The Hope (2Co 4:17, 18) OF Eternal
Glory in the Resurrection Body.
Hence arises his ambition to be accepted at the
Lord's coming judgment. Hence, too, his endeavor to deal openly with
men, as with God, in preaching; thus giving the Corinthians whereof to
boast concerning him against his adversaries. His constraining motive
is the transforming love of Christ, by whom God has wrought
reconciliation between Himself and men, and has committed to the
apostle the ministry of reconciliation.
1. For—Assigning the reason for the
statement (2Co 4:17),
that affliction leads to exceeding glory.
we know—assuredly (2Co 4:14; Job
if—For all shall not die; many
shall be "changed" without "dissolution" (1Co 15:51-53). If this daily delivering unto
death (2Co 3:11)
should end in actual death.
earthly—not the same as earthy
15:47). It stands in contrast
to "in the heavens."
house of this
tabernacle—rather, "house of the tabernacle." "House"
expresses more permanency than belongs to the body; therefore
the qualification, "of the tabernacle" (implying that it is
shifting, not stationary), is added (compare Job 4:19;
2Pe 1:13, 14). It thus
answers to the tabernacle in the wilderness. Its wooden frame and
curtains wore out in course of time when Israel dwelt in Canaan, and a
fixed temple was substituted for it. The temple and the tabernacle in
all essentials were one; there was the same ark, the same cloud of
glory. Such is the relation between the "earthly" body and the
resurrection body. The Holy Spirit is enshrined in the believer's body
as in a sanctuary (1Co 3:16). As
the ark went first in taking down the wilderness tabernacle, so the
soul (which like the ark is sprinkled with blood of atonement, and is
the sacred deposit in the inmost shrine, 2Ti 1:12) in the dissolution of the body; next
the coverings were removed, answering to the flesh; lastly, the
framework and boards, answering to the bones, which are last to give
4:1-49). Paul, as a
tent-maker, uses an image taken from his trade (Ac 18:3).
dissolved—a mild word for death, in
the case of believers.
we have—in assured prospect of
possession, as certain as if it were in our hands, laid up "in the
heavens" for us. The tense is present (compare Joh 3:36;
a building of God—rather "from
God." A solid building, not a temporary tabernacle or
tent. "Our" body stands in contrast to "from God."
For though our present body be also from God, yet it is not
fresh and perfect from His hands, as our resurrection body shall
not made with hands—contrasted with
houses erected by man's hands (1Co 15:44-49). So Christ's body is designated, as
contrasted with the tabernacle reared by Moses (Mr 14:58; Heb
9:11). This "house" can only
be the resurrection body, in contrast to the "earthly house of
the tabernacle," our present body. The intermediate state is not
directly taken into account. A comma should separate "eternal,"
and "in the heavens."
2. For in this—Greek, "For
also in this"; "herein" (2Co 8:10). Alford
takes it, "in this" tabernacle. 2Co 5:4, which seems parallel, favors this. But
the parallelism is sufficiently exact by making "in this we groan"
refer generally to what was just said (2Co 5:1), namely, that we cannot obtain our
"house in the heavens" except our "earthly tabernacle" be first
dissolved by death.
we groan—(Ro 8:23) under the body's weaknesses now and
liability to death.
earnestly desiring to be clothed
upon—translate, "earnestly longing to have
ourselves clothed upon," &c., namely, by being found
alive at Christ's coming, and so to escape dissolution by
5:1, 4), and to have our
heavenly body put on over the earthly. The groans of the saints prove
the existence of the longing desire for the heavenly glory, a desire
which cannot be planted by God within us in vain, as doomed to
our house—different Greek from
that in 2Co
5:1; translate, "our
habitation," "our domicile"; it has a more distinct reference to the
inhabitant than the general term "house" (2Co 5:1) [Bengel].
from heaven—This domicile is "from
heaven" in its origin, and is to be brought to us by the Lord at
His coming again "from heaven" (1Th 4:16). Therefore this "habitation" or
"domicile" is not heaven itself.
3. If so be, &c.—Our "desire" holds
good, should the Lord's coming find us alive. Translate, "If so be that
having ourselves clothed (with our natural body, compare 2Co 5:4) we shall not be found naked (stripped
of our present body)."
