2 Corinthians


4. The character of Paul's ministry, 3:1-6:13

vii] Ruled by Christ's love


Paul, aware of the awful day awaiting those who do not know Christ, reminds his readers of the zeal with which he has sought to fulfill Christ's commission and he is sure that the sincere way he approaches this task will commend him to his readers. Paul then goes on in v14-15 to outline his prime motivation for his apostolic ministry, namely, "the love of Christ".


i] Context: See 3:1-6. We now move to the third part of Paul's argument on the character of his apostolic ministry - A proper response to authentic gospel ministry, 5:11-6:13. In this part of his argument, Paul explains in more detail the ministry of reconciliation which he performs as apostle to the Gentiles.


ii] Background: See 1:1-7.


iii] Structure: Ruled by Christ's love:

For Paul, his ministry is a basis for pride, v11-13;

Paul's life is an open book, v11;

A hesitant self-recommendation, v12;

In the right mind for you, v13.

The motivation for Paul's ministry - the compelling love of Christ, v14-15.


iv] Interpretation:

In this passage Paul explains "what motivates his unremitting devotion to the task", Harris.


Who are those who claim that Paul is out of his mind? Again Paul refers to those who are troubling the Corinthian believers, "those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart", NRSV, v12, cf. 2:17, 3:1, 4:2, 11:5, 12:11, 13:2. As already noted, the Corinthians face a number of internal troubles. On one hand, some members have participated in questionable moral behavior (sexual immorality, pagan customs [eating food offered to idols]). It seems that there has been a recognition of this failure and so action has been taken to sort out the problem. On the other hand, Paul has to deal with "super-apostles" who infer that his teaching / gospel is incomplete, not "sufficient". Although we cannot be sure, it is more than likely that Paul is referring to the Judaizers, the members of the circumcision party who follow up Paul's evangelistic efforts, teaching that the full blessings of the Christian life require submission to the law of Moses (nomism = sanctification by obedience). Paul tackles this issue in his letters to the Romans and also in Galatians, but in 2 Corinthians he is more focused on defending his apostolic authority against those who defiantly support the "super-apostles" against their founding apostle.


Identification in Christ's death: The statement, "we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died", v14, has prompted endless debate. Paul may just be stating that Jesus had to die for all because "all were dead", Barclay, but even with this rather bland translation (worse, "one man died for everyone, which means that they all share in his death", TEV) the doctrine of the atonement is not far away. This doctrine is central to our passage and to a proper understanding of God's supreme act of love in Christ.

Athanasius tackled the problem this way: "Because we all were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that, as all died in Him, the law relating to the corruption of men might be abolished". Tasker, commenting on the verse, says this: "Christ's death was the death of all, in the sense that He died the death they should have died; the penalty of their sins was borne by Him: He died in their place." Strachan on the same verse says, "Christ bore a doom that should have been ours." And finally Denney writes, Christ "is a person doing a service by filling our place and dying our death."

The theology of a believer's identification with Christ in his death is fully dealt with by Paul in Romans 5:12-21, 6:1-11. The point he makes is that there is a consequential participation of mankind in the activities of both Adam and Christ. With Adam, his act of sinfulness associates us in his rebellion and as a consequence leads to our death. With Christ, his act of righteousness (his faithful obedience to the will of the Father) associates us in his death (we die with him) and as a consequence leads to our life. A believer's death is usually understood as a death to sin, although the debate is never ending as to whether this death is a death to the power of sin, and / or only a death to the curse / condemnation of sin. So, one dies for all, and those who associate themselves in that death die to sin. The sting of death no longer hangs over those who have associated themselves with Christ, for those who die with him, live with him.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 5:11

The new order of things, v11-15: i] "Paul asserts his dignity and authority as God's messenger", Martin, v11-13. 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.

eidonteV (oida) perf. part. "since ... we know" - having known. The participle is obviously adverbial, causal, "because we know", ingressive, "have come to know"; "because we have a knowledge of the fear of the Lord."

oun "then" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential, as NIV. Here referencing v10, the knowledge that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and "therefore" / as a consequence, possessing a knowledge of "the fear of the Lord".

