Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible 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.
2Co 5:1-21. The Hope (2Co 4:17, 18) OF Eternal Glory in the Resurrection Body.
Hence arises his ambition to be accepted at the Lord's coming judgment. Hence, too, his endeavor to deal openly with men, as with God, in preaching; thus giving the Corinthians whereof to boast concerning him against his adversaries. His constraining motive is the transforming love of Christ, by whom God has wrought reconciliation between Himself and men, and has committed to the apostle the ministry of reconciliation.
1. For—Assigning the reason for the statement (2Co 4:17), that affliction leads to exceeding glory.
we know—assuredly (2Co 4:14; Job 19:25).
if—For all shall not die; many shall be "changed" without "dissolution" (1Co 15:51-53). If this daily delivering unto death (2Co 3:11) should end in actual death.
earthly—not the same as earthy (1Co 15:47). It stands in contrast to "in the heavens."
house of this tabernacle—rather, "house of the tabernacle." "House" expresses more permanency than belongs to the body; therefore the qualification, "of the tabernacle" (implying that it is shifting, not stationary), is added (compare Job 4:19; 2Pe 1:13, 14). It thus answers to the tabernacle in the wilderness. Its wooden frame and curtains wore out in course of time when Israel dwelt in Canaan, and a fixed temple was substituted for it. The temple and the tabernacle in all essentials were one; there was the same ark, the same cloud of glory. Such is the relation between the "earthly" body and the resurrection body. The Holy Spirit is enshrined in the believer's body as in a sanctuary (1Co 3:16). As the ark went first in taking down the wilderness tabernacle, so the soul (which like the ark is sprinkled with blood of atonement, and is the sacred deposit in the inmost shrine, 2Ti 1:12) in the dissolution of the body; next the coverings were removed, answering to the flesh; lastly, the framework and boards, answering to the bones, which are last to give way (Nu 4:1-49). Paul, as a tent-maker, uses an image taken from his trade (Ac 18:3).
dissolved—a mild word for death, in the case of believers.
we have—in assured prospect of possession, as certain as if it were in our hands, laid up "in the heavens" for us. The tense is present (compare Joh 3:36; 6:47, "hath").
a building of God—rather "from God." A solid building, not a temporary tabernacle or tent. "Our" body stands in contrast to "from God." For though our present body be also from God, yet it is not fresh and perfect from His hands, as our resurrection body shall be.
not made with hands—contrasted with houses erected by man's hands (1Co 15:44-49). So Christ's body is designated, as contrasted with the tabernacle reared by Moses (Mr 14:58; Heb 9:11). This "house" can only be the resurrection body, in contrast to the "earthly house of the tabernacle," our present body. The intermediate state is not directly taken into account. A comma should separate "eternal," and "in the heavens."
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
2. For in this—Greek, "For also in this"; "herein" (2Co 8:10). Alford takes it, "in this" tabernacle. 2Co 5:4, which seems parallel, favors this. But the parallelism is sufficiently exact by making "in this we groan" refer generally to what was just said (2Co 5:1), namely, that we cannot obtain our "house in the heavens" except our "earthly tabernacle" be first dissolved by death.
we groan—(Ro 8:23) under the body's weaknesses now and liability to death.
earnestly desiring to be clothed upon—translate, "earnestly longing to have ourselves clothed upon," &c., namely, by being found alive at Christ's coming, and so to escape dissolution by death (2Co 5:1, 4), and to have our heavenly body put on over the earthly. The groans of the saints prove the existence of the longing desire for the heavenly glory, a desire which cannot be planted by God within us in vain, as doomed to disappointment.
our house—different Greek from that in 2Co 5:1; translate, "our habitation," "our domicile"; it has a more distinct reference to the inhabitant than the general term "house" (2Co 5:1) [Bengel].
from heaven—This domicile is "from heaven" in its origin, and is to be brought to us by the Lord at His coming again "from heaven" (1Th 4:16). Therefore this "habitation" or "domicile" is not heaven itself.
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
3. If so be, &c.—Our "desire" holds good, should the Lord's coming find us alive. Translate, "If so be that having ourselves clothed (with our natural body, compare 2Co 5:4) we shall not be found naked (stripped of our present body)."
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.
