The following sermon transcript does not match the video version of the sermon—it matches only the audio version. Here's a brief explanation why.
John MacArthur routinely preaches a sermon more than once on the same date, during different worship services at Grace Community Church. Normally, for a given sermon title, our website features the audio and video that were recorded during the same worship service. Very occasionally, though, we will post the audio from one service and the video from another. Such was the case for the sermon titled "Why Integrity Matters," the transcript of which follows below. The transcript is of the audio version.
Doctrine powers life, doctrine powers life. There are people who think that doctrine is divisive and that we ought to basically move through our Christian experience from one feeling to another, and we shouldn’t be determining propositional truths and defining them as dogma and doctrine. But the fact of the matter is doctrine is what powers life. Profound doctrine is what determines conviction, and conviction is what makes you do what you do and become who you become. So doctrine is absolutely critical. It’s that structure of those immovable facts, divine facts and realities that you know to be true, believe to be true, that are the operating principles of your life.
And Scripture is loaded with doctrine; it is everywhere. The Bible is propositional truth. It is not opinions, it is not suggestions, it is truth from God, and so doctrine defines the Scripture. You could even refer to the Bible as doctrine. But these doctrinal truths that become the structure of our lives comes to us in the most natural and simple ways on the pages of Scripture. They’re not necessarily tied to great doctrinal treatises in Scripture. They pop up in life because they are, after all, the principles that drive live, that power life. And one great doctrine, one massively critical doctrine, one defining doctrine appears in a passage that is very simple, very straightforward, and very personal in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.
So turn to 2 Corinthians, if you will, and chapter 5, chapter 5. Wonderful chapter on many accounts, Certainly the closing portion of it is as powerful as any passage on the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. But I want us to look at a passage sort of in the middle of the chapter from verses 11 through 15, 2 Corinthians 5:11-15. This is very personal first person communication from the apostle Paul.
And just to give you a little bit of background without taking a lot of time, this entire letter of 2 Corinthians – it’s a long letter – is essentially Paul defending himself. He’s defending himself as a leader. His leadership is being assaulted and attacked, and it’s being attacked by false teachers. And they’re attacking the believers at Corinth – they’re coming into Corinth – and basically if they want to propagate their lies, if they want to effectively produce demonic lies and satanic kingdom to take over what is the church there, they’re going to have to undermine the people’s confidence in Paul.
Paul is their teacher; he’s the one they’ve trusted. So they begin an all out campaign against Paul, and they’re there for, apparently, a period of time, and they’re attacking him every way possible to destroy people’s trust in him; and that then opens them up for accepting some false doctrine from these false teachers. Paul then writes this letter to defend himself. It is the hardest thing he has ever done. He would rather be beaten by rods. He would rather be whipped. He would rather be shipwrecked. He would rather be stoned. He would rather be left in the mountains under the threat of robbers. All of that he talks about in the letter. He would rather be involved in any of those kinds of things that threaten his physical life than have to defend himself. This is a very traumatic experience for him because he is a godly man, and godly men are marked by humility, and humility makes it difficult to enter into self-defense, especially a prolonged self-defense like this.
Back in chapter 4, he describes himself as a clay pot, nothing more than an earthen vessel, a clay pot in whom this deposit of the glorious gospel has been made. He is a man who wants to set himself aside, who wants to set himself below others, not above. But he is forced to defend himself here in order to maintain his leadership. And as we come to this passage, I want you to see it as that very personal attitude of self-defense in just these few verses among many in this epistle.
Let’s look at verse 11: “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
Paul is a very critical leader in the early church. Essentially, once the gospel goes outside Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, it goes with the apostle Paul so that he becomes the source of planting churches all over the Gentile world. He is a critical leader, and he is every bit a leader. He would be qualified by all qualifications of what leaders are and how they function.
If we were to ask people today a sort of a general open question, “What do you think marks leaders?” we would get an accumulated list of qualities that would sound something like this: “Focus: An unrelenting clarity of task makes an effective leader.” We would hear things like, “Drive or Energy: A high degree of motivation.” We would hear the word “courage,” courage meaning “a willingness to face adversity and not break down or back down, even though there are threats.”
We would hear things like, “Goals: Somebody who has a strong sense of direction, knows where he wants to go.” We would hear “knowledge.” You’re not going to be an effective leader unless you know more than the people who are following you. There has to be a knowledge and a thirst for more knowledge behind effective objective leadership.
