Compelled

Notes Outline
INTRODUCTION
DEVOTED IN TRUTH, WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING
2 CORINTHIANS 5
EXAMPLES FROM ACTS 16-19
CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION

Today in our Acts series we are going to turn our attention to Acts 16-19, exploring it through the lens of some of the things Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5. In 2 Corinthians 5:14, Paul gives us a glimpse into the driving force behind his life, ministry, and service to our King: “The love of Christ compels us” (CSB). Other translations: “controls us” [LEB, NASB], “constrains us” [MEV], “urges us on” [NRSV], “impels us” [NAB]; “hem in” [NIV at Lk. 19:43]; “press in” or “press hard” [BDAG, sv. 3]) (Gk. sunechō). What a powerful statement. Acts 16-19 gives us some very concrete, vivid, and inspiring illustrations of what he means by this. In today’s message, then, we will start by looking at what Paul means by this statement in context to 2 Corinthians 5, and then let Acts 16-19 paint a picture in our minds as to what this looked in the life of this apostle who in his previous letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:1) had admonished them, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (NIV).

DEVOTED IN TRUTH, WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING

    1. In Acts 5, we start off with a light story about a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Many of us know the story. They sold some property and apparently committed all the money to the Lord, but then secretly kept back some of the money for themselves. This did not turn out well for them.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?…You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. (Ac. 5:3, 4d-5, NIV)

    1. In the Bible (an in the ancient world generally), false oaths and the wrong handling of sacred things are very serious offenses against God and could result in divine judgment (see Lev. 5-6, 10, 27; Num. 5:5-10). Intentional and high-handed sins were beyond atonement (see, e.g., Num. 15:30) apart from confession, remorse, and acknowledgement of guilt. 4 If someone is truly repentant, God mercifully reduces the sentence (treats it as He would if it had been unintentional) and allows for atonement to be made; specific sacrifices are presented and appropriate reparations made (Lev. 5-6, Num. 5:5-10).
    2. Cf. the death of Nadab and Abihu, who “offered unauthorized fire before the LORD” (Lev. 10:2, NIV); only a week after the tabernacle had been set up (on “the eighth day” [Lev. 9:1]; cf. Ex. 40:1, 17), following some incredible and momentous events: the glory of God had filled the tabernacle on the first day (Ex. 40:34), and fire from God had consumed the sacrifice on the alter (Lev. 9:24). The point is clear from the very outset: You mess with holy things to your own peril. Similar point in the days of the early Jesus movement.
    3. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If Ananias and Saphira had repented, they probably would have escaped such a strong judgment from the Lord.

11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. (Ac. 5:11, NIV)

2 CORINTHIANS 5

        1. The broader context of 2 Corinthians: Paul’s defense of his apostolic ministry. Key question raised by this book: What are the marks of a true apostle—one genuinely sent by the crucified and risen Messiah as an authorized representative—and what are the marks of a false apostle? What does a true servant of the crucified Messiah look like? When we consider Acts 16-19, we want to know what is happening on the inside of the man about who are reading.
          1. Summary of Chapters 1-4—“For your sake”: A true apostolic example, paraded about by God as a living visual aid of New Covenant loyalty, service, and discipleship—for your sake; God’s mercy and faithfulness to us in our sufferings for your sake; what happened to us in Asia, for your sake (dependance on the God who raises the dead); you’ve seen our sincere and holy conduct, your consciences have abundant evidence that our motives are pure and sincere (e.g., no peddling the word of God for profit, didn’t ask for your money, preaching despite suffering, etc.); God can witness that it was for your sake I changed my plan (to “spare you” [1:23]); discipline and strong letters, and extension of mercy, with tears and driven by love (“that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” [1 Cor. 5:5]; so that Satan won’t “outwit” us [2 Cor. 2:11]); led in triumphal procession, the fragrance of Christ; competence from God; ministers of the New covenant; treasures in jars of clay; living for an eternal weight of glory, the day when we will be clothed in resurrected bodies
          2. In contrast to false apostles (“super-apostles”), who live for themselves and do things for their own sake—their own financial prosperity, their own honor, their own advancement; they want your money, they want you to grovel at their feet, they slap you around, they don’t really give a rip about the well-being of the flock, claim to be apostles but really are servants of Satan, who himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11)
        1. 2 Corinthians 5:9-14

      Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim (“ambition” [NET], “goal” [NIV]) to be pleasing to him (“to please him” [NIV]; rather than mere men). 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (Paul had had to be very firm with them about dealing with the immorality in their midst; cf. 1 Cor. 5, 2 Cor. 2:5-11). 

      11 Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people (Gk. peithō; this word appears four times in Acts 16-19). What we are (true servants/apostles; cf. chp.12) is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your consciences (the conscience feels and discerns right from wrong; our lives are open for you to see). 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to be proud of us (i.e., you should be commending and defending us), so that you may have a reply for those who take pride in outward appearance rather than in the heart. 13 For if we are out of our mind (“If it seems we are crazy” [NLT]; or “if we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say” [NIV]), it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you (to persuade [!]; cf. Festus to Paul in Ac. 26:24 after a powerful defense: “You are out of your mind, Paul!”). 14 For the love of Christ compels us (Gk. sunechō; “controls us” [LEB, NASB], “constrains us” [MEV], “urges us on” [NRSV], “impels us” [NAB]; “hem in” [NIV at Lk. 19:43]; “press in” or “press hard” [BDAG, sv. 3]), since we have reached this conclusion, that one died for all (“all” being emphasized here; “one man died on behalf of all mankind” [CJB]), and therefore all died (“all” again being emphasized here; “which implies that all mankind was already dead” [CJB]; similar to what he says in Rom. 5). 15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised. (2 Cor. 5:9-14, CSB)

