the computer (or the clerk) puts that amount to your account, or to your credit. When Jesus died on the cross, all of our sins were imputed to Him—put to His account. He was treated by God as though He had actually committed those sins.
The result? All of those sins have been paid for and God no longer holds them against us, because we have trusted Christ as our Saviour. But even more: God has put to our account the very righteousness of Christ! “For He hath made Him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Reconciliation is based on imputation: because the demands of God’s holy Law have been fully met on the cross, God can be reconciled to sinners. Those who believe on Jesus Christ as their Saviour will never have their sins imputed against them again (Ps. 32:1-2; Rom. 4:1-8). As far as their records are concerned, they share the righteousness of Jesus Christ!
There is a lovely illustration of this truth in the little letter Paul wrote to his friend Philemon. Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, stole from his master and then fled to Rome. Because of his crimes, he could have been crucified. But in the providence of God, Onesimus met Paul and was converted. Paul wrote the Letter to Philemon to encourage his friend to forgive Onesimus and receive him home. “Receive him as myself,” wrote Paul (Phile. 17); “if he . . . oweth thee aught, put that on mine account” (Phile. 18). Paul was willing to pay the bill (imputation) so that Onesimus and Philemon could be reconciled.
The second part of reconciliation tells us that we must carry this message to the world because there is a world to reach.
B. There is a World to Reach (19)
God is saying, From now on everything that has to be done for your salvation is finished, and it is completely up to you now.
Examine this passage carefully and you will see some of the strongest language in the New Testament dealing with what God did to achieve your salvation.
First, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”. Do you see the difficulty in understanding all that had to happen for you to be forgiven? When Jesus hung upon the cross, God was in Him.
Second, the one who knew no sin, had to be made sin for us “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (21)
From his perspective, God did everything to break down the enmity and hostility of sin which separated man from God.
But you and I also play a role in this ministry of reconciliation. Our task is to reach a world that has been reconciled to God through the death of his Son. No one can claim to know a Christ-centered life without a passion to reach the world with “the ministry of reconciliation.”
The final scene of the movie Braveheart is a moving piece of drama. The leader of the Scottish revolt against England is being tortured in front of a crowd. With his last breath, Braveheart yells, “FREEDOM”. Then he dies. All during the torture he has been holding a handkerchief that a lady had given him. His clasped hand opens as he exhausts his final breath. The handkerchief falls to the ground. That is the end of the movie but it is not the end of the story.
Two other characters in the movie play a vital part in the rest of the story. Noble Bruce, the rightful King of Scotland and Black Douglas a bitter enemy of Noble Bruce. After the execution of Braveheart, Noble Bruce bands together with all of the factions of the Scottish army. Even Black Douglas pledges allegiance to Noble Bruce. During one fateful battle Nobel Bruce is killed. Black Douglas assumes leadership of the army. He has the heart of Noble Bruce incased in a small silver casket and he carries it into battle. Black Douglas in mortally wounded. He stands before his countrymen, takes the casket in his hand and throws it into the thickest fray of the battle then cries, “Follow that heart and conquer.”
God held up His Son for all to see and then he cries, IF YOU WANT TO BE CHANGED, RECONCILED AND SAVED….FOLLOW THAT HEART AND CONQUER.
You can conquer your sin today. No more New Year’s resolutions to stop a habit. Come to Christ today and be changed.