4. For—resuming 2Co 5:2.
being burdened: not for that—rather, "in that we desire not to have ourselves unclothed (of our present body), but clothed upon (with our heavenly body).
that mortality, &c.—rather, "that what is mortal (our mortal part) may be swallowed up of (absorbed and transformed into) life." Believers shrink from, not the consequences, but the mere act of dying; especially as believing in the possibility of their being found alive at the Lord's coming (1Th 4:15), and so of having their mortal body absorbed into the immortal without death. Faith does not divest us of all natural feeling, but subordinates it to higher feeling. Scripture gives no sanction to the contempt for the body expressed by philosophers.
Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
5. wrought us—framed us by redemption, justification, and sanctification.
for the selfsame thing—"unto" it; namely, unto what is mortal of us being swallowed up in life (2Co 5:4).
who also—The oldest manuscripts omit "also."
earnest of the Spirit—(See on 2Co 1:22). It is the Spirit (as "the first-fruits") who creates in us the groaning desire for our coming deliverance and glory (Ro 8:23).
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
6. Translate as Greek, "Being therefore always confident and knowing," &c. He had intended to have made the verb to this nominative, "we are willing" (rather, "well content"), but digressing on the word "confident" (2Co 5:6, 7), he resumes the word in a different form, namely, as an assertion: "We are confident and well content." "Being confident … we are confident" may be the Hebraic idiom of emphasis; as Ac 7:34, Greek, "Having seen, I have seen," that is, I have surely seen.
always—under all trials. Bengel makes the contrast between "always confident" and "confident" especially at the prospect of being "absent from the body." We are confident as well at all times, as also most of all in the hope of a blessed departure.
whilst … at home … absent—Translate as Greek, "While we sojourn in our home in the body, we are away from our home in the Lord." The image from a "house" is retained (compare Php 3:20; Heb 11:13-16; 13:14).
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
7. we walk—in our Christian course here on earth.
not by sight—Greek, "not by appearance." Our life is governed by faith in our immortal hope; not by the outward specious appearance of present things [Tittmann, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament]. Compare "apparently," the Septuagint, "by appearance," Nu 12:8. Wahl supports English Version. 2Co 4:18 also confirms it (compare Ro 8:24; 1Co 13:12, 13). God has appointed in this life faith for our great duty, and in the next, vision for our reward [South] (1Pe 1:8).
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
8. willing—literally, "well content." Translate also, "To go (literally, migrate) from our home in the body, and to come to our home with the Lord." We should prefer to be found alive at the Lord's coming, and to be clothed upon with our heavenly body (2Co 5:2-4). But feeling, as we do, the sojourn in the body to be a separation from our true home "with the Lord," we prefer even dissolution by death, so that in the intermediate disembodied state we may go to be "with the Lord" (Php 1:23). "To be with Christ" (the disembodied state) is distinguished from Christ's coming to take us to be with Him in soul and body (1Th 4:14-17, "with the Lord"). Perhaps the disembodied spirits of believers have fulness of communion with Christ unseen; but not the mutual recognition of one another, until clothed with their visible bodies at the resurrection (compare 1Th 4:13-17), when they shall with joy recognize Christ's image in each other perfect.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
9. Wherefore—with such a sure "confidence" of being blessed, whether we die before, or be found alive at Christ's coming.
we labour—literally, "make it our ambition"; the only lawful ambition.
whether present or absent—whether we be found at His coming present in the body, or absent from it.
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.
10. appear—rather, "be made manifest," namely, in our true character. So "appear," Greek, "be manifested" (Col 3:4; compare 1Co 4:5). We are at all times, even now, manifest to God; then we shall be so to the assembled intelligent universe and to ourselves: for the judgment shall be not only in order to assign the everlasting portion to each, but to vindicate God's righteousness, so that it shall be manifest to all His creatures, and even to the conscience of the sinner himself.
receive—His reward of grace proportioned to "the things done," &c. (2Co 9:6-9; 2Jo 8). Though salvation be of grace purely, independent of works, the saved may have a greater or less reward, according as he lives to, and labors for, Christ more or less. Hence there is scope for the holy "ambition" (see on 2Co 5:9; Heb 6:10). This verse guards against the Corinthians supposing that all share in the house "from heaven" (2Co 5:1, 2). There shall be a searching judgment which shall sever the bad from the good, according to their respective,deeds, the motive of the deeds being taken into account, not the mere external act; faith and love to God are the sole motives recognized by God as sound and good (Mt 12:36, 37; 25:35-45),
done in his body—The Greek may be, "by the instrumentality of the body"; but English Version is legitimate (compare Greek, Ro 2:27). Justice requires that substantially the same body which has been the instrument of the unbelievers' sin, should be the object of punishment. A proof of the essential identity of the natural and the resurrection body.
