Paul’s Longing for the Future Glory. 2 Cor. 5, 1-10.

Paul’s expectation of a glorified body: V.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. v.2. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven, v.3. if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. V.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. V.5. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given us the earnest of the Spirit. In comparing the afflictions of this present time with the future glory, chap. 4, 17, Paul had declared the former to be light, insignificant, in comparison with the latter. And therefore he himself looks forward with the faith of hope to the realization of these glories in his own body: For we (Christians I know that if our earthly house of the tent dwelling be dissolved, we have a building from God. a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. The apostle speaks of the bodies of the Christians as flimsy and unstable tents, sheltering the soul for a time, Is. 38, 12. The time will come, and that very soon, when this tent, this mortal body, will be destroyed by physical death. But he has the firm assurance that it will be replaced by a solid building, by a real house, not built up by the natural processes of physical growth, but the direct gift of God. The new dwelling which he hopes to enter will not be rude and temporary, but it will be permanent, it will last forever; and instead of being in this world, with its illusions and vanity, it will be in the heavens, in the home of Christ and the Father, where the only true and lasting joys will be found. Our earthly, mortal body will be laid into the grave, to become a prey of worms, but the body which we shall receive at the hands of God, the body of the resurrection, will partake of the immortality of Christ Himself.

That this is the apostle’s meaning appears plainly from the next statements: For indeed in this (tent-dwelling) we sigh, sincerely longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven. So long as a believer is still in the flesh of this life, he sighs and groans with longing for the time when the heavenly body which awaits him above will, as it were, be put on over the mortal flesh, like a garment which hides forever its perishable nature. Paul here expresses the same thought as in 1 Cor. 15, 52, where he speaks of a changing, by which our present vile body will become spiritual and immortal. The believers will, on the last day, “put on the lord’s dress of their heavenly habitation over the servant’s coat of the earthly hut, in the same manner as the human nature of Christ in the bosom of the Virgin Mary became the dwelling-place of eternal glory.” 18) But the apostle adds a condition: If so be that we be found clothed, not naked. During their entire life on earth the believers put on Christ and the garment of His righteousness by means of the Word and the Sacraments, Gal. 3, 27: Rom. 13, 14. Without this covering of the innocence and righteousness of Christ the shame of a person’s nakedness will appear, Rev. 3, 18. and there will be no putting on of the garment of Christ’s heavenly glory.

The reason for our sighing and groaning is given by the apostle: For we that are in the tent-dwelling sigh because we are burdened, not for that we want to be unclothed, but clothed upon, in order that the mortal may be swallowed up by the life. While we are here on earth, the mortal body with its many weaknesses and ailments is a burden for the soul. But what Paul desired with groaning was not to be freed from this burden by a taking off of its heavy garment by physical death, but that his mortal body might, without passing through death, be absorbed into the heavenly body which he knew was awaiting him. God had not revealed to him whether he would die or live to the great day of the final revelation of God’s glory. He was also altogether willing to abide by God’s decision in the matter; nevertheless his great wish was not to pass through death, but to participate in the wonderful change of the last day, by which his mortal body would be changed directly into the spiritual, heavenly body. In this way his mortal body would be swallowed up by the life of eternity. But whatever the manner by which he would enter into the state of immortality in heaven, Paul was confident of one thing: Now He that has perfected us, that has fully made us ready for this same thing is God, who gave to us the earnest money of the Spirit. The believers are prepared for that end, that is the purpose for which God has destined them through the work which He has spent on them: they should be kept unto eternal life, they should enjoy the bliss of heaven. Of this fact we have a guarantee in the form of the Holy Spirit, who was given to us in the means of grace and has wrought this certainty in our hearts. He it is that makes us sure and keeps us sure of our heritage in heaven. As surely as the Spirit in our hearts cannot lie, so surely will our longing for eternal life and for the glorious liberty of the children of God be satisfied at the time fixed by God.

