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2 Corinthians 5:1. For we know, &c.— We, as has been said but now, having eternal glory in view, do not droop in our work, nor faint under our manifold afflictions: for we are not only persuaded, upon the testimony of God in his word, that there is a rest provided for his faithful people, but by the witness of his Spirit with our spirits, as his children, we are likewise fully assured that we ourselves have a personal interest in it; and that, when these frail bodies, in which our souls now dwell, as in their house and home, (2 Corinthians 5:6.) during our state of pilgrimage and warfare upon earth, and which were originally formed out of it, and are like mean and moveable tents, that are erected but for a little while, and mustquickly be taken to pieces, and pulled down: as soon, I say, as this mortal frame shall be dissolved, whether by a natural or violent death, we make no doubt but that our spirits, which will then return to God, who gave them, (Ecclesiastes 12:7.) shall be immediately possessed of a much more glorious habitation; which we already have in title, through Jesus Christ, and which he has graciously prepared for his faithful saints; even a secure, firm, and delightful mansion for our souls, in the immediate presence of Christ; (2 Corinthians 5:8.) a mansion not of human, temporary fabric, like tents and tabernacles that are made by the hands of men, but built, like a celestial palace, on immoveable foundations, by the immediate power of God himself, (Hebrews 11:10.) for our eternal residence, in a manner suitable to his own excellent greatness and goodness, past all danger of remove, or decay, in the highest heaven: and we are satisfied that, at Christ's second appearing, this mortal body shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body, by his Almighty power; and that then we shall be clothed again with our immortalized bodies, and so in our whole persons be ever with the Lord. (Php 3:21. 1 Thessalonians 4:17.)
2 Corinthians 5:2. For in this we groan,— The following seems the best and most unexceptionable exposition of the very difficult passage before us: "And in this view we groan, through that intenseness of spirit with which we are earnestly and perpetually desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven; since, being so clothed upon, we should not be found naked, and exposed to any evil and inconvenience, how entirely soever we may be stripped of every thing that we can call our own here below. And moreover we who are yet in this tabernacle do groan, not onlywith those longings after a blessed immortality, but also being burthened with the present weight of many infirmities and calamities. For which cause, nevertheless, we would not be unclothed or stripped of the body; for that is what we cannot consider as in itself desirable; but rather, if it might be referred to our own choice, clothed upon immediately with a glory like that which shall invest the saints after the resurrection; that so what is mortal, corruptible, and obnoxious to these disorders, burdens, and sorrows, may all be so absorbed and swallowed up by life, as if it were annihilated by that divine vigour and energy which shall then exert itself in and upon us." See 1 Corinthians 15:53-54.
2 Corinthians 5:5. Now he that hath wrought us, &c.— "To these noble views and sublime desires." This is a most emphatical manner of speaking; not only asserting that God is the author of it, but ascribing Deity to the author. As if he had said, "None but God could have raised us to such a temper." The Spirit is frequently mentioned as the pledge and earnest of immortality; more particularly Ephesians 1:13-14.
2 Corinthians 5:6. We are always confident— Undaunted,—of good courage: and so 2 Corinthians 5:8. The original here, and in 2Co 5:8 implies the same with we faint not, ch. 2 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16. "I go on undauntedly without fainting, preaching the gospel with sincerity and direct plainness of speech." the conclusion which he draws here from the consideration of the resurrection and immortality, is the same which he makes upon the same ground, ch. 2 Corinthians 4:14; 2 Corinthians 4:16. The word 'Ενδημουντες, which we render at home, properly signifies, are sojourning, and should certainly be so rendered, it destroying the Apostle's whole argument to translate it, "while at home in the body;" as it is clearly his design to intimate that this is not our home.
2 Corinthians 5:7. For we walk by faith, &c.— "We now walk and conduct ourselves in the whole course of our life, by the faith of objects as yet unseen, and not by the sight of those glories, or by a regard to those things which we can see." Comp. Galatians 3:11.Hebrews 10:38; Hebrews 10:38.
