Here observe, I. The apostle makes an apology for seeming to commend himself and his fellow-labourers (2 Cor. 5:13), and tells them, 1. It was not to commend themselves, nor for their own sakes, that he had spoken of their fidelity and diligence in the 2 Cor. 5:1-11; nor was he willing to suspect their good opinion of him. But, 2. The true reason was this, to put an argument in their mouths wherewith to answer his accusers, who made vain boastings, and gloried in appearances only; that he might give them an occasion to glory on their behalf, or to defend them against the reproaches of their adversaries. And if the people can say that the word has been manifested to their consciences, and been effectual to their conversion and edification, this is the best defence they can make for the ministry of the word, when they are vilified and reproached.
II. He gives good reasons for their great zeal and diligence. Some of Paul’s adversaries had, it is likely, reproached him for his zeal and fervour, as if he had been a madman, or, in the language of our days, a fanatic; they imputed all to enthusiasm, as the Roman governor told him, Much learning has made thee mad, Acts 26:24. But the apostle tells them, 1. It was for the glory of God, and the good of the church, that he was thus zealous and industrious: “Whether we be beside ourselves, or whether we be sober (whether you or others do think the one or the other), it is to God, and for his glory: and it is for your cause, or to promote your good,” 2 Cor. 5:13. If they manifested the greatest ardour and vehemency at some times, and used the greatest calmness in strong reasonings at other times, it was for the best ends; and in both methods they had good reason for what they did. For, 2. The love of Christ constrained them, 2 Cor. 5:14. They were under the sweetest and strongest constraints to do what they did. Love has a constraining virtue to excite ministers and private Christians in their duty. Our love to Christ will have this virtue; and Christ’s love to us, which was manifested in this great instance of his dying for us, will have this effect upon us, if it be duly considered and rightly judged of. For observe how the apostle argues for the reasonableness of love’s constraints, and declares, (1.) What we were before, and must have continued to be, had not Christ died for us: We were dead, 2 Cor. 5:14. If one died for all, then were all dead; dead in law, under sentence of death; dead in sins and trespasses, spiritually dead. Note, This was the deplorable condition of all those for whom Christ died: they were lost and undone, dead and ruined, and must have remained thus miserable for ever if Christ had not died for them. (2.) What such should do, for whom Christ died; namely, that they should live to him. This is what Christ designed, that those who live, who are made alive unto God by means of his death, should live to him that died for them, and rose again for their sakes also, and that they should not live to themselves, 2 Cor. 5:15. Note, We should not make ourselves, but Christ, the end of our living and actions: and it was one end of Christ’s death to cure us of this self-love, and to excite us always to act under the commanding influence of his love. A Christian’s life should be consecrated to Christ; and then do we live as we ought to live when we live to Christ, who died for us.