This Week’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Highlights: No longer look at people as merely human beings, but use Christ’s divine perspective to see what they are in Christ, so they might also be reconciled to Christ.
I. Establish the text
C. Other texts for Year B for 4thSunday in Lent
- First Reading Numbers 21:4-9
- Psalm Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
- Second Reading Ephesians 2:1-10
- Gospel John 3:14-21
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
16 Accepting Christ results in a transformation, a metamorphosis of believers from mere creatures, to divine beings who can truly know Christ.
17 The use of this verse as an assurance of pardon obscures other meanings.
18-20 Not only are we made new, but we are given the opportunity to bring reconciliation to others. Believers are promoted directly from outcast to ambassador!
21 We are not justified by what we nor, what we do but what God has done in Christ.
II. Literary Study.
E. What is the context of the passage, and the book?
- Previous paragraph discusses Paul’s motivation for saving others.
- In the following paragraph Paul argues for not waiting until later.
III. Question the text.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: No longer look at people as merely human beings, but use Christ’s divine perspective to see what they are in Christ, so they might also be reconciled to Christ.
- Music: “Hear the Good News of Salvation”
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- Becoming a new creation in Christ is a transformational event. Everything prior to this event is insignificant. After this event, we can perceive and participate in God reconciling all of creation, including ourselves.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Ralph Martin (Word Biblical Commentary: 2 Corinthians. Word Incorporated, 1986.) translates verse 16 as “Therefore from now we judge no one from an outward point of view. Though we may have judged Christ from such a viewpoint, now we do so no longer.” Martin perceives Paul as offering reasons for his apostolic conduct: (1) inhabiting a new world in Christ, and (2) God’s reconciliation. He notes a structural parallel between verses 18 and 19, which verses 20 & 21 reverse, that Paul used to stress that God reconciled us/the world for administering God’s message of reconciliation. He cautions against reducing verse 17 to becoming a new creature.
J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Second Letter to the Corinthians”. Abingdon, 2000.) considers the lectionary passage within 5:11- 6:10, which he titles: “Paul’s Ministry of Reconciliation.” Commenting on 5:16 he writes: “Christ’s death is the transformative event for all of life. Nothing is the same after that.” People should “no longer live for themselves but for the one who died and was raised for them.” … “To consider anyone simply from the flesh (kata sarka) is to view that person as if the fundamentally transformative resurrection of Christ had not taken place – and as if the norms or standards of judgment had not therein been radically altered.” He note several instances when this passage picks up themes from Romans 8. He reflects: “Reconciliation is at the heart of life’s business.”
William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides:1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians. John Knox Press, 1980.) suggests as a sermon theme: “the new perspective of faith.” He notes that in 2 Maccabees people engaged in religious practices in order to reconcile themselves to God. “Paul turns this understanding inside out: Instead of people reconciling God to themselves, God reconciles people to himself.”
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?
No longer look at people as merely human beings, but use Christ’s divine perspective to see what they are in Christ, so they might also be reconciled to Christ. And include oneself among those whom God is reconciling to himself.