We would hear about “strength, physical stamina.” We would hear about “optimism, believing in people, believing in plans, believing in objectives.” We would hear about “enthusiasm,” which is a kind of contagious excitement that allows you to collect people as you go who get caught up in that excitement.
We would hear about “faith.” Great leaders, effective leaders are willing to risk. So if we use the word faith in that sense, they’re willing to go after something they can’t yet see. That would define leadership.
We would hear the word “enterprise.” What is enterprise? I like to think of it as the willingness, in fact, the anxious attitude that says, “I want to tackle the hardest job.” It’s the ability to take on all the possible difficulties.
We would hear about “persuasion.” Leaders must be persuasive because leadership really involves communication, speech; and you have to be able to articulate and convey your ideas, and then convince people to follow you.
We would probably hear the word “imagination.” Good leaders think of things that nobody else thinks of. They come up with things that nobody else comes up with. They devise things that others haven’t thought of; that’s part of leadership.
And then after all of those things that sort of operate in a collective way, we would probably want to add the word “individualism.” Leaders have an uncanny ability to stand alone. They just tend to go against trends and the grain; and if need be and everybody forsakes them, they have the strength to go it by themselves.
Now, all of those characteristics I can find in the life and ministry of the apostle Paul, just reading the book of Acts, reading 2 Corinthians, and all of the epistles that Paul wrote following his life. They all are characteristic of him. He was an individual who often stood alone confidently. He had a creative imagination about what could be done. He longed for opportunity to start something that had never been done before – churches all over the Gentile world. He could articulate truth like no one else, and he could mobilize people under the influence of his persuasive speech. He could gather masses of people. He could move them in the direction that he desired.
He was entrepreneurial, always eager to use his enterprising abilities to tackle the most difficult thing. He ran risk after risk. He was contagious. He was enthusiastic. He was optimistic about people and plans, physically strong, enduring tremendous hardship, operating with great energy, high-level motivation, willingness to face adversity, and never break down, back down, even if he faced death – which he did on a daily basis as he said. He had a sense of direction. His goals were specific. He had the knowledge necessary to accomplish what he was trying to accomplish.
So he’s a living model of everything a leader should be in terms of capability and perspective. But with all that, there was something that marked him that really set him apart. It’s something that has to mark a leader in the kingdom of God. In a word, it is integrity, it is integrity.
We live in the secular world obviously. We see it with people in the secular world, the business world, and the political world. We see these kind of leaders; we see leaders with these characteristics. But we have to come to terms with the fact that the missing ingredient in these leaders is spiritual integrity. We have to cope with that as Christians, that we’re dealing with people who have lots of qualities and characteristics and capabilities. But when you are talking about the kingdom of God, all of that has to be held together by integrity, by integrity; and that is what marked Paul. And, essentially, that is what he defends in this entire letter because that’s what’s under attack. This is the attribute of character that ties all the other things together and really makes him high-impact.
What is integrity? It is the quality of being undivided; it is integer; it is one. It is being true to one’s standard. It is, I guess, honesty. It is sincerity. It is incorruptibility. It is the opposite of hypocrisy.
The quality of being undivided would be a dictionary definition. And for the Christian, the standard is biblical. For people who are not Christians, they can sort of pick and choose whatever standard they want, whatever moving standard they want, whatever popular standard they want. But for believers, integrity is tied totally to Scripture.
That was Paul. He lived what he believed, and what he believed was what was revealed by God. He preached what he believed, and what he believed was the Word of God. His life matched his preaching. His life matched his teaching. His life matched his writing. This is the virtue that holds everything in place, and without it, it begins to collapse.
Now, the enemies of the apostle Paul, the false teachers, were attacking him on all levels. They weren’t necessarily trying to pick apart his theology; they couldn’t do that initially. They would have to undermine his character first, and so they went after that. They went after his spiritual integrity.
The greatest impact that critics have on anybody who’s in the ministry is an assault on their integrity, which then speaks to the critical reality that anybody serving the Lord must maintain personal integrity. The most threatening criticism that came at Paul was against his integrity, that he wasn’t who he claimed to be, that he was a fraud, and a liar, and a deceiver, and a hypocrite; and it is that that he defends here in this letter. In fact, the whole letter is a defense of his integrity. He wanted everyone to know that like David in Psalm 78:22, he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart. And for anybody who serves the Lord, a reputation for honesty, sincerity, credibility, incorruptibility is absolutely essential.
