Calling, behavior, and hope.
These are three significant themes in Second Corinthians.
As the book begins, Paul asserts that he is living up to his calling, serving faithfully in a ministry that brings life. The Corinthians are recipients of this ministry, and they should live up to the calling they have embraced. “Living up to it” means “watch your behavior.”
Behavior is important if they expect to receive the hope of their calling.
One hope is that they will become more like Jesus, reflecting the Lord’s glory (3:18) revealing to the world the life of Christ in our own life (4:10).
But another hope is the future home in the presence of Christ, what is now unrealized and unseen. This world is troublesome to the Christian. That’s why he looks forward to the next, the heavenly dwelling, the eternal house (5:1ff).
This hope, however, is dependent on behavior. Let’s make no mistake. The hope is not “achievable” by behavior – you cannot earn this heavenly dwelling. It is already ours because we are Christians. We just have not taken possession of it yet. On the other hand, we can lose it if we fail to live up to our calling. We are, after all, new creatures in Christ. That is why, in chapter five, at least three times Paul urges attention to behavior. Our goal should be to please God (5:9). We should no longer live for ourselves, but live for Jesus (5:15).
The final command is in verse twenty: “Be reconciled to God,” which sounds a bit strange since we have already been reconciled to God. Why must we do what has already been done? God has reconciled us to him, but we must act like people who have been reconciled. We may not behave in ways more common to those alienated from the Lord.
Calling, behavior, and hope. They are all connected.