The Pulpit Commentary

2 Corinthians 5:1-21 (2 Corinthians 5:1-21)

- The Pulpit Commentary

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)

The hope of the future rife is the great support of our efforts.

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2 Corinthians 5:8 (2 Corinthians 5:8)

To be absent, etc.; literally, to be away from the home of the body, but to be at home with the Lord . To be present with the Lord. The hope expressed is exactly the same as in Philippians 1:23 , except that here (as in Philippians 1:4 ) he expresses a desire not "to depart," but to be quit of the body without the necessity for death.

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2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)

Death intervenes between the present state of affliction and the glory of heaven, but death is only the destruction of the body now existing. It is not an end to bodily form and life. This is no speculation of the apostle's; it is an assurance, "for we know " that if this earthly tent be destroyed, it will be followed by an enduring habitation—a mansion, not a tabernacle. In the earthly body he groans, not because it is a body, but because it is flesh and blood suffering under the effects of sin, and hence he longs for the "house which is from heaven." It is a heaven for body as well as soul that he so ardently desires. To be bodiless even in glory is repulsive to his nature, since it would be nakedness. Death is repugnant. The separation of soul and body, however, is only temporary; it is not for unclothing, but for a better clothing, one suited to the capacities of spirit. If the fourth verse repeats the second verse, it enlarges the idea and qualifies it by stating the reason why he would be "clothed upon," viz. "that mortality might be swallowed up of life." And this longing is no mere instinct or natural desire, but a feeling inspired of God, who "hath wrought us for the selfsame thing." A Divine preparation was going on in this provisional tabernacle—a training of the spirit for the vision of Christ and a training of the body for the immortal companionship of the spirit. An "earnest" or pledge of this was already in possession. The sufferings sanctified by the Spirit, the longing, the animation of hope, were so many proofs and tokens of awaiting blessedness. How could he be otherwise than confident? Yea; he is " always confident." Though now confined to the body, yet it is a home that admits of affections and loving fellowships; and though it necessitates absence from the Lord and the house of "many mansions," nevertheless it is a home illumined by faith. "For we walk by faith, not by sight." The home is in the midst of visible objects that exercise our sense of sight, but our Christian walk, or movement from one world to another, is not directed by the eye, but by faith, the sense of the invisible. We know what are the functions of the eye. If we did not, the antithesis would convey no meaning. The eye receives impressions from external things, communicates them to the soul, is a main organ in developing thought and feeling, acts on the imagination and the will, and is continually adding something to the contents of the inward nature. Faith is like it as a medium of reception, unlike it in all else. Faith is not conversant with appearances. We do not see Christ in his glory; we see him (using the term figuratively) in his Word by means of the Spirit; and this seeing is faith. How do we know when we have faith? It attests itself in our capacity to see the path leading to eternal glory, and it enables us to walk therein. The path is from one home to another—from the home on the footstool to the home by the throne of Christ, and faith has the reality and vigour of a home sentiment. So strong and assuring is St. Paul's confidence that he prefers to depart and be with Christ. "At home in the body;" yes, but it is a sad home at best, and trial and affliction had begun to make it dreary to him. To die is to be with the Lord, and he was "willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." Whether absent or present, at home or away from home, we labour that we "may be accepted of him." To make himself and his life acceptable to Christ was paramount to every other desire; to labour was his absorbing thought. Such an energetic soul as his must have felt that its energies were immortal. There was no selfishness in his hope of heaven, no longing to be freed from work, no yearning for the luxury of mere rest. It was to be with Christ, for Christ was his heaven. If this was his confidence, if he was labouring untiringly to be acceptable to the Lord Jesus, was he understood and appreciated as Christ's apostle and servant among men? The burden of life was not the work he did, but the obstacles thrown in his way—the slanders he had to bear, the persecutions open and secret that followed him everywhere. He thinks of the "judgment seat of Christ." It will be a judicial inquiry into works done and "every one" shall "receive ['receive back'] the things done in his body." Measure for measure, whatsoever has been done hero shall return to every one. The individuality of the judgment, the complete unveiling of personal character, the correspondence between the reward and the good done on earth and between the retribution and the evil done here, he brings out distinctly. This was with him a fixed habit of thought. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." How near the two worlds are—the growing field here, the harvest in another existence hereafter! But observe another idea. "We must all appear," we must be made manifest, every one shown in his true character. Not only will there be recompense as a judicial procedure, but a revelation "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." St. Paul had vindicated himself again and again from the charges made against him; but the battle was now going on, nor was there any sign of its speedy abatement. It was natural that he should have the idea of manifestation prominent in his mind, since we all think of the future world very much according to some peculiarity in our experience on earth. How engrossed, heart and soul, in his apostleship is beautifully indicated by the fact that heaven itself was the heaven of St. Paul as the apostle of Christ. The sufferings of the man are never mentioned. First and last, we have the autobiography of an apostle, and hence, looking forward to the glory to be revealed, the supreme felicity is that he will appear in his true character as the Lord's servant.—L.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 - Person and ministry of the apostle further considered; his work as an ambassador.

