2 Corinthians 5:11-15 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
11 Knowing, then, the fear of the Lord, we persuade people. We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your consciences as well. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to be proud of us, so that you may have a reply for those who take pride in the outward appearance rather than in the heart. 13 For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. 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.
In verse 11 Paul says that since we are aware of what it means to fear the Lord then we persuade men. It sounds that his motivation is based on a recognition of the coming judgment of Christians he has just mentioned in verse 10. But if his motivation is based on what we commonly call fear, then his works done from real fear would be no good to him anyway before the judgment seat of Christ. Because it is the attitude in which the works are done that gives them their eternal value. So what does Paul mean when he talks about the fear of the Lord?
We have to consider that I John 4:18 states that perfect love casts out fear and so we cannot see the love of Jesus, which must be described as perfect, bringing about fear. This means that we must look again at the description of the word fear and what exactly it means. I think we will find that what Paul describes as fear is not a fear based in perceived negative consequences, but as a respect for the Lord based in love which fears the possibilities of not living up to his expectations and desires. It is not a fear of retribution, but a fear of not being faithful enough.
This is a fear which is not common to the modern day Christian. We do not have much fear of not being faithful enough because we do not have such a great understanding of the love of Christ for us.
Paul says that the love of Christ “compels” him. Compels means to be placed in the tight grip of Christ’s love. It is the tight grip of Christ’s love on his life which leads him to persuade men. When Christ died for all men those who believe die with him so that they now may live. It is as if they have become dead to the power of sin and become alive to the power of righteousness. When sin comes to their door, they react as a dead man. They do not sin.
Paul goes further to say that we live not for ourselves anymore, but for the Christ who died for us. We are compelled by his love to live for him since he not only died for us, but also has given us the gift of real, abundant life. That is the grip of the love of Christ. A person who gains a correct understanding of the love of Christ cannot help but be compelled, gripped by that overwhelming love, to live for Christ.