2 Corinthians 5
The apostle proceeds in showing the reasons why they did not faint
under their afflictions, namely, their expectation, desire, and
assurance of happiness after death
(2 Corinthians 5:1-5),
and deduces an inference for the comfort of believers in their present
(2 Corinthians 5:6-8),
and another to quicken them in their duty,
2 Corinthians 5:9-11.
Then he makes an apology for seeming to commend himself, and gives a
good reason for his zeal and diligence
(2 Corinthians 5:12-15),
and mentions two things that are necessary in order to our living to
Christ, regeneration and reconciliation,
2 Corinthians 5:16-21.
|The Believer's Prospect beyond Death.
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1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle
were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with
hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon
with our house which is from heaven:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
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.
5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God,
who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we
are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent
from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may
be accepted of him.
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.
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.
The apostle in these verses pursues the argument of the former chapter,
concerning the grounds of their courage and patience under afflictions.
I. He mentions their expectation, and desire, and assurance, of eternal
happiness after death,
2 Corinthians 5:1-5.
1. The believer's expectation of eternal happiness after death,
2 Corinthians 5:1.
He does not only know, or is well assured by faith of the truth and
reality of the thing itself--that there is another and a happy life
after this present life is ended, but he has good hope through grace of
his interest in that everlasting blessedness of the unseen world: "We
know that we have a building of God, we have a firm and well-grounded
expectation of the future felicity." Let us take notice,
(1.) What heaven is in the eye and hope of a believer. He looks upon it
as a house, or habitation, a dwelling-place, a resting-place, a
hiding-place, our Father's house, where there are many mansions, and
our everlasting home. It is a house in the heavens, in that high and
holy place which as far excels all the palaces of this earth as the
heavens are high above the earth. It is a building of God, whose
builder and maker is God, and therefore is worthy of its author; the
happiness of the future state is what God hath prepared for those that
love him. It is eternal in the heavens, everlasting habitations, not
like the earthly tabernacles, the poor cottages of clay in which our
souls now dwell, which are mouldering and decaying, and whose
foundations are in the dust.
(2.) When it is expected this happiness shall be enjoyed--immediately
after death, so soon as our house of this earthly tabernacle is
[1.] That the body, this earthly house, is but a tabernacle, that must
be dissolved shortly; the nails or pins will be drawn, and the cords be
loosed, and then the body will return to dust as it was.
[2.] When this comes to pass, then comes the house not made with hands.
The spirit returns to God who gave it; and such as have walked with God
here shall dwell with God for ever.
2. The believer's earnest desire after this future blessedness, which
is expressed by this word, stenazomen--we groan,
(1.) A groaning of sorrow under a heavy load; so believers groan under
the burden of life: In this we groan earnestly,
2 Corinthians 5:2.
We that are in this tabernacle groan, being burdened,
2 Corinthians 5:4.
The body of flesh is a heavy burden, the calamities of life are a heavy
load. But believers groan because burdened with a body of sin, and the
many corruptions that are still remaining and raging in them. This
makes them complain, O wretched man that I am!
(2.) There is a groaning of desire after the happiness of another life;
and thus believers groan: Earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with
our house which is from heaven
(2 Corinthians 5:2),
to obtain a blessed immortality, that mortality might be swallowed
up of life
(2 Corinthians 5:4),
that being found clothed, we may not be naked
(2 Corinthians 5:3),
that, if it were the will of God, we might not sleep, but be changed;
