2 Corinthians 5
1For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,
3inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.
4For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.
While we are as yet in this feeble, earthly body, we groan, often in physical pain, for we long for our new body which will be a far better “tent” for our soul. Even if our body is destroyed and we die, we have the hope of a new body to come and a home in heaven. We will not be “naked,” that is, abandoned to death or without hope. Indeed, we groan because we are so sure that the immortal is going to be so much better than the mortal. Thus, we want the new “clothes” of our new bodies.
5Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
6Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--
7for we walk by faith, not by sight--
8we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
9Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
God has prepared us to suffer for Him now and to be glorified with Him later (Romans 8:30). It will happen, and the Spirit Who indwells us is given as a promise of God that we will inherit heaven and be raised immortal with Christ in heaven. Therefore we can have courage while on earth no matter what we face because of the certainty of life with Christ after death. While we are yet on earth in our mortal bodies, we are absent from the Lord in person. We look forward to that day, but in the meantime we walk by faith, believing that day will come, even though we cannot see it with our physical, mortal eyes. The better thing is to be absent from this mortal body and present with the Lord, for such is our true home. This will happen when Christ wants it to happen, and while He gives us life, we must use our opportunity to serve others (Galatians 6:10). Whether we are on earth or in heaven, it must be our ambition and purpose to please God. We will worship Him forever in eternity in our new home, so we should do it even now in a world that is not our home.
10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
Every believer will be judged by Christ at His judgment seat. The unbelievers will go to the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11), at which point Christ will sentence them to hell for failing to repent and put their faith in Him while on earth (Revelation 20:12-15). Believers will get rewarded based upon their level of faithfulness and the purity of their hearts and motives (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). What is done by the power of God and not by our own strength will bring rewards. Some will receive many, some will receive few, and some will just barely get in by the grace of God. But all of us have great hope and joy to look forward to, and it is not in doubt that we will get in (1 John 5:13). What is important is that we will be held accountable for how we live while in this mortal body, so we must make the most of our time and be faithful to Christ. In light of our accountability before Christ, we should live in reverent fear, knowing that we will be judged. Thus, we should be moved to live out the commission of Christ (Matthew 28:19-20) and call people to repent and receive the gospel. We are not to influence them with human influence and means, but we must reason with them according to the truth of God’s Word, doing all that we can by God’s grace through faith to encourage them to respond in faith. Our faithfulness manifests us as being children of God Who love Him and fear His judgment. God takes note of our faithfulness, and He is faithful to reward us accordingly. Paul hopes that the Corinthians can see their faithfulness and integrity as well.
12We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart.
13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.
Paul is not commending himself and the apostles as if he is bragging upon himself and upon them. He is merely saying that they should be counted trustworthy which should give the Corinthians reason, not to challenge them, but to be proud of them. Some prefer appearance, that is, apparent success and notoriety among men, but Paul is saying that it is the heart that matters. Since they press on faithfully in light of the judgment and despite persecution, it should be clear that they are not interested in keeping up appearances but in suffering for Christ because they truly believe what they are preaching. This fact should give the Corinthians plenty of ammunition to refute any who challenge Paul as being one interested only in himself and his own notoriety. What is for sure is that the apostles don’t have false, secondary motives. Perhaps they are crazy and honestly deluded, which would mean that they live for God at least in their own heads. But if they are not crazy but truly rational, then their lives are a measured, reasoned sacrifice for the sake of the Corinthians. It is not about vain glory, but it is because they love the brethren and wish to see the gospel advance. There is no reason not to trust them.
14For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
15and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
16Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Paul emphasizes that his life is not his own and that he is not living according to selfish ambitions or for vain glory. He is interested in Christ’s glory, and he is driven by love for God. In fact, he says that the love of Christ controls him. Sin doesn’t have a controlling influence on him. He has disciplined his body so that it has become his slave. He lets the Spirit rule in his heart and lead him in the way to go, which is the way of love. When Christ died, we who trusted in Him, died with Him. We were buried with Him unto death and then raised to new life with Him (Romans 6:4, 6). All died so that the opportunity is available to all to live no longer for themselves but for Christ who died for them and rose again on their behalf. The opportunity is there in the form of a gift of grace if only the world will receive it (Romans 6:23). The old can die and a new self can be born (Colossians 3:9-10), but repentance is required (Luke 13:5). It is imperative that we as believers recognize one another as new creations from the time we come to know Christ. We cannot find our identity in our past, but we must find our purpose, worth, and identity in Christ Who changes us, rebirths our spirits, and gives us new life. So we must not recognize people according to what they used to be or according to manmade measures of worth but according to whether or not they are in Christ. Before Christ, we might have known Christ in a fallible, unbelieving way, but now we have received Him as our own into our hearts. We know Him in a much different way now, a way that is personal, real, and subservient to His will and leading.
17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
In Christ, we are reborn (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:3, 23). The old self along with its evil heart and corrupt nature that is prone to sin and incapable of pleasing God dies, and we are made new from the inside out. Our spirit is reborn, our soul begins the process of sanctification (Romans 12:1-2), and the desires of our hearts change (v. 14). What was old, the evil things we valued and the sin we clung to, is gone. We don’t have to continue in sin (1 Corinthians 15:34), for we are new creations in Christ. We have put on the new self as we were reborn in Christ, and the old self was buried with Him (Romans 6:4, Colossians 3:9-10). Our life and identity are now found in Christ (Colossians 3:3-4, Galatians 2:20) rather than in what we had done or achieved in our flesh. Christ is what makes us who we are and beings of value. Otherwise we are but dust which will die and go to hell. With Christ, we are dust indwelt by the glory of God, and one day that dust will become a new immortal body. We are so greatly changed, and that should be evident by the outward fruit (Matthew 7:20). Of course, if we believe our hearts are still evil (Jeremiah 17:9), then we will have trouble living as new creations, given that the heart is the center of our desires (Proverbs 4:23). The Christian should have changed desires and the power in Christ to be able to fulfill those desires (Psalm 37:4). Christ’s glory must be our desire, and it can be because of Christ in us and our new nature. We still have the flesh to battle in this life, but we are not bound to do its will (Romans 6:6).
18Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
19namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Our certain inheritance and inward transformation are from God, Who gave us Christ to bring us back into right relationship with Him. Having received Christ, we are now given a calling as ministers of the gospel to call others to be reconciled to God. God sent Christ to the world to reconcile the world to Himself. He desires all to repent (2 Peter 3:9), and Christ calls all men to be saved (John 3:16). Not all respond in faith, however (Matthew 22:14). God’s desire is to not count the sin of the world against it because He put the sin of the world on Christ. It is our job to go and share this truth with the world so that they can be saved (Romans 10:13-15, 17). We are ambassadors for Christ as if God is appealing to the world through us to be saved. Paul begs any who would hear this letter who do not know Christ to be reconciled to God through Christ. Christ took on the sin of the world so that we could receive His righteousness (Isaiah 53:6). Our only hope of redemption and salvation is to receive the righteousness of Christ.