In the passage before us Paul explains what motivates his total devotion to the ministry of the gospel.
v11. In the previous verse Paul had mentioned the fact that everyone must stand before the judgment seat of Christ. This truth, although not the prime motivation for his service to Christ, none-the-less prompts him, for the sake of the lost, to strive in the work of evangelism. Paul's other-person-centered ministry is plain to God, and hopefully, plain to his readers.
v12. Paul feels that he must qualify his words since he doesn't want his readers to think that he is into bragging. None-the-less, he does want them to be proud of him and his team for their total dedication to evangelism, particularly in the face of those who are critical of his ministry. Paul's focus on the free grace of God made him enemies of those who, in the early church, believed that a person's obedience to the Mosaic law played a part in accessing God's promised blessings. Paul's assessment of these "false teachers" is that they are hypocrites; they are full of outward performance, but empty before God.
v13. Obviously, Paul's critics have belittled his ministry style. Yet, if his enthusiastic approach to evangelism comes close to religious fanaticism, it is for God's sake. On the other hand, if his pastoral ministry is more considered and serious, it is for the Corinthian's sake.
v14. Paul now explains the prime motivation for his apostolic ministry, both evangelistic and pastoral. The compelling motivating force in the Christian life is "the love of Christ", a divine compassion expressed in Christ's atoning sacrifice for mankind and resident in our lives through our identification with his death. Paul understood that Christ's love drives the believer to live the Christian life; it is the motivating force which controls our behavior.
v15. Paul goes on to explain what he means, given that Christ's death seems anything but powerful. When a believer identifies with Christ in his death they also identify with him in his resurrection. By being reckoned alive to God we are enlivened by the indwelling-compelling love of Christ and therefore, empowered to live a compassionate life. As the old English prayer book puts it, in Christ we "die to sin and rise again to righteousness"
There are many feelings that motivate our behavior. I remember, many years ago, a young couple telling me that the one thing they were sure of in their Christian life was the guidance they had received from the Lord regarding their marriage to each other. They really knew that He wanted them to be married. Now, there are times when Jesus opens a clear path before us, but in their case I am sure that hormones had a part to play!
In truth, we are driven creatures. Our mating instincts drive us to get married; our territorial instincts drive us to acquire our first home and decorate it; our survival instincts drive us to seek security in a profession and to raise our children with a strong desire for academic success. We are driven to increase our capital base, to take out superannuation and insurance; we are driven to identify ourselves in our possessions and so reassure our existence and worth. Yes, we are flesh and blood.
So, we are motivated by our feelings, but there is nothing wrong with this, given that feelings are neither good nor evil in themselves. The more important question is, what motivates us to shape our lives in a way that is honoring to Christ? Paul's answer is this: that we possess a sure conviction of the truth that one died for all and therefore all died, v14. Paul understands that he is identified with Christ in his death and resurrection, with its experiential reality, "the love of Christ." It is this truth which "compels" his right living. The indwelling nature of the living God, his character of love, "Christ's love", is daily at work within. This nature of love, so foreign to us, is shaping us, driving us, "impelling" us forward in the Christian life. Christ's life-giving resurrection power, his indwelling character of love, is compelling us to live as he lived, to love as he loves.
So, be convinced of what Jesus has done for you and be changed from within.
1. What is the compelling motivating force in the Christian life, and what does it compel us to do?
2. In what sense have "all died", v14?
3. One consequence of Jesus' death on our behalf is that we no longer stand condemned in the sight of God. What consequence is Paul speaking of in v15?