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SYNOPSIS OF THE CHAPTER
i. The Apostle goes on to remind the Corinthians of the glories of heaven, saying that in exile here and in the tabernacle of the flesh he longs for them, and wishes to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.
ii. He shows (ver. 9) that it is his endeavour to please not men but Christ alone, who shall come to judgment.
iii. He declares (ver. 14) that he is constrained to do this by the love of Christ, who has reconciled us by His death; and therefore that he no longer knows any one according to the flesh, but only him who is a new creature in Christ.
iv. He professes himself (ver. 18) to be a minister and ambassador of Christ, and he prays them to be reconciled to God for Christ's sake. Ver. 1. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved. If this mortal body, which is as it were a tent in which we tarry for a brief space while travelling here, be dissolved, we have a firm and lasting house in the glory of the soul and eternal life. This is the interpretation of Photius, Anselm, S. Thomas, Lyranus, and it is supported by vers. 6 and 8. From this and the explanation of the Fathers, and especially from ver. 8, we gather, against Tertullian, the Greeks, Armenians, Luther, and Calvin, that souls immediately at death are beatified, and do not sleep under the altar till the resurrection.
Secondly and more fitly we may say that this house is the body glorified by the resurrection, and this body we have, i.e ., shall surely have at the resurrection. And this meaning is more in harmony with ver. 4 and the last chapter; for the Apostle is urging them to endure, in hope of the resurrection when we shall receive our glorified body, bodily mortification and suffering. So, in 1 Corinthians 15:43 , he says that the body is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory, i.e ., glorified. Such a body is properly the home of a beatified soul, as a mortal body is the home of a soul living and suffering here. So S. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Ambrose.
It may be said that the glory itself into which the beatified soul enters is the house of the soul, even as Christ says: "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." I answer that "enter into joy" does not mean that that joy is a house into which the soul enters, as some seem to think, but by metonymy the place of joy is called joy, and the meaning is: "Enter into the heavenly nuptials, enter into heaven, where is the place of the most perfect joy for ever." It is less accurate to speak of that glory or joy as a house into which the Blessed shall enter.
Chrysostom ( Hom. 5 in Ep. ad Heb .) says that "we ought to put off our body with as much ease as we should a coat, or as Joseph left his cloak with the Egyptian woman;" and Aloysius Gonzaga, on his death-bed, spoke of his death as a mere change from one house to another. Ver. 2. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. That is, (1.) we long to be free, as the Syriac takes it, from the earthly house of our natural body, and receive the heavenly home of our glorified body. (2.) But a better meaning is: We groan because of the death which must intervene between this life and the life of eternity; for death is a violence done to nature. We should wish to be clothed upon with glory, not to be deprived of life, as appears from ver. 4. S. Gregory ( Morals, lib. xxxi. c. 26) says: " Lo! Paul longs to die and yet shrinks from death. Why is this? Because, though victory is for ever joyous, yet pain for the present is grievous. For, as a brave man who is girt ready for battle with one that is close at hand is both nervous and ardent, trembling and resolute; as his pallor betrays his fears, while his wrath urges him forward; so is a holy man, when he sees his suffering near, both distressed by the weakness of his nature and strengthened by the certainty of his hope: he trembles at the prospect of a speedy death, and yet rejoices that by dying he will more truly live. No one, however, can enter the Kingdom but through death, and, therefore, in all, confidence is mingled with wavering, and wavering with confidence; joy with fear, and fear with joy ."
It may be asked how the metaphor of a house and tabernacle agrees with that of a garment which is put over all. I answer that the Apostle uses here two metaphors, one taken from a house, one from a garment. The Hebrews are wont, and in this they are here copied by S. Paul, to mingle many metaphors at once. We may see this repeatedly in the Prophecies and the Psalms, and also in the parables of Christ.
Ver. 3. If so that being clothed we shall not be found naked. Instead of clothed, some read unclothed, through a difference of a letter in the Greek compound verb. This reading is followed by Augustine and Bede, Ambrose, Tertullian, and Paulinus; and Augustine thus gives the sense: "We shall be clothed upon with heavenly glory, when once we are stripped of this body and clothed with Christ."
We should observe that the Apostle here distinguishes three things, (1.) the being unclothed and naked, (2.) the being clothed, (3.) the being clothed upon. As in the last verse he called our heavenly glory a house, so here by another metaphor he calls it a robe. Now some explain this passage thus: We long to be clothed upon with our heavenly home, the heavenly and incorruptible body, in such a way, however, that we may be gifted with immortality and glory, and be found not bare, but clothed with glory. For, as the Apostle says in I Cor. xv. 51: "We shall all rise indeed to immortality, but we shall not all he changed into glory." But this is true of the reprobate alone. Although they will have an immortal body, yet it cannot be said that they will have a celestial body; this will be the endowment of the Blessed only. A celestial body, then, is one that is both immortal and glorious, and consequently they that have this are necessarily clothed and not found naked. This is the distinction pointed out here by the Apostle in the conditional statement, "If so be that, being clothed, we shall not be found naked."
