2 Corinthians 5

2 Corinthians 5:2

For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,

(a) This house. Our aging and decaying physical body or earth suit.

(b) Our dwelling from heaven. Our glorious and imperishable resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:52–53, Php. 3:21).

Just as we have worn the earthly image of Adam, we shall bear the heavenly image of Christ. “When Christ appears, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).

2 Corinthians 5:4

For 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.

(a) This tent or this house (see verse 2) is our physical body.

(b) We groan because our physical bodies are lowly and humble. They are the battleground where we experience the temptation to sin and where we suffer all the afflictions of a fallen world from tooth decay to arthritis

(c) Swallowed up by life. One day we shall be clothed with glorious bodies that will be strikingly beautiful, ageless and immortal (1 Cor. 15:52–53).

(d) Life. Two kinds of life are described in the Bible; the psuche– or soul life we inherited from Adam and the zoe– or spirit life that comes from God (John 5:26). It’s the second kind of life that is described here. See entry for New Life.

2 Corinthians 5:7

for we walk by faith, not by sight—

(a) To walk by faith is to live in response to what God has said and done. It is saying yes to Jesus and receiving, by faith, from the abundant provision of his grace.

(b) Not by sight. To walk by sight is to lean on your natural senses and understanding.

The choice we face is to walk in the old way of the flesh or the new way of the spirit. To walk after the flesh is to be mindful of natural things – what we see, hear, touch, etc. But to walk after the spirit means we are mindful of spiritual things – what God has said and is now saying, what God has done is now doing.

Walking after the flesh comes naturally because we’ve been doing it our whole lives, but it is the path to dead works and unbelief. Walking after the spirit is the path to the abundant life. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).

Further reading: “Life doesn’t have the last word when you’re walking in the spirit

2 Corinthians 5:10

For 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.

(a) We must all appear. We all have a date with Jesus. For some, that date is in our past because we have met the Lord. For others, that date remains in the future when they will meet the Lord.

(b) The judgment seat or Bema Seat is only interesting because of who is sitting on it. The Bema Seat is not about you and what you’ve done or must do. It’s about Jesus who did it all so that you might truly live.

(c) Each one may be recompensed. Everyone receives something from the Lord, either life or death (John 3:16), righteousness or wrath (Rom 1:17-18). Righteousness is a gift, but death is a wage. Righteousness leads to eternal life, while wrath leads to death. “Yes, wrath is for the sinner,” says the hellfire preacher. Actually, righteousness is for the sinner. God gives grace to the sinner (Rom. 5:8). So who gets wrath? Only those who refuse grace. Who receives death? Only those who refuse the free gift of life.

(d) According to what he has done. “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” asked the rich young ruler. There is no good thing you can do to inherit an inheritance. You receive an inheritance when someone dies and Someone did.

(e) Whether good or bad. What are the good and bad things we do? They are the useful or useless choices we make, the worthwhile or worthless works. All good work flows from trusting Jesus (John 5:24), while all useless work flows from trusting self (Jer. 17:5-6). See entry for John 5:28-29.

Further reading: “The Bema seat

2 Corinthians 5:11

Therefore, 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.

(a) The fear of the Lord. What is the fear or terror of the Lord? Some say it is hellfire and damnation. “Because hell is frightening, we have to persuade men to trust in Jesus.” But Paul is talking about the fear of the Lord, not the fear of hell. Yet if people are afraid of the Lord, why would they turn to him?

The fear of the Lord is not the sort of fear that caused Adam to hide from God (see Rom. 8:15). Paul is talking about being in holy awe of God’s goodness (Hos. 3:5). Adam’s fear caused him to run from God, but a holy fear of the Lord causes you to draw near in awestruck reverence. The early church lived in the fear of the Lord and as a result they were strengthened and enjoyed peace (Acts 9:31).

(b) We persuade men. Paul is essentially saying, “Since we know what it is to fear the Lord (since we have tasted the goodness of God who loves us and wants to bless us), we try to persuade others (that he is good and longs to be good to them).”

