Ambassadors For Christ (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) Sermon [Video, Text]

On Sunday September 29, 2019 I had the privilege of preaching for my father’s 17th pastoral anniversary at Alpha Baptist Church in Willingboro, NJ. I thank God for the work He has done through His worker, Pastor Danny Scotton Sr.

Below, please find the sermon video, hyperlinked outline, text, bibliography, and more. Footnotes appear throughout the text and link to the bottom of the page. The author’s translation (AT) of 2 Cor 5:11-21 appears in italics.

Sermon Video

Sermon Outline


This is a big day. This is a momentous occasion. This is the day I’ve been waiting for… You ever get sick and tired of parents lecturing you? And you can’t talk back; you just gotta sit there and listen…

Ever wish that you lecture them about how you really feel? And they couldn’t talk back? And they just had to sit there and listen to your opinion for once? My, my, my, how the tables have turned…

But I’m not here to merely, give you my opinion.

One night at Bible Study, I was about have some dinner (shoutout to the Hospitality Ministry!), and like any normal person, I was putting some mayonnaise on my hot dog. And someone asked, “You put mayonnaise on hot dogs?” Everyone puts mayonnaise on their hot dogs, right? Well, mayonnaise on hot dogs is delicious – in my opinion. But I’m not here to give you my opinion.

In my opinion, it’s very beneficial to drink 16oz of water as soon as you wake up. In my opinion, this is good advice. [1] But I am not here for good advice; I’m here for the Good News[2] – the Gospel, the living water of Christ (cf. Jn 4:10).

It is my duty, as a messenger of Christ, to deliver a message of Christ. I have no authority of my own; the authority comes from the Author. My aim is to just deliver the mail, as an ambassador for Christ.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Ps 19:14).

We thank God for the ambassador who has been leading Alpha Baptist Church for 17 years: Pastor Danny Scotton Sr. Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” We thank God for the work He has done through His worker: Pastor Scotton. To God be the glory; great things He has done.


The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. You know a lot of these biblical metaphors don’t make sense unless you know a little something about farming. Anybody grow up on a farm?

As you may recall, harvest time is when you gather the crops that were planted months earlier.[3] It takes a lot of work, but selling harvested crops is how farmers make their money. Before harvest time, if there’s a drought, and the crops aren’t getting enough rain to grow, it’s bad for business.

One of our members who is currently recuperating from surgery told me that back in her day, down South, there would be people who would guarantee rain – for a fee. They proclaimed good news! If you paid them, they would guarantee that it would rain on a certain day.

Now it may rain; it may not. But you can guarantee that that day; they were not going to be around. They were peddling false good news – for a profit.

Now I didn’t grow up on a farm; I grew up on the internet. So, when I see someone forward me a chain message that says, “Good news: If you send this message to ten people, God is going to bless you with a financial breakthrough”, I know that’s false good news. That’s not how it works.

And people still send emails like: “Help, I’m a prince whose trapped in a foreign country. But the good news is: If you just send me a little money to help me leave, I’ll give you a lot of money when I get out”. [4] People still peddle false good news – for a profit.

And we have people who claim you can be healed if you buy their special water or come to their special service. I sometimes wonder why they don’t just stop by the emergency room or the local children’s hospital…

We have preachers who claim that if you would just give money to them, God will give money to you. People peddle a false gospel for a profit. In other words, fake prophets like to make profits.

In Corinth, Paul was likely dealing with such fake prophets. In 2 Cor 2:17 (NIV) he says, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”[5]

You see, in 2 Corinthians, Paul is defending his ministry against the accusations of false teachers.[6] It seems that they were distorting the word of God (2 Cor 4:2) and preaching a different Jesus than the Jesus Paul preached (2 Cor 11:4).[7]

In 2 Cor 11:13 he says, “such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.”[8]

Although Paul founded the Corinthian church (cf. 1 Cor 4:14–15; 2 Cor 10:13–14),[9] some of his members were apparently being deceived. So, in this letter, Paul is trying to persuade them to be committed to his ministry, which represents the true Good News.[10]


2 Corinthians 5:11

In 2 Cor 5:11 he says: Since, therefore, having known the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people (2 Cor 5:11a, AT).

Fear of the LORD?

Now, knowing the fear of the LORD means more than knowing about something intellectually, but knowing something personally.[11]

People come up to me all the time like: Hey Danny! Boy, you look just like your Dad! I’ve heard so much about you! I know you! And I be like: “Heyyy Sister…[?]”

My point is, just because someone knows about you, doesn’t mean they know you. Just because someone knows about Jesus, doesn’t mean they know Jesus.

In any case, as preachers often say, whenever you see a “therefore” in Scripture, it is wise to ask, “what is the therefore there for?”

Paul has been discussing how, when Christians pass away, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:6-8). In verse 9, Paul writes, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (2 Cor 5:9, NIV).[12] Why?

As we read in verse 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 (2 Cor 5:10, NIV)[13] (cf. e.g., Rom 2:6–11; 14:10; Eph 6:8; Col 3:25; cf. Matt 16:27; 1 Pet 1:17; Rev 2:23; 20:12; 22:12).[14]

My brothers and sisters, we will all stand before Christ on the Day of Judgment. If one does not know Christ, one should dread this day. But if we live to please Christ, we can look forward to living with the One we’ve been living for.[15]

We’re not saved by our works, but there are heavenly rewards we can gain or lose based on how we live[16] (cf. Mt 5:12; 1 Cor 9:25; 2 Tim 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pet 1:4; 5:4).[17]

So, when he speaks of fearing the LORD, Paul is not describing terror, but reverence.[18] For he knows that for everything he does, God will hold him accountable. As it’s been said, the fear of the LORD is a “conviction that influences conduct.”[19]

Proverbs 1:7 tells us: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pr 1:7, NIV).[20] Psalm 14:1 says “the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no god’ (Ps 14:1, NIV). Now, some people may never say “there is no god,” but they may act like there is no god.[21]

My brothers and sisters, it doesn’t matter what school we went to, how many degrees we have, or how smart we think we are – if we do not fear the LORD, we don’t know the first thing about nothin’.

Colleges Used to Fear the LORD

Colleges used to know this. Did you know that Harvard University, the oldest college in the country, was founded to train ministers?[22] So was Yale.[23] Princeton was founded by Presbyterian ministers from Harvard and Yale.

Rutgers was affiliated with the Dutch Reformed Church.[24] Northwestern University was founded by Methodists.[25] Howard University was founded by missionaries of the Congregational Church to train black preachers.[26] Brown[27] and Temple[28] were founded by Baptists.

In fact, of the 182 colleges and universities founded before 1932, 92 percent were founded by Christian denominations.[29]

If one examines the history, you’ll find that Western education is largely a product of Christianity.[30] But, unfortunately, a lot of our colleges have gone astray and become secular – as have a lot of our college students.

Nonetheless, the fear of the LORD is still the beginning of knowledge. It’s foolish to fail to reverence God. Not selfish ambition,[31] but the fear of the LORD is a motivation for Paul’s ministry[32] of the true Good News.[33]

Fearing the LORD vs. Pleasing People

My brothers and sisters, my pastor, when we’re spreading the Good News, we can’t worry about pleasing people. We’re not accountable to people. On the Last Day, we’re not going to stand before people.

In Galatians 1:10 Paul says, “Am I now trying to win the approval (πείθω | peithō) of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10, NIV).[34]

We don’t need to preach for Amens; if we’re preaching the true Gospel, not everyone is going to say Amen. Our motive should be the fear of the LORD, not the approval of the people.