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.
11. terror of the Lord—the coming judgment, so full of terrors to unbelievers [Estius]. Ellicott and Alford, after Grotius and Bengel, translate, "The fear of the Lord" (2Co 7:1; Ec 12:13; Ac 9:31; Ro 3:18; Eph 5:21).
persuade—Ministers should use the terrors of the Lord to persuade men, not to rouse their enmity (Jude 23). Bengel, Estius, and Alford explain: "Persuade men" (by our whole lives, 2Co 5:13), namely, of our integrity as ministers. But this would have been expressed after "persuade," had it been the sense. The connection seems as follows: He had been accused of seeking to please and win men, he therefore says (compare Ga 1:10), "It is as knowing the terror (or fear) of the Lord that we persuade men; but (whether men who hear our preaching recognize our sincerity or not) we are made manifest unto God as acting on such motives (2Co 4:2); and I trust also in your consciences." Those so "manifested" need have no "terror" as to their being "manifested (English Version, 'appear') before the judgment-seat" (2Co 5:10).
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.
12. For—the reason why he leaves the manifestation of his sincerity in preaching to their consciences (2Co 3:1), namely, his not wishing to "commend" himself again.
occasion to glory—(2Co 1:14), namely, as to our sincerity.
in appearance—Greek, "face" (compare 1Sa 16:7). The false teachers gloried in their outward appearance, and in external recommendations (2Co 11:18) their learning, eloquence, wisdom, riches, not in vital religion in their heart. Their conscience does not attest their inward sincerity, as mine does (2Co 1:12).
For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
13. be—rather as Greek, "have been." The contrast is between the single act implied by the past tense, "If we have ever been beside ourselves," and the habitual state implied by the present, "Or whether we be sober," that is, of sound mind. beside ourselves—The accusation brought by Festus against him (Ac 26:24). The holy enthusiasm with which he spake of what God effected by His apostolic ministry, seemed to many to be boasting madness.
sober—humbling myself before you, and not using my apostolic power and privileges.
to God … for your cause—The glorifying of his office was not for his own, but for God's glory. The abasing of himself was in adaptation to their infirmity, to gain them to Christ (1Co 9:22).
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
14. For—Accounting for his being "beside himself" with enthusiasm: the love of Christ towards us (in His death for us, the highest proof of it, Ro 5:6-8), producing in turn love in us to Him, and not mere "terror" (2Co 5:11).
constraineth us—with irresistible power limits us to the one great object to the exclusion of other considerations. The Greek implies to compress forcibly the energies into one channel. Love is jealous of any rival object engrossing the soul (2Co 11:1-3).
because we thus judge—literally, "(as) having judged thus"; implying a judgment formed at conversion, and ever since regarded as a settled truth.
that if—that is, that since. But the oldest manuscripts omit "if." "That one died for all (Greek, 'in behalf of all')." Thus the following clause will be, "Therefore all (literally, 'the all,' namely, for whom He 'died') died." His dying is just the same as if they all died; and in their so dying, they died to sin and self, that they might live to God their Redeemer, whose henceforth they are (Ro 6:2-11; Ga 2:20; Col 3:3; 1Pe 4:1-3).
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.
15. they which live—in the present life (2Co 4:11, "we which live") [Alford]; or, they who are thus indebted to Him for life of soul as well as body [Menochius].
died for them—He does not add, "rose again for them," a phrase not found in Paul's language [Bengel]. He died in their stead, He arose again for their good, "for (the effecting of) their justification" (Ro 4:25), and that He might be their Lord (Ro 14:7-9). Ellicott and Alford join "for them" with both "died" and "rose again"; as Christ's death is our death, so His resurrection is our resurrection; Greek, "Who for them died and rose again."
not henceforth—Greek, "no longer"; namely, now that His death for them has taken place, and that they know that His death saves them from death eternal, and His resurrection life brings spiritual and everlasting life to them.
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.