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[what it is to fear] the Lord" - [the fear] of the lord. The genitive may be verbal, subjective, "the fear the Lord instills in sinful humanity", but is usually taken as objective, "the fear that humanity has for the Lord", so Martyn, Tasker, Thrall. An adjectival genitive, rather than verbal, can also explain the function of the genitive "of God", not possessive, "the terrifying nature of the Lord", cf., Chrysostom, but rather attributive where "fear" is limited by "the Lord", not just any old fear, but a fear that is prompted by interaction with an "awful" God. The genitive in the LXX "fear of the Lord" can also be viewed as descriptive, although it usually carries the sense "respect / reverence / awe" = piety, rather than "fear", especially in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, cf., Isa:2:10, 19, 21, Ps.19:10, a sense which may apply in this verse, so Furnish, Thrall. Yet, given v10, Plummer is probably right when he describes "fear" as that which is "excited by the thought of standing before the judgment-seat of Christ and having one's whole life exposed and estimated." If this is the "fear" that Paul has in mind then it may best be described as "terror". As Barrett argues, the weakened sense, "piety", does not apply here. This "terror", this "foreboding", is not something Paul feels for himself, but for those who do not know Christ and whose appearance before the judgment seat spells eternal damnation. This truth, along with the compelling love of Christ, v14-15, motivates Paul's apostolic ministry. As for the identity of "the Lord", Jesus may be intended, although "the Lord God" may also be in Paul's mind. "Being aware of the possible terror awaiting the wicked before God", Junkins.

peiqomen (peiqw) pres. "we try to persuade" - we persuade men. The present tense is durative, expressing action commenced in the past and continuing in the present, rather than conative, an action that is being attempted. The object is unstated, but presumably Paul has in mind the truth of the gospel, ie., "persuades" = "evangelizes", Barnett. "We are spending our lives trying to persuade people to make their peace with him here", Junkins.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, used here to add a point, expressed in the NIV by a new sentence. Slightly adversative, so "but what we are ...", ESV.

pefanerwmeqa (fanerow) perf. pas. "what we are is plain" - we have been made manifest, revealed, made known. The perfect "we have been made manifest" is expressing a state of being (stative), of "being seen for what we are"; "our life lies completely open to God", Barclay.

qew/ (oV) dat. "to God" - Dative of indirect object.

de kai "and [I hope it is] also" - but/and also [i hope]. Slightly adversative; "but also."

pefanerwsqai (fanerow) perf. pas. inf. "plain" - to have been made manifest. The infinitive forms an infinitival phrase, direct object / dependent statement of perception expressing what "we hope"; "and also we hope that our life remains completely open to your conscience." The "hope" does not serve to express a "future hope", but the realization of a present state. "My hope is that ....... [you] have come to know us truly", Cassirer.

en + dat. "to [your conscience]" - in [the consciences of you]. Expressing space; "made manifest [to you] in your consciences" The word "conscience" "denotes a neutral inward faculty of judgment, possessed by all humanity, which evaluates conduct in an objective way in accordance with given and recognized norms", Thrall.


In this verse Paul qualifies v11. Evangelism ("persuading people") is not about "commending ourselves" (pl. = Paul and his missionary team, although it could be a royal plural), rather it gives "you" (the Corinthians) a basis for pride in your founding apostle, as opposed to the "super-apostles" (see above) who are into externals. As Paul states in v13, he is not into externals, rather "in the public arena he 'persuades men' to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ through his ministry of preaching and he does so with self-control", Barnett.

ou ... sunistanomen (sunisthmi) pres. "we are not trying to commend" - we do not recommend, commend [ourselves]. The present tense is possibly being used to express habitual action, as NIV. "We are not going to brag", Junkins.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.

palin adv. "again" - Temporal adverb.

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ..... but ....."

didonteV (didomai) pres. part. "are giving" - we are giving [to you]. We may classify this participle as attendant circumstance participle, coordinate with the finite verb "we commend", but at the same time subordinate to it, "we do not commend .... but we give .." Long suggests a periphrastic construction resting on an assumed verb to-be. "We are not trying to give ourselves a testimonial ..... but trying to give you a chance to show your pride in us", Barclay.

aformhn (h) "an opportunity" - As of "a starting point", so "opportunity / cause / reason".

kauchmatoV (a atoV) gen. "to take pride" - of a boast, pride. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic, explaining / specifying the nature of the opportunity. Certainly not "boast" in a negative sense, but rather a positive sense, of a legitimate ground for boasting, therefore "pride", as NIV. So "giving you an incentive to be proud of me", Moffatt - proud of their founding apostle's focus on evangelism.

uJper + gen. "in" - on behalf of [us]. Probably expressing reference / respect (ie. standing in for peri); "to boast about / concerning us."

iJna + subj. "so that" - that [you may have toward]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, or a consecutive clause expressing result. The object of the subjunctive verb "have" is unstated so one would assume Paul intends the previous clause to function as an assumed object; "so that you may have an opportunity to show your pride in us toward those whose pride (better than boast) rests in outward appearance rather than inner character."

touV ... kaucwmenouV (kaucaomai) pres. part. "those who take pride" - the ones boasting. The participle serves as a substantive. Presumably a reference to the "super-apostles", see above. "Others whose boasts of trust and faithfulness before God are empty and without substance", Junkins.

en proswpw/ (on) "in what is seen" - in face = appearance. The preposition en is adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to outward appearance."

en "in" - [and not] in [the heart]. Again the preposition en is adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to their inward motivations." The heart being "the centre and source of the entire spiritual life", Martin, cf., BAGD. The "super-apostles" are proud of their performance, instead of "transparency before God and people and the testimony of the conscience", Harris, ie., they are hypocrites, "they wear a look of apostolic virtue which they do not possess", Plummer.