Paul knows that. If these false teachers can cause people to question his integrity, then everything can collapse, everything. So this letter is written to defend that integrity. And as I said, this is very difficult for Paul, very hard for him because he is a man of true humility.
Now, to enter into this passage and look at what’s in his heart is really an open door to this very, very precious man of God. And where this little passage is going to take you is one of the great journeys that you’ll ever take in a brief few verses. Let’s begin in verse 11. He makes a statement in verse 11 – you’ll see it there at the beginning of the verse, “We persuade men.” That was what he did. That was his calling. That was his life.
His whole life was persuading men. “We are seeking a positive response from people,” that’s defining. He sought a favorable estimation of his message, supported by a favorable estimation of his character and his person. He wanted people to believe what he preached. He lived for that, that was him, that was all there was to him, “We persuade men,” and that persuasion demands an underpinning character to make a message believable. You can’t talk about God transforming lives, you can’t talk about God making sinful people righteous, you can’t talk about all the transforming power of the gospel unless there is an evident transformed life behind all of that. “We persuade men.”
That’s his calling, that’s what he does, and he uses “we” because in his humility, he likes to bring along others who do the same thing. But he’s talking about himself; it’s kind of the editorial we. The verb actually means “to seek the favor of,” and he uses it the same way in Galatians 1. He sought a favorable estimation of himself by people, not for his own sake, but for the sake of the message. So he said, “There’s a sense in which in my ministry, I’m after a positive response from people.”
At the same time he says, verse 11, “but we are made manifest to God.” “What people don’t know about me, God knows. I’m looking for a favorable estimate from people. I’m looking for a favorable response from people – ” I will tell you this, something I believe he says “ – that I already have from God. We’re manifest to God. God knows my heart. God knows my sincerity.”
Back in chapter 1, verse 12, he said, “Our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshy wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.” “God knows my heart; my conscience is clear; and by the way, my conscience is activated by the Holy Spirit, and my conscience is informed by the law of God. I have a fully informed conscience and a Holy Spirit activated conscience, and it is not accusing me because in holiness and godly sincerity, we’ve conducted ourselves in the world and before you.” So he’s saying, “I’m trying to persuade men of the truth of my character and message, something God knows, something God knows.”
Now look, he’s not saying, “I’ve already arrived.” We read that this morning, right, in Philippians 3. He said, “I haven’t attained.” In chapter 4 of 1 Corinthians he says, “If I know nothing against myself, if I know nothing against myself here, am I not justified? I’m not the final court on my own self. Someday when the secrets of the heart are revealed before the Lord, then will every man have his praise from God. So I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I am saying this: my conscience is not accusing me, and behind my conscience is the law of God, and in my conscience is the Spirit of God, and I’m not being accused.”
He said the same thing at the end of the book of Acts in chapter 23 and 24, “I have a clear conscience – ” and then he goes a step further and says “ – and a hope that we’re made manifest also in your consciences. I hope you in Corinth church, I hope you know the truth about me. You know me; I was with you. I was with you for a prolonged time. You know everything there is to know about me.
“Look, my life is to persuade men, to persuade men of a message and the character of the man behind the message. God knows my heart; God knows my integrity; you know my integrity. I hope that we’re made manifest in your conscience. I hope that all those years together convinced you. It’s all very important for me because my whole calling is to persuade men. God knows my integrity; you know my integrity. I want everybody to know that I’m a man who lives what I preach.”
Now at this point, the question rises, “Why was this man so driven toward integrity?” And it’s really – I ask the question because he answers it. Why was he so driven? What is behind that kind of integrity?
It’s a hard thing. It’s just a hard thing in the world of unconverted people to maintain integrity, it’s really hard. You’ve got to find some motivation for that. And if you’re just living your life in the world, the motivations are pretty flimsy, pretty whimsical and passing. But here’s a man who is motivated by things in the kingdom of God.
We have motivations the world has no knowledge of, none at all. We don’t always tap into all of them, but Paul did. He had motivations that were transcendent, motivations that were above the world, motivations that aren’t available to the average person, and he gives us for our them. There were four motivations that drove this man in the direction of maintaining complete integrity, being exactly the man he preached.
