Online Bible Commentary
Responding to False Teachers
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. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, Greece. In verse 11 he begins with the word “therefore” which refers us back to verse 10 where he writes that we all will receive judgment. Believers receive the judgment of rewards in Heaven, while unbelievers receive judgment of eternity in Hell. We believe there were unbelievers in the church since Paul wrote this letter to correct the sin of false teaching in the church.
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. 11b). 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. 11c). 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.
Just as in the church at Corinth, in some churches today there are those who deceive by teaching false doctrine. A prime example is the false teaching that homosexuality is acceptable in the eyes of God.
The motives of these false teachers are not out of reverence to God, but to please an immoral society and to gain benefit for themselves. Paul had no problem pointing this out, and neither should Christians today.