For Easter Sunday, we looked at 2 Corinthians 5:14–18, which speaks of the importance of the Resurrection of Jesus for the life of the believer. These verses are actually part of a larger passage in which Paul defends his ministry and the motivations behind his ministry to the Corinthian church, but I believe that the reasons for his ministry also extend to the lives of all believers.
The verses we looked at begin by declaring that Christ’s love is what compels Paul. To summarize his argument, the love of Christ (perhaps both love from Christ and love for Christ?) controls Paul in his ministry because he has concluded that Jesus died for all, and because He died for all and was raised, then those who are raised to new life through His work should live for His sake, not their own (vv. 14–15). That is, Jesus died for our sins, and was raised to life victorious over death, so that (in part) we could be given a new life that is different than the one we needed to be saved from. He did not die so that we can go to heaven yet continue on in life as if nothing was changed. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul has decided that the only way forward is to live the way that Christ did rather than seeking his own self-interest and self-promotion.
As the passage continues, we see that Paul has ceased looking at only the physical aspects of people and life, but rather understands that there is something bigger going on. Just as Christ was raised to a new kind of glorified and resurrected life, so also those who trust in Christ for salvation are given a new kind of life. He says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (v. 17) Those whom Jesus saves should live differently because of the resurrection. We who trust in Him are already given a piece of the new life that Jesus has.
This “new creation” image draws my mind back to Ezekiel 36:24–28, in which the Lord promises Israel that there would be a day when he would renew their hearts, replacing their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh (ones that are soft toward God and His commands), and putting His very own Spirit within them to help them walk obediently before Him (vv. 26–27). While this promise is made specifically to the people of Israel/Judah, the New Testament shows that this is also the case for all who believe in the work of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Finally, we ended our discussion with verse 18: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” To be reconciled to God is to be forgiven of all sin and legal debt, and to be restored to a right relationship with Him (think of the way Adam and Eve walked with Him in the Garden of Eden). This was only possible because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. For Paul, because Jesus reconciled him to God, it naturally followed that Paul’s mission in life should be helping others be reconciled to God. I think this is the same for us. Very few, if any, of us will do traveling missions work to the extent that Paul did. However, I’m sure that each one of us has people in our lives who don’t know Jesus and have not experienced the life we were created for and the salvation we should all long for. If we have been raised with Christ and given new life, let’s all be looking for ways that we can invite others in our lives to experience that new life as well!