Reason Number One, Motive Number One: Reverence for the Lord, reverence for the Lord. Go back to verse 11, this is where he starts, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, knowing the fear of the Lord.” In this case, fear means reverential awe. It means adoration. It means worship.
It doesn’t mean that he was afraid of God. It doesn’t mean that God terrified him. It doesn’t mean that he saw God as some kind of a treat to him, it’s not that. Ephesians 5 says that “all of us as believers who are filled with the Spirit function in the fear of Christ.” What that means is in the worship of Christ.
Romans 3:18 on the other hand says that “in the world, there is no fear of God, there is no fear of God.” So here we have the motive for Paul that I said is transcendent that nobody in the world has. Nobody does this outside the kingdom of Christ because they worship the true God. That’s only possible through Christ.
In Acts 9, it says, “The churches were growing in the fear of God.” It means worship. What it’s simply saying is this is Paul’s mindset, and it is a mindset of admiration, it is a mindset of adoration, it is a mindset of respect, of awe and reverence and worship, which the Lord excited in his mind and in his soul. And the Lord is the sole object, a compelling desire to worship. That’s what we read in Philippians, “We are those who worship in the Spirit and glory in Christ Jesus.” John 4, “We’re the true worshipers who worship in Spirit and in truth that God is seeking.”
He’s not afraid of God, he’s not threatened by God, he is overwhelmed by God. In fact, a good way to understand what he’s saying is to take the word “knowing” at the beginning of verse 11, knowing is eidō in the Greek, and it’s a simple word “knowing,” and yet it’s a word that carries with it kind of a nuance. It’s translated, for example, in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 by the verb “appreciate,” and that’s a good translation. So what he is saying here is, “Appreciating the worship of the Lord. I appreciate God, I appreciate God. I have a settled appreciation for God.”
This is a little different than Jonah, for example. Jonah knew the character of God. Jonah, chapter 4, he outlines the character of God. He says, “I know who You are. I know the kind of God You are. I know the kind of God You are. I know You’re a forgiving God, a saving God, and I knew You’d save these Gentiles; that’s why I disobeyed You because I didn’t want it to happen.” He was basically racist. He didn’t want the Gentiles getting in on the blessings of the God of Israel, and so he ran and ended up, you know, being eaten by a fish, great fish, and then vomited on the shore, and finally had to go and do what God wanted him to do.
But it was Jonah’s knowledge of God that drove him away from God; it was Paul’s knowledge of God that drove him in the direction of God. Paul was no reluctant prophet, he was no reluctant preacher. He knew God was a saving God. He knew God was a merciful God. He knew God was a gracious God. He knew God was a forgiving God.
He refers to God our Savior, God our Savior, God our Savior, over and over again. He was a worshiper of God. This was his reasonable service. So his life is marked by reverence for God. He holds God, the God, the only true God, the God who is revealed in Scripture in awe and honor and respect, and realizes His holy glory, and desires to give Him the honor that He is due.
Now, he understood that fearing the Lord is the foundation of a blessed life. Proverbs 9:10, puts it as simply as it could possibly be put: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Paul knew that.
He also knew what the Proverbs say – and I went through Proverbs and just looked for this, and I found statements in chapter 10 where it says that, “Fearing the Lord literally brings and prolongs life.” In chapter 14, “The fear of the Lord produces strength and a fountain of life.” Chapter 15, “The fear of the Lord is better than treasure.” Chapter 19, “The fear of the Lord leads to life.” Chapter 22 of Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord leads to riches, honor, and life.” Life is summed up in its richest form by fearing the Lord.
Why did he pursue integrity this way? Because he was a true worshiper. You can’t say, “I’m a true worshiper of God. I worship the true and living God with all my heart,” and not be concerned about being a hypocrite, because the greatest offering you ever give in your worship to God is a pure heart, right, a pure heart. So if his reputation is ruined by these lying false teachers who want to destroy his reputation so his people will lose trust in him and start listening to them, if his reputation is destroyed, then dishonor comes to the Lord, and that’s the last thing he would ever want. He’s a worshiper. It was reverence for the Lord that motivated him toward integrity.
Secondly, it was concern for the church, concern for the church, and we see that in verse 12: “We’re not again commending ourselves to you.” Again he’s saying, “This is not just me trying to convince you that I’m trustworthy; there’s more there than this. We’ve done that before, so we’re not again commending ourselves to you, but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart.”
