Study Notes on 2 Corinthians 5
2 Corinthians 5
This chapter begins with a continuation from the last chapter and flows naturally from the discussion on being troubled, persecuted, afflicted from the previous chapter. Why do we faint not (2 Cor 4:16)? This chapter fully answers that question because death is nothing to be feared.
1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
So these first 8 verses are fairly difficult, and there are many views on them. This first section should be read together with Philippians 1:20-25.
So our earthly house of this tabernacle (or tent) will be dissolved, meaning our flesh, our temporary (tents are temporary dwellings) sinful body. If we perish, we have a new body in heaven, a permanent house (contrasted with tent) forever. This first part of the chapter looks at the long game, at eternity, much like 1 Corinthians 15. We will have a glorified body in eternity, not made with hands meaning not of this world. What is heavenly will never experience entropy. See Hebrews 9:11, 24.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
Along with all of creation we groan (Romans 8:22-23) in these bodies looking forward to when there will no longer be any suffering, pain, arthritis, or any other effects of our fallen world. We desire to be clothed with our permanent body, our house.
Why does Paul first mention our eternal state rather than the intermediate state between death and the second coming when we will receive glorified bodies? I believe that's because, from his perspective, he might have lived to see the second coming, or perhaps it seemed close enough that the intermediate time would be very short and therefore less significant.
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
We won't spend eternity unclothed. We will have a body, so suffering in this present tent is nothing to be concerned about. We desire the eternal state.
Albert Barnes explains well, "...in that future state, the soul will not be naked; that is, destitute of any body, or covering. The present body will be laid aside. It will return to corruption, and the disembodied Spirit will ascend to God and to heaven. It will be disencumbered of the body with which it has been so long clothed. But we are not thence to infer that it will be destitute of a body; that it will remain a naked soul. It will be clothed there in its appropriate glorified body; and will have an appropriate habitation there."
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
Living believers groan in our present temporary bodies because we are burdened with the trials of life. Remember that this still answers to the reason why "we faint not" and endure anything for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Albert Barnes, "It was not, therefore, a mere desire to be released from sufferings; it was an earnest wish to be admitted to the glories of the future world, and partake of the happiness which we would enjoy there."
We aren't impatient to be free from this corrupted body, and we don't want to escape persecution because of cowardice. However, we know that we have an eternal home waiting for us. The mortality of our present condition will be swallowed up (or absorbed, eliminated) into life everlasting.
5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
He that saved us, to labor and receive our eternal bodies, is God. We can know this for a certainty because He has given us His Spirit as a promise of eternal life.
See Philippians 3:20-21.
2 Corinthians 1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
Because of the Holy Spirit in us we are ALWAYS confident (if salvation could be lost then we couldn't be always confident), that as long as we are in this body we are absent from the Lord. Now Paul transitions (verses 6-8) from the eternal state with our glorified bodies to the intermediate state when death occurs to show that even without our permanent bodies we will be in the presence of the Lord.
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
We live by faith, we don't see eternity yet or heaven yet.
Reminds me of John 20:28-29. Thomas saw and believed but others (us) believe by faith and have not seen (yet).
Romans 8:25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
John Gill writes, "...faith looks at, and has a glimpse of things not seen, which are eternal; but it is but seeing as through a glass darkly; it is not that full sight, face to face, which will be had hereafter, when faith is turned into vision." (See 1 Corinthians 13:12)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Our eternal state is best, but to die before He comes is still better than the present mortality because we will be with Him. When we are absent from this body we will be present with the Lord. A believer goes immediately to heaven upon his death. No soul sleep, no purgatory.
Also see Revelation 6:9-10.
William Godbey, "...first choice, to be translated and soul and body go together to the presence of God; secondly, to evacuate the body, go and leave it; and last of all, to abide in the body and still labor and suffer for the glory of God."
9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
It is central to all life to be pleasing to the Lord. To worship Him is our purpose. Whether I remain for 50 more years or die tomorrow, it is my supreme purpose to serve the Lord.
Psalm 86:12 I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
For believers this isn't a judgment of our sin since Christ already paid the penalty for that, but this is a judgment of rewards, whether we did good works or bad works (meaning unfruitful, works that are burned up). See 1 Corinthians 3.
Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
This isn't a terror for believers but for unbelievers, and that's why "we persuade men", to get people saved. This could also be simply translated "fear of the Lord" which would mean reverence and worship (e.g., Acts 9:31). This is still all with the same topic of not fainting in order to spread the gospel. Our work is seen by God and we hope you also see and believe the sincerity of our mission.
Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Psalm 128:4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.
12 For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.
He's not saying this to boast in himself but to give the Corinthians ammunition to rebuke the naysayers in their midst. Read through verse 14, Christ constrains them in their duties and behavior. There were those that puffed themselves up and vilified Paul.
13 For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
Beside ourselves means to be crazy or our of our minds. Perhaps it carries the idea of extreme zeal. Whether we seem crazy for the Lord or calm and collected it is all for the Lord. It's ok if people think we, as believers, are weird. It must not slow us down.
Acts 26:24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
His constraining motive is the love of Christ, because Christ died for all (Calvinism is a lie), therefore all need Christ's salvation. All are dead in their trespasses and sins until they believe the gospel. That should be our motive as well.
15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
Because Christ died for all, they which live in Him should live for Him!
See Romans 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 6:19.
16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
Great verse that might be confusing at first, but this is saying that we don't value people after things of the flesh such as lineage or appearance. It is not what a person is outwardly that matters (probably referencing the troublemakers of verse 12), but who they are in Christ.
They knew Christ in the flesh, valued His descent from David, and probably some of the Corinthians had seen Christ in person. Yet that's not what matters; knowing Christ spiritually is what matters.
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
People sometimes take this verse out of context to teach that if you are "really saved" then you'll be an entirely different person on day 1. Read with the previous verses it's easy to see that this is saying that old things are not to be considered in how we judge or value someone. The old things have become irrelevant if someone is in Christ.
So positionally all things are new before God.
See James 2:1-4.
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
All the new things that exist, our new status as believers, belong to God because we did not achieve it by our own effort.
The term "reconcile" means to reestablish friendly relations between two parties who are estranged. Because of what Christ did, we can have peace with God, and also we are given the ministry of this reconciliation! When we give the gospel we give people an opportunity to have peace with God.
Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
This is an interesting verse and can have slightly different meanings depending on where you put the comma. Was God in Christ (meaning, Christ is God) reconciling, OR was God by way of Christ reconciling? Both are true statements
This is the "substitutional atonement" - this verse and the last verse. God the Son by condescending into the human condition being manifest in the flesh and dying for the sins of the world, reconciled us to God the Father by imputing our sins to Christ instead of us. Christ died for all of our sins, past, present, and future. He took it all on Himself.
Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Hebrews 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Psalm 32:2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
As ambassadors, we represent Christ here on earth. That is our duty. What a tremendous responsibility. This was Paul's duty and again a defense of his ministry that he is an ambassador speaking on behalf of the Lord.
As ambassadors, our word spoken (which carries the weight as if God spoke it because we are quoting Scripture) is, "be ye reconciled to God."
Adam Clarke, "Ambassador is a person sent from one sovereign power to another; and is supposed to represent the person of the sovereign by whom he is deputed."
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
The Father imputed our sin onto Jesus who remained sinless in Himself, just as Christ's righteousness is imputed onto us even though we remain sinners.
1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
See Romans 5:18-19