Motivation for Persuasion

So, Paul seeks to persuade others of the purity of his motives and of the truth of Christ.[35] In Scripture, we see that Paul often tries to persuade people to believe in Jesus (cf. 2 Cor 10:5; Ac 9:20-22; 13:16-43; 17:22-34; 19:8-10; 26:24-29; 28:23).[36]

He convicts them, he argues with them, he reasons with them. And, through the Holy Spirit, he is often successful (e.g., Ac 17:2-4).[37] As Spirit-filled ambassadors, we should endeavor to do the same.

And, the word translated persuasion (peithō) may refer to certain Greco-Roman rhetorical techniques.[38] In such techniques, people were more concerned with how you sounded, rather than what you said.

Do you know anyone who talks a lot but doesn’t say much? People can speak poetically – and yet not speak prophetically: false prophets. The Greco-Roman rhetoric could be used to deceive and even manipulate.[39]It could be used to distort the truth to make it more appealing.[40]

But unlike the false prophets,[41] Paul is not trying to persuade people with fancy speech.[42] In 2 Cor 2:4-5 he says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor 2:4-5, NIV).[43] It’s not about the skill of the speaker, but the truth of what is spoken.

Open Book

Paul continues: But, to God, what we are has been clearly revealed.[44] And, I hope it to be clearly revealed in your consciences, as well. (2 Cor 5:11b, AT).

In other words, Paul is like: I’m an open book;[45] God knows what I’m really all about.[46] I hope[47] you will, too.[48] He’s not seeking their approval. Yet, he invites them to see how his life bears witness to the Gospel he proclaims.[49]

As it’s been said, as ambassadors, we must ask ourselves: do our lives and our lips “speak the same language?”[50]

We can put on church clothes, we can learn the church lingo, we can sing all the church songs. We might fool people; might even fool ourselves.[51] But we can’t fool God[52] (cf. 2 Tim 2:19).

In any case, if Paul has a clear conscience before God, what does he need to hide from the Corinthians?[53] He’s not admonishing them to exalt himself; he’s doing it for their good[54] – and for God’s glory.

2 Corinthians 5:12

So in verse 12 he says: We are not commending ourselves[55] to you again, but giving you an opportunity[56] to boast because of us, so that you may have [something to say to] those who boast before you in appearances and not in heart. (2 Cor 5:12, AT).


Don’t you hate when people always toot their own horn? I saw a picture online that said, “You’re going to break your arm patting yourself on the back like that.”[57]

In Paul’s day, when introducing themselves, people would give others letters of recommendation.[58] But they usually didn’t write their letters of recommendation themselves. It was considered offensive to recommend oneself.[59]

As Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips” (Pr 27:2, NIV).[60]

So, pastor, my brothers and sisters, as ambassadors for Christ, there’s rarely a need to publicly pat ourselves on the back, or remind people of our ministerial credentials.

Moreover, any commendation of ourselves should always point to God.[61] It’s not about what we’ve done, but what God has done through us. The advance of the true Gospel is much more important than the advance of our reputation.[62]

So, Paul is not tooting his own horn. Rather, he wants to give the Corinthians ammunition so they can respond to his critic,[63] so they can boast in what God has done through him.[64] As Paul reminds the Corinthians twice in his letters, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31;[65] 2 Cor 10:17, NIV cf. Jer 9:23).

Outward Appearance vs. Inward Heart

But, apparently, the false prophets weren’t boasting in God. It literally says they were boasting in “face” (πρόσωπον | prosōpon).[66] Metaphorically, this means they were boasting about what’s on the surface[67]– that which catches the eye,[68] that which is seen[69] – on outward appearances. [70]

Ever meet someone who was pretty on the outside, but ugly on the inside?

In Scripture, one’s inward heart, which  refers to our thoughts, desires, and emotions (cf. 1 Ki 3:9),[71] is more important than outward appearance[72] (cf. 2 Cor 10:7).[73] In John 7:24, Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (Jn 7:24, NIV).

Paul’s language echoes one of my favorite Scriptures. When the prophet Samuel is sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the new king of Israel, before he anoints David, who was the youngest, he looks at the oldest son and says: Surely this must be God’s anointed.

But in 1 Sam 16:7 the LORD says to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sa 16:7, NIV).[74]

The false prophets likely boasted about being paid to speak, about their spiritual experiences,[75] about their letters of recommendation (2 Cor 3:1), their rhetorical skill (2 Cor 11:5-6),[76] and their flashy presentations.[77]

On the other hand, Paul preached for free, rarely spoke in tongues (1 Cor 14:18-19), and didn’t use fancy speech (1 Cor 1:17; 2:1-5, 2 Cor 10:10; 11:6).[78] And though he’d try to win others to Christ by any means necessary (1 Cor 9:19-23), he suffered greatly (cf. 2 Cor 11:22-28).[79]

At the end of Chapter 11 (cf. 2 Cor 11:22-29), Paul tells how he’s been flogged, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked. He’s been in danger from, rivers, bandits, Jews, and Gentiles. He’s been in danger in the city, in the country, and on the sea. He’s been sleepless and anxious, hungry and thirsty, cold and naked (cf. 2 Cor 11:22-28).

Now, imagine that this guy is telling you that you’re doing something wrong and need to repent. If we’re judging by outward appearances, we might say: Nah man, it seems like you might be doing something wrong.

Prosperity preachers will tell us that if we do certain righteous things, then God is supposed to bless us with health and wealth. But Paul’s ministry has left him neither healthy nor wealthy.

Maybe he just didn’t know how to name it and claim it like people do today…Maybe he just didn’t know how to position himself for a blessing like people do today… Or maybe we still have some false prophets preaching a false gospel, even today.

Back in Paul’s day, these false prophets were all show, and no substance.[80] Back in my day, Kirk Franklin said, “Someone asked a question: was it just a show?”[81]

If we’re ambassadors for Christ, we can’t come to the pulpit to put on a show. We can’t come to the choir loft to put on a show. And we can’t sit in the pews to watch a show. We can’t be more concerned with style than we are with substance.

And, if we’re always talking about outward appearances, that speaks to our inward inclinations.[82] For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Mt 12:34).[83]

2 Corinthians 5:13 — Ecstasy and/or Insanity?

Paul continues in verse 13: For if we were out of our mind, it was for God. If we were in our right mind, it was for you. (2 Cor 5:13, AT).

Out of our mind is a translation of the Greek term from which we get the word ecstasy (ἔκστασις | ekstasis). It can refer to spiritual ecstasy,[84] describing ecstatic, spiritual experiences[85] like speaking in tongues.[86]

If this is what Paul means here, he’s saying that such spiritual experiences are between Him and God – not something to boast about or to be used to support his claims.[87] It may be that he wants to keep such moments with God private – while, in public, he tries to persuade people rationally.[88]

That being said, this word literally means to be “outside of oneself”[89] and can be used to describe someone who cannot “reason soundly”.[90]

In the third chapter of Mark, Jesus’ own family said He was “out of [H]is mind” (Mk 3:21).[91] If they said that about Jesus, let’s not be surprised if we’re spreading the Gospel, and people call us crazy.

Paul’s rivals may have thought he was crazy.[92] So, he might be responding by saying: If I’m “crazy”, I’m “crazy” for God.[93] Whether they thought he was rational or irrational, everything he did was for their good and for God’s glory[94] (2 Cor 4:5, 15 cf. 1 Cor 10:31).[95]

2 Corinthians 5:14

He continues in verse 14: For the love of Christ constrains us (2 Cor 5:14a, AT).

For the Love of Christ

Now the love of Christ can refer to Paul’s love of Christ,[96] or Christ’s love of Paul,[97] but most likely both.[98]

The word translated constrain literally means “hold together” (συνέχω | synechō).[99] Metaphorically, it means to dominate[100] or control. Hatred for Christ used to be his controlling motive (cf. Ac 9:1f.); now he is controlled by the love of Christ.[101]

Paul used to cause people who followed Christ to suffer; now he suffers so people may follow Christ.[102]

And it’s interesting how Paul is motivated by both the fear and the love of the Lord. But how can someone fear and love someone at the same time?

