Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

These two verses are my standard for 2008, and I worked on them a bit to appreciate better their message.

2 Cor 5:10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done, whether good or bad. (translation mine)

The judgment seat was a dais erected in a public location, on which a seat was often placed, from which officials addressed an assembly or made pronouncements, often of a judicial nature. The figurative use of the term bema denotes Christ as judge and places him squarely as protagonist when all must appear before him at the end of time.

Judgment deals in justification, contra NASB-SB, which attempts to preserve the evangelical doctrine of justification by faith alone. The deeds done in the body determine one’s eternal destiny (see Matt 25:31-46), as a reflection of faithful obedience to Jesus as Lord or as the disregard for the will of God. Faith entails a walk (v. 7).

2 Cor 5:11. Knowing, then, the fear of the Lord, we persuade people. But what we are God well knows, and I hope that we are well known to your conscience, too.

Many versions begin a new paragraph at v. 11, but the “then” (“therefore,” NASB, ESV, NET) precludes sharp separation from the preceding verse and necessitates connecting “fear of the Lord” in some way with the universal appearance before his judgment seat.

While certainly love, grace and mercy serve as principal motivators for evangelism, the heavy risk of losing one’s soul in eternity, far from the blessed presence of God, presents a great burden when thinking of the mission entrusted to his messengers. Even love and grace present the two-edged blade of the goodness and severity of God (Rom 11:22). Perhaps Paul here, as elsewhere (1 Cor 9:16, 23), even considers his own salvation at risk were he to fail to proclaim the gospel.

The verb “persuade” may be a conative present, “try to persuade” (NET), but rather than emphasizing the attempt, Paul may have in mind the urgency of the ministry of reconciliation in light of the judgment (v. 10), since he who persuades seeks decision. Paul does not merely present facts dryly in a disinterested manner, but presses upon his hearers the necessity of obeying the gospel for eternal salvation. (See also Peter’s witness and exhortation, Acts 2:40). Persuasion (peitho) is not manipulation, but urging others to act based upon the presentation of the truth, while still respecting their free will. Persuasion stops when a decision is made.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

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