2 Corinthians 4:13-15
Our passage this morning really drives us to the fact that… What we believe really matters.
I’m sure you have heard people say something like this, “they are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” Now, I think I understand what’s meant by this (their head is in the clouds and they don’t get what going on down here), but actually unless someone is truly heavenly minded, having a minded fixed God who is in heaven, they will be no earthly good.
According to 2 Corinthians 4:13-15, Paul’s unwavering commitment to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to more and more people in order to increase thanksgiving to the glory of God, which meant incredible and constant suffering in his life was motivated by what he believed. What Paul knew about God and His character and His work was the motive for his incredible willingness to suffer for the good of others.
And so what we believe and where our mind is set really matters. It will determine whether you will join Paul in being willing to suffer to bring the gospel to more and more people in order to increase thanksgiving to the glory of God or whether you will sit by in silence and selfishness as the Day of Reckoning fixed but the Father approaches.
So the question we want to answer this morning is this: What is it that motivates Paul in these verses to speak the Word of God, the gospel of Christ, even when it means so much suffering? Paul reveals two motives this morning that have everything to do with what he believes.
Motivation 1: Resurrection and Presentation
Look first at verse 13
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak…
In this verse Paul is quoting Psalm 116:10 from the LXX (or Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament commonly quoted by the NT writers), “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”
Paul Barnett comments:
David, the writer of the psalm, had been critically ill, but God delivered him from death and to this he bears testimony. He ‘believed’ God had done this, and therefore he ‘spoke’ of it. Basing himself on the psalmist’s example, but in different circumstances, Paul the apostle declares, ‘we, too, believe and therefore also speak.’ …But what did Paul first believe? In the sentence following Paul will give the content of what he believes.
So, before we look at that content, notice what is it that motivates Paul in these verses to speak the Word of God (4:2), the gospel of glory of Christ(4:4), to declaring that Jesus is Lord(4:5), even when it means so much suffering? It is his faith. It is what he believes.
All too often I hear people talk in vague and general term about what they believe. You get into conversation with some folks and they will eagerly affirm that they believe in God. “Oh, I believe in God.” But you start pressing them further and what they believe in has very little resemblance to the God who actually exists and has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. There is far too much loose talk about believing in God, even in the church. What do you believe about God?
You know Mormons say they believe in God, but their god is nothing like our God. Islamic terrorists say they believe in God, but their god is not like our God. Do you believe in God? The God of the Bible? Do you know Him, what He is like, and what He has done? Do you worship and adore the God who is? Do you know the God who is?
What you believe will determine your eternal destiny and it will radically effect how you live your short life here. It is Paul’s faith that motivates him to speak the Word of the gospel of the glory of Christ even in the mist of life-long, non-stop suffering.
What does he believe? What is the content of his faith? And if we are unwilling to suffer to make Christ known, what is it that Paul believes that we don’t?
In verse 14 we discover what Paul believes which motivates him to speak when it is incredibly costly.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
What does Paul believe, which gives rise to his bold speaking?
He says he knows something. What does Paul know? Paul knows that “He who raised the Lord Jesus [from the dead] will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.”
There are three phrases that describe God’s actions in this sentence that I’d like us to take special note of:
(A) Past Action: He Has Raised
The first phrase tells us about the past action of God. Note the phrase, “He who raised the Lord Jesus.” Paul is describing a completed action which has occurred in the past: God has raised the Lord Jesus from the dead.
Is this something you know about God? That He actually, in space and time, raise the Lord Jesus from the dead. Do you believe this? Do you understand how significant this is?
To have a risen Christ is to have One who has fully satisfied God’s righteous requirements both in the fact that He Himself kept the Holy Standard of God in His righteous life and in the fact that He bore the wrath of God and curse of the law as a substitutionary sacrifice upon the cross.
He was the spotless Lamb slain in the place of sinners.
And because He has so superabundantly satisfied God’s justice, God raised Him from the dead.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the One appointed, He is the One who triumphed, He is the One who now stands with all authority in heaven and on earth as the new Adam, and in Him all of God’s promises find their Yes and Amen!
But if this is not true we are doomed.
1 Corinthians 15:17-18
…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
Do you believe that God raised Christ Jesus from the dead? If you believe in some so-called-god, but not the God who raised Jesus from the dead, than there is no name under heaven by which you can be saved. You are still in your sins and you will perish in them.
And so here in verse 14 of chapter 4 Paul gives us the great foundation stone upon which his unflinching, bold ministry rests: God has raised (past tense) the Lord Jesus from the dead.
(B)Future Action: He Will Raise
But this glorious fact gives rise to a second thing that Paul knows. He continues this sentence in verse 14 describing the second thing he believes: He who raised (past tense) the Lord Jesus will raise (same verb but now in the future tense) us also with Jesus.