for it is not desirable in itself to be unclothed. Death considered
merely as a separation of soul and body is not to be desired, but
rather dreaded; but, considered as a passage to glory, the believer is
willing rather to die than live, to be absent from the body,
that he may be present with the Lord
(2 Corinthians 5:1),
to leave this body that he may go to Christ, and to put off these rags
of mortality that he may put on the robes of glory. Note,
[1.] Death will strip us of the clothing of flesh, and all the comforts
of life, as well as put an end to all our troubles here below. Naked we
came into this world, and naked shall we go out of it. But,
[2.] Gracious souls are not found naked in the other world; no, they
are clothed with garments of praise, with robes of righteousness and
glory. They shall be delivered out of all their troubles, and shall
have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,
3. The believer's assurance of his interest in this future blessedness,
on a double account:--
(1.) From the experience of the grace of God, in preparing and making
him meet for this blessedness. He that hath wrought us for the
self-same thing is God,
2 Corinthians 5:5.
Note, All who are designed for heaven hereafter are wrought or prepared
for heaven while they are here; the stones of that spiritual building
and temple above are squared and fashioned here below. And he that hath
wrought us for this is God, because nothing less than a divine power
can make a soul partaker of a divine nature; no hand less than the hand
of God can work us for this thing. A great deal is to be done to
prepare our souls for heaven, and that preparation of the heart is from
(2.) The earnest of the Spirit gave them this assurance: for an
earnest is part of payment, and secures the full payment. The present
graces and comforts of the Spirit are earnests of everlasting grace and
II. The apostle deduces an inference for the comfort of believers in
their present state and condition in this world,
2 Corinthians 5:6-8.
1. What their present state or condition is: they are absent from
(2 Corinthians 5:6);
they are pilgrims and strangers in this world; they do but sojourn here
in their earthly home, or in this tabernacle; and though God is with us
here, by his Spirit, and in his ordinances, yet we are not with him as
we hope to be: we cannot see his face while we live: For we walk by
faith, not by sight,
2 Corinthians 5:7.
We have not the vision and fruition of God, as of an object that is
present with us, and as we hope for hereafter, when we shall see as
we are seen. Note, Faith is for this world, and sight is reserved
for the other world: and it is our duty, and will be our interest, to
walk by faith, till we come to live by sight.
2. How comfortable and courageous we ought to be in all the troubles of
life, and in the hour of death: Therefore we are, or ought to
be, always confident
(2 Corinthians 5:6),
(2 Corinthians 5:8),
We are confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body.
True Christians, if they duly considered the prospect faith gives them
of another world, and the good reasons of their hope of blessedness
after death, would be comforted under the troubles of life, and
supported in the hour of death: they should take courage, when they are
encountering the last enemy, and be willing rather to die than live,
when it is the will of God that they should put off this
tabernacle. Note, As those who are born from above long to be
there, so it is but being absent from the body, and we shall very soon
be present with the Lord--but to die, and be with Christ--but to close
our eyes to all things in this world, and we shall open them in a world
of glory. Faith will be turned into sight.
III. He proceeds to deduce an inference to excite and quicken himself
and others to duty,
2 Corinthians 5:9-11.
So it is that well-grounded hopes of heaven will be far from giving the
least encouragement to sloth and sinful security; on the contrary, they
should stir us up to use the greatest care and diligence in religion:
Wherefore, or because we hope to be present with the Lord, we
labour and take pains,
2 Corinthians 5:9.
Philotimoumetha--We are ambitious, and labour as
industriously as the most ambitious men do to obtain what they aim at.
1. What it was that the apostle was thus ambitious of--acceptance
with God. We labour that, living and dying, whether present in the
body or absent from the body, we may be accepted of him, the
(2 Corinthians 5:9),
that we may please him who hath chosen us, that our great Lord
may say to us, Well done. This they coveted as the greatest
favour and the highest honour: it was the summit of their ambition.
2. What further quickening motives they had to excite their diligence,
from the consideration of the judgment to come,
2 Corinthians 5:10,11.
There are many things relating to this great matter that should awe the
best of men into the utmost care and diligence in religion; for
example, the certainty of this judgment, for we must appear; the
universality of it, for we must all appear; the great Judge before
whose judgment-seat we must appear, the Lord Jesus Christ, who himself
will appear in flaming fire; the recompence to be then received, for
things done in the body, which will be very particular (unto every
one), and very just, according to what we have done, whether good or
bad. The apostle calls this awful judgment the terror of the
(2 Corinthians 5:11),
and, by the consideration thereof, was excited to persuade men to
repent, and live a holy life, that, when Christ shall appear terribly,
they may appear before him comfortably. And, concerning his fidelity
and diligence, he comfortably appeals unto God, and the consciences of
those he wrote to: We are made manifest unto God, and I trust also
are made manifest in your consciences.
|Apology for Seeming Self-Commendation.
