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2nd Corinthians
Chapter 5


2 Corinthians Chapter 5
Commentary by Ron Beckham

Verse 1.  "For 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."

This is a beautiful truth, in Scripture, that our bodies are like dwelling places.   Yours is intended for you, but also for our Lord (you are to have a Roommate).   Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 15:19, that our body is a temple, built to be occupied by the Holy Spirit of God.  You are to live in it, with Him.  This is not unique to Paul's teachings, for Jesus presented a similar idea, when He referred to His own Body as "this temple", in John 2:19,21.

From an earthly perspective, if we lose our bodies, in some manner, we lose everything.   If some of my freedom of movement is gone, through something like imprisonment or paralysis, my car may be of less use to me, because I may not be able to drive it.   The ultimate in loss, from a human standpoint, is the loss of my life, for if I die, all "my" possessions in this world, are no longer available to me.   But, if I lose everything here, I gain much more, for I have a better place to live, made by God, eternal in nature.  If I buy a car, it wears out in a few years, and so does my body and yours.  A careful reading of 1 Corinthians 15, indicates (verses 42-44 & context) God takes that body which falls away from us, and makes it into something wonderful!  We do not need to be afraid of any loss, for in Christ, we are made new - forever!

Verse 2.  "For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,"

What do you "groan" earnestly for, in life?  What do you want?  Is it money?  Do you think about the lottery constantly, and wish that you would win?   Perhaps you want to change some life circumstance or another.  It can be argued that what we want, defines who we are.  What you ultimately need is to be clothed with your habitation which is from heaven.  We are to finish the life God has set out for us ("run the race" as Paul described it) – he also said we will "finish the course."

If you win the lottery, you might say, "I will tithe from whatever I get!"   And that's good, if you do exactly that.  But tithing or not, your bills paid off or not, you will not find true satisfaction, for what you really want, is not part of this world system, at all.  Though in one way, we are already complete (Ephesians 1:3), our ultimate fulfillment is going to be found in eternity, and not on earth.   We trust in God, and so we wait for HIS decision as to when we go there.  In the meantime, we wait, and we ache to be with our Lord.

Verse 3.  "inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked."

This is a good Scripture to underline and remember, for it says we shall not be without a body. "Naked" here, is a reference to the concept of entering a bodiless state, which is taught by some (as in "eastern" religions).  But we "will not be found" in that condition.

If you are afraid of losing your life, you need to do two things: 1) Receive Christ, who gives you LIFE, and 2) Rejoice, for you are now in Him, clothed in His righteousness - forever.  Trust in Christ, for you have everything you will ever need – in Him.

Verse 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."

Life can be hard.  Note that while we are in this "tent" (our bodies in this life), we groan.  J. Vernon McGee was fond of saying, "It's Scriptural to groan."  Now, Paul & J. Vernon did not mean that we are to complain about our problems - and we certainly do not need to moan all the time for something like money.  Turn to Him, in your need.  Learn to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and He will deliver you (and give you peace in the midst of the storm).

We groan because of trust - we have become certain about the joy which is to come, and we long to be with Him.  To be "mortal" is to not be fully alive.   True LIFE will find its fulfillment AFTER this one (if we are in Christ).  He is our joy, and we love Him so, that we desire to depart and be with our Lord.

Verse 5.  "Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge."

We have all heard the question, "Why was I ever born?"  And maybe you are wondering that very thing, right now.  Wonder no more!  You were placed in this world to discover Jesus, to receive Him, and live in Him, for all eternity.   We have seen in previous verses (particularly chapter 1), there is purpose in any suffering we might endure in this life.

And how can we know that we have this life in Him?  From two wonderful sources: 1) This Word (the Bible) we are reading right now, tells us so (as in 2 Corinthians 5:17), and 2) He has given the Holy Spirit of God, as a "down payment" promising even more.  In the Spirit, we KNOW these words are true.   Just as He gives eyes that see, He gives us the Holy Spirit, that we may understand.

Verse 6.  "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord,"

It can be seen how distant people are from God, by the value placed on our human condition.  Millions of dollars are spent on clothes, makeup, physical fitness, cosmetic surgery, and so on.  All are designed to enhance the human body (make us desirable to other people).  Yet, as Paul observed, "while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord."  Our confidence, our hope, must be in Him, and not in these frail "tents" which are wasting away, even as we worry about them.

What then, do we quit taking baths, or harm ourselves to hasten the process of coming to Him?  Good heavens, no!  For you have already been told that "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6:19).  Therefore, keep your body in good condition, that it may be usable for Him, but glorify the Lord, and not yourself.  Let your confidence be - in Him.