How was he conducting this ministry, of which he had spoken so much and had yet more to say? It was in full view of accountability to the day of judgment. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men," adding motives to affect them, and not remaining content with arguments to convince their understandings. And in this work he now felt God's approval; before he had declared, "we are confident," and he reaffirms it in the words, "we are made manifest unto God." Every hour he stood at the bar of his conscience an acquitted man, and this conscience was a manifestation of God. Honestly was he striving to please God, as honestly labouring to save them, and in this spirit he was ever seeking to manifest himself to their consciences. If he were a temporizer, a man pleaser, he might adopt worldly arts and captivate them. No; he would address their consciences; the best in them should come to his side or he must lose them. "Savour of life unto life" or "savour of death unto death;" no other alternative. But do not misunderstand us. Commendation is not our object. If we have, as we trust, manifested ourselves to your consciences, then let your consciences speak in our behalf, and let their voices boast in this—that we are truthful in the sight of God and man. This is the way to answer our enemies who "glory in appearance and not in heart." Suffer he would rather than be wrongly vindicated. Do it in the highest way or not at all. "Your cause" is the great interest. No doubt we seem "beside ourselves," or we may appear "sober," but you may boast of this—"it is for your cause." And in this devotion to your well being what motive presses with weight enough to make us endure all things for your sakes? "The love of Christ constraineth us." And wherein is this love so signally demonstrated as to embody and set forth all else that he did? It is love in death. Looking at this Divine death, we form this judgment or reach this conclusion, that he "died for all" because "all were dead—" dead under the Law of God, dead in trespasses and sins, dead legally, morally, spiritually. Nothing less than such an atoning death for all men—so it seems to us the apostle meant—could exert on him this constraining influence. And how should this influence operate? "They which live should not henceforth live unto themselves." The very self had been redeemed by Christ's vicarious death; body, soul, and spirit had been bought with a price, and the price was Christ's blood; and with such a constraining motive, the most potent that the Holy Ghost could bring to bear on the human mind, how could men live unto themselves? If, indeed, the constraining power had its legitimate effect, only one life could result, a life consecrated to "him which died for them and rose again." If, therefore, all being dead, one died for all, that all might live in freedom from selfishness and be the servants of him who had redeemed them from sin and death, we can know henceforth no man after the flesh. The very purpose of Christ's death was that the fleshly life of sin might pass out of view (might be covered over and thus disappear from sight), and another life be entered on, a life in the redeeming Christ. Admitting that this passage presents the moral aspects of Christ's death and the obligations consequent thereupon as they act on moral sentiment, yet the fundamental idea of the apostle is that Christ stood in the stead of sinners, took their guilt upon himself, and made an offering of his life for their rescue. To strengthen this doctrine, he says that, though he once knew Christ after the flesh (as a mere man), he knew him now in a very different way. We are not to suppose that he had seen him in his earthly life, but merely that he knew of him. St. Paul, after his conversion, had an experimental knowledge of Christ as his Redeemer through the sacrificial death of the cross; nor was there any room in his heart for moral sentiment, nor any spiritual force in Christ's teaching and example, nor ground for any trust or hope, till he as "chief of sinners" had realized the righteousness of God in the atoning blood of Calvary. Such a change was a creation. He was "a new creature," and whoever experienced this power of the Lord's death was a new creature. Old things had passed away—the old self in taste and habit, the old unbelief rooted in the fleshly mind, the old worldliness—and all things had become new. No wonder that "all things" had become "new;" for "all things" pertaining to this change in its cause, agency, instrumentalities, "are of God." Strong language this, which sounds even yet to many as the rhetoric of excited fancy; but not stronger than the blessed reality it represents. Nay; words cannot equal the fact. A man may overstate his own experience of Divine grace; never can he exaggerate the grace itself. "All things are of God;" and