Paul now summarizes the point he is making. "All that he does is in the service of God and for the benefit of the Corinthians", Barrett. The difficulty with this verse lies in Paul's allusion that he is out of his mind for God and in his right mind for the Corinthians. "Beside ourselves to God" is usually understood as Paul's claim of not overtly displaying externals such as esoteric charismata (as displayed by the super-apostles???). He certainly has experienced spiritual phenomena, such as tongues, being caught up into heaven (= "beside ourselves / out of our mind"), but this only in personal and private moments with God, so Barrett, Thrall, Furnish, Barnett, Martin. Yet, it is more likely that Paul is referencing his perceived "madness", the view of Festus, Acts 26:24-25, so Plummer. We might better call such perceived madness as "religious fanaticism", "religious mania", Hughes, Harris.

gar "-" - for. Probably serving to introduce a causal clause explaining why it should be plain to his readers that Paul is not out to promote his own personal agenda, although in the form of an example, "for example, ...." "For if we are beside ourselves", NRSV.

eite .... eite "if ..... if" - whether [we are beside ourselves, it was to god] or whether [we were in our right mind, it was for you]. A coordinate disjunctive construction; the presence of a finite verb sometimes implies "if .... if", rather than "either .... or ...", as NIV, Barclay, NJB... Either way, the construction establishes a contrast.

exesthmen (existhmi) aor. "we are out of our mind" - we were beside ourselves, sent out of, put out of. This intransitive verb is usually understood as "being out of one's mind / losing one's senses", BAGD. The aorist is interesting, given that "we are in our right mind" takes the present tense. Is Paul expressing a time signature (past .... present), or aspect (perfective [even a specific occasion] ... imperfective / durative, ongoing action)? Barrett suggests "a settled and habitual state, 'we have gone out of our minds and stay out of our minds'", ie. a timeless / perfect aorist, so Hughes, rather than a reference to the past, "we were once out of our minds". As noted above, Paul's sense is unclear. The word is used of Jesus, Mk.3:21, that "he is beside himself", ie., perceived as demon possessed / mad / a religious fanatic.... "If it seems that we have taken leave of our senses it is for God's sake", Barclay.

qew/ (oV) "it is for the sake of God" - to god. Dative of interest, advantage; "for the sake of God."

swfronoumen (swfronew) pres. "we are in our right mind" - we are in control. The present tense is durative, expressing an ongoing / continuous state. Contrasted with "we are beside ourselves / out of our minds" this verb obviously means "to be possessed of one's senses." "If we are sane and sensible it is for your sake", Barclay.

uJmin "it is for you" - to you. Dative of interest, advantage; "for your sake."


ii] Paul now explains why (gar) he is devoted to God and the Corinthians, v14-15. Paul has stated that his apostolic ministry is motivated by a knowledge of the coming judgment and the horror that this will bring to the lost, rather than motivated by pride, money and all the other externals of marketing. Paul's selfless commitment, fanaticism even, to his apostolic task, is driven, above all, by love; he is compelled by the love / compassion of Christ. Breaking open what Paul means by "the love of Christ", how it "controls / compels" him, and how the death of one for all has "convinced" him of this fact, is the task facing the exegete in these verses.

gar "for" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul is so driven - a religious fanatic for God, a sane expositor for the Corinthians.

tou Cristou (oV) gen. "Christ's" - [the love] of christ. The genitive "of Christ" is usually understood as verbal, subjective, "Christ's love for us", although some argue for a plenary verbal genitive, ie., a combination of Christ's love for us and of our love for Christ, so Lietzmann. Of course, the very nature of "compassion" is compassion - love that does not act lovingly is not love. So, the genitive may simply be adjectival, attributive, limiting "love", the Christ type of love, a love that expresses itself in self-giving sacrifice on the cross, ie., descriptive, or even possessive, the very nature / character of love possessed by Christ. See below.