Secondly, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Theodoret, Ambrose explain the passage differently. They say: This house, i.e ., this celestial glory will be our portion if we be found worthy of it, and are placed among the elect and not the reprobate: in other words, if we are found clothed with grace, charity, and good works, and not naked without them. This is the sentence of S. Paulinus ( Ep . 8 ad Sever. Sulpit. ). He says: "If, when you are stripped of your body, you be not found naked of good works." If we be clothed with them, then God will super-clothe us with the new robe of eternal glory. But since in the next verse he explains this nakedness to be the separation of the soul from the body, in the words not for that we would be unclothed, i.e ., of the body, so that the soul alone be beatified in nakedness, but clothed upon , it seems better, with Tertullian ( de Resurr. Carnis , c. 42), to say that we are called naked and unclothed when we are dead, and when the soul has lost the body; and consequently that we are clothed when the soul regains the body, and puts it on as her robe, and are clothed upon when the body is clad and adorned with heavenly glory as its robe. As the soul's dress will be the body, so the body's will be glory; and thus the soul will be clothed with the body, and clothed upon with glory. Therefore, we long to be clothed upon with it, "if so be that, being clothed, we shall not be found naked."
We should notice again that the word if points to something that is peculiar and not common to all the elect, but proper to those only who shall be found at the end of the world alive and clothed with the body, and who so live, or so die, as quickly to rise again, and seem to be not dead but alive, clothed upon with immortality. As Cajetan rightly points out, the sense therefore is: It will not be our lot to be dissolved in death, from which we naturally shrink, and on account of which we groan, but to be clothed upon with glory, which we so ardently long for; that is to say, if at the end of the world we be found remaining and not yet dead, but clad with the body, and so not be made naked; or if so, at all events for so short a time that we may be said to pass from this life to eternity. Ver. 4. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened. Being burdened, as the Syriac takes it, through the weight and load of the body. Yet we may say with S. Gregory Nazianzen: "Take from me, 0 Lord, this heavy robe" (this earthly, burdensome, and troublesome body), "but give me another, one that is lighter."
Not for that we would be unclothed but clothed upon. We would not be deprived of the body, but we would be clothed upon with glory, if nevertheless being clothed with a body of flesh we be not found stripped of it by death. The Apostle is in the habit of speaking of the resurrection and the day of judgment as if they were close at hand, and as if he with the others then alive would behold them. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 . Since the Apostle says that we would not be stripped of our body, Plato was wrong in identifying σω̃μα and ση̃μα , as though the body were a tomb. In this he was followed by Origen, who supposed souls to be enclosed in bodies as in prisons in punishment of their sins. But the soul does not long to be set free from the body, as it would if this theory were true. The body is therefore the friend, companion, and colleague of the soul, and the soul demands its body as form requires matter, and vice versâ. The Apostle would seem to be here condemning this error of Plato and his followers, which was commonly taught in the schools of Corinth.
That mortality might be swallowed up of life. Mortality by immortality. Ver. 5. Now He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God. He that wrought, perfected, and formed us, i.e ., (1.) He that created us for this eternal life of bliss, is God. (2.) He who by His eternal decree prepared and predestinated us for this same bliss, is God. (3.) Best of all, He who by His grace so forms and prepares the will and understanding of man and his whole nature, and who makes him so live as to be worthy of being beatified with this immortality, is God.
Who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. I.e ., as Ambrose says, the Spirit Himself. God has not given us a pledge of gold or of silver, i.e ., gold or silver as a pledge, but He has given us His Holy Spirit, inasmuch as He has infused into us His charity, and the virtues of the Spirit of holiness, whereby as sons we cry "Abba, Father," in full trust in God as our Father. For this Spirit is a pledge of our heavenly inheritance of glory laid up for us, and God has given us this Spirit to assure us through Him, as a pledge and earnest, that we shall attain our future inheritance if only we imitate our Father, and call upon Him as sons, and obey Him, and retain inviolate His Spirit as a pledge. Ver. 6. Therefore we are always confident. We confidently and boldly endure, nay, long for dangers and death for the sake of Christ and His Gospel. So Theophylact. The word, therefore, points to this daring confidence as the result of hope for this eternal inheritance, and of the possession of a pledge of it in the Holy Spirit.