Fear and Love?

When I was younger, if my brother and I were home alone, we would be hangin’ out, eatin’ sweets, playing video games, watching TV – you know, things we were supposed to do only after we finished our homework and chores.

But you see my parents messed up, and had one of those automatic garage door openers. So, once we heard that door open, we knew we had about 45 seconds until Mom walked in. Now my brother and I didn’t always get along. But when Mom drove up, we worked together in perfect harmony.

We didn’t even have to speak; we had hand signals and everything. And we would clean up and be upstairs in our rooms before she stepped one foot in the door. Because we love Mom, but we also feared Mom.

When Mom was around, couldn’t be no foolishness. People who’ve had her for physical therapy often tell me, “Man, your Mom is tough.” And, I be like, “I know firsthand. I also know backhand.”

You see, it’s possible to reverence someone and love someone at the same time. But speaking of time, when Jesus comes back. Ain’t gon’ be no time to clean up (Mt 24:42f.; 1 Th 5:4f, etc.). So, we better not be in no foolishness.

As we should, Paul lives a Christ-driven life.[103] He’s under orders[104] with dual functions. The love of Christ both restrains him from living for self, and urges him to live for the Savior.[105]

All For One, One For All

Paul continues, having judged this: that One died for all; as a result, all died (2 Cor 5:14, AT).

Likely after his experience on the road to Damascus (Ac 9:10-19),[106] after assessing the evidence,[107] in Paul’s judgment (κρίνω | krinō)[108], he came to “the rational conclusion”[109] that Christ died for all.

Christ dying for (ὑπέρ | hyper cf. Gal 2:20;[110] Rom 5:8[111]) all most likely refers to Christ’s sacrificial death for all humanity– as our substitute.[112]

On the cross, Christ was our corporate representative.[113] Since He represented us, when He died, we all died.

In doing so, He demonstrated His great love – a love that is both immense and intense: immense because He loves great numbers of people, and intense because He loves each person greatly.[114] O, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me.1

2 Corinthians 5:15

In verse 15, Paul says: And He died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for He who died for them and was raised (to life)[115] (2 Cor 5:15, AT).

One for “All”?

In verses 14 and 15, the word all (πᾶς | pas), appears three times. I contend that each time, “all” refers to all people[116] (cf. Col 1:20; Rom 8:32; Heb 2:9)[117] – not just all Christians.[118]

As 1 Jn 2:2 states, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2, NIV).[119] And we know “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16, NIV).

Christ died for all, but not all will live for Christ. Christ died for all, but not all are saved[120] automatically.[121] Christ died for all, but not all will respond to His Grace[122] with  faith(fulness).

So, as it’s been said, though Christ’s death is sufficient for all, it is only efficient for some.[123] Only His faithful followers will reap the benefits. In verse 15 “those who live” most likely refers to those who live in Christ.[124] Christ died for all, but not all will live for Christ.

Living for the Self vs. Living for the Savior

And we who live for the Savior can no longer live for the self.[125] Sometimes we think, as the poem goes, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”[126] But living for Christ means that Jesus has taken the wheel.

As it’s been said, “To live for self is to serve sin. To live for Christ is to serve [H]im.”[127] This means that, primarily, we are not to look to our own interests, but to the interests of Christ (cf. Php 2:21).[128] Let us not be self-seeking,[129] or self-directing,[130] or self-promoting.[131]

If our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we are not our own; we were bought at a price (1 Cor 6:19-20).[132] As it’s been said, if Jesus has come into our hearts, we can’t treat Him like a houseguest; He’s the homeowner![133]

Our world cannot revolve around us; our world must revolve around the Son[134] (S-O-N)[135] – the Son of God.

There’s a famous rapper who, back in the day, had a popular song called “Jesus Walks”. Yet over the years, he also rapped about all kinds of ungodly things. But now he’s on tour with a choir, and they’re singing and spreading the Gospel from city to city.

He says he’s seen all the things the devil can entice you with. He’s seen the cars, the clothes, the fortune, the fame – but nothing compares to Christ.[136] I hope all goes well for him and that he continues to spread the message through the music.

In any case, during one of his recent “Sunday Services,” he talked about the “at least” crowd. Those of us who say, “Well, at least I go to church” (sometimes). Or “at least I read the Bible” (sometimes). Or at least I say my prayers (sometimes). But then he was like, “How can we do the least [for Christ], when He did the most [for us]?”[137]

In Heaven, we’ll be serving (cf. Lk 19:17; Mt 25:20-21)[138] and praising the Lord (Revelation 4-5; 7:9-12;[139] see Rev 5:9[140]) forever and ever. If someone doesn’t like to serve and praise the Lord on earth, why would they ever want to go to Heaven?[141]

If we want to live with Jesus in Heaven, let us live for Jesus on earth. Yes, God has a plan for our life, but He’s given us life for His plan.[142]

2 Corinthians 5:16 — New Worldview

Paul continues in verse 16: Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.[143] Even though we had regarded Christ according to the flesh, now we no longer regard [Him in this way]. (2 Cor 5:16, AT).

According to the flesh, means according to human, worldly standards.[144] Paul has a new worldview[145] – one not based on heritage, intelligence, wealth, or social status.[146]

Previously he judged Christ by superficial standards.[147] Many expected the Messiah to be a conqueror who would overthrow the enemies of the Jews. But Jesus got Himself crucified. And Deuteronomy 21 tells us that “…anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse” (Dt 21:23b, NIV).[148] In Paul’s mind, since Christ died on a cross,[149] he likely thought he was a “messianic pretender.”[150]

But Paul’s new insight replaced his previous way of thinking[151] – insight that came from the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:3, 6-18).[152]

In the same way, we should not judge or evaluate based on superficial, worldly criteria.[153] Our clothes, our cars, our residence, our education, our jobs, our looks: these are not reliable indicators of our spiritual health.[154]

We have to discern through the eyes of the Spirit, not through the eyes of society.[155]

As Pastor preached last week, Rom 12:2 says “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2a, NIV). Let’s not be brainwashed by Hollywood; let’s have our brains washed by the Holy Word.

2 Corinthians 5:17 — New Creation

In verse 17, Paul says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old has passed away; the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17, AT).

If anyone is in relationship with Christ,[156] if anyone is faithful to Christ, and united with Him through the Spirit,[157] there is no more “business as usual.”[158] Conversion entails a radical change in attitude and behavior.[159] There should be a sign on our foreheads that says, “Under New Management!”[160]

And, not only does being in Christ mean being a new creature,[161] but participating in a new situation,[162] a new age,[163]  a new created order.[164]

In Isaiah 65, God says, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (Is 65:17, NIV cf. Is 66:22; 43:1-21 esp. Is 43:18-19 cf. Is 51:9-10, 54:9-10; 42:9).[165] And, we see such language throughout Isaiah and Revelation.

Being part of the new creation means experiencing a foretaste of the world to come.[166] When Christ comes back, He will consummate His Kingdom.

But until then, we must be His ambassadors – so others may be reconciled to the King.

2 Corinthians 5:18

In verse 18, Paul continues: All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation.[167] (2 Cor 5:18, AT).

Broken Relationships

I suspect we all know what it’s like to have a broken relationship – a relationship where we used to be cool with someone, but we don’t talk anymore.

Usually, someone does something to offend the other, right? And, it’s almost like there’s a barrier that blocks the two people from reconciling, and having a good relationship. We may have once been close with them, but now they are alienated from us – they feel so far away.

We have to understand that sin offends God.[168] God takes sin personally.[169] And, our sin alienates us from God (cf. Col 1:21).[170] Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Is 59:2, NIV).[171]

Could you imagine someone doing you wrong day after day after day, and then asking you for a favor?