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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.
13 For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or
whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus
judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
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.
Here observe, I. The apostle makes an apology for seeming to commend
himself and his fellow-labourers
(2 Corinthians 5:13),
and tells them,
1. It was not to commend themselves, nor for their own sakes, that he
had spoken of their fidelity and diligence in the
2 Corinthians 5:1-11;
nor was he willing to suspect their good opinion of him. But,
2. The true reason was this, to put an argument in their mouths
wherewith to answer his accusers, who made vain boastings, and gloried
in appearances only; that he might give them an occasion to glory on
their behalf, or to defend them against the reproaches of their
adversaries. And if the people can say that the word has been
manifested to their consciences, and been effectual to their conversion
and edification, this is the best defence they can make for the
ministry of the word, when they are vilified and reproached.
II. He gives good reasons for their great zeal and diligence. Some of
Paul's adversaries had, it is likely, reproached him for his zeal and
fervour, as if he had been a madman, or, in the language of our days, a
fanatic; they imputed all to enthusiasm, as the Roman governor told
him, Much learning has made thee mad,
But the apostle tells them,
1. It was for the glory of God, and the good of the church, that he was
thus zealous and industrious: "Whether we be beside ourselves, or
whether we be sober (whether you or others do think the one or the
other), it is to God, and for his glory: and it is for your
cause, or to promote your good,"
2 Corinthians 5:13.
If they manifested the greatest ardour and vehemency at some times, and
used the greatest calmness in strong reasonings at other times, it was
for the best ends; and in both methods they had good reason for what
they did. For,
2. The love of Christ constrained them,
2 Corinthians 5:14.
They were under the sweetest and strongest constraints to do what they
did. Love has a constraining virtue to excite ministers and private
Christians in their duty. Our love to Christ will have this virtue; and
Christ's love to us, which was manifested in this great instance of his
dying for us, will have this effect upon us, if it be duly considered
and rightly judged of. For observe how the apostle argues for the
reasonableness of love's constraints, and declares,
(1.) What we were before, and must have continued to be, had not Christ
died for us: We were dead,
2 Corinthians 5:14.
If one died for all, then were all dead; dead in law, under
sentence of death; dead in sins and trespasses, spiritually dead. Note,
This was the deplorable condition of all those for whom Christ died:
they were lost and undone, dead and ruined, and must have remained thus
miserable for ever if Christ had not died for them.
(2.) What such should do, for whom Christ died; namely, that they
should live to him. This is what Christ designed, that those who
live, who are made alive unto God by means of his death, should
live to him that died for them, and rose again for their sakes
also, and that they should not live to themselves,
2 Corinthians 5:15.
Note, We should not make ourselves, but Christ, the end of our living
and actions: and it was one end of Christ's death to cure us of this
self-love, and to excite us always to act under the commanding
influence of his love. A Christian's life should be consecrated to
Christ; and then do we live as we ought to live when we live to Christ,
who died for us.
|Ministry of the Apostles.
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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.
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to
himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of
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.
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.
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.
In these verses the apostle mentions two things that are necessary in
order to our living to Christ, both of which are the consequences of
Christ's dying for us; namely, regeneration and reconciliation.
I. Regeneration, which consists of two things; namely,
1. Weanedness from the world: "Henceforth we know no man after the
2 Corinthians 5:16.
We do not own nor affect any person or thing in this world for carnal
ends and outward advantage: we are enabled, by divine grace, not to
mind nor regard this world, nor the things of this world, but to live
above it. The love of Christ is in our hearts, and the world is under
our feet." Note, Good Christians must enjoy the comforts of this life,
and their relations in this world, with a holy indifference. Yea,
though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet, says the apostle,
we know him no more. It is questioned whether Paul had seen
Christ in the flesh. However, the rest of the apostles had, and so
might some among those he was now writing to. However, he would not
have them value themselves upon that account; for even the bodily
presence of Christ is not to be desired nor doted upon by his
disciples. We must live upon his spiritual presence, and the comfort it
affords. Note, Those who make images of Christ, and use them in their
worship, do not take the way that God has appointed for strengthening
their faith and quickening their affections; for it is the will of God
that we should not know Christ any more after the flesh.