Confident of Christ’s acceptance: V.6. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; v.7. (for we walk by faith, not by sight;) v.8. we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. V.9. Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. V.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. The confidence of the believers is here brought out in the most definite terms: Since we are therefore always of good courage and know that while in our home in the body we are absent from our home in the Lord. Because Paul and all believers have the earnest of the Spirit, feel His reassuring presence in their hearts through the Word at all times, they are always confident in consolation. And this is true, even though they know that while they are at home in this body, they are absent from the true, abiding home in the Lord. In this world we have but a short, temporary abiding-place which we call home for the time being; but there is a yearning for home, a homesickness for heaven, which always characterizes the believers. This is brought out also by the parenthetical sentence: For by faith we walk, not by appearance. Faith is the sphere in which we have our being here on earth, the state in which we must be found at all times; but when the fulfillment comes, we shall see and behold face to face what we here hoped and believed. Now we are absent from the Lord, away from home; then we shall be at home, where our citizenship has been since our conversion, Phil. 3, 20.

But even as the Christians, the possessors of the Spirit’s guarantee, have the feeling of courage and confidence predominant in their hearts at all times, so this feeling comes to the front especially and with the full measure of force when the time of their home-coming arrives: We are of good courage and well pleased rather to leave our home in the body and to be at home with the Lord. As pilgrims and strangers we live in this flimsy tent of our mortal body and move from one place to another, having here no continuing city. The prospect of death, therefore, far from filling us with fear and dismay, should rather inspire new hope, confidence, and courage in our hearts, since we know that, in spite of its dread aspect, it but opens to us the doors to our Father’s home. Therefore we are rather well pleased, knowing that the Lord will accept us as His own and that His grace, which even here clothed us with the garments of salvation, will in that glorious home above put upon us the garments of His glory. We shall be at home with the Lord, in whose presence there is fullness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures forevermore, Ps. 16, 11.

But with such a goal before him, the apostle keeps his heart and mind fixed upon the true home above: Wherefore also we make it our aim that, whether at home or absent from home, we may be well pleasing to Him. This state of mind is necessary if we wish to realize our hopes and ambitions; it means the working out of our own salvation with fear and trembling, with a singleness of heart which cannot be diverted from its purpose. For whether the Lord, at His coming, finds us in the body, still living in the tent of this mortal flesh, or out of the body, death having severed the soul from its frail habitation, one thing is certain, namely, that we at the present time strive to live in such a way as to please Him. And herein we are urged onward by the thought of the final Judgment: For we all must be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ, in order that every one may receive the things done by the body, according to what he did, whether good or bad. Christ is coming to judge all, the living and the dead: they will all have to appear before Him. Their characters, even their secret thoughts, will be laid bare to the world, to all men, as well as to themselves, just as they have always been known to the Judge. And when the sentence is passed, each one will receive the wages of his works which he did in the body, while he was in this world. Note that the power of judgment, although usually ascribed to the Father, against whom all sins are directed, Ps. 61, 13; Jer. 17, 10, is here, as in John 5, 22; Matt. 25, 31-46, and elsewhere, ascribed to the Son, a fact which places His deity beyond question. The judgment is inevitable, and it will be eminently just in every respect. Those that gave evidence of their unbelief by bad and wicked deeds will be recompensed in kind, by a punishment in proportion to their evil deeds. And those that have done good, thus giving evidence of the faith of their hearts, will receive a reward of grace at the hands of the Judge, which will make them partakers of the heavenly glory. Thus the thought of the future judgment is one of the reasons which incite and spur a Christian to a life of sanctification.

Paul an Ambassador of Christ. 2 Cor. 5, 11-21.

The love of Christ his ruling motive: V.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. V.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. V.13. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. V.14. For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead; v.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. The apostle, first of all, repeats his assertion as to the sincerity of his purpose in his ministry: Since, now, we know the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. This is not a slavish fear, but the true reverence of a servant who is at the same time a dear child of the Lord. For fear of the Judge’s wrath does not torment the hearts of those that have been rescued from the wrath to come, but the remembrance of the judgment-seat awakens a reverent awe of the holy and glorious God, and causes all true ministers to be watchful and vigilant in their labors. It is in this sense that they persuade men of their sincerity, as Paul did; they prove their disposition to them. But we have been made manifest to God, the apostle says: God knows the motives that are governing him in his ministry. And he hopes and trusts that he has been made manifest also in the consciences of the Corinthian Christians, who certainly have had sufficient opportunity to estimate the evidence for his sincerity, among whom he has given so many proofs of the spirit that lived in him.

