II Corinthians 5
The Hope of the Future Life is the Great Support of Our Efforts (vs. 1-10)
1 “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.”
For. A further explanation of the hope expressed in ch. 4:17. We know. This
accent of certainty is found only in Christian writers. Our earthly house. Not
the “house of clay” (Job 4:19), the house which serves us as the home of our
souls on earth; as in I Corinthians 15:40. Of this tabernacle; literally,
the house of the tent; i.e. the tent of our mortality, the mortal body. In II Peter
1:13-14 it is called and the expression, “the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14) is literally, “He tabernacled
among us” — He wore “a tent like ours and of the same material.” The figure
would be specially natural to one whose occupation was that of a tentmaker.
“Here in the body pent,
Afar from Him I roam,
But nightly pitch my wandering tent
A day’s march nearer home.”
A very similar expression occurs in Wisdom of Solomon 9:15, “The earthly
tabernacle (γεῶδες σκῆνος – geodes skaenos) weigheth down the mind.”
Be dissolved; - rather, be taken to pieces. A building. Something more
substantial than that moving tenement. Of God; - literally, from God; namely,
not one of the “many mansions” spoken of in John 14:2, but the resurrection body
furnished to us by Him. We have this building from God, for it exists now, and shall
be ours at the same time that our tent home is done away with. Not made
with hands. Not like those tent dwellings at which Paul was daily toiling with the
hands which ministered to his own necessities. In the heavens. To be joined
with “we have.” Heaven is our general home and country (Hebrews 11:16),
but the present allusion is to the glorified bodies in which our souls shall live in
heaven (compare I Corinthians 15:42-49). Paul longs for an enduring habitation,
a permanent house, Jesus called it a mansion in John 14:2) (Remember the song,
“I’ve Got a Mansion” and its just over the hilltop in that bright land where we
will never grow older! – CY – 2010)
2 “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our
house which is from heaven:” In this we groan. Since we have the first-fruits of
the Spirit, who assures us of that future building from God, we, in this earthly tent,
“groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit the redemption of our body”
(Romans 8:23). To be clothed upon; rather, to further clothe ourselves with. Here
the metaphors of a tent and a garment — the “wandering tent” and the “mortal vesture
of decay” — are interfused in a manner on which only the greatest writers can venture.
The corruptible yearns to clothe itself with the incorruptible, the mortal with immortality
(I Corinthians 15:53). The glorified body is compared to an over garment. House;
rather, – oikaetaerion - habitation.
3 “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.” If so be that. The
verse may be rendered, “If, that is, being clothed, we shall not be found naked.”
(γυμνοὶ – gumnoi – naked – meaning the soul without the body) .The word
“naked” must then mean “bodiless,” and the reference will be to those whom,
at His coming, Christ shall find clothed in these mortal bodies, and not separated
from them, i.e. quick and not dead (I Thessalonians 4:17; I Corinthians 15:51).
This seems to be the simplest and most natural of the multitude of strange
interpretations with which the pages of commentators are filled. It is true
that the aorist – endusamenoi means literally, “having clothed
ourselves,”and that, in taking this meaning, we should have expected the perfect
participle – endedumenoi - having been clothed. If this be thought an
insuperable difficulty, we must suppose the verse to mean “If, that is, in
reality we shall be found [at Christ’s coming] after having put on some
intermediate body, and therefore not as mere disembodied spirits.” But
there is no allusion in Scripture to any intermediate body, nor is any gleam
of light shed on the mode of life among the dead between death and
resurrection, though the Church rejects the dream of Psychopannychia, or
an interval of unconscious sleep. The uncertainty of the meaning is
increased by two various readings, – ei per – if perhaps - instead of
- ei ge – if surely, which latter expresses greater doubt about the matter;
and - ekdusasthai (D, F, G), which would mean “if in reality,
after unclothing ourselves [i.e. after‘shuffling off this mortal coil’], we shall
not be found naked.” This seems to be the conjecture of some puzzled copyists,
who did not see that a contrast, and not a coincidence, between the two expressions
is intended. If this reading were correct, it would mean, as Chrysostom says,
“Even if we would lay aside the body. we shall not there be presented without a
body, but with the same body which has then become incorruptible.” It is
quite untenable to make “clothed” mean “clothed with righteousness,” as
Olshausen does. In the Talmud, ‘Shabbath’ (f. 152, 2), the righteous are
compared to men who keep from stain the robes given them by a king (i.e.
their bodies), which robes the king deposits in his treasury and sends the
wearers away (bodiless) in peace; but foolish servants stain these robes,
and the king sends the robes to the wash, and the wearers in prison.
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.” For we that are in this tabernacle; literally, for indeed we who are in the tent;
i.e. in the transitory mortal body. Do groan. “Oh wretched man that I am I who shall
deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) Being burdened. “The
corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthy tabernacle weigheth down
the mind that museth upon many things” (Wisdom of Solomon 9:15). Not for
that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon; more literally, since we do not wish
to strip off (our bodily garment) but to put another garment over it. Paul here repudiates
the Manichean notion that the body is a disgrace, or in itself the source of evil. He was
not like Plotinus, who “blushed that he had a body;” or like St.
who called his body “my brother the ass;” or like the Cure d’Ars, who (as we have
said) spoke of his body as “ce cadavre.” He does not, therefore, desire to get rid of
his body, but to “clothe it over” with the garment of immortality. Incidentally this
implies the wish that he may be alive and not dead when the Lord returns (I Corinthians
15:35-54). Mortality; rather, the mortal; that which is mortal. Might be swallowed
up of life. As in the cases of Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (II Kings 2:11), who
entered into life otherwise than through “the grave and gate of death.” Paul wishes
to enter the “building from God” without having been first buried in the collapse
of the “soul’s dark cottage battered and decayed.” He desires to put on the robe
of immortality without stripping off the rent garb of the body.
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.” (v. 5) - 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”
(ibid.) or pledge of this was already in possession. The psalmist prays in Psalm
102:23-28 – “He weakened my strength in the way; He shortened my days. I said,
O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all
generations. Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens
are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of
them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they
shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. The
children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before
5 “Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath
given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” He that hath wrought us for the selfsame
thing is God. God prepared and perfected us for this very result, namely, to put on
the robe of immortality. (“Faithful is He which calleth you who also will do it” –
I Thessalonians 5:24.) The earnest of the Spirit. (see ch.1:22) The quickening
life imparted by the Spirit of life is a pledge and part payment of the incorruptible
eternal life. The Spirit is “the Earnest of our inheritance.” (Ephesians 1:14; 4:30).
