ICC New Testament Commentary
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.5:1-5. Here again, as between i and ii, and between iii and iv, the division of chapters is not well made. There is no clear break at this point, and vv. 1-5, or indeed vv. 1-10, have a closer connexion with what precedes than with what follows them. In vv. 1-5 the subject of the sufferings and compensations of Christ’s servants in reference to the hope of the Resurrection is continued.
The opening words show that once more we have an explanation of what has just been stated, especially οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν. Οἴδαμεν γάρ here is equivalent to εἰδότες in 4:14, ‘because we know, fide magna (Beng.). In both cases St Paul goes far beyond human experience, and yet he says, ‘we know.’ He could say that experience had taught him that the Lord Jesus had been raised from the dead, and that he himself had been often rescued from imminent death. But experience had not taught him that God will raise us from the dead, if we die before the Lord comes; or that He will supply us with spiritual bodies, in exchange for our material bodies, if we are still alive when He comes. Yet he has a sureness of conviction which we may perhaps call a Divine intuition. He is confident that in these matters he possesses knowledge which transcends experience, and with the inspiration of a Prophet he declares what has been revealed to him. See on 1 Corinthians 15:20 and 51. For some there will be a resurrection: for others there will be a transformation; for all there will be a spiritual body suitable to the new state of existence. The contrast between material bodies which are daily being wasted and spirits which are daily being renewed, will not continue much longer. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15.
Men of science have contended that in this last point St Paul is confirmed by science; “The same principles which guide us from the continuous existence of the outer world to acknowledge an Unseen, lead us, on the assumption of our own existence after death, to acknowledge a spiritual body. … We certainly hold that, if we are to accept scientific principles, one of the necessary conditions of immortality is a spiritual body, but we as resolutely maintain that of the nature of this spiritual body we are and must probably remain profoundly ignorant” (The Unseen Universe, by Balfour Stewart and P. G. Tait, 4th ed. PP. 7, 8; see also p. 203).
1. οἴδαμεν γάρ. St Paul frequently uses this verb of things which are known by experience and which any Christian may come to know (1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 8:4; Romans 2:2, Romans 2:3:19, Romans 2:8:28; etc.), although for such knowledge γινώσκειν would be the more suitable word. But here οἴδαμεν is used of intuitive knowledge. Haec scientia non est humani ingenii, sed ex Spiritus sancti revelatione manat (Calvin). Comp. the οἶδα γάρ of Job 19:25, Job 19:27, where there is much which resembles this passage, and see on 1 Corinthians 15:51. Bousset thinks that St Paul is appealing to apocalyptic traditions known to him and the Corinthians, but no longer known to us.*
ὅτι ἐάν. ‘That if our earthly tent-dwelling were taken down.’ There is no καί, and we must not translate ‘that even if, etc.’ He is merely taking the case of those who do not live to see the Lord’s return, which he still thinks will be exceptional; most people will live to see it.
ἡ ἐπίγειος ἡμῶν οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους. ‘The earthly house of our tabernacle.’ Vulg. is interesting, but not accurate; Scimus enim quoniam si terrestris domus nostra hujus habitationis dissolvatur, quod aedificationem ex Deo habeamus. Here ὅτι is translated twice, by quoniam, and then superfluously by θυοδ. Hujus is also superfluous, but it is meant to represent τοῦ. In 1 Corinthians 1:20, ὁ κόσμος is rendered hoc seculum, and in 3:19, 4:13, 5:10, 14:10, hic mundus.† Habitatio is trebly unsatisfactory. (1) It makes no sufficient contrast to aedificatio, the one being temporary and fragile, the other permanent and solid. (2) In v. 2, habitatio is used to translate the permanent οἰκητήριον. (3) In v. 4, σκῆνος is rendered tabernaculum. The metaphor of a tent to indicate the human body would readily occur to a σκηνοποιός (Acts 18:3), but St Paul employs it only this once, and it is common enough in literature, although not in N.T. (cf. John 1:14; 2 Peter 1:13, 2 Peter 1:14) or in O.T. (cf. Isaiah 38:12). Modern writers may have had this passage in their minds, as in J. Montgomery’s well-known vers
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
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.
Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
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.
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.
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.
For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
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.
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.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
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.
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.
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.