2 Corinthians 5:8. And willing rather to be absent, &c.— This may be understood as spoken with respect to death; and then it will imply, that a Christian, as soon as he dies, is present with Christ: or it may mean, that he wished for Christ's coming, that his whole man might be translated from this state of absence. Some have argued from this text, not only against the sleep of the soul during the intermediate state; but that pious souls, when departed from our world, go into the higher heaven, where they dwell with Christ; and are not, as some have supposed, in a place where they have only a transitory sight of him on some extraordinary occasions.
2 Corinthians 5:9. Wherefore we labour,— We make it the height of our ambition, Φιλοτιμουμεθα, whether staying in the body, or going out of it: that is, "Whether I am to stay longer here, or suddenly to depart." The foregoing verse leads us to this sense. From ch. 2Co 4:12 to this place, St. Paul, to convince the Corinthians of his uprightness in his ministry, has been shewing that the hopes and sure expectation which he had of eternal life, kept him steadfast and resolute in an open sincere preaching of the gospel, without any deceitful artifice; in which his argument stands thus: "Knowing that God, who raised up Christ, will raise me up again, I, without any fear or consideration of what it may draw upon me, preach the gospel faithfully; making this account, that the momentary afflictions which I may suffer for it here, and which are but slight indeed, in comparison of the eternal things of another life, will exceedingly increase my happiness in the other world, where I long to be; and therefore death, which brings me home to Christ, is no terror to me. All my care is, that whether I am to stay longer in this body, or quickly leave it, living or dying I may approve myself to Christ in my ministry." In the next two verses the Apostle has another argument to fix in the Corinthians the same thoughts of him; and that is, the punishment which he shall receive at the day of judgment, if neglecting to preach the gospel faithfully, and not endeavouring sincerely and earnestly to make converts to Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:11. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade, &c.— "We convince men, and persuade them to be Christians, through divine grace, and by that means are manifested to God as his servants, and to your consciences." Mr. Locke's paraphrase is, "Knowing therefore this terrible judgment of the Lord, I preach the gospel, persuading men to be Christians; and with what integrity I discharge that duty is manifest to God; and I trust also you are convinced of it in your consciences." See the Inferences and Reflections.
2 Corinthians 5:12. For we commend not ourselves again— From this place, and several others in the epistle, it cannot be doubted but that St. Paul's speaking well of himself had been objected to him as a fault; and in this lay his great difficulty, how to deal with this people. If he answered nothing to what was talked of him, his silence might be interpreted guilt and confusion. If he defended himself, he was accused of vanity, self-commendation, and folly. Hence it is that he uses so many reasons to shew, that his whole carriage was upon principles far above all worldly considerations; and tells them here, once for all, that the account which he gives of himself is only to furnish them who are his friends, and adhered to him, with matter to justify themselves in their esteem of him, and to reply to those who opposed him. Of this also the last clause may be understood; for it is manifest from ch. 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2Co 10:15 and 2 Corinthians 11:12; 2Co 11:22-23 that his opposers pretended to something in which they gloried, though St. Paul assures us that they were satisfied in conscience that they had no solid ground of glorying
2 Corinthians 5:13. Whether we be beside ourselves,— From this verse to ch. 2 Corinthians 6:12. St. Paul gives another reason for his disinterested carriage in preaching the gospel; and that is, his love to Christ, who by his death having given him life, who was dead, he concludes, that in gratitude he ought not to live to himself any more: and therefore, being as in a new creation, he had now no longer any regard to the things of this world; but being made by God a minister of the gospel, he minded only the faithful discharge of his duty in that ministry, and pursuant thereunto took care that his behaviour should be such as he describes, ch. 2 Corinthians 6:3-10. Beside ourselves means, "in speaking well of myself in my own justification." Whoever observes what St. Paul says, ch. 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2Co 11:16; 2 Corinthians 11:21 2 Corinthians 12:6; 2Co 12:11 will scarcely doubt but that the speaking of himself as he did, was, by his enemies, called glorying, and imputed to him as folly and madness.
2 Corinthians 5:14. Constraineth us;— "Bears us away, like a strong and resistless torrent." Thus much is implied by the original word συνεχει . See Philippians 1:23.
