2 Corinthians 5 – Grip

2nd Corinthians 5 Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint

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Today’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 5

I feel like Paul’s got more going on in these chapters than I can hit in one post without merely skimming the surface. Yesterday, he opened 2 Corinthians 4 with a barrage of metaphors that I didn’t even get to talk about–more of the veil thing from chapter three, then Christ as light and Satan as a blinding agent, and treasure in earthen vessels–because I was digging into the “endurance under persecution” theme from the latter half of the chapter. And now in the fifth chapter, Paul’s starting off with a tent metaphor for the body, like it’s just temporary housing while we wait for God to take us to our actual house, to be present with him. And there’s the famous “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature” verse (17), and Paul’s discussion of the ministry of reconciliation, but it looks like I’m not gonna get to hit that stuff, because I’m zeroing in on a single word in a single verse because that’s what grabbed me today.

I don’t know when I first started asking whether we had free will, but I remember searching for answers throughout my senior year of high school. As I read Locke and Hobbes, Descartes and Marx and Nietzsche, I tried to figure it out: are all our actions causally predetermined, or do we have some measure of control, however small, over what we do? I still ask this question, and while I do think we have some tiny, God-given sliver of autonomous agency, I’m far from certain on the matter. So when I read Paul’s words, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (14-15), that word “control” arrested my attention like it had just caught my attention murdering a dude in broad daylight.

So I did what I always do when some word locks up my attention in the slammer: I broke out my interlinear Greek New Testament and Strong’s Concordance and looked it up. We’re looking at συνέχωsynechō, which literally means “to hold together.” My Liddell & Scott lexicon offers several different definitions: “to enclose, embrace,” “to keep together, keep from dispersing.” It also notes that Thucydides used it to describe rowers pulling in time, being kept in rhythm. Surveying the entries, I don’t think it necessarily implies complete determinism; there’s constraint here, there’s holding, but not necessarily total constraint. It can be used alike to describe prisoners and merchants engaged in business.

But even if, in the context of this letter to the Corinthians, Paul means to tell us that Christ’s love constrains us absolutely, I can’t think of anything I’d rather have constrain me. Jesus Christ subjected himself to torture and death on a Roman cross. He gave his life to give me life, and he rose again on my behalf. Don’t get me wrong, I’m inclined to believe we have some tiny capacity for free agency. But Jesus Christ holds me together. And if that means free will is an illusion and I have no volition of my own, I can live with that. God loves me, and I’m held in good hands.

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