Knowing that whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. As long as we are in the body here, so long are we absent in banishment from the sight of the Lord God, our Father, and from our inheritance; we are living like foreigners in a strange land, as long as we are in this mortal body. Because we are enrolled as citizens of heaven and heirs of God, we are pilgrims here; therefore we hasten to be free from this pilgrimage and to attain our heavenly country, to enter into the inheritance of God, our Father. Therefore we boldly meet dangers and death, and enter upon them as the road to heaven. S. Bernard ( de Præcep. et Dispens. c. xxvii.) says: " What is all care for the body but absence from the Lord? And what is absence but exile? Therefore we are in exile away from the Lord, and live in exile in the body, while our endeavour after God is hampered by the burdens laid upon it by the body, and while charity is wearied with its cares ." Ver. 7. For we walk by faith, not by sight. For we do not yet behold the nature and beauty of God face to face. So Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, and Œcumenius. Therefore they are wrong, whoever they be, that say that the Blessed see God, not directly in His Essence, but by means of some appearance which represents His Essence, in the same way that the appearance of colour received on the retina represents to the eye the colour of the wall. It is no such kind of sight that the Apostle here means, but that by which an object is plainly seen in itself. For faith is opposed to sight; but by faith we do not see, but darkly believe what is future and absent. Ver. 8. Willing rather to be absent from the body . "Having a good will" (the Latin version); "greatly desiring" (the Syriac); "wishing with all our heart" (Chrysostom). We choose rather to be absent from the body, that we may come to appear before the presence of God and enjoy the sight of His countenance.
Hence it is proved that souls behold God immediately after death; for the reason given for preferring to be absent from the body is that we may be present with the Lord, or, as Erasmus and Vatablus rightly translate the words, "that we may be at home with the Lord." But if we shall be still exiles when separated from the body, and do not at once reach the home of our Father, but must still linger on the way and live still in exile, then we should not desire to be absent from the body, nay, we should prefer to spend our exile in it, as the natural abode of our soul, rather than in some unknown place. Ver. 9 . Wherefore we labour. We vie with each other in our zeal, our ministry, our endeavours to please God; we strive not to be surpassed by any one in this contest
Whether present or absent. These are mutually opposed. If we are absent from God we are present with the body, and vice versâ .
We should notice that the Greek word here used strictly means to live at home amongst one's own people; and the opposite denotes living out of one's country and in exile. Hence Erasmus and Vatablus translate, "whether present at home, or living in exile abroad." But the Apostle seems to use the words in a more extended sense; for he applies the words which we have translated "present or absent" to life in the body and also to life with God. But we cannot properly speaking be said both to be at home in the body, and, when separated from the body, with God; and, again, we cannot be said both to be in exile both in the body and with God; and, therefore, we take the meaning to be to dwell or to be present, and in the other case, to leave, to be absent. For as long as we live in this body we are absent from the Lord; and, on the other hand, as long as we inhabit heaven we are present with the Lord and absent from the body. But still there is no reason why the Apostle should not mean to be at home and to be in exile.
Observe that the Apostle said in ver. 1, that we have two houses, one earthly and the other heavenly, and that in both we are at home; for the body is our natural home, and heaven our supernatural. Consequently, our exile is two-fold. While in the body we are exiles from heaven, and, when separated by death from the body, we pass to another land and are exiles from the body. The Apostle's meaning then is: In whatever state we may be, whether absent from God and present with the body, or vice versâ , we endeavour to please God, that we may be able to appear before His presence and enjoy the light of His countenance. For unless we please God, neither shall we be able, while present in the body and absent from the Lord, to come into His presence, nor while absent from the body and present with the Lord, shall we be able to abide in His presence and enjoy it in bliss. We strive, then, while here to attain both; we endeavour both to come into His presence, and to merit to remain in it for ever. "He who pleases God here," say Ambrose and Anselm, "will not be displeasing to Him there."
Others take the clause to mean, "whether living here or departing from the body to go to the Lord," &c. In other words, we do all that we can to please God down to the very last breath of life, when the soul leaves the body. This is adopted by Tertullian ( de Resurr. Carnis, c. xliii.); but since these words of the Apostle, as I have said, have a more extended meaning, the former sense is more probable. This last restricts them too closely to the body. Ver. 10 . For we must all appear. The particle for gives the reason of what has just been said. We strive to please the Lord in all our works, in order that, at the tribunal of Christ, before which we all must stand, we may be gifted with a glorious body, and with the blissful presence of God and the Beatific Vision. We would not be deprived of it with those who, by their evil works, have displeased God.
