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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 5

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

If--be dissolved (εαν--καταλυθη). Third class condition, εαν and first aorist passive subjunctive. The very word used (καταλυω) for striking down a tent.

The earthly house of our tabernacle (η επιγειος ημων οικια του σκηνους). Rather, "If our earthly (see on 1 Corinthians 15:40 for επιγειος) house of the tent (σκηνος, another form of σκηνη, tent, from root σκα, to cover)." Appositive genitive, the house (οικια) is the tent.

We have (εχομεν). Present indicative. We possess the title to it now by faith. "Faith is the title-deed (υποστασις) to things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:7).

A building from God (οικοδομην εκ θεου). This οικοδομη (found in Aristotle, Plutarch, LXX, etc., and papyri, though condemned by Atticists) is more substantial than the σκηνος.

Not made with hands (αχειροποιητον). Found first in Mark 14:58 in charge against Jesus before the Sanhedrin (both the common verbal χειροποιητον and the newly made vernacular αχειροποιητον, same verbal with α privative). Elsewhere only here and Colossians 2:11. Spiritual, eternal home.

Verse 2

To be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven (το οικητηριον ημων το εξ ουρανου επενδυσασθα). First aorist middle infinitive of late verb επενδυω, double compound (επ, εν) to put upon oneself. Cf. επενδυτης for a fisherman's linen blouse or upper garment (John 21:7). Οικητηριον is old word used here of the spiritual body as the abode of the spirit. It is a mixed metaphor (putting on as garment the dwelling-place).

Verse 3

Being clothed (ενδυσαμενο). First aorist middle participle, having put on the garment.

Naked (γυμνο). That is, disembodied spirits, "like the souls in Sheol, without form, and void of all power of activity" (Plummer).

Verse 4

Not for that we would be unclothed (εφ' ω ου θελομεν εκδυσασθα). Rather, "For that (εφ' ω) we do not wish to put off the clothing, but to put it on" (αλλ' επενδυσασθα). The transposition of the negative ου weakens the sense. Paul does not wish to be a mere disembodied spirit without his spiritual garment.

That what is mortal may be swallowed up of life (ινα καταποθη το θνητον υπο της ζωης). "Only what is mortal perishes; the personality, consisting of soul and body, survives," (Plummer). See on 2 Corinthians 1:22 for "the earnest of the spirit."

Verse 6

At home in the body (ενδημουντες εν τω σωματ). Rare verb ενδημεω from ενδημος (one among his own people as opposed to εκδημος, one away from home). Both εκδημεω (more common in the old Greek) and ενδημεω occur in the papyri with the contrast made by Paul here.

Verse 7

By sight (δια ειδους). Rather, by appearance.

Verse 8

We are of good courage (θαρρουμεν). Good word for cheer and same root as θαρσεω (Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:22). Cheer up.

Are willing rather (ευδοκουμεν). Rather, "We are well-pleased, we prefer" if left to ourselves. Cf. Philippians 1:21. Same ευδοκεω used in Luke 3:22.

To be at home with the Lord (ενδημησα προς τον Κυριον). First aorist (ingressive) active infinitive, to attain that goal is bliss for Paul.

Verse 9

We make it our aim (φιλοτιμουμεθα). Old and common verb, present middle, from φιλοτιμος (φιλοσ, τιμη, fond of honour), to act from love of honour, to be ambitious in the good sense (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 15:20). The Latin ambitio has a bad sense from ambire, to go both ways to gain one's point.

To be well-pleasing to him (ευαρεστο αυτω εινα). Late adjective that shows Paul's loyalty to Christ, his Captain. Found in several inscriptions in the Koine period (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 214; Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary).

Verse 10

Before the judgment-seat of Christ (εμπροσθεν του βηματος του Χριστου). Old word βημα, a step (from βαινω), a platform, the seat of the judge (Matthew 27:19). Christ is Saviour, Lord, and Judge of us all (τους παντας, the all).

That each may receive (ινα κομισητα εκαστος). Receive as his due, κομιζω means, old verb. See on Matthew 25:27.

Bad (φαυλον). Old word, akin to German faul, worthless, of no account, base, wicked.

Verse 11

The fear of the Lord (τον φοβον του Κυριου). Many today regard this a played-out motive, but not so Paul. He has in mind verse 2 Corinthians 5:10 with the picture of the judgment seat of Christ.

We persuade (πειθομεν). Conative present active, we try to persuade. It is always hard work.

Unto God (θεω). Dative case. God understands whether men do or not.

That we are made manifest (πεφανερωσθα). Perfect passive infinitive of φανεροω in indirect discourse after ελπιζω. Stand manifested, state of completion.

Verse 12

As giving you occasion of glorying (αφορμην διδοντες υμιν καυχηματος). An old Greek word (απο, ορμη, onset, rush), a base of operations, material with which to glory, as we say "a tip" only much more.

That ye may have wherewith to answer (ινα εχητε προς). Literally, "That ye may have something against (for facing those, etc.)." Paul wishes his champions in Corinth to know the facts.

In appearance, and not in heart (εν προσωπω κα μη εν καρδια). He means the Judaizers who were braggarts about their orthodox Judaism.

Verse 13

Whether we are beside ourselves (ειτε εξεστημεν). Second aorist active indicative of εξιστημ, old verb, here to stand out of oneself (intransitive) from εκστασις, ecstasy, comes as in Mark 5:42. It is literary plural, for Paul is referring only to himself. See on 2 Corinthians 1:6 for ειτε--ειτε. It is a condition of the first class and Paul assumes as true the charge that he was crazy (if I was crazy) for the sake of argument. Festus made it later (Acts 26:24). He spoke with tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18) and had visions (2 Corinthians 12:1-6) which probably the Judaizers used against him. A like charge was made against Jesus (Mark 3:21). People often accuse those whom they dislike with being a bit off.

Verse 14

The love of Christ (η αγαπη του Χριστου). Subjective genitive, Christ's love for Paul as shown by verse 2 Corinthians 5:15.

Constraineth us (συνεχε ημας). Old and common verb, to hold together, to press the ears together (Acts 7:57), to press on every side (Luke 8:45), to hold fast (Luke 22:63), to hold oneself to (Acts 18:5), to be pressed (passive, Luke 12:50; Philippians 1:23). So here Paul's conception of Christ's love for him holds him together to his task whatever men think or say.

Judging this (κριναντας τουτο). Having reached this conclusion, ever since his conversion (Galatians 1:17).

One died for all (εις υπερ παντων απεθανεν). This is the central tenet in Paul's theology and Christology. Hυπερ (over) here is used in the sense of substitution as in John 11:50; Galatians 3:13, death in behalf so that the rest will not have to die. This use of υπερ is common in the papyri (Robertson, Grammar, p. 631). In fact, υπερ in this sense is more usual in Greek than αντι, προ or any other preposition.

Therefore all died (αρα ο παντες απεθανον). Logical conclusion (αρα, corresponding), the one died for the all and so the all died when he did, all the spiritual death possible for those for whom Christ died. This is Paul's gospel, clear-cut, our hope today.

Verse 15

Should no longer live unto themselves (ινα μηκετ εαυτοις ζωσιν). The high doctrine of Christ's atoning death carries a correspondingly high obligation on the part of those who live because of him. Selfishness is ruled out by our duty to live "unto him who for their sakes died and rose again."

Verse 16

Henceforth (απο του νυν). From the time that we gained this view of Christ's death for us.

After the flesh (κατα σαρκα). According to the flesh, the fleshy way of looking at men. He, of course, knows men "in the flesh (εν τη σαρκ), but Paul is not speaking of that. Worldly standards and distinctions of race, class, cut no figure now with Paul (Galatians 3:28) as he looks at men from the standpoint of the Cross of Christ.

Even though we have known Christ after the flesh (ε κα εγνωκαμεν κατα σαρκα Χριστον). Concessive clause (ε κα, if even or also) with perfect active indicative. Paul admits that he had once looked at Christ κατα σαρκα, but now no longer does it. Obviously he uses κατα σαρκα in precisely the same sense that he did in verse 2 Corinthians 5:15 about men. He had before his conversion known Christ κατα σαρκα, according to the standards of the men of his time, the Sanhedrin and other Jewish leaders. He had led the persecution against Jesus till Jesus challenged and stopped him (Acts 9:4). That event turned Paul clean round and he no longer knows Christ in the old way κατα σαρκα. Paul may or may not have seen Jesus in the flesh before his death, but he says absolutely nothing on that point here.

Verse 17

A new creature (καινη κτισις). A fresh start is made (καινη). Κτισις is the old word for the act of creating (Romans 1:20), but in N.T. by metonymy it usually bears the notion of κτισμα, the thing created or creature as here.

The old things are passed away (τα αρχαια παρηλθεν). Did pass by, he means. Second aorist active of παρερχομα, to go by. The ancient (αρχαια) way of looking at Christ among other things. And yet today there are scholars who are trying to revive the old prejudiced view of Jesus Christ as a mere man, a prophet, to give us "a reduced Christ." That was once Paul's view, but it passed by forever for him. It is a false view and leaves us no gospel and no Saviour.

Behold, they are become new (ιδου, γεγονε καινα). Perfect active indicative of γινομα, have become new (fresh, καινα) to stay so.

Verse 18

Who reconciled us to himself through Christ (του καταλλαξαντος ημας εαυτω δια Χριστου). Here Paul uses one of his great doctrinal words, καταλλασσω, old word for exchanging coins. Διαλλασσω, to change one's mind, to reconcile, occurs in N.T. only in Matthew 5:24 though in papyri (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 187), and common in Attic. Καταλλασσω is old verb, but more frequent in later writers. We find συναλλασσω in Acts 7:26 and αποκαταλλασσω in Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 2:16 and the substantive καταλλαγη in Romans 5:11; Romans 11:15 as well as here. It is hard to discuss this great theme without apparent contradiction. God's love (John 3:16) provided the means and basis for man's reconciliation to God against whom he had sinned. It is all God's plan because of his love, but God's own sense of justice had to be satisfied (Romans 3:26) and so God gave his Son as a propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:25; Colossians 1:20; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). The point made by Paul here is that God needs no reconciliation, but is engaged in the great business of reconciling us to himself. This has to be done on God's terms and is made possible through (δια) Christ.

And gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation (κα δοντος ημιν την διακονιαν της καταλλαγης). It is a ministry marked by reconciliation, that consists in reconciliation. God has made possible through Christ our reconciliation to him, but in each case it has to be made effective by the attitude of each individual. The task of winning the unreconciled to God is committed to us. It is a high and holy one, but supremely difficult, because the offending party (the guilty) is the hardest to win over. We must be loyal to God and yet win sinful men to him.

Verse 19

To wit, that (ως οτ). Latin puts it quoniam quidem. It is an unclassical idiom, but occurs in the papyri and inscriptions (Moulton, Prol., p. 212; Robertson, Grammar, p. 1033). It is in Esther 4:14. See also 2 Corinthians 11:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:2. It probably means "how that."

Not reckoning (μη λογιζομενος). What Jesus did (his death for us) stands to our credit (Romans 8:32) if we make our peace with God. This is our task, "the word of reconciliation," that we may receive "the righteousness of God" and be adopted into the family of God.

Verse 20

We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ (υπερ Χριστου ουν πρεσβευομεν). Old word from πρεσβυς, an old man, first to be an old man, then to be an ambassador (here and Ephesians 6:20 with εν αλυση in a chain added), common in both senses in the Greek. "The proper term in the Greek East for the Emperor's Legate" (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 374), in inscriptions and papyri. So Paul has a natural pride in using this dignified term for himself and all ministers. The ambassador has to be persona grata with both countries (the one that he represents and the one to which he goes). Paul was Christ's Legate to act in his behalf and in his stead.

As though God were intreating by us (ως του θεου παρακαλουντος δι' ημων). Genitive absolute with ως used with the participle as often to give the reason (apparent or real). Here God speaks through Christ's Legate.

Be ye reconciled to God (καταλλαγητε τω θεω). Second aorist passive imperative of καταλλασσω and used with the dative case. "Get reconciled to God," and do it now. This is the ambassador's message as he bears it to men from God.

Verse 21

Him who knew no sin (τον μη γνοντα αμαρτιαν). Definite claim by Paul that Jesus did not commit sin, had no personal acquaintance (μη γνοντα, second aorist active participle of γινωσκω) with it. Jesus made this claim for himself (John 8:46). This statement occurs also in 1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26; 1 John 3:5. Christ was and is "a moral miracle" (Bernard) and so more than mere man.

He made to be sin (αμαρτιαν εποιησεν). The words "to be" are not in the Greek. "Sin" here is the substantive, not the verb. God "treated as sin" the one "who knew no sin." But he knew the contradiction of sinners (Hebrews 12:3). We may not dare to probe too far into the mystery of Christ's suffering on the Cross, but this fact throws some light on the tragic cry of Jesus just before he died: "My God, My God, why didst thou forsake me?" (Matthew 27:46).

That we might become (ινα ημεις γενωμεθα). Note "become." This is God's purpose (ινα) in what he did and in what Christ did. Thus alone can we obtain God's righteousness (Romans 1:17).

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/2-corinthians-5.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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