Now, we can start with the latter part, “taking pride in appearance and heart.” That’s the Judaizers, that’s the Jewish people, that’s the ones who were denying the gospel. They were saying salvation is by works, by circumcision, as we saw. They are called dogs, they are called evil workers.
Look, works, righteousness in the Jewish system is evil work. Paul calls it evil work. They’re dogs, they’re outside. So Paul says, “We’re doing this so that you have an occasion to be proud of us and give an answer to those who are trying to destroy you with lies, false doctrine.” Paul again is struggling because it’s very difficult for him to defend himself.
In chapter 10 of this same epistle, verse 18, he said, “It is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.” He would much rather let the Lord commend him – back to 1 Corinthians 4:4 – in the day when the Lord makes that final determination. But for the sake of the church, he understands, “You’ve got to defend me for your sake. You’ve got to defend me or you’re going to be overrun by false teachers.”
And this presupposes that he has a life worth defending: “You know me. I’m not commending myself again to you, I’m just saying what I’m saying here and now so that I can arm you to defend me for your own sake against the false teachers.”
This is so sound. “I can’t argue with my enemies. I can’t argue with my enemies who are bent on my ruin – ” Paul says, “ – I can’t do that. But you can. You can be my defender. They’re going to see this as just self-defense. They’re not going to give in to me, they’re after me. But you can do it. You can defend my integrity. I want you to be proud of us, proud in the sense of defending him. You take up my cause, you answer my detractors, because it’s for your sakes. It’s for the sake of the life of the church.”
Chapter 12, verse 11, he says, “I should have been commended by you.” “By now, there shouldn’t be any questions about my integrity; you lived with me, you saw it.” He even goes so far as to say, “I know I’m an apostle come lately, but in no way am I less than the most eminent apostle; you know that. You should be commending me. You should be giving an answer to those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. You know the truth about me.” Paul is asking his friends to protect themselves, the church.
Anybody who’s in the ministry is frightened of attacks and assaults and accusations that undermine their ministry, because then that affects those to whom they minister. Paul had a concern for the church and he knew the church was under attack all the time from everywhere as Satan and demons, false teachers amassed their weapons against him. He was the main target. “You’ve got to defend me, and you have enough information to do that, or you’re going to find yourself overrun with error.”
So it was his reverence for the Lord, and it was his concern for the church, and then thirdly, his devotion to the truth. This is another motivation in verse 13. This is a very interesting verse: “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.” There was an accusation that started basically with John the Baptist. The Jewish people started on John the Baptist and they said about John the Baptist that he’s demon-possessed because of his preaching, because of the way he functioned and operated, he demon-possessed.
They said about Jesus, He’s demon-possessed. They said He’s drunk. In Mark 3:21, they said about Jesus, “He has lost His mind. He’s lost His senses.” This is a criticism that John the Baptist, Jesus, and even the apostle Paul received.
In the book of Acts, chapter 26, verse 24, Paul was giving a defense to Festus; and Festus, while he was giving his defense, said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.” But Paul said, “I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth.”
And there’s the third motive: Devotion to the truth. “If we are beside ourselves, it is for God. I’m dealing with a message from God.” What do you mean, if we are beside ourselves? Literally means to be – it’s the verb to be an ex, to be out of being, to be out of your mind, to be insane, to be mad. In fact, another word that Paul uses to describe this accusation against him is the word “foolishness.” “The preaching of the cross is foolishness.” In 2 Corinthians, he uses that word “foolishness” over and over again. “They accuse me of foolishness, foolishness.”
Here was Paul; he came preaching. He came preaching Christ, he came preaching the cross. They said it was foolishness. They said he was so zealous, he was so passionate, he was a man who was mentally deranged. He was out of his mind, he was insane, not in some technical or clinical sense, but because the zeal and passion which motivated this man was beyond sensibility. I mean he would let himself be stoned. He would end up being beaten, whipped – all kinds of things would come against him. He had to be a man who’d lost his mind. He just couldn’t seem to pull himself under control. He put himself in jeopardy. He put his life jeopardy on a daily basis. “Can’t you tone it down?”
