Our Aim to Please Him
Paul has already told us that he was a confident Christian. He also already made that very plain in he writing of this letter:
2:14 "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere."
3:4,12 "Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God... Since we have such a hope, we are very bold"
4:1,16 "Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart... So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day."
All the criticism and suspicion which might have come his way had done nothing to dent this confidence. The reason why this was the case was that Paul was focused upon Christ and nothing or no-
Now Paul goes further and tells us that not only was he a confident believer he was a cheerful one as well!
5:6 "So we are always of good courage." "That’s why we live with such good cheer."MSG
5:8 "Yes, we are of good courage," "So we have a cheerful confidence," WEY
If we stopped to think about it we would not find this surprising even when we remember the many hard and testing experiences Paul had. Since Jesus had burst into Paul's life he had totally transformed it and Paul had come to know and enjoy:
Grace and peace
Comfort in suffering
The promises that he was being prepared for a glorious future and a glorious future for him
The gift and presence of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of these future blessings
Paul was a specially appointed apostle but there is no reason why we should live significantly different Christian lives to the life that Paul led.
The Christian's Response to Blessing
The blessings that Paul experienced were those of a Christian. His response to those blessings was warm and enthusiastic showing us how we too should respond. Paul did not to enjoy his privileges with a passive self-
But how are we to do this? What will be necessary if we are to order our lives so as to attain this goal?
Well the first thing is to recognise the need we have of being Christ-
He speaks firstly about continuing to live in the body and then after an explanatory digression on walking by faith he talks about life after the death of the body.
Paul knows that if he is to go on living in his earthly body then in some measure at least he will be living his life "away from the Lord". He immediately goes on to explain what he means by that. Life lived in the earthly body is a life that is lived in the domain of faith and not of sight. In this state of earthly living Paul's experience of Christ is of necessity limited – he does not see the Lord Jesus with his physical eyes. All that he knows about and experiences of Jesus is related to him through this channel of faith.
Let us look a little more closely at this "living by faith" and what it entails.
When we live by faith we allow our belief in the things which we do not see not simply to affect our thinking and behaviour but to direct it. We believe in the existence of objects which are invisible, and we are influenced by them. To walk by faith, is to live in the confident expectation of things that are to come. It means that we allow the existence of the unseen realities in which we believe to influence us just as if they were visible.
The Christian believes in the reality of the glories of heaven; he believes the Redeemer is there; he believes there is a crown of glory to be won or lost; and he lives and acts as if that were all real, and as if he saw it all. To "live by faith" simply means that we live and act as if these things were true, and we allow them to determine all our thinking.
Here are some more of those unseen realities:
God is unseen — but the Christian lives, and thinks, and acts as if there were a God, and as if he saw him.
Christ is unseen now by the bodily eye; but the Christian lives and acts as if he were seen; that is, as if his eye were known to be upon us, and as if he was now exalted to heaven, and was the only Saviour.
The Holy Spirit is unseen; but he lives and acts as if there were such a Spirit, and as if his influences were needful to renew and purify the soul.
Heaven is unseen; but the Christian lives, and thinks, and acts as if there were a heaven, and as if he now saw its glories. He has confidence in these and in kindred truths, and he acts as if they were real.
If men could see all these with the naked eye no-
Besides, all men are influenced by many things which they have not seen. They hope for objects that are future. They aspire to happiness which they have not yet beheld. They strive for honour and wealth which are unseen, and which are in the distant future. They live and act as if these things were attainable; and they deny themselves, working hard and for long hours, and going here and there at great expense and cost to try to obtain those things which they have not seen, and which to them are in the distant future.
If that is so for worldly men then surely the Christian should be willing to endure hard work and effort and to be willing to suffer in order to gain the unseen crown which is incorruptible, and to acquire the unseen wealth which the moth does not corrupt.