Paul understood the past action of God in raising Jesus Christ from the dead as being the key that unlocked the grave for everyone who is in Christ by faith – everyone who believes in Him. To have a risen Savior is to have a God who has beaten sin and death for everyone who will trust Him.
I love how this central fact of the past action of God in raising Christ Jesus from the dead had so saturated the apostle Paul’s thinking about God that he now could describe God in the first chapter of this letter and verse 9 in these terms: God is the God who raises the dead (present tense).
In chapter 1 Paul was describing the character of God. He is the God who raises the dead. And we know this because He raised our Lord Jesus from the dead. Do you know that your God is the God who raises the dead? Sin and death have been vanquished by our God! They have no power over our God, no power to thwart His promises. He is the God who raises the dead!
Do you relish the fact that your God has demonstrated that He is the God who raises the dead, having raised the Lord Jesus, and that this means He will raise us, his people, also with Jesus?
“It is striking that to the words God ‘will raise us,’ Paul adds, ‘with Jesus,’ as if to suggest the closeness in principle, if not in time, of the future resurrection of believers and the past resurrection of Jesus.”
There is a closeness in Paul’s thinking about Christ’s resurrection and ours. Do you live understanding and believing and relishing the intimate tie and connection of Christ’s past resurrection and your future resurrection as a believer in Him?
1 Corinthians 15:20-23
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Notice the close connection: As everyone in Adam dies. So also everyone in Christ shall be made alive. As Paul said there in 1 Corinthians 15 Christ is the firstfruits from the dead and in Him a great harvest will be reaped for God. Are you in Christ by faith? If you are in Christ by faith, you will be raised with Christ, who was the firstfruits.
God has raised (past tense) the Lord Jesus from the dead, and so we know that He is the God who has the power to raise the dead, and the God who will raise (future tense) all who are in Christ.
(C)Future Action: He Will Present
But there is one last phase in this verse that we need to take special note of. At the end of this sentence Paul says that he knows that God “will bring us with you into his presence.” Or as the greek says more literally, He “will present [us] (future tense) with you.” I think it is important to note (as Barrett points out in his commentary) that, “Resurrection will be accompanied by presentation.”
At Christ’s coming those who are in Christ will be raised from the dead by God. But Paul says here that he is not just looking forward to being resurrected but also being presented with his fellow believers.
What is this presentation Paul talks about here? To whom will God ‘present’ Paul and us and for what purpose?
First let’s wrestle with who it is we will be presented to. The only other place in 2 Corinthians that this verb (present, paristemi) is used is 2 Corinthians 11:2, which indicates that it is to Christ that we will be presented. In that context Paul says the church is betrothed to one husband in order to be presented as a pure virgin to Christ.
Ephesians 5:25-27 parallels 2 Corinthians 11:2:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
So it appears clear that it is to Christ that we will be presented on that day of resurrection.
For What Purpose?
But for what purpose? It seems clear from 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:27 that the purpose of this presentation is for the great eschatological wedding, the glorious day when we will be presented to our One husband who has loved us and gave Himself up for us to cleanse us and bring us to be with Himself forever in love and joy and unity. Oh, what a day that will be.
But for the sake of having a robust grasp of context of our text as well as having a right and robust understanding of that Day we are so looking forward to drop your eyes down to 2 Corinthians 5:10. There is an important addition there.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul says, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
Now catch why this is important to bring up. In 5:10 this required appearing before the judgment seat of Christ motivates Paul to persuade others as he says in 5:11, “Therefore, knowing the fear (deep awe and reverence) of the Lord, we persuade others.”
It seems very much a parallel thought to what Paul is explaining in 4:13-15. The two thoughts are parallel in this way: Just as Paul’s knowing of certain eschatological things forms the basis of his speaking in our verses, his knowing of certain eschatological things form the basis of his persuading others in 5:10.
And because this parallel exists some believe Paul’s whole motivation for proclaiming the gospel is the coming judgment seat of Christ. Now, I think it is too shallow to reduce Paul’s motivation to the coming judgement seat, but it is an important part of Paul’s motivation and should be an important part of our motivation as well.
But we must rightly understand this judgement Paul mentions. The judgment Paul talks about in 5:10 and 11 is the Judgment Seat of Christ where every believer will stand before their Lord Jesus Christ and give an account of themselves (Romans 14:10-12). Now this is not a judgment unto death or damnation or punishment for there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). All of God’s wrath has been licked up, absorbed, and exhausted for the believer in Jesus Christ.
No, as Paul says, this judgment is when every believer will receive a judgment, an assessment, from the Lord of Lords and receive what is due for what he has done in the body whether good or evil. And incredibly, the focus of this assessment, as described throughout the NT, seems to be whether and how many rewards we will receive.
