In 2 Cor 5, Paul explained why he labored the way he did. In 2 Cor 5:9 he said, “Wherefore we labour…” There are four things that compelled him to labor the way he did and they should compel us to labor that way as well. He labored:
For the building of God – 2 Cor 5:1-8 – when we are saved, our bodies become an earthly tabernacle in which God dwells [2 Pet 1:13-14]. A tabernacle is a dwelling place. In Ex 25:8-9, the tabernacle was the place where God dwelt among the Israelites. It was temporary; it was a tent; it was his earthly house made after the pattern of the heavenly house [Heb 8:5, 9:11, 23]. Paul refers to our body as the tabernacle because it is temporary and God dwells there.
If this tabernacle were dissolved, you would see what you can’t see right now [2 Cor 4:18], which is a building of God… eternal in the heavens. Paul’s saying that if this tabernacle were to disappear or terminate, our house would be the building of God in heaven. Thus, “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven,” [2 Cor 5:2].
When Paul wrote, “if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked,” [2 Cor 5:3], he wasn’t saying that some would be naked in heaven. The cross reference to Rev 3:17-18 is incorrect because Rev 3:18 is not about being naked in eternity. The church of the Laodiceans was naked on earth and needed white raiment to be clothed from their nakedness.
Paul wrote “if so be” because in verse 1 he said, “if” this tabernacle were dissolved, then we have a building of God in heaven. Continuing with the same thought, he says, “if so be” that being clothed, then we shall not be found naked. In other words, when you leave your earthly tabernacle, you are clothed upon with immortality [2 Cor 5:4]. Mortality is swallowed up of life and you go on living in the house of God.
God “wrought” this for us [2 Cor 5:5] and gave us the earnest of the Spirit to guarantee that we would be with him in his house in heaven. Already we are lively stones [1 Pet 2:5] in the temple of God [Eph 2:19-22] seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [Eph 2:6]. We are just waiting to die to be there where we can see it. “Whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord,” [2 Cor 2:6]. That’s why we walk by faith, and not by sight [2 Cor 5:7]. We can’t see our heavenly house. But we are “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord,” [2 Cor 5:8]. Look what Paul said in Phil 1:22-24.
Paul labored for the Lord because of this building. He knew that saved souls are added to this building and that they will live for ever with the Lord. He also knew that living with the Lord for ever is far better than even living one more day on this earth. So, he was always “ready to go.”
For the judgment seat of Christ – 2 Cor 5:9-13 – When you live and labor like Paul, you are accepted of God [2 Cor 5:9]. But “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” The judgment seat of Christ is where we “receive the things done in (our) body, according to that (we have) done, whether it be good or bad.” Each one of us must “give account of himself to God,” [Rom 14:10-12]. So, in Col 3:23-25, we are supposed to do “as to the Lord, and not unto men.” He that hath done good will receive “the reward of the inheritance.” This is for serving “the Lord Christ.” He that hath done bad, or he that doeth wrong, “shall receive for the wrong which he hath done.” This is for serving men or for serving himself. There is “no respect of persons.”
Because our body is our earthly house of this tabernacle, we have the Spirit in us. Therefore, we should be able to do good. We have the fruit of the Spirit [Gal 5:22-23] so that we can be fruitful in every good work [Col 1:10].
This judgment should cause you to fear God. Like Paul said, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” The fact that Paul labored with the judgment seat of Christ ever before him was manifest to God [2 Cor 4:2], and it was manifest to the Corinthians [“in your consciences”]. Therefore, he didn’t commend himself to them again. He gave them what they needed to answer “them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.” The man that glories in appearance is concerned with the temporal, with impressing men. When a man deals with the eternal, he is not concerned with how what he does looks to men. He is only concerned with being accepted of God and doing well at the judgment seat of Christ.
Thus Paul said, when we are “beside ourselves, it is to God.” They were like David dancing before the ark [2 Sam 6:14-15]. They were also “sober… for your cause.” In other words, you might think we are nuts the way we carry on for the Lord. Michal despised David for his public display when he danced before the ark [2 Sam 6:16].
For the risen Saviour – 2 Cor 5:14-17 – Paul said that the love of Christ constrained him; it kept him in check to live for God. When Jesus died on the cross, he died for all of us. His death for all proves that all were dead [v. 14; Eph 2:1]. Therefore, when we get saved, we should live for him who died and rose again for us [v.15]. We are new creatures in Christ [v.17]; our old man is crucified with him and dead [Rom 6:6] and we are now walking in newness of life [Rom 6:4]. Therefore, we don’t know Christ after the flesh, because he is risen from the dead [v.16]. For that matter, we we should not know any man after the flesh.
For the ministry of reconciliation – 2 Cor 5:18-21 – God “reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ,” [v.18]. He gave “us the ministry of reconciliation.” That is, we are supposed to minister the reconciliation of Jesus Christ to others. God reconciled the world to himself in Jesus Christ, “not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Then, he “committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” You communicate “the word” by publishing it in writing and in speech. We are “ambassadors for Christ,” [v.20]. We are here “in Christ’s stead,” to tell others to be “reconciled to God.” We are to preach this word of reconciliation as found in 2 Cor 5:21.
Conclusion: Paul labored the way he did because he knew about the building of God, he was preparing for the judgment seat of Christ, he was serving a risen Savior and he had been given the ministry of reconciliation. We should labor for Jesus with the same zeal and for the same reasons.