In the first few verses the body is here spoken of under the figure of a “tabernacle” or
a tent, and of a vestment or clothing. These two things would not be so distinct in the
mind of the apostle as they are in ours, for both had the same qualities of movableness
and protection. There is an implied necessity of the body. Paul’s language implies that
the body is a clothing or protection. As a clothing, or protection, for the soul it is
necessary, both here and in the other world. The soul must have an organ wherever
it is. Now what does the Christian know concerning the future body?
Ø It will be directly Divine. “A building of God.” (v. 1) - The present
body is from God, but it comes from Him through secondary
instrumentalities. The future body will come direct, it will not be
transmitted from sire to son.
o It will be fitted for a higher sphere. “In the heavens.” (ibid.)
The present body is fitted for the earthly sphere, it is of the
“earth, earthy.” (I Corinthians 15:47-49) - The future will be
fitted for the more ethereal, and celestial.
o It will be more enduring. “eternal.” (ibid.) - This body is like the
tent, temporary; it has no firm foundation; it is shaken by every
gust. We “perish before the moth.” (Job 4:19) The future body
will be eternal, free from the elements of decay.
o It will be more enjoyable. “For in this we groan, earnestly
desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from
heaven,” (v. 2) - In this body we “groan, being burdened.”
(v. 4) –
o To what pains and diseases is the present body subject! By
implication the apostle states the future body will be free from
all this, (Revelation 21:4) - for all that is mortal will be
“swallowed up of life.” (ibid.) - In that body there will
be no groaning, no sighs or sorrows, no burden, no weight
to depress the energies or to impede progress. The future body
will be more fitted to receive the high things of God,
and more fitted to communicate them also.
BODY OF THE FUTURE. “Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame
thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” (v. 5)
Every seed has its own body; it is the seed that makes the body; the organization
does not produce the life, but the life the organization. And this spiritual life
in man God is now preparing to pass into a higher body. Just as the chrysalis
is being fitted to struggle into an organization with higher appetencies, more
exquisite in form, and with faculties that shall bear it into mid-heaven. When
will you have this body? When your soul has the life energy to produce it.
The Earnest of the Spirit (v. 5)
The apostle has been referring to the great hope set before us in the gospel,
which, as he regards it, is this, that “mortality might be swallowed up of
life.” That is the object of the Divine working in the believer, and of its
final realization he has this “earnest,” or pledge of assurance, God has
given us already the “earnest of the Spirit,” who is the power that alone
can work out such a sublime result as our final triumph over the flesh and
sin, and meetness to take our place and part in a spiritual and heavenly
state. “It is because the Spirit dwells in us by faith while we are here that
we are to be raised hereafter. The body thus possessing a principle of life is
as a seed planted in the ground to be raised again in God’s good time”
(compare the sentence in ch. 1:22 and Romans 8:1-11). Observe that the
Holy Spirit is presented to us under many aspects and figures; no one
representation of His Divine mission can exhaust His relations to us. We must
see His work on one side after another, and be willing to learn from all The figures
under which He is presented.
· WHAT IS MEANT BY AN “EARNEST”? It is something offered as a
pledge and assurance that what is promised shall surely be given. But it has
been well pointed out that an “earnest” materially differs from a “pledge.”
A pledge is something different in kind, given as assurance for something
else, as may be illustrated by the sacraments; but an earnest is a part of the
thing to be given, as when a purchase is made and a portion of the money
is paid down at once. The idea of the “earnest” may be seen in the
“firstfruits,” which are a beginning of, and assure the character of, THE
· WHAT IS THE SPIRIT AS “EARNEST” TO US NOW? Paul’s
one point here is that it is an assurance of the final victory of the higher life
over the lower. We have indeed that higher life now, in its initial and
rudimentary stages, in having the Spirit dwelling in us.
· WHAT FUTURE IS PLEDGED IN OUR HAVING THE SPIRIT
NOW? Precisely a future in which the spiritual life shall be victorious and
supreme, and our vehicle of a body simply within the use of the Spirit. That
is full redemption, glory, and heaven.
6 “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in
the body, we are absent from the Lord:” Therefore we are always confident;
literally, being of good courage. The sentence in the Greek is unfinished (an
anacoluthon), but is resumed after the parenthesis by the repetition, “we are of
good courage.” Always (ch. 4:8). We are at home in the body. The tent is pitched
in the desert, and even the pillar of fire can only shine through its folds. Yet the tent
may become brighter and brighter as life goes on.
“To me the thought of death is terrible,
Having such hold on life. To you it is not
More than a step into the open air
Out of a tent already luminous
With light which shines through
its transparent folds.”
Absent from the Lord (John 14:2-3). Christ is indeed with us here and always; but the
nearness of presence and the clearness of vision in that future life will be so much
closer and brighter, that here, by comparison, we are absent from Him altogether.
7 (“For we walk by faith, not by sight:”) For we walk by faith(ch. 4:18;
Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:25). Not by sight; rather, not by appearance; not by
anything actually seen. We do not yet see “face to face” (I Corinthians 13:12),
but are guided by things which “eye hath not seen.” (I Corinthians 2:9)
“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 vigor of a home sentiment.
So strong and assuring is Paul’s confidence that he prefers to depart and be with
Walking by Faith (v. 7)
“We walk by faith, not by sight.” “Walking” is a familiar Scripture term for
a man’s life on the earth. It seems to have been associated with the figure
of life as a “pilgrimage” in the Old Testament, and as a “racecourse” in the
New Testament. It is joined to another word sometimes, and our “walk and
conversation” are spoken of, our “going forward” and “turning about.”
· WALK AS DESCRIPTIVE OF HUMAN LIFE. Its suitability will be
seen if we notice:
Ø That it is a moving on. The days of our life go by as do the scenes in a
Ø It is a slow moving on, steady and regular as the clock; time moves on,
bearing all its sons away. (“We spend our years as a tale that is told.”
Ø It is a moving on through ever-changing scenes, as is the path of the
traveler, now up the hillside, now along the dusty highway, and now
through the shaded valleys, with ever-varying sights and sounds
Ø It is a moving on somewhere; for he who walks has some end before him
or some home in view. So our human life has its goal. We pass on into
the eternal, where we may find our home.
· WALK BY SIGHT AS DESCRIPTIVE OF THE WORLDLY LIFE.
“Walk by sight” does not mean “in the power of our vision,” but “under
the influence and persuasion of things seen and temporal.” It is the one
essential characteristic of the worldly man that his judgments and decisions
are made, his affections are ruled, and his conduct is ordered by what may
be gathered under the term “the fashion of this world.” (I Corinthians 7:31)
Ø Sense-conditions determine his place.
Ø Sense-requirements command his allegiance.
Ø Sense-principles inspire his doings and decide his relations.
