That They Might Live for Him

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

– 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Who are you living for? Or to rephrase it for English teachers, for whom are you living? Either way, when you make decisions about how you’re going to spend the next twenty minutes or the next twenty years, whose priorities drive those decisions? Do you make those decisions with a conscious awareness of the fact that you belong to someone other than yourself?

In our culture, possibly more than in any other, we bristle at the idea of being owned by someone. We’re not used to absolute authority. In our world of at-will employment and no-fault divorce, we’re unaccustomed to permanent relationships that require us to serve another without condition. But Scripture makes it clear that we are in just such a relationship. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 describes this by telling us that we are not our own, because we have been bought with a price.

Much could be said about the fact that we are owned by Christ. But for now, it is worth simply considering the fundamental fact that we belong to Him and not to ourselves. We are not volunteers or independent contractors or employees. In the happiest imaginable way, we are His property. Therefore, His will takes absolute precedence over our own.

This passage makes it clear that this relationship has been brought about by Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf. Christ’s work for us should result in our living for Him, and it’s important to understand just how these two things are connected. Our motivation to live for Him is not simply a matter of gratitude, but of ownership. It’s one thing to serve someone who has paid your debts. It’s another thing to serve someone who has purchased you.

It is also important to remember that while Christ’s will is the ruling principle in our lives, we are still called to make real decisions. We don’t have every required step of our lives listed out for us. But we are to make those decisions in light of the priorities of the One to whom we belong, and to whom we will each give an account.

And what is the central priority of that One? It is love – first to God, and then to man. So this living for the One who died for us is another way of describing the idea of being controlled by the love of Christ. Christ died and rose again for us, so that we might be united to His death and resurrection, and might as a result live a life that is subject to His universal rule. In other words, a life controlled by the love of Christ.

May we prayerfully pursue this life together by the power of His Spirit and His Word.

They Who Live

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

– 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Paul writes in this passage that those who are controlled by the love of Christ are that way because they have “concluded this”. Now we are taking the time to consider just what “this” is in all its implications, that we might conclude the same things, and be controlled by the love of Christ as well.

We have given some thought to the realities that Christ died for us, and that we have joined him in his death. The next reality we must consider is the fact that we, having been joined to Christ, have been joined not only to His death but also to His resurrection. This is implied by the term “they who live”, and is echoed throughout the New Testament, most notably in Romans 6:1-13.

Death matters because of the separation it causes, and life matters because of the connection it accomplishes. So to say that you are alive to God and dead to sin means that at the most fundamental level, you are now connected to God and separated from sin, whereas the opposite used to be true of you.

So what are the implications of your new life in Christ? There are many, and one of the most glorious is the fact that you win. God the Father raised Christ from the dead as a sign of Christ’s victory over sin. And the fact that we share in His resurrection means that we get to share in His victory. This is true both in terms of our position before God and in terms of our day-to-day life. Sin has been conquered for us, so now we can conquer sin. The victory Christ accomplished means that we can now both live before God and live for God.

This new life not only connects us to God, but it also empowers us to live for Him. This must have been part of what Paul was thinking about when he wrote that it was his ambition to know Christ “and the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).

You have been given a fresh start, and that freshness never goes away. You will always have new life in Christ. Even when the feelings of newness go away, even when you have fallen back into the old failures of your previous life (or better said, your previous death), you are always just as newly-alive in Christ as you were when you first trusted Him.

These realities are not merely things that have been proclaimed about us in some judicial sense. In some mysterious way they have actually happened to us. They have really changed us on the inside. And as a result, they should change us on the outside. Living a new life is a natural extension of having a new life. That is what Paul mentions next, and that is what we will plan to explore in a later post.

Therefore all died

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

– 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

We have been working through this passage together over the past few posts, motivated by the principle that if we are able to come to the same conclusions that Paul had come to, we will be controlled by the love of Christ like he was. We are doing this slowly, one concept at a time, because it takes time to process these things in such a way that they actually affect they way we think.

Therefore all died. Assuming you are a believer in Christ, this means that you died. You may not feel like any such thing has happened to you, but it has. Scripture is, in fact, full of references to the death of believers who, by all external accounts, are very much alive. Colossians 3:3 describes this by saying that “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Romans 6:1-11 describes this reality in detail, and concludes with this charge: “consider yourselves to be dead to sin.” We are told to believe a reality that we cannot see, and that we often don’t seem to experience, but is a reality nonetheless.

