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The Apostle is here prosecuting, much the same Subject, as in the preceding Chapter. He speaks with full assurance of Faith, of his eternal Interests, He closeth the Discourse, with stating the Grounds of all Security in Christ.
(1) For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2) For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: (3) If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. (4) For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (5) Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
The Apostle opens this Chapter with a beautiful similitude, in comparing the human body, to that of an house, in which the soul is supposed to reside. And, from a well-grounded confidence, of an interest in Christ, he contemplates the prospect of the dissolution of the body, as an object more to be desired, than dreaded; knowing, as he saith, that when absent from the body, he should be present, in spirit, with the Lord. There is also another subject to which it hath respect, in allusion to the Lord Jesus. For as the personal body of Christ, became the temple of the indwelling residence of his divine nature; so the bodies of God's people, are said to be the temple of the Holy Ghost, 2 Corinthians 6:16 . When, therefore, the bodies of God's people are dissolved, that is, the earthly part returns to its original dust; there is still an union with Christ, both of soul, and body; and there is a portion, which death destroys not: for the saints of God, are said to sleep in Jesus, 1 Thessalonians 4:14 . The voice from Heaven which John heard, declared them blessed which die in the Lord, Revelation 14:13 . Death cannot dissolve this union. And it is remarkable, that God our Savior called himself the God of Abraham, many hundred years after his death. And Job speaks as from the grave, of being remembered by the Lord, Job 14:15 ; Matthew 22:32 .
The groaning Paul speaks of, every regenerated child of God knows. For carrying about with us a body of sin and death, how is it possible but to groan, while the corrupt, and unrenewed nature of the body, is forever opposing the soul if the Reader would attend a spiritual anatomical lecture on the dissection of the human heart, he may do it by reading the seventh Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 7:0 ); especially from the 7th verse (Romans 7:7 ) to the end: where the Apostle hath opened in his own history, a complete view, of the inward frames, and workings, of a child of God, when regenerated, and brought into an acquaintance with his own corrupt nature. From such a body of sin and death, when once a child of God is awakened, and regenerated; he groans to be delivered. Reader! do you know anything of this? Have you that self-loathing, that self-abhorrence, from a conscious corrupt, sensual, earthly-minded heart; that you look toward to the humiliation of the grave, as a period of privilege, and deliverance, peculiarly dear to a regenerated soul? This is a trying question. But sure I am, the soul, whom God the Spirit hath regenerated, and brought into an acquaintance with himself; and with Christ, will know how to answer it, will enter into my views, by his own. My Brother! (I would say to everyone of this description,) It is blessed, so to love Christ, as to loath self.
I admire the Apostle's referring all the work, as ultimately we shall all the glory, to God. He is indeed the Almighty Source, that causeth the whole change, from nature to grace; and maketh all that difference between the children of the kingdom, and the whole Adam-nature of darkness. It is God which worketh in us, both to will, and to do of his good pleasure. Reader! what a sweet thought! If you, or I, have our minds seasoned with grace: If God the Father from all eternity chose us in Christ: If Jesus the Son of God, betrothed our persons to himself before all worlds; and hath redeemed us in this time state of our nature: If God the Holy Ghost hath called us with an holy calling, and by his regenerating influence, hath made us new creatures in Christ: let us be always ready to ascribe all the glory to Him; for this is the earnest, and sure pledge of the Spirit!
(6) Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (7) (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) (8) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (9) Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. (10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (11) Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
The confidence the Apostle speaks of, is an unceasing confidence. Be speaks of it more than once, and calls it always. And if the Reader looks at the principle upon which it is founded, he will see, that it is not liable to any change, for it ariseth not from any fluctuating or uncertain cause; but is in itself a fixed and certain thing; namely, God's Covenant-promises in Christ. It was thus holy men of old lived and died! They relied upon the Covenant-promises of God in Christ. They walked by faith, not by sight. They had never seen Christ in the flesh, none of the Patriarch believers. But what of that. They had seen Christ's day afar off. They believed in what God had said. So that the things were in representation by faith, always in view: and their whole souls rejoiced in the full expectation of them. Hence, they were confident of them; and whether in life, or death, they rejoiced in hope of the glory of God.