He “walks” with a horizon no further off than yonder ridge of hills, and with
no thought really bigger in his soul than “What shall we eat? what shall we
drink? and what shall we enjoy?” Saying this is the saddest revelation of
man’s essential wrongness before the God who “made him for Himself.”
· WALK BY FAITH AS DESCRIPTIVE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
We are not yet face to face with the eternal realities, but faith as the
“substance of things hoped for” gives us a present actual possession of
those eternal things, and makes them exert their power on our “walk.”
Faith in the unseen and eternal can
Ø raise the tone;
Ø bring steadfastness into our walk and conversation.
The realities are revealed to faith; human sight can only see passing
shadows of things. (“While we look not at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen
temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – v. 18)
8 “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to
be present with the Lord.” 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 1:23-24, except that here (as in v. 4)
Paul expresses a desire not “to depart,” but to be quit of the body without the
necessity for death. (Phillip Henry, Matthew Henry’s father, was known for praying
“Lord, help me to be ready to leave or to be left!” – CY - 2010) “At home in the
body;” yes, but it is a sad home at best, and trial and affliction (and may
I say “the aging process” - CY - 2010) 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.” As the next verse states whether absent or present,
at home or away from home, we labor that we “may be accepted of Him.”
9 “Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be
accepted of Him.” We labor; literally, we are emulous. This, says Bengel, is
“the sole legitimate ambition.” The same word occurs in Romans 15:20.
Whether present or absent; literally, whether at home or away from home;
i.e. whether with Christ or separated from Him (as in v. 8); or,
“whether in the body or out of the body” (as in v. 6). The latter would resemble
I Thessalonians 5:10, “That whether we wake or sleep we may live with Him.” -
We may be accepted of Him; literally, to be well pleasing to Him.
What was Paul’s view of life?
“house,” a “tabernacle,” (v. 1)
tabernacle,” (v. 4) The soul, not the body, is the “I,” or self.
changes the house and the garment; it is not the extinction of the tenant or
characteristic of a rational being that he has some purpose in life —
the purpose is that in which he lives, it makes life valuable to him.
To a man who has no purpose in life or has lost his purpose, life
is deemed of little worth.
What was Paul’s purpose in life?
accepted of Him.” Is not this purpose sublimely reasonable? If there be a
God, does not reason teach that to please Him should be the supreme
purpose of all intelligent creatures? Now, Paul felt that death would not
destroy this purpose. It destroys the purpose of the voluptuous, avaricious,
etc.; “to be carnally minded is death” – (Romans 8:6) and hence to them it
is terrible! But it does not destroy the chief purpose of the Christian. In all
worlds and times his chief purpose will be to be “accepted of Him.”
The Two Bodies of the Saint (vs. 1-9)
Ø Often a burden.
Ø Frequently a temptation.
Ø Not helpful to spiritual life.
Ø Subject to many pains.
Ø Eternal. (v. 1.) Having no tendencies towards decay, no marks of
coming death. A body of life. Stamped with the eternalness of God.
Ø Heavenly. (v. 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.
Ø From God. (v. 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).
Frequently a condition of sorrow. “We that are in this tabernacle do groan,
being burdened” (v. 4). There are:
Ø the ordinary afflictions which befall mankind;
Ø the special chastisements of God inflicted for the saint’s welfare, but
Ø the sense of living in a strange country, not in his own — uncongenial
Ø struggles against temptations: the presence and power of hated sin.
Ø Preparation. “He that wrought us for this very thing” (v. 5).
Ø The Spirit’s witness. We have the earnest of the Spirit, which is a pledge
of the fullness of the Spirit (v. 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.
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” (v. 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 (v. 8). Now we
walk by faith; then we shall see Him as He is, and be like Him (I John 3:2).
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.
BODY TO THE OTHER. (v. 4.)
Ø The intermediate state between death and the resurrection will probably
not be so perfect as that which follows.
Ø There is a natural shrinking from death. “Not for that we would be
unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon” (v. 4). The apostle seems
to desire what is expressed in I Thessalonians 4:17 “Then we which are
alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds,
to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
A translation, not death and tarrying for the resurrection.
OR HEAVENLY BODY. To please Christ. This the apostle made his
“aim” (v. 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.
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.”
For WE MUST ALL APPEAR BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF
CHRIST - (This is one of the two Divine Imperatives in scripture – the other being
“YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN” [John 3:7] – CY – 2010). We must all appear;
The verb is not the same as in Romans 14:10, which occurs in ch. 4:14. Before the
judgment seat of Christ. The special final judgment is represented as taking place
before the – bema – judgment seat of Christ, although in Romans 14:10 the best
reading is “of God” (Matthew 25:31-32; see also John 5:22,27). Paul might naturally
use this Roman and Greek idea of the , being too familiar with it in his own
experience (compare Acts 12:21; 18:12; 25:6; Romans 14:10). The things done
in his body; literally, the things (done) by the instrumentality of the body.
Another reading (which only differs by a single letter from this) is,
“the proper things of the body” (τὰ ἴδια τοῦ σώματος – ta idia tou somatos); i.e. the
things which belong to it, which it has made its own. Paul, always intent on one
subject at a time, does not stop to coordinate this law of natural retribution and
inexorable Nemesis with that of the “forgiveness of sins” (I Corinthians 5:11;
Romans 3:25), or with the apparently universal hopes which he seems sometimes
to express (Romans 5:17-18; 11:32). According to that he hath done; rather, with
reference to the things he did. The aorist shows that all life will be as it were
concentrated to one point.. Observe that each is to receive the natural issues of what
he has done. There is to be an analogy between the sin and the retribution. The latter
is but the ripe fruit of the former. We shall be punished by the action of natural laws,
not of arbitrary inflictions. We shall reap what we have sown, not harvests of other
grain (Romans 2:5-11; Revelation 22:12; Galatians 6:7). Whether it be good or bad.
Paul, who always confines himself to one topic at a time, does not here enter on
the question of the cutting off of the entailed curse by repentance and forgiveness.
He leaves unsolved the paradox between normal inevitable consequence and
Paul says in Galatians 6:7 – “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. Jesus said “whatsoever ye
have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have
spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon housetops” – (Luke 12:3)
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.” (Romans 2:16)
Assurance of Eternal Life; Faith and Its Effects (vs. 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
self-same thing.” (According to Ecclesiastes 3:11, God has set eternity
in our heart! CY – 2018) 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 vigor of a home sentiment.
So strong and assuring is 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 labor that we “may be accepted of Him.” To make himself
and his life acceptable to Christ was paramount to every other desire; to
labor 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 laboring 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 here 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.” (Galatians 6:7) How near the two worlds are — the growing field
here, the harvest in another existence hereafter! But observe another idea.