In Paul’s description of this principle in Romans 6, he makes it clear that the reason for our death is the fact that we have been joined to Christ. And having been joined to Christ, everything that belongs to Him now belongs to us, including His death for our sin. The fact that you have been joined to the death of Christ means that His death serves both to forgive you for your sin and to free you from it.

And this wasn’t just a judicial or symbolic transaction. You are not just dead to sin positionally. Your participation in the death of Christ has brought about such a change in your essential nature that it forms the basis for Paul’s emphatic question, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2) The question is whether we are going to view ourselves according to the flesh, or according to the word of God (2 Cor. 5:16-17).

If we are dead to sin because of the death that Christ died for sin on our behalf, how should this affect our view of sin? How should it affect our approach to dealing with sin? Does it leave any room for complacency, or for toying with temptation? If we understand it properly, it leaves room for nothing but the love of Christ to control us.

The even greater news is that because of our union with Christ, we participate not only in His death but in His resurrection. We are joined to His life. That is the reality we will plan to explore next month.

One Died for All

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

– 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

In the last post we considered the idea that if we were to conclude the same things Paul had concluded – that is, if we were to take hold of these realities for what they really are – then we, too, could experience what it means to be controlled by the love of Christ. To that end, we will be stopping to consider each of the things that Paul had concluded, so that they might find their way into our minds and hearts.

One died for all. That one, of course, is Jesus. And the fact that He died for all means He died for you and for me. We were guilty and needed to be cleaned, and Jesus came to offer Himself as a guilt offering (Isaiah 53). We could not clean ourselves, either by the law or by our own sincere efforts or by any other means.

Sin is so serious that it requires death as its punishment. It is a capital offense. That is what the sacrificial system in the Old Testament was designed to communicate. As Hebrews 9:22 puts it, “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” But we also know from Hebrews 10:4 that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins”. God graciously allowed the sacrifices in the Old Testament, when they were combined with faith in the hearts of the ones offering them, to cover sin. But ultimately, covering sin is not sufficient. Sin must be taken away. And that is the difference between what animal sacrifices could do for us, and what the sacrifice of Jesus does for us. His sacrifice – the blood he shed in dying for us – takes away our sin.

The death of Christ paid for all the sins that you and I have committed; and if He had not died, we would have had no way to remove those sins from ourselves. We would have stood before God covered with the filth and shame of our own choices; we would have had no remedy for it, and no escape from His righteous anger.

The only one who could have died for you did just that. Do you have fifteen minutes this week to stop and consider this one reality? If we don’t chew our food, we don’t digest it properly, and we don’t get the nourishment from it that we could. It works the same way with spiritual truth. If we don’t slow down enough to consider it carefully, we will never absorb it in the life-changing way Paul describes here.

Let’s make time to integrate Christ’s death for us into our understanding of everything, that the love of Christ might control us.

Meditations on 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

– 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the most basic principles of the faith, and reminded in such a way that those realities grip us as they should. We can be so inoculated to Bible language that concepts often don’t get past the words used to communicate them. And that’s not because there’s a problem with the words. Rather, at least part of the problem is caused by the fact that we have habitually not lived the concepts communicated by the words, which eventually leads to dullness of ears and hearts.

Does the love of Christ control you? When you really stop and think about it, do you find that the love of Christ finds a place – any place – in the decisions you make? What do you really want out of life? What you really look forward to, either this evening or in twenty years? How much does Christ have to do with those desires?

Some of you, I hope, will find that Christ is very much at the center of all these things in your life. You are a much-needed example to the rest of us. Some of you, on the other hand, are more like me. When you and I are honest about what goes on in our hearts – and what doesn’t – it becomes difficult to describe ourselves as people who are controlled by the love of Christ. That’s not to say that there is none of this quality in us; just not nearly enough.

So if you find that the love of Christ does not control you as it should, what do you do about it? In this passage, being controlled by the love of Christ is shown to be caused by having reached a certain conclusion. If we can conclude the same things – really conclude them, and own them for ourselves – then that truth can have the same impact on us. Concluding this, though, does not come passively. It takes time, mental effort and dependence on God to work in our hearts.

Over the next few posts, I would like to meditate with you on the various aspects of the conclusion that Paul describes here. If internalizing these conclusions can lead to a life compelled by the love of Christ, it will be more than worth the effort. I invite you to join me in that quest, and in prayer that God will make His truth effective in our hearts.