Listen to Paul describe this Day in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15,
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
We will all stand before our Lord and Savior and we will be exposed before Him and His judgment, His assessment, of our thoughts and intention and actions in this life will be penetrating and right. And so in verse 11 Paul says, “knowing the fear (the extreme awe and reverence – like standing in the presence of fire) of the Lord we persuade others.” That moment will be filled with awe as the Lord looks at you and renders His judgement of your live lived for Him and rewards you accordingly. It will be like standing in a refiners furnace and all the wood, hay, and stubble – all that is not gold will be burned away. But what is left will be pure and precious in His sight.
So Paul says, the reason he speaks, the reason he is bold in ministry, is because of what he believes. He believes God has raised Jesus; he believed God will raise him and every believer; and he believes God will present us to Christ – a day of trembling awe and reverence and exposure and assessment and purification, as well as grace and reward and marriage and a wedding feast.
Paul’s emphasis has been on the sure and inevitable nature of the future resurrection and so here too it is the sure and inevitable nature of being presented to Christ with all that implies for reverence and for joy.
Paul is motivated to proclaim the praises of Christ even in the midst of intense suffering because of his faith in God, who raised the Lord Jesus and who will raise us with Him and will present us and all our brothers and sisters to the Lord of Lords who will purify us as with fire and who will bring to perfection His marriage union with us as a husband to His pure bride.
Paul’s faith moves Him to speak: It is what he knows about what the God who raised Jesus will do that motivates him. It is his firm belief in the Day of resurrection and presentation which forms the first and foundational motivation for Paul in these verses.
But there is another motivation for faithful Christian witness in the midst of suffering – and it has two parts:
Motivation 2: The Increased Thanksgiving of the Church to the Glory to God
Glance back at the end of verse 12: “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” Paul is telling us about what motivates him in painful ministry and in verse 15 he explains what he meant in verse 12. He says, “For it is all for your sake…” All of Paul’s unwavering and unashamed proclamation of the truth of God’s Word in the midst of incredible and constant suffering and dying is in some way all for the sake of the church.
Catch what Paul is saying. All of his sufferings at sea and in prison and being stoned is for the sake of Christ’s bride – he is doing it for them. Paul explains, “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
In other words, Paul’s aim is to extend the grace of God in Christ Jesus to more and more people no matter the cost, so that as grace extends it might increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. Paul is laboring to increase the amount and quality of thanksgiving that rises from the church to God.
This should also inform us, by the way, that Paul is not thinking in terms of fear and guilt and condemnation when he is thinking about resurrection and presentation. He is thinking in terms of thanksgiving. Perfect love casts out fear! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ our Lord bore all our guilt away. No, Paul is not thinking in terms of punishment; he is thinking in terms of reward and thanksgiving.
And notice that Paul’s motivation is for the glory of God and for the joy of the church. Paul says, “…it is all for your sake…” (speaking to the church) and then he finishes, “…to the glory of God.”
Well which is it Paul? Are you motivated by the glory of God or the joy of people? In Paul’s thinking those two things are not at odds. As John Piper has said so well and so often, ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.’
To glorify God is not to add to His glory, it is to recognize His glory and relish it and desire it and trust all that He is for us. To glorify God is not to add anything to Him, it is to be satisfied with His fullness.
So Paul wants to make Christ known everywhere he goes (even in the midst of extreme suffering and dying) in order to extend God’s grace in Christ to more and more people, which increases praise and thanksgiving and worship to God for His amazing grace in Christ Jesus.
And so, yes, Paul does it for the sake of the church, for their joy, for their delight, that they may rejoice and be glad, filled with thanksgiving to God for His power and wisdom and holiness and incredible grace. Paul wants more and more people to see God for who He is and what He’s done and so believe on Him and be thrilled by Him and thankful to Him. In other words Paul wants God to be glorified by more and more people.
Paul is laboring to see a bigger and bigger worship celebration at the Wedding feast. Paul is laying down his life in this world that others might join him in thanksgiving and praise for eternity because of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.
Some in the Corinthian church looked at Paul’s miserable life and externally weak ministry and asked, ‘is this really what a faithful Christian minister looks like? Always in trouble, always suffering, always dying? Really?’ and Paul answers, ‘Yes it is, I do it all because I believe that God raised Christ Jesus from the dead and will raise me and all His people and will present us to Christ without spot or wrinkle. We can’t lose. I do it because I love Christ’s bride and I love God’s glory. I labor to extend the grace of God in Christ Jesus to more and more people and so increase thanksgiving to the glory of God whatever the cost in this life.”
You and Me
What will motivate us to speak of Christ to others when it is costly? I want to be bold. I want to be faithful. How will we grow in these things? The answer is: Faith. Not faith in some vague, undefined “god” out there. But faith in the one true God who raised Jesus from the dead. Faith in that God is the victory. Trusting that God at His Word. What do you believe about God and about what He has done in the past and what He will do in the future?
Do you believe God raised Jesus from the dead and so will raise you with Christ and present you to Christ? If you believe this, than speak!
Do you desire the glory of God and the everlasting joy of more and more people? If you desire this, than speak!