Before the judgment seat of Christ. We must all be made manifest to Christ the Judge and to all men before the dread tribunal, that each may see the good and evil deeds of every one. Hence it follows that Paul and the other Apostles must also be judged, but in such a way that at the same time they may be judges of others, and condemn those who have refused to believe (S. Mat 19:28 ).
That every one may receive the things done in his body , &c. Glory or punishment will be awarded in proportion to each one's merits or demerits. Observe 1. that the deeds of the body are also deeds of the soul; for the soul in this life does nothing and can do nothing without the body; so much so, that for thought itself it needs the help of images drawn from corporeal things. In this way what the soul does by the instrumentality of the body is done by the body.
2. Chrysostom points out that each one's own deeds are here spoken of, because the merits of others, as, e.g ., of our parents, will not avail us before the judgment-seat of Christ. Cf. Ezekiel 14:14 , Ezekiel 14:20 . If we would think of this tribunal when we are tempted by our companions, by lust, by pride, by gluttony, we should easily overcome them all, and should not suffer ourselves to be drawn away by fear or lust from obedience to the law of God. Cf. Chrysostom ( Hom. 10 Moral .).
The Pelagians inferred from this verse that infants have no sin, and that there is no such thing as original sin; for it is said here that Christ, when He comes to judgment, will only call into question the sins that each has committed in his body. But infants have done nothing, nor could do anything of their own; and, therefore, they conclude that they have no sin on which Christ can pass judgment.
S. Augustine ( Ep . 107) answers that this sentence of the Apostle's reaches even to infants; for, he says, original sin as a habit is theirs individually and inheres in them, but the actual sin of Adam, viz., the eating of the forbidden fruit, which was his own and physically inherent in him, from which original sin as a habit was derived to every one born from him, may be said to morally belong to each infant, and be regarded as its own proper act; and in this sense they committed this sin, not directly but in Adam; for the will of Adam was regarded as the will of all his descendants, including even children.
But a better answer can be given, and one more in harmony with the Apostle's meaning, viz., that the Apostle is not speaking of infants but of adults. For he is exhorting them to do all that they can to please God in all things, that each may receive a reward from God proportioned to their deeds. Infants, though they will have to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, yet will not need to have their works examined nor their demerits, but will receive the punishment due to original sin, as S. Augustine says ( Serm. de Omnibus Sanct .), and also Nazianzen ( Orat . 60). Ver. 11 . Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord. Knowing what I have just said of Christ's judgment-seat, when each will receive the reward of his deeds; or, knowing that the Lord is to be feared as a Judge and Avenger, we therefore persuade men to fear Him also.
Fear has a twofold meaning (1.) actively of the fear we feel because of the Lord; (2.) passively of that which the Lord is, viz., a terrible Judge. Jacob, e.g ., calls God "the fear of his father Isaac," or the Object that Isaac feared ( Gen 31:42 ). So here fear is put for the object of fear a fearful thing, a terror. The meaning, therefore, is: Knowing that God is to be feared, we persuade men. Cf. Isaiah 8:13 .
But we are made manifest unto God. God knows that I sincerely fear Him, and try to make others fear Him also. Paul, by speaking of this fear and desire of pleasing God, might seem to some, and especially to his rivals the false apostles; who were only too glad to find an occasion of reproach against him, to be praising himself as holy; hence by these words and what follows he clears himself from any charge of vainglory and love of praise. Ver. 12. That ye may have somewhat. Some occasion of glorying about me, some answer to give to my opponents.
Which glory in appearance and not in heart. Who boast of their piety, but know in their conscience that they are hypocrites and false apostles. Ver. 13. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. The Greek verb translated beside ourselves denotes a rapt state, when the mind is carried out of itself, whether by some strong influence of nature, of disease, of melancholy, or of apprehension of new and unwonted objects; or when God throws it into deep contemplation and ecstasy, or when frenzy and insanity drive it into delirious folly. All these senses are applicable here; nay, the Syriac, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Vatablus, and Erasmus render it "whether we be mad." S. Paul opposes "whether we be beside ourselves" to "whether we be sober," as if he meant whether we be foolish or wise. The same contrast is found in Acts 26:25 . The same word is applied by His relations to Christ in S. Mark 3:21 .
