Now Is the Time2 Corinthians 5:1 – 6:2Theme: The urgency of the Gospel.This week’s lessons remind us that we are not guaranteed a tomorrow.
LessonThe second reason we should carry the Gospel forward lies in our concern for the well-being of other people. Where the Gospel goes, blessing comes to people’s lives. It is out of that that hospitals have been built, schools have been established, and so on. The suffering of the world is a concern that motivates us, but of all the concerns and reasons we have for going to others with the Gospel, the chief among them is what Paul gives in this portion of 2 Corinthians. It is the love of Christ that compels us. If you do not know Jesus Christ, then you do not have that love for other people – not the kind of love that would compel you to go and present the Gospel to them, and to endure the kind of things that Paul talks about here – being perplexed, persecuted, struck down, given over to death.
You might have a genuine but limited benevolence for other people and help them if you can, as long as it does not cost too much. But that is not real missions work. Paul said that real missions springs from the love of Christ within us. It is Christ who loves the loveless and those who are suffering – the prisoners, the hungry, the thirsty, the destitute. So, since I’ve been joined to Christ, I find that that love of Christ works within me and, moreover, compels me to go and tell them about Jesus.
Somebody once asked Mahatma Gandhi what Christians would have to do in order to win India for Christ. Gandhi replied that first of all, Christians have to live like Jesus Christ. Secondly they should never compromise their faith. Third, they need to learn everything they can about the non-Christian religions. Then fourth, above all, let everything they do be characterized by love. That is not bad counsel. This is what Paul did. He wrote, “For Christ’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” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
At the end of the chapter Paul explains what the Gospel actually is. He says it is the great message of reconciliation. Reconciliation involves reuniting those who formerly were at war. It is to bring peace. So, does that aptly describe what happens in the preaching of the Gospel? Yes, it does, because in our natural state we are not merely imperfect. We are not merely creatures over against God, who is the Creator. We are hostile to God. We are going our way. We are building our own kingdoms and we do not want Jesus Christ to rule over us. That is the nature of the human heart. We do not want anybody else to rule over us. So we have all the tensions that exist within the human family.
But, above all, we are hostile against God. We are at war with God, and Jesus Christ is the One who came and made peace by the blood of the cross. Jesus made peace in two ways. He did it by bearing our sin and dying in our place, and he did it by giving us what we do not have–his righteousness and a new life–so that now his life draws us and his death removes the barrier of sin that stood in the way. That is the great message, that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. Paul knew that this is the great message of reconciliation.
When I was dividing up 2 Corinthians for our study, I put some first verses of chapter 6 with verses from chapter 5. That is because having talked about that great message of reconciliation, Paul went on to urge it upon us, saying in chapter 6, verse 2, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
Do you see what that means? Paul was an ambassador of Jesus Christ. He was a preacher and a witness. Paul did not present these truths simply to tickle our fancy or to fill our minds. He presented this great message of recon-ciliation in order that those to whom he spoke might be reconciled to God.
So I ask, are you reconciled to God? This is a message of grace, a message of love. God tells you to come to him. There is no need for you to be alienated from him. There is no need for you to be under his wrath. Come. Come through Jesus Christ. That is where the door is opened and the way is made plain.
As Paul said, do it now because you don’t know what tomorrow may bring. You don’t even know if you will be here tomorrow. Now is the time of God’s favor. Today is the time to come.
From what does real missions work spring?
What four things did Ghandi say were necessary for winning converts to Christ?
What is an accurate way to describe our hearts in their natural, unregenerate state?
ReflectionHave you been reconciled to God?