*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
Therefore we henceforth know no man. To know, here, is taken as meaning to reckon. "We do not judge according to external appearance, so as to reckon that man to be the most illustrious who seems so in appearance." Under the term flesh, he includes all external endowments which mankind are accustomed to hold in estimation; and, in short, every thing which, apart from regeneration, is reckoned worthy of praise. At the same time, he speaks more particularly of outward disguise, or appearance, as it is termed. He alludes, also, without doubt, to the death of which he had made mention. "Since we ought, all of us, to be dead to the present life, nay more, to be nothing in ourselves, no one must be reckoned a servant of Christ on the ground of carnal excellence." Nay, though we have known Christ. The meaning is -- "Though Christ lived for a time in this world, and was known by mankind in those things that have to do with the condition of the present life, he must now be known in another way -- spiritually, so that we may have no worldly thoughts respecting him." This passage is perverted by some fanatics, such as Servetus,  for the purpose of proving, that Christ's human nature is now absorbed by the Divinity. But how very far removed such a frenzy is from the Apostle's intention, it is not difficult to perceive; for he speaks here, not of the substance of his body, but of external appearance, nor does he affirm that the flesh is no longer perceived by us in Christ, but says, that Christ is not judged of from that.  Scripture proclaims throughout, that Christ does now as certainly lead a glorious life in our flesh, as he once suffered in it.  Nay more, take away this foundation, and our whole faith falls to the ground; for whence comes the hope of immortality, except from this, that we have already a pattern  of it in the person of Christ? For as righteousness is restored to us on this ground, that Christ, by fulfilling the law in our nature, has abolished Adam's disobedience, so also life has been restored to us by this means, that he has opened up for our nature the kingdom of God, from which it had been banished, and has given it a place in the heavenly dwelling. Hence, if we do not now recognize Christ's flesh,  we lose the whole of that confidence and consolation that we ought to have in him. But we acknowledge Christ as man, and as our brother in his flesh -- not in a fleshly manner; because we rest solely in the consideration of his spiritual gifts. Hence he is spiritual to us, not as if he laid aside the body, and became a spirit, but because he regenerates and governs his own people by the influence of his Spirit.
1 - The views held by Servetus respecting the Supreme Being, and a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, "were obscure and chimerical beyond all measure, and amounted, in general, to the following propositions: -- That the Deity, before the creation of the world, had produced within himself two personal representations, or manners of existence, which were to be the medium of intercourse between him and mortals, and by whom, consequently, he was to reveal his will, and to display his mercy and beneficence to the children of men; [...] and that these two representations were to cease after the destruction of this terrestrial globe, and to be absorbed into the substance of the Deity, from whence they had been formed." -- Moshem's Ecclesiastical History, volume 4, pp. 475, 476. -- Ed.
2 - "He (Paul) remembered the words of his Divine Master -- 'Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother;' and he was taught by them, that though Christianity does not burst asunder the ties of kindred, it requires of all its followers that they be guided by higher considerations in advancing its interests. This may throw light on the bold expression which we find him elsewhere using, when he is speaking of the obligations which believers are under, not to live to themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.' 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.'" -- M'Crie's Sermons, p. 21. -- Ed.
3 - "Comme il a souffert mort vne fois en icelle;" -- "As he has once suffered death in it."
4 - "Comme vne image et gage certain en la personne de Christ;" -- "As it were an image and sure pledge in the person of Christ."
5 - Calvin's meaning plainly is -- "If we do not recognize the fact, that Christ is still a partaker of our nature." -- Ed.
Wherefore henceforth - In view of the fact that the Lord Jesus died for all people, and rose again. The effect of that has been to change all our feelings, and to give us entirely new views of people, of ourselves, and of the Messiah, so that we have become new creatures. The word "henceforth" (ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν apo tou nun) means properly from the present time; but there is no impropriety in supposing that Paul refers to the time when he first obtained correct views of the Messiah, and that he means from that time. His mind seems to have been thrown back to the period when these new views burst upon his soul; and the sentiment is, that from the time when he obtained those new views, he had resolved to know no one after the flesh.
Know we no man - The word "know" here (οἴδαμεν oidamen) is used in the sense of, we form our estimate of; we judge; we are influenced by. Our estimate of man is formed by other views than according to the flesh.
After the flesh - A great many different interpretations have been proposed of this expression, which it is not needful here to repeat. The meaning is, probably, that in his estimate of people he was not influenced by the views which are taken by those who are unrenewed, and who are unacquainted with the truths of redemption. It may include a great many things, and perhaps the following:
(1) He was not influenced in his estimate of people by a regard to their birth, or country. He did not form an attachment to a Jew because he was a Jew, or to a Gentile because he was a Gentile. He had learned that Christ died for all, and he felt disposed to regard all alike.
(2) he was not influenced in his estimate of people by their rank, and wealth, and office. Before his conversion he had been, but now he learned to look on their moral character, and to regard that as making the only permanent, and really important distinction among people. He did not esteem one man highly because he was of elevated rank, or of great wealth, and another less because he was of a different rank in life.
