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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 5

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4064. A.D. 60.

In this chapter,

(1,) The apostle proceeds in his description of the glorious hopes which he and his fellow-ministers and Christians had beyond the grave, as their great support and ground of triumph under all those trials which he had been mentioning before, 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 .

(2,) He shows how these hopes, and their views of the future judgment, excited them to diligence in their work, 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 .

(3,) Mentions his great concern for the Corinthian converts, with the reasons of it, 2 Corinthians 5:12-16 .

(4,) Bears testimony to the necessity of regeneration, and reconciliation with God through Christ’s atonement, and by the ministry of the gospel, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 .

Verses 1-4

2 Corinthians 5:1-4. For we know We pursue, not seen, but unseen things, and do not faint in our work, because we know that if our earthly house Which is only a tabernacle or tent, a mere temporary habitation; were dissolved Were mouldered back to the dust out of which it was formed; or if our zeal in the service of the gospel should expose us to martyrdom, which should destroy it before its time; we have And should immediately enjoy; a building of God A building of which he is the great architect and donor; a house not made with mortal hands Nor to be compared with the most magnificent structure which hands ever raised, exceeding them all in its lustre, as much as in its duration, though that duration be eternal in the heavens Placed far above either violence or decay. “Whether we consider this divine building as particularly signifying the body after the resurrection, in which sense Whitby takes it; or any vehicle with which the soul may be clothed during the intermediate state, considerable difficulties will arise.” “I therefore,” says Doddridge, “am inclinable rather to take it in a more general view, as referring to the whole provision God has made for the future happiness of his people, and which Christ represents as his Father’s house, in which there are many mansions.” For in this While we are in this state of suffering, or while our soul sojourns in this mortal body; we groan earnestly Eagerly long for that future state, and the felicity of it, and grieve that we do not yet enjoy it; desiring to be clothed upon That is, upon this body, which is now covered with flesh and blood; with our house which is from heaven To enter the heavenly mansion which God hath provided for us. To be clothed upon with a house, is a very strong figure; which yet the apostle uses here and in 2 Corinthians 5:4, having in his thoughts the glory which each should wear, instead of being clothed, as now, with that mortal flesh which he calls a tabernacle, as it is so mean, inconvenient, and precarious an abode. If so be that being clothed With the image of God, while we are in the body; we shall not be found naked Of the wedding garment. He seems to allude to Genesis 3:7; Exodus 32:25; our natural turpitude of sin being a nakedness abominable to God. See 1 Peter 5:5; Colossians 3:12, where the same metaphor of being clothed with divine graces is made use of. For we that are in this tabernacle Who still dwell in these frail and corruptible tents; do groan, being burdened therewith. The apostle speaks with exact propriety, a burden naturally exciting groans: and we are here burdened with numberless afflictions, infirmities, and temptations. Not that we would be unclothed Stripped of our bodies, for that is what we cannot consider as in itself desirable; .but rather, if it might be left to our choice, we would desire to pass into the immortal state without dying, or to be clothed upon with the heavenly glory, such as that which will invest the saints after the resurrection; that mortality, το θνητον , that which is mortal Corruptible, and obnoxious to so many infirmities, disorders, burdens, and sorrows; might be swallowed up of life As if it were annihilated by the divine power, which at the resurrection will exert itself in and upon us; namely, as the case was with Enoch and Elijah when they were translated, and as it shall be with the saints that are found alive at Christ’s second coming. The meaning of this and the following verses is evidently this; “That though it appeared most desirable of all to pass to future glory without dying, yet a state in which mortality should be swallowed up of life, was, at all events, desirable; and an absence from the body to be not only submitted to, but wished for, in a view of being so present with the Lord, as even in the intermediate state they expected to be.” Doddridge.

Verses 5-8

2 Corinthians 5:5-8. Now he that hath wrought us for Or to, this longing for immortality; is God For none but God, none less than the Almighty, could have wrought this in us; who also hath given us his Spirit In its various gifts and graces; as an earnest Of our obtaining the heavenly habitation. We are confident, therefore Or courageous in all dangers and sufferings, and dare venture even upon death itself; knowing that while we are at home Or rather sojourn (as ενδημουντες here signifies) in the body, we are absent, εκδημουμεν , we are exiles; from the Lord

Christ, in the enjoyment of whom our chief happiness consists. For While on earth; we walk by faith Are influenced, guided, and governed in our whole course of life, by our faith in objects yet unseen; not by the sight Of heavenly glories. In other words, we cannot now see heavenly and eternal things, as we expect to do after death. It is true our faith gives us an evidence of them, (Hebrews 11:1,) which implies a kind of seeing him who is invisible, and the invisible world; yet this is as far beneath what we shall have in eternity, as that evidence of faith is above the evidence of bare, unassisted reason. We are confident, I say And bold, through the influence of these views which God hath given us; and willing Ευδοκουμεν , take complacency and delight, in the expectation of being absent from the body And from all intercourse with the persons and things of this world, however dear some of them may have been formerly to us; and present with the Lord This demonstrates that the apostle had no idea of his soul sleeping after death, but expected it to pass immediately into a state of felicity with Christ in paradise; and consequently that the happiness of the saints is not deferred till the resurrection. See 2 Corinthians 12:4.