2 Corinthians 5:16. Henceforth know we no man, &c.— "From this time we have no longer any partial regard to the Jew more than to the Gentile, on account of the descent of the former. We do not now esteem any one for the advantages of this world, riches, learning, or eloquence; and even they who have seen and conversed with Christ while he was on earth, have now no claim to be preferred before us. No man knows Christ to any lasting advantage, any otherwise than in proportion as he experiences his power, and obeys his laws: for he governs and instructs us now, as a heavenly King, byhis Spirit." Some interpret the last clause thus: "Nay, if we have knownChrist after the flesh, and governed ourselves by any carnal expectations from the Messiah, as a temporal prince, who should render our nation the terror of the whole world, and raise us to universal monarchy, henceforth we know him in these views no more, but entertain quite different sentiments concerning him."
2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, &c.— Gal 6:14-15 may give some light to this place. To connect this and the preceding verse with St. Paul's discourse here, they must be understood in reference to the false apostle, against whom St. Paul is here justifying himself;making it a grand point, in this as well as his former epistle, to shew that what the false Apostle gloried in was no just cause of boasting. Pursuant to this just design of sinking the authority and credit of that false apostle, St. Paul, in this and the following verses, insinuates these two things: 1. That the ministry of reconciliation being committed to him, they should not forsake him to hearken to and follow that pretender. 2. That they being in Christ, and so a new creation, should, as he does, not know any man in the flesh,—not esteem or glory in that false apostle, because he might perhaps pretend to have seen our Saviour in the flesh, or to have heard him, or the like. The original word Κτισις, signifies creation, and is so translated. Rom 8:22 and the passage may either mean, as above, that if any one be in Christ, it is as if he were in a new creation, wherein all former relations, considerations, and interests are ceased, and all things in that state are new to him; or it may imply (and I doubt not but the word takes in both) that there is a new creation in his heart,—his appetites, apprehensions, and pursuits being changed, and his life actually amended and fully reformed.
2 Corinthians 5:18. And all things, &c.— Now, &c.
2 Corinthians 5:19. To wit, that God was in Christ,— Namely, &c. Doddridge. For God was in Christ, &c. Heylin.
2 Corinthians 5:20. We are ambassadors for Christ,— The Apostles were so in a peculiar sense; but if it be the will of Christ that ministers, in all ages, should press men to accept the treaty of reconciliation established in him, then it is evident they may be called his ambassadors, even though such a phrase had never been used in scripture. The term 'Υπερ Χριστου plainly means, in Christ's stead, as we render it. When Christ was in the world, he pressed this treaty of reconciliation; and we rise up in his stead to urge it still further. See Matthew 5:24.
2 Corinthians 5:21. Made to be sin, &c.— "A sin-offering for us, that, by the sacrifice of himself, he might expiate the guilt of our transgressions, and that so we might be made accepted in him, and furnished with a plea as prevalent for our justification and admission into the divine favour, as if we had retained our innocence untainted, and in every respect conformed ourselves to the righteousness which the law of God required and demanded." There is an evident and beautiful contrast between Christ's being made sin, and our being made righteousness; that is, our being forgiven and placed in a state of acceptance and favour with God, through Christ, although all sin is perfectly hateful to God.
Inferences, drawn from 2 Corinthians 5:10-11.—It is the privilege and distinguishing character of a rational being, to be able to look forward into futurity, and to consider his actions, not only with respect to the present advantage, or disadvantage, arising from them; but to view them in their consequences, through all the parts of time in which himself may possibly exist, and to eternity. If, therefore, we value the privilege of being reasonable creatures, the only way to preserve it is to make use of it; and, by extending our views into all the scenes of futurity, in which we ourselves must bear a part, to provide for solid and durable happiness, through the power of almighty grace. With respect to that principal point, that very grand article of religion,—the expectation of a life after this,—we may observe, that as the wisest men thought there must be, so the gospel assures us there will be a day, in which God will judge the world in righteousness, and render to every man according to his works. If this doctrine, indeed, has had a larger and more extensive influence, through the authority of the gospel, than it could have had by the light of any inferior dispensation, the world has then received an advantage by the encouragement given to holiness and virtue, and the restraint laid upon vice by these means, which ought ever to be acknowledged with thankfulness; although the gospel, in other respects, yields the strongest motives to gratitude, as well as the most powerful encouragements to universal obedience.