Reader! what saith your experience, to these things? Hath the same Almighty Teacher, who wrought this grace in their hearts; wrought it in yours? Hath the Lord given you also the earnest of the Spirit? What discoveries have you of Christ, of your interest in him, and your communion with Him? Are you sensible at times of his Person being present with you; that you walk with him by faith now, and are looking forward with pleasing hope, when you shall see him by sight, and dwell with him forever?
Moreover, what are your apprehensions of the judgment-seat of Christ, before which you must shortly appear? We are all to receive there the things done in the body; whether by the things of regeneration wrought on the Lord's people, in bringing them into a justified state before God; or those who are found in guilt from the unawakened nature of Adam, and in a state of condemnation before God. Reader! it is a grand point of decision. For while all unawakened, unregenerated, and unrenewed men, must stand awfully condemned before God; we are expressly told, that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus: for they are passed from death to life, and are freely justified in the grace which is in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1 ; 1 John 3:14 ; Acts 13:39 . Sweet thought! God's people are saved now, with an everlasting salvation. Their right, and title, to all Covenant blessings, and mercies, is founded in Christ. So that, as they are justified now, they cannot be condemned then. They must all appear indeed before the judgment seat of Christ; the righteous as well as the wicked: him that feareth God, as well as him that feareth him not. But with very different views. The wicked, the Scripture saith, shall be turned into hell, with all the people that forget God, Psalms 9:17 . But the ransomed in Zion are said to return with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, Isaiah 35:10 . They are to have the whole Covenant transactions laid open to their view, and not only their acquittal from all law charges, all demands of justice, and all claims of obligation, proclaimed before a congregated world of men and angels; but their acceptance in Christ, their oneness, and right of union with Christ, most fully established, and confirmed forever, And oh! what inconceivable rapture, will then break in upon the soul, when Christ shall own his Church, his Chosen, his Segullah, as the gift of his Father, the purchase of his blood, and the conquest of his Spirit. When he shall say: Behold I, and the children whom thou past given me! Isaiah 8:18 . Reader! what are your views of this subject. Who that hath such blessed prospects, and well certified, and made sure by divine teaching, but must at times, feel somewhat of the Apostle's feelings; and be willing to be absent from the body, to be present with the Lord!
(12) For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. (13) For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. (14) For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: (15) And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (16) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
I pass over several of the things contained within those verses, to attend more particularly, to what the Apostle saith in relation to the knowledge of Christ after the flesh. Paul knew nothing of Christ's Person, during our Lord's ministry: so that it is plain, somewhat more is meant by the expression, of knowing Christ after the flesh, than a mere personal knowledge of him, as men usually know one another. And the sense seems to be this: The one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross, is altogether so great and glorious, and hath such infinite value and efficacy in it, that it can be offered no more. But to know Christ after the flesh, that is coming again in the likeness of sinful flesh, would carry with it an idea as if that one offering of Christ needed to he repealed. A thing in direct opposition to the Whole Gospel. Reader! do not fail to observe, with what earnestness of affection the Apostle regarded the infinitely precious efficacy of Christ's blood. So great to need nothing beside: so effectual, that by it, Jesus hath forever perfected them that are sanctified!
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
There is somewhat very blessed in what the Apostle hath here set down, both in its effects, and in its cause. Paul first marks the effects. A man in Christ is a new creature. How comes he so? He then assigns the cause: the cause is of God. All things are of God. From everlasting, Jehovah in his threefold character of Persons, loved the Church in Christ, with an everlasting love. And each glorious Person gave manifestations of it. God the Father chose the Church in Christ, gave the Church to Christ, willed the being, and the well-being of the Church in Christ, before all worlds.: And when in the time-state of the Church, she fell in the Adam - nature of sin and transgression; God was in Christ reconciling the world the Church, unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. See 1 John 2:2 and Commentary. God the Son loved the Church, betrothed the Church to himself before time, and in time redeemed her by his blood. And God the Holy Ghost anointed the Church with her glorious Husband and Head before all time, and in the day of time, in her effectual calling, regenerated her nature in Christ Jesus. Hence, in every individual instance of Christ's mystical body, everyone that is in Christ is a new creature.
