Why mission? Why evangelism? Why gospel ministry?
Why do the hard work of crossing cultural boundaries? Why try to persuade people who are happily unbelieving? Why preach the crazy-sounding message of Christ crucified for sinners? Why risk looking stupid? Why risk persecution and physical harm? Why serve the imperfect church? Why work so hard at preaching the Bible faithfully? Why do the messy business of working with real people? Why continue ministering the gospel amidst all the discouragements?
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
One of the most wonderful sentences in Scripture. Let’s break it down.
- Christ has died for all – meaning all kinds of people – people from every nation, Jews and Gentiles, black and white, people from Kenya, Somalia, England, China – he has died for a multi-ethnic people. And he had to die for us. He was crushed for our iniquities. He was the lamb burnt up on the altar. He stood under a waterfall of God’s wrath until it was completely satisfied. This is the centre of our faith, the heart of the gospel – wherever we were born in this world – whether we are Nepalese Christians or Norwegian believers – this is our great joy and hope and boast.
- and therefore all died – if you are a believer then as well as Christ dying for you it is also true you died in Him. On the one hand, when Christ died on the Cross there is a very important sense in which you and I were NOT there. He died as our substitute – he went through hell instead of me. But on the other hand there is a sense in which you and I WERE there on the Cross – when I became a Christian I was united with Christ and his story became my story – he died, I died; he was buried, I were buried; he lives, I live. Which is a massive thing to grasp on lots of levels. But one that is particularly key here is that I don’t serve myself any longer:
- And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves – my self has died – so obviously I don’t live for myself. How can I? You can’t serve a corpse – you wouldn’t walk up to a dead body and say, “Would you like a cup of tea?” We are to reckon ourselves dead, to deny self – so when Mr Self comes knocking at our door saying, “You need to pamper me and pay attention to me and please me and protect me” then we say, “Hello? Do I know you? I may have known you once but now I think you’re dead.” Instead of living for our old self our focus is on pleasing someone else:
- And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. The “that” in the sentence is crucial – Christ’s dying for us is for a particular purpose – he died with an end goal – that we would not only be saved from hell but that we would also live for him. This is so important. Christ did not come to hand out Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free cards so we can put that in our pocket and carry on with living exactly the same just with the reassurance that when we die we’ll be ok. No. He came to grab a people for himself – a multi-national people – who would be his holy people. He came to buy a bride with a great bloody dowry that she would be his and that he would wash her and purify her and present her to himself as perfect, without any wrinkle or blemish.
- That’s what the ‘Love of Christ’ is talking about – at the beginning of verse 14 – it’s talking about this intense, passionate, jealous love that Christ has for his people – that he sets his sights on a people and comes and dies for them that they would be his and live with him as their joy. It’s a passionate jealous love for his bride to be his – him dying exclusively for them, them living exclusively for him – not messing around with other lovers, not living for themselves or career or education or money or status – but living for him.
- And this passionate jealous love compels Paul – see again at the beginning of verse 14 – it’s the image of a massive force of water pushing him along. Christ has a passionate jealousy for his people who he has died to take for himself and Paul is pushed along by, compelled by that passionate jealousy. You see it in chapter 11 of the same letter where Paul says, “I have a divine jealousy for you… to present you pure to one husband, Christ.” It’s a divine jealousy – Christ’s own jealousy – that compels, that propels, that flows through Paul. He longs for them “with all the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:8) that they would be wholly devoted to the one who really matters, all their joy focused on him, all their plans and energies lined up in his service.
Christ has a passionate jealousy for a multi-national people he has died to take for himself as his holy people and Paul is convinced of that and so he is compelled by that passionate jealousy. Let’s pray that we would be convinced of that reality and so be compelled with that same divine jealousy to go and labour for those from every nation whom Christ has died to win for himself. Let’s pray that Christ’s goal would become our goal.