The gospel has communicated to us the knowledge of many circumstances which were not discoverable but by the means of revelation: three of these are the following:—that there shall be a resurrection of the body; that Christ shall be the judge of the world; and that the rewards and punishments in another life shall be in proportion to our experience and behaviour in this. We will briefly consider these particulars, and shew for what purpose they were revealed.
1. The resurrection of the body was revealed to give all men a plain and a sensible notion of their being subject to a future judgment. Death is, in some sense, the destruction of the man: sure we are that the lifeless body is no man;—and the spirit, in its state of separate existence, is not properly man; for man is made of soul and body; and therefore to bring the man into judgment to answer for his deeds, the soul and body must be brought together again. This doctrine, established upon the authority of the gospel, effectually removes all difficulties that affect our belief of a future judgment, considered with respect to religion and morality: for the grand point in which religion is concerned in the present instance, is to know, whether men shall be accountable hereafter for their actions here. Reason tells us that they ought to be so; but a great difficulty arises from the dissolution of the man by death; a difficulty followed by endless speculations upon the nature of the soul, its separate existence, its guilt in this separate state, with respect to crimes committed in another, and in conjunction with the body, &c. But take in the declaration of the gospel, that soul and body shall be as certainly united at the resurrection, as they were divided by death, and every man be completely himself again; and there is no more difficulty in conceiving that men may be judged for their iniquities hereafter, than there is in conceiving that they may be judged here, when they offend against the laws of their country. But some have asked, "What body shall be raised, since no man has exactly the same body two days together? New parts are perpetually added by nutrition, old ones carried off by perspiration; so that in the compass of a few years, a human body may be almost totally altered." But this objection, plausible as it may seem, has nothing to do in the present case: religion is concerned only to preserve the identity or sameness of the person, as the object of future judgment; and has nothing to do with that kind of identity against which the objection can be supposed to have any force. Were the case otherwise, the difficulty would be really as great in human judgments now, as in the divine judgment hereafter. Suppose a murderer at twenty should not be discovered till he was sixty, and then brought to trial; would common sense admit him to plead that he was not the same person who committed the fact; and to allege, in proof of it, the alterations in his body for the last forty years? Suppose then that, instead of being discovered at sixty, he should die at sixty, and should rise either with the body he had at sixty, or twenty, or any intermediate time,—would not the case be just the same with respect to the future judgment?—This shews, therefore, that the article of the resurrection, so far as it is a support of religion and of a future judgment, stands quite clear of this difficulty.
But the prejudices which affect infidels, or sceptics, most, on considering this article of the resurrection, arise from the weakest of all imaginations,—that they can judge from the settled laws and course of nature what is or is not possible to the power of God. It is very true, that all our powers are bounded by the laws of nature, except when supernatural power is given from on high: but does it follow that God's power must be so bounded, who appointed these laws of nature, and could have appointed others, if he thought proper? We cannot raise a dead body; our hands are tied up by the laws of nature, which we cannot surpass; neither can we create a new man: but we certainly know, from reason and experience, that there is one who can: and what can induce us to suppose that he cannot give life to a body a second time, who, we can certainly know, gave life to it at first?—These matters, therefore, we may safely refer to the power of the Almighty, to which all nature is obedient, and upon which we may securely depend for the performance of divine promises,—how unpromising soever, to our short-sighted intellect, the circumstances may be which attend them.
Indeed, the gospel has removed all difficulties which lie in the way of our considering ourselves as accountable creatures, and subject to the future judgment of God. It is not the spirit, or soul alone, but the whole man, who is to be brought to that judgment; and plain sense must see and acknowledge the reasonableness of judging a man hereafter for the crimes committed in this life, as evidently as it sees the reasonableness of judging him here, when his crimes happen to be detected. So that revelation has brought faith and common sense to a perfect agreement.