4. For—resuming 2Co 5:2.
being burdened: not for that—rather,
"in that we desire not to have ourselves unclothed (of
our present body), but clothed upon (with our heavenly body).
that mortality, &c.—rather, "that
what is mortal (our mortal part) may be swallowed up of (absorbed and
transformed into) life." Believers shrink from, not the
consequences, but the mere act of dying; especially as
believing in the possibility of their being found alive at the Lord's
4:15), and so of having their
mortal body absorbed into the immortal without death. Faith does not
divest us of all natural feeling, but subordinates it to higher
feeling. Scripture gives no sanction to the contempt for the body
expressed by philosophers.
5. wrought us—framed us by redemption,
justification, and sanctification.
for the selfsame thing—"unto" it;
namely, unto what is mortal of us being swallowed up in life (2Co 5:4).
who also—The oldest manuscripts omit
earnest of the Spirit—(See on 2Co 1:22). It is the Spirit (as "the first-fruits") who
creates in us the groaning desire for our coming deliverance and glory
6. Translate as Greek, "Being therefore
always confident and knowing," &c. He had intended to have made the
verb to this nominative, "we are willing" (rather, "well content"), but
digressing on the word "confident" (2Co 5:6, 7), he resumes the word in a different
form, namely, as an assertion: "We are confident and well content."
"Being confident … we are confident" may be the Hebraic
idiom of emphasis; as Ac 7:34,
Greek, "Having seen, I have seen," that is, I have surely
always—under all trials. Bengel makes the contrast between "always
confident" and "confident" especially at the prospect of being "absent
from the body." We are confident as well at all times, as also
most of all in the hope of a blessed departure.
whilst … at home …
absent—Translate as Greek, "While we sojourn in our
home in the body, we are away from our home in the Lord."
The image from a "house" is retained (compare Php
3:20; Heb 11:13-16; 13:14).
7. we walk—in our Christian course here
not by sight—Greek, "not by
appearance." Our life is governed by faith in our immortal hope; not by
the outward specious appearance of present things [Tittmann, Greek Synonyms of the New
Testament]. Compare "apparently," the Septuagint, "by
appearance," Nu 12:8.
Wahl supports English Version.
4:18 also confirms it
(compare Ro 8:24; 1Co 13:12, 13). God has appointed in this life
faith for our great duty, and in the next, vision for our reward
[South] (1Pe 1:8).
8. willing—literally, "well content."
Translate also, "To go (literally, migrate) from our home in the
body, and to come to our home with the Lord." We should prefer to be
found alive at the Lord's coming, and to be clothed upon with our
heavenly body (2Co 5:2-4).
But feeling, as we do, the sojourn in the body to be a separation from
our true home "with the Lord," we prefer even dissolution by death, so
that in the intermediate disembodied state we may go to be "with
the Lord" (Php 1:23).
"To be with Christ" (the disembodied state) is distinguished from
Christ's coming to take us to be with Him in soul and body
4:14-17, "with the Lord").
Perhaps the disembodied spirits of believers have fulness of communion
with Christ unseen; but not the mutual recognition of one
another, until clothed with their visible bodies at the resurrection
(compare 1Th 4:13-17), when they shall with joy recognize
Christ's image in each other perfect.
9. Wherefore—with such a sure
"confidence" of being blessed, whether we die before, or be found alive
at Christ's coming.
we labour—literally, "make it our
ambition"; the only lawful ambition.
whether present or absent—whether we
be found at His coming present in the body, or absent from it.
10. appear—rather, "be made manifest,"
namely, in our true character. So "appear," Greek, "be
manifested" (Col 3:4;
4:5). We are at all times,
even now, manifest to God; then we shall be so to the assembled
intelligent universe and to ourselves: for the judgment shall be not
only in order to assign the everlasting portion to each, but to
vindicate God's righteousness, so that it shall be manifest to all His
creatures, and even to the conscience of the sinner himself.
receive—His reward of grace
proportioned to "the things done," &c. (2Co 9:6-9; 2Jo
8). Though salvation be of
grace purely, independent of works, the saved may have a greater or
less reward, according as he lives to, and labors for, Christ
more or less. Hence there is scope for the holy "ambition" (see on 2Co 5:9; Heb 6:10).