      • 14 Indeed, the love of the Messiah impels us, for we have reached this conclusion: One man died for the sake of all mankind, which means that all mankind was dead; 15 it was for the sake of all mankind that the Messiah died, so that the recipients of new life would live their lives no longer for themselves, but in service to the one who for their sake died and was raised to life. (2 Cor. 5:14-15, BHT)
        1. Summary: We are going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give a full account of our lives before God, and therefore my singular aim as an apostle is to please God and to make disciples who do the same. We truly fear the Lord concerning that Day, and therefore we do everything we can to persuade people to join with us in fearing God and living their lives in light of the great audit to come. God himself knows that we are the real deal, and we are confident that if you inspect our lives, you’ll come to the same conclusion. Outward appearances mean nothing to God, and therefore outward appearances mean nothing to us; the New Covenant has been written deep into the core of our being. All humanity was under the condemnation of death, but the Messiah’s death has made a way for people from all the nations to move from death to life. The Messiah is merciful toward the human race and deeply loyal to God’s plan for the sons and daughters of Adam, and it is this great love that urges us on and compels us in all we do. Just as the Messiah did not live for himself but for the glory of the Father, so we, too, and those who receive His new life, no longer live for ourselves, but for Him and for His glory.

EXAMPLES FROM ACTS 16-19

    1. Here we will consider a number of examples from Acts, with particular focus on one (Ac. 17). There are other characters in these chapters, but because of our 2 Cor. 5 focus here, we’ll focus on Paul in what follows
    2. In Acts 16-19, Paul and his companions were compelled, urged, constrained, pressed by the love of Christ to…
      1. …have Timothy circumcised for the sake of the Jews (16:3) (I wonder how that conversation went!) (Ac. 16:1-5); cf. 2 Cor. 11:24 (five times the “forty lashes minus one”), Rom. 9:1-3 (“great sorrow and unceasing anguish,” wish “cut off”), and Rom. 10:1 (desire and prayer that his people would be saved)
      2. …not go to Asia or Bithynia, but to Macedonia: “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Ac. 16:9, NIV). Here we see the Holy Spirit constraining and hemming Paul in; for some reason known to the Lord, not the right time for Asia and Bithynia (Ac. 16:6-9)
      3. …in Philippi, go to the place of prayer by the river and share the gospel with Lydia (God-fearer) and the other women gathered there; not an official synagogue (needed 10 or more men), therefore not much study of the law, and many Romans would have looked down on this, but not Jesus (Ac. 16:11-15)
      4. …sing hymns in prison after being severely flogged (“out of their minds”), choose not to flee the prison after the prison doors were opened from the earthquake, and show kindness to the jailer for the sake of his salvation and that of his household (Ac. 16:16-40)
      5. …in Thessalonica, try to persuade Jews in the synagogue that Jesus was the Messiah and that “the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead” (Ac. 17:3, NIV); eventually riots break out: “these who have turned the world upside down” (Ac. 17:6, NKJV); (Ac. 17:1-6); cf. 1 Thessalonians 3 for a moving picture of Paul’s concern for the Thessalonian believers
      6. …in Berea, persuade and proclaim the message to the Bereans, who were more open and “noble-minded” (Ac. 17:11, NASB); Ac. 17:10-15
      7. …in Athens, share the gospel in the synagogue and in the marketplace with all kinds of people; deeply distressed over the idolatry (not indifferent); here Paul pulls everything out (poetry, inscriptions), but does not water anything down or try to remove the bite of the message:

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” 

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. (Ac. 17:22-34, NIV)

      1. …in Corinth, try “to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Ac. 18:4), stay in Corinth for a year and a half despite great opposition (Ac. 18:1-17)
      2. …in Ephesus, speak “boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God” (Ac. 19:8, NIV), and conduct “discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus” (Ac. 19:9, CSB; “reasoning daily,” ESV); the Spirit moves powerfully, sons of Sceva (“Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” [Ac. 19:15, NIV), unusual miracles:  eventually things get crazy again, place goes nuts and riots, Paul in danger again (Ac. 19)

CONCLUSION

    1. “The love of Christ compels us,” Paul says: The love of Christ for the sons and daughters of Adam in Macedonia compels me to go to Macedonia…the love of Christ for image bearers in Philippi urges me on to Philippi; the love of Christ for sinners in Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Ephesus presses me to go to Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Ephesus…the love of Christ for people in Bloomington, and for people in St. Paul, and for people in Minneapolis, and for people in Jordan, for people in the United States, and for people in modern day synagogues of Israel, and for people in marketplaces throughout all the nations of the earth, compels us and urges us on to all these places…

…and when we get there, the love of Christ compels us to persuade…the love of Christ compels us to plea… the love of Christ compels us to appeal… the love of Christ compels us to reason… the love of Christ compels us to discuss… the love of Christ compels us to pray… the love of Christ compels us to quote poets and inscriptions…the love of Christ compels us to sing praises to God with stripes on our body as the earth shakes around us… the love of Christ compels us, even though the world thinks we are out of our minds, to warn Israel and all the nations about the day when God will “judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed” (Ac. 17:31, NIV), and to call the earth to heed His command to repent and turn from their sins while there is yet time.

    1. What about us? The same Christ who lived in Paul lives in us. What is the love of Christ compelling and urging within us?