2. And this gospel revelation, secondly, has made known to us that Christ shall judge the world. We need not multiply texts to this purpose. John 5:22; John 5:27. Acts 10:42; Act 17:31 are fully sufficient to establish a doctrine so very well known to all Christendom.
But it is material to observe, that this authority is given to Christ, because he is the son of man, as he himself assures us, Joh 5:27 and that the Person ordained to be judge is, in respect to one of his natures, a man;—even the man whom God raised from the dead, as St. Paul asserts, Acts 17:31. How happy is it for us to have a judge,—I had almost said so partial, but I may well say so favourable to the faithful, that he was content to be himself the sacrifice, to redeem us from the punishment due to our sins! When we consider ourselves,—how weak we are,—how frequently we have been doing wrong;—and contemplate the infinite majesty, holiness, and justice of God; what account can we hope to give of ourselves to him, whose eyes are purer than to behold iniquity? But see, God has withdrawn his terrors, and comes as a man, to be the judge of men; so that we may say of our judge, what the Apostle to the Hebrews says of our High Priest, We have not a judge who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
It may, perhaps, be thought that this is drawing consequences upon the ground of vulgar apprehensions, and that, in reality, there is no difference, whether God judge us in the divine nature, or commit the judgment to the Son of man: for, since Christ shall come in his humanity, not only in the power, but in the wisdom and justice of his Godhead also, to judge the world, what difference can there be in the judgment, since in both cases it must be guided and formed by the wisdom and justice of God?—True it is, that a mere man is not qualified to be a judge of the world: the knowledge of hearts is necessary to the right discharge of that office; a knowledge with which no mere man was ever endowed. But still, if man is to be judge, the sentiments, notions, and feelings of the man, however guided and influenced by the wisdom of his godhead, must preside over and govern the whole action; otherwise the man will not be judge.
Hence then we may answer some difficulties which speculative men have brought into the subject of a future judgment. Some have imagined that justice, mercy, and goodness in God, are not of the same kind with justice, mercy, and goodness in them; and therefore that we can never, from our notions of these qualities in man, argue consequentially to the attributes of God, or to the acts flowing from these attributes: the result of which is, that when we talk of God's justice, or mercy, in judging the world, we talk of something which we do not understand. But if men would consult scripture, these difficulties would not meet them in their way: for surely we know what justice, mercy, and goodness mean among men; and since the scriptures assure us that the man whom God raised from the dead is ordained Judge of the world, we may be very certain that the justice, mercy, and goodness to be displayed in the future judgment, will be such as all men have a common sense and apprehension of; unless we can imagine that a new rule is to be introduced, to which the Judge, and those to be judged, are equally strangers. Upon this foot of scripture then we may certainly know what the justice, mercy, and goodness are by which we must finally stand or fall; and this point being secured, the speculation may be left to shift for itself.
3. Let us then go, thirdly, one step farther, and view the consequences of this judgment;—this solemn judgment, which every mortal must undergo. If we consult the scriptures, we shall find no evidence of any farther change to be made in our future state, after judgment has once passed upon us. That we are accountable, and shall therefore be judged, reason testifies; but can see nothing relating to us after judgment, except the reward or the punishment consequent upon it.
As reason can shew us nothing beyond judgment, but that state and condition which are the effect of it: so the Holy Scripture declares, that nothing else there shall be, by describing the rewards and punishments of another life as having perpetual duration. Life eternal is prepared for the righteous, and everlasting punishment for the wicked. The fire prepared to receive them is never to go out, the worm prepared to torment them will never die: so that in this view our all depends upon the judgment which shall be finally passed on us at the second coming of our Lord; and therefore there is a justness of thought, as well as great charity to the souls of men, in what the Apostle adds,—Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.
