A Rightly Motivated Ministry - 2 Corinthians 5:11-17

Back to Message Archive


As Christians we all know that we are to serve Christ. We are to give ourselves to others and to the proclamation of the Gospel. And many of us are faithful in this service. But a question that we should ask ourselves regularly is: why are we serving? What’s driving us? What’s motivating our service for Christ?

While most of us know the right things say, the truth is that it can be very easy to give in to selfish and sinful motivations. We may serve for recognition or respect. Out of guilt or obligation. Trying to earn the blessing of God.

With this in mind, it’s important for us to consider what should motivate our efforts for Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:11-17 we are given a look into some of the things that motivated Paul in his ministry. While it’s not an all-inclusive list, this passage reminds us of three things that should impact the how and why of our service for Christ.

Paul is motivated by the fear of the Lord (5:11-13)

  • The fear of the Lord (vs. 11a) – In 5:10 Paul speaks of the judgment seat of Christ. One day every one of us will give an account for how we lived. As Paul serves and seeks to persuade the Corinthians of the integrity of his ministry and the truth of the Gospel, he does so with this in view: That He speaks for God Almighty. Also, he knows that both he and the Corinthians are accountable before God.
  • The witness of God and the Corinthians (vv. 11b-12) – As Paul is defending the integrity of His ministry and proclaiming the Gospel he is fully convinced that his motives are pure. He lives in the fear of God and he knows that God sees his motives. In addition, he appeals to the consciences of the Corinthians. He has always lived with integrity before them; they have seen his life and should know his heart (2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 2:1–5).
  • For God’s glory and the good of others (vs. 13) - Paul’s aim was the glory of God and the good of others. For Paul it didn’t matter what happened to him. He could be called a fool. His name could be mocked. As long as the name of Christ was made known and people had the chance to hear the truth, Paul’s work was done (2 Corinthians 12:19).
  • Application:As we consider what we do for the sake of Christ we have to remember: We will all give an account to God. We serve Him and He knows our hearts. We should strive to have a clear conscience before God and others, serving with hearts and motives that are pure.

Paul is controlled by the love of Christ (5:14-15)

  • Controlled by the love of Christ (vs. 14a) – Paul’s ministry was hard. It was filled with opposition and pain, but through it all he endured. He attributes his endurance to the change that was made in him through the love of Christ. Paul recognized that the love of Christ truly changes us in everyway, compelling us to follow Him. 
  • How Christ showed His love: He died in our place (vs. 14b) – Christ’s love is not ambiguous, it is shown in what He did: He gave His live as a substitute. He died our death. It is this act of love that changes us and now controls us (enables and motivates our service) (Romans 5:6–10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 5:25b; Ephesians 3:18-19). 
  • How His love controls us: We died with Him and are raised to live for Him (vs. 15) - Paul says he is controlled by the love of Christ. When Christ (because of His love) died, we died with him. And when Christ was raised, we were raised with Him, and so now we are enabled to live for Him. We are raised to serve him – controlled by His love (Galatians 2:19-20; Romans 6:8-11).
  • Application:In our own strength and in our own power we will never be able to sustain ourselves.We will never be able to endure the hardships of the Christian life.But this is why we must understand the work of God in us. Because we died with him, we are now raised to live for Him.

Paul is driven by the power of the Gospel to change people (And it has changed him) (5:16-17)

  • Context: Paul is defending the integrity of his ministry. In the eyes of the Corinthians Paul did not meet the requirements of an apostle – they were focused on outward appearances (5:12).
  • The Gospel changes our view of others – Salvation is not earned by outward actions (vs. 16) - The phrase, according to the flesh,literally means, by outward standards. The Corinthians were so focused on outward appearances that they didn’t understand the necessity or power of true heart change. Paul is encouraging them to change their perspective.
  • The Gospel makes new creations (vs. 17) – While the Corinthians were focused on outward appearances, Paul lays out the centrality of Christ. Those who are in Christ are new creations (2 Corinthians 4:5-6). We cannot save ourselves, it is wholly of Christ; and when he changes a person He changes them completely.
  • The change of the Gospel and our motivation – For all that Paul faced in his ministry, this is ultimately what sustained him: He was a new creation in Christ. Just as 5:15 said, those who are in Christ can no longer live for themselves.