Verses 9-10

2 Corinthians 5:9-10. Wherefore we labour Φιλοτιμουμεθα , we are ambitious, (the only ambition which has place in a Christian,) that, whether present in the body, or absent from it, we may be accepted of him Ευαρεστοι αυτω ειναι , to be well-pleasing to him, or to receive the tokens of his favour and approbation. For we must all Apostles as well as other men, whether now present in the body, or absent from it; appear Openly, without covering; before the judgment-seat of Christ Where all hidden things will be revealed, probably the sins even of the faithful, which were forgiven long before: for many of their good works (their humiliation, contrition, godly sorrow, striving against sin, mortification of it) cannot otherwise appear; but this will be done at their own desire, without grief and shame; that every one may receive the things That is, the due reward of the things; done in his body, whether good or bad In full proportion to his actions, and the secret springs thereof, which will then be all laid open; and according to the principles from which the Searcher of hearts knows his actions to have proceeded. Some read the latter clause, that every one may receive in the body, (namely, in his body raised,) according to what he hath done. That is, as in the body he did either good or evil, so the body being raised, he is recompensed therein accordingly.

Verses 11-12

2 Corinthians 5:11-12. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord The strict judgment which must then pass on all impenitent sinners; we the more earnestly persuade men To repent and believe the gospel, that, instead of being objects of the divine wrath, they may live and die happy in his favour. But, as we are made manifest to God And he knows our integrity; I trust also it is evident to you. For we commend not ourselves We do not say this as if we thought there was any need of again recommending ourselves to you, but give you occasion to glory To rejoice and praise God, and furnish you with an answer to those false apostles; who glory in appearance, but not in heart We may infer from this, and from the beginning of chap. 3., that some of the Corinthians were disposed to represent the care which Paul took to vindicate himself, as pride and vainglory. On the other hand, it seems they would have interpreted his silence as the effect of guilt and confusion. He therefore plainly and very properly tells them, that he said this only in his own necessary defence; and to furnish his friends with an answer to those whose consciences condemned them, while they endeavoured to asperse him.

Verses 13-15

2 Corinthians 5:13-15. For whether we be beside ourselves As they affirm we are, because we expose ourselves to so many sufferings, and even to the danger of imprisonment and death, by persevering in our work of preaching the gospel. Or whether we appear to be transported beyond ourselves By our speaking or writing with uncommon vehemence; it is to God It is zeal for his glory that animates us; and he understands, if men do not, the emotion which himself inspires. Or whether we be sober In shunning persecution as much as may be, or proceed in a more calm and sedate manner; it is for your cause We have your good in view, and proceed in our course in order to promote your best interests. In other words, love to God and benevolence to man, are the grand principles by which we are actuated; and we cannot be cold and unaffected, while we have such grand and noble subjects under our consideration as those which we treat of among you. Mr. Locke, from comparing 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:16-21; 2 Corinthians 12:6; 2 Corinthians 12:11, is of opinion that the Corinthians censured Paul as a fool or madman, for what he said in commendation of himself. In that case the meaning is, “You say I am distracted for my present conduct, but this is between God and myself; I am sure you Corinthians ought not to say it, for all my sober thoughts and most painful labours are for you.” For the love of Christ So illustriously displayed toward us in our redemption, and our love to him in return; constraineth us Ευνεχει , bears us on, with a strong, steady, prevailing influence, such as winds and tides exert when they waft the vessel to its destined harbour; κριναντας τουτο , judging thus, or while we thus judge Thus consider and reflect; that if one died for all Which Jesus assuredly did, even gave himself a ransom for all mankind, without exception, (1 Timothy 2:6,) yea, tasted death for every man, for every human being; (Hebrews 2:9;) then were all dead Even the best of men were in a state of spiritual death entailed upon them by the sin of the first man, (see on Genesis 2:17,) and liable to death eternal. For had it been otherwise with any man, Christ would not have had need to die for him. And that he died for all That all might be saved; that they who live That all who live upon the earth, or all who, believing in him, are put in possession of spiritual life through his death and grace procured thereby; should not henceforth From the moment they know and are united to him; live unto themselves Seek their own honour, profit, or pleasure, or do their own will; but live unto him who died for them And thereby procured for them pardoning mercy and renewing grace, to enable them so to live; and rose again That he might receive for them, and confer upon them, these inestimable blessings.