Again, this rapture and folly may be understood either of self-praise or of the love and contemplation of God. The Apostle seems to be speaking primarily of self-praise, according to Ambrose and Chrysostom, and this is supported by what has just gone before. But since this praise has for its object the excellence of the ministry of the New Testament, and the height of love and clear knowledge of God attained under it, the word may be equally well referred to this latter. He seems indeed to be alluding to the vision of Moses, when he saw the glory of God on Mount Sinai at the reception of the law. Cf. 2 Cor. iii. 7, 18, where a comparison is drawn between Moses and S. Paul. Hence, in chaps. iv. and v., S. Paul praises himself for the tribulations and labours he had undergone for the sake of the Gospel, by which he was striving after the glorious presence of God.
The meaning, therefore, is (1.) If, forgetful of ourselves, we are carried away by the vehemence of our zeal, which the world regards as folly, so that, like fools, we give way to praising our ministry, and speak of ourselves too highly and too boastfully (for to praise one's self, as S. Ambrose says, is pride, and boasting, and folly), it is to God's glory that we do it. If we are sober in our words and praises of ourselves, it is to teach you modesty. Hence (2.) follows the explanation of S. Augustine, Anselm, Theophylact, and others. If we are hurried into excess or ecstasy of love, knowledge, and speech of God, as, e.g ., in iii. 18, v. 8, 9, so that we seem to boast and sing our own praises, or, as Chrysostom renders it, if we seem drunken and foolish with love and contemplation (as in Acts 2:13 ; Act 26:24 ), it is to God's glory that we do it.
Plato in Phædrus says that frenzy or folly is fourfold that of poets, of mystics, of seers, of lovers and that the fourth is the best and most blessed. " Of Divine frenzy or madness there are ," he says, " four kinds laid down, over which as many gods preside. The inspiration of the seer is attributed to Apollo, of the mystic to Liber, of the poet to the Muses, while the frenzy of lovers comes from Venus and Cupid. We hold that the last of these is the best and most excellent ." Theophylact says that this last kind of frenzy was S. Paul's, inasmuch as he was one who lived not in himself, but was carried out of himself and lost in Christ, his Beloved, and wished to be anathema from Christ for his brethren's sake. The soul of one who loves is not where it lives but where it loves. Theophylact says: " If we are beside ourselves because of God, it is that we may bring you to Him. So S. Paul loved God with a lover's frenzy, and lived for Him alone, and by Him he loved was carried out of himself and wholly given to God. The life that he lived was not his own but the life of Him that he loved, beloved and precious for His sake only ."
But S. Augustine, Bede, and Anselm understand this verse, not of frenzy, but of S. Paul's being carried up to the third heaven, and their explanation is this: "What is 'that whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God,' but seeing things which it is not lawful for a man to utter? What is that 'whether we be sober, it is for your cause,' but what he says elsewhere, 'I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified?'" S. Augustine again ( Enarr. in Ps. civ.) says: " What is meant by 'whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God,' but leaving all carnal things, and being unable to speak of what we have seen? What is meant by 'whether we be sober, it is for your cause,' but we speak so as you can understand? For Christ by His birth and Passion made Himself such that men might be able to speak of Him ."
The being out of one's mind is, says S. Anselm, the having it fixed on things above, so that things below slip from the memory. In this state were all the Saints to whom the secrets of God that pass this world's understanding were revealed. So here the Apostle, being mentally set free from all human frailty and from all the perishing and changeable things of this world, lived in heart in an ineffable contemplation of those things, of which he says that he had heard unspeakable things which it was not lawful for a man to utter. But for the sake of others he descends, and says: "Whether we be sober, it is for your cause" although we may contemplate high things, yet we speak soberly of them, that you may be able to take them in. This is Anselm's explanation.
S. Bernard ( de Nat. et Dignit. Amoris , c. iii.) describes beautifully this frenzy of S. Paul's. He says: " Hear this holy frenzy: 'Whetter we be beside ourselves, it is to God: whether we be sober, it is for your cause.' Do you wish to hear further frenzy? 'Yet now if thou wilt forgive their sin and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy Book of Life.' Do you wish for more? Listen to the Apostle himself: 'I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.' Does not this sound like the wholesome frenzy of a mind well affected, viz., that he is firmly affected to what cannot possibly be effected, viz., to be anathema from Christ for Christ's sake? This was the drunkenness of the Apostles at the coming of the Holy Ghost; this was the madness of Paul when Festus said to him: 'Paul, thou art beside thyself.' The reason follows: Was it wonderful that he should be pronounced mad, who, when in danger of death, was endeavouring to convert to Christ his judges, by whom he was being judged for Christ's sake? It was nor much learning that gave this madness, as the king said, concealing the truth that he perceived; but, as was said, it was the Holy Spirit, with which he was drunken, who made him wish to make those who were judging him like himself in all things. And, to pass over all other instances, what greater madness could be conceived than that a man who had left world from an ardent desire to cling closely to Christ should again lay hold of the world at the call of obedience and brotherly love, and descend front the sky to the sty? I speak of our young friend, Benjamin, who in his madness thinks nothing of himself, but only of Him who has made him wholly beside himself. With this same madness were the martyrs afflicted who smiled amid their tortures. So do we delight to be beside ourselves ."