The men of this world strive to attain their unseen goals without any promise or any assurance that they shall obtain them or if attained will find them to be satisfying. This is no new phenomena either. Do you remember the words of that rich man in Jesus' parable?
Jesus went on to tell us how God responded to this man:
Lk.12:20 "But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’"
The situation of the Christian is completely different because he has:
the promise of life.
the assurance that sudden death cannot deprive him of it. It at once removes him to the object of pursuit, not from it.
the assurance that when obtained, it shall not disgust, or satiate, or decay, but that it shall meet all the expectations of the soul, and shall be eternal.
So this "living by faith" is not to be regarded as some form of religious make-
The apostle John wrote:
1Jn.3:2 "Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."
In other words while the Christian begins to enjoy the many blessings of being united to Christ the best is yet to come!
The alternative to going on living in the earthly body is to be away from the body, that is, to die and Paul turns to this next. For Paul the death of the mortal body (that earthly tent) was certainly not the end – there is no hint of annihilation or anything at all like that here. As Paul contemplated the separation of soul from body that occurs at death he saw it as the beginning of a wonderful new phase of Christian existence:
2Cor.5:8 "Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord."
To be "away from the body" meant to be "at home with the Lord". This situation was to Paul highly preferable and this was his settled understanding. Consider for example what he wrote on the same subject to the church at Philippi:
So as Paul thought about both his life and his death he thought about them in terms of his relationship with Jesus Christ. For Paul the Christian apostle Jesus was absolutely pivotal – everything had to be related to him.
Is that the way I think about Jesus? Or do I treat him as some kind of optional extra? And what about you?
With Christ right in the heart and centre of his vision Paul proceeded in a thoroughly consistent manner. He determined to order his life so that he might please his Lord. In every circumstance, whatever that circumstance might be, Paul made it his aim to please Christ.
Paul had come to appreciate the value of knowing Jesus and longed to know him better yet:
For him the prospect of the glory of heaven was the glory of Jesus, the glory of being with him and the glory of being made like him.
And Paul knew that while this glory was promised him he would still have to pass by the judgment seat of Christ so that what he had done with his life might be evaluated. Paul's desire as a man whose life had been transformed by Jesus was to live in such a way that that judgment seat would be met in the best conditions possible. Because of this coming judgment Paul wanted to live his life so as to please the One who would assess his life.
v.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 in the body, whether good or evil."
This appearance at the judgment seat of Christ will not be an experience that is limited to just a few. Paul insists that all will appear there. And our appearance will be a public affair as the books are opened and the scrolls read:
Rev.20:12 "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done."
It is the constant teaching of the NT that we will be judged according to the deeds done in our lives – or, as Paul writes here, "in the body". Now this by no means contradicts the other Pauline teachings of justification by grace alone, through faith, alone in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. It does not mean that we are back in the realms of uncertainty as works once again determine our eternal state?
No, of course it doesn't. But it does emphasise that what we do with our lives is of great importance. "Faith without works is dead" James tells us. And Paul also speaks of the place of good works in the life of the true believe:
Eph.2:10 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
The believer will be saved by grace – his good works are the fruit not the cause of his salvation. We must not however neglect these works for the manner in which we carry them is important. All believers are held accountable to the Lord and each will either be rewarded or suffer loss accordingly. Paul has already taught this to the Corinthians in his earlier letter when he wrote about the ministries of those who planted churches:
So as Paul looks back to what Christ has already done for him and as he looks forward to the evaluation of his life's work as a Christian he finds great cause for setting his aim to please his Saviour in every circumstance imaginable.
He will go on to explain how this drove him to spread the good news and to seek to persuade others. He knew the fear of the Lord and ordered his life so that his conscience might have nothing to reproach him before God. He hoped too that the Christians in Corinth would appreciate the transparent honesty of the life he led.
If we are Christians then let us be Christians who live consistent lives with the aim of pleasing our Saviour in all that we do. Or as Paul put it in Romans 12:1-
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."