“We must all appear” (v. 10), 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.” (Romans 2:16) 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 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.
The Judgment (v. 10)
· THE JUDGMENT IS CERTAIN.
Ø It is a matter of most definite revelation. “Because He
hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world
in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained;
whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, IN THAT
HE THAT RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD!” (Acts 17:31)
Ø It is necessary for the vindication of Divine justice.
· CHRIST WILL BE THE JUDGE. “The judgment seat of Christ.”
Ø A very solemn fact:
o for those who have rejected His salvation and His rule;
o or who have treated His claims with neglect and indifference;
o or who have professed to believe on Him, but in works have
Ø A very joyous fact for those who have loved, confessed, and served Him.
Ø A very impressive tact that THE ONE WHO DIED FOR MEN
WILL JUDGE MEN!
· ALL WILL STAND BEFORE CHRIST’S JUDGMENT SEAT. Not
one will be missing. How vast an assemblage! A great multitude, and yet
no one lost 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 (v. 10) — one by one. Every day we are brought
a day nearer to that dread convocation.
· AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST THERE WILL BE A
Ø Of character.
Ø Of condition.
Ø 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!
· 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, have we not
prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and
in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matthew 7:22) 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.”
(Revelation 3:1) Upon the branch professedly united to the Vine fruit will
then be sought. (John 15) “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-26)
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.
Ø The distinction between good and evil will be strictly drawn at the
Ø 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.”
Ø The dependence of the future upon the present. We shall receive the
things done in the body (whether good or bad – Ecclesiastes 12:14).
A remarkable expression. What we do now we shall receive then.
We are now writing the sentence of the judgment!
o Time is sowing.
o Judgment is reaping.
“What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and
godliness?” (II Peter 3:11)
The Judgment Seat of Christ (v. 10)
It is needlessly forcing language to regard this expression as referring to
the general judgment of mankind. This letter is addressed to the saints, the
limits of Paul’s thought when he said, “For we” — that is, we Christians
— “must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” Such a judgment,
or appraisement, of our conduct is involved in the very idea of our
mastership to Christ. He will be sure one day to take account of His
servants, and this Jesus Himself taught as in His parables of the talents and
pounds. Christians are as stewards, men entrusted for a time with their
Master’s goods. They are even to be thought of as “slaves,” wholly the
Master’s possession; and He has full power to estimate their conduct,
reward faithfulness, and punish neglect and disobedience. Paul even
loves to think of himself as the bond-slave of Jesus. And the apostles long
to prove so faithful in all things that they may not be ashamed, or terrified,
or loathe to meet their Master at His coming. “The feeling of accountability
may take two forms. In a free and generous spirit it may be simply a sense
of duty; in a slavish and cowardly spirit it will be a sense of compulsion.”
To us it should be a joy and an inspiration that our own loved Master will
appraise our lives; and that, if He is true to observe our faults, He will be no
less gracious to recognize what He may call our goodness and our
obedience. The thought of His judgment can only be a terror to the
rebellious, disobedient, and willful among His servants. We notice three
· LOYALTY TO CHRIST IS OUR SPIRIT. “We call Him Master and
Lord, and we say well; for so He is.” The rule of our life is the will of our
glorified and ever-present Lord. We have voluntarily given ourselves to
Him. To Him we owe our supreme allegiance. He is to us what his queen
and country are to the general who leads forth his army. We must be ever
true to Him; and He, and He alone, is the Lord whose approval or
condemnation of our work we should seek. Because I am loyal to Christ I
will care about nobody’s judgment of my life until I know His.
· SERVICE OF CHRIST IN RIGHTEOUSNESS IS OUR LIFE. This is
the very essence of the matter. Christ is served by righteousness, and really
by nothing else. Our place of service, our kind of service, our success in
service, are quite the secondary things. The first thing is the rightness with
which we do the service. Was the work good? — this it is that Christ asks.
Herein Christ differs from all other masters. They can only judge the work;
He judges the character which found expression through the work. It is
that personal righteousness that Christ will search for when He judges His
· THE APPRAISEMENT OF CHRIST IS OUR EXPECTATION
AND OUR HOPE. A day of final judgment is men’s expectation, but not
their hope. It is too often a terror to them, a thought put away in fear.
Christ’s judgment of His saints is our hope; it is the first day of our glory.
The thought of it may make us serious and watchful, but it never can make
us sad. Christ will test and try our lives. Christ will weigh us in His
balances. Christ will apportion our future place. Christ will chastise if there
be found evil in us, and His chastisements shall be our joy; for we too want
all the evil in us found out and put away. We even glory in this coming
appraisement by our Lord; for if, in subtle disguises, evil lurks in any of our
secret places of heart and life, Jesus will find it out, and will not leave us
until we stand in the likeness of His own spotless purity. And upon our
Lord’s judgment of us our future, our eternal location and work, must
depend. Tested in this life, He will know what we can do; and it may be that
He will give us trust of higher things, “authority over ten cities.”
` The Ministry of Reconciliation (vs. 11-21)
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.” Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men.
Multitudes of texts have been torn from their context and grossly
abused and misinterpreted, but few more so than this. It is the text usually
chosen by those who wish to excuse a setting forth of God under the
attributes of Moloch. With any such views it has not the remotest
connection. It simply means, “Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we
persuade men,” either “to keep in view the same fear of the Lord as
ourselves,” or (reverting to his last assertion of his own sincerity and
integrity in v. 9), “that our sole ambition is to please God.” The
rendering, “the terror of the Lord,” for the every day expression, “the fear
of the Lord,” was wantonly intruded into modem versions by Beza, and has
not a single word to be said in its favor. The phrase means (as always) not
the dread which God inspires, but the holy fear - – phobon – fear which
mingles with our love of Him. To teach men to regard God with terror is to undo
the best teaching of all Scripture, which indeed has too often been the main end
of human systems of theology - “we persuade men” - Not in a bad sense (Galatians
1:10). The attacks and calumnies of enemies make it necessary to vindicate our
integrity to men; but we have no need to do so to God, because He already knows
us. We are made manifest unto God; rather, but to God we have been (and are)
manifested. He needs no self-defense from us. Are made manifest in your
consciences; but I hope that I have been, and am now, made manifest in
your consciences. In other words, I trust that this apology into which you have
driven me has achieved its ends; and that, whatever may be your prejudices and
innuendoes, before the bar of the individual conscience of each of you we now
stand clear (compare ch. 4:2).
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.” For we commend not ourselves again unto you.
