They Appear to Be Strong But Aren’t
To the people of Judah, Egypt looked like a powerful nation, a potential source of protection from the approaching Assyrian threat. However, Isaiah revealed that Egypt was weak, vulnerable, and not capable of holding off the Assyrians (Isaiah 19:1-15; 20:1-6). For anyone willing to listen, Isaiah’s message cleared away important misperceptions. Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 5:16, Paul expresses his refusal to regard the people around him according to mere external appearances.
They Appear to Be Far Off But Aren’t
As a Gentile nation and Israel’s age-old enemy, Egypt appeared to be far from God, but really wasn’t. Isaiah 19:16-25 indicates that in the Messianic Age, Egypt would no longer be far from God. Instead, Egypt, along with the fearsome Assyria, would be incorporated into the people of God. Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20, Paul rejoices that now with the coming of the Messiah, God is bringing sinful people from every place into relationship with himself.
A Paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:11 – 6:2
On Sunday, I asked the congregation to read 2 Corinthians 5 this week, noting some of the places where this text dove-tails with Isaiah 19-20. To that end, here is Murray Harris’ expanded paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:11 – 6:2. This paraphrase reflects the interpretive decisions that Harris makes in his 2005 commentary in the New International Greek Testament Commentary series.
We are fully aware, then, of our accountability to the Lord as our judge, and so we regard him with reverential awe. So we endeavor to persuade everyone of the truth of the gospel and of our integrity as messengers of the gospel. What we are and what our motives are have always been open to God’s scrutiny; and I hope these things are abundantly clear to your consciences as well. No, it is not the case that we are trying, all over again, to commend ourselves to you and to justify ourselves before you. On the contrary, we are affording you with a solid and suitable basis for taking real pride in us and championing our cause, so that you may have ample ammunition against our opponents who constantly pride themselves on position and privilege rather than on the state of the heart. If, to some people, we have seemed insane, it was for God’s glory. If, on the other hand, we are in full control of our senses, it is always for your good. Either way, selfishness is excluded, for the example of Christ’s love controls our actions and leaves us no choice but to serve God and you. The conclusion we reached long ago was this: That one person died for all, and therefore in one sense all died — his death was their death. And the reason for his death for all? He died so that those who enjoy newness of life should quit living for themselves and live wholly for the one who himself both died and rose again for them. The death and resurrection of Christ have produced two further results. First, for the future, we refuse to estimate anyone by the external standards of the world. Indeed, even if before our conversion we thought of Christ from the standpoint of the world as a mere human being and as a messianic pretender, now we no longer view him that way. Second, whenever people are united in faith to the risen Christ, God performs a new act of creation and they are altogether new persons. In fact, the old state of affairs has entirely disappeared and a brand new order has come into existence for all to see. This new situation is wholly God’s doing, for he is the one who restored us to his favor through the work of Christ and entrusted us with the task of announcing this reconciliation. Its essence is this: God was present in Christ and operative through him when he was reconciling humankind to himself, no longer debiting people’s offenses to their account. And the obligation and privilege of declaring this message of reconciliation God has entrusted to our care. So we are acting on Christ’s behalf and in his place as his special envoys. It is, in reality, God himself who issues his appeal through our words. As Christ’s representatives, then, we make this entreaty when we preach: “Get reconciled to God!” How did that reconciliation come about? Christ was totally devoid of sin. Yet God caused him to be sin on our behalf and in our place, so that as a result of being united with Christ we might become righteous before God. As coworkers in God’s service, we issue this appeal to you: Whenever you receive God’s grace, do not let it be without profit. For in the Scripture, the Lord says this: “At the time appointed by me to show you favor, I listened to your cry, and on the day appointed by me to bring you salvation, I came to your aid.” Listen carefully: The present age is the time when God’s gracious favor is shown: the present era is the time when God brings salvation.