This verse guards against the Corinthians supposing that all
share in the house "from heaven" (2Co 5:1, 2). There shall be a searching judgment
which shall sever the bad from the good, according to their
respective, deeds, the motive of the deeds being taken into
account, not the mere external act; faith and love to God are the sole
motives recognized by God as sound and good (Mt 12:36,
done in his body—The Greek may
be, "by the instrumentality of the body"; but English Version is
legitimate (compare Greek, Ro 2:27). Justice requires that substantially
the same body which has been the instrument of the unbelievers'
sin, should be the object of punishment. A proof of the essential
identity of the natural and the resurrection body.
11. terror of the Lord—the coming
judgment, so full of terrors to unbelievers [Estius]. Ellicott and
Alford, after Grotius and Bengel,
translate, "The fear of the Lord" (2Co 7:1;
Ec 12:13; Ac 9:31; Ro 3:18; Eph 5:21).
persuade—Ministers should use the
terrors of the Lord to persuade men, not to rouse their enmity
23). Bengel, Estius, and
Alford explain: "Persuade men" (by our
whole lives, 2Co 5:13),
namely, of our integrity as ministers. But this would have been
expressed after "persuade," had it been the sense. The connection seems
as follows: He had been accused of seeking to please and win men, he
therefore says (compare Ga 1:10), "It
is as knowing the terror (or fear) of the Lord that we persuade
men; but (whether men who hear our preaching recognize our
sincerity or not) we are made manifest unto God as acting on such
4:2); and I trust also in
your consciences." Those so "manifested" need have no "terror" as to
their being "manifested (English Version, 'appear') before the
judgment-seat" (2Co 5:10).
12. For—the reason why he leaves the
manifestation of his sincerity in preaching to their consciences (2Co 3:1), namely, his not wishing to
"commend" himself again.
occasion to glory—(2Co 1:14), namely, as to our sincerity.
in appearance—Greek, "face"
(compare 1Sa 16:7).
The false teachers gloried in their outward appearance, and in
external recommendations (2Co 11:18)
their learning, eloquence, wisdom, riches, not in vital religion in
their heart. Their conscience does not attest their inward
sincerity, as mine does (2Co 1:12).
13. be—rather as Greek, "have
been." The contrast is between the single act implied by the past
tense, "If we have ever been beside ourselves," and the habitual
state implied by the present, "Or whether we be sober," that is,
of sound mind. beside ourselves—The accusation brought by
Festus against him (Ac 26:24).
The holy enthusiasm with which he spake of what God effected by His
apostolic ministry, seemed to many to be boasting madness.
sober—humbling myself before you, and
not using my apostolic power and privileges.
to God … for your cause—The
glorifying of his office was not for his own, but for God's glory. The
abasing of himself was in adaptation to their infirmity, to gain them
to Christ (1Co 9:22).
14. For—Accounting for his being "beside
himself" with enthusiasm: the love of Christ towards us (in His death
for us, the highest proof of it, Ro 5:6-8), producing in turn love in us to Him,
and not mere "terror" (2Co 5:11).
constraineth us—with irresistible
power limits us to the one great object to the exclusion of
other considerations. The Greek implies to compress
forcibly the energies into one channel. Love is jealous of
any rival object engrossing the soul (2Co 11:1-3).
because we thus judge—literally, "(as)
having judged thus"; implying a judgment formed at conversion, and ever
since regarded as a settled truth.
that if—that is, that since.
But the oldest manuscripts omit "if." "That one died for all
(Greek, 'in behalf of all')." Thus the following clause will be,
"Therefore all (literally, 'the all,' namely, for whom He
'died') died." His dying is just the same as if they all
died; and in their so dying, they died to sin and self, that they
might live to God their Redeemer, whose henceforth they are (Ro 6:2-11; Ga 2:20; Col 3:3; 1Pe 4:1-3).
15. they which live—in the present life
4:11, "we which live") [Alford]; or, they who are thus indebted to Him
for life of soul as well as body [Menochius].
died for them—He does not add, "rose
again for them," a phrase not found in Paul's language [Bengel]. He died in their stead, He arose
again for their good, "for (the effecting of)
their justification" (Ro 4:25), and
that He might be their Lord (Ro 14:7-9).