Further reading: “The terror of the Lord

(c) In your consciences. The conscience is that inner sense that lets us know whether we are walking in the will of God or whether we have departed from it. Since Paul was walking in the will of God, he trusted that the Holy Spirit would commend him to the consciences of those who met him (2 Cor. 4:2).

See entry for Conscience.

2 Corinthians 5:14

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;

(a) One died for all. On the cross, Jesus bore the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

(b) Therefore all died. Jesus carried the death penalty for the whole human race and all who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death (Rom. 6:3, Col. 2:12, 20).

Some interpret the words “all died” as meaning the entire Adamic race died on the cross in Christ. However, Paul says that those who have died are freed from sin (Rom 6:7), while the world remains a prisoner of sin (Gal. 3:22). He also says those in the world are perishing (2 Cor. 2:15), which contradicts the suggestion that they have died.

Further reading: “Did all die with Christ?

2 Corinthians 5:16

Therefore 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.

(a) We recognize no one according to the flesh. We don’t judge people according to worldly standards or outward appearances. Because Jesus died for all, we know that everyone is precious and valuable to God. As C.S. Lewis once said, there are no ordinary people.

(b) We have known Christ according to the flesh. We once judged Christ according to worldly standards.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(a) A new creature. The instant you were placed in Christ, you received a new life – his life.

The original word for new (kainos) means new in kind. Christian, you are not a new and improved version of who you used to be; you are something brand new altogether (Gal. 6:15).

You are not a sinner transitioning into a saint. You are a Christian, or a little Christ. You are 100 percent holy and righteous (1 Cor. 1:30). One with the Lord, you have the mind of Christ, the heart of Christ, and the desires of Christ. You may have retained some of the habits and memories of your old life, but you are a brand new person.

(b) Old things passed away. The person you used to be died with Christ (Rom. 6:6, Col. 3:3).

(c) Behold, new things have come. You have been born again of imperishable seed (1 Pet. 1:23).

When you came to Christ, you literally became a brand-new creature. You were cleansed from sin, re-gened, and joined in vital union with the Lord. You are no longer part of Adam’s race. You are a son or daughter of the Everlasting Father. Christ is your life. You stand on his faith and are cloaked in his love. Your present and passing imperfections are hidden within his eternal and sublime perfections.

When God looks at you, he doesn’t just see who you are now, with your visible faults and hidden glory. He sees who you are in eternity. He sees the real you, and from his timeless perspective you are faultless, blameless, and radiant with glory.

Further reading: “Who do you think you are?

2 Corinthians 5:19

namely, 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.

The God who-is-love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5). He is not recording your trespasses and he remembers your sins no more (Heb. 8:12). Confess your sins to the Lord and he will say, “I have no record of that; see Jesus.” Your Father would rather you were Son-conscious than sin-conscious.

You need to see yourself as completely and eternally forgiven. When were your sins forgiven? When you were dead in your sins (Col. 2:13)! You were forgiven before you repented, before you confessed, before you were born again. In fact, you were forgiven long before you were born. You did nothing to merit his forgiveness, but were forgiven in accordance with the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7).

Further reading: “Are sinners forgiven too?

2 Corinthians 5:21

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

(a) In Him. When you believed the good news about Jesus, you were sealed in him (Eph. 1:13). All the blessings of heaven are found in him (Eph. 1:3), and in him we have redemption, forgiveness, and righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21, Eph. 1:7). All the promises of God are yes in him (2 Cor. 1:20), and in him you have been made complete (Col. 2:10). In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

See entry for Union.

(b) That we might become the righteousness of God. The moment you were put into Christ, you became as holy and righteous as you ever will be. How could it be otherwise? Jesus Christ is the Righteous One and in him you are as righteous as he is.

How many sins did Jesus commit before he was made sin? None. How many righteous acts did you do before you were made righteous? None. God did it all. You do not need to work to become righteous. The moment you put your faith in Jesus, you were stamped “righteous” for all time and eternity. At one time you were unrighteous, but you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were declared righteous in the name of the Lord (1 Cor. 6:9–11).

See entry for Righteousness.

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