Verse 7.  "for we walk by faith, not by sight"

When we walk by sight, we are always disappointed.  The beautiful becomes less attractive, and we are easily misled. To walk by "sight" includes deciding what another person is thinking, and "sight" here is the whole process of human decision-making; based on what is encountered in life.  A failure of someone to smile at a certain time, can be interpreted as "They don’t like me!"  How tense it is to live our lives by taste & touch, smell & hearing, sight, and by our mere thoughts – For by them, we are often misled.  Don Araiza pointed out that our expectations of others should not be so high.

To "walk by faith" is not an easy matter at first, for like a child who learns first to crawl and then take steps, we must learn to walk in faith.  The parent speaks to the child, and the child does not understand, but through excitement and effort, understanding does come.  The Holy Spirit of God is Communicating to His people.  Do you and I "hear" Him? Occasionally.  Have you noticed, sometimes a Scripture verse is sent – to you!  How do you know that?  The answer is, through the Holy Spirit of God – and if you know through Him, you are beginning to understand.

Faith is a matter of trusting in Him (His character, His ability, His love), that He has good in store for His people.  The next step is to understand that He leads those who long for Him.  This "life in the Spirit" is sometimes a matter of walking out on the "ice" (to get to the other side).   Will it hold you? – Try it (Him) and see.

Verse 8.  "we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."

This verse is a sort of "twin" to Philippians 1:23, where Paul revealed he would rather "go and be with Christ."  But he was "hard pressed" (found it difficult to choose, if the choice was his), and the reason is in verse 24, "Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you."  As we saw in chapter 1, of 2 Corinthians, our life is not our own.  We were created for God, and for one another.

We all remember things we did that make us ashamed; times we acted without courage, without honor.  Here is your opportunity to be a person of courage – no matter how bad your circumstances may be:  trust in God!  No matter what the pain or heartache, wait for HIM to decide the outcome of your life.  Praise Him in all circumstances, and though we may wish instead to go and be with Him – Wait on the Lord.

Verse 9.  "Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him."

You were created for me (for all of us), and I for you.  We were designed for GOD’s purposes, that we might be useful for those to whom we are sent.  I like the analogy of the screwdriver that decided it wanted to be a hammer – it might succeed in becoming self-willed, but life will surely be a headache.  The screwdriver was created for the purposes of the carpenter, and not for its own ideas.

If you want a challenge, here it is:  Our job; the reason that we were created, is to be pleasing to the Lord.  In serving Him, He may well assign us to serve other people.  Well and good, for the nobility of purpose in life we have always secretly hungered for, is found in Him (and not in ourselves).  Serve those people to whom you are called, just as He so leads you; so do.

Verse 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."

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.  Jesus, when He was here with us, did not come to condemn the world (John 3:17), "but that the world through Him might be saved".  Yet we now see Him in eternity, and this Lamb, who died in your place, is revealed as the Lion, Who is the Judge of this world.

There is only one escape from "the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16), and that is to receive Him now.  Paul, in Romans 7, is shown as a man who could do nothing right, in the sight of God.  How was this crisis resolved in Paul?  How is it resolved for you?  For me? – "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).  Paul gave himself utterly to God; he let himself be led by the Spirit of God.

When we live in Him, our judgment in eternity, will be based NOT on punishment, but on rewards.  When I was a child, my father decided to pay me for good grades (he had become desperate).  I was a poor student and did not work very hard (I received few rewards), but my father loved me, and I was still his son.

So it is with Christ.  You and I right now are deciding our future in eternity (laying up treasures someplace or other) that will decide our fate –forever!   But remember, in the "works" you do, "walk (not) according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1 – again). Look to Him, for "(His) yoke is easy" (easier than our own) "and (His) burden is light" (Matthew 11:30).  "Works" that are acceptable to God are done in faith, and bring peace.

Verse 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."

Note this "fear of the Lord."  The one who has not known the "fear of the Lord" just does not understand, for God is holy.  The fear comes in, when we recognize that, in and of ourselves, we are not holy.  Alfred Plummer views this as the "fear excited by the thought of standing before the judgement seat of Christ, and having one’s whole life exposed and estimated."  Paul’s life was filled with holiness and all they had to do was LOOK and see the Holy Spirit within.  It should touch our conscience that we do not have the holiness of Paul.

The New Testament word often used for "holy," carries the meaning, "set apart."  When we read the daily newspaper, any day, any place in the world, we are struck by the low state of humanity.  People do rotten things to one another, and our comparison (as to how we measure up) is ultimately not with each other – but God compares us with Himself.  Tragically, most have no desire to be set apart for Him.