Still reverting to the charge that he was guilty of self praise, he says that his
object is not this, for it was needless (ch. 3:2-3). But give you occasion to glory
on our behalf. But we speak as we have done to give you a starting-point for
something to boast of on our behalf. He has already said (ch. 1:4) that the teachers
and the taught in their mutual affection ought to have some ground for “boasting”
(i.e. for speaking with some praise and exultation) of each other. The Corinthians
were being robbed of this by the interested lies of Paul’s opponents, who thought
only about outward appearances. This is why he has set forth to them the aim and
glory of his ministry. Nothing could be more gentle and forbearing than such a
mode of stating his object. Yet for those who were sufficiently finely strung to
understand it, there was an almost pathetic irony involved in it. Which glory in
appearance, and not inheart; literally, in face. The grounds of their boasting,
whatever they were, were superficial and external (ch. 10:7), not deep and sincere.
But those who would judge of Paul aright must look into his very heart, and not on
13 “For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be
sober, it is for your cause.” For whether we be beside ourselves; rather,
for whether we were mad. Evidently some person or some faction had said of Paul,
“He is beside himself,” just as Festus said afterwards, “Paul, thou art mad,”
(Acts 26:24) and as the Jews said of Paul’s Lord and Master (John 10:20).
The fervor of the apostle, his absorption in his work, his visions and ecstasies,
his “speaking with tongues more than they all,” (I Corinthians 14:18) - his
indifference to externals, his bursts of emotion, might all have given color to this
charge, which he here ironically accepts. “Mad or self controlled, all was for your
sakes.” It is to God; rather for God. My “enthusiasm,” “exaltation,” or, if you will,
my “madness,” was but a phase of my work for Him. We be sober. The word
“sober” – sophron) is derived from two words which mean” to save
the mind.” It indicates wise self control, such as was represented also by the
many-sided Latin word frugi. It is the exact antithesis to madness (Acts 26:25).
What you call my “madness” belongs to the relation between my own soul and
God; my practical sense and tact are for you – “it is for your cause.”
literally, for you.
14 “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that
if one died for all, then were all dead:” The love of Christ. It matters little
whether this be interpreted as a subjective genitive, “Christ’s love to man,”
or as an objective genitive,“our love to Christ;” for the two suppose and
interfuse each other. Paul’s usage, however, favors the former interpretation
(ch. 13:14; I Corinthians 16:24). Constraineth. The word means that it compresses
us, and therefore keeps us irresistibly to one object (Luke 12:50). That if one died
for all, then were all dead. This is an unfortunate mistranslation and wrong reading
for that one died for all, therefore all died. What compels Paul to sacrifice himself
to the work of God for his converts is the conviction, which he formed once for
all at his conversion, that One, even Christ, died on behalf of all men
(Romans 5:15-19) a redeeming death (v. 21); and that, consequently, in that
death, all potentially died with him — died to their life of sin, and rose to the
life of righteousness. Paul assumes as an undoubted fact that Christ died for all.
Because of this fact he concludes:
Christ. “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto
themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again!” (v. 15)
The best comments on this bold and concentrated phrase are — “I died to the Law
that I might live to Christ;” “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:19-20);
and, “Ye died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
When Christ died, all humanity, of which He was the federal Head, died potentially
with him to sin and selfishness, as he further shows in the next verse.
The Constraining Influence of the Love of Christ (v. 14)
· CONSIDER THE LOVE OF CHRIST. Shown in:
Ø His Advent. Relinquishment of heavenly glory. The highest place above
exchanged for one of the lowest on earth. “For ye know the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes
He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.”
Ø His Assumption of human nature. A vast condescension. A most
striking proof of love.
Ø His Life. Miracles, acts of kindness, words, spirit.
Ø His Death. A transcendent proof.
o Death for enemies.
o Death at the hands of those He came to save.
o Most painful death,
§ mentally, and
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Ø A death the object of which was the redemption, purification,
exaltation, and eternal happiness of men.
Ø Intercession. “He ever liveth to make intercession” FOR US!
· 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.
Ø Negatively. Not to live to himself (v. 15). There was now a greater
power operating upon him than the mighty power of self.
Ø Positively. To live to Christ (ibid.). 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.
o By a blameless life.
o By seeking to show forth Christ in his character, spirit, acts, etc.
o By submitting his will to Christ’s in all things.
o By cherishing a deep love for Christ.
o By seeking to extend the kingdom and to increase the glory of
o By being wholly devoted to Christ. He was wont to speak of
himself as the “slave of Christ.”
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.” - That they should
live no longer the psychic, i.e. the animal, selfish, egotistic life, but to their risen Savior
(Romans 14:7-9; I Corinthians 6:19).
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.”
Know no man after the flesh. It is a consequence of my death with Christ that I have
done with carnal, superficial, earthly, external judgments according to the appearance,
and not according to the heart. Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh.
The word for “know” is different from the one just used ( – oidamen – are
acquainted with (above) and – egnokamen – we have known
and may be rendered, “though we have taken note of.” The whole phrase,
which has been interpreted in multitudes of different ways, and has led to
many different hypotheses, must be understood in accordance with the
context. Paul is saying that he has now renounced all mere earthly and human
judgments; and he here implies that the day has been (whether — which is a
very unlikely view — before his conversion, when he looked on Christ as a
“deceiver,” or just after his conversion, when possibly he may only have
known Him partially as the Jewish Messiah) when he knew Christ only in this
fleshly way; but henceforth he will know Him so no more. Probably this
“knowing Christ after the flesh” is a rebuke to those members of the Christ party at
had personally seen or known Christ — a spirit which Christ Himself not only
discouraged (John 16:7) but even rebuked (Matthew 12:50). To Paul Christ is
now regarded as far above all local, national, personal, and Jewish limitations,
and as the principle of spiritual life in the heart of every Christian. In the view
which he took of his Lord Paul henceforth has banished all Jewish particularism
for gospel catholicity. He regards Christ, not in the light of earthly relationships
and conditions, but as THE RISEN, GLORIFIED, ETERNAL, UNIVERSAL
There is a new social standard here. “Henceforth we know no man after the flesh.”
The world has numerous standards by which it judges men, birth, wealth, office, etc.
To a man filled and fired with love to Christ these are nothing. He estimates man by
his rectitude, not by his rank; by his spirit, not by his station; by his principles, not
by his property.
17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things
are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Therefore. If even a
human, personal, external knowledge of Christ is henceforth of no significance,
it follows that there must have been a total change in all relations towards Him.
The historic fact of such a changed relationship is indicated clearly in John 20:17.
Mary Magdalene was there lovingly taught that a “recognition of Christ after the
flesh,” i.e. as merely a human friend, was to be a thing of the past. In Christ;
i.e. a Christian. For perfect faith attains to mystic union with Christ.
