Online Bible Commentary
Dying to Ourselves
2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. 12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (NKJV)
On his third missionary journey, after ministering in Ephesus for two years and three months, the Apostle Paul left for Macedonia in May, A.D. 56. Paul was in Macedonia from June to November of that year. It was there that he wrote the letter of 2nd Corinthians, likely in September and October of A.D. 56.
Paul is writing this letter to the church at Corinth, Greece. This is a message directed to those Christians and to all Christians today.
In this passage, Paul begins with the word “therefore” which refers us back to verse 10 where he writes that we all will receive judgment. Believers receive rewards according to the good we do on earth.
So since we will be judged for our deeds, Paul says we should know “the terror of the Lord” (v. 11a). The word “terror” as used here is the noun “phobos”, which means fear, terror, respect, reverence. “Phobos” is the source of the word phobia.
When we have a phobia, there are degrees to our fear. Thus, there are also degrees to our fear of the Lord. Those that know they are in disobedience of God should have a great fear of a judgmental God. On the other hand, those who feel secure in their salvation should have a respect or reverence of God.
So, Paul writes that it is this fear of God that makes us want to “persuade men” to follow Christ (v. 11b). In other words, he is saying that Christians should want to persuade others because of their respect and reverence of God.
Paul is writing this because back then, as now, people were questioning the motives of him and the other Christians. Our motives should not be to gain power or other benefits for ourselves.
Paul completes his thought by writing that “we are well known to God” (v. 11c). In other words, God knows all of our hearts, because the Holy Spirit indwells every Christian. Since He knows our hearts, He knows our motives.
Paul then writes “I also trust (we) are well known in your consciences” (v. 11d). In other words, he hopes the church members know that his motives are sincere and have integrity.
In verse twelve Paul states that he is not boasting, or being judgmental (v. 12a), but rather he wanted the believers to know how to defend themselves from the sharp attacks on them from the false teachers (v. 12b). He describes the false teachers as caring more for outward show to the world, than integrity of the heart in obeying God (v. 12c).
Paul writes in verse thirteen that if the world thinks Christians “are beside ourselves, it is for God” (v. 13a). In other words, if Christians seem to be out of their minds it is only because of their zealousness to obey God.
However, if it appeared that they were in their right mind, it is only because that would make it easier on other believers (v. 13b). Either way, their motives are unselfish.
Paul then writes of our motivation when he writes “the love of Christ compels us” (v. 14a). We love Christ because he loved us first, and died for us on the cross.
So, since Christ died for us Christians, we “all died” (v. 14b). Christ died as our representative, and when He died, we all died. We died to ourselves, to our own selfish desires, in order to live for Him.
So, Christ died for us so “that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (v. 15). As Christians, we should not live for ourselves, but for Christ.