2-Corinthians - 5:1-21

The Reconciling Ministry

      1 For we know that if the earthly house of our tent is dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. 2 For most certainly in this we groan, longing to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven; 3 if so be that being clothed we will not be found naked. 4 For indeed we who are in this tent do groan, being burdened; not that we desire to be unclothed, but that we desire to be clothed, that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now he who made us for this very thing is God, who also gave to us the down payment of the Spirit. 6 Therefore, we are always confident and know that while 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 courageous, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well pleasing to him. 10 For we must all be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are revealed to God; and I hope that we are revealed also in your consciences. 12 For we are not commending ourselves to you again, but speak as giving you occasion of boasting on our behalf, that you may have something to answer those who boast in appearance, and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God. Or if we are of sober mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died. 15 He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again. 16 Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. 18 But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Chapter In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of 2-Corinthians 5.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

This chapter 2 Cor. 5 is closely connected with the former, and indeed has been improperly separated from it, as is manifest from the word "For" (γὰρ gar) with which it commences. It contains a further statement of reasons for what has been said in the previous chapter. The main subject there was the ministry; the honesty and fidelity with which Paul and his fellow-laborers toiled 2-Corinthians 4:1-3; the trials and dangers which they encountered in the work of the ministry 2-Corinthians 4:7-12; and the consolations and supports which they had in its various trials, 2-Corinthians 4:13-18. This chapter contains a continuation of the same subject, and a further statement of the motives which prompted them to their work, and of the supports which upheld them in the arduous duties to which they were called. It is a chapter full of exquisite beauties of sentiment and of language, and as well adapted to give consolation and support to all Christians now as it is to ministers; and the sentiments are as well adapted to sustain the humblest believer in his trials as they were to sustain the apostles themselves. The following are the points of consolation and support, and reasons for their zeal and self-denial, to which the apostle refers.
1. They had the assured prospect of the resurrection, and of eternal life, 2-Corinthians 5:1-4. The body might decay, and be worn out; it might sigh and groan, but they had a better home, a mansion of eternal rest in the heavens. It was their earnest desire to reach heaven; though not such a desire as to make them unwilling to endure the toils and trials which God should appoint to them here below, but still an earnest, anxious wish to reach safely their eternal home in the skies. In the prospect of their heavenly home, and their eternal rest, they were willing to endure all the trials which were appointed to them.
2. God had appointed them to this; he had suited them for these trials; he had endowed them with the graces of his Spirit; and they were, therefore, willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord; 2-Corinthians 5:5-8. They had such a view of heaven as their home that they were willing at any time to depart and enter the world of rest, and they did not, therefore, shrink from the trials and dangers which would be likely soon to bring them there.
3. They had a deep and constant conviction that they must soon appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; 2-Corinthians 5:9-11. They labored that they might be accepted by him 2-Corinthians 5:9; they knew that they must give a solemn account to him 2-Corinthians 5:10; they had a clear view, and a deep impression of the awful terrors of that day, and they labored, therefore, to save as many as possible from the condemnation of the great Judge of all, and endeavored to "persuade" them to be prepared for that scene; 2-Corinthians 5:11.
4. Though to some they might appear to be under the influence of improper excitement, and even to be deranged 2-Corinthians 5:14, yet they were acting only under the proper influence of the love of Christ; 2-Corinthians 5:14-15. They were constrained and urged on by his love; they knew that he had died for all, and that all people were dead in sin; and they felt themselves the constraining influence of that love prompting them to deny themselves, and to devote their all to his service and cause.
5. Their views of all things had been changed; 2-Corinthians 5:16-17. They had ceased to act under the influences which govern other people; but their own hearts had been changed, and they had become new creatures in Christ, and in their lives they evinced the spirit which should govern those who were thus renewed.
6. They had been solemnly commissioned by God as his ambassadors in this cause. They had been sent to make known the terms and the way of reconciliation, and they felt it to be their duty to proclaim those terms on as wide a scale as possible, and with the utmost zeal and self-denial. It was God's glorious plan of reconciliation; and on the ground of the atonement made by the Redeemer, they could now offer salvation to all mankind, and as all might be saved, they felt themselves bound to offer the terms of salvation to as many as possible; 2-Corinthians 5:18-21. The grand argument for urging sinners to be reconciled to God, is the fact that Christ has died for their sins, and, therefore, the apostles apprized of this fact, sought to urge as many as possible to become his friends; 2-Corinthians 5:21.

The apostle's strong hope of eternal glory, and earnest longings after that state of blessedness, 2-Corinthians 5:1-4. The assurance that he had of it from the Holy Spirit, and his carefulness to be always found pleasing to the Lord, 2-Corinthians 5:5-9. All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, 2-Corinthians 5:10. Knowing that this awful event must take place, he labored to convince men of the necessity of being prepared to meet the Lord, being influenced to this work by his love of Christ, 2-Corinthians 5:11-13. Jesus Christ having died for all, is a proof that all were dead, 2-Corinthians 5:14. Those for whom he died should live to him, 2-Corinthians 5:15. We should know no man after the flesh, 2-Corinthians 5:16. They who are in Christ are new creatures, 2-Corinthians 5:17. The glorious ministry of reconciliation, 2-Corinthians 5:18-21.

