What does 2 Corinthians 5:13 mean?
ESV: For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
NIV: If we are 'out of our mind,' as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
NASB: For if we have lost our minds, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.
CSB: For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
NLT: If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit.
KJV: For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
Bible scholars interpret this verse in several ways. Paul's bottom line meaning is clear: He is genuine in his ministry to those in Corinth. He is not serving himself; he is serving God and serving them.
The previous verse emphasized that Paul's opponents were focused on outward appearances. Now he writes that if he and his co-workers are "beside ourselves" or "out of our minds," it is for God. What does this mean? Some scholars suggest that Paul is referring to some kind of ecstatic experience during worship services when controlled by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Paul's opponents were suggesting he looked too crazy when worshiping God. Or, perhaps, it was exactly the opposite and the false apostles were more exciting to watch "perform" during worship experiences. In either case, Paul is saying that whatever the appearance, what matters is that such moments should be "for God."
Another possibility is that Paul's detractors were literally challenging Paul's mental health. Why would someone who has suffered so much for preaching the gospel keep doing it? Why keep pushing into the very activity that results in conflict with the authorities and painful experiences over and over? In this case, Paul has already explained the reason he continues to courageously preach the gospel at the cost of his own suffering. He does it in order to please the Lord. For that goal, he will gladly use up his earthly life to reach as many as possible with the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:6–10).
Paul adds a rhetorical point: that "if" he is not crazy, but in his right mind, then what he does is for the good of the Corinthians. His point is that he is completely in control of his mind and using it to serve them. No matter how it looks to unbelievers and skeptics (1 Corinthians 2:14–15), Paul is not serving himself. He is serving God and others.
Second Corinthians 5:11–21 describes an appeal to those in Corinth who know Paul. It's important they understand he is not crazy for continuing to preach the gospel, even though it leads to so much suffering for him. Christ's love compels Paul to continue to tell all people that they be reconciled to God through faith in Christ, just as he was. In Christ, God is not counting people's sins against them, but instead giving them credit for Christ's righteous life. As Christ's ambassador, Paul begged all people to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ.
Why does Paul endure so much suffering for preaching about Christ? He continues here his discussion of eternity, comparing our earthly bodies to living in a tent. Paul would rather live in the eternal body God has prepared for those who trust in Christ, free from the groaning and burden that afflicts everyone here. With that to look forward to, he preaches with courage that all in Christ are new creations. In Christ, God is reconciling people to Himself, not counting their sin against them. Paul implores everyone to be reconciled to God in this way through faith in Christ.
Second Corinthians 5 follows Paul's confident declarations in the previous chapter. His suffering, though severe, is only a light, momentary affliction preparing him for eternal glory beyond all comparison. He would rather occupy his eternal body, which gives him the courage to continue his mission to preach the gospel that God is reconciling people to Himself, forgiving their sin, through faith in Christ. Those in Christ become a new creation. He concludes by imploring all to be reconciled to God, which he continues to do in the following chapter.
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
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