Proverbs 28:9 says, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, ever their prayers are detestable” (Pr 28:9, NIV cf. 1 Pet 3:7) – an “abomination” (cf. Pr 28:9 NRSV, ESV, NASB). Sin is a barrier that separates us from God, preventing reconciliation[172] and relationship.

Costly, Personal Reconciliation

Now imagine you’re about to go on vacation and you ask your friend to watch your house. But when you come back, your furniture is damaged, there’s holes in the walls, and the whole place is a mess.

When you see your friend, you ask what happened and they say, “Oh, we had a party in your house and it got a little out of hand. I’m so sorry.”

You might say, “Well, you should be sorry. But who’s gonna pay for this?” Even in our relationships, we know that just saying sorry doesn’t make everything alright.

People may come to God and say, “God, I’m sorry.” And we should be sorry for our sin. But who’s gonna pay for it? Jesus said: I will.

As the old hymn goes, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin has left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”[173]

Usually, it takes a third person to mediate and help two parties reconcile.[174] But God Himself initiates this reconciliation.[175] And He sends Christ as His agent, through whom He accomplishes the reconciliation.[176]

Not all people will accept the terms of His reconciliation.[177] But those who respond to His grace, by being faithful to Christ, are reconciled to God. And God has entrusted to us – His ambassadors – to spread the Good News of reconciliation through Christ.[178]

So, we who are reconciled, therefore become reconcilers.[179]

2 Corinthians 5:19

In verse 19, Paul elaborates: That is, in Christ,[180] God was reconciling the world to Himself – not counting their transgressions against them – and He entrusted to us the message of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19, AT).

Just Calculation of Reconciliation

The word translated counting (λογίζομαι | logizomai) means to “calculate”.[181] It was a term people used when calculating debts.[182] In Scripture, sin is often pictured as a debt to God. For example, the Lord’s prayer says, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:12, NIV) (cf. Col 2:13-14).[183]

And transgressions (παραπτώματα | paraptōmata)[184] are sins that are deliberate.[185] It’s when we know God’s moral boundaries, and yet still step out of bounds – when we know God’s moral law, and yet still break it.

Don’t you hate when certain people commit crimes, but get off easy? You might think: I bet if they looked little different, or had little less money, they would’ve thrown the book at ‘em.  We know that judges that don’t punish crimes fairly are unjust.

Well God is not only just, He is holy.[186] So, He can’t just sweep sin under the rug.[187] God is not indifferent to sin;[188] God’s wrath is His holy and just response to sin (cf. Rom 1:18; 5:9-11).[189]

But because Jesus paid our sin-debt, our accounts have been settled.[190] Paul’s language echoes Psalm 32, which begins, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Ps 32:1-2, NIV).[191]

Because Christ paid the price, God can justly reconcile us to Himself (cf. Rom 3:25-26).[192]

And, this image of reconciliation is powerful and personal (cf. Rom 5:10-11).[193] For God is not merely banker who transfers money from Christ’s account to our account and proclaims “Paid in Full.”[194]

And God is more than a Judge who, because of Christ, pronounces us not guilty[195] Why? Because judges can declare a person not guilty, and have no desire to ever see that person again; [196]  But God wants a relationship[197] (e.g., Jn 14:23; Rev 3:20) – a reconciled relationship.

The Problematic First Step

But reconciliation requires that both sides recognize the wrongdoing.[198] It means we have to acknowledge our sin and repent.[199]

But people don’t want to hear a message about sin and repentance nowadays. As it’s been said, it’s not that people are too bad for Jesus; a lot of people think they’re too good for Jesus.[200]

The first step is admitting one has a problem. People may look healthy by worldly standards, while their spiritual health is in danger. Jesus is the Great Physician, but many refuse treatment.

People might not like it, but as ambassadors, it’s our job to say: Bruh, you need to go to the Doctor.[201]

2 Corinthians 5:20

In verse 20, Paul says: Therefore, we are ambassador’s on Christ’s behalf – as God makes His appeal through us. We beg you, on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20, AT).

Diplomats of the Divine

As you may recall, an ambassador is someone who represents and speaks for another party.[202] They carry messages from one nation to another,[203] and make peace treaties.[204]

And because they were authorized representatives, they had what we would call: diplomatic immunity.[205] For people knew that to mistreat the one who was sent, was to mistreat the sender.[206]

No Diplomatic Immunity, Impunity

Now, as Christian ambassadors, we don’t have diplomatic immunity (cf. Eph 6:20; 2 Cor 6:4-10).[207] As it’s been since the 1st century, those of us who spread the Gospel will often face persecution. But how people receive Christ’s messengers (and therefore His message) reflects how they receive Christ.

In Matthew 10, Jesus tells His disciples, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me (Mt 10:40, NIV cf. Mt 10:15, 41-42; Jn 13:20).[208]

As we discussed in Bible Study, this is likely why later in Matthew 25, Jesus says, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40, NIV).[209] How you treat Christ’s spiritual family, is how you treat Christ (cf. Mt 10:41-42).

If an FBI agent named Jim comes to your house, and you reject Jim, you are not merely rejecting Jim. You’re rejecting the FBI. FBI agents come with the authority of the FBI.

Likewise, ambassadors are Christ’s agents who come with the authority of Christ. We have been commissioned with the ministry of reconciliation. And as Jesus says in Jn 13:20, “…whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” (Jn 13:20b, NIV).[210]

Authorized, not Authors

That being said, ambassadors have no authority of their own,[211] and no authority to change the message of the Author.[212] We can’t water-down the Gospel to make to make it go down smoother.

We have to tell people what they need to know, not just what they want to hear. An ambassador is a spokesperson,[213] not an editor! And we must spread the message to all people.[214]

Internal and External Proclamation

But we must remember that Paul is writing to the Corinthian church.[215] And he implores the church members to be reconciled to God.[216] For some had been led astray due to the false teachers (cf. 2 Cor 2:17; 11:4).[217]

Their church likely had a mix of both false and faithful Christians (cf. 2 Cor 7:8-9;[218] 2 Cor 6:1;[219] 2 Cor 13:5).[220] We have beg people to be reconciled to God – both inside and outside the walls of the church.

2 Corinthians 5:21

In the last verse, Paul says: The One who knew no sin, for us, was made sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21, AT).[221] 

The Prophesied Great Exchange

It says Christ knew no sin, meaning he had “no personal experience with sin.”[222] For we know Scripture says Christ was sinless (Jn 8:46; 1 Jn 3:5; Heb. 4:15; 7:26–28; 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22; 3:18).[223]

But the Sinless One was made to be sin for us. This likely means that Christ was made to be our sin offering.[224] Or that Christ was “made to bear the consequences of our sins.”[225]

He sacrificed Himself for our sins (Rom 3:25-26, 5:6-8; 14:15; Gal 1:4, 2:20, 3:13; 1 Th 5:9-10; 1 Tim 2:6)[226] – taking the curse and the punishment that we deserved (cf. Gal 3:13).[227]

In doing so, echoing the great prophecy of Isaiah 53, our sin was exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.[228] [I omitted the following paragraph during the 11AM version of this sermon for time. This sentence served as an abbreviation of what follows]

This Great Exchange echoes the prophecy of Isaiah 53, which foretells of a sinless servant (Is 53:9),[229] who “was pierced for our transgressions… crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Is 53:5, NIV).[230]

His life was made an offering for sin (Is 53:10),[231] to intercede for transgressors (Is 53:12),[232] and to make many righteous (Is 53:11).[233]

Righteousness of God

And, the righteousness of God likely means more than just right standing before God.[234] It’s more than moving from guilty to innocent.[235] It also means being in right relationship with God.[236]

Moreover, it also likely means exemplifying God’s righteous character in our conduct.[237] Through the Holy Spirit, we can be conformed (Rom 8:29) and transformed to be more and more like Christ (2 Cor 3:18).[238] We can’t exemplify the fruits of the Spirit, without the Root of the Spirit.[239]


Three Ambassador Requirements

Speaking of fruits of the Spirit, last week I sat in during Children’s Church. It’s nice to feel tall every once in a while. The children were learning about the fruits of the Spirit, and they were asked what kind of fruits they would put in a fruit salad.