The apostle, in this chapter, enlarges upon the saints' comfortable assurance, expectation, and desire of the heavenly glory; discourses of the diligence and industry of himself and other Gospel ministers in preaching the word, with the reasons that induced them to it; and closes it with a commendation of the Gospel ministry from the important subject, sum, and substance of it. Having mentioned in the latter part of the, preceding chapter, the eternal weight of glory, the afflictions of the saints are working for, and the invisible realities of that state they are looking to, here expresses the assurance that he and others had of their interest therein; and which he signifies by an edifice, and illustrates it by its opposition to the body, which he compares to an house and tabernacle; the one is man's, the other of God, and not made with hands; the one is earthly, the other in heaven; the one is to be, and will be dissolved, the other is eternal, 2-Corinthians 5:1 and therefore it is no wonder that it should be so earnestly desired, as it is said to be in 2-Corinthians 5:2 where the desire of it is signified by groaning, which supposes something distressing, and which makes uneasy; and by an earnest longing after deliverance and happiness, and which is explained by a desire to be clothed upon with the house from heaven; where the heavenly glory is not only, as before, compared to an house, but also to a garment, which all those that are clothed with the righteousness of Christ may justly expect to be arrayed with; for these will not be found naked nor remain so, 2-Corinthians 5:3 which earnest desire after immortality and glory is more fully explained, 2-Corinthians 5:4 in which not only the body, in its present state, is again compared to a tabernacle, and the saints represented as being distressed, and so groaning whilst in it; but the cause of this groaning is suggested, which is a burden they labour under, both of sin and affliction; and yet such is the natural inclination of man to remain in the body, and his unwillingness to part from it, that he does not desire to be stripped of that, but to have the robe of immortality put upon it, that so the present mortality that attends it might be wholly swallowed up in it: and that the saints had reason to believe there was such an happiness to be enjoyed, and that they had such an interest in it is clear; because as God had prepared that for them, he had also wrought and prepared them for that; and besides, had given them his Spirit as the earnest and pledge of it, 2-Corinthians 5:5 wherefore, as they were confidently assured of it, and considering that they were but sojourners and strangers whilst in the body, and in the present state of things, and not at home in their Father's house, and absent from Christ, 2-Corinthians 5:6 as is evident from their walking by faith in the comfortable assurance, lively hope, and earnest expectation of things future and unseen, and not in the beatific vision of them, 2-Corinthians 5:7. Hence they were very desirous, and chose rather to quit their present dwelling, the tabernacle of the body, that they might be at home, and enjoy the presence of the Lord, 2-Corinthians 5:8. And this confidence and hope of eternal things wrought in the apostle, and other faithful ministers of the word, great carefulness and diligence to serve the Lord acceptably, and discharge with faithfulness the trust reposed in them, 2-Corinthians 5:9 the reason of which concern also, or what likewise animated them to a diligent performance of their duty, was their certain appearance before the judgment seat of Christ; which appearance will be universal, and when there will be a distribution of rewards and punishments to everyone according to his works, 2-Corinthians 5:10. And besides, it was not only their own personal concern in this awful affair that engaged them to such a conduct, but the regard they had to the good of immortal souls, to whom the day of judgment must be terrible, unless they are brought to believe in Christ; and for the truth of this they could appeal both to God, and to the consciences of men, particularly the Corinthians, 2-Corinthians 5:11. And lest this should be imputed to pride and arrogance, the apostle suggests the reason why he made mention of all this, that they might have wherewith to answer the false teachers, and vindicate the faithful ministers of the Gospel, 2-Corinthians 5:12. However, let it be construed which way it will, as the effect of madness or sobriety, this he could with the greatest confidence affirm, that his view was the glory of God, and the good of souls, 2-Corinthians 5:13 and to this diligence and faithfulness in preaching the Gospel, he and others were not only moved by their desire and expectation of happiness, by the future judgment in which they must appear, and by their concern for immortal souls, that they might escape the vengeance of that day; but they were constrained thereunto by the love of Christ in dying for them, and in whom they died, 2-Corinthians 5:14 the end of which was, that they might live not to themselves, but to him that died and rose again, 2-Corinthians 5:15. And as a further instance of their integrity and faithfulness, the apostle observes, that they had no regard to men on account of their carnal descent, and outward privileges, as the Jews; nor even did they consider Christ himself in a carnal view, or esteem of him as a temporal king, as they once did, 2-Corinthians 5:16 their sole aims and views being the spiritual good of men, and the advancement of the spiritual interest and kingdom of Christ; and the conclusion from hence is, that whoever is truly in Christ, and in his kingdom, is a new creature, and is in a new world, in a new dispensation, in which both the old things of the law, and of Heathenism, and of his former conversation are gone, and all things in doctrine, worship, and conversation are become new, 2-Corinthians 5:17. And from hence the apostle proceeds to a commendation of the Gospel dispensation, and the ministry of it, from its author God, and from the subject matter of it, reconciliation of men to God by Christ, 2-Corinthians 5:18 which is more fully explained and enlarged on, both with respect to the efficient cause of reconciliation, the objects of it, and the means and manner in which it is brought about, and also the publication of it in the Gospel by the ministers of it, 2-Corinthians 5:19 and who are described as the ambassadors of Christ, acting in the name of God, and as in the stead of Christ, for the good of men, 2-Corinthians 5:20. And closes the chapter with an account of the great propitiation, Christ, by whom reconciliation is made; as that he was in himself without sin, and yet was by imputation made sin for sinners, that they, in the same way, might be made righteous in the sight of God through him, 2-Corinthians 5:21.47

(2-Corinthians 5:1-8) The apostle's hope and desire of heavenly glory.
(2-Corinthians 5:9-15) This excited to diligence. The reasons of his being affected with zeal for the Corinthians.
(2-Corinthians 5:16-21) The necessity of regeneration, and of reconciliation with God through Christ.

SUMMARY.--The Groaning for Deliverance. The Divine Clothing for the Soul Which Has Laid Aside Its Mortal Tenement. Absent From the Body, but Present with the Lord. Appearing Before the Judgment Seat. Dying with Christ. New Creatures. The Ministry of Reconciliation.

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