hJ agaph (h) "love" - the love, compassion. The word "love", when used of God, or of those seeking to love as God loves, takes the meaning "compassion" ("charity", AV). Divine love sits beside divine mercy, God's covenant mercy, hesed, such that love and grace are integrally linked, even at times indistinguishable.

sunecei (sunecw) pres. "compels" - holds together/in, constrains, compels [us]. The idea of "hemming in" is dominant ("it is Christ's love that governs everything", Cassirer), but this can be expressed in the sense of "holding back", or "pushing forward", as of "the love of Christ constrains us", or "the love of Christ compels (propels) us". Paul's sense is surely "compels", as NIV, or better, "impels", Berkeley, NAB. How does Christ's love impel us?

a) It can be argued that Christ's sacrifice (as an example) motivates us to love in return. Christ's act of love impels us to love, it releases us for service. Paul is "convinced" and thus motivated toward the need to love by the love exhibited in Christ's death on his behalf.

b) It can also be argued that identification in Christ's death, of itself, motivates us to love. A believer is motivated to love by the indwelling presence of Christ, whose nature of love shapes our lives, impelling us forward in the Christian life. The character of Christ, best defined by the word "love", is being daily imaged in our life as we "walk by the Spirit" and this because we are identified with Christ in his death, v14, and thus by implication, identification with his resurrection/life, v15. In the renewing power of the Holy Spirit we are impelled to love as Christ loves (although it should be noted that Paul's argument rests on a believer's identification with Christ). By the evidence of divine power at work in the resurrection of Christ, Paul is "convinced" that this same power is at work within him.

The second approach seems best; "When men love God, that is the immediate reflection of the love which streams down from heaven upon the elect." Stauffer.

krinantaV (krinw) aor. part. "because we are convinced" - having judged [this]. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, as NIV. Translators handle the word here with slight variations expressing "a decision, a conclusion, or a conviction", Harris. "For we have reached the certainty that", Barclay.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "we are convinced about." "This is the conviction that has become ours: (namely that) ...", Cassirer.

uJper + gen. "for" - [one died] for, on behalf of, for the sake of. Possibly expressing reference / respect, but better, representation / advantage. Of course, it is often argued that the meaning here is that Christ died "instead of / in place of" ("as our representative", Denny), which fact is true, but probably not the intention of the preposition here.

pantwn "all" - all, everyone. Obviously "paid the penalty of death for the sins of all others", Junkins, but the identification of the "all" has prompted some debate. Junkins' "others" is probably wrong, given that it is implicitly "all of us", CEV. In the end, Christ's death only applies to "all who believe", irrespective of whether his death notionally covers all humanity (although this issue continues as a matter of debate). Paul simply relates one to all - in the one who dies and rises, all [believers] die and rise.

ara "and therefore" - therefore [all those ones died]. Drawing a logical conclusion.


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 (albeit imperfectly). As the old English prayer book puts it, in Christ we "die to sin and rise again to righteousness" So, identification with Christ's crucifixion / death entails identification with Christ's resurrection / life, such that the believer, in union with the risen Christ, is impelled by Christ's innermost nature, his compassion / love. "[That is to say] Christ's death as the representative of fallen mankind makes possible a new kind of existence with the risen Christ at the center", Thrall.

kai "and" - It seems best to understand this particle as epexegetic, introducing an explanation; "that is to say", TH. Paul is explaining what it is about identification with the death of Christ that convinces him that it is the "love of Christ" which impels his apostolic ministry.

uper + gen. "for [all]" - on behalf of, for the sake of [all he died]. Expressing representation or advantage.

iJna + subj. "that" - that. Introducing a purpose clause; "he died on behalf of all in order that ...", Barrett.

oJ zwnteV (zaw) pres. part. "those who live" - the ones living. The participle serves as a substantive. Possibly meaning nothing more than "the living" (those who are alive), Barrett, so Thrall, Plummer, but better, "those enjoying new life in Christ", Harris, so Martin, Furnish, Barnett.

zwsin (zaw) pres. subj. "should [no longer] live" - may live. "Live" in the sense of "conduct ones life"; "none of us should go on selfishly living for himself", Junkins.

eJautoiV reflex. pro. "for themselves" - [no longer] to themselves. Dative of advantage; "may no longer live for their own advantage."

alla "but" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ...., but ...." "But rather, that they might live a new resurrection life / a Spirit enlivened life, for Christ."

tw/ .... apoqanonti (apoqnhskw) dat. aor. part. "for him who died" - to the one having died [and having been raised on behalf of them]. As with "having been raised" (divine passive = God does the raising), the participle serves as a substantive, dative of interest, advantage; "but live to the advantage of the one who died and was raised on their behalf."


2 Corinthians Introduction



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