One child was so excited as he replied, “Tomatoes!” Then the next child screamed, “Salad dressing!” And I just laughed. I was like, “Whatever fruit salad y’all are making, I don’t want no parts of it.”

One of my favorite authors says ambassadors for Christ have to have at least three things: knowledge, wisdom, and character.[240] As it’s been said, knowledge is knowing that tomatoes are technically fruits. Wisdom is knowing not to put them in a fruit salad.[241]

Now we can’t be messengers of Christ unless we know the message of Christ. We have to study the Scriptures; meditate on them day and night (Ps 1:1; Jos 1:8, etc.). But we must also must ask the Lord for the wisdom to relay the message wisely.

In addition, we should know more about the Good News than we do about the bad news. We are ambassadors of the Gospel, not ambassadors of the Gossip. And, if you turn on the TV, they’ll tell you bad news 24/7.

But, we should be sharing what we see in Scripture more than what we see on CNN or SportsCenter. We gotta fill out hearts with what the word says more than what the world says. For our mouths will speak what our hearts are full of (Mt 12:34).

Moreover, we need the character that reflects the message. If I am proclaiming a message about a new workout plan, and I am out of shape, I am not reflecting well on that message. If we’re proclaiming the message of Christ, and we are out of shape spiritually, we’re not reflecting well on that message.

We must practice what we preach (cf. Mt 23:3). As we’ve said, our lips and our lives must “speak the same language.”[242]

Shooting the Messenger

And even if they do, we should be prepared for negative responses. They called Paul crazy, they called Jesus crazy, they’ll probably call us crazy, too.

And, watch out for the rebound. You start talking to people about repentance and reconciliation and they’ll flip it on you in a second.

They be like: “How you gonna talk to me about Jesus when you used to do (this), (this), and (this)? They’ll try to take you back to your B.C. days. And I be like, “I used to wet the bed, too. But thanks be to God, I grew up!”

Paul used persecute the church, but now he’s boldly urging a church to be reconciled to God.

As ambassadors, we are authorized messengers of Christ. It’s not our authority; It’s Christ’s authority. It’s not based on what we have done; it’s based on what Christ has done. And, it’s not our message; It’s Christ’s message. But let’s not be surprised when people try to shoot the messenger!

Wrappin’ It Up (No Rap This Time)

But we aren’t accountable to people; we’re accountable to God. Our motivation should not be personal profit or recognition, but the fear and the love of the LORD. We don’t have to have fancy speech or credentials, just the Spirit of Christ.

Let’s watch out for false prophets: wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing (cf. Mt 7:15). Let’s focus less on the outward appearances and more on the inward heart. Let’s not be brainwashed by society, but have our brains washed by the Spirit.

Let’s focus less on recreation, and more on re-creation. For anyone who is in Christ is part of the new creation. Christ died for us; let’s live for Him.

More than good opinions or good advice, let’s proclaim the Good News – the true Gospel. Let’s proclaim the message of reconciliation boldly as God’s mouthpiece,[243] that He might work through us[244] – as He has worked through Pastor Scotton for 17 years. To God be the glory; Great things He has done.


  • Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. [Cited as BDAG]
  • Balla, Peter. “2 Corinthians.” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 753–82. Grand Rapids, MI;  Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos, 2007.
  • Balz, Horst Robert, and Gerhard Schneider. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990–. [Cited as EDNT]
  • Barnett, Paul. The Message of 2 Corinthians: Power in Weakness. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.
  • Barnett, Paul. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997.
  • Belleville, Linda L. 2 Corinthians. Vol. 8. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1996.
  • Blomberg, Craig. Matthew. Vol. 22. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.
  • Davis, James A. “1-2 Corinthians.” In The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, edited by Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012.
  • Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.
  • France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007.
  • Garland, David E. 2 Corinthians. Vol. 29. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.
  • Guthrie, George H. 2 Corinthians. Edited by Robert W. Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015.
  • Hafemann, Scott J. 2 Corinthians. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000.
  • Harris, Murray J. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Milton Keynes, UK: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.; Paternoster Press, 2005.
  • Hawthorne, Gerald F., Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
  • Howard, Oliver Otis. Autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard, Major General, United States Army. Vol. 2. Autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard, Major General, United States Army. Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.
  • Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI;  Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009.
  • Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Second Edition. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2014.[Citations for Keener refer to this volume unless otherwise indicated]
  • Koukl, Gregory. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. Zondervan. Kindle Edition, 2009.
  • Kruse, Colin G. “2 Corinthians.” In New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, edited by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., 1188–1205. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
  • Kruse, Colin G. 2 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary. Edited by Eckhard J. Schnabel. Second edition. Vol. 8. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2015.
  • Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996. [Cited as LN]
  • Osborne, Grant R. Matthew. Vol. 1. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.
  • Martin, Ralph P., and Carl N. Toney. “2 Corinthians.” In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Vol. 15. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009.
  • Martin, Ralph P. 2 Corinthians. Edited by Ralph P. Martin, Lynn Allan Losie, and Peter H. Davids. Second Edition. Vol. 40. Word Biblical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. [Citations for Martin refer to this volume]
  • McDonald, Lee Martin. “2 Corinthians.” In The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Acts–Philemon, edited by Craig A. Evans and Craig A. Bubeck, First Edition., 375–457. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2004.
  • Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003.
  • Mounce, William D. Basics of Biblical Greek: Grammar. Edited by Verlyn D. Verbrugge. Third Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.
  • Omanson, Roger L., and John Ellington. A Handbook on Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993. [Citations for UBS refer to this volume]
  • Robertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Logos Bible Software, 2006.
  • Ryken, Leland, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman, Colin Duriez, Douglas Penney, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
  • Seifrid, Mark A. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Second Letter to the Corinthians. Edited by D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.; England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos, 2014.
  • Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.
  • Thrall, Margaret E. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of the Corinthians. International Critical Commentary. London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004.
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  • Turner, David L. Matthew. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.
  • Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.
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  • Witherington, Ben, III. Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.
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[1] It jumpstarts your metabolism, helps you lose weight, promotes healthy skin, hair, and more. ;

[2] Cf. Martin, 315.

[3] “the season for gathering in agricultural crops.” Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

[4] Apparently, Americans still lose over $700,000 a year to this scam.

[5] Guthrie, 302; Barnett NICNT, 295..

[6] NIV intro; Barnett, 105; Seifrid, 239.

[7] Guthrie, 312; Hafemann, 248.

[8] Barnett NICNT, 295.

[9] Scott J. Hafemann, “Corinthians, Letters to The,” ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 164.

[10] Guthrie, 292.

[11] UBS, 98; Guthrie, 296.

[12] Kruse, 162.

[13] UBS, 98; Barnett, 107; Guthrie, 295; Keener, 507; Hafemann, 236; Kruse, 162; Belleville; Garland, 269; Harris, 412; Martin, 276.

[14] Barnett NICNT, 276.

[15] Martin, 277.

[16] Kruse, 160

[17] Cf. 2 Cor 5:1; Rev 2:10, 4:10. Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Heaven,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 941.

[18] “attitude of respect, reverence, and awe.” UBS, 98; cf. Barnett, 108; Guthrie, 296; Kruse, 162; Belleville; Garland, 268-9; Harris, 412; terror is for the ungodly (Rom 2:1-11; Rev 6:15-17; Martin, 276; contra Hafemann, 236; cf. Php 2:12; Ps 130:4; Seifrid, 239.

