A Wizard with Words – Placing 2 Corinthians 5.11 within Context

July 28, 2009

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” (2 Corinthians 5.11a)

This is a difficult verse which is often used by those of a non-Calvinist mindset to justify highly produced and/or overly dramatic “gospel calls” from the pulpit.  And taken without context one may seek to have as much liberty with the idea of ‘persuasion’ as seems right to a man.  However, approached in context, or at least with an eye to what has been said before, this liberty must be restrained.

Recall that in 2 Corinthians 2.17 Paul remarks,

For we are not like so many, peddlers of God’s word . . .

Therefore, though in chapter 5 he admits “persuad[ing] others,” this must be properly balanced by his earlier statement.  The key to this is what remains in 2 verse 17,

. . . but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

So, three things:

First, they speak “as men of sincerity.”  Their persuasion is not a show; it is a desperate plea from an earnest heart which lives to fulfill the Great Commission and see Christ glorified in the salvation of the lost.

Second, they speak “in the sight of God.”  Since it is knowledge of “the fear of the Lord” that motivates their persuading, so is it the knowledge of standing in the presence of God that motivates their restraint.  At no time should our actions attempt to steal away God’s glory– for that is the definition of sin– but even more in the presence of God should our concern be in honoring him appropriately.

Finally, they speak “in Christ.”  Though it is Paul who speaks we must not forget that he is the same man who wrote, “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2.20).  Thus, when he speaks, Christ comes out.  And when it is Christ the focus cannot be upon glorifying Paul or utilizing Paul’s power in conversion.  No.  The focus must surely be upon glorifying the cross and the great salvation which Christ earned there.

Persuasion must always be tempered with these thoughts, esle the preacher will rest too highly on his own presumed ability to “win souls” and fall into gross evangelistic sin.