Ellicott and Alford join "for them" with both "died" and "rose
again"; as Christ's death is our death, so His resurrection is
our resurrection; Greek, "Who for them died and rose again."
not henceforth—Greek, "no
longer"; namely, now that His death for them has taken place, and that
they know that His death saves them from death eternal, and His
resurrection life brings spiritual and everlasting life to them.
16. Wherefore—because of our settled
judgment (2Co 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 (2Co
11:18; Joh 8:15; Php 3:4), as
distinguished from what he is according to the Spirit, as a "new
creature" (2Co 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 (Ga 2:6; 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
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 (Ro 6:9-11; 1Co 15:45; 1Pe 3:18; 4:1,
2). Doubtless Judaizing
Christians at Corinth prided themselves on the mere fleshly (2Co 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 (2Co 5:12; 2Co 10:7). Paul here shows the true aim should be
to know Him spiritually as new creatures (2Co 5:15, 17), and that outward relations
towards Him profit nothing (Lu 18:19-21; Joh 16:7, 22;
Php 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.
17. Therefore—connected with the words
5:16, "We know Christ no more
after the flesh." As Christ has entered on His new heavenly life by His
resurrection and ascension, so all who are "in Christ" (that is, united
to Him by faith as the branch is In the vine) are new creatures (Ro 6:9-11). "New" in the Greek
implies a new nature quite different from anything previously existing,
not merely recent, which is expressed by a different
Greek word (Ga 6:15).
creature—literally, "creation," and so
the creature resulting from the creation (compare Joh 3:3, 5; Eph 2:10; 4:23; Col 3:10, 11). As we are "in Christ," so "God was in
Christ" (2Co 5:19):
hence He is Mediator between God and us.
old things—selfish, carnal views
(compare 2Co 5:16) of
ourselves, of other men, and of Christ.
passed away—spontaneously, like the
snow of early spring [Bengel] before the
behold—implying an allusion to Isa 43:19;
18. all—Greek, "THE."
things—all our privileges in this new
creation (2Co 5:14, 15).
reconciled us—that is, restored
us ("the world," 2Co 5:19)
to His favor by satisfying the claims of justice against us. Our
position judicially considered in the eye of the law is altered, not as
though the mediation of Christ had made a change in God's character,
nor as if the love of God was produced by the mediation of Christ; nay,
the mediation and sacrifice of Christ was the provision of God's love,
not its moving cause (Ro 8:32).
Christ's blood was the price paid at the expense of God Himself, and
was required to reconcile the exercise of mercy with justice, not as
separate, but as the eternally harmonious attributes in the one and the
same God (Ro 3:25, 26). The Greek "reconcile" is
reciprocally used as in the Hebrew Hithpahel conjugation,
appease, obtain the favor of. Mt 5:24, "Be reconciled to thy brother"; that
is, take measures that he be reconciled to thee, as well as thou to
him, as the context proves. Diallagethi, however (Mt 5:24), implying mutual reconciliation,
is distinct from Katallagethi here, the latter referring to the
change of status wrought in one of the two parties. The
manner of God reconciling the world to Himself is implied (2Co 5:19), namely, by His "not imputing their
trespasses to them." God not merely, as subsequently, reconciles the
world by inducing them to lay aside their enmity, but in the first
instance, does so by satisfying His own justice and righteous enmity
against sin (Ps 7:11).
29:4, "Reconcile himself unto
his master"; not remove his own anger against his master, but his
master's against him [Archbishop Magee,
Atonement]. The reconciling of men to God by their laying
aside their enmity is the consequence of God laying aside His just
enmity against their sin, and follows at 2Co 5:20.
to us—ministers (2Co 5:19, 20).
19. God was in Christ, reconciling—that
is, God was BY Christ (in virtue of
Christ's intervention) reconciling," &c. Was reconciling"
implies the time when the act of reconciliation was being carried into
5:21), namely, when "God made
Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us." The compound of "was" and
the participle "reconciling," instead of the imperfect (Greek),
may also imply the continuous purpose of God, from before the
foundation of the world, to reconcile man to Himself, whose fall was
foreseen. The expression " IN Christ"
for "by Christ" may be used to imply additionally that
God was IN Christ (Joh 10:38;
14:10), and so by
Christ (the God-man) was reconciling … The Greek for "by"
or "through" Christ (the best manuscripts omit "Jesus"), 2Co 5:18, is different. "In" must mean here
in the person of Christ. The Greek Katallasson implies
"changing" or altering the judicial status from one of
condemnation to one of justification. The atonement
(at-one-ment), or reconciliation, is the removal of the
bar to peace and acceptance with a holy God, which His righteousness
interposed against our sin. The first step towards restoring peace
between us and God was on God's side (Joh 3:16). The change therefore now
to be effected must be on the part of offending man, God the offended
One being already reconciled. It is man, not God, who now needs to be
reconciled, and to lay aside his enmity against God (Ro 5:10, 11). ("We have received the
atonement" [Greek, reconciliation], cannot mean "We have
received the laying aside of our own enmity"). Compare Ro 3:24,
the world—all men (Col 1:20; 1Jo
2:2). The manner of
the reconciling is by His "not imputing to men their trespasses," but
imputing them to Christ the Sin-bearer. There is no incongruity that a
father should be offended with that son whom he loveth, and at that
time offended with him when he loveth him. So, though God loved men
whom He created, yet He was offended with them when they sinned, and
gave His Son to suffer for them, that through that Son's obedience He
might be reconciled to them (reconcile them to Himself, that is,
restore them WITH JUSTICE to His favor)
[Bishop Pearson, Exposition of the
hath committed unto us—Greek,
"hath put into our hands." "Us," that is, ministers.
20. for Christ … in Christ's
stead—The Greek of both is the same: translate in both
cases "on Christ's behalf."
beseech … pray—rather, "entreat
[plead with you] … beseech." Such "beseeching" is uncommon in the
case of "ambassadors," who generally stand on their dignity (compare
2Co 10:2; 1Th 2:6, 7).
be ye reconciled to God—English
Version here inserts "ye," which is not in the original, and which
gives the wrong impression, as if it were emphatic thus: God is
reconciled to you, be ye reconciled to God. The Greek expresses
rather, God was the RECONCILER in Christ
… let this reconciliation then have its designed effect. Be
reconciled to God, that is, let God reconcile you to Himself (2Co 5:18,
21. For—omitted in the oldest
manuscripts. The grand reason why they should be reconciled to God,
namely, the great atonement in Christ provided by God, is stated
without the "for" as being part of the message of reconciliation
sin—not a sin offering, which
would destroy the antithesis to "righteousness," and would make "sin"
be used in different senses in the same sentence: not a sinful
person, which would be untrue, and would require in the antithesis
"righteous men," not "righteousness"; but "sin," that is, the
representative Sin-bearer (vicariously) of the aggregate
sin of all men past, present, and future. The sin of the world is
one, therefore the singular, not the plural, is used;
though its manifestations are manifold (Joh 1:29). "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh
away the SIN of the world." Compare
"made a curse for us," Ga 3:13.
for us—Greek, "in our behalf."
3:14, Christ being
represented by the brazen serpent, the form, but not the
substance, of the old serpent. At His death on the cross the
sin-bearing for us was consummated.
knew no sin—by personal experience
8:46) [Alford]. Heb 7:26; 1Pe 2:22; 1Jo 3:5.
might be made—not the same
Greek as the previous "made." Rather, "might become."
the righteousness of God—Not merely
righteous, but righteousness itself; not merely righteousness,
but the righteousness of God, because Christ is God, and what He
is we are (1Jo 4:17),
and He is "made of God unto us righteousness." As our sin is made over
to Him, so His righteousness to us (in His having fulfilled all the
righteousness of the law for us all, as our representative, Jer
23:6; 1Co 1:30). The innocent
was punished voluntarily as if guilty, that the guilty might be
gratuitously rewarded as if innocent (1Pe 2:24). "Such are we in the sight of God the
Father, as is the very Son of God himself" [Hooker].
in him—by virtue of our standing in
Him, and in union with Him [Alford].