how is this fact manifested? In the method of reconciliation which is God's act through Christ. "Who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ." To understand what is implied in reconciliation, we must remember that much more is involved in it than the moral state of a sinner's mind toward God. The enmity of the carnal man has to be subdued, and in this sense he is "a new creature," but the possibility of this creation rests upon an antecedent fact, viz. a changed relation to the violated Law of God. What has been done for him must take precedence, as to time, of what is done in him. We must know how God as Sovereign stands to us, and by what means the sovereignty cooperates with the fatherhood of God, before we can accept the offered boon of mercy. There must be a reason why God should pardon in advance of a reason why we should seek pardon. A principle of righteousness must be established as preliminary and essential to the sentiment of Christianity, since it is impossible for us by the laws of the mind to appreciate the power of any great sentiment unless we have previously felt it as connected with a great principle. "Whom God set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith, by his blood, to show his righteousness, because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the Justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus" ( Romans 3:25 , Romans 3:26 , Revised Version). There is a "ministry of reconciliation" because "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing [reckoning] their trespasses unto them." Forgiveness through Christ, the Propitiation, is free to all who believe in him. Nor are we left in doubt as to the substance of our belief. It is faith in Christ, God in Christ, the Reconciler, who pardons our sins and makes us new creatures in him. To make this reconciliation known, to demonstrate its infinite excellence as the method of grace, to show its Divine results in the very men who proclaimed the gospel, Christ had instituted the ministry, and its title was, " ministry of reconciliation ." Recall, O Corinthians, what I have said in defence of my apostleship. Recall my sufferings in your behalf. See the reason of it all. Whom are these factious Judaizers fighting? Whom did those beasts at Ephesus try to destroy? Who is this man, troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, cast down, dying everywhere, dying always? This is the character he sustains, the office he fills—an "ambassador for Christ." Has he manifested himself to your consciences? Does he look forward to the day of judgment as a day of revelation as well as a day of reward and punishment? Know we not a man, not even Christ, after the flesh! Behold your minister, your servant, as an "ambassador," commissioned to offer you the terms of reconciliation. "We pray you in Christ's stead [on behalf of Christ], be ye reconciled to God." Nothing remains to be done but tot you to accept the offered reconciliation. And he enforces this idea by stating that he who "died for all," since "all were dead," had been made "sin for us, who knew no sin." "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;" yet he was "made to be sin for us," made a substitute or ransom, an offering, whereby the wrath of God was turned away. Reconciliation is accomplished not by our repentance and confession of sin, nor by any suffering on our part, nor by any merit of our work, but altogether by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf. God's righteousness is thus set forth. The plan of salvation changed nothing in the character of Almighty God. Neither his righteousness nor his love was modified integrally by Christ's atonement. " God is righteous, " " God is love, " are no truer facts now than they eternally were. What the gospel teaches is that the righteousness and the love of God have assumed special forms of manifestation and operative activity through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is righteousness, not in the normal relation of Law to the original transgressor, but in an instituted relation of Law to one who took the place of the transgressor. It is love as grace, the form of love that provided for the righteousness on which St. Paul lays such an emphasis. It is not a change in the Law, but in the administration of Law, and the glory of it lies in the fact that the Divine government presents in this higher form the resplendent spectacle of that progression from the "natural" to the " spiritual ," which St. Paul discusses in his argument on the resurrection. Whatever obstacles existed in the way of this sublime advance have been removed by Christ. " Mercy and truth " have their existence as attributes of the Divine nature; they have " met together ." " Righteousness and peace " are not to be confounded, but they have " kissed each other ." L.