But he says, “If we are beside ourselves, if we go outside the normal boundaries of communication, it’s for God, it’s for God.” “Why am I enthusiastic? Why am I zealous? Why am I passionate? Because I want to give to God the whole heart and soul and body in the proclamation of divine truth.”
Back in chapter 4, verse 13, he says, “I believed, therefore I spoke.” “It’s for God.” Now, if you meet me somewhere out on the patio and I have a conversation with you, I probably won’t talk to you like this. But this is not about you and this is not about me, this is about God. The reception of that truth was dependent on being believed; and he believed it, and he respected it, and he knew he was called by God to proclaim it, and his heart was driven by the passion of this truth.
“If I seem like a fanatic, it’s because I have a word from God, I have a word from God. Why do I want to maintain integrity? Because I’m a worshiper of God and I don’t want to dishonor that, because I love the church and I want the church to continue to hear only the truth and be protected from error; and because I’m telling you the truth from heaven. Do you understand what a gift this is? So if we are beside ourselves, it is for God. But on the other hand, if we’re of sound mind, it’s for you.
“I can also cool down and have a conversation,” he said. “If I moderate a little more sober-minded, sōphroneō – a little calm, collected, meek, humble, restrained – it’s for you. I don’t want to be proud, I don’t want to be pompous, I don’t want to be some kind of an explosive personality, I don’t want to be bombastic and pompous in a defense of myself; but I’ll tell you, when I get up and speak for God, it’s coming with passion and zeal. But when I talk to you about me, it’s more a conversation.”
For God’s sake, when dealing with divine truth, he was full of passion, because the truth was so critical, so absolutely necessary. But for his own sake, he’s meek and humble and modest and moderate, as he talks about the fact that he wants them to defend him for the sake of the truth. But it was always about the truth, it was always the truth. He would have a calm conversation with them so that he could continue to passionately preach the truth. Paul was motivated by reverence for the Lord, concern for the church, devotion to the truth.
And a final thing – this is where we’ve been going and I want you to grasp this. The final thing was gratitude for the Savior, gratitude for the Savior, 14 and 15: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
You just read two verses that you could write a thousand-page book on. The doctrine is so vast. And here, this massive doctrinal issue pops up in a simple set of words in which he is explaining his own personal integrity. What do you mean, the gratitude for the Savior? Look at what he says: “For the love of Christ controls us.”
The greatest motive, the highest motive, the noblest motive is the love of Christ; that’s what controls us. He’s not talking about his love for Christ; it’s Christ’s love for him, the love of Christ to him controls him, constrains him, motivates him, rules him, dominates him. The verb means “a pressure that creates an action.”
He’s defending his integrity because he is compelled by the love that Christ has for him. Now think about that. That should be true of every believer, should it not? Are we motivated to holiness and faithfulness because we understand how Christ loves us?
Charles Hodge wrote, “A Christian is one who recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, as God manifested in the flesh, loving us and dying for our redemption, and who is so affected by a sense of the love of this incarnate God as to be constrained to make the will of Christ, the rule of his obedience, and the glory of Christ, the great end for which he lives. The man who does this perfectly is a perfect Christian. The man who does it imperfectly, yet with a sincere desire to be entirely devoted to Christ is a sincere Christian. On the other hand, the man who lives for himself, his family, science, the world, mankind, or whatever, is not a Christian. The great question – ” says Hodge “ – is, ‘What constitutes a Christian?’ The answer: It is being so constrained by a sense of the love of our divine Lord that we concentrate our whole lives on Him.”
Well, Paul loved the Lord because the Lord first loved him. But he had come to a conclusion that is beyond just a simple understanding of that: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded – this is what grabs me – ” he says “ – that one died for all. ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man – ’ what? ‘ – lay down his life for his friends.’ So I concluded that one died for all.”
Just in a general sense, he could be saying, “Well, one died for all as contrasted to many animals dying for a few people, one person dies for all.” He could be saying, “We don’t need anymore daily sacrifices.” But that’s really not his point. He says here, “One died for all, huper pantōn, in behalf of all, in the place of all, as a substitute for all.”
So what you have here then is the great truth of substitutionary death, Jesus dying in the place of all. That’s in the Scripture, “Wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities,” Isaiah 53, all over the New Testament. He became sin for us, at the end of this very chapter. He died for all, we understand that. He took the curse for us.
But who is the all? And the all is the whole issue here. Who is the all? One died for all. People say, “Well, He died for the whole world. He died for the whole world, the whole world.”