2. A thorough change of the heart: For if any man be in Christ,
if any man be a Christian indeed, and will approve himself such, he
is, or he must be, a new creature,
2 Corinthians 5:17.
Some read it, Let him be a new creature. This ought to be the
care of all who profess the Christian faith, that they be new
creatures; not only that they have a new name, and wear a new livery,
but that they have a new heart and new nature. And so great is the
change the grace of God makes in the soul, that, as it follows, old
things are passed away--old thoughts, old principles, and old
practices, are passed away; and all these things must become
new. Note, Regenerating grace creates a new world in the soul; all
things are new. The renewed man acts from new principles, by new rules,
with new ends, and in new company.
II. Reconciliation, which is here spoken of under a double notion:--
1. As an unquestionable privilege,
2 Corinthians 5:18,19.
Reconciliation supposes a quarrel, or breach of friendship; and sin has
made a breach, it has broken the friendship between God and man. The
heart of the sinner is filled with enmity against God, and God is
justly offended with the sinner. Yet, behold, there may be a
reconciliation; the offended Majesty of heaven is willing to be
reconciled. And observe,
1. He has appointed the Mediator of reconciliation. He has reconciled
us to himself by Jesus Christ,
2 Corinthians 5:18.
God is to be owned from first to last in the undertaking and
performance of the Mediator. All things relating to our reconciliation
by Jesus Christ are of God, who by the mediation of Jesus Christ has
reconciled the world to himself, and put himself into a capacity of
being actually reconciled to offenders, without any wrong or injury to
his justice or holiness, and does not impute to men their trespasses,
but recedes from the rigour of the first covenant, which was broken,
and does not insist upon the advantage he might justly take against us
for the breach of that covenant, but is willing to enter into a new
treaty, and into a new covenant of grace, and, according to the tenour
thereof, freely to forgive us all our sins, and justify freely by his
grace all those who do believe.
2. He has appointed the ministry of reconciliation,
2 Corinthians 5:18.
By the inspiration of God the scriptures were written, which contain
the word of reconciliation, showing us that peace was made by the blood
of the cross, that reconciliation is wrought, and directing us how we
may be interested therein. And he has appointed the office of the
ministry, which is a ministry of reconciliation: ministers are
to open and proclaim to sinners the terms of mercy and reconciliation,
and persuade them to comply therewith. For,
2. Reconciliation is here spoken of as our indispensable duty,
2 Corinthians 5:20.
As God is willing to be reconciled to us, we ought to be reconciled to
God. And it is the great end and design of the gospel, that word of
reconciliation, to prevail upon sinners to lay aside their enmity
against God. Faithful ministers are Christ's ambassadors, sent to treat
with sinners on peace and reconciliation: they come in God's name, with
his entreaties, and act in Christ's stead, doing the very thing he did
when he was upon this earth, and what he wills to be done now that he
is in heaven. Wonderful condescension! Though God can be no loser by
the quarrel, nor gainer by the peace, yet by his ministers he beseeches
sinners to lay aside their enmity, and accept of the terms he offers,
that they would be reconciled to him, to all his attributes, to all his
laws, and to all his providences, to believe in the Mediator, to accept
the atonement, and comply with his gospel, in all the parts of it and
in the whole design of it. And for our encouragement so to do the
apostle subjoins what should be well known and duly considered by us
(2 Corinthians 5:21),
(1.) The purity of the Mediator: He knew no sin.
(2.) The sacrifice he offered: He was made sin; not a sinner,
but sin, that is, a sin-offering, a sacrifice for sin.
(3.) The end and design of all this: that we might be made the
righteousness of God in him, might be justified freely by the grace
of God through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Note,
[1.] As Christ, who knew no sin of his own, was made sin for us, so we,
who have no righteousness of our own, are made the righteousness of God
[2.] Our reconciliation to God is only through Jesus Christ, and for
the sake of his merit: on him therefore we must rely, and make mention
of his righteousness and his only.