2 Corinthians 5:16 ~ 20190127 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/27_2 Corinthians 5:16; Seeing With New Eyes ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190127_2cor5_16.mp3
How Do You Judge?
You pull up to a stop light in a bigger city. There's a guy standing on the corner, long unkempt hair poking out from under his stocking cap, surplus army jacket a little too big, faded blue jeans, dark brown leather work boots laced loosely. Gaunt face, weathered and unshaven. Grimy tobacco stained fingers hold a tattered piece of cardboard, scrawled with 'anything helps. God bless.'
You're early to your appointment. Across the waiting room there is a woman, sitting uncomfortably in a chair. She seems irritable and speaks harshly to her 2 year old boy who is as poorly behaved as he is dressed. She is too thin, despite being noticeably pregnant. The faint remnants of a bruise are just barely visible under her left eye, and although she does not smile, it appears she is missing teeth.
On the other end of the room stands a young man, 30 something, crisp white shirt and tan sport coat, one hand in the pocket of his neatly pressed pants fidgeting with car keys, talking on his wireless earpiece while looking up at the ceiling, saying that he looks forward to meeting with them over lunch next Tuesday, and ending the call with a click.
What do you think? What conclusions do you draw? What do you feel? What goes through your mind, your heart?
Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5.
Verse 16 starts with 'So then' or 'therefore' making a connection with the previous verses. He is drawing a conclusion, an application of what he said in verses 14-15. Christ's love for us is the controlling factor in our lives. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom.5:8). Because Jesus died in our place, we died with him. Our old identity is dead, and we have been raised with him to a new kind of life. We are no longer to live to ourselves, but for him. And this truth, this doctrine, impacts the way we live. This truth of our relationship with Christ spills out into the horizontal, how we view the people around us.
Seeing According to the Flesh
So then, from the now, we see no one according to the flesh. In the context we see what he means by no longer viewing according to the flesh. Back in verses 11-12, Paul said
Outward appearances versus what is in the heart. Because of Christ's death for us on the cross and our death with him, we now no longer view according to outward appearance, according to the flesh.
Paul's Confidence in the Flesh
Paul was expert at drawing conclusions based on outward characteristics. He says in Philippians 3 that he had every reason to put confidence in the flesh
Paul had it all together. He was born into the right family, he belonged to the right group, he did the right things, he was passionate, successful, determined; he was going somewhere. He was morally upstanding, he had a flawless record, he was clean. Outwardly he had it all together.
But he ditched all that. In the next verse he says;
Paul came to consider his outward standing, his standing in the flesh as loss, rubbish, dung, σκύβαλα.
A Church of Losers
The majority of the church in Corinth didn't have it all together. They didn't have the status, they didn't have what mattered outwardly, according to the flesh.
When viewed from a fleshly perspective, they were losers.
But what matters outwardly is not what matters to God. In fact God turns human evaluation on its head. He does this intentionally, to eliminate pride and boasting.
Paul understood how the world views people, how to evaluate according to the flesh, according to outward appearances. And he knew the expectations on him as an apostle and teacher and preacher. You see, the values of the world tend to creep in to the thinking of the church. He was supposed to come with eloquence, with wisdom, self-confidence, strength of character, with a show of power, demanding a high salary.
Instead he came to them in weakness and in fear and much trembling (1Cor.2:3). He was put on display as a fool, weak, in disrepute, hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted, homeless, reviled, persecuted, slandered, the scum of the world, garbage (1Cor.4:9-13). He did not draw a salary from them, but worked with his own hands (1Cor.4:12; 1Cor.9; 2Cor.11:7-11). He describes himself as afflicted (2Cor.1:4-7), burdened and despairing (1:8), dependent on the prayers of others (1:11), he experienced anguish of heart, he cried (2:4). He experienced unrest of spirit (2:13). He could not claim any self-sufficiency (3:5). He came to them not as their lord but as a fellow laborer (1:24), as their servant; he didn't promote himself (4:5). He compared himself to a common, disposable clay container (4:7). He was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, given over to death; death was at work in him (4:8-12). His outer nature was wasting away (4:16); his tent was being destroyed (5:1). In chapter 10:10 he quotes what others are saying about him; 'For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”'
When viewed outwardly, Paul was a failure. He was not worthy to be followed.
Christ According to the Flesh
You see, Paul once viewed Christ according to the flesh. Let me read to you this description of Jesus:
Jesus was not the Messiah anyone expected. Paul knew his scriptures. He knew that anyone who was hung on a tree is cursed by God (Deut.21:23; Gal.3:13). It was clear to him that the blasphemous claims of Jesus were proved false by his crucifixion. The fact that anyone would still follow this Jesus as Messiah and convince others to follow him was infuriating; Paul approved of the stoning of Stephen, and he set about himself to stamp out these deviant religious fanatics.
But Paul was not the only one to view Christ according to the flesh. Notice he says “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh” Even Jesus' disciples, his closest followers, expected something much different that what he was.
In Mark 10,
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to lay down his life, and for the third time he tells his disciples exactly what is going to happen. Their response? The very next verse:
They just didn't get it! They had no category for a crucified messiah. They were looking for the glory, for the kingdom. They were expecting the miraculous; that Jesus would in a show of power overthrow Rome and take his rightful throne (and they wanted to edge in on positions of earthly power).
The religious leaders had an expectation of a supernatural messiah.
The religious leaders of Israel anticipated a messiah who would come in power, who could manifest the supernatural.
Even the Roman soldiers understood what a king should look like.
Everyone knows what a king looks like, and Jesus didn't fit.
After his crucifixion his disciples didn't know what to do. They hid behind locked doors. They went home. They began to return to their jobs. Two of his disciples, conversing with an unknown traveler about his crucifixion, said “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk.24:21). At first they disbelieved the reports of his resurrection. Even after they had seen their risen Lord they asked him “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They couldn't see beyond their fleshly expectation of the messiah.
Seeing With New Eyes
The Lord had to open their eyes! He enabled them to see in a different way, a spiritual way. Jesus' answer to his disciples?
Don't concern yourself about earthly kingdoms. You will be Spirit empowered to be my witnesses, the Greek word is μάρτυρες; where we get our word 'martyr'. Most of his followers would seal their testimony of him with their own blood. Outwardly this doesn't look very successful. But it is the way of Jesus.
The Lord had to open their eyes.
The disciples could only see Jesus from a fleshly perspective, and they just didn't get it, until God opened their eyes.
Paul could only see Jesus from a fleshly perspective. Until, on the way to Damascus, he was blinded. His physical sight was literally taken away for a time, so that he could begin to see with new eyes, to see things as they really are, to evaluate not according to the flesh.
Paul began to really see. God's plan to rescue humanity was not a conquering messiah who would wipe out all his enemies, because that would mean everyone. Instead the messiah would take on himself the sins of his enemies, die as their substitute, and so make his enemies into his friends. The seemingly foolish way of the cross is the only true way to glory. His kingdom is an upside-down kingdom. Jesus said:
Death is the only way to really gain your life. Christ died for us, and we died with him, and that affects the way we look at other people, other believers; even apostles. It is not the outward, visible reality that matters most. “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2Cor.4:18).
We once evaluated people according to the flesh, outwardly. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org