- The Pulpit Commentary

2 Corinthians 5:1-9 (2 Corinthians 5:1-9)


1 . Frail.

2 . Perishing.

3 . Often a burden.

4 . Frequently a temptation.

5 . Not helpful to spiritual life.

6 . Subject to many pains.

7 . Debased.


1 . Eternal . ( 2 Corinthians 5:1 .) Having no tendencies towards decay, no marks of coming death. A body of life . Stamped with the eternalness of God.

2 . Heavenly . ( 2 Corinthians 5:1 .) The first body is of the earth, earthy; the second body is spiritual and heavenly in origin and character. Capable of heavenly joys. Fitted for heavenly service. Free from earthly weaknesses, pains, and soil.

3 . From God . ( 2 Corinthians 5:1 .) The present body is this in a certain sense, but it has passed through the hands of the devil. The resurrection body shall be of God and only of God, his unmarred workmanship. It shall be like the glorified body united to Deity in the person of Jesus Christ: "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory" ( Philippians 3:21 ).

III. THE SAINT 'S CONDITION WHILST IN THE EARTHLY BODY . Frequently a condition of sorrow. "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened" ( 2 Corinthians 5:4 ). There are


1 . Revelation .

2 . Preparation . "He that wrought us for this very thing" (verse 5).

3 . The Spirit ' s witness . We have the earnest of the Spirit, which is a pledge of the fulness of the Spirit (verse 5). In the next life we shall be dominated by the Spirit; shall have a spiritual body—one pervaded by the Spirit. The apostle's confidence is strong; he says, "We know; " there was no uncertainty about the matter.

V. THE SAINT 'S LONGING FOR THE HEAVENLY BODY . The desire is very intense especially when the lot is hard and the nature spiritual. "We groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven" (verse 2). The paramount attraction is, however, not in the body itself, but. in the fact that the union with Christ will be closer. We shall be present with the Lord— at home with the Lord (verse 8). Now we walk by faith; then we shall see him as he is, and be like him. The gaining of the heavenly body will be the gain of closer access to our Lord, and will be the entering into our heavenly home, out of which we shall go no more forever.


1 . The intermediate state between death and the resurrection will probably not be so perfect as that which follows.

2 . There is a natural shrinking from death. "Not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon" (verse 4). The apostle seems to desire what is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 —a translation, not death and tarrying for the resurrection.

VII. THE SAINT 'S RESOLUTION WHETHER IN THE EARTHLY OR HEAVENLY BODY . To please Christ. This the apostle made his "aim" ( 1 Thessalonians 4:9 ). This was his supreme ambition. He resolved to live, not to himself, but to Christ and for Christ. Note, that the life for the heavenly and earthly body is to be the same. We must do now what we hope to do by and by. Heavenly life in the earthly body is the preparation for the heavenly life in the heavenly body.—H.

2 Corinthians 5:10 - The judgment.


1 . It is a matter of most definite revelation.

2 . It is necessary for the vindication of Divine justice.

II. CHRIST WILL BE THE JUDGE . "The judgment seat of Christ."

1 . A very solemn fact

2 . A very joyous fact for those who have loved, confessed, and served him.

3 . A very impressive tact that the One who died for men will judge men.

III. ALL WILL STAND BEFORE CHRIST 'S JUDGMENT SEAT . Not one will be missing. How vast an assemblage! A great multitude, and yet no one test in the crowd! We shall be conscious of the great number which no man can number, and yet be impressed with our own individuality. " Each one " will receive ( 2 Corinthians 5:10 ) —one by one . Every day we are brought a day nearer to that dread convocation.


1 . Of character .

2 . Of condition .

3 . Of life.

We shall be "made manifest." Life secrets will cease. Successful deceptions will be successful no longer. All veils and disguises will be torn off. The world as well as God will see us as we are.

V. AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST WE SHALL RECEIVE OUR DOOM . This will be according to the deeds of our life. Will the faithful then be justified by faith? Yes; by faith which produces works . Profession will then go for very little. "Lord, Lord," will be but an empty cry. Ability to pray fluently or to preach eloquently will not come into the account. Nor the ability to look extremely pious. Nor facility of talk respecting "blessed seasons" enjoyed on earth, What faith has wrought in us will be the question . What our Christianity has amounted to really and practically. "A name to live" then will be nothing if we are found "dead." Upon the branch professedly united to the Vine fruit will then be sought. "Faith without works is dead." At the judgment it will seem very dead indeed. Yet not by the mere outward act shall we be judged. The motive will be considered as well as the actual deed. "Faith which worketh by love" ( Galatians 5:6 ) will be diligently sought for. Note:

1 . The distinction between good and evil will be strictly drawn at the judgment.

2 . There will be degrees of reward and punishment. Some "saved as by fire;" some having an "abundant entrance;" some beaten with few stripes, some with many. It will be " according to what he hath done."