But in appealing to their testimony in this manner, the apostle again wants it understood that he is not seeking his own glory: For not again arc we commending ourselves unto you, but as giving you occasion to glory on our account. Paul was not worrying about his own glory and honor, since that was in the hands of the Lord, before whom everything was revealed. He was not seeking any recommendation on their part, but, incidentally, his reminder of the facts of his ministry might well serve as a hint to them, give them occasion, cause, to boast on behalf of Paul, that they might have some matter of glorying against those that glory in outward appearance and not in heart. Paul here has his opponents in Corinth in mind who were depending altogether upon the outward impression, while their heart lacked the simple sincerity which characterized the work of the apostle. Those men might boast of special revelations, or of eloquence, or of letters of commendation, or of Jewish birth. But Paul’s boasting was the faithfulness of his work as a messenger of Jesus Christ.

This fact he now emphasizes once more: For whether we are beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we are of a sober mind, it is unto you. The zeal of Paul for his Master sometimes carried him to such heights of enthusiasm that some people may have thought him deranged, as Festus did. But he protests that in such moods of highest devotion he is still serving God, that the ardor of his spirit is not the enthusiasm of a fanatic. On the other hand, some people may have thought him altogether too dry and sober in some of his dealings; they missed the effect of a deliberate rhetoric. But Paul states that this behavior also was in their interest, that he was acting also in this respect as a true pastor, who at all times has the welfare of all his parishioners at heart. With his heart lifted up to God, and yet united with his neighbor in true love, Paul carried out the work of his calling, misunderstood by many of those that lacked true spiritual understanding, and yet happy in the consciousness that his work was receiving recognition by the true children of the Lord.

The highest motive of the apostle, however, was that of Christ’s love: For the love of Christ urges us on, since we draw this conclusion, that One died for all, therefore all died. That was the chief reason for the sincerity of his service, the example of his Lord and Savior, That love of Christ, so abundantly proved, so unceasingly active, was urging the apostle on to make use of all faithfulness in his ministry, to count nothing a sacrifice if it was done in His service. And Paul’s argument from the love of Christ in its application to the work of the ministry is powerful. Christ died as the Substitute for all men; therefore in His death all men died; His death was actually the punishment of all sinners, the expiation of their guilt. This being true, then the second proposition also stands: And for all He died, in order that the living should no longer live to themselves, but to Him that on their behalf died and rose again. So the purposes of the atonement, which was made for all men, are not completely realized or fulfilled without the response of man’s faith and obedience. All men that hear the Gospel, hearing that Christ died in their stead, for their salvation, should thereby be aroused to devote their lives, not to any selfish pursuits, but to the service of Him whose death and resurrection earned for them eternal life. It is the most powerful appeal that can be made to a Christian that has learned to know his Savior, and should be heeded with joyful alacrity by all. It was the motive that constrained Paul in his work and should serve as an example for all times.

The ministry of reconciliation: V.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. V.17. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. V.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; v.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. V.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. V.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. So completely has Paul entered into the spirit of Christ’s vicarious work that he wants to apply its practical demands to all circumstances of life: So that we from now on know nobody according to the flesh. Because in his conversion he received the conviction that the believers should live to no one but Christ, and because in his ministry the love of Christ is the one compelling motive, therefore he allows no fleshly considerations to influence his judgment and his treatment of others. It makes no difference to him whether his neighbor or any man is of noble birth, of influential position, socially prominent, rich, with an impressive manner of dealing with people - all these things have no influence upon him. He has absolutely no selfish motives; he does not seek his own. “To know any one according to the flesh is to know him no farther than the flesh is able. But now the flesh is not able to do more than seek its own with regard to everybody; it hates, it is jealous, it does the enemy an ill turn wherever it can; but it seeks desire, good will, enjoyment, friendship in everybody for its own benefit.” 19) These carnal considerations Paul has left behind him. And more: Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no more. There was a time when Paul had looked also upon the promised Messiah in this carnal manner, when he had thought of Him only as an earthly prince and deliverer from the rule of the Romans. But he had now obtained a better knowledge of Christ, of both His person and office. The crucified Jesus was no longer an offense to him as in the days before his conversion, but he recognized in Him the basis of his salvation.

The result of this knowledge for himself and all believers is: So that, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. That is the result of the proper view of Christ: Any man, all men, no matter how many, that have accepted Christ by faith and have therefore been planted into Him, are new creatures, new creations Conversion is a new creation, a regeneration; in conversion heart and mind are changed completely; converted people are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, Eph. 2, 10. The knowledge of Christ by faith, no matter how imperfect it may still be, works this miracle: The old things have passed away; behold, they are become new. The old carnal-mindedness of the old Adam has passed away, even though it is still necessary to remove him by daily contrition and repentance. And thus every Christian is a miracle in his own eyes: the creation of the new man is finished, and he is gaining every day in strength and power, Eph. 4, 23. 24. All this is brought about by the Word of Grace and by the ministry of the Gospel.