16. Wherefore—because of our settled judgment (2Co 5:14),
henceforth—since our knowing Christ's constraining love in His death for us.
know we no man after the flesh—that is, according to his mere worldly and external relations (2Co 11:18; Joh 8:15; Php 3:4), as distinguished from what he is according to the Spirit, as a "new creature" (2Co 5:17). For instance, the outward distinctions of Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, slave or free, learned or unlearned, are lost sight of in the higher life of those who are dead in Christ's death, and alive with Him in the new life of His resurrection (Ga 2:6; 3:28).
yea, though—The oldest manuscripts read, "if even."
known Christ after the flesh—Paul when a Jew had looked for a temporal reigning, not a spiritual, Messiah. (He says "Christ," not Jesus: for he had not known personally Jesus in the days of His flesh, but he had looked for Christ or the Messiah). When once he was converted he no longer "conferred with flesh and blood" (Ga 1:16). He had this advantage over the Twelve, that as one born out of due time he had never known Christ save in His heavenly life. To the Twelve it was "expedient that Christ should go away" that the Comforter should come, and so they might know Christ in the higher spiritual aspect and in His new life-giving power, and not merely "after the flesh," in the carnal aspect of Him (Ro 6:9-11; 1Co 15:45; 1Pe 3:18; 4:1, 2). Doubtless Judaizing Christians at Corinth prided themselves on the mere fleshly (2Co 11:18) advantage of their belonging to Israel, the nation of Christ, or on their having seen Him in the flesh, and thence claimed superiority over others as having a nearer connection with Him (2Co 5:12; 2Co 10:7). Paul here shows the true aim should be to know Him spiritually as new creatures (2Co 5:15, 17), and that outward relations towards Him profit nothing (Lu 18:19-21; Joh 16:7, 22; Php 3:3-10). This is at variance with both Romish Mariolatry and transubstantiation. Two distinct Greek verbs are used here for "know"; the first ("know we no man") means "to be personally acquainted with"; the latter ("known Christ … know … more") is to recognize, or estimate. Paul's estimate of Christ, or the expected Messiah, was carnal, but is so now 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.
17. Therefore—connected with the words in 2Co 5:16, "We know Christ no more after the flesh." As Christ has entered on His new heavenly life by His resurrection and ascension, so all who are "in Christ" (that is, united to Him by faith as the branch is In the vine) are new creatures (Ro 6:9-11). "New" in the Greek implies a new nature quite different from anything previously existing, not merely recent, which is expressed by a different Greek word (Ga 6:15).
creature—literally, "creation," and so the creature resulting from the creation (compare Joh 3:3, 5; Eph 2:10; 4:23; Col 3:10, 11). As we are "in Christ," so "God was in Christ" (2Co 5:19): hence He is Mediator between God and us.
old things—selfish, carnal views (compare 2Co 5:16) of ourselves, of other men, and of Christ.
passed away—spontaneously, like the snow of early spring [Bengel] before the advancing sun.
behold—implying an allusion to Isa 43:19; 65:17.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
18. all—Greek, "THE."
things—all our privileges in this new creation (2Co 5:14, 15).
reconciled us—that is, restored us ("the world," 2Co 5:19) to His favor by satisfying the claims of justice against us. Our position judicially considered in the eye of the law is altered, not as though the mediation of Christ had made a change in God's character, nor as if the love of God was produced by the mediation of Christ; nay, the mediation and sacrifice of Christ was the provision of God's love, not its moving cause (Ro 8:32). Christ's blood was the price paid at the expense of God Himself, and was required to reconcile the exercise of mercy with justice, not as separate, but as the eternally harmonious attributes in the one and the same God (Ro 3:25, 26). The Greek "reconcile" is reciprocally used as in the Hebrew Hithpahel conjugation, appease, obtain the favor of. Mt 5:24, "Be reconciled to thy brother"; that is, take measures that he be reconciled to thee, as well as thou to him, as the context proves. Diallagethi, however (Mt 5:24), implying mutual reconciliation, is distinct from Katallagethi here, the latter referring to the change of status wrought in one of the two parties. The manner of God reconciling the world to Himself is implied (2Co 5:19), namely, by His "not imputing their trespasses to them." God not merely, as subsequently, reconciles the world by inducing them to lay aside their enmity, but in the first instance, does so by satisfying His own justice and righteous enmity against sin (Ps 7:11). Compare 1Sa 29:4, "Reconcile himself unto his master"; not remove his own anger against his master, but his master's against him [Archbishop Magee, Atonement]. The reconciling of men to God by their laying aside their enmity is the consequence of God laying aside His just enmity against their sin, and follows at 2Co 5:20.
to us—ministers (2Co 5:19, 20).
