A Proper Ambition – 2 Corinthians 5:11-13

Series: 2 Corinthians

II Corinthians 5:11-13 ESV
11  Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12  We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13  For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

In this chapter the apostle Paul has already made known his great ambition—the great goal for his life. Since he was in Christ, he wanted to please the Lord with all his life. He sought that because he knew he would give a personal account to the Lord one day. Now we see that this great ambition produced another ambition for him. We should expect ourselves and one another to make spiritual progress. There ought to be many areas in which we are becoming more and more like Jesus. When the Lord saves us, we are newborn babies, but we should move on to youth and on from there to full maturity. Regardless of one’s degree of scholarship, and we ought to improve in that area also, we should have a growing knowledge of the Lord and his grace in the gospel. Then we will all be better able to serve, if only because people will be able to see that we have been with Jesus. So do not be content with the status quo, whether for yourself or for our whole spiritual family.


I. The roots of this ambition 
A. It came from what the apostle knew of the Lord Jesus Christ. (5:11a)

1. He knew personally the nature of the Lord. Christ had found him by his grace, and that encounter had transformed him from pride in himself to one who boasted or gloried in Christ. This is significant spiritual progress—from self-sufficiency to glorying in the Lord’s all-sufficiency. Later in the letter, we will learn how Paul learned this.

2. He had a healthy fear or reverence about his personal accountability to the Lord Jesus. People who know that Christ has sent them on a mission in this world consider how they use their lives for Christ’s mission as a very important matter. We are not here to build our own personal empires or to take up space without being noticed. It is troubling how the human mind pursues those polar opposites, and in the process ignores what the Lord wants us to do. But Paul’s view of Christ would not allow him to go in either of those wrong directions.

Point: Your view of Christ really affects your way of life. Your problem is not so much what you are or are not doing. It stems from your real thoughts and ideas about Jesus Christ.
B. It came from what the apostle knew God knew about him. (5:11c-12)

1. It was a settled fact that God knew him thoroughly. Paul did not think that he was pulling something over on God. “You can’t see me now,” or “you’re not paying attention to me now, are you?” Our lives are an open book to God (cf. Heb 4:13).

2. Paul hoped that his brothers and sisters in Corinth took the life that he had lived among them in the same way. He did not have some ulterior motives, as we have already seen earlier in the letter, but he was living for Christ and the gospel.

Apply: We need to live consistent Christ-focused and gospel-formed lives before each other, so that we have the general attitude about each other, “My brother or sister in Christ is living for Christ.” Certainly, we will all have spiritual struggles, but I am speaking about being confident about how each one actually is in their way of life.

3. Paul wanted them to have this attitude about him so that they would be able to answer those who were causing problems about Paul and his ministry (5:12). Clearly, there were some who were trying to discount Paul and his ministry, in order to lead the Corinthians away from Christ and the gospel. Paul knew that the false teachers took pride in external matters and did not really care about internal, spiritual attitudes. This is the same issue that Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders about many times.

Apply: Are you concerned about the inner person of your heart? Is the truth of Christ and the gospel transforming your thoughts, ideas, attitudes, and words? Can you trace a line of gospel change in your way of life?
II. What the ambition produced in his life
A. It caused him to concern himself with God and people, and not on what people thought about him (5:13). If you are concerned first about the opinions of people, you are simply a people pleaser, and you will not be pleasing the Lord (cf. 5:9). You will always be looking over your shoulder to see whether people are smiling or frowning at you. A “people pleasing desire” ruins your freedom in Christ and your boldness for Christ. But Paul wanted to please the Lord, and so he simply served for Christ and the gospel.

1. On the one hand, some said that he was “out of his mind”. Some want to refer this to his speaking in tongues, but I don’t think this is what he is talking about, because the Corinthians were glad to exercise such spiritual gifts, so much so, that Paul had to give instruction about the correct usage of prophecy and tongues in their meetings (1 Cor 12-14). Instead like Jesus (Mk 3:20-21), Paul was probably being criticized for his zealous service for Christ and the gospel (cf. Ac 26:24). “That Paul—he’s crazy! He never talks about anything else or does anything else! It’s Jesus and the gospel! You’ve got to stay clear of someone like that.” Paul responds with indifference to this kind of criticism. “You can call me crazy; I’m just living for the Lord Jesus Christ.” As someone once said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a nut, as long as you’re fastened to the right bolt.” By the way, people might applaud you for living for Jesus, until you actually start to do it.

2. On the other hand, if people applauded him as in his right mind, Paul did not bask in self-appreciation. He was content to be serving his brothers and sisters in Christ with the message of the gospel.

Point: Paul had an intense “God and other people” attitude. Do you?
B. It caused him to try to persuade people (5:11b).

1. Paul is talking about evangelism. While he doesn’t use this term elsewhere for telling the good news, Luke uses it about him (Acts 17:2-4; 18:4; 19:8; 26:28; 28:23). Notice that it is proper to try to persuade people to come to a change of mind and to believe the gospel. While we must interact with people with respect, love, and kindness, we must also try to persuade them. They are in a deadly spiritual condition and need the Savior! It is not a matter that one can dismiss with a casual “take or leave it” attitude. People should sense that the word of the Lord is important to us and that we think it is important for them, too.

2. We must have our eyes filled with the fact that everyone we meet will be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ one day. When we encounter people, this thought should be affecting how we interact with them, regardless of how personal a meeting it is. “I am not simply buying groceries; I am in this place for Jesus. Yes, I’m watching this game or movie or television show with my friends, but I’m also watching it for Jesus. It’s another day on my job, but I’m working for Jesus first, while I do my best for my employer.”

Apply: So then, how will you use your life this week? What three actions do you need to do to spread the good news of Jesus Christ? What five people are you praying to reach? How much time will you invest in Christ’s mission for you this week?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.newtownsquarebaptist.org/” color=”red” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/button]

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