A new creature; rather, a new creation (Galatians 6:15) - the deep truth
of spiritual regeneration and the new birth (John 3:3; Ephesians 2:10; 4:23-24;
Colossians 3:3) – To be “in Christ” is to be in His Spirit, in His character, to
live in His ideas, principles, etc. Such a man is “a new creature.” The man
has a new “SPIRITUAL HISTORY! He is a “new creature”, a product of
the work of God, a new thing according to the Divine Plan – (Revelation 13:8) –
Old things are passed away: literally, the ancient things, all that belongs to the
old Adam. Behold. The word expresses the writer’s vivid realization of the truth
he is uttering. All things. The whole sphere of being, and therewith the whole
aim and character of life. The clause illustrates the “new creation.”
A New Creature. (v. 17)
· HOW THE NEWNESS ORIGINATES.
Ø The believer has died with Christ. (v . 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.
Ø 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 (v. 14)
to live, not to himself, but to Christ.
· HOW THE NEWNESS IS MANIFESTED. In the believer’s:
Ø plans, purposes, desires, etc.
“All things are become new” (v. 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”
· 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 (v. 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.
18 “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by
Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;”
And all things are of God; literally, but all things (in this “new creation”)
are from God. Who hath reconciled us; rather, who (by Christ’s one offering
of Himself) reconciled us to Himself. We were His enemies (Romans 5:10; 11:28),
but, because He was still our Friend and Father, He brought us back to Himself
by Christ. The ministry of reconciliation. The ministry which teaches the
reconciliation which He has effected for us. That is, all things pertaining to this
new creation. The great want of man is reconciliation to God. Man’s alienation
or apostasy from his Maker is the sin of all his sins, and the source of all his
miseries. His reconciliation is not the means to his salvation; it is his salvation.
Friendship with Him is heaven. On the other hand, alienation is hell. A river
cut from the fountain dries up; a branch cut from the tree withers and dies;
a planet cut from the sun rushes into ruin. Separate a soul from God its
Fountain, its Root, its Center, and it dies — dies to all that makes
existence tolerable. Such, then, is WHAT CHRIST DOES FOR US!
The Ministry of Reconciliation (v. 18)
Every good man is a peacemaker. Both unconsciously by his character and
disposition, and consciously and actively by his efforts, he composes
differences and promotes concord and amity among his fellow men. The
Christian minister, however, goes deeper when he aims at securing
harmony between God and man. And he purposes to effect this
reconciliation, not by the use of ordinary persuasion, but by the
presentation of the gospel of Christ.
Ø There is a moral Ruler and a moral law, righteous and authoritative.
Ø Against this Ruler men have rebelled, they have broken the law, and thus
introduced enmity and conflict.
Ø Divine displeasure has thus been incurred, and Divine penalties, by
which just displeasure is expressed.
ALONE CAN INTRODUCE RECONCILIATION. God is the greater,
and not only so, He is the wronged, offended party. If any overtures for
reconciliation are to be made, they must proceed from Him. He must
provide the basis of peace and He must commission the heralds of peace.
RECONCILIATION. The Lord Jesus has every qualification which can be
desired in an efficient Mediator. He partakes the nature of God and of man;
He is appointed and accepted by the Divine Sovereign; He has effected by
His sacrifice a work of atonement or reconciliation; His Spirit is a Spirit of
peace. And in fact He has “made peace,” removing all obstacles on God’s
side and providing for the removal of all on man’s.
RECONCILIATION. It is a moral and not a sacerdotal ministry; it is
experimental, being entrusted to those who are themselves reconciled; it is
a ministry accompanied with supernatural power, even the energy of the
Spirit of God; it is an authoritative ministry, which men are not at liberty to
disregard or despise; it is an effectual ministry, for those who discharge it
faithfully are unto many the “savour of life unto life.” (ch. 2:15-16)
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.” God was in Christ, reconciling the world
unto Himself. This and the many other passages of Scripture which always
represent the atonement as the work of the blessed Trinity, and as being the
result of the love, not of the wrath, of God, ought to have been a sufficient
warning against the hideous extravagance of those forensic statements of the
atonement which have disgraced almost a thousand years of theology (Romans
5:10; I John 4:10). That God’s purpose of mercy embraced all mankind, and
not an elect few, is again and again stated in Scripture (see Colossians 1:20).
Not imputing their trespasses unto them. See this developed in Romans 15:5-8.
Hath committed (entrusted) unto us; literally, who also deposited in us,
as though it were some sacred treasure.
God is a Great Worker. He is the eternal Fountain of life in unremitting flow. He is
essentially active, the mainspring of all activity in the universe but that of sin. There
are at least four organs through which He works — material laws, animal instincts,
moral mind, and Jesus Christ.
that populate the earth, the air, and the sea;
God governs the vast empire of mind; and
no more difficulty in regarding Him in the one Person, Christ, for a certain
work than there is in regarding Him as being in material nature, animal instinct,
or moral mind, The words lead us to make three remarks concerning God’s
work in Christ.:
Ø It is a work of RECONCILING HUMANITY TO GOD. “God was in
Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” The work of reconciling
implies two things — enmity on the side of one of the parties, and a
change of mind in one of the parties. The enmity here is not on God’s
part — He is love; but on man’s. The “carnal mind is enmity with
God.” (Romans 8:7) Nor is the change on God’s part. He cannot
change, He need not change. “For I am the Lord, I change not;
therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” – (Malachi 3:6)
He could never become more loving and merciful. The change needed
is on man’s part, and on man’s exclusively. Paul speaks of the world
being reconciled to God, not of God to the world. The “world;” not a
section of the race, but ALL MANKIND!
Ø It is a work involving the REMISSION OF SINS. “Not imputing
[reckoning] their trespasses unto them.” The reconciled man is no
longer reckoned guilty. Three facts will throw light on this. The state of
enmity towards God is:
o A state of sin. There is a virtue in disliking some
characters, but it is evermore a sin to dislike
God, for He is the All-good.
o A state of sin liable to punishment. Indeed, sin is its own
o In reconciliation, the enmity being removed, the
punishment and their consequences. This God
does in Christ.
Ø It is a work in which GENUINE MINISTERS ARE ENGAGED.
“He hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 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.” (vs. 19-20)
o The position, of the true minister, he acts on behalf of
Christ, and stands in “Christ’s stead.”
o The earnestness of the true minister. “We pray you.”
From the whole we observe concerning this work:
o That it is a work of unbounded mercy. Whoever heard
the offended party seeking the friendship of the offender?
o It is a work essential to human happiness. In the nature
of the case there is no happiness without this
o It is a work exclusively of moral influence. No coercion
on the one hand, no angry denunciations on the other,
can do it; it can only be effected by the logic of love.
o It is a work that must be gradual. Mind cannot be
forced; there must be reflection, repentance, resolution.