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.
19. God was in Christ, reconciling—that is, God was BY Christ (in virtue of Christ's intervention) reconciling," &c. Was reconciling" implies the time when the act of reconciliation was being carried into effect (2Co 5:21), namely, when "God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us." The compound of "was" and the participle "reconciling," instead of the imperfect (Greek), may also imply the continuous purpose of God, from before the foundation of the world, to reconcile man to Himself, whose fall was foreseen. The expression " IN Christ" for "by Christ" may be used to imply additionally that God was IN Christ (Joh 10:38; 14:10), and so by Christ (the God-man) was reconciling … The Greek for "by" or "through" Christ (the best manuscripts omit "Jesus"), 2Co 5:18, is different. "In" must mean here in the person of Christ. The Greek Katallasson implies "changing" or altering the judicial status from one of condemnation to one of justification. The atonement (at-one-ment), or reconciliation, is the removal of the bar to peace and acceptance with a holy God, which His righteousness interposed against our sin. The first step towards restoring peace between us and God was on God's side (Joh 3:16). The change therefore now to be effected must be on the part of offending man, God the offended One being already reconciled. It is man, not God, who now needs to be reconciled, and to lay aside his enmity against God (Ro 5:10, 11). ("We have received the atonement" [Greek, reconciliation], cannot mean "We have received the laying aside of our own enmity"). Compare Ro 3:24, 25.
the world—all men (Col 1:20; 1Jo 2:2). The manner of the reconciling is by His "not imputing to men their trespasses," but imputing them to Christ the Sin-bearer. There is no incongruity that a father should be offended with that son whom he loveth, and at that time offended with him when he loveth him. So, though God loved men whom He created, yet He was offended with them when they sinned, and gave His Son to suffer for them, that through that Son's obedience He might be reconciled to them (reconcile them to Himself, that is, restore them WITH JUSTICE to His favor) [Bishop Pearson, Exposition of the Creed].
hath committed unto us—Greek, "hath put into our hands." "Us," that is, ministers.
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.
20. for Christ … in Christ's stead—The Greek of both is the same: translate in both cases "on Christ's behalf."
beseech … pray—rather, "entreat [plead with you] … beseech." Such "beseeching" is uncommon in the case of "ambassadors," who generally stand on their dignity (compare 2Co 10:2; 1Th 2:6, 7).
be ye reconciled to God—English Version here inserts "ye," which is not in the original, and which gives the wrong impression, as if it were emphatic thus: God is reconciled to you, be ye reconciled to God. The Greek expresses rather, God was the RECONCILER in Christ … let this reconciliation then have its designed effect. Be reconciled to God, that is, let God reconcile you to Himself (2Co 5:18, 19).
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.
21. For—omitted in the oldest manuscripts. The grand reason why they should be reconciled to God, namely, the great atonement in Christ provided by God, is stated without the "for" as being part of the message of reconciliation (2Co 5:19).
sin—not a sin offering, which would destroy the antithesis to "righteousness," and would make "sin" be used in different senses in the same sentence: not a sinful person, which would be untrue, and would require in the antithesis "righteous men," not "righteousness"; but "sin," that is, the representative Sin-bearer (vicariously) of the aggregate sin of all men past, present, and future. The sin of the world is one, therefore the singular, not the plural, is used; though its manifestations are manifold (Joh 1:29). "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the SIN of the world." Compare "made a curse for us," Ga 3:13.
for us—Greek, "in our behalf." Compare Joh 3:14, Christ being represented by the brazen serpent, the form, but not the substance, of the old serpent. At His death on the cross the sin-bearing for us was consummated.
knew no sin—by personal experience (Joh 8:46) [Alford]. Heb 7:26; 1Pe 2:22; 1Jo 3:5.
might be made—not the same Greek as the previous "made." Rather, "might become."
the righteousness of God—Not merely righteous, but righteousness itself; not merely righteousness, but the righteousness of God, because Christ is God, and what He is we are (1Jo 4:17), and He is "made of God unto us righteousness." As our sin is made over to Him, so His righteousness to us (in His having fulfilled all the righteousness of the law for us all, as our representative, Jer 23:6; 1Co 1:30). The innocent was punished voluntarily as if guilty, that the guilty might be gratuitously rewarded as if innocent (1Pe 2:24). "Such are we in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God himself" [Hooker].
in him—by virtue of our standing in Him, and in union with Him [Alford].