11 Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to be proud of us, so that you may have a reply for those who take pride in outward appearance rather than in the heart. 13 For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died. 15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:11-15
Has someone ever questioned your integrity? Put differently, has someone ever caused you to question your own integrity? Most likely we have all experienced a situation where our faith or deeds come under the microscope. Sometimes others challenge our decisions, often for the wrong reasons or without all the facts. We may even be criticized because our actions do not match our words. While sometimes these situations are of our own doing, others seem to demand a full-fledged defense. Paul became entangled in a similar situation with the church at Corinth.
By way of background, Paul planted the church in Corinth during his second missionary journey, where he had stayed for a year and a half (Acts 18:11). Corinth was a highly populated and prosperous city, but it was also infamous for its sinfulness. Starting a church there was no small feat; expecting a church to thrive under those conditions appeared almost impossible. Understandably, Paul knew when he left to continue his journey that the congregation would face extraordinary pressure from these corrupt influences. Even he had been run out of the synagogue by Jews who had blasphemed Jesus.
Paul wrote to encourage the church at Corinth and to defend his ministry. At times, his relationship with the Corinthian church was contentious. He dealt with issues ranging from stubbornness, to incestuous relationships, to misunderstandings about the theological truths he promoted. Outside the church, Paul was facing intense criticism from the Judaizers, or false teachers of the day, who challenged his integrity and put him down as an authority.
It is not surprising then that Paul began this string of verses by reminding the church of the coming judgment each of us will face. He emphasized that knowledge of this reality produces a healthy fear of the Lord—a fear that should foster obedience and discipleship. Paul maintained that he needed no letters of recommendation as others did, for the body of believers in Corinth “who feared the Lord” validated his apostleship. Their faith in Christ bore witness to the authenticity of his ministry.
Finally, Paul stressed that the love of Christ constrains us to live in a way that honors the sacrifice of Jesus. The urgency of Paul’s message should not be lost on us. When it came to defend what he believed in, and lived for, Paul stood strong and did not waver. We would do well to remember Paul’s words the next time we face a similar assault on our faith.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- How do you respond when someone challenges your faith?
- Is your life properly oriented through “fear of the Lord”?
- To whom or what do you point in order to validate your faith?
- Do others point to your faith in Christ to validate their own?