[19] Harris, 413. Cf. And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? (Dt 10:12-13, NIV;cf. Pr 16:6; Belleville)

[20] Belleville; cf. PS 14:1, 36:1; Rom 3:18; Garland, 268.

[21] Garland, 270. Practical atheists. Some people may think that God is like a fairy godfather, who has few moral demands and simply wants to help us accomplish our dreams. Cf. Garland, 270.

[22]Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World (p. 190). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[23] Cf. Schmidt, 190.


[25] Schmidt, 190.

[26] “Nearly all of the dozen or more gentlemen who were present, and among them Rev. Dr. C. B. Boynton, the pastor of the Congregational Church of the city, were Congregationalists. A preliminary organization was already in existence. The subject under discussion for this time was a place for a theological school for the colored preachers and those who were to become such, that their teachings should be of value. Mr. H. D. Nichols moved that the new institution be entitled “Howard Theological Seminary.” That name was adopted.” Oliver Otis Howard, Autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard, Major General, United States Army, vol. 2, Autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard, Major General, United States Army (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.), 396. Cf.

[27] Schmidt, 190 cf.


[29] “Nor are most Americans aware that in 1932, when Donald Tewksbury published The Founding of American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil War, 92 percent of the 182 colleges and universities were founded by Christian denominations.” Schmidt, 190.

[30] “Catechetical schools, cathedral schools, episcopal schools, monasteries, medieval universities, schools for the blind and deaf, Sunday schools, modern grade schools, secondary schools, modern colleges, universities, and universal education all have one thing in common: they are the products of Christianity.” Schmidt, 190.

[31] Martin, 278.

[32] Barnett, 107; Keener, 507; Hafemann, 236; Garland, 268.

[33] Martin, 279. Paul may also be aiming to warn people of the coming wrath of God (cf. Ac 2:40; 17:31; 1 Th 1:9-10): Belleville.

[34] Kruse, 163; Garland, 270; Seifrid, 240; Martin, 278 cf. 1 Th 2:4-8; Martin, 283.

[35] Martin, 278.

[36] Kruse, 162-3. Overcoming intellectual barriers, prejudice, and ignorance with logical arguments, testimony and proclamation. Kruse, 162; cf. Belleville.

[37] Harris, 413.

[38] Hafemann, 236; Kruse, 163; Seifrid, 240; contra Harris, 413..

[39] Seifrid, 240.

[40] Kruse, 163 cf. Witherington, 392; Garland, 270.

[41] Paul rejects relying on the usual Greco-Roman rhetorical techniques that the false teachers may have been using:  Hafemann, 236; Garland, 270.

[42] He may be conceding that he is engaging in persuasion but not that kind. Kruse, 163 contra Garland, 271.

[43] Hafemann, 236; Kruse, 162-3.

[44] Been clearly revealed (φανερόω | phaneroō): here means to make known or make plain by revealing it clearly (LN, 337-338; cf. EDNT, 413; NIDNTTE, 585; BDAG, 1048; Guthrie, 296)

[45] Garland, 268.

[46] Guthrie, 296.

[47] Or I trust (ἐλπίζω | elpizō) you will too. Guthrie, 296.

[48] Barnett, 107; Belleville; Harris, 414; Guthrie, 296.

[49] Guthrie, 296; Hafemann, 236.

[50] It was critical to his ministry that his life and his lips both speak the same language.” Witherington, 392; cf. Seifrid, 259.

[51] Garland, 271; Martin, 279.

[52] Belleville; Garland, 271; Martin, 279.

[53] Martin, 279.

[54] Garland, 272.

[55] “To commend oneself was to state one’s credentials and establish one’s credibility (see also 4:2; 5:12).” UBS, 55. Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 55.

[56] Opportunity (ἀφορμή | aphormē): a military term used to describe a base of operations used for attack or defense (cf. 2 Cor 11:12; Rom 7:8; Gal 5:13; 1 Tim 5:14; Hafemann, 237; Harris, 415)

[57] It was from

[58] Cf. Garland, 272.

[59] Keener, 507.

[60] Keener, 507.

[61] Martin, 281.

[62] Cf. Kruse, 164.

[63] Guthrie, 294; Hafemann, 237; Kruse, 163; Belleville; Seifrid, 242; Harris, 415; Martin, 281.

[64] Seifrid, 241. God should be the only source for boasting; Martin, 281

[65] Martin, 281.

[66] NIDNTTE, 155; EDNT, 180; UBS, 99.

[67] NIDNTTE, 155; EDNT, 180; UBS, 99; BDAG, 888.

[68] Belleville; Harris, 416.

[69] Barnett, 106.

[70] 2 Cor 10:12, 18; Guthrie, 296 cf. 2 Cor 3:1; Kruse, 163; Witherington, 393; Harris, 416.

[71] “the word heart is often used of such things as personality and the intellect, memory, emotions, desires and will.” Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman, et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 368. King Solomon asks for a “discerning heart” (lit. a heart that listens; 1 Ki 3:9).

[72] Cf. Kruse, 164.

[73] Later in 2 Cor 10:7, Paul admonishes them saying, “You are judging by appearances” (2 Cor 10:7, NIV).Guthrie, 298; Seifrid, 241.

[74] Keener, 507; Hafemann, 237; Garland, 273.

[75] Hafemann, 238.

[76] Kruse, 164.

[77] Belleville.

[78] Hafemann, 238; Garland, 297; cf. Martin, 282.

[79] 1 Cor 9:19-23; Hafemann, 238; Garland, 297; cf. Martin, 282.

[80] Witherington, 393.

[81] Kirk Franklin and the Family, “Why We Sing?” 1993.

[82] Martin, 283.

[83] Martin, 283.

[84] (cf. Ac 10:10, 11:5, 22:17; Garland, 274; Harris, 417; Martin, 284).

[85] (2 Cor 12:1-6; EDNT, 7; Barnett, 106; Guthrie, 300; Kruse, 164; cf. Moses in Ex 34:33-34; 2 Cor 3:7-18; Keener, 507; Hafemann, 239; Garland, 274).

[86] (cf. 1 Cor 14:18; Barnett, 106; McDonald, 408; Garland, 274; Harris, 417; Martin, 284).

[87] Barnett, 106; Hafemann, 239; Kruse, 164; Keener, 507; Witherington, 394; Garland, 275; contra Seifrid 242; Harris, 417; Martin, 285.

[88] in a “self-controlled” way (Barnett, 107 cf. 1 Cor 14:18-19; Witherington, 394), with mental sobriety (Garland, 277)

[89] EDNT, 7.

[90] Guthrie, 300. Can also mean “amazement” (Mk 5:42, 16:8; Lk 5:26; Ac 3:10; Martin, 283).

[91] Guthrie, 300; Hafemann, 238; cf. Jn 10:20; Ac 26:22-24; Kruse, 164; Belleville; Garland, 274; Harris, 417).

[92] Harris, 417.

[93] Guthrie, 300; Kruse, 165.

[94] Guthrie, 300 cf. Belleville.

[95] Harris, 417.

[96] (Objective genitive). Garland, 277; Harris, 418.

[97] (Subjective genitive). Most choose this option. (UBS, 100; Guthrie, 303; Kruse, 165; Belleville; Garland, 277; Seifrid, 243; Harris, 418; Martin, 285).

[98] (Plenary genitive). Mounce, 52; Zerwick, 13; Wallace, 119-20  cf. Garland, 277; Harris, 419.

[99] EDNT, 306; TLNT, 337; Guthrie, 304; Garland, 277. So that it doesn’t fall apart (Belleville; Harris, 419).

