2 Corinthians 5:11 ESV
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”
The Fear of the Lord
Do we know what it means to fear the Lord? It means that we honor, value, esteem, revere, respect, worship and obey him. We are not hearers of the word only, but we are doers of the word. We are those who walk (in conduct, in practice) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
We take God and his word seriously. That doesn’t mean we go around with a frown on our faces all the time or that everything is “doom and gloom.” But it means that we believe what God says, that we take it to heart, and we apply his word to our daily lives in his power and strength.
We give our lives to the Lord as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him, which is our acceptable worship of him, and we no longer live in conformity to the ways of this sinful world. It doesn’t mean we will never sin again, but that sin is not to be what we practice. Righteousness is what we practice.
[Lu. 1:50; Ac. 10:34-35; 2 Co. 5:6-11; 2 Co. 7:1; Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 12:28-29; Rev. 11:18; Jas 1:22-25; Rom 8:1-17; Rom 12:1-2; 1 Jn 3:7-9]
We Persuade Others
How do we or how should we be persuading others? I think we can be persuasive without even trying just by being who we are, and by doing the things that we do, and by saying the things that we say in normal everyday conversation, for good or for evil.
For, people are watching our lives. They are listening to what we say and to what we don’t say, too. They are observing our habits and how we speak and how we respond to our everyday circumstances. We can mouth all kinds of words in writing or in intentional speaking when we know people are listening, but how we are when we aren’t “on stage” speaks volumes regarding who we really are and what we honestly believe.
Now, again, this is not saying that Christians must be perfect. We are still human beings, and being conformed to the likeness of Christ is a lifetime process. But, at the same time, we are to walk the walk that Jesus set out for us and we aren’t to just talk it. We are to live what we say we believe.
But what is Paul talking about here? Certainly, he is saying that we must live what we say we believe and that our walks must match our talks. But he is also speaking of us literally talking to people in a way in which we are attempting to persuade them to follow Jesus Christ with their lives.
So, this means we actually must speak the gospel and not just live it. People need to hear the written word, not just see it lived out in our lives. They need to know what the Scriptures teach regarding judgment, hell, heaven, salvation, and eternal life. The particulars are critical.
But we must be speaking the truth, and so we must study the Scriptures for ourselves, in context, so that we know the truth, so that we don’t pass along lies, intentionally or not. For, what some of us learned growing up may be mostly or partially true, but it may not be all true, so we need to know the truth.
And then we need to be those who are sharing the truth of the gospel with others, even with others who profess faith in Jesus Christ, for many give lip service only to God but they have not died with him to sin nor are they living to him and to his righteousness. So, tell people the truth!
2 Corinthians 5:11-15 ESV
“But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 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. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
When we are living the truth and when we are speaking the truth, in love, consistently, in practice, we are not going to be well received by most people, including other Christians. We may even go through a period of time where it seems no one is listening and that all have turned against us.
Some people will just ignore us. Others will reject us and want no part of us. Still others will strongly oppose us and they may even speak evil against us and accuse us falsely of what we did not do, like they did to Jesus. So, we must be prepared for this. For, this is the reality of it all.
For, many people, including professing Christians, will judge us by their own prejudices, by their own practices, by the culture of the day, by their own religious experiences or traditions, by their own opinions, and perhaps out of personal resentment because we are living what they know they are not, but should be. And that will make them uncomfortable.
And they may not be content with just rejecting us themselves, but they may, out of spite, or out of jealousy, attempt to turn others against us, too, which is also what was done to Jesus and to Paul, as well. And if they are following Satan with their lives, they may attack our faith and they may try to discredit us so that others will not listen to us.
So, we may be called crazy, hyper-religious, out-of-touch with reality, self-righteous, bigoted, prejudicial, judgmental and the like, and we may be accused falsely of teaching “works-based salvation” or be accused of being negative, like they accused Jeremiah.
But those who accuse us of such, if it is because we do walk in the fear of the Lord, and because we do take God and his word seriously, and if it is because we do teach what Jesus taught and what the New Testament apostles taught, most especially Paul, and if it is because we do not compromise the truth, then they are judging us falsely.
Therefore, we must continue in our most holy faith in doing what God has called us to do and in saying what he has called us to say, and we are not to worry about other people’s opinions of us, as long as our own consciences are clear before God. But we are to keep on speaking the truth.
And the truth is that Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. He died to deliver us out from our slavery to sin so that we could become slaves of God and of his righteousness. And he died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us (Rom 6:1-23; 1 Pet 2:24; 2 Co 5:15; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24).
So, keep on speaking the truth, for the truth is what will set people free. And keep on walking the walk and don’t just talk it.
Based off the song “Edelweiss”
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,
Every morning you greet me.
Meek and pure, truth and light,
You look pleased now to meet me.
Flourishing, growing in Him each day,
Live with Him forever.
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,
Blessed to know Him forever.
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