Again ( Serm. 85 in Cantic .) he says: " Perchance one may ask me what it is to enjoy the Word. Hear one who has had that experience, as he says, 'Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God, or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.' By the mere will of God my relations with Him are one thing, my relations with you another. It was allowed me to experience that ecstasy but not to speak of it; in my soberness I so condescend to you that you may be able to understand what I say. Whoever thou art that art anxious to know what enjoyment of the Word is, prepare for It thy mind and not thy ear. It is taught by grace and not by the tongue. It is hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes ."
Ver. 14 . For the love of Christ constraineth us. This love of Christ by which He loved us, and gave Himself for us, compels us to follow His example, and give ourselves for all men to save them from death. And hence, as occasion requires, we are at one time beside ourselves, at another, sober. It is better to understand the love of Christ objectively, rather than subjectively.
That if one died for all then were all dead. The bearing of this verse is explained by the next, which also gives its connection with the preceding. So great was the love of Christ that He died for all. Hence it follows that we were dead, for He died to set us free (by taking it on Himself) from death, bodily and spiritual, which sin had brought on us. Hence plainly appears Christ's compassion and love; and they constrain us to love Christ in return, and to work in every way for the salvation of our neighbour; to exclude no one, but to labour for all, whether rich or poor, even as Christ did. S. Thomas explains it otherwise. "All ought to be dead to the old life, and account themselves dead, that they may live, not to themselves, but to Christ." But this is somewhat obscure and far fetched, and is identical with what is said in the next verse, which yet is distinct from this.
Were all dead. Except, says S. Anselm, the Blessed Virgin, who never incurred original sin and spiritual death. Secondly and better, all died in Adam because in him all came under the necessity of sin and of death, even the Mother of God herself, so that she and all others without exception needed to be redeemed by the death of Christ. In Adam, therefore, the Blessed Virgin sinned and died, but in herself she incurred neither sin nor spiritual death, because she was kept from them by God's prevenient grace, as was said in the notes to Romans 5:12 . Ver. 15 . And that He died for all , &c. We judge also that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live for their own glory, or pleasure, or their desires, but for Christ, who by right of redemption has made us His servants; and as a servant does not labour and live for himself but for his lord, so should each of us be able to say: "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;" and, "My soul shall live to Him." Anselm says: " The soul of man should fail in itself to avail in Christ, who died that we should die to our sins, and who rose that we should rise to works of righteousness. What else is 'living not for themselves but for Him,' but living not according to the flesh in the hope of earthly vanities, but according to the Spirit, in hope of the resurrection which has already taken place in themselves in Christ ?" Ver. 16 . Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh. Because the love of Christ for us is so great, and constrains us, therefore we regard carnal things, that is things external and temporal, such as fame, health, friendships, kindred, of no account out of Christ. So Chrysostom takes no one to stand for "nothing," as does Vatablus; and S. Augustine ( contra Faust. lib. ix. c. 7) takes it in the same way. But by the flesh he understands the corruption and mortality of the flesh to be meant; and the sense then would be: We no longer know this carnal and mortal life, because, filled with a sure hope, we meditate on and seek for a future life, that blissful spiritual life awaiting us after the resurrection, in which Christ is even now preparing us a place. This meaning is suitable but somewhat far-fetched, for the Apostle is here setting in opposition to the flesh, or the carnal man, the new creature which is in this life, and which lives through faith and grace in Christ; therefore he adds: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature."
In the third place, then, we may more simply and properly explain the verse thus: We henceforth know none of those outward relation-ships of kindred, friendship, nationality, rank, breeding, or learning, for we are dead to these natural affections, and having been regenerated in Christ, we live to Him alone, and love Him alone, and all others in Him, according to the spirit of charity, and not according to the flesh. In other words, we seek not to please men, or the praise and glory of men, but of God only. S. Paul's rivals, the Judaising false apostles, as we shall see in chap. xi., were wont to boast that they were Hebrews and of the seed of Abraham, and this boasting he calls, in xi. 18, "glorying after the flesh." Hence this verse is a tacit rebuke to them, where he says that he knows no one in the way of earthly love or boasting, or because of relationship and friendship according to the flesh, not even in Abraham himself. Similarly, in Philippians 3:3 , he says, "We rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh;" i.e ., we once rejoiced that we were Hebrews and nobly born according to the flesh, but now we are dead to those affections, for all our praise and rejoicing is Christ. So Gagneius.
Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh. If at any time we, whether I, Paul, myself, or the other Apostles, regarded and saw Christ present with us in a mortal body and subject, like us, to bodily sufferings, such as hunger and thirst and cold, now we know Him not save as immortal and passible. So Chrysostom, Theodoret, and the Seventh General Synod. This interpretation too is supported by what follows.
Secondly, and better, Gagneius takes the meaning to be: If we formerly knew, i.e ., thought of great account, and made our boast of Christ after the flesh, that Christ by birth was a Jew and of our nation, so that we Hebrews were relations of Christ after the flesh, as the false apostles boast; and if we were proud of having lived with Christ on terms of intimacy, then are we now dead to all such feelings, and, being re-created by Christ, we think more highly of Him, and now know Him only according to the Spirit, i.e ., as the God-man, the Redeemer of the world, our Teacher, the Author of grace and salvation; and as we live and labour for such an one, so do we preach Him throughout the whole world.
Thirdly, others with great probability think that Paul is referring to that time in his own life when he was a persecutor of Christ. Although once, he would seem to say, I had an unworthy opinion of Christ, thinking that He was to be a mere temporal king, such as the Jews expect the Messiah to be, yet I no longer know Him or regard Him as such.
Hence, fourthly, we may see the error of Faustus the Manichean, in explaining S. Paul to mean that in the beginning he thought Christ to have had a real body, but afterwards saw his error, and that he means the same in Philippians 2:7 , when he says that Christ was made in the likeness of men, as if He had a fantastical and apparent body, but not one that was real and substantial. Eutyches again twisted this passage to suit his heresy. He said that "we know not Christ according to the flesh" means that, by the Incarnation the flesh and human nature of Christ were swallowed up by His Divinity; and he laid down that in Christ was one nature as well as one person, and that that one was Divine.
We may see here how heretics twist and wrest aside the Scripture to suit their own fancies, just as if it were a nose of wax. So did the Iconoclasts of olden times, and lately Calvin ( de Reliquiis ) twist these words of the Apostle against the veneration of relics and of images of Christ and the Saints, just as though the Apostle had said: Now after the resurrection we know not Christ after the flesh; whatever in Him was carnal must be consigned to oblivion and sent about its business, that we may devote all our energies to seeking Him and possessing Him according to the spirit. But it is most evident that this is not the Apostle's meaning; for if it were, he would have us forget the flesh, the death, and Passion of Christ, and be unmindful of it and unthankful for it, the very opposite of which Christ commanded when He instituted the Eucharist as the perpetual memorial of His death. Whence S. Paul himself says ( 1Co 11:26 ): "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord's death till He come." Therefore the Apostle's meaning here is not Calvin's, but the one I have given above. Cf. Second Council of Nice, Acts 6:0 , following Epiphanius and Cyril. Ver. 17. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. If any one is with me regenerate in Christ, and recreated and changed, as it were, into a new creature, even as I am not what I was, Saul being changed into Paul, then the old rites of Judaism, the old former affections and judgments, such as knowing any one according to the flesh, have all passed away. In such an one all is made new: he has new affections, new thoughts about the realities and hopes of Christianity, a new life, a new hope of the resurrection, new grace, sanctification, and justification. On this newness, cf. S. Anselm and S. Augustine ( de Cantic. Novo. vol. ix.).
S. Bernard ( de Assumpt. B. Mariæ ) assigns its cause He says: " All things are made new, i.e., the old fortress is overturned, a new one raised. Lust having been banished, the heart expands with a mighty longing; and after its arrival the mind yearns far more for heavenly things than it had ever before longed for earthly. Now is the wall of continence raised up, the bulwark of patience. But this work rises on the foundation of faith, and grows by 1ove of one's neighbour till it reaches even to the love of God ." Ver. 18 . And all things are of God. All these new things were created and given by the gift and grace of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation, in order that through our preaching we may persuade men to repent and receive the faith of Christ, that so we may reconcile them to God. Ver. 19. God was in Christ. I.e ., as the Son by oneness of Essence. So Ambrose and Primasius. Hence S. Ambrose ( de Fide ad Gratian, lib. iii. c. 5) says that God, i.e ., everlasting Divinity, was in Christ, and Christ reconciled the world because He was God. Secondly, and better: "God was in Christ," i.e ., through Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Thirdly, Cajetan takes it: God reconciled to Himself the world in Christ, or the world that believes in Christ. But this seems forced and harsh.