(3) it may also include the idea, that he had left his own kindred and friends on account of superior attachment to Christ. He had parted from them to preach the gospel. He was not restrained by their opinions; he was not kept from going from land to land by love to them. It is probable that they remained Jews. It may be, that they were opposed to him, and to his efforts in the cause of the Redeemer. It may be that they would have dismissed him from a work so self-denying, and so arduous, and where he would be exposed to so much persecution and contempt. It may be that they would have set before him the advantages of his birth and education; would have reminded him of his early brilliant prospects; and would have used all the means possible to dissuade him from embarking in a cause like that in which he was engaged. The passage here means that Paul was influenced by none of these considerations.
In early life he had been. He had prided himself on rank, and on talent. He was proud of his own advantages as a Jew; and he estimated worth by rank, and by national distinction, Philippians 3:4-6. He had despised Christians on account of their being the followers of the man of Nazareth: and there can be no reason to doubt that he partook of the common feelings of his countrymen and held in contempt the whole Gentile world. But his views were changed - so much changed as to make it proper to say that he was a new creature, 2-Corinthians 5:17. When converted, he did not confer with flesh and blood Galatians 1:16; and in the school of Christ, he had learned that if a man was his disciple, he must be willing to forsake father and mother. and sister and brother, and to hate his own life that he might honor him, Luke 14:26. He had formed his principle of action now from a higher standard than any regard to rank, or wealth, or national distinction; and had risen above them all, and now estimated people not by these external and factitious advantages, but by a reference to their personal character and moral worth.
Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh - Though in common with the Jewish nation we expected a Messiah who would be a temporal prince, and who would be distinguished for the distinctions which are valued among people, yet we have changed our estimate of him, and judge of him in this way no longer. There can be no doubt that Paul, in common with his countrymen, had expected a Messiah who would be a magnificent temporal prince and conqueror, one who they supposed would be a worthy successor of David and Solomon. The coming of such a prince, Paul had confidently expected. He expected no other Messiah. He had fixed his hopes on that. This is what is meant by the expression 'to know Christ after the flesh.' It does not mean that he had seen him in the flesh, but that he had formed, so to speak, carnal views of him, and such as people of this world regard as grand and magnificent in a monarch and conqueror. He had had no correct views of his spiritual character, and of the pure and holy purposes for which he would come into the world.
Yet now henceforth know we him no more - We know him no more in this manner. Our conceptions and views of him are changed. We no more regard him according to the flesh; we no longer esteem the Messiah who was to come as a temporal prince and warrior; but we look on him as a spiritual Saviour, a Redeemer from sin. The idea is, that his views of him had been entirely changed. It does not mean, as our translation would seem to imply, that Paul would have no further acquaintance with Christ, but it means that from the moment of his conversion he had laid aside all his views of his being a temporal sovereign, and all his feelings that he was to be honored only because he supposed that he would have an elevated rank among the monarchs of the earth. Locke and Macknight, it seems to me, have strangely mistaken this passage. The former renders it, "For if I myself have gloried in this, that Christ was himself circumcised as I am, and was of my blood and nation, I do so now no more any longer," The same substantially is the view of Macknight. Clarke as strangely mistakes it, when he says that it means that Paul could not prize now a man who was a sinner because he was allied to the royal family of David, nor prize a man because he had seen Christ in the flesh.
The correct view, as it seems to me, is given above. And the doctrine which is taught here is, that at conversion, the views are essentially changed, and that the converted man has a view of the Saviour entirely different from what he had before. He may not, like Paul, have regarded him as a temporal prince; he may not have looked to him as a mighty monarch, but his views in regard to his person, character, work, and loveliness will be entirely changed. He will see a beauty in his character which he never saw before. Before, he regarded him as a root out of dry ground; as the despised man of Nazareth; as having nothing in his character to be desired, or to render him lovely Isaiah 53:1-12; but at conversion the views are changed. He is seen to be the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely; as pure, and holy, and benevolent; as mighty, and great, and glorious; as infinitely benevolent; as lovely in his precepts, lovely in his life, lovely in his death, lovely in his resurrection, and as most glorious as he is seated on the right hand of God. He is seen to be a Saviour exactly adapted to the condition and needs of the soul; and the soul yields itself to him to be redeemed by him alone.
There is no change of view so marked and decided as that of the sinner in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ at his conversion; and it is a clear proof that we have never been born again if our views in reference to him have never undergone any change. "What think ye of Christ?" is a question the answer to which will determine any man's character, and demonstrate whether he is or is not a child of God. Tyndale has more correctly expressed the sense of this than our translation." Though we have known Christ after the flesh, now henceforth know we him so no more."
Know we no man after the flesh - As we know that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; and as we know that all are alienated from God, and are dead in trespasses and sins; therefore we esteem no man on account of his family relations, or the stock whence he proceeded, because we see all are shut up in unbelief, and all are children of wrath.
Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh - We cannot esteem a man who is a sinner, were he even allied to the blood royal of David, and were he of the same family with the man Christ himself; nor can we prize a man because he has seen Christ in the flesh; for many have seen him in the flesh to whom he will say; Depart from me, for I never knew you. So we: nothing weighs with us, nor in the sight of God, but redemption from this death, and living to him who died for them.
