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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 5

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-10

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 . Paul proceeds to expand the thought of 2 Corinthians 4:16, modifying the idea of an inner personality into that of a house or home for the soul prepared by God in heaven. The earthly frame in which we dwell here has its counterpart in a spiritual frame, the resurrection-body, which awaits us in heaven ( cf. 1 Corinthians 15:38 *, “ God giveth it a body” ). In 2 Corinthians 5:1 f. he speaks of this as a house which in contrast to the physical body is “ eternal” ; in the following verses under the figure of a robe. There has been much discussion as to the precise point at which Paul conceives of this enrobing with the spiritual body as taking place; whether immediately after death or only after the resurrection and judgment; also as to whether he conceives of the new spiritual body as taking the place of the old physical body, or as being super-indued over the physical body when it has been raised from the dead. It would be difficult to affirm, after comparing this passage with 1 Corinthians 15 , that Paul was entirely consistent in his answer to these questions— if we admit that they had presented themselves to his mind. The probability is that they had not, and that what looks like inconsistency is really due to the fact that he had not carried out any analysis of the stages of post mortem experience. A spirit or soul without a “ body,” that is, a form, was for him inconceivable. And the conviction on which he enlarges, in which he finds comfort here, is that there is prepared by God for every believer, and waiting for him in heaven, a form or frame, a house or home, which is the spiritual counterpart of the physical form, but eternal; and this precludes the probability that even for a moment any believer should be “ naked,” i.e. a disembodied spirit, after life and consciousness have been restored through resurrection. What is here laid down does not preclude that interval of “ sleep” which Paul predicates elsewhere (see S. D. F. Salmond, Christian Doctrine of Immortality 4 , p. 450 ff.).

The yearning, therefore, of those who are still dwelling in the tent of a physical body is not a yearning for escape, heavy though the burden is, but for that which follows escape. And of that the Christian has a double pledge. It is God who has been at work, bringing men to this disposition of “ earnest expectation,” and He will not deceive them ; and moreover He has given them in the Holy Spirit a pledge of this as well as of all else that is involved in “ salvation.”

So much of this, however, lies still in the future, that the governing condition of our moral life is not the faculty of sight but that of faith, by which we perceive, lay hold of, the unseen ( cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18, Hebrews 11:1). And this faith inspires us with high courage even in the face of possible death, for death, we know, puts an end to that absence from the Lord which is involved in being still in the earthly tabernacle. If death comes, Paul will accept it ( cf. Php_1:23 ). Meanwhile, whichever way he looks on his present condition, whether as being at home in the body or as absent from the Lord, he has but one ambition, to be well pleasing to Him. For (so far was Paul from the antinomianism with which he was charged) even the new standing of believers as “ justified by faith” and the gift of the Spirit do not relieve Christians of the responsibility for their actions, which will be exposed for judgment before the judgment-seat of Christ.

Verses 11-19

2 Corinthians 5:11-19 . The emphasis is on the opening words of 2 Corinthians 5:11. Among the clouds of misrepresentation to which he was exposed was the sneering assertion that in some unworthy sense he “ persuades” or “ gets round” men ( cf. Galatians 1:10). If it can be said of him with any truth at all, this, which he has just stated, is the reason. In any case both his motives and his methods are plain to God— and (he will never let go the hope) plain also to the inward judgment of the Corinthians. This does not mean that he is justifying another charge made against him, the charge of “ commending himself.” He is really inviting them to be proud of him, as they will be if they do him justice. So will they be able to face his opponents, who found their claim on outward things such as eloquence ( 2 Corinthians 10:10), or on letters of commendation ( 2 Corinthians 3:1), or their Jewish blood ( 2 Corinthians 11:22), or on their personal acquaintance with Jesus, rather than upon inward motive or disposition. In the case of Paul, all experience, all action even, has lost any merely personal reference. His periods of ecstasy are for the glory of God; his times of sober consciousness are for the benefit of others. For he is governed by Christ’ s love and by the form in which it had been manifested. Christ had died for all. It followed that “ all” died with Him— died to the old life. Christ had risen again; it follows that those who live (with the new life) in Him, live not to themselves but to Him. And so real is this new life, so completely is it cut off from the old one, that all relationships on the plane of human life are transcended. Even a claim to have known the historical Jesus (such as was probably made by some of Paul’ s opponents) was irrelevant. Christ’ s true followers knew Him in another and a higher way, not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. It is not possible to decide whether Paul waives the fact or only the supposition that he had known Jesus in the flesh. But since he was probably in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion, the possibility of his having at least seen Him cannot be excluded. In fact, those who “ live” because they are in Christ, are actually new beings. And all this comes from God. It is He who has reconciled men to Himself, He who has appointed Paul to a ministry of reconciliation. For all his magnifying of the glory and sacrifice of Christ, Paul never loses sight of God as the primal Author and Source of salvation ( 1 Corinthians 3:23). And this is the burden of his message, that God in Christ has brought humanity into a relation of peace with Himself. In doing this God must have cancelled the record of human offences against Himself ( Romans 3:23), and to give effect to it He had committed to the apostles and teachers the message of reconciliation.

[ 2 Corinthians 5:16 “ to know Christ after the flesh” may mean “ to hold the old Jewish Messianic ideas.”— A. J. G.]

Verses 20-21

2 Corinthians 5:20 to 2 Corinthians 6:10 . Paul proceeds to expound and apply the relationship between himself and his converts based upon this ministry. He acts in Christ’ s stead when he beseeches men to allow themselves to be reconciled to God. And what Paul did for Christ, God did through Christ. Once more he points to the supreme illustration and proof of God’ s will to reconcile men. He had treated Christ, the “ Son of His love,” though He had no experimental knowledge of sin, as though He had sinned and deserved the punishment of death. And He had done this for man’ s sake, in order that he might participate in the Divine righteousness. The strange expression “ made him to be sin” is probably due to Paul’ s shrinking from saying “ made him a sinner,” which would also have been open to misconception; for the same reason, in Galatians 3:13 he says, “ Christ was made a curse,” when “ cursed” would have been in accordance with the citation from Deuteronomy which follows.

It is the grace, the undeserved mercy, of God that is offered in this message of reconciliation, and while Christ’ s ambassadors, as fellow-workers with God and Christ, entreat the world to accept that grace, they entreat those who have already accepted it (“ you” ) to ensure that their acceptance be fruitful. (In a parenthesis he illustrates by a quotation from Isaiah 49 the blessed character of the moment.) Accordingly the apostles so shape their conduct that they may approve themselves to men as nothing less than the agents and emissaries of God. The quality of endurance is exhibited in severe experiences arranged in three triplets, with which we should compare the list in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28; then follows the enumeration of many other qualities of the ministry. It is further distinguished by a message which springs from truthfulness, and by the use of “ weapons of righteousness” alike for offence and defence. In the antitheses that follow ( 2 Corinthians 6:8 f.) the injurious representations are to be understood as the opinion of Paul’ s opponents. It is they who regard him as “ obscure,” as “ moribund,” as chastised” by God. In 2 Corinthians 6:10 both members of each antithesis probably represent the genuine experience of the apostle.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/2-corinthians-5.html. 1919.
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