Core Text - Interpretation and Meaning (Exegetic Process and Inductive Conclusions)
[5:11] Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
Paul's first word of this sentence therefore says... "here is your reality church". Reality creates relevance, and relevance demands a response.
The expression fear of the Lord is found frequently throughout the scripture. The meaning is the fear humankind has directed toward the Lord, or has as a result of encountering Him. "Fear of the Lord” does not mean primarily fright or terror, but more accurately an attitude of respect, reverence, and awe. The intent here is the idea of experiencing or being aware of something/someone (God, Christ, Holy Spirit - or the presence thereof. It is more than merely knowing about something or someone. It includes an awareness of responsibility. Original translators state it “with the fear of the Lord before my mind,” or “standing in awe of the Lord.”
Though the Greek says literally we persuade men, Paul is no doubt using the word men inclusively here as in all genders, all ages, all cultures, and all languages.
The word persuade expresses the idea of incompleteness, or something attempted but not necessarily achieved. Interpreting this should clearly mean “we strongly encourage everyone to turn to him [the Lord].”
[5:12] 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.
The context of the first word we clearly indicates Paul does not include the Corinthian Christians.
The words translated giving you cause has the basic meaning of “a starting point or reason for a journey or opportunity.” Paul is telling the Corinthian church here is why you should listen and follow what I am saying to you. His track record with them has earned him the right to speak from the heart so intently and directly into their lives and about their life outcomes.
He is providing them the answers to those opponents who boast about exterior substance (fear-greed-pleasure) versus the internal and eternal truth of one's heart being reconciled to God. God of the heart.
[5:13] For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
The first half of this verse seemingly reflects a criticism about Paul's mental health or stability made by his opponents in Corinth. Paul is not claiming that he himself is unsure whether he is crazy or not - but rather he is repeating the criticism and false narrative that has been made of him and is refuting it. Similarly, in the second half of the verse, the word if does not mean that Paul had doubts about whether or not he was really sane.
The fact is that Paul is reflecting the thinking of his readers by mimicking his critics “If we seem to be out of our minds…” or “Indeed, they say that we are crazy people.”
The contrast between being beside ourselves and in our right mind is expressed in a variety of ways in different languages. Certain languages may use very different kinds of idiomatic expressions to contrast these two mental states.
Important to understand that Paul's expression it is for God should not be translated to mean that Paul’s mental instability or craziness would somehow benefit God. The idea seems rather to be that if he were crazy, it would be a matter between him and God - such as “Well, that is between myself and God,” or “it is between God and us.”
[5:14] For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
Basic to understanding the overall thought of verses 14 and 15, is Paul’s idea of the unity of the believer with Christ. For example: we are on the same page, we are surrendered to his will above our own, we are full committed to walking in faithful obedience to Him.
The start of verse 14, says, The love of Christ. This can be correctly understood as either Christ’s love for us, or our love for Christ. Nearly all credible interpreters choose the first option, “Christ’s love for us.”
The original translation of the word controls has a wide range of meanings in Greek, but the basic meanings are under the idea of restraint or compulsion, or compels, or general control. I need but not do not like this most powerful translation; "Christ's love for us leaves us no choice.”
Because we are convinced literally means “having judged this.…” or “once we have reached the conclusion.…”
The conclusion reached by Paul is stated in a concise theological summary: one person, Jesus Christ, died for all human beings, and the consequence of this is that all human beings are in some sense dead.
The correct meaning of died for all: the meaning is interesting and controversial - but then again, not. The question is this. Is the basic meaning that Christ died “for the benefit of” or “on behalf of”, or is it “in place of” or “instead of”? Bible interpreters are divided on the meaning. The bigger question should probably what is your interpretation of the Biblical atonement?
The word therefore identifies the consequence of Christ’s death for EVERYONE. Again, the word therefore creates reality and reality demands response.
The interpretation "all have died" is rather “in a sense, they all died”. The problem is in understanding in what sense all have died. But it is probably better if translators render the phrase literally and leave this question for the theologians. Implicitly the word all means “all of us”, understood as inclusive of Paul’s readers for all times and place (us).
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