Not imputing their trespasses unto them. Not imputing but freely forgiving their trespasses, not by imputation of the righteousness of Christ, as the heretics think, but by a real infusion of it. So Chrysostom and Anselm.
Observe the Hebraism. (1.) When the Scripture says that God imputes or does not impute sin, it does not mean that He acts against the reality of things, for so would God be false, but rather, since the judgment of God is most pure, He regards things and sins as they truly are. (2.) The same appears from the fact that the whole law, and consequently every sin against the law, depends on the judgment of God, i.e ., on the eternal law which is in the Mind of God. (3.) And the chief reason is that all remission of sins depends on the forgiveness of God: but to forgive is not to impute; for sin, belonging to the sphere of morals as an offence against God, is removed by forgiveness, which equally belongs to the moral world. But the generous goodness of God infuses, together with this forgiveness, grace, charity, and all virtues, that we may be adorned with them as real gifts of God, may be justified and become worthy of the friendship of God.
And hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. He hath given us the duty of preaching the word of God, by which we are to reconcile men to God, as was said at the last verse. By metonymy, word may be put for the reality as sign for the thing signified. In this way the word of reconciliation would be reconciliation itself, or the power and ministry of reconciling men to God. Ver. 20. We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. As Christ's ambassadors, even as if Christ were entreating you by us, we implore you to give up your wills to be reconciled to God. See what diligence, what energy, what zeal the Apostle displays in his endeavours to convert the Corinthians. Ver. 21 . Him who knew no sin. Experimentally, says S. Thomas, Christ knew no sin, though by simple knowledge He did, for He did no sin.
Hath made Him to be sin for us. For us, says Illyricus, who were sin; because, he says, sin is the substance and form of our soul. But to say this of ourselves is folly, of Christ blasphemy. (1.) The meaning is that God made Christ to be the victim offered for our sin, to prevent us from atoning for our sins by eternal death and fire. The Apostle plays on the word sin, for when he says, "Him who knew no sin," he means sin strictly speaking; but when he says, "He made Him to be sin for us," he employs a metonymy. So Ambrose, Theophylact, and Anselm. In Psalms 40:12 , Christ calls our sins His. (2.) Sin here denotes, says S. Thomas, the likeness of sinful flesh which He took, that He might be passible, just as sinners who are descended from Adam are liable to suffering. (3.) Sin , in the sense of being regarded by men as a noteworthy sinner, and being crucified as a malefactor. So the Greek Fathers.
Of these three interpretations the first is the more full, significant, and vigorous, and the one more consonant with the usage of Scripture, which frequently speaks of an expiatory victim as sin. Cf. Hosea 4:8 ; Lev 4:24 and Leviticus 4:21 ; Ezekiel 44:29 . The reason of this metonymy is that all the punishment and guilt of the sin were transferred to the expiatory victim, and so the sin itself might seem to be also transferred to it. In token of this the priest was accustomed to lay his hands on the victim, and call down on it the sins of the people; for by the hands are signified sinful actions, which are for the most part executed by the hands, as Theodoret says in his notes on Leviticus i. Therefore the laying of hands on the victim was both a symbol of oblation and a testimony of the transference of guilt to the victim, showing that it was expiatory, and that it bore the sin itself, with all its burden of guilt and punishment. In this way the high-priest on the great Day of Atonement turned a goat into the wilderness, having imprecated on it the sins of the whole people. Cf. Leviticus 16:20 .
That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (1.) That we might be made righteous before God, with the righteousness infused by God through the merits of Christ. So Chrysostom. He says righteousness and not righteous , says Theophylact, to signify the excellency of the grace, which effects that in the righteous there is no deformity, no stain of sin, but that there is complete grace and righteousness throughout. (2.) The righteousness of God was Christ made, in order that its effects, or the likeness of the uncreated righteousness of God, might be communicated to us by His created and infused righteousness. So Cyril ( Thesaur. lib. xii. c. 3). (3.) Christ is so called because God owes not to us, but to Christ and His merits, the infusion of righteousness and the remission of our sins. Cf. Augustine ( Enchirid . c. 41). Cf. also 1 Cor. i. 30. Heretics raise the objection that Christ was made for us sin, in the sense that our sin was imputed to Him and was punished in Him; therefore we are made the righteousness of God, because it is imputed to us. I answer that the two things are not parallel; for Christ could not really be a sinner as we can really be righteous, nor does the Apostle press the analogy. He only says that Christ bore our sins, that we through Him might be justified. Moreover, Christ actually was made sin, i.e ., a victim for sin (this is the meaning of "sin" here), and therefore we truly become the righteousness of God. So easily and completely can we turn the tables on these Protestant objectors.
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25