God the Reconciler (v. 19)
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” This is the first
occurrence, in the order of time, in Paul’s Epistles, of this word
‘reconcile’ as describing God’s work in Christ. The idea involved is that
man had been at enmity and had now been atoned (at-oned), and brought
into concord with God. It will be noted that the work is described as
originating with the Father and accomplished by the mediation of the Son.
· THE DISTURBANCE WHICH CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION.
This may be presented as a disturbance occurring between:
Ø a Creator and His creatures;
Ø a King and His subjects; or
Ø more worthily in this case, a Father and His children.
The point of impression is, that the disturbance is in no sense due to any
action or neglect of God as Creator, King, or Father, but is wholly due to
the self-willed and rebellious conduct of the creatures, subjects, or children.
It involved a state of enmity, a withdrawal of pleasant relations, and acts of
judgment on the part of God. All these statements need illustration and
enforcement. Only as the difficulty is duly estimated can the grace of the
remedy be fully understood.
· THE SIDE ON WHICH WAS THE EARLIEST DESIRE FOR
RECONCILEMENT. Not man’s side. The offenders did not seek
forgiveness and restoration. This is true:
None of us, now, are before God in seeking reconciliation. The offended
Creator, King, and Father seeks to make both one, and break down the
middle walls of partition. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
Himself.” (v. 19) The deep ground of redemption is God’s pitying love for us
sinners. We must not think that we claimed the love or that Christ
persuaded God to show it. “God so loved the world as to give His only
begotten Son.” (John 3:16) The enmity of man to Him grieved Him, and
love found the ways in which to break the enmity, and win, by a free
forgiveness, the very heart of the offenders.
· THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD EFFECTS THE RECONCILEMENT.
All are summed up in Christ. He is the Agent through whom God practically
carries out His reconciling purpose. We may gather all the ways under two heads.
Ø God reconciles by removing the hindrances.
Ø God reconciles by persuading the offenders. For both Christ is the
Agency. He takes “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us
out of the way, nailing it to His cross.” (Colossians 2:14) He could say,
“I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32) Plead, in
conclusion, that God’s reconciling mercies, embodied in Christ Jesus,
ought to be a mighty persuasion on us to yield ourselves to Him. They
should say in our hearts, “Be ye reconciled to God.” (v. 20)
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.”
Now then. It is, then, on Christ’s behalf that we are ambassadors. This excludes
all secondary aims. Paul uses the same expression in Ephesians 6:20, adding with
fine contrast that he is “an ambassador in fetters.” As though God did beseech
you by us; rather, as if God were exhorting you by our means. In Christ’s stead;
rather, we, on Christ’s behalf, beseech you. Be ye reconciled to God. This is the
sense of the embassy. The aorist implies an immediate acceptance of the offer of
Ambassadors for Christ (v. 20)
the members of the
had offended the Lord by their inconsistency and who needed to be
reconciled. How much more was and is this true of mankind at large!
There is no denying the need of A GOSPEL AND OF A MINISTRY
most justly applicable to the apostles only, inasmuch as their commission
and credentials were altogether special. An ambassador owes his
importance, not to himself, but to the power he represents, the message he
bears. The preachers of Christ are all heralds, if they cannot be designated
ambassadors. They may learn hence the dignity of their office and their
personal unworthiness and insufficiency, and they may be admonished as to
the imperative duty of fidelity.
COMMISSIONED? They are the ministers of the King of heaven, and
their authority is that of the King’s Son. Thus their mission is one entrusted
by a superior power and authority; and not only so, it is from an offended
and outraged power. This appears when we consider:
speaking, an ambassador is one accredited to a power sovereign and equal
to that from whom he comes. But in this case the resemblance fails in this
respect, inasmuch as the ministers of the gospel address themselves to
offenders, to rebels, to those who cannot treat with Heaven upon equal
terms, or any terms of right.
“on Christ’s behalf,” “in Christ’s stead.” The Lord Himself first came upon
an embassage of mercy. He has entrusted to His apostles, and in a sense to
all His ministers, the office and trust of acting as His representatives, in so
far as they publish the declaration and offer of DIVINE MERCY!
ARE SENT TO EXECUTE? It is an office of mercy. Their duty is to
publish the tidings of redemption, the offer of pardon, and themselves to
urge and to entreat men that they accept the gospel and thus enjoy the
blessings of reconciliation with God.
Ambassadors of Christ (v. 20)
· THE DUTIES OF AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST.
o Not to originate their message.
o Not to think lightly of their mission.
o Not to seek their own glory.
o Not to aim at their own comfort and pleasure as a
o Not to depart from their instructions. Not to add to them
nor take away.
o To go where they are sent.
o To communicate the mind of their Lord.
o To defend His honor.
o To be influenced by the welfare of His kingdom.
o To make their Master’s business pre-eminent.
o To strive in every way to qualify themselves for their
o To endeavor to do their work in the best possible way.
o To endure loss and suffering rather than the interests
of their Master’s kingdom should be prejudiced.
· THE MESSAGE OF THE AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST.
Ø That God loves men.
Ø 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.
Ø That Christ willingly gave Himself for men. The death of Christ was
Ø 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
(v. 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.
Ø That God earnestly invites men to be reconciled to Him. Amazing
condescension! The climax of Divine love! “As though God were
entreating” (v. 20).
· HOW THE MESSAGE IS TO BE CONVEYED.
Ø With courtesy.
Ø With intense earnestness. It is momentous. What issues depend upon its
acceptance or rejection!
Ø With zealous pleading.
· HOW AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST ARE TO BE REGARDED.
Ø As speaking on behalf of Christ.
Ø As declaring the mind of 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.” He hath made Him to be sin
for us; rather, He made; he speaks with definite reference to the cross. The
expression is closely analogous to that in Galatians 3:13, where it is said that
been “made a curse for us.” He was, as
“delictorum susceptor, non commissor.” He knew no sin; nay, He was the very
righteousness, holiness itself (Jeremiah 23:6), and yet, for our benefit, God made
Him to be “sin” for us, in that He “sent Him in the likeness of sinful flesh and for
sin” (Romans 8:3). Many have understood the word “sin” in the sense of sin
offering (Leviticus 5:9, Septuagint); but that is a precarious application of the word,
which is not justified by any other passage in the New Testament. We cannot, as
Dean Plumptre says, get beyond the simple statement, which Paul is content to
leave in its unexplicable mystery, “Christ identified with man’s sin; man
identified with Christ’s righteousness.” And thus, in Christ, God becomes
Jehovah- Tsidkenu, “the Lord our Righteousness.” That we might
be made the righteousness of God in Him; - rather, that we might become.