3 . The dependence of the future upon the present. We shall receive the things done in the body . A remarkable expression. What we do now we shall receive then. We are now writing the sentence of the judgment! Time is sowing . Judgment is reaping . "What manner of persons ought we to be?"—H.

2 Corinthians 5:14 - The constraining influence of the love of Christ.


1 . Advent . Relinquishment of heavenly glory. The highest place above exchanged for one of the lowest on earth.

2 . Assumption of human nature . A vast condescension. A most striking proof of love.

3 . Life . Miracles, acts of kindness, words, spirit.

4 . Death . A transcendent proof.

(a) physically,

(b) mentally, and

(c) spiritually.

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

5 . Intercession . "He ever liveth to make intercession" ( Hebrews 7:25 ).

II. CONSIDER THE EFFECT OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST . It constrained the apostle—"compressed with irresistible power all his energies into one channel." "Constraineth"—its influence was continuous . Its power was not soon spent; rather that power increased as the love of Christ was increasingly realized.

1 . Negatively . Not to live to himself ( 2 Corinthians 5:15 ). There was now a greater power operating upon him than the mighty power of self.

2 . Positively . To live to Christ ( 2 Corinthians 5:15 ). The love of Christ overmastered him. He felt that through it he had been purchased with a great price, and therefore sought to glorify Christ in his body and spirit which were peculiarly his.

2 Corinthians 5:17 - "A new creature."


1 . The believer has died with Christ . ( 2 Corinthians 5:14 .) Christ is his Substitute, has borne his sins, has made complete satisfaction for his guilt. By faith he is so united to Christ that what Christ has done is imputed to him. He is thus new in relation to God. He was condemned; now he is justified.

2 . The believer partakes of the life of Christ . He is "risen with Christ" ( Colossians 3:1 ). He has received the Spirit of Christ. Having been justified, he is now being sanctified. The likeness of the Redeemer is being wrought upon and in him by the Holy Ghost. There is thus a "new creation." The old life was a life of sin, but the new life to which he has risen is a life of righteousness. The love of Christ constrains him ( 2 Corinthians 5:14 ) to live, not to himself, but to Christ.


" All things are become new" ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ). There is no part of the believer's life from which the newness should be absent. Whilst not yet perfect, manifestly a great change has taken place: "Old things are passed away" ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ).

III. THIS NEWNESS FURNISHES A TEST . What have we more than our profession of Christianity? Have we been transformed; made new creatures? "Ye must be born again" ( John 3:7 ). Can faith save a man—faith which has a name to live, but is dead; faith which we only know a man possesses because he tells us so? We are not in Christ at all unless thereby we have become new creatures. The test is beyond appeal. The sentence of the judgment will proceed upon the assumption of its infallibility ( 2 Corinthians 5:10 ). All men in Christ become new creatures. "If any man," etc. A decided change takes place in the best as well as in the worst. All men may become new creatures in Christ. The vilest can be recreated equally with the most moral. This newness is not to be waited for till we enter another world. It belongs to this sphere in which we now are. Unless we are new creatures in this world we shall not be new creatures in another. It is on earth that "new creatures" are specially needed.—H.

2 Corinthians 5:20 - "Ambassadors of Christ."


1 . Negative .

2 . Positive .


1 . That God loves men.

2 . That he has given Christ for men. A vast proof of love! The first step was on God's side. Whilst we were enemies Christ died for us.

3 . That Christ willingly gave himself for men. The death of Christ was perfectly voluntary.

4 . That by the death of Christ God has provided the means for the perfect reconciliation of the world to himself. In the death of Christ God does reconcile; i.e. he removes every obstacle to reconciliation. Justification is fully prepared for the sinner. Christ was made sin for us ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 ). He bore our sins. Our sins were imputed to him. God's justice was satisfied. Christ is made our Substitute, and this so perfectly that what we are is imputed to him, and what he is is imputed to us. He takes our sins; we take his righteousness. No hindrance to complete restoration thus remains, except hindrance which may lie in the human heart itself.

5 . That God earnestly invites men to be reconciled to him. Amazing condescension! The climax of Divine love! "As though God were entreating" ( 2 Corinthians 5:20 ).


1 . With courtesy .

2 . With intense earnestness . It is momentous. What issues depend upon its acceptance or rejection!

3 . With zealous pleading .


1 . As speaking on behalf of Christ.
2 . As declaring the mind of God.—H.

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