[100] EDNT, 306; TDNT, 883.

[101] Cf. Ac 18:5; Barnett, 105.

[102] Cf. Hafemann, 240.

[103] Seifrid, 243. He has selfless devotion to Christ (Martin, 286).

[104] Guthrie, 304. Under the reins of Christ (Garland, 281).

[105] There is plausibly both a positive and negative function to this constraint cf. Guthrie, 304; Garland, 277; Harris, 419

[106] Belleville cf. Barnett, 109; Guthrie, 307; Belleville; Garland, 285; Harris, 427; Martin, 286.

[107] Belleville.

[108] “to make a judgment based on taking various factors into account…” (BDAG, 568)

[109] “to come to a rational “conclusion” (UBS, 101)

[110] Barnett, 109; Kruse, 166; Davis, 1315; Garland, 277; Harris, 418.

[111] Barnett, 109; Garland, 289; Harris, 437.

[112] Witherington, 394; “in their place” cf. 1 Cor 15:3; Garland, 278; Seifrid, 243; cf. Mt 20:28; Martin, 287; see Gal 3:13; Kruse, 166; Belleville; cf. Jn 11:50; Mk 10:45 ;1 Tim 2:6; Tit 2:14; Zerwick, 30; cf. Robertson, 631; Harris, 421; Wallace, 387.

[113] Guthrie, 305; Kruse, 166; Garland, 278; Seifrid, 244; Martin, 288; Belleville, though she opts for “all” Christians died to our previous sinful way of life as does Martin, 289.

[114] Barnett, 109.

[115] Raised to life (by God): divine passive. Elsewhere, Paul writes that God (the Father) raised Jesus (Rom 4:24; 8:11; 1 Cor 6:14; 15:15; UBS, 102).

[116] Witherington, 394.

[117] Garland, 278.

[118] Some say Christ died only for the elect. Hafemann, 240 contra Barnett, 110.

[119] Garland, 278.

[120] Paul is not speaking of universal salvation (2 Cor 2:14-16; 4:4; Seifrid, 244; Harris, 423).

[121] Barnett, 110; Guthrie, 305; Harris, 423.

[122] Cf. Barnett, 110; Guthrie, 306.

[123] Barnett, 110 cf. Martin, 289.

[124] Guthrie, 305; Harris, 421 cf. Martin, 290 though he understands “all” differently.

[125] “Death to self and life for God” (Martin, 291).

[126] William Ernest Henley, “Invictus” as quoted by Belleville.

[127] Belleville cf. Garland, 280. From pleasing self to pleasing the Savior (cf. Rom 14:8; Harris, 423 cf. Martin, 290). Replacing slavery to self to freedom in Christ (cf. Harris, 422).

[128] Kruse, 167.

[129] Seifrid, 245; Harris, 422.

[130] Witherington, 394.

[131] Hafemann, 241.

[132] Belleville; Harris, 423.

[133] Belleville.

[134] Egocentricity to Christocentricity; “No” to self, “Yes” to Christ (Barnett, 110-11cf. Harris, 434; Guthrie, 306).

[135] I found several T-Shirts online with this slogan e.g.,,2000%7C810cDbYlNWL.png%7C0,0,2140,2000+0.0,0.0,2140.0,2000.0._UL1500_.png

[136] Kanye West “Sunday Service” at Atlanta New Birth ~29:00

[137] Kanye West, “Sunday Service” at Atlanta New Birth ~27:40.

[138] J. Kenneth Grider, “Heaven,” ed. Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017), 371.

[139] “Activity in heaven consists almost entirely of worship.” Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 371.

[140] Grider, 371.

[141] I forget from whom I heard this question and how the originally phrased it.

[142] I forget where I heard someone flip this popular saying.

[143] Flesh is limited by the “insufficiency of human knowledge” and inevitability of self-seeking human nature (Seifrid, 247).

[144] UBS, 102; Hafemann, 242 cf. Seifrid, 246.

[145] Keener, 507; cf. 1 Cor 1:18-25; Seifrid, 246.

[146] cf. 2 Cot 11:22; 1 Cor 1:26; Belleville; e.g., Jew v. Gentile; Harris, 427.

[147] Barnett, 105; Guthrie, 307; Kruse, 167; Seifrid, 248.

[148] Barnett, 112; Hafemann, 242; Belleville; Garland, 284.

[149] Barnett, 112; Belleville; Garland, 285.

[150] Barrett, 112; Harris, 429 cf. Kruse, 168; Belleville.

[151] Barnett, 113, Guthrie, 306.

[152] Hafemann, 242 cf. Martin, 310.

[153] Witherington, 394; cf. 2 Cor 5:12; Garland, 283.

[154] Also, this world is passing away; attaching ourselves to its values is foolish (Cf. Garland, 281)

[155] cf. Garland, 284. The Corinthians were likely being influenced by worldly thinking (cf. 2 Cor 12:20-21; Belleville)

[156] Guthrie, 307.

[157] Kruse, 168; Garland, 286. Cf. in His Body – the Church. Harris, 431.

[158] Witherington, 395.

[159] “Where there is no radical change of attitude toward life and self, there is no conversion.” (Belleville IVP cf. 1 Cor 6:9-11; Kruse, 168; Garland, 286; Harris, 434).

[160] Harris, 434.

[161] Many opt for more individualistic interpretation: creature (NASB, NLT, KJV, etc.). Also, Jewish teachers spoke of a convert as a new creation (Guthrie, 308; Keener, 508; cf. Eph 4:24; Witherington, 395; Garland, 286; Harris, 431; Martin, 311). Israel’s forgiveness on the Day of Atonement was referred to as a new creation (Guthrie, 308; Keener, 508). I argue that creation is a better choice (cf. NIV, HCSB, NRSV, ESV; In Paul’s letters, he almost always means “creation” when he uses this word (κτίσις | ktisis) (UBS, 103; cf. Rom 1:25, 8:19-22, 39; Garland, 286).

[162] UBS, 103.

[163] Belleville. Cf. In Jewish texts, New Creation also referred to the world to come (Keener, 508). Christ divides history (Garland, 286).

[164] Guthrie, 308 cf. Rom 8:21; Kruse, 169; Martin, 311

[165] cf. Is 66:22; Keener, 508; cf. Rev 21:1; Kruse, 169; cf. Is 43:1-21; Hafemann, 243; esp. Is 43:18-19 LXX; Balla, 766; Seifrid, 253; Harris, 432; cf. Is 51:9-10, 54:9-10, 42:9; Martin, 311).

[166] Hafemann, 243 cf. Rom 8:18-25; Kruse, 169; cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Davis, 1315; McDonald, 409; Garland, 286.

[167] Reconcile (καταλλάσσω | katallassō):  refers to “the exchange of hostility for a friendly relationship” (BDAG, 521; Guthrie, 309; cf. Kruse, 169; Harris, 435)

[168] Barnett, 116.

[169] Barnett, 115.

[170] Kruse, 169; Harris, 436.

[171] Barnett, 115.

[172] Garland, 289.

[173] Elvina Hall, “Jesus Paid It All” ,

[174] Barnett, 116.

[175] NIDNTTE, 245; EDNT, 147; Barnett, 115; Guthrie, 309; Hafemann, 245; Rom 5:10-11, 11:15; Col 1:19-20, 22; Kruse, 169; McDonald, 410; Witherington, 395; Belleville; Garland, 288: Harris, 436; Martin, 314. God is also the goal! (Harris, 436).

[176] Witherington, 396; cf. Rom 5:10-11; NIDNTTE, 245; Rom 5:1-2, 6, 8; 1 Pet 3:18; Guthrie, 310; Col 1:19-20; Kruse, 169; Belleville; Garland, 288; Harris, 437.

[177] Again, Christ’s atoning death was for all but only some will reap the benefits by repenting from sin and faithfully following Christ (cf. 1 Jn 2:2; Eph 5:2-5; Col 3:5-6; Kruse, 171; cf. 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21). Reconciliation does not happen automatically! People need to respond to God’s amazing grace (Kruse, 169) with faith(fulness).

[178] God made reconciliation possible through Christ on the cross and then commissioned His messengers with the message/ministry of reconciliation (Kruse, 171). God has entrusted his ambassadors with the ministry of reconciliation (Garland, 288; Martin, 313).

[179] Guthrie, 308; Belleville.

[180] In Christ?  (1) God in Christ was reconciling the world (Incarnation) (UBS, 105; Belleville; Garland, 293; Harris, 442; Martin, 314). (2) God was reconciling the world in Christ (Substitution) (UBS, 105; instrumental “through Christ”, Garland, 293; agency Martin, 313). Both are possible but the substitution option is more probable (UBS, 105).

[181] “…to determine by mathematical process, reckon, calculate” (BDAG, 597 cf. Guthrie, 310; Kruse, 170).

[182] Belleville; Harris, 444.

[183] Garland, 294.

[184] “false steps” (Belleville), “violation of moral standards” (BDAG, 770; Guthrie, 310).

[185] Garland, 294; Seifrid, 258.

[186] Barnett, 117 cf. Hafemann, 248.

[187] Garland, 290.

[188] Love does not mean “transcendent indifference” (Garland, 294).

[189] Kruse, 169; Martin, 315.

[190] God “settled the account of sin by means of the cross” (NIDNTTE, 105-106 cf. Guthrie, 310). Atonement is a prerequisite to forgiveness (Barnett, 117).

[191] Hafemann, 248; cf. Rom 4:8; Kruse, 170; Harris, 444; Martin, 314.

[192] Guthrie, 313; Hafemann, 248.

[193] Garland, 290.

[194] This is not just about God putting money in the bank (Seifrid, 265).

[195] Garland, 290. Justification is the “logical foundation” of reconciliation (Harris 439).

[196] Cf. They probably won’t invite them to dinner! Garland, 290.

[197] Garland, 290.

[198] Garland, 293. People must recognize their culpability for the broken relationship (i.e., sin) (Garland, 299).

[199] Garland, 292.

[200] Seen from Tim Keller’s Instagram.

[201] God did not deputize Paul to make people feel good about themselves and their relationship to God but to effect a real peace.” (Garland, 294) – through word and deed (Harris, 445).

[202] Ambassadors were persons who represented someone else and who carried a message from the person whom they represented” (UBS, 106 cf. Guthrie, 311).

[203] Belleville. Cf. Being an ambassador entailed “ (1) a commissioning for a special assignment; (2) representing the sender; and (3) exercising the authority of the sender.” (Harris, 445).

[204] (Hafemann, 246), as diplomats reconciling differences between states (McDonald, 410) or making an alliance (Garland, 295), often at their own expense (Garland, 297). Paul did not travel first-class (2 Cor 11:24-28; Garland, 297). Usually ambassadors from lesser political powers would be sent to greater nations to make appeals (Guthrie, 311); God flips this around! (Guthrie, 311 cf. Garland, 296). This term was used to describe emperor’s legates/ official deputies (Guthrie, 311; Keener, 508; Harris, 445).

[205] Guthrie, 311; Garland, 295; Harris, 445.

[206] Cf. Harris, 445.

[207] Garland, 295.

[208] Kruse, 171. According to one rabbinic saying, “A man’s agent is like to himself” (m. Berakoth 5.5; Kruse, 171).

[209] Least of these = Jesus’ disciples (Wilkins, 158; Turner, 605; Osborne, 937); Christ and His true followers are one (Jn 6:56; 15:4–7; 1 Jn 2:24, 3:24, 4:15; Osborne, 937). How one receives Christ’s messengers/agents (and therefore His message) is how one receives Christ (France NICNT, 965; Blomberg, 378; cf. 2 Cor 5:11-7:1; Keener (Matthew), 606; Osborne, 930)

[210] Turner, 606.

[211] Garland, 295.

[212] Harris, 446.

[213] Harris, 446.

[214] This appeal applies not to just the Corinthians, but to all (Harris, 448).

[215] The Corinthians must reconcile with Christ’s ambassador through whom God makes His appeal (cf. Witherington, 397; Garland, 298; Martin, 317); Paul acts as God’s commissioned herald (“Hark the herald angels sing… God and sinner reconciled”) (Belleville cf. Garland, 295). He could not be silent (1 Cor 9:16; Garland, 297).

[216] Guthrie, 312; Garland, 298; contra Harris, 448; Martin, 319.

[217] Guthrie, 312; Kruse, 172; Witherington, 396.

[218] Guthrie, 312.

[219] Hafemann, 248-9; Kruse, 172.

[220] Guthrie, 312.

[221] For the chiastic structure of this translation see Harris, 499.

[222] UBS, 107 cf. Guthrie, 313; Kruse, 172; Harris, 450; Martin, 317.

[223] Guthrie, 313 cf. Belleville, Kruse, 172; Garland, 301; Harris, 450.

[224] (UBS, 107) as in the Day of Atonement (Witherington, 396; cf. Lev 10:17; 16; 17:11; Hafemann, 248 cf. Rom 3:25; 1 Cor 5:7; cp. Lev 4:24 LXX and Rom 8:3; Kruse, 173; cf. Lev 1:3; Keener 508; cf. Lev 4:8-35; Belleville; Seifrid, 261; Harris, 452; Martin, 317. However this would give “sin” two different meanings in the same sentence: Garland, 300. Yet on any reading “sin” does not have the same meaning (Harris, 452).

[225] Kruse, 173 cf. Garland, 301. Possibly “Christ was given the position of the sinner and treated as such.” (Witherington, 396 cf. Belleville). Both this option and the sin offering option can be true (Kruse, 173).

[226] Guthrie, 313.

[227] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole. (Gal 3:13, NIV; Barnett, 117; Guthrie, 313; Hafemann, 242; Kruse, 166, 173; Martin, 317).

[228] Seifrid, 260. Christ became our substitute (for = substitution; Garland, 301): he takes our sin and suffers the punishment, we receive His righteousness (Barnett, 118) and have eternal life.

[229] Guthrie, 314; Hafemann, 248; Kruse, 172. 4 Surely he took up our pain | and bore our suffering, (Is 53:4ab, NIV; Guthrie, 314; Kruse, 174).

[230] Kruse, 174; Martin, 289.

[231] Garland, 300; Harris, 456; Martin, 289.

[232] Belleville.

[233] To justify (i.e., make righteous):  by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, | and he will bear their iniquities. (Is 53:11cd, NIV; Guthrie, 314; Hafemann, 248; Kruse, 174; Harris, 456; Martin, 289).

[234] Guthrie, 315; Belleville.

[235] Not just a legal fiction. Belleville.

[236] Kruse, 173.

[237] Not just a positional change (i.e., guilty to innocent), but a transformational exchange (Guthrie, 315 cf. Belleville; contra Seifrid, 264). In Christ we are able to express God’s righteousness before the world in how we live (Guthrie, 315; Belleville).

[238] Garland, 287. Transformation by the Spirit is evidence of the previously mentioned new creation (Hafemann, 244).

[239] We cannot remake ourselves; we must be remade in Christ (Seifrid, 263).

[240] Gregory Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, ( Zondervan, Kindle Edition,  2009), 24.


[242] “It was critical to his ministry that his life and his lips both speak the same language.” Witherington, 392; cf. Seifrid, 259.

[243] Harris, 424.

[244] Seifrid, 239.


  1. Frederick Whitfield, “Oh How I Love Jesus”,
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Imperfect Servant ✝?⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist