The Love of Christ Compels Us- 2 Corinthians 5:14

In our previous post, we began a study of 2 Corinthians 5:13-21 with a look at what Paul meant in saying he was “out of his mind”. We found this expression did not mean that religion is by nature irrational, but that to be out of one’s mind referred to a prior out of body or trancelike experience in which Paul (and Peter as well) received revelation from God. So as we encounter the phrase “in our right mind”, it is contrasted with what Paul meant here by being “out of his mind”. The ecstatic out of body or trancelike experience was not the usual way in which Paul received revelation from God. Revelation was normally received when he was in his right mind. The Greek word translated “in our right mind” here is soprhoneo, literally to be “clear minded or sober”. So when Paul says here that he was in his right mind “for you”, He is referring to the fact that the majority of what he passed on to the churches was received through a clear minded study of the Scriptures, all of which bore witness to who Jesus is and what he did, which all bore witness to His love for us. We find then, in verse 14, what this clear minded study of the Scriptures produced in Paul’s life, and what he hoped and prayed it would produce in the lives of those he ministered to. As we begin an examination of verse 14, we encounter an issue which we find many times in the New Testament, which comes not from any issue with the New Testament, but with the nature of the Greek language in which it is written. The word Christ’s here is in the genitive case, and a genitive can be either subjective or objective, and which it is cannot be definitively determined by the way it is written, but must be determined by context. What that means here is that the love here of Christ could refer either to His love for us (subjective) or our love for Him (objective). So which is it here? What we find in the rest of the verse is that the word “us” is in the accusative case, which is the case used to identify the direct object, and the verb is the word “compels”. We also find that the word “love” is in the nominative case, the case which identifies the subject. What all of this boils down to is that the action here is the compelling, the “us” are the ones being compelled (the direct object receives the action of the verb), the “love” is what is producing the action ( the subject produces the action of the verb) and that we are the one’s being compelled and the love of Christ (His love for us) is what is doing the compelling. So how then are we compelled and what does it look like when we are? The Greek word “compel” here is synecho, literally to “hold with”. It is a word which was often associated with a type of possession, often by demonic forces, even in pagan religions and usages. This word synecho had a rather wide range of meaning, ranging from the rather mild to be “devoted to” someone or something, all the way to being possessed by someone or something. So we also find a question which must be answered regarding Paul’s use of this word here in reference to his own life. This is likely why Paul made the statement he did in verse 13, that his relations with them were conducted in his “right mind”, not in a trancelike state of “possession”, but in a clear minded devotion to Christ. As spent his time studying the Scriptures, he grew to know more and more fully the love of Christ for him. Paul more fully understood the love of Christ for him as he more fully realized just what Jesus did for him, that love here is not an ecstatic emotional experience, but an action resulting from an understanding. Love does not involve being so dominated by emotion (or out of your mind) that we act without considering what Scripture says to us, but love acts always considering what Scripture says to us. The love Christ had for Paul did not involve Christ accepting and condoning behavior by Paul which was contrary to a clear command of Scripture, and the love of Christ compelled Paul not to condone and accept behavior by those in the Corinthian church which was contrary to Scripture, but rather to chasten those practicing this behavior in order to bring about repentance (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-12 and 6:12-20). Paul chastened believers living a sinful lifestyle as part of being compelled by the love of Christ, and this chastening is part of love, for “the Lord chastens those He loves” (Hebrews 12:6). The love of Christ compelled Paul to chasten those who were living in a way which contradicted the way in which the Scripture said they were to live, and he did so compelled by love. The love of Christ for us will compel us to love others, and as we grow to know this love through a study of and commitment to the Scriptures, we will clear mindedly grow to love others as Christ loves us, and help free them from any sinful ways of being as Christ freed Paul from them.

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