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 5:16. Wherefore henceforth So that from this time that we knew the love of Christ; know we no man Neither ourselves nor you, neither the rest of the apostles, (Galatians 2:6,) nor any other person; after the flesh According to his former state, country, descent, nobility, riches, power, wisdom. We fear not the great. We regard not the rich or wise. We account not the least less than ourselves. We consider all, only in order to save all. Who is he that thus knows no one after the flesh? In what land do these Christians live? Yea, if we have known Christ after the flesh So as to love him merely with a human love; or, so as to regard our external relation to him, as being of the same nation with him, or our having conversed with him on earth, or so as to expect only temporal benefits from him; or have governed ourselves by any carnal expectations from the Messiah as a temporal prince who should exalt our nation to dignity, wealth, and power. Mr. Locke thinks this is said with a reference to “their Jewish false apostle, who gloried in his circumcision, and perhaps in his having seen Christ in the flesh, or being some way related to him.” Yet now, henceforth Since our illumination and conversion; know we him no more In that way, but wholly after a spiritual and divine manner, suitable to his state of glory, and our expectations of spiritual and eternal salvation from him.

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore Since all Christ’s true disciples do thus live to him, and not to themselves, and only know him in a spiritual manner; if any man be in Christ By living faith and the indwelling of his Spirit; if any man have an interest in and union with him; he is a new creature Καινη κτισις , there is a new creation, in the soul of that man. His understanding is enlightened, his judgment corrected, and he has new ideas and conceptions of things. His conscience is informed, awakened, and purged from guilt by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 9:14. His will is subjected to the will of God, his affections drawn from earth to heaven, and his dispositions, words, and actions, his cares, labours, and pursuits, are all changed. Old things are passed away All old principles and practices; behold The present, visible, undeniable change! all things are become new He has new life, namely, a spiritual and divine life; new spiritual senses, new faculties, new desires and designs, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, passions and appetites. His whole tenor of action and conversation is new, and he lives as it were in a new world. God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, angels, men, sinners, saints, and the whole creation heaven, earth, and all therein, appear in a new light, and stand related to him in a new manner, since he was created anew in Christ Jesus.

Verses 18-20

2 Corinthians 5:18-20. And all things, &c. These new things are all of God, the author of them, considered in this view as reconciling us to himself Removing our carnal mind, which was enmity against him, and taking us into his favour; by Jesus Christ Through whose sacrifice and intercession, merits and Spirit, these blessings are obtained. And hath given to us His ministers, and especially to his apostles; the ministry of reconciliation The gospel ministry, offering reconciliation and peace with God to all mankind, and ensuring these privileges to all the truly penitent that believe in Jesus. To wit The sum of which is; that God was in Christ United to him and manifesting himself by him; reconciling the world Which was before at enmity with God; to himself So taking away that enmity which could no otherwise be removed, than by the mediation and grace of the Son of God: not imputing their trespasses unto them Freely forgiving all their sins, Ephesians 1:7; and hath committed unto us As a trust of the highest importance; the word, the message, of reconciliation. We then are ambassadors for Christ Divinely commissioned and sent to treat with you in his name and stead, on a matter of infinite importance to you. As though God did beseech you by us By whom he speaks to you. We pray you in Christ’s stead Υπερ Χριστου , or, for Christ’s sake; be ye reconciled to God Who is now ready to be reconciled to you, on terms which, if you apply to him, he will enable you to comply with, and thankfully to accept that friendship and protection which he graciously vouchsafes to offer you. Herein the apostle might appear to some transported beyond himself: for in general he uses a more calm, sedate kind of exhortation, as in the beginning of the next chapter. What unparalleled condescension and divinely tender mercies are displayed in this verse! Did the judge ever beseech a condemned criminal to accept of pardon? Does the creditor ever beseech a ruined debtor to receive an acquittance in full? Yet our almighty Lord, and our eternal Judge, not only vouchsafes to offer these blessings, but invites us, entreats us, and with the most tender importunity solicits us not to reject them!

Verse 21

2 Corinthians 5:21. For he made him, who knew no sin A commendation peculiar to Christ; to be sin Or a sin-offering rather, (as the expression often signifies both in the Old Testament and the New;) for us Who knew no righteousness, who were inwardly and outwardly nothing but sin, and who must have been consumed by the divine justice, had not this atonement been made for our sins; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him Might be accounted and constituted righteous by God, or might be invested with that righteousness; 1st, imputed to us; 2d, implanted in us; and, 3d, practised by us; which is, in every sense, the righteousness of God by faith. See note on Romans 10:4; Philippians 3:9.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/2-corinthians-5.html. 1857.
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