And what is highly worthy the Reader's closest regard is this, that the new creature is a change of the whole man. A new heart, and a new mind, the Lord saith, I will give you, and a right spirit I will put within you, Ezekiel 36:26 . So that it is a new creature, not a new name; a new principle altogether, not a new opinion. And indeed, the very name implies as much. For a new creature can only be produced by the same Creator which gave the being at the first. Creation-work can only be from God; and that without any other pre-disposing cause. Reader! mark well the features of character in the new creature! Then see if it be your portion. Moreover, the Apostle saith: All things are of God. So that the new creature, with all the properties which define the new-birth, are of divine origin, and come from divine giving. The new nature, the new heart, the new being, the new life, the new light, the new mind, yea, everything which can be said to constitute newness of character; all are of God. Are they new born? Then is it not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, John 3:8; John 3:8 . Are they renewed in the spirit of the mind? This also is of God. Titus 3:4-6 . Are they quickened to a new life? Jesus saith: I am the light, and the life of men, John 8:12 . In short, everything in the new creation, both on cause, and effect, is of the Lord. I create the fruit of the lips: peace, peace to him that is far off; and to him that is near, saith the Lord, and I will heal him. Isaiah 57:19 .
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
The Apostle hath very beautifully introduced this verse, in the midst of those high truths he was delivering to the Church, as if his mind was suddenly constrained to make appeal, from what he had said before, to the Church of God, in that place. He takes up the idea of an Ambassador, sent not with an earthly commission, but with an heavenly, to entreat poor sinners to a reconciliation with God in Christ. And what endears the message still more is, that the overture first comes from the offended party. By the fall, it is our nature that is in a state of enmity and warfare with God. So that, what grace must it be in God, not only to provide a remedy, for repairing the dreadful breach of sin, but also to woo the sinner's heart, to accept the offered mercy. Reader! do not overlook in this view, the provision made, for acceptation, in every instance, of the Church of Jesus, Psalms 110:3 ; John 6:37 .
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Volumes might be written, on this most blessed verse of Scripture: and when all the powers of the human mind had been drained, to express everything the imagination could conceive, of blessedness contained in it, numberless things would be left unsaid, and unwritten; so infinitely full are the blissful contents. That Christ, who knew no sin, should be made sin for his people: that he who is holiness itself, and who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; should be counted unholy, and have all the iniquity of his people laid upon him! yea, he that is One with the Father, over all God blessed forever, should be made a curse for them: what a world of mysteries is contained in this subject? But, Reader! think, and think with holy, rapture, and joy, of the blissful truth connected with it, if Christ who knew no sin, was made sin for them; they also which are his people, and who in themselves are all sin, and know no righteousness, are made the righteousness of God in him? So that they are really, and truly, considered righteous before God in his righteousness, as much as Christ stood forth in God's view the sinner's Surety, and was beheld, and reputed sin for them. And this becomes the sole cause, as was all along intended, of the sinner's justification before God. Not to procure favor to his people, to any of their labored attempts after righteousness; but to be the very righteousness of his people. Christ is himself their righteousness. And they are accepted as righteous in him. Oh! the unspeakable felicity of thus eyeing Christ, and knowing Him, as the Lord our righteousness. Sweetly the Apostle speaks of the Church, made righteous in his righteousness, when he saith; who of God is made unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. And as sweetly the Prophet hath taught the Church, under God the Holy Ghost, to take all the comfort, and confidence, of the divine provision, when putting those words in the mouth of the redeemed: Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength; even to him shall men come, and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory, Isaiah 45:24-25 ; 1 Corinthians 1:30 .
Who is blessed in the Lord, that can join the Apostle's confidence, on the same well-grounded assurance in Christ; that when the tabernacle of this earthly house shall fall, the mansion of glory in Jesus, stands open for his sure reception? Oh! the vast, the conceivable difference, which will take place, at the judgment-seat of Christ, between the redeemed of the Lord, and the unregenerate! Who shall form conception, between the shouts of holy joy, and the shrieks of the condemned? Lord Jesus! be thou my portion now; and sure I am, thou wilt be my everlasting confidence then, Lord! give me all the sweet properties of the new creature, and so cause the love of Christ to constrain me, that during the whole time-state of my continuance here below, I may thus judge, and thus act, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him, who died for them, and rose again! Blessed Lord Jesus! I would be wholly thine! And, oh! the rapturous thought! I am made the righteousness of God in thee!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17