We know that the Jews valued themselves much in having Abraham for their father; and some of the Judaizing teachers at Corinth might value themselves in having seen Christ in the flesh, which certainly St. Paul did not; hence he takes occasion to say here that this kind of privilege availed nothing; for the old creature, however noble, or well descended in the sight of men, is under the curse; and the new creature only is such as God can approve.
(9) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: (10) yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we [him] no more.
(9) He shows what it is not to live to ourselves but to Christ, that is, to know no man according to the flesh. That is to say, to be conversant among men and yet not to care for those worldly and carnal things, as those do who have regard for a man's family, his country, form, glory, riches, and such like, in which men commonly dote and weary themselves.
(10) An amplification: "This is", he says, "so true, that we do not now think carnally of Christ himself, who has now left the world, and therefore he must be thought of spiritually by us."
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh..... Since the death and resurrection of Christ, which has broken down the middle wall of partition, and has took away all distinction of men, we know, we esteem, we value no man on account of his carnal descent, and fleshy privileges, as being of the Jewish nation, a descendant of Abraham, and circumcised as he was; or on account of their outward state and condition, as being rich and honourable among men, or on account of their natural parts and acquirements, their learning, wisdom, and eloquence; nor do we own any man to be a Christian, that lives after the flesh, to himself, and not to Christ; nor do we make account of the saints themselves as in this mortal state, but as they will be in the resurrection, in consequence of Christ's having died for them, and rose again.
Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh: some of them had seen him in the flesh; others valued him on account of his being of the Jewish nation, and of his relation to them according to the flesh; and all of them had formerly entertained carnal apprehensions of him, and his kingdom, as though it would be a temporal one:
yet now henceforth know we him more; no more in this mortal state, being risen from the dead; nor do we value ourselves upon having seen him in the flesh; for though such a sight and knowledge of him was desirable, yet a spiritual knowledge is much more preferable; and many there were who knew him in the flesh, who neither enjoy his spiritual presence here, nor will they be favoured with his glorious presence hereafter. Moreover, we do not judge of him as we did before we had a spiritual knowledge of him, and as our countrymen did, by his outward circumstances, by his parentage and education, his poverty and afflictions, his company and conversation, that he could not be the Messiah, the Son of God, and therefore was worthy of death; we have quite other thoughts and apprehensions of him now, believing him to be the Christ of God, a spiritual Saviour and Redeemer, whose kingdom is not of this world; we have relinquished all our national prejudices, and former notions, concerning the Messiah, his kingdom, and people. Some copies add, "after the flesh"; and the Arabic version, "yet now know we him no more in that".
The renewed man acts upon new principles, by new rules, with new ends, and in new company. The believer is created anew; his heart is not merely set right, but a new heart is given him. He is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Though the same as a man, he is changed in his character and conduct. These words must and do mean more than an outward reformation. The man who formerly saw no beauty in the Saviour that he should desire him, now loves him above all things. The heart of the unregenerate is filled with enmity against God, and God is justly offended with him. Yet there may be reconciliation. Our offended God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. By the inspiration of God, the Scriptures were written, which are the word of reconciliation; showing that peace has been made by the cross, and how we may be interested therein. Though God cannot lose by the quarrel, nor gain by the peace, yet he beseeches sinners to lay aside their enmity, and accept the salvation he offers. Christ knew no sin. He was made Sin; not a sinner, but Sin, a Sin-offering, a Sacrifice for sin. The end and design of all this was, 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. Can any lose, labour, or suffer too much for Him, who gave his beloved Son to be the Sacrifice for their sins, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him?
Wherefore--because of our settled judgment (2-Corinthians 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 (2-Corinthians 11:18; John 8:15; Philippians 3:4), as distinguished from what he is according to the Spirit, as a "new creature" (2-Corinthians 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 (Galatians 2:6; Galatians 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" (Galatians 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 (Romans 6:9-11; 1-Corinthians 15:45; 1-Peter 3:18; 1-Peter 4:1-2). Doubtless Judaizing Christians at Corinth prided themselves on the mere fleshly (2-Corinthians 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 (2-Corinthians 5:12; 2-Corinthians 10:7). Paul here shows the true aim should be to know Him spiritually as new creatures (2-Corinthians 5:15, 2-Corinthians 5:17), and that outward relations towards Him profit nothing (Luke 18:19-21; John 16:7, John 16:22; Philippians 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.
So that we from this time - That we knew the love of Christ. Know no one - Neither ourselves, nor you, neither the rest of the apostles, Galatians 2:6, nor any other person. After the flesh - According to his former state, country, descent, nobility, riches, power, wisdom. We fear not the great. We regard not the rich or wise. We account not the least less than ourselves. We consider all, only in order to save all. Who is he that thus knows no one after the flesh? ln what land do these Christians live? Yea, if we have known even Christ after the flesh - So as to love him barely with a natural love, so as to glory in having conversed with him on earth, so as to expect only temporal benefits from him.
*More commentary available at chapter level.