But the final source of the blessings is the Lord Himself: But all things from God, who has reconciled us to Himself, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. God is the Creator of all the wonderful things which are given to man in his conversion. By a twofold act he brings about the spiritual creation in the heart of man. In the first place, He reconciled all mankind to Himself through Christ. It was God Himself that planned the salvation, the atonement of mankind through the sacrifice of Christ. All men were, by their own fault, His enemies and wanted nothing of Him. But since His righteousness and holiness would therefore have been obliged to condemn them to everlasting punishment, He found this way by which the enmity might be removed and the friendly relations intended by Him in the beginning be established. This reconciliation was brought about by Christ for all men, by His vicarious work; it is a historical fact. And now the second act of God’s mercy comes into consideration, namely, that he has given to the apostle and his fellow-workers, to the ministers of the Gospel at all times, the ministry of the reconciliation, He has entrusted to them the office of proclaiming the fact of the reconciliation of all men, the fact that God is actually reconciled to all men through Christ. The business of the Gospel-ministry, then, is only one, namely, to make known the existing reconciliation and thus to urge men to believe in Christ.

The apostle explains this statement, thus giving the content of all Gospel-preaching: That God was reconciling a world to Himself in Christ. He was removing the enmity which had separated man from his Maker. And the actual, practical manner in which the reconciliation is being brought about is: Not imputing to them their sins. Men are guilty of transgressions before the face of God continually, their trespasses should be recorded on the debit side of the account-book of God. But God does not impute their trespasses to men that accept the reconciliation: He enters them, not under their own names, but under that of Christ, and the atonement being perfect, the debt is wiped away. Into the hands of the apostles and of all the ministers of the Gospel, therefore, God has placed the Word of Reconciliation; He has entrusted to them the message of reconciliation, the Word by which He wants to recall all men to the right relation to Him.

Paul, therefore, filled with the glory of these divine facts, sends forth his ringing invitation: In behalf of Christ, then, we are ambassadors, as though God were entreating through us. Christ’s representatives they are, bringing the Word, the offer of reconciliation to men, the earnest entreaty of God to accept His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus: We pray you in behalf of Christ, Be reconciled to God! What a strange situation: The holy, righteous God, who has been insulted times without number by the countless sins of the men of all times, begs for reconciliation; the almighty, jealous God, who is able to punish every sin with the condemnation of hell, offers instead the fullness of His love and everlasting life and bliss! That surely is a mystery of the Gospel beyond all understanding; that is a message which should impress the most hardened sinner with the unutterable glory of the love of God. And lest any one have doubts as to the fact of reconciliation, as to the possibility of a full and complete atonement under such conditions, the apostle explains the miracle in one sentence: Him who knew not sin for us He made sin, in order that we might become righteousness of God in Him. In this way was the miracle of the atonement brought about. God Himself sent His own Son, who was perfectly sinless and holy, to whose nature all contradiction and opposition to the will of God was utterly strange, who was pure and holy also in the sight of God, and laid upon Him the iniquity of the whole world, Is. 53, 6, He made Him to be sin on our behalf. The transgressions were laid upon Him, the guilt was imputed to Him; He was the representative of the whole world’s sin, the greatest malefactor that ever lived on earth, all by virtue of His vicarious work. And so perfect was the expiation, so complete the propitiation, that we have become, in turn, the righteousness of God in Him. For the sake of Christ we are now looked upon as being as holy and perfect as the very Son of God Himself, with not a single fault or flaw to condemn us, with not a single transgression charged to our account. That is, in brief, the wonderful summary of the message of reconciliation, that is the Gospel which the ministers of the Lord are to proclaim in the fullness of its beauty and glory, that is the invitation they should extend to all men without the slightest restriction. And we, in turn, should accept the glorious news in the spirit in which it was offered, and be sure, on our part, henceforth not to live unto ourselves, but unto Him that died for us and rose again.

Summary. Paul expresses the longing of his homesick heart for the future glory, states as the prime motive of his work the love of Christ which he has experienced, and issues his earnest invitation to accept the message of reconciliation.