Confidence in Ministry: Spiritual Motives (2 Corinthians 5:9-6:2)

Lesson series 2001
Tags: 2 Corinthians; Ministry; Paul; Confidence; Motives
Excerpted from Paul on Ministry: Lessons from 2 Corinthians


  1. To encourage participants to be(come) involved in one or more ministries in the church.
  2. To encourage participants to minister with confidence by appropriating the right motives.
  3. To distinguish between right and wrong motives for ministry.

Text (NKJV)

Chapter 5

9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart.
13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you.
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;
15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,
19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Chapter 6

1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.


In the last two lessons we have discussed how we can gain confidence in ministry. First, we discovered that the authority of the gospel message itself is a source of confidence. Second, we found that the hope we have in Christ gives us a stable foundation for ministering to those who have no such hope. Today we will examine a third source of confidence in ministry: spiritual motives.

In 2 Corinthians 5:9, Paul states his purpose in life: to please God. In the following verses, he elaborates on this theme by discussing three proper motives for serving the Lord. These motives stand in contrast with carnal ones that we may see in ourselves or in others.

The Fear of the Lord (5:9-13)

Paul was motivated to serve the Lord out of fear--though not in a negative sense. The word terror (5:11) translates phobos, the common Greek word for fear, from which we get the English word phobia. The precise nature of Paul’s fear is explained in verse 10: “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”

Elsewhere Paul explains in greater detail what the judgment seat of Christ entails. It is not to be confused with the great white throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15. Rather, it is a judgment of believers’ works, with rewards being given to those whose faithful conduct has earned them. Paul’s fear had nothing to do with a loss of salvation, but rather a loss of rewards (Rom 14:10-12; 1 Cor 3:9-15).

Paul had a healthy sense of accountability. He realized he would one day stand before Christ and give account for his actions in his earthly life. Not wanting to be ashamed in the Lord’s presence (1 Jn 2:28), he labored for the Lord with purpose. In so doing he assured himself of receiving rewards from the Lord’s hand (cf. 2 Tim 4:8).

The Love of Christ (5:14-17)

Perhaps a nobler motive for service is that of gratitude for Christ’s love. In recognition of what Christ had graciously done for him, Paul could do no less than offer humble service. In his own words, “the love of Christ compels us” (5:14).

Paul’s entire life had been transformed through his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. The old life had passed away, and all things had been made new (5:17). He had died with Christ so that he could spend the rest of his life in service to the Lord (5:14-15).

1 John 4:19 plainly says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” This was Paul’s spirit. His service was reciprocal. The debt he had incurred at salvation obligated him for the rest of his life (cf. Rom 1:14). What better reason do we need to serve the Lord than our deliverance from the penalty, power, and presence of sin?

The Commission of Christ (5:18-6:2)

Third, Paul was motivated by Christ’s commission. Paul alluded to this commission when he said that God “has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18). Notice that this ministry is naturally given to those who are themselves reconciled to God. To be saved is to be called to witness of God’s saving grace.

Jesus’s final instructions to His disciples were for them to “be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). As spiritual ambassadors they were to carry “the word of reconciliation” to those who were at odds with God. The essence of the gospel is expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:21: God provided a way for us to possess His righteousness by sending His Son to bear the penalty for our sins.


On what basis can we claim the authority to minister? We can certainly do so because of the superiority of the gospel message and the hope that it brings. We can also gain assurance in ministry by evaluating our motives. Paul’s adversaries carried out “ministry” for the wrong reasons, much as some do today (e.g., 2 Cor 2:17; 5:12; cf. Phil 1:15-17). We would do well to learn from his testimony: We should be motivated by fear of Christ’s judgment; gratitude for His love; and obedience to His commission.