He is not a part of this world system at all – "His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30).  In Foxe’s "Book of Martyrs," we are shocked to read that the unjust have been killing each other, and also those who trust in God, for centuries – actually since the beginning of time.  And doing it in the name of "religion."

God is not pleased with the actions of our human race, and when we figure out that He is displeased, we should reasonably become afraid.  But Paul continues with the good news, that we can be acceptable to God, and gain a clear conscience.  When we know God, through Christ, we are His; and you no longer need to be afraid.

Verse 12.  "We 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."

"My" ministry is not only "mine" (God loans these things to us for a time), but yours is also mine; and mine is yours.  We are so much brother and sister, parent and child, in the Lord, that we should GLORY in the accomplishments of each other.  "This is what my SON did", we beam about our child, which is precisely the way we should feel about the guy in the next pew at church.

"Actions speak louder than words" and James picked up this idea, when he said "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20).  And Paul agreed with James, for he wrote "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works" (Ephesians 2:10).  But Paul also alerts us to another danger, here in this verse, that we as people tend to "take pride in appearance" and miss the point – that our true ministry is from the heart (and from the Lord, Who lives IN that heart).   Don Araiza asked, "What is the motive? – It’s the motive that counts in all that we do."

Verse 13.  "For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you."

Sometimes we get a little bit "nuts" ("beside ourselves") in life.   You only have to read about the recent events in Columbine, or Bosnia, or the Mid East, or the Sudan, or Los Angeles, to understand this place must be the insane asylum of the universe.  Yet there is a good way to be "nuts" in life.   The bridegroom is typically "nuts" over his bride.  The new mother is often "beside herself" with joy.  The right new job, can fill us with elation.  And to walk away whole from cancer, is a feeling like no other.

Paul here is speaking of our walk in the Spirit of God, our ministry to one another.   In another place (Ephesians 5:18), he makes an interesting comparison, suggesting there is a similarity between becoming "filled with the Holy Spirit" and simply being "drunk."  In this "walk in the Spirit" we do unexpected things (even to ourselves).  We experience surprising emotions, like – JOY!   Yet, we are given a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7) in Christ, that we may truly serve one another.  (My ministry is for you, and yours is for me).

Verse 14.  "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;"

Why do we "witness" of our Lord, to other people?  We do it because we are compelled by the love of Christ to touch that other person with the Spirit of God.  And how do we witness to them?  The best "witness" of all, is a life that formerly was selfish, but is now filled with the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.

The NEED for witnessing to them is very great, for in dying to the world, the world died to Christ.  Whatever opportunity anyone may have ever had to be right with God through good works, ended at Calvary.  He died for your sins and in doing so, He is revealed as the ONLY means of salvation for every person – for you.

Have you ever thought of what it means to be DEAD in the sight of God?  And yes, the "dead" are animated (have movement, thoughts, and attitudes) in relation to other people.  But those who are not in Christ are dead to God.  If you went out to the cemetery, and dug up a body, for the purpose of having a conversation with it, the situation would be both ludicrous and sad – Our relationship with God, based on grace and faith, is reasonable, when you consider that we are given LIFE in Christ (we become ALIVE to God, and can finally commune with Him).

Verse 15.  "and 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."

Have you ever lamented, "What is my purpose in life?  Why am I here?   The answer is right in this verse!  Christ died for me (and you) – therefore I (and you) live for Him (Who died for us all).  He loves you; He died for you; He rose again, and beckons you from the heavenlies:  "Come, walk with Me."  To walk with Him IS the purpose for which you were created.

"I was born to die." We’ve seen that on bumper stickers and on tatoos.   We were ALL born to die; but wait, there’s more:   We can die now, but still have LIFE (abundant life – we rise to life in Him).  No more living for ourselves, in our selfishness, but for Him, Who died that we might LIVE.  We are to learn to live for God and for one another.

Verse 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."

In this world (according to the flesh), people are usually valued by their usefulness – to us!  We tend to value people of "our" nationality (national origin), because they remind us we are a part of something larger than we are.  We like to be with them, because they make us feel good – about ourselves.  We like people with money (if they tend to share it).  There is a certain prestige to us, if we hang around with good looking people, and/or people high on the social ladder.   All of this is sin (according to the flesh).

In Christ, we enter a whole new world, in which we no longer are to value people in this manner.  Those of that time and place, actually saw Christ, while He was here, and Paul points out that they no longer had that opportunity.  Instead, they now had something far better – they could encounter Him inside, in the Spirit; the same as you and me.

And because we have this relationship with Him, we can meet one another in that same Holy Spirit.  Your money is no longer important to me, and neither is your social standing.  We are ONE with each other, when we are in Christ.