If the Christian revelation has cleared our doubts, by bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel; if it has given us ground for hope and confidence, by assuring us that we shall be judged by him who so loved us, that he gave himself for us, and submitted to die that we might live; it has also given us ground to be watchful and careful over ourselves, and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, through the grace of God. For it is a fearful thing to be called to answer for ourselves before the great Searcher of all hearts:—to answer to Him who loved us, for despising the love that he shewed us!—to answer to Him who died for us, for having crucified him afresh, and put him to open shame; and for having accounted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing! This will be the sad case of every impenitent sinner. The view of this misery and distress, which sinners are calling upon themselves by their iniquity, moved the Apostle, and must ever move those who are called to the ministry of the word of God, to warn men to flee from the wrath which is to come. We know the terror of the Lord, and therefore persuade men. Happy would it be, if, knowing and considering these terrors, men would suffer themselves to be persuaded in time, and haste for refuge unto the everlasting hope set before them, in Jesus Christ our Lord!
REFLECTIONS.—1st. No wonder, with eternal glory full in his view, that the Apostle fainted not. He enlarges on the delightful theme, which cannot but minister something of the like courage and consolation to every gracious soul. We have,
1. The Apostle's expectation and desire, which every faithful servant of Jesus can, in a measure, adopt as his own. For we know, by the evidence of God's word, the testimony of our conscience, and the witness of the Spirit; yea, all the faithful saints of God may have a humble confidence, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle, the frail body in which we as pilgrims at present sojourn for a day, be dissolved, and return to the dust whence it came, we have a building of God, infinitely more magnificent, an house not made with hands eternal in the heavens, a celestial palace, prepared for the everlasting residence of all the faithful, and suited to the excellence of the glorified soul. For in this tabernacle of clay we groan earnestly, loaded with many afflictions, and desiring to be clothed upon with our house, which is from heaven, and to arrive at the celestial city, where sin and sorrow shall never enter more: if so be, that being thus clothed with robes of light and purity, we shall not be found naked, exposed any longer to the storms of this wretched world, but be in eternal joy and felicity. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened, longing for our perfect state of happiness, when we shall be for ever released from the burthens of outward afflictions: not for that we would be unclothed, and wish to part with our bodies, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life; translated as Enoch, or changed in a moment, as their bodies shall be who are alive at the coming of the Lord. Note; (1.) Our present abode is a wretched tabernacle, which must quickly be taken down. Are we panting after that eternal mansion which is prepared for the faithful saints of God? (2.) To a soul that has ever tasted of the bitterness of sin, and groaned under the trials and temptations of this mortal state, the exchange of worlds is a consummation devoutly to be wished for.
2. The Apostle mentions the ground of his expectation and hope. Now he that hath wrought us for this self-same thing is God, whose mighty energy has spiritualized our souls, and led them up to seek those high and heavenly things: who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit, in his graces, consolations, and abiding residence in our hearts. Therefore we are always confident in the humble assurance of support under all our trials, till they shall happily end; knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord, and, like pilgrims, distant from our true home and rest. For we walk by faith, not by sight, looking above all present objects to the eternal world, and having our hearts influenced, and our conduct regulated accordingly; we are confident, I say, in the experience of God's present love; and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord; well pleased, if God so willed, to bid an eternal adieu to all our infirmities and afflictions, and enter immediately into the beatific vision of our Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. This is our holy ambition, so to be found in him, sprinkled with his blood, and walking under the influence of his grace, that now, and in the day of his appearing and glory, both our persons and services may meet with his approbation. Note; (1.) None enter the heavenly world, but those who have the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts, and are made meet for the inheritance among the saints in light. (2.) Faith in God's promises inspires confidence of their fulfilment; we know that we have not followed cunningly-devised fables. (3.) They who, by faith, behold the glories of a better world, cannot but with pleasure look forward to the happy change. (4.) The stronger our hope of heaven is, the more enlivened will be our diligence in the way that leads thither.
3. He reminds them of the awful day which approached, as a spur to himself, and a warning to them. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, where, without disguise, every man's real character will appear, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad; admitted graciously to the reward of eternal blessedness, or sinking under righteous vengeance into the abyss of endless misery. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, and the fearful end of the hypocrite and ungodly, we persuade men, by every alarming and alluring motive, to fly from the wrath to come, and embrace the gospel which we proclaim. But, whether they will hear or forbear, we are made manifest unto God, who knows our simplicity in all our ministrations, and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences; for our labours and sufferings bear witness to the unfeigned concern that we have shewn for your souls. Note; (1.) The sense of an approaching judgment should awaken a holy solicitude to be ready for it. (2.) Gospel ministers must use the terrors of the Lord to rouse the lethargic sinner, and urge him to fly from his impending ruin.
