Paul’s Motives - Page 1 of 5 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

June 10, 2014
Tom Lowe
The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

Lesson II.B.6.a: Paul’s Motives. (5:11-15)

2nd Corinthians 5:11-15 (NKJV)
11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart.
13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you.
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;
15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.


11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord
“The terror of the Lord” speaks of the Lord Jesus, who will be seated on the throne of judgment, and who will decide the destiny of all people. The apostle was speaking of the same thing that ended the previous lesson. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Co. 5:10). The implication is, that knowing how much the Lord is to be feared, what an occasion of terror and alarm it will be to stand at the judgment-seat; how fearful and awful will be the consequences of the trial of that day. The Lord Jesus will be an object of terror and alarm, or it will be a circumstance inspiring terror and alarm to stand there on that day, because:
1. He has all power in heaven and on earth, and He has been appointed to execute judgment.
2. All who appear there must give an exacting and true account of all that they have done.
3. The wrath of God will be seen in the condemnation of the guilty.

It will be a day of awful wailing and terror when all the living and all the dead are arraigned and put on trial with their eternal destiny depending upon the outcome. On that day, multitudes of the guilty and unrepentant shall be thrust down to an eternal hell. Who can describe the incredible terror of the scene? Who can envision the horrors of the masses of the guilty and the wretched who shall hear that their doom is sealed to be fixed forever in a world of unspeakable despair? The influence of the knowledge of “the terror of the Lord” on the mind of the apostle seems to have been two-fold; first, an apprehension of it as a personal concern, and a desire to escape it, which led him to constant self-denial and toil; and secondly, a desire to save others from being overwhelmed in the wrath of that dreadful day.

This fear of Christ as our Judge is a healthy fear. The expression “the terror of the Lord” is particularly appropriate for one who had been suspected of double dealing and insincerity, as was Paul: he was inwardly conscious of the principle of the fear of God guiding and leading him.

But, “the terror of the Lord,” I think, is too harsh a translation, and “the fear of the Lord” would be better. This expression, “the fear of the Lord,” often signifies the worship of the Lord, or that religious reverence which we owe to Him. For example, there is Acts 9:31: “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” Also see Romans 3:18; 13:7; 1 Peter 1:17; 2:18; 3:2. The English word “terror” is unduly strong, and hinders the reader from seeing that what St. Paul speaks of is not mindless dread, but reverential awe, which had been described in the Old Testament as “the beginning of wisdom” (see Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10).

How can a born again child of God have anything but a reverential “fear of the Lord,” when he comprehends the great love of God contained in John 3:16{1], and he realizes that God loves him and that Jesus died for him. He will not be judged for his sins because Jesus has already taken care of that at Calvary. The only judgment he will face concerns the rewards or crowns he will receive for the service he has rendered to the Lord. He knows that Jesus does everything for his good, and would never hurt him.

We persuade men
That is, we attempt or endeavor to persuade them to repent and believe the Gospel, so that, instead of being objects of the divine wrath, they may live and die happy in His favor. We attempt to persuade them to flee from the wrath to come, to be prepared to stand before the judgment-seat, and to be fit to enter into heaven. Notice the uniqueness of the statement. He does not say, we drive people, or we endeavor to alarm people, or we frighten people, or we appeal merely to their fears, but it is, “we persuade people,” we endeavor to induce them by all means of persuasion and argument to flee from the wrath to come. The future judgment, and the scenes of future anguish, are not proper topics of friendly conversation, since it tends to drive people away. To proclaim merely hell-fire and damnation; to appeal merely to the fears of people, is not the way in which Paul and the Saviour preached the gospel. The knowledge that there would be a judgment, and that the wicked would be sent to hell, was a powerful motive for Paul to endeavor to "persuade" people to escape from wrath, and was a motive for the Saviour to weep over Jerusalem, and to grieve over its folly, and its doom—“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it” (Luke 19:41). The “fire and brimstone” preaching of the past has been replaced by the “feel-good” preaching of today, which creates another set of problems. The effect that the Christian witness should endeavor to produce is tenderness, deep feeling, and love, and it should be stimulated by prayer and through the language of tender persuasion, to lead people to weep over dying sinners rather than to denounce them; to pray to God to have mercy on them rather than to use the language of severity.

Since we know what God requires of man, because He has revealed it to us in His Word, we persuade men to become Christians, and to labor to be acceptable to Him, because they must all stand before the judgment seat; and if they do not receive the grace of the Gospel here, they must appear there and give their accounts with sorrow and not with joy. In short, a man who is not saved from his sin in this life, will be separated from God and the glory of his power in the world to come. This is a powerful motive for us to persuade men to accept the salvation provided for them by Christ Jesus. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; the terror of God confounds and overpowers the soul. We lead men to God through his fear and love, and with the fear of God the love of God is ever consistent; but where the “terror” of the Lord reigns there can neither be fear, faith, nor love; and there can be no hope either.

But we are well known to God,
The meaning of this is, probably, that God sees that we are sincere and upright in our aims and purposes. He is acquainted with our hearts. All our motives are known to him, and he sees that it is our aim to promote His glory, and to save the souls of people. This is probably said to counteract the charge which might have been brought against him by some of the disgruntled in Corinth, that he was influenced by improper motives and aims. To counter this, Paul says, that God knew that he was endeavoring to save souls, and that he was motivated by a sincere desire to rescue them from the impending terrors of the Day of Judgment. We have no need to persuade Him of our integrity, for He knows all things.

I will never cease to be astonished by the fact that God knows all about me, but loves me anyway!

And I also trust are well known in your consciences.
To paraphrase the apostle: “And I trust also you are convinced of our integrity and uprightness of purpose.” The same sentiment is expressed in different words in 2 Corinthians 4:2: “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” It is an appeal which he makes to them, and the expression of an earnest and confident assurance that they knew and felt that his goal was upright, and his purpose sincere.

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