Verse 17.  "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

This is one of the most wonderful Scriptures in the whole Book!  If you are in Christ, through simple faith in Him, your sinful past is done away, in the sight of God.   All your doubts and uncertainties about life, that terrible thing you did ("How could I have done that?") – all is gone, in Him.

What’s it all about, is contained in the preceding verses.  You, if you want, can clutch at the troubles of your past, and many do – because it’s FAMILIAR to us.  We are used to guilt, and tend to hold on.  From a human perspective, it’s respectable to hold on to guilt. ("I did it, but it’s honorable to feel badly about it, and therefore, I’m not so bad").   The real news is, we ARE Bad, and Jesus Christ died, that we may become NEW in Him.

After we are new in Christ, does God sometimes lead us to remember past sins, to make AMENDS for what happened before?  Yes – often!  Do we sometimes carry the old life into the new?  Yes, that, too.  A major first step in the new life, is to recognize that Christ has set us free.  Then, let Him do HIS work in you, and be prepared for one surprise after another – Life really IS new, in Christ Jesus!

Verse 18.  "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,"

These verses are a further discussion of what it is to be "in Christ."   We just saw (verse 17) that we are "new" in Him.  Now we find that not only we ARE new, but we also discover, to our surprise, that we DO new things, as well.

There is a process, where we become "Romans 8 people," because we find ourselves "walking according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).  I have been very slow to minister, because I recognize I am inadequate to do the job (Romans 7).  I am often surprised when God uses me, and may well leak a few tears, or even laugh out loud for joy – God uses ordinary people, like you and me, as ministers of reconciliation to this world.

There are interesting statement in this verse.  These include He "reconciled us, and He "gave us the ministry."  We are all "disciples" when we truly come to Him (a disciple is a "learner" or "student").   And there is a time when each of us is sent.  When we go in His Name, even if it’s only to our work site, or to our home, we are ministers of reconciliation.  We need not be afraid, for HE gives the ministry, and it is of God.   We are not alone, for He is with us.

Verse 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."

Those of the world make repeated attempts at "do it yourself" religion.   What people often miss, is that God the Father, was in Christ, in His ministry, in His death for you and me, and in His resurrection from the dead.  The Father (Who is Holy) is not "counting" (an accounting term, like "reckoning") our sins against us, because we receive His Son.

We, who are set free from our prisons of depression, failure, sin, loneliness, and anger, are given a ministry of reconciliation.  We are to tell the world, what He has done.  It’s not even a hard job, because He goes before us, and prepares the hearts of those who will receive.  And often, the best way to tell others, is simply to DO as our Lord instructed in John 15:12, "love one another as I have loved you."

Verse 20.  "Therefore, 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."

One of the problems we as people have, is that we long for status – we misunderstand what importance is all about.  When I visit another country, I have the right, if I have a need, to visit the ambassador or MY country, who resides in that land.  He is indeed, an important person, and I would need a compelling reason for him to see me.  It should also be noted that the place where he resides and works (the embassy) is a tiny place of sovereignty for my country.   And often, the president of this country, will give important words to the ambassador, who then speaks them to the leader of THAT land.

We are ambassadors of Christ, sent with a message of reconciliation to the world.   The place where we stand is the sovereign soil of God.  If we are in prison, the concrete of the cell we stand in, is holy ground, for Christ is in us.  He gives us the words to speak, and the power to speak them.  We reside in Him, and He is in us.  Our ministry, our function as an ambassador, is that others might come to Christ, and be reconciled to God.  We have the right to speak to them, and we have the power of God.

Verse 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."

Hans Lietzmann made a wonderful, accurate statement about this verse (and about our Lord), when he said "God placed our sins on the sinless Jesus, and as our Substitute, God punished Him with death."  There are a lot of misconceptions about our Lord.   One of them is found in the word "sinless," and the other in the word "substitute."

It must be understood that we, as a human race of individuals, have no standing with God, at all.  We are a planet of rebels, from God’s perspective.  We were created to be one with His Son, and instead we offer Him "do it yourself religion" that does not please Him in the least.  We need to be righteous before Him, and we are not.

Jesus became our Substitute, a sinless offering, Who brings into us, the righteousness demanded by our holy and pure God.  If I could die in the place of any of my children or grandchildren, I would.  If I was able to somehow die for them, it might somehow prolong their lives here on earth, but the major problem would still remain:  What they really need is not to "live long and prosper," but to be acceptable to God.

When they (and we) say "yes" to Christ, and receive this Sinless Lamb of God, Who died for the sins of the world, the Father accepts His Righteousness as ours, and we are set free.  He is what my children and grandchildren need.  He is what you and I need, because He died for the sins of the world, that we might "become the righteousness of God in Him."

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

2nd Corinthians