2nd, The Apostle,
1. Prevents an insinuation which might have been suggested by his enemies, as if he meant to commend himself. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, nor speak this with a view to ingratiate ourselves into your good opinion, but to give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart, furnishing you with arguments to silence the vain boastings of those Judaizing teachers, who would malign and traduce us. For whether we be beside ourselves, and in our zeal for the gospel talk as men distracted, as they would insinuate, it is to God, and for his glory, that we thus speak; or whether we be sober, and, as the wiser part among you justly think, say nothing but the words of truth and soberness, it is for your cause, whose salvation we seek to promote.
2. He declares the noble principle which influenced his preaching and practice. For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, and have determined, on maturest deliberation, that if one died for all, for sinners of all degrees, whether Jews or Gentiles, without distinction, then were all dead, alike in need of his redemption, by nature the children of wrath, and under the curse of a broken law; and that he died for all, that they which live, not only redeemed by his blood, but quickened by his Spirit, should not henceforth live unto themselves, for their own ease, interests, or honour, but unto him which died for them, and rose again, devoting themselves to his blessed service, who purchased them at so dear a rate. Note; (1.) A sense of Christ's love upon the heart is the only genuine principle of true obedience. (2.) We then truly live, when the Redeemer's glory is made the grand aim of all our conversation.
3rdly, From the foregoing premises,
1. The Apostle determines, without respect of persons, to preach the gospel alike to Jews and Gentiles, who are both redeemed by the same Lord. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh, paying no regard to any external privileges of descent from Abraham, or to circumcision: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, and many of us formerly thought, during his abode on earth, that he was come to erect a temporal kingdom, and exalt the Jewish nation to the pinnacle of human glory, yet now henceforth know we him no more; these foolish prejudices are removed; we have got an acquaintance with the spiritual nature of his salvation, and know that the great design for which he became incarnate was to advance the divine glory in the recovery of lost souls, whether Jews or Gentiles, without distinction, even of as many as will believe in his name.
2. He urges, as the main point of Christianity, a real change of heart. Therefore if any man be in Christ, vitally united to him, he is a new creature, though the same person, yet morally so renewed in the Spirit of his mind, and so spiritualized in understanding, will, and affections, that he is quite different from his former self: old things are passed away; his naturally corrupt principles and practices are laid aside, and behold, with wonder, the amazing alteration! all things are become new; he has new light in his mind; a new bias given to his will and affections; his whole course of life is altered; his principles, prospects, ways, thoughts, pursuits, company, are as directly opposite to what they were before, as if he were really another man. Reader, hast thou experienced this change?
3. This new creation is God's work, and wrought, by means of his gospel, for and in all who will yield to be saved by his grace. And all things are of God, who planned and executes the wondrous scheme of our redemption for all his faithful saints; and hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, through his atoning blood, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world, Gentiles as well as Jews, unto himself, by that amazing expedient of the substitution of his own Son in the sinner's stead, not imputing their trespasses unto them, but laying upon him the iniquities of us all; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation, that we should publish this gospel of peace to every creature. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, sent, in his name, to heal the dangerous breach between the holy God and the sinful soul, as though God did beseech you by us, under whose commission we act with authority, and speak in his name: we pray you, by every endearing argument, as you value your immortal souls, and urge you, in Christ's stead, whose person we represent, and whose gospel we minister, be ye reconciled to God; submit to the righteousness which is of God, by faith; accept his proffered pardon and grace; bow humbly at his feet; without reserve yield up yourselves to him, that the reconciliation may be mutual. For he hath made him to be sin, a sin-offering, for us, who knew no sin of his own, but willingly took our iniquities upon himself, and suffered for them, making a full atonement and satisfaction to the justice of God; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, by virtue of our faith in him, and union with him. My soul, with wonder and delight hear and embrace these glad tidings; and may thy whole and constant trust be in his infinite merit!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29