Really? And that was the highest motive for Paul, that He died for the whole world; that’s not special. If He died for the whole world, then you’re no different than anybody else, right? Maybe you ought to be more thankful to yourself for being wise enough to pull your direction a salvation that was offered to the whole world, or maybe you could thank the person that led you to Christ.
But that is not on Paul’s mind. When Paul says, “One died for all – ” he immediately defines what that means “ – therefore, all died.” So who are the all for whom the one died? They are the ones who all died.
Are you following me? “One died for all.” And who are the all? They are the all who died. So He died for all who died in Him. And they didn’t only die in Him, but they live, verse 15, because they died in Him and rose again in Him.
You have just been introduced to one of the great doctrines of all the area of soteriology, the doctrine of particular redemption. He’s not saying He died for the entire world of people, or all would have died in Him, and all would have risen in Him, and all would therefore be saved. You can call all the missionaries home, stop preaching, and we’ll just look at our watch and hang around until we go to heaven because there’s nothing to do. He died as the one for all. And who are the all? They’re the all who died. They are the all who were all in Christ when Christ died, and who died in Him and rose in Him and live.
Now, this is very personal, very personal. Paul is saying, “Look, you know what motivates me? God in eternity past determined, out of His own sovereign love and grace, that when His Son came into the world and died, me, Paul, formerly Saul, would die in Christ and rise in Christ.”
This is love. This is the sense in which the atonement is particular, specific. It isn’t that Jesus died a potential death and He did it for everybody in the planet who’s ever lived, and some people find out about it and access it, no, because His death was a death for sin; and all who died in His death, rose in His death and live in His life, rose from His death. Paul uses huper pantōn, He died instead of, instead of, in the place of, as the substitute for me. The death of Christ was a death that provided salvation for the people who died in Him, who were in Him by divine decree. But the whole human race is united in Adam, so in Adam they all die, and die, and die – die spiritually, physically, eternally. The whole race, the unredeemed race is in it.
There are only two men; everybody’s in one of the two. The whole race is in Adam, except those who are in Christ. When Adam sinned, those who were in Adam went down with him. When Christ died, those who were in Christ went down into the grave with Him and came out to new life. As in Adam, all died; so in Christ, those in Christ, shall all be made alive. Adam’s death was the death of his race; Christ’s death was the death of His race, the death of His people.
Paul is literally overwhelmed by the reality that he was, by God’s sovereign grace, in Christ when Christ died and rose again. It was a real atonement. It was an actual offering. It was a satisfaction. It was not a potential, it was a real provision. Jesus actually paid the penalty for the sins of those whom God had chosen to be in Him in His death. Amazing doctrine, actual atonement.
So Paul says, “This is so motivating that it’s a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom I’m foremost. Yet for this reason, I found mercy, so that in me is the foremost, Jesus Christ, might demonstrate His perfect patience.” And he says, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible,” and launches off into praise.
I think motivation is when you begin to understand not that He died for everybody and you happened to get in on it; but motivation comes from the fact that you know He died for you, and you died in Him, and you rose in Him. God had already predetermined that from eternity past, and it was applied to you at the point that you believed. This is overwhelming. This is not some kind of general love that everybody gets, this is a very particular love. He maintained his integrity out of reverence for the Lord, out of concern for the church, out of devotion to the truth, and out of gratitude for the Savior’s sacrifice in which he participated.
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is that, verse 15, “They who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Huh, I can’t live for myself?
“I’m not myself, I’m in Christ. I can’t live for myself, I’m crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” This is why he was so motivated. This is the thing that should motivate us, to pursue holiness.
Father, we thank You that we’ve been able to look at this this morning; and it introduces so many wonderful truths to our minds. But, again, Scripture is so consistent and it speaks almost in a passing way of such profound theological truths. You would think there would be a stop, a moment’s pause, and an unpacking of all kinds of aspects of this, and yet it’s just a truth that powers life – how wonderful.
We should maintain integrity because we worship You, because we care about the church, because we honor the truth, and because we’re so grateful that Christ purchased our salvation, for we were there in Your eyes, in Him when He died and rose again. This is grace beyond comprehension. May it lead to our obedience and our faithfulness. We can’t now live for ourselves, but for Him, who died and rose for us. Amen.