The best comment on the pregnant significance of this verse is Romans 1:16-17,
which is developed and explained in so large a section of that great Epistle
(see 3:22-25; 4:5-8; 5:19 – a plan from the foundation of the world – Revelation
13:8). In Him. In His blood is a means of propitiation by which the righteousness
of God becomes the righteousness of man (I Corinthians 1:30), so that man is
justified. The truth which Paul thus develops and expresses is stated by Peter and
John in a simpler and less theological form (I Peter 2:22-24; I John 3:5). Also,
consider Hebrews 1:3)
“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.” From this passage we gather three
· That Christ was ABSOLUTELY SINLESS. “Who knew no sin.”
Intellectually, of course, He knew all the sin in the world; but He never
experienced it, He was absolutely free from it.
Ø He was “without sin,” although He lived in a sinful world. Of all the
millions who have been here HE ALONE moved amongst the world
and received NO TAINT of moral contamination.
Ø He was “without sin,” although He was powerfully tempted. Had he
been untemptable there would have been no virtue in His freedom from
sin, and had there been no tempter there would have been nothing
His sinlessness. “He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
· That, though sinless, Christ was in some sense MADE SIN BY GOD.
“He hath made him to be sin for us.” What meaneth this?
Ø It cannot mean that God made the sinless One a sinner. This would be
impossible. No one can create a moral character for another.
Ø It cannot mean that God imputed to Him the sin of the world, and
punished Him for the world’s sin. The idea of literal substitution is
repugnant to reason and unsustained by any honest interpretation of
God’s Holy Word. The atonement of Christ consists, not in what He
said, did, or suffered, but in what He was. HE WAS, IS, AND
ALWAYS SHALL BE THE LAMB OF GOD WHICH TAKETH
AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD! (John 1:29) He Himself is the
Atonement, the Reconciler. What, then, does it mean? Two facts may
throw some light:
o That God sent Christ into a world of sinners to become closely
identified with them. He was related to sinners, mingled with
them, ate and drank with them, and was in the community,
counted as one of them. “He was numbered with the
transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)
o That God permitted this world of sinners to treat Christ as a
sinner. He was calumniated, persecuted, insulted, murdered.
God permitted all this, and what He permits is, in Scripture
language, often ascribed to Him.
· That the Sinless One was thus made sin in order that men MIGHT
PARTICIPATE IN GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS. “That we might be
made the righteousness of God in Him.” Never did Divine moral excellence
or the righteousness of God shine out with such glory to man as in the
sufferings which Christ endured in consequence of this connection with
sinners. As the stars can only show themselves at night, and as aromatic plants
can only emit their precious odor by pressure, so the highest moral virtues can
only come out by suffering and battling with the wrong. What self-sacrificing
love, what unconquerable attachment to truth, what loyalty to the infinite Father,
what sublime heroism of love, was here exhibited in the incarnation, the
beneficent deeds, and overwhelming sufferings of Jesus!
(I would like to recommend Jeremiah ch. 23 v. 6 – Jehovah-Tsidkenu – Names of
God by Nathan Stone – this web site – CY - 2010)
Reconciliation (vs. 18-21)
Great truths hang together. When the Lord Jesus had told Nicodemus of
regeneration, He immediately proceeded to teach him salvation through a
Redeemer. So when the Apostle Paul has spoken of new creation in Christ
(v. 17), he instantly follows it with the doctrine of reconciliation through Christ.
· THE NEED OF RECONCILIATION. The world is not in harmony or
at peace with God. Sin has done it. On the one hand, God’s displeasure is
declared against the workers of iniquity; on the other, those workers are
afraid of God and alienated from Him. A great gulf yawns between God
and man; and the need of reconciliation is the need of a bridge across that
chasm. Or, a great mountain is cast up between God and man; and the need
of reconciliation is the need of that mountain becoming a plain, so that God
and man may not merely approach, but unite and be at peace. “What can be
the difficulty,” some exclaim, “if God desires it? Is He not omnipotent, and
can He not accomplish whatever He pleases?” But we speak of a moral
obstacle, not a physical. And, while God can certainly do what He pleases,
He cannot please to do anything but what is perfectly righteous. So there is
a difficulty. It is twofold: there is a sentence of condemnation in heaven
against the transgressors of the law of righteousness; and there is an enmity
to God or a cowering dread of Him in the hearts of those transgressors on
· THE AUTHOR OF RECONCILIATION. “All things [i.e. all the things
of the new creation] are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself.” Man,
the creature and the sinner, should have been the first to seek the healing of
the breach, by suing for pardon and imploring mercy from God. But it has
not been so. The initiative has been taken by God, who is rich in mercy,
and, loving the world, has provided for its reconciliation by Jesus Christ.
· THE METHOD OF RECONCILIATION. Messages sent from a distant
heaven or throne of God could not suffice. There was need of AN
AUTHORIZED MESSENGER! So God sent His only begotten Son. For so
great a work was constituted A UNIQUE AND WONDERFUL PERSONALITY.
The Son of God became man and yet continued Divine. So, in the very
constitution of His person, He brought the Divine and the human together.
And thus His relation to both parties was such as perfectly fitted Him to be the
Reconciler. He loved God, and therefore was faithful to all Divine claims
and prerogatives; while at the same time He loved man and was intent on
securing his salvation.
Ø He dealt with the difficulty on the side of eternal righteousness. He did
so by taking the room and the responsibility of the transgressors and
making atonement for them. And the hand of God was in this. “He hath
made him,” etc. (v. 21). “Made… sin,” though He never was a sinner, and
laden with it as a burden, enveloped in it as a mantle of shame. “Jehovah
laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” The issue is that we “become the
righteousness of God in Him.” And in this is nothing illusive or fictitious.
There was a real laying of our sins on THE LAMB OF GOD that there may
be a real laying or conferring of Divine righteousness on us who believe in His
Ø He deals with the difficulty of alienated feeling. No change is needed in
the mind or disposition of God. He does not need to be persuaded to love
the world. All the salvation in Christ PROCEEDS FROM HIS LOVE!
But the enmity of men to God must be removed, and this is effected by the
revelation of God as gracious and propitious to sinners IN CHRIST
JESUS! When this is known and believed, the heart turns to God and actual
reconciliation is made.
· THE WORD OF RECONCILIATION. (vs. 19-20.) When Paul
preached the gospel it was as though God entreated or exhorted the people
through his servant’s lips. He was an ambassador, not a plenipotentiary
with powers to discuss and negotiate terms of peace, but a King’s
messenger sent to proclaim terms of free grace and to press the acceptance
of them on the enemies of the King. This embassy continues. Do not meet
it with excuses and delays.
"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.
Materials are reproduced by permission."
This material can be found at: