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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 5

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Verses 1-21


Continuation of the topic that hope is the chief support of the preacher of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:1-10). Their self-sacrifice in preaching the gospel of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

The hope of the future rife is the great support of our efforts.

2 Corinthians 5:1

For. A further explanation of the hope expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:17. We know. This accent of certainty is found only in the Christian writers. Our earthly house. Not the "house of clay" (Job 4:19), but the house which serves us as the home of our souls on earth; as in 1 Corinthians 15:40. Of this tabernacle; literally, the house of the tent; i.e. the tent of our mortality, the mortal body. In 2 Peter 1:13, 2 Peter 1:14 it is called skenoma, and the expression, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,"is literally, "he tabernacled among us"—he wore "a tent like ours and of the same material." The figure would be specially natural to one whose occupation was that of a tentmaker. Compare—

"Here in the body pent,
Afar from him I roam,
But nightly pitch my wandering tent
A day's march nearer home."

A very, similar expression occurs in Wis. 9:15, "The earthly tabernacle (γεῶδες σκῆνος) weigheth down the mind." Be dissolved; rather, be taken to pieces. A building. Something more substantial than that moving tenement. Of God; literally, from God; namely, not one of the "many mansions" spoken of in John 14:2, but the resurrection body furnished to us by him. We have this building from God, for it exists now, and shall be ours at the same time that our tent home is done away with. Not made with hands. Not like those tent dwellings at which St. Paul was daily toiling with the hands which ministered to his own necessities. In the heavens. To be joined with "we have." Heaven is our general home and country (Hebrews 11:16), but the present allusion is to the glorified bodies in which our souls shall live in heaven.

2 Corinthians 5:2

In this we groan. Since we have the firstfruits of the Spirit, who assures us of that future building from God, we, in this earthly tent, "groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23). To be clothed upon; rather, to further clothe ourselves with. Here the metaphors of a tent and a garment—the "wandering tent" and the "mortal vesture of decay"—are interfused in a manner on which only the greatest writers can venture The corruptible yearns to clothe itself with the incorruptible, the mortal with immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). The glorified body is compared to an over garment, House; rather, habitation (oiketerion).

2 Corinthians 5:3

If so be that. The verse may be rendered, "If, that is, being clothed, we shall not be found naked." The word "naked" must then mean "bodiless," and the reference will be to those whom, at his coming, Christ shall find clothed in these mortal bodies, and not separated from them, i.e. quick and not dead (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:51). This seems to be the simplest and most natural of the multitude of strange interpretations with which the pages of commentators are filled. It is true that the aorist endusamenoi, means literally, "having clothed ourselves," and that, in taking this meaning, we should have expected the perfect participle endedumenoi, having been clothed. If this be thought an insuperable difficulty, we must suppose the verse to mean "If, that is, in reality we shall be found [at Christ's coming] after having put on some intermediate body, and therefore not as mere disembodied spirits." But there is no allusion in Scripture to any intermediate body, nor is any gleam of light shed on the mode of life among the dead between death and resurrection, though the Church rejects the dream of Psychopannychia, or an interval of unconscious sleep. The uncertainty of the meaning is increased by two various readings, ei per instead of ei ge, which latter expresses greater doubt about the matter; and ekdusamenoi (D, F, G), which would mean "if in reality, after unclothing ourselves [i.e. after 'shuffling off this mortal coil'], we shall not be found naked." This seems to be the conjecture of some puzzled copyists, who did not see that a contrast, and not a coincidence, between the two expressions is intended. If this reading were correct, it would mean, as Chrysostom says, "Even if we would lay aside the body. we shall not there be presented without a body, but with the same body which has then become incorruptible." It is quite untenable to make "clothed" mean "clothed with righteousness," as Olshausen does. In the Talmud, 'Shabbath', the righteous are compared to men who keep from stain the robes given them by a king (i.e. their bodies), which robes the king deposits in his treasury and sends the wearers away (bodiless) in peace; but foolish servants stain these robes, and the king sends the robes to the wash, and the wearers in prison.

2 Corinthians 5:4

For we that are, etc.; literally, for indeed we who are in the tent; i.e. in the transitory mortal body. Do groan. "Oh wretched man that I am I who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). Being burdened. "The corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthy tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things" (Wis. 9:15). Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon; more literally, since we do not wish to strip off (our bodily garment) but to put another garment over it. St. Paul here repudiates the Manichean notion that the body is a disgrace, or in itself the source of evil. He was not like Plotinus, who "blushed that he had a body;" or like St. Francis of Assist, who called his body "my brother the ass;" or like the Cure d'Ars, who (as we have said) spoke of his body as "ce cadavre." He does not, therefore, desire to get rid of his body, but to "clothe it over" with the garment of immortality. Incidentally this implies the wish that he may be alive and not dead when the Lord returns (1 Corinthians 15:35-54). Mortality; rather, the mortal; that which is mortal. Might be swallowed up of life. As in the ease of Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), who entered into life otherwise than through "the grave and gate of death." St. Paul wishes to enter the "building from God" without having been first buried in the collapse of the "soul's dark cottage battered and decayed." He desires to put on the robe of immortality without stripping off the rent garb of the body.

2 Corinthians 5:5

He who hath wrought us for the selfsame thing. God prepared and perfected us for this very result, namely, to put on the robe of immortality. The earnest (see 2 Corinthians 1:22) The quickening life imparted by the Spirit of life is a pledge and part payment of the incorruptible eternal life. The Spirit is "the Earnest of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30).

2 Corinthians 5:6

Therefore we are always confident; literally, being of good courage. The sentence in the Greek is unfinished (an anacoluthon), but is resumed after the parenthesis by the repetition, "we are of good courage." Always (2 Corinthians 4:8). We are at home in the body. The tent is pitched in the desert, and even the pillar of fire can only shine through its folds. Yet the tent may become brighter and brighter as life goes on.

"To me the thought of death is terrible,
Having such hold on life. To you it is not
More than a step into the open air
Out of a tent already luminous
With light which shines through its transparent folds."


Absent from the Lord (John 14:2, John 14:3). Christ is indeed with us here and always; but the nearness of presence and the clearness of vision in that future life will be so much closer and brighter, that here, by comparison, we are absent from him altogether.

2 Corinthians 5:7

For we walk by faith (2 Corinthians 4:18; Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:25). Not by sight; rather, not by appearance; not by anything actually seen. We do not yet see "face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12), but are guided by things which "eye hath not seen."

2 Corinthians 5:8

To be absent, etc.; literally, to be away from the home of the body, but to be at home with the Lord. To be present with the Lord. The hope expressed is exactly the same as in Philippians 1:23, except that here (as in Philippians 1:4) he expresses a desire not "to depart," but to be quit of the body without the necessity for death.

2 Corinthians 5:9

We labour; literally, we are emulous. This, says Bengel, is "the sole legitimate ambition." The same word occurs in Romans 15:20. Whether present or absent; literally, whether at home or away from home; i.e. whether with Christ or separated from him (as in Romans 15:8); or, "whether in the body or out of the body" (as in Romans 15:6). The latter would resemble 1 Thessalonians 5:10, "That whether we wake or sleep we may live with him." We may be accepted of him; literally, to be well pleasing to him.

2 Corinthians 5:10

We must all appear; rather, for it is necessary that we must all be made manifest; that we must be shown in our real nature and character. The verb is not the same as in Romans 14:10, which occurs in 2 Corinthians 4:14. Before the judgment seat of Christ. The special final judgment is represented as taking place before the bema of Christ, although in Romans 14:10 the best reading is "of God" (Matthew 25:31, Matthew 25:32). St. Paul might naturally use this Roman and Greek idea of the bema, being too familiar with it in his own experience (comp. Acts 12:21; Acts 18:12; Acts 25:6; Romans 14:10). The things done in the body; literally, the things (done) by the instrumentality of the body. Another reading (which only differs by a single letter from this) is, "the proper things of the body" (τὰ ἴδια τοῦ σώματος); i.e. the things which belong to it, which it has made its own. St. Paul, always intent on one subject at a time, does not stop to coordinate this law of natural retribution and inexorable Nemesis with that of the "forgiveness of sins" (1 Corinthians 5:11; Romans 3:25), or with the apparently universal hopes which he seems sometimes to express (Romans 5:17, Romans 5:18; Romans 11:32). Omnia exeunt in mysterium. According to that he hath done; rather, with reference to the things he did. The aorist shows that all life will be as it were concentrated to one point. The Pelagians raised questions on this verse about the sinlessness of infants, etc., all of which may be left on one side, as probably nothing was more absolutely distant from the thoughts of St. Paul. Observe that each is to receive the natural issues of what he has done. There is to be an analogy between the sin and the retribution. The latter is but the ripe fruit of the former. We shall be punished by the action of natural laws, not of arbitrary inflictions. We shall reap what we have sown, not harvests of other grain (Romans 2:5-11; Revelation 22:12; Galatians 6:7). Whether it be good or bad. St. Paul, who always confines himself to one topic at a time, does not here enter on the question of the cutting off of the entailed curse by repentance and forgiveness. He leaves unsolved the antinomy between normal inevitable consequence and free remission.

2 Corinthians 5:11-19

Self-devotion of the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:11

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. Multitudes of texts have been torn from their context and grossly abused and misinterpreted, but few more so than this. It is the text usually chosen by those who wish to excuse a setting forth of God under the attributes of Moloch. With any such views it has not the remotest connection. It simply means, "Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men," either "to keep in view the same fear of the Lord as ourselves," or (reverting to his last assertion of his own sincerity and integrity in 2 Corinthians 5:9), "that our sole ambition is to please God." The rendering, "the terror of the Lord," for the every day expression, "the fear of the Lord," was wantonly intruded into modem versions by Beza, and has not a single word to be said in its favour. The phrase means (as always) not the dread which God inspires, but the holy fear which mingles with our love of him. To teach men to regard God with terror is to undo the best teaching of all Scripture, which indeed has too often been the main end of human systems of theology. We persuade men. Not in a bad sense (Galatians 1:10). The attacks and calumnies of enemies make it necessary to vindicate our integrity is men; but we have no need to do so to God, because he already knows us (comp. "persuading Blastus," Acts 12:20). We are made manifest unto God; rather, but to God we have been (and are) manifested. He needs no self defence from us. Are made manifest in your consciences; but I hope that I have been, and am now, made manifest in your consciences. In other words, I trust that this apology into which you have driven me has achieved its ends; and that, whatever may be your prejudices and innuendoes, before the bar of the individual conscience of each of you we now stand clear.

2 Corinthians 5:12

For we commend not ourselves again unto you. Still reverting to the charge that he was guilty of self praise, he says that his object is not this, for it was needless (2 Corinthians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 3:3). But give you occasion to glory on our behalf. But we speak as we have done to give you a starling-point for something to boast of on our behalf. He has already said (2 Corinthians 1:4) that the teachers and the taught in their mutual affection ought to have some ground for "boasting" (i.e. for speaking with some praise and exultation) of each other. The Corinthians were being robbed of this by the interested lies of St. Paul's opponents, who thought only about outward appearances. This is why no has set forth to them the aim and glory of his ministry. Nothing could be more gentle and forbearing than such a mode of stating his object. Yet for those who were sufficiently finely strung to understand it, there was an almost pathetic irony involved in it. Which glory in appearance, and not in heart; literally, in face. The grounds of their boasting, whatever they were, were superficial and external (2 Corinthians 10:7), not deep and sincere. But those who would judge of Paul aright must look into his very heart, and not on his face.

2 Corinthians 5:13

For whether we be beside ourselves; rather, for whether we were mad. Evidently some person or some faction had said of St. Paul, "He is beside himself," just as Festus said afterwards, "Paul, thou art mad," and as the Jews said of Paul's Lord and Master (John 10:20). The fervour of the apostle, his absorption in his work, his visions and ecstasies, his "speaking with tongues more than they all," his indifference to externals, his bursts of emotion, might all have given colour to this charge, which he here ironically accepts. "Mad or self controlled -all was for your sakes." It is to God; rather for God. My "enthusiasm," "exaltation," or, if you will, my "madness," was but a phase of my work for him. We be sober. The word "sober" (sophron) is derived from two words which mean" to save the mind." It indicates wise self control, such as was represented also by the many-sided Latin word frugi. It is the exact antithesis to madness (Acts 26:25). What you call my "madness" belongs to the relation between my own soul and God; my practical sense and tact are for you. For your sakes; literally, for you.

2 Corinthians 5:14

The love of Christ. It matters little whether this be interpreted as a subjective genitive, "Christ's love to man," or as an objective genitive, our love to Christ;" for the two suppose and interfuse each other. St. Paul's usage, however, favours the former interpretation (2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 Corinthians 16:24). Constraineth. The word means that it compresses us, and therefore keeps us irresistibly to one object (Luke 12:50). That if one died for all, then were all dead. This is an unfortunate mistranslation and wrong reading for that one died for all, therefore all died. What compels Paul to sacrifice himself to the work of God for his converts is the conviction, which he formed once for all at his conversion, that One, even Christ, died on behalf of all men (Romans 5:15-19) a redeeming death (2 Corinthians 5:21); and that, consequently, in that death, all potentially died with him—died to their life of sin, and rose to the life of righteousness. The best comments on this bold and concentrated phrase are—"I died to the Law that I might live to Christ;" "I have been crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:19, Galatians 2:20); and, "Ye died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). When Christ died, all humanity, of which he was the federal Head, died potentially with him to sin and selfishness, as he further shows in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 5:15

Unto themselves. That they should live no longer the psychic, i.e. the animal, selfish, egotistic life, but to their risen Saviour (Romans 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 6:19).

2 Corinthians 5:16

Know no man after the flesh. It is a consequence of my death with Christ that I have done with carnal, superficial, earthly, external judgments according to the appearance, and not according to the heart. Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh. The word for "know" is different from the one just used (οἷδα, scio; ἔγνωκα, cognovi), and may be rendered, "though we have taken note of." The whole phrase, which has been interpreted in multitudes of different ways, and has led to many different hypotheses, must be understood in accordance with the context. St. Paul is saying that he has now renounced all mere earthly and human judgments; and he here implies that the day has been when he knew Christ only in this fleshly way; but henceforth he will know him so no more. Probably this "knowing Christ after the flesh" is a rebuke to those members of the Christ party at Corinth who may have boasted that they were superior to all others because they had personally seen or known Christ—a spirit which Christ himself not only discouraged (John 16:7) but even rebuked (Matthew 12:50). To St. Paul Christ is now regarded as far above all local, national, personal, and Jewish limitations, and as the principle of spiritual life in the heart of every Christian. In the view which he took of his Lord St. Paul henceforth has banished all Jewish particularism for gospel catholicity. He regards Christ, not in the light of earthly relationships and conditions, but as the risen, glorified, eternal, universal Saviour.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore. If even a human, personal, external knowledge of Christ is henceforth of no significance, it follows that there must have been a total change in all relations towards him. The historic fact of such a changed relationship is indicated clearly in John 20:17. Mary Magdalene was there lovingly taught that a "recognition of Christ after the flesh," i.e. as merely a human friend, was to be a thing of the past. In Christ; i.e. a Christian. For perfect faith attains to mystic union with Christ. A new creature; rather, a new creation (Galatians 6:15). The phrase is borrowed from the rabbis who used it to express the condition of a proselyte. But the meaning is not mere Jewish arrogance and exclusiveness, but the deep truth of spiritual regeneration and the new birth (John 3:3; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:23, Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:3, etc.). Old things; literally, the ancient things, all that belongs to the old Adam. Behold. The word expresses the writer's vivid realization of the truth he is uttering. All things. The whole sphere of being, and therewith the whole aim and character of life. The clause illustrates the "new creation."

2 Corinthians 5:18

And all things are of God; literally, but all things (in this "new creation") are from God. Who hath reconciled us; rather, who (by Christ's one offering of himself) reconciled us to himself. We were his enemies (Romans 5:10; Romans 11:28), but, because he was still our Friend and Father, he brought us back to himself by Christ. The ministry of reconciliation. The ministry which teaches the reconciliation which he has effected for us.

2 Corinthians 5:19

God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. This and the many other passages of Scripture which always represent the atonement as the work of the blessed Trinity, and as being the result of the love, not of the wrath, of God, ought to have been a sufficient warning against the hideous extravagance of those forensic statements of the atonement which have disgraced almost a thousand years of theology (Romans 5:10; 1 John 4:10). That God's purpose of mercy embraced all mankind, and not an elect few, is again and again stated in Scripture (see Colossians 1:20). Not imputing their trespasses unto them. See this developed in Romans 15:5-8. Hath entrusted unto us; literally, who also deposited in us, as though it were some sacred treasure.

2 Corinthians 5:20

Now then. It is, then, on Christ's behalf that we are ambassadors. This excludes all secondary aims. St. Paul uses the same expression in Ephesians 6:20, adding with fine contrast that he is "an ambassador in fetters." As though God did beseech you by us; rather, as if God were exhorting you by our means. In Christ's stead; rather, we, on Christ's behalf, beseech you. Be ye reconciled to God. This is the sense of the embassy. The aorist implies an immediate acceptance of the offer of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:21

He hath made him to be sin for us; rather, he made; he speaks with definite reference to the cross. The expression is closely analogous to that in Galatians 3:13, where it is said that Christ has been "made a curse for us." He was, as St. Augustine says, "delictorum susceptor, non commissor." He knew no sin; nay, he was the very righteousness, holiness itself (Jeremiah 23:6), and yet, for our benefit, God made him to be "sin" for us, in that he "sent him in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin" (Romans 8:3). Many have understood the word "sin" in the sense of sin offering (Le Galatians 5:9, LXX.); but that is a precarious application of the word, which is not justified by any other passage in the New Testament. We cannot, as Dean Plumptre says, get beyond the simple statement, which St. Paul is content to leave in its unexplicable mystery, "Christ identified with man's sin; man identified with Christ's righteousness." And thus, in Christ, God becomes Jehovah-Tsidkenu, "the Lord our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6). That we might be made the righteousness of God in him; rather, that we might become. The best comment on the pregnant significance of this verse is Romans 1:16, Romans 1:17, which is developed and explained in so large a section of that great Epistle (see Romans 3:22-25; Romans 4:5-8; Romans 5:19, etc.). In him In his blood is a means of propitiation by which the righteousness of God becomes the righteousness of man (1 Corinthians 1:30), so that man is justified. The truth which St. Paul thus develops and expresses is stated by St. Peter and St. John in a simpler and less theological form (1 Peter 2:22-24; 1 John 3:5).


2 Corinthians 5:1-7 - Christian knowledge concerning the future body of the good.

"For we know that if our earthly house," etc. Two things are to be noticed at the outset.

1. Metaphorical representations of the body. The body is here spoken of under the figure of a "tabernacle" or a tent, and of a vestment or clothing. These two things would not be so distinct in the mind of the apostle as they are in ours, for both had the same qualities of movableness and protection. The "house" to which the apostle refers was not a building of bricks or stone, a superstructure that would be stationary, but a mere tent to be carried about.

2. The implied necessity of the body. Paul's language implies that the body is a clothing or protection. As a clothing, or protection, for the soul it is necessary, both here and in the other world. The soul must have an organ wherever it is. Now what does the Christian know concerning the future body?

I. He knows it will be BETTER THAN THE PRESENT.

1. It will be directly Divine. "A building of God." The present body is from God, but it comes from him through secondary instrumentalities. The future body will come direct, it will not be transmitted from sire to son.

2. It will be fitted for a higher sphere. "In the heavens." The present body is fitted for the earthly sphere, it is of the "earth, earthy." The future will be fitted for the more ethereal, and celestial.

3. It will be more enduring. "Eternal." This body is like the tent, temporary; it has no firm foundation; it is shaken by every gust. We "perish before the moth." The future body will be eternal, free from the elements of decay.

4. It will be more enjoyable. "For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven," etc. In this body we "groan, being burdened." To what pains and diseases is the present body subject! By implication the apostle states the future body will be free from all this, for all that is mortal will be "swallowed up of life." In that body there will be no groaning, no sighs or sorrows, no burden, no weight to depress the energies or to impede progress. The future body will be more fitted to receive the high things of God, and more fitted to communicate them also.

II. He knows he is now BEING DIVINELY FITTED FOR THE BETTER BODY OF THE FUTURE. "Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." Every seed has its own body; it is the seed that makes the body; the organization does not produce the life, but the life the organization. And this spiritual life in man God is now preparing to pass into a higher body. Just as the chrysalis is being fitted to struggle into an organization with higher appetencies, more exquisite in form, and with faculties that shall bear it into mid-heaven. When will you have this body? When your soul has the life energy to produce it.

2 Corinthians 5:8-10 - The philosophy of courage.

"We are confident, I say," etc. Paul says we are courageous, or of good courage. Courage is often confounded with recklessness of life, a brutal insensibility to danger. True course always implies two things.

1. The existence of unavoidable dangers. He who rushes into danger is not courageous, but reckless. Paul had unavoidable dangers: "We are troubled on every side."

2. True convictions of being. Ignorance of existence may make men reckless, but never courageous. What was Paul's view of life?

(1) He regarded the body as the organ of himself. He speaks of it as a "house," a "tabernacle," etc.

(2) The soul he regards as the personality of his being. "We that are in this tabernacle," etc. The soul, not the body, is the "I," or self.

(3) He regarded death as a mere change in the mode of his being. Death changes the house and the garment; it is not the extinction of the tenant or the wearer.

(4) He regarded heaven as the perfection of his being. "The house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The courage of which the apostle here speaks seems to have been based on three things.

I. A consciousness that his death would not ENDANGER THE INTERESTS of his being. Notice:

1. His view of the interests of being. It was being "present with the Lord."

2. His view of the bearing of death upon the interests of being. He regarded it as the flight of the spirit into the presence of the Lord. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." A view of death this antagonistic to the ideas of purgatory, annihilation, soul sleep.

3. His state of mind under the influence of these thoughts. "Willing rather to be absent from the body."

II. A consciousness that death would not DESTROY THE GREAT PURPOSES of being. It is the characteristic of a rational being that he has some purpose in life—the purpose is that in which he lives, it makes life valuable to him. To a man who has no purpose in life or has lost his purpose, life is deemed of little worth. What was Paul's purpose in life? "Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him." Is not this purpose sublimely reasonable? If there be a God, does not reason teach that to please him should be the supreme purpose of all intelligent creatures? Now, Paul felt that death would not destroy this purpose. It destroys the purpose of the voluptuous, avaricious, etc.; and hence to them it is terrible. But it does not destroy the chief purpose of the Christian. In all worlds and times his chief purpose will be to be "accepted of him."

III. A consciousness that death would not PREVENT THE REWARDS of being. "We must all appear [or, 'be made manifest'] before the judgment seat of Christ." Success, while it should never be regarded either as a rule of conduct or a test of character, must ever have an influence on the mind of man in every department of labour. Non-success discourages. Paul felt that his labour hero would appear and be recognized hereafter. "We must all appear," etc.

1. Every one shall receive the recompense of labour after death. "Must all appear." None absent.

2. Every one shall receive a reward forevery deed. "That every one may receive the things done in his body." No lost labour. With this consciousness we may well be courageous amidst all the dangers here and in view of the great hereafter. Dread of death is a disgrace to the Christian. "If," says Cicero, "I were now disengaged from my cumbrous body, and on my way to Elysium; and some superior being should meet me in my flight and make me the offer of returning and remaining in my body, I should, without hesitation, reject the offer; so much should I prefer going into Elysium to be with Socrates and Plato and all the ancient worthies, and to spend my time in converse with them." How much more should the Christian desire to be "absent from the body, and present with the Lord"!

2 Corinthians 5:11-18 - Man in Christ a new man.

"For whether we be beside ourselves," etc. To be "in Christ" is to be in his Spirit, in his character, to live in his ideas, principles, etc. Such a man is "a new creature."

I. The man in Christ has a new IMPERIAL IMPULSE. "The love of Christ constraineth us," Whether the "love of Christ" here means his love to us or our love for him is of no practical import, The latter implies the former; his love is the flame that kindles ours. Now, this love was Paul's dominant passion; it "constrained" him; it carried him on like a resistless torrent; it was the regnant impulse. Two thoughts in relation to this new imperial impulse.

1. It is incomprehensible to those who possess it not. "Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God," etc. Probably Paul appeared as mad to his contemporaries. They saw him brave the greatest perils, oppose the greatest powers, make the greatest sacrifices. What was the principle that moved him to all? This they could not understand. Had it been ambition or avarice, they could have understood it. But "the love of Christ" they knew nothing of; it was a new thing in the world. Only the man who has it can understand it; love alone can interpret love.

2. It arises from reflection on the death of Christ. It is not an inbred passion, not a blind impulse, not something divinely transferred into the heart. No; it comes "because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." Paul assumes as an undoubted fact that Christ died for all. Because of this fact he concludes:

(1) That the whole world were in a ruined condition: "Then were all dead."

(2) That this fact should inspire all to act with the same sacrificing spirit as Christ. "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him."

II. The man in Christ has a new SOCIAL STANDARD. "Henceforth we know no man after the flesh." The world has numerous standards by which it judges men, birth, wealth, office, etc. To a man filled and fired with love to Christ these are nothing. He estimates man by his rectitude, not by his rank; by his spirit, not by his station; by his principles, not by his property. Paul might have said—I once knew men after the flesh, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, learned or ignorant; but now I know them so no more; I see them now in the light of the cross, sinners dead in trespasses and sins; "Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh," etc., I think no more of his body, but of his mind, not of his station, but of his Spirit. The fact that this is the true standard serves:

1. As a test by which to try our own religion.

2. As a guide for us in the promotion of Christianity.

3. As a principle on which to form our friendships with men,

4. As a rule to regulate our social conduct.

III. The man in Christ has a new SPIRITUAL HISTORY. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." In what sense can this change be called a creation?

1. It is the production of a new thing. This passion for Christ is a new thing in the universe.

2. It is the production of a new thing by the agency of God. Creation is the work of God.

3. It is the production of a new thing according to a Divine plan. The almighty Maker works by plan in all.

IV. The man in Christ has a sew STANDING. "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us," etc. That is, all things pertaining to this new creation. The great want of man is reconciliation to God. Man's alienation or apostasy from his Maker is the sin of all his sins, and the source of all his miseries. His reconciliation is not the means to his salvation; it is his salvation. Friendship with him is heaven. On the other hand, alienation is hell. A river cut from the fountain dries up; a branch cut from the tree withers and dies; a planet cut from the sun rushes into ruin. Separate a soul from God its Fountain, its Root, its Centre, and it dies—dies to all that makes existence tolerable. Such, then, is what Christianity does for us.

2 Corinthians 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:20 - God's work in Christ.

"To wit, that God was in Christ," etc. God is a great Worker. He is the eternal Fountain of life in unremitting flow. He is essentially active, the mainspring of all activity in the universe but that of sin. There are at least four organs through which he works—material laws, animal instincts, moral mind, and Jesus Christ. By the first he leads on the great revolutions of inanimate nature in all its departments; by the second he preserves, guides, and controls all the sentient tribes that populate the earth, the air, and the sea; by the third, through the laws of reason and the dictates of conscience, he governs the vast empire of mind; and by the fourth viz Christ, he works out the redemption of sinners in our world. There is no more difficulty in regarding him in the one Person, Christ, for a certain work than there is in regarding him as being in material nature, animal instinct, or moral mind, The words lead us to make three remarks concerning God's work in Christ.

I. It is a work of RECONCILING HUMANITY TO GOD. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself," The work of reconciling implies two things—enmity on the side of one of the parties, and a change of mind in one of the parties. The enmity here is not on God's part—he is love; but on man's. The "carnal mind is enmity with God." Nor is the change on God's part. He cannot change, he need not change. He could never become more loving and merciful. The change needed is on man's part, and on man's exclusively. Paul speaks of the world being reconciled to God, not of God to the world. The "world;" not a section of the race, but all mankind.

II. It is a work involving the REMISSION OF SINS. "Not imputing [reckoning] their trespasses unto them." The reconciled man is no longer reckoned guilty. Three facts will throw light on this. The state of enmity towards God is:

1. A state of sin. There is a virtue in disliking some characters, but it is evermore a sin to dislike God, for he is the All-good.

2. A state of sin liable to punishment. Indeed, sin is its own punishment.

3. In reconciliation, the enmity being removed, the punishment is obviated. What is pardon? A separating of man from his sins and their consequences. This God does in Christ.

III. It is a work in which GENUINE MINISTERS ARE ENGAGED. "He hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 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." Observe:

1. The position, of the true minister, he acts on behalf of Christ, and stands in "Christ's stead."

2. The earnestness of the true minister. "We pray you."

From the whole we observe concerning this work:

1. That it is a work of unbounded mercy. Whoever heard the offended party seeking the friendship of the offender?

2. It is a work essential to human happiness. In the nature of the case there is no happiness without this reconciliation.

3. It is a work exclusively of moral influence. No coercion on the one hand, no angry denunciations on the other, can do it; it can only be effected by the logic of love.

4. It is a work that must be gradual. Mind cannot be forced; there must be reflection, repentance, resolution.

2 Corinthians 5:21 - Christ made sin.

"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." "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (Revised Version). From this passage we gather three wonderful truths.

I. That Christ was ABSOLUTELY SINLESS. "Who knew no sin." Intellectually, of course, he knew all the sin in the world; but he never experienced it, he was absolutely free from it.

1. He was "without sin," although he lived in a sinful world. Of all the millions who have been here he alone moved amongst the world and received no taint of moral contamination.

2. He was "without sin," although he was powerfully tempted. Had he been untemptable there would have been no virtue in his freedom from sin, and had there been no tempter there would have been nothing praiseworthy in his sinlessness. "He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin."

II. That, though sinless, Christ was in some sense MADE SIN BY GOD. "He hath made him to be sin for us." What meaneth this?

1. It cannot mean that God made the sinless One a sinner. This would be impossible. No one can create a moral character for another.

2. It cannot mean that God imputed to him the sin of the world, and punished him for the world's sin. The idea of literal substitution is repugnant to reason and unsustained by any honest interpretation of God's Holy Word. The atonement of Christ consists, not in what he said, did, or suffered, but in what he was. He himself is the Atonement, the Reconciler. What, then, does it mean? Two facts may throw some light.

(1) That God sent Christ into a world of sinners to become closely identified with them. He was related to sinners, mingled with them, ate and drank with them, and was in the community, counted as one of them. "He was numbered with the transgressors."

(2) That God permitted this world of sinners to treat Christ as a sinner. He was calumniated, persecuted, insulted, murdered. God permitted all this, and what he permits is, in Scripture language, often ascribed to him.

III. That the sinless One was thus made sin in order that men MIGHT PARTICIPATE IN GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. "That we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Never did Divine moral excellence or the righteousness of God shine out with such glory to man as in the sufferings which Christ endured in consequence of this connection with sinners. As the stars can only show themselves at night, and as aromatic plants can only emit their precious odour by pressure, so the highest moral virtues can only come out by suffering and battling with the wrong. What self-sacrificing love, what unconquerable attachment to truth, what loyalty to the infinite Father, what sublime heroism of love, was here exhibited in the incarnation, the beneficent deeds, and overwhelming sufferings of Jesus!


2 Corinthians 5:1-10 - Assurance of eternal life; faith and its effects.

Death intervenes between the present state of affliction and the glory of heaven, but death is only the destruction of the body now existing. It is not an end to bodily form and life. This is no speculation of the apostle's; it is an assurance, "for we know" that if this earthly tent be destroyed, it will be followed by an enduring habitation—a mansion, not a tabernacle. In the earthly body he groans, not because it is a body, but because it is flesh and blood suffering under the effects of sin, and hence he longs for the "house which is from heaven." It is a heaven for body as well as soul that he so ardently desires. To be bodiless even in glory is repulsive to his nature, since it would be nakedness. Death is repugnant. The separation of soul and body, however, is only temporary; it is not for unclothing, but for a better clothing, one suited to the capacities of spirit. If the fourth verse repeats the second verse, it enlarges the idea and qualifies it by stating the reason why he would be "clothed upon," viz. "that mortality might be swallowed up of life." And this longing is no mere instinct or natural desire, but a feeling inspired of God, who "hath wrought us for the selfsame thing." A Divine preparation was going on in this provisional tabernacle—a training of the spirit for the vision of Christ and a training of the body for the immortal companionship of the spirit. An "earnest" or pledge of this was already in possession. The sufferings sanctified by the Spirit, the longing, the animation of hope, were so many proofs and tokens of awaiting blessedness. How could he be otherwise than confident? Yea; he is "always confident." Though now confined to the body, yet it is a home that admits of affections and loving fellowships; and though it necessitates absence from the Lord and the house of "many mansions," nevertheless it is a home illumined by faith. "For we walk by faith, not by sight." The home is in the midst of visible objects that exercise our sense of sight, but our Christian walk, or movement from one world to another, is not directed by the eye, but by faith, the sense of the invisible. We know what are the functions of the eye. If we did not, the antithesis would convey no meaning. The eye receives impressions from external things, communicates them to the soul, is a main organ in developing thought and feeling, acts on the imagination and the will, and is continually adding something to the contents of the inward nature. Faith is like it as a medium of reception, unlike it in all else. Faith is not conversant with appearances. We do not see Christ in his glory; we see him (using the term figuratively) in his Word by means of the Spirit; and this seeing is faith. How do we know when we have faith? It attests itself in our capacity to see the path leading to eternal glory, and it enables us to walk therein. The path is from one home to another—from the home on the footstool to the home by the throne of Christ, and faith has the reality and vigour of a home sentiment. So strong and assuring is St. Paul's confidence that he prefers to depart and be with Christ. "At home in the body;" yes, but it is a sad home at best, and trial and affliction had begun to make it dreary to him. To die is to be with the Lord, and he was "willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." Whether absent or present, at home or away from home, we labour that we "may be accepted of him." To make himself and his life acceptable to Christ was paramount to every other desire; to labour was his absorbing thought. Such an energetic soul as his must have felt that its energies were immortal. There was no selfishness in his hope of heaven, no longing to be freed from work, no yearning for the luxury of mere rest. It was to be with Christ, for Christ was his heaven. If this was his confidence, if he was labouring untiringly to be acceptable to the Lord Jesus, was he understood and appreciated as Christ's apostle and servant among men? The burden of life was not the work he did, but the obstacles thrown in his way—the slanders he had to bear, the persecutions open and secret that followed him everywhere. He thinks of the "judgment seat of Christ." It will be a judicial inquiry into works done and "every one" shall "receive ['receive back'] the things done in his body." Measure for measure, whatsoever has been done hero shall return to every one. The individuality of the judgment, the complete unveiling of personal character, the correspondence between the reward and the good done on earth and between the retribution and the evil done here, he brings out distinctly. This was with him a fixed habit of thought. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." How near the two worlds are—the growing field here, the harvest in another existence hereafter! But observe another idea. "We must all appear," we must be made manifest, every one shown in his true character. Not only will there be recompense as a judicial procedure, but a revelation "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." St. Paul had vindicated himself again and again from the charges made against him; but the battle was now going on, nor was there any sign of its speedy abatement. It was natural that he should have the idea of manifestation prominent in his mind, since we all think of the future world very much according to some peculiarity in our experience on earth. How engrossed, heart and soul, in his apostleship is beautifully indicated by the fact that heaven itself was the heaven of St. Paul as the apostle of Christ. The sufferings of the man are never mentioned. First and last, we have the autobiography of an apostle, and hence, looking forward to the glory to be revealed, the supreme felicity is that he will appear in his true character as the Lord's servant.—L.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 - Person and ministry of the apostle further considered; his work as an ambassador.

How was he conducting this ministry, of which he had spoken so much and had yet more to say? It was in full view of accountability to the day of judgment. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men," adding motives to affect them, and not remaining content with arguments to convince their understandings. And in this work he now felt God's approval; before he had declared, "we are confident," and he reaffirms it in the words, "we are made manifest unto God." Every hour he stood at the bar of his conscience an acquitted man, and this conscience was a manifestation of God. Honestly was he striving to please God, as honestly labouring to save them, and in this spirit he was ever seeking to manifest himself to their consciences. If he were a temporizer, a man pleaser, he might adopt worldly arts and captivate them. No; he would address their consciences; the best in them should come to his side or he must lose them. "Savour of life unto life" or "savour of death unto death;" no other alternative. But do not misunderstand us. Commendation is not our object. If we have, as we trust, manifested ourselves to your consciences, then let your consciences speak in our behalf, and let their voices boast in this—that we are truthful in the sight of God and man. This is the way to answer our enemies who "glory in appearance and not in heart." Suffer he would rather than be wrongly vindicated. Do it in the highest way or not at all. "Your cause" is the great interest. No doubt we seem "beside ourselves," or we may appear "sober," but you may boast of this—"it is for your cause." And in this devotion to your well being what motive presses with weight enough to make us endure all things for your sakes? "The love of Christ constraineth us." And wherein is this love so signally demonstrated as to embody and set forth all else that he did? It is love in death. Looking at this Divine death, we form this judgment or reach this conclusion, that he "died for all" because "all were dead—" dead under the Law of God, dead in trespasses and sins, dead legally, morally, spiritually. Nothing less than such an atoning death for all men—so it seems to us the apostle meant—could exert on him this constraining influence. And how should this influence operate? "They which live should not henceforth live unto themselves." The very self had been redeemed by Christ's vicarious death; body, soul, and spirit had been bought with a price, and the price was Christ's blood; and with such a constraining motive, the most potent that the Holy Ghost could bring to bear on the human mind, how could men live unto themselves? If, indeed, the constraining power had its legitimate effect, only one life could result, a life consecrated to "him which died for them and rose again." If, therefore, all being dead, one died for all, that all might live in freedom from selfishness and be the servants of him who had redeemed them from sin and death, we can know henceforth no man after the flesh. The very purpose of Christ's death was that the fleshly life of sin might pass out of view (might be covered over and thus disappear from sight), and another life be entered on, a life in the redeeming Christ. Admitting that this passage presents the moral aspects of Christ's death and the obligations consequent thereupon as they act on moral sentiment, yet the fundamental idea of the apostle is that Christ stood in the stead of sinners, took their guilt upon himself, and made an offering of his life for their rescue. To strengthen this doctrine, he says that, though he once knew Christ after the flesh (as a mere man), he knew him now in a very different way. We are not to suppose that he had seen him in his earthly life, but merely that he knew of him. St. Paul, after his conversion, had an experimental knowledge of Christ as his Redeemer through the sacrificial death of the cross; nor was there any room in his heart for moral sentiment, nor any spiritual force in Christ's teaching and example, nor ground for any trust or hope, till he as "chief of sinners" had realized the righteousness of God in the atoning blood of Calvary. Such a change was a creation. He was "a new creature," and whoever experienced this power of the Lord's death was a new creature. Old things had passed away—the old self in taste and habit, the old unbelief rooted in the fleshly mind, the old worldliness—and all things had become new. No wonder that "all things" had become "new;" for "all things" pertaining to this change in its cause, agency, instrumentalities, "are of God." Strong language this, which sounds even yet to many as the rhetoric of excited fancy; but not stronger than the blessed reality it represents. Nay; words cannot equal the fact. A man may overstate his own experience of Divine grace; never can he exaggerate the grace itself. "All things are of God;" and how is this fact manifested? In the method of reconciliation which is God's act through Christ. "Who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ." To understand what is implied in reconciliation, we must remember that much more is involved in it than the moral state of a sinner's mind toward God. The enmity of the carnal man has to be subdued, and in this sense he is "a new creature," but the possibility of this creation rests upon an antecedent fact, viz. a changed relation to the violated Law of God. What has been done for him must take precedence, as to time, of what is done in him. We must know how God as Sovereign stands to us, and by what means the sovereignty cooperates with the fatherhood of God, before we can accept the offered boon of mercy. There must be a reason why God should pardon in advance of a reason why we should seek pardon. A principle of righteousness must be established as preliminary and essential to the sentiment of Christianity, since it is impossible for us by the laws of the mind to appreciate the power of any great sentiment unless we have previously felt it as connected with a great principle. "Whom God set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith, by his blood, to show his righteousness, because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the Justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26, Revised Version). There is a "ministry of reconciliation" because "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing [reckoning] their trespasses unto them." Forgiveness through Christ, the Propitiation, is free to all who believe in him. Nor are we left in doubt as to the substance of our belief. It is faith in Christ, God in Christ, the Reconciler, who pardons our sins and makes us new creatures in him. To make this reconciliation known, to demonstrate its infinite excellence as the method of grace, to show its Divine results in the very men who proclaimed the gospel, Christ had instituted the ministry, and its title was, "ministry of reconciliation." Recall, O Corinthians, what I have said in defence of my apostleship. Recall my sufferings in your behalf. See the reason of it all. Whom are these factious Judaizers fighting? Whom did those beasts at Ephesus try to destroy? Who is this man, troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, cast down, dying everywhere, dying always? This is the character he sustains, the office he fills—an "ambassador for Christ." Has he manifested himself to your consciences? Does he look forward to the day of judgment as a day of revelation as well as a day of reward and punishment? Know we not a man, not even Christ, after the flesh! Behold your minister, your servant, as an "ambassador," commissioned to offer you the terms of reconciliation. "We pray you in Christ's stead [on behalf of Christ], be ye reconciled to God." Nothing remains to be done but tot you to accept the offered reconciliation. And he enforces this idea by stating that he who "died for all," since "all were dead," had been made "sin for us, who knew no sin." "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;" yet he was "made to be sin for us," made a substitute or ransom, an offering, whereby the wrath of God was turned away. Reconciliation is accomplished not by our repentance and confession of sin, nor by any suffering on our part, nor by any merit of our work, but altogether by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf. God's righteousness is thus set forth. The plan of salvation changed nothing in the character of Almighty God. Neither his righteousness nor his love was modified integrally by Christ's atonement. "God is righteous," "God is love," are no truer facts now than they eternally were. What the gospel teaches is that the righteousness and the love of God have assumed special forms of manifestation and operative activity through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is righteousness, not in the normal relation of Law to the original transgressor, but in an instituted relation of Law to one who took the place of the transgressor. It is love as grace, the form of love that provided for the righteousness on which St. Paul lays such an emphasis. It is not a change in the Law, but in the administration of Law, and the glory of it lies in the fact that the Divine government presents in this higher form the resplendent spectacle of that progression from the "natural" to the "spiritual," which St. Paul discusses in his argument on the resurrection. Whatever obstacles existed in the way of this sublime advance have been removed by Christ. "Mercy and truth" have their existence as attributes of the Divine nature; they have "met together." "Righteousness and peace" are not to be confounded, but they have "kissed each other."L.


2 Corinthians 5:6 - "Absent from the Lord."

To those disciples and apostles who were with the Lord Jesus during his earthly ministry, the separation which commenced upon his ascension must have been painful indeed. In the case of Paul, however, the language employed in this passage scarcely seems so natural. But we learn from the record of his sentiments what ought to be to all Christians their first thought, their governing principle, viz. their relation to Jesus Christ. The earthly state of all such is a state of absence from the Lord—a fact not to be grieved over, but to be recognized and felt.

I. THIS ABSENCE IS NOT SPIRITUAL, BUT BODILY. His own word is fulfilled, "A little while, and ye shall not see me." The exclamation of his people is verified, "Him, not having seen, we love."

II. THIS ABSENCE IS APPOINTED BY DIVINE WISDOM AND LOVE. It cannot be regarded as a matter of chance or of fate. It. is the will of him who most loves us and who most cares for us, which is apparent in this provision.

III. THERE IS A BENEFICENT PURPOSE IN THIS ABSENCE. Such was the obvious intention of our Saviour himself. "It is good for you," he said, "that I go away." His aim was to lead his people into a life of faith, and to excite our confidence in himself who has gone to prepare a place for us.

IV. THERE ARE CERTAIN DANGERS INVOLVED IN THIS ABSENCE, There is danger lest, separated from our Lord, we should grow worldly and carnal, lest our love to Jesus should wax cold, lest we should magnify ourselves, lest we should be ashamed of a religion whose Head is not visibly among us.

V. YET THERE ARE COMPENSATIONS IN THIS ABSENCE. It is intended to fortify and perfect the truly Christian character. It will make the meeting, when it takes place, more delightful and welcome.


1. Remembrance of Christ.

2. Faith in Christ.

3. Communion with Christ.

4. Fidelity to Christ in his absence.

5. Anticipation of his speedy return.

VII. THE TERMINATION OF THIS PERIOD OF ABSENCE IS AT HAND. Those who live until the Lord's return shall welcome him to his inheritance. Others must be absent from Christ until they are absent from the body, when they shall be "present" with the Lord."—T.

2 Corinthians 5:7 - The walk of faith.

Life is a pilgrimage which men undertake and accomplish upon very different principles and to very different results and ends. In this parenthesis St. Paul very succinctly and very impressively describes the nature of that pilgrimage which he had adopted and with which he was satisfied.

I. THE WALK WITH WHICH THAT OF THE CHRISTIAN IS CONTRASTED. This, which is that of the unenlightened and unrenewed, is the walk by sight; i.e. by repressing the spiritual nature and walking by the light which earth offers, by the mere guidance of the senses, by the influence of society, the approval and esteem of men, by considerations drown from earth and limited to earth. This is a course of life in which there is no satisfaction, no safety, and no blessed prospect.

II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WALK OF FAITH. Faith in itself is neutral; its excellence depends upon its object. The Christian regulates his course through this life of temptation, danger, and discipline by:

1. Faith in the existence of God, the God who possesses all. moral excellences as his attributes.

2. Faith in Providence; i.e. in the personal interest and care of him who is called Friend and Father.

3. Faith in God as a Saviour, which is faith in Christ, the salvation of the Lord revealed to man.

4. Faith in a righteous and authoritative taw.

5. Faith in ever-present spiritual aid—guidance, protection, bounty, etc.

6. Faith in Divine promises, by which the pilgrim is assured that he shall reach home at last.


1. It is the one principle enjoined throughout revelation, from the day of Abraham, the father of the faithful, down to the apostolic age.

2. The possibility of the walk by faith has been proved by the example of the great and the good who have gone before us (vide Hebrews 11:1-40.).

3. To those who live by faith life has a meaning and. dignity which otherwise cannot possibly attach to it.

4. Faith can sustain amidst the trials and sorrows of earth.

5. And faith is the blossom of which the vision of the glorified Saviour shall, be the heavenly and immortal fruit.—T.

2 Corinthians 5:14 - The love of Christ.

Every quality met in the Lord Jesus which could adapt him to accomplish the work which he undertook on behalf of our human race. But if one attribute must be selected as peculiarly and pre-eminently characteristic of him, if one word rather than another rises to our lips when we speak of him, that attribute, that word, is love.

I. THE OBJECTS OF CHRIST'S LOVE. Look at his earthly life and ministry, and the comprehensive range within which the love of Jesus operates becomes at once and gloriously obvious.

1. His friends. Of this fact—Christ's love to his friends—we have abundant proof: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

2. His enemies. This is more wonderful, yet the truth of what the apostle says is undeniable: "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And we cannot forget his prayer offered for his enemies as they nailed him to the cross: "Father, forgive them."

3. All mankind. During his ministry the Lord Jesus was gracious to all with whom he came into contact. His aim was by the bands of love to draw all men unto himself, that they might rest and live in his Divine and mighty heart.

II. THE PROOFS OF CHRIST'S LOVE. The great facts of his ministry and mediation are evidences of his benevolence.

1. His advent. "Nothing brought him from above—Nothing but redeeming love."

2. His ministry. He went about doing good, animated by the mighty principle of love to man. Eyed sickness he healed, every demon he expelled, every sinner he pardoned, was a witness to the love of Christ.

3. His death. His was the love "stronger than death:" for not only could not death destroy it, death gave it a new life and power in the world and over men.

4. His prevailing intercession and brotherly care.


1. It is sympathizing and. tender, "passing the love of women."

2. It is thoughtful and wise, ever providing for the true welfare of those to whom it is revealed.

3. It is forbearing and patient, otherwise it might often have been checked and repressed.

4. It is self-sacrificing, counting nothing too great to be given up in order to secure its ends.

5. It is faithful "Having loved his own, he loveth them even unto the end."

6. It is unquenchable and everlasting: "Who can separate us from the love of Christ?"—T.

2 Corinthians 5:14 - The constraint of Christ's love.

The apostle represents the Savior's love, not merely as something to be admired and enjoyed, but as something which is to act as a spiritual force. He experienced it as the supreme power over his own life, and he had confidence in it as the principle which should renew and bless the world.

I. THE NATURE OF THIS CONSTRAINT. Men are influenced by many and various motives, some lower and some higher. Their natural instincts and impulses, their interests, their regard for public opinion and their ambition, the laws of the land,—these are among the admitted and powerful inducements to human conduct. But these are not the highest motives, and are unworthy of the nature and possibilities of man, unless in conjunction with something better. Even the sacred obligation of duty is insufficient. But Christ's love in his redemptive work, revealed to us in the gospel, is a moral and spiritual force of vast power? It awakens gratitude, love, devotion, obedience. It is the universal Christian motive. He who does not feel it, however correct his creed and conduct, is not in the proper sense of the term a Christian. Happy they who live under its sweet and constant constraint!

II. THE DIRECTION OF THIS CONSTRAINT. Physical power is of two kinds—it is either energy or resistance; e.g. the ocean and the dyke, the powder and the cannon, the steam and the boiler. As with physical, so with moral power.

1. Christ's love acts by way of restraint. It withholds those who experience it from self-indulgence, from worldliness, and from other sins to which men are naturally prone, and from which only a Divine power can deliver.

2. It acts by way of impulse, inducing to the imitation of Jesus in character and conduct; to obedience such as he enjoins when he says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments;" to consecration such as Paul exemplified when he said, "We live unto the Lord."

III. THE EFFICACY OF THIS CONSTRAINT. This depends upon a just interpretation of the passage. Were it our love to Christ which is imputed, this would be a feeble and vacillating motive; but it is something far greater and better, viz. Christ's love to us. The power of this motive may be seen in the life of every faithful friend of Jesus; e.g. in the apostles, as Paul, Peter, John; in the confessors and martyrs and reformers; in the missionaries and philanthropists, etc. It may be seen in the dangers braved, the opposition encountered, the persecutions suffered, the efforts undertaken and persevered in. What of noble and beautiful and beneficent conduct has not this Divine motive proved able to inspire! Greater deeds and more heroic sufferings than the love of Christ has accounted for, the annals of mankind do not record. It is to this motive that we must look for all that in the future shall bless our common humanity. What nothing inferior can effect the love of Christ will certainly prove powerful to accomplish.—T.

2 Corinthians 5:18 - "The ministry of reconciliation."

Every good man is a peacemaker. Both unconsciously by his character and disposition, and consciously and actively by his efforts, he composes differences and promotes concord and amity among his fellow men. The Christian minister, however, goes deeper when he aims at securing harmony between God and man. And he purposes to effect this reconciliation, not by the use of ordinary persuasion, but by the presentation of the gospel of Christ.


1. There is a moral Ruler and a moral law, righteous and authoritative.

2. Against this Ruler men have rebelled, they have broken the law, and thus introduced enmity and conflict.

3. Divine displeasure has thus been incurred, and Divine penalties, by which just displeasure is expressed.

II. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY IS AUTHORIZED BY HIM WHO ALONE CAN INTRODUCE RECONCILIATION. God is the greater, and not only so, he is the wronged, offended party. If any overtures for reconciliation are to be made, they must proceed from him. He must provide the basis of peace and he must commission the heralds of peace.

III. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY PROCLAIMS THE MEDIATOR OF RECONCILIATION. The Lord Jesus has every qualification which can be desired in an efficient Mediator. He partakes the nature of God and of man; he is appointed and accepted by the Divine Sovereign; he has effected by his sacrifice a work of atonement or reconciliation; his Spirit is a Spirit of peace. And in fact he has "made peace," removing all obstacles on God's side and providing for the removal of all on man's.

IV. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY CONSISTS IN THE OFFER OF RECONCILIATION. It is a moral and not a sacerdotal ministry; it is experimental, being entrusted to those who are themselves reconciled; it is a ministry accompanied with supernatural power, even the energy of the Spirit of God; it is an authoritative ministry, which men are not at liberty to disregard or despise; it is an effectual ministry, for those who discharge it faithfully are unto many the "savour of life unto life."—T.

2 Corinthians 5:20 - "Ambassadors for Christ."

Even among the members of the Corinthian Church there were those who had offended the Lord by their inconsistency and who needed to be reconciled. How much more was and is this true of mankind at large! There is no denying the need of a gospel and of a ministry of reconciliation.

I. WHO ARE CHRIST'S AMBASSADORS? Probably the language is most justly applicable to the apostles only, inasmuch as their commission and credentials were altogether special. An ambassador owes his importance, not to himself, but to the power he represents, the message he bears. The preachers of Christ are all heralds, if they cannot be designated ambassadors. They may learn hence the dignity of their office and their personal unworthiness and insufficiency, and they may be admonished as to the imperative duty of fidelity.

II. BY WHAT COURT ARE THESE AMBASSADORS COMMISSIONED? They are the ministers of the King of heaven, and their authority is that of the King's Son. Thus their mission is one entrusted by a superior power and authority; and not only so, it is from an offended and outraged power. This appears when we consider—

III. TO WHOM THESE AMBASSADORS ARE SENT. Properly speaking, an ambassador is one accredited to a power sovereign and equal to that from whom he comes. But in this case the resemblance fails in this respect, inasmuch as the ministers of the gospel address themselves to offenders, to rebels, to those who cannot treat with Heaven upon equal terms, or any terms of right.

IV. WHOSE SUBSTITUTES ARE THESE AMBASSADORS? They act "on Christ's behalf," "in Christ's stead." The Lord himself first came upon an embassage of mercy. He has entrusted to his apostles, and in a sense to all his ministers, the office and trust of acting as his representatives, in so far as they publish the declaration and offer of Divine mercy.

V. WHAT IS THE COMMISSION WHICH THESE AMBASSADORS ARE SENT TO EXECUTE? It is an office of mercy. Their duty is to publish the tidings of redemption, the offer of pardon, and themselves to urge and to entreat men that they accept the gospel and thus enjoy the blessings of reconciliation with God.—T.


2 Corinthians 5:1-9 - The two bodies of the saint.


1. Frail.

2. Perishing.

3. Often a burden.

4. Frequently a temptation.

5. Not helpful to spiritual life.

6. Subject to many pains.

7. Debased.


1. Eternal. (2 Corinthians 5:1.) Having no tendencies towards decay, no marks of coming death. A body of life. Stamped with the eternalness of God.

2. Heavenly. (2 Corinthians 5:1.) The first body is of the earth, earthy; the second body is spiritual and heavenly in origin and character. Capable of heavenly joys. Fitted for heavenly service. Free from earthly weaknesses, pains, and soil.

3. From God. (2 Corinthians 5:1.) The present body is this in a certain sense, but it has passed through the hands of the devil. The resurrection body shall be of God and only of God, his unmarred workmanship. It shall be like the glorified body united to Deity in the person of Jesus Christ: "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory" (Philippians 3:21).

III. THE SAINT'S CONDITION WHILST IN THE EARTHLY BODY. Frequently a condition of sorrow. "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened" (2 Corinthians 5:4). There are

(1) the ordinary afflictions which befall mankind;

(2) the special chastisements of God inflicted for the saint's welfare, but still painful;

(3) the sense of living in a strange country, not in his own—uncongenial surroundings;

(4) struggles against temptations: the presence and power of hated sin.


1. Revelation.

2. Preparation. "He that wrought us for this very thing" (verse 5).

3. The Spirit's witness. We have the earnest of the Spirit, which is a pledge of the fulness of the Spirit (verse 5). In the next life we shall be dominated by the Spirit; shall have a spiritual body—one pervaded by the Spirit. The apostle's confidence is strong; he says, "We know;" there was no uncertainty about the matter.

V. THE SAINT'S LONGING FOR THE HEAVENLY BODY. The desire is very intense especially when the lot is hard and the nature spiritual. "We groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven" (verse 2). The paramount attraction is, however, not in the body itself, but. in the fact that the union with Christ will be closer. We shall be present with the Lord—at home with the Lord (verse 8). Now we walk by faith; then we shall see him as he is, and be like him. The gaining of the heavenly body will be the gain of closer access to our Lord, and will be the entering into our heavenly home, out of which we shall go no more forever.


1. The intermediate state between death and the resurrection will probably not be so perfect as that which follows.

2. There is a natural shrinking from death. "Not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon" (verse 4). The apostle seems to desire what is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4:17—a translation, not death and tarrying for the resurrection.

VII. THE SAINT'S RESOLUTION WHETHER IN THE EARTHLY OR HEAVENLY BODY. To please Christ. This the apostle made his "aim" (1 Thessalonians 4:9). This was his supreme ambition. He resolved to live, not to himself, but to Christ and for Christ. Note, that the life for the heavenly and earthly body is to be the same. We must do now what we hope to do by and by. Heavenly life in the earthly body is the preparation for the heavenly life in the heavenly body.—H.

2 Corinthians 5:10 - The judgment.


1. It is a matter of most definite revelation.

2. It is necessary for the vindication of Divine justice.

II. CHRIST WILL BE THE JUDGE. "The judgment seat of Christ."

1. A very solemn fact

(1) for those who have rejected his salvation and his rule;

(2) or who have treated his claims with neglect and indifference;

(3) or who have professed to believe on him, but in works have denied him.

2. A very joyous fact for those who have loved, confessed, and served him.

3. A very impressive tact that the One who died for men will judge men.

III. ALL WILL STAND BEFORE CHRIST'S JUDGMENT SEAT. Not one will be missing. How vast an assemblage! A great multitude, and yet no one test in the crowd! We shall be conscious of the great number which no man can number, and yet be impressed with our own individuality. "Each one" will receive (2 Corinthians 5:10)—one by one. Every day we are brought a day nearer to that dread convocation.


1. Of character.

2. Of condition.

3. Of life.

We shall be "made manifest." Life secrets will cease. Successful deceptions will be successful no longer. All veils and disguises will be torn off. The world as well as God will see us as we are.

V. AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST WE SHALL RECEIVE OUR DOOM. This will be according to the deeds of our life. Will the faithful then be justified by faith? Yes; by faith which produces works. Profession will then go for very little. "Lord, Lord," will be but an empty cry. Ability to pray fluently or to preach eloquently will not come into the account. Nor the ability to look extremely pious. Nor facility of talk respecting "blessed seasons" enjoyed on earth, What faith has wrought in us will be the question. What our Christianity has amounted to really and practically. "A name to live" then will be nothing if we are found "dead." Upon the branch professedly united to the Vine fruit will then be sought. "Faith without works is dead." At the judgment it will seem very dead indeed. Yet not by the mere outward act shall we be judged. The motive will be considered as well as the actual deed. "Faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6) will be diligently sought for. Note:

1. The distinction between good and evil will be strictly drawn at the judgment.

2. There will be degrees of reward and punishment. Some "saved as by fire;" some having an "abundant entrance;" some beaten with few stripes, some with many. It will be "according to what he hath done."

3. The dependence of the future upon the present. We shall receive the things done in the body. A remarkable expression. What we do now we shall receive then. We are now writing the sentence of the judgment! Time is sowing. Judgment is reaping. "What manner of persons ought we to be?"—H.

2 Corinthians 5:14 - The constraining influence of the love of Christ.


1. Advent. Relinquishment of heavenly glory. The highest place above exchanged for one of the lowest on earth.

2. Assumption of human nature. A vast condescension. A most striking proof of love.

3. Life. Miracles, acts of kindness, words, spirit.

4. Death. A transcendent proof.

(1) Death for enemies.

(2) Death at the hands of those he came to save.

(3) Most painful death,

(a) physically,

(b) mentally, and

(c) spiritually.

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

(4) A death the object of which was the redemption, purification, exaltation, and eternal happiness of men.

5. Intercession. "He ever liveth to make intercession" (Hebrews 7:25).

II. CONSIDER THE EFFECT OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST. It constrained the apostle—"compressed with irresistible power all his energies into one channel." "Constraineth"—its influence was continuous. Its power was not soon spent; rather that power increased as the love of Christ was increasingly realized.

1. Negatively. Not to live to himself (2 Corinthians 5:15). There was now a greater power operating upon him than the mighty power of self.

2. Positively. To live to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). The love of Christ overmastered him. He felt that through it he had been purchased with a great price, and therefore sought to glorify Christ in his body and spirit which were peculiarly his.

(1) By a blameless life.

(2) By seeking to show forth Christ in his character, spirit, acts, etc.

(3) By submitting his will to Christ's in all things.

(4) By cherishing a deep love for Christ.

(5) By seeking to extend the kingdom and to increase the glory of Christ.

(6) By being wholly devoted to Christ. He was wont to speak of himself as the "slave of Christ."—H.

2 Corinthians 5:17 - "A new creature."


1. The believer has died with Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:14.) Christ is his Substitute, has borne his sins, has made complete satisfaction for his guilt. By faith he is so united to Christ that what Christ has done is imputed to him. He is thus new in relation to God. He was condemned; now he is justified.

2. The believer partakes of the life of Christ. He is "risen with Christ" (Colossians 3:1). He has received the Spirit of Christ. Having been justified, he is now being sanctified. The likeness of the Redeemer is being wrought upon and in him by the Holy Ghost. There is thus a "new creation." The old life was a life of sin, but the new life to which he has risen is a life of righteousness. The love of Christ constrains him (2 Corinthians 5:14) to live, not to himself, but to Christ.


(1) spirit;

(2) speech;

(3) character;

(4) acts;

(5) plans, purposes, desires, etc.

"All things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). There is no part of the believer's life from which the newness should be absent. Whilst not yet perfect, manifestly a great change has taken place: "Old things are passed away" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

III. THIS NEWNESS FURNISHES A TEST. What have we more than our profession of Christianity? Have we been transformed; made new creatures? "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). Can faith save a man—faith which has a name to live, but is dead; faith which we only know a man possesses because he tells us so? We are not in Christ at all unless thereby we have become new creatures. The test is beyond appeal. The sentence of the judgment will proceed upon the assumption of its infallibility (2 Corinthians 5:10). All men in Christ become new creatures. "If any man," etc. A decided change takes place in the best as well as in the worst. All men may become new creatures in Christ. The vilest can be recreated equally with the most moral. This newness is not to be waited for till we enter another world. It belongs to this sphere in which we now are. Unless we are new creatures in this world we shall not be new creatures in another. It is on earth that "new creatures" are specially needed.—H.

2 Corinthians 5:20 - "Ambassadors of Christ."


1. Negative.

(1) Not to originate their message.

(2) Not to think lightly of their mission.

(3) Not to seek their own glory.

(4) Not to aim at their own comfort and pleasure as a chief object.

(5) Not to depart from their instructions. Not to add to them nor take away.

2. Positive.

(1) To go where they are sent.

(2) To communicate the mind of their Lord.

(3) To defend his honour.

(4) To be influenced by the welfare of his kingdom.

(5) To make their Master's business pre-eminent.

(6) To strive in every way to qualify themselves for their work.

(7) To endeavour to do their work in the best possible way.

(8) To endure loss and suffering rather than the interests of their Master's kingdom should be prejudiced.


1. That God loves men.

2. That he has given Christ for men. A vast proof of love! The first step was on God's side. Whilst we were enemies Christ died for us.

3. That Christ willingly gave himself for men. The death of Christ was perfectly voluntary.

4. That by the death of Christ God has provided the means for the perfect reconciliation of the world to himself. In the death of Christ God does reconcile; i.e. he removes every obstacle to reconciliation. Justification is fully prepared for the sinner. Christ was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He bore our sins. Our sins were imputed to him. God's justice was satisfied. Christ is made our Substitute, and this so perfectly that what we are is imputed to him, and what he is is imputed to us. He takes our sins; we take his righteousness. No hindrance to complete restoration thus remains, except hindrance which may lie in the human heart itself.

5. That God earnestly invites men to be reconciled to him. Amazing condescension! The climax of Divine love! "As though God were entreating" (2 Corinthians 5:20).


1. With courtesy.

2. With intense earnestness. It is momentous. What issues depend upon its acceptance or rejection!

3. With zealous pleading.


1. As speaking on behalf of Christ.
2. As declaring the mind of God.—H.


2 Corinthians 5:1 - The tent and the house.

I. THE CONTRAST EXPLAINED. The foundation of this passage is to be found in 2 Corinthians 4:18, where a contrast is drawn between "the things seen," viz. the toils and afflictions endured in the service of Christ, and "the things not yet seen," viz. the joys of resting in Christ from present labours and of receiving from him approval and reward. Pursuing this train of thought, St. Paul writes, "We are here in a tent upon the earth, surrounded, affected, and limited by the things which are seen. But this tent will be struck, to be set up no more. The things which are seen are temporal. The present conditions of our life of toil and suffering will cease, and we shall enter a house of everlasting habitation." The apostle mixes together the figures of a dwelling in which we reside and that of a garment with which we are clothed. It was not an unnatural combination of metaphors; for the haircloth tents with which Paul was familiar, and which his own hands had made, suggested almost equally the idea of a dwelling and that of a vesture. The tent is to be taken down, the clothing to be removed. The present condition of labour and trial will come to an end. What then? Things not yet seen; a building from God; a new condition of life and order of things which will be permanent. Hands of men have not provided it and cannot destroy it. It is a house where nothing fades, nothing falls to ruin, nothing decays or dies—a house eternal in the heavens.

II. THE CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE OF THE FUTURE. It was St. Paul's habit to regard the state after death and the state after resurrection as from one angle of vision, and to describe them together. Probably he had no idea of the long interval which was to extend through all the Christian centuries. In his first letter to the Corinthians he had said, "We shall not all sleep," as though some of that generation might not see death. But now the feebleness of his body was as "a sentence of death" in himself. He expected and even wished to die; and yet his thoughts never paused on death or even on the rest of the departed, but rushed past death to the coming of Christ and the glory to be revealed. There is a real and obvious distinction between the post-decease and the post-resurrection state; but let us not overdo distinctions between conditions of blessedness which to an apostle's eye were so intimately blended. If some of the things which belong to the ultimate state are supposed by any to belong to the proximate, no great harm is done. The future is not mapped out with the precision of a chart. It is not for definite knowledge, but for hope. St. Paul, as we have said, never paused on death, took no pleasure in the thought of being "unclothed." At the resurrection he would be clothed with a body of incorruption and immortality. Nay; before that great day of triumph over death, he knew that he would be well clothed or guarded. He would be in God's building, "clothed upon" with the house which is from heaven.

III. THE MOOD OF MIND THAT WISHES FOR DEATH. St. Paul wrote this in dejection of spirit. To his sickness, which had much enfeebled him, was added at that time much anxiety about the condition of the Churches in Greece and their feelings toward himself. So his heart, as tender and sensitive as it was ardent and brave, was bruised and weary; and he fell a-thinking of death as welcome. Let the outward man perish; let the earthen vessel break; let the weary spirit escape and be at rest. A mood this into which, at one time or other, many Christians tall; but it should not be elevated into a pattern or rule, as though it were the duty of every Christian to long and sigh for death. Our holy faith requires nothing so unnatural. They who are in health and well employed ought to make the most of life—to value and not despise it. Enough that they do not forget death; and they need not fear it if they live well. We must do Paul the justice to acknowledge that there was nothing peevish or impatient in his mood. So long as there was service for him to render to the Church on earth, he was willing to abide in the flesh and to endure any toil or suffering in order to finish his course. But the mood that was on him led him to long for the finish, when he might leave the little horsehair tent on earth and be at home in God's building in the heavens.—F.

2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15 - The secret of devotedness

life one now flings a charge of madness at the sublime enthusiasm of St. Paul. He is looked on as a paragon of Christians. But, while he lived, he had no such general appreciation to encourage and sustain him. What he had above other men were not praises, but labours and reproaches. He endured all because he had in himself the mainspring of faith and the holy energy of love. Throughout this Epistle he shows his feelings and motives with the utmost candour, and in this passage tells how he came to be so enthusiastic toward God and so thoughtful and self-controlled toward his fellow Christians.

I. THE MOVING PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN DEVOTEDNESS. It is the strong unchanging love of Christ to his people, assured to them by his Spirit and his Word. Paul had a fear of God, a reverence for the Law, and walked in all good conscience; but when the love of Christ was revealed to him and suffused his spirit it made a new man of him—thrilled, stirred, animated, constrained him to love and serve Christ and the Church. And as the apostle grew old and experienced, this motive lost nothing of its power. The love of Christ became to him, as it does to all experienced Christians, more and more wonderful—a Shepherd's love, that led him to die for us, and that now secures that we "shall not want;" a Brother's love, and "love beyond a brother's;" a Bridegroom's love, who gave himself for the Church and will present the Church to himself.

II. THE WAY IN WHICH THE MOTIVE ACTS. It is through no mere gush of feeling, but through consideration of the purpose and efficacy of Christ's death and resurrection.

1. He died for all to this intent and with this result, that all of them died. Virtually and in the estimate of God this crucifixion of the whole Church took place when Christ was crucified. In the actual realization of it it becomes true to each man as and when he looks to Christ crucified and is united to him by faith. And with effects both legal and moral. He who was married to the Law dies to the Law, and is freed from its claims, so as to be married to the risen Christ. He who lived in sin dies to sin, and may not any longer live therein. He who loved the world is crucified to it, that he may love and live to God.

2. He rose again; and all the crucified ones live by him. So they have justification, as represented by the accepted One, who has gone to the Father; and sanctification too, as separated to God in holy living and guided by the indwelling Spirit The former manner of life is marked by self regard. The new manner of life exchanges this for the habit of regarding Christ. So his constraining love induces his followers "to live unto him."


1. Let it instruct us. Many are very ill informed on the relation of our Lord's death and resurrection to the Divine will and to human salvation; and for this reason they are much less constrained by his love than they ought to be. Study these things. Bring thought and consideration as well as emotion to the theme. The love constrains "because we judge."

2. Let it humble us. Has the Son of the living God so loved us, and where is our love to him?

"Lord, it is my chief complaint
That my love is cold and faint."

3. Let it impel us. What we need to overcome our moral indolence and habits of self-pleasing is the pressure of strong convictions and motives; and we can best get these in contemplating the love, the death, and the resurrection of Christ. This, too, is a great security against departure from the Lord. When we know and feel little of Christ's love we are easily tempted; but when this is in our thoughts and affections we abhor and repel whatever might separate us from him.

4. Let it comfort us. We are delivered from the wrath to come. Christ loves us. Then the Father also loves us. Duties are pleasant, afflictions are light; to live is Christ, to die is gain.—F.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 - Reconciliation.

Great truths hang together. When the Lord Jesus had told Nicodemus of regeneration, he immediately proceeded to teach him salvation through a Redeemer. So when the Apostle Paul has spoken of new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), he instantly follows it with the doctrine of reconciliation through Christ.

I. THE NEED OF RECONCILIATION. The world is not in harmony or at peace with God. Sin has done it. On the one hand, God's displeasure is declared against the workers of iniquity; on the other, those workers are afraid of God and alienated from him. A great gulf yawns between God and man; and the need of reconciliation is the need of a bridge across that chasm. Or, a great mountain is cast up between God and man; and the need of reconciliation is the need of that mountain becoming a plain, so that God and man may not merely approach, but unite and be at peace. "What can be the difficulty," some exclaim, "if God desires it? Is he not omnipotent, and can he not accomplish whatever he pleases?" But we speak of a moral obstacle, not a physical. And, while God can certainly do what he pleases, he cannot please to do anything but what is perfectly righteous. So there is a difficulty. It is twofold: there is a sentence of condemnation in heaven against the transgressors of the law of righteousness; and there is an enmity to God or a cowering dread of him in the hearts of those transgressors on earth.

II. THE AUTHOR OF RECONCILIATION. "All things [i.e. all the things of the new creation] are of God, who has reconciled us to himself." Man, the creature and the sinner, should have been the first to seek the healing of the breach, by suing for pardon and imploring mercy from God. But it has not been so. The initiative has been taken by God, who is rich in mercy, and, loving the world, has provided for its reconciliation by Jesus Christ.

III. THE METHOD OF RECONCILIATION. Messages sent from a distant heaven or throne of God could not suffice. There was need of an authorized Messenger. So God sent his only begotten Son. For so great a work was constituted a unique and wonderful personality. The Son of God became man and yet continued Divine. So, in the very constitution of his person, he brought the Divine and the human together. And thus his relation to both parties was such as perfectly fitted him to be the Reconciler. He loved God, and therefore was faithful to all Divine claims and prerogatives; while at the same time he loved man and was intent on securing his salvation.

1. He dealt with the difficulty on the side of eternal righteousness. He did so by taking the room and the responsibility of the transgressors and making atonement for them. And the hand of God was in this. "He hath made him," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:21). "Made… sin," though he never was a sinner, and laden with it as a burden, enveloped in it as a mantle of shame. "Jehovah laid upon him the iniquity of us all." The issue is that we "become the righteousness of God in him." And in this is nothing illusive or fictitious. There was a real laying of our sins on the Lamb of God, that there may be a real laying or conferring of Divine righteousness on us who believe in his Name.

2. He deals with the difficulty of alienated feeling. No change is needed in the mind or disposition of God. He does not need to be persuaded to love the world. All the salvation in Christ proceeds from his love. But the enmity of men to God must be removed, and this is effected by the revelation of God as gracious and propitious to sinners in Christ Jesus. When this is known and believed, the heart turns to God and actual reconciliation is made.

IV. THE WORD OF RECONCILIATION. (2 Corinthians 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:20.) When St. Paul preached the gospel it was as though God entreated or exhorted the people through his servant's lips. He was an ambassador, not a plenipotentiary with powers to discuss and negotiate terms of peace, but a King's messenger sent to proclaim terms of free grace and to press the acceptance of them on the enemies of the King. This embassy continues. Do not meet it with excuses and delays.—F.


2 Corinthians 5:1 - Our permanent building.

Taking the apostle's words in a general way, and not confining them to the precise topic which he has under consideration, we are taught by them that, regarding all our present things as but shadows and symbols, we need not trouble ourselves overmuch about their changing forms, or even about their passing away. All our heart and all our efforts should go out in the endeavour to bring nearer, and make clearer and fuller, the sense of our dwelling in, breathing in, working in, the unseen, the spiritual, the eternal. Our sphere is God. "In him we live, and move, and have our being." The real is the unseen. The stable and lasting is the eternal. And this view of things alone can put us in right relations with the body, and set us upon the right use of things seen and temporal. Whenever we are brought lace to face with any passing, dissolving, removing, earthly thing, then God seems to call us, saying, "Remember the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Take for illustration—

I. THE TENT AND THE HOUSE. No figure could be more appropriate than this for the apostle, who gained his living as a tentmaker, and was familiar with its material, its construction, and its use. We can well imagine how, as he wrought, either at weaving the rough Cilician cloth, or at sewing together the various lengths, and the holes for the poles and ropes, he would meditate on the frailty of the tent which he was thus making, contrasting it with the stable marble and stone mansions found in such cities as Corinth. In his day tents were chiefly made for travellers; for those who journeyed from place to place, either for business or for pleasure, in districts where accommodation at inns could not be found. They had their settled homes in the great cities, and they went forth on their travels with quiet hearts, because of the cherished feeling that they had a home. They used the tent awhile, camping out in the open country; but if the wild storm did come, and even lift and carry away the tent; if the midnight robber did overthrow it, and seize the spoil,—the traveller might bear the hardship and the loss, in pleasant confidence that he had a home. If the worst came, it could be but the shadow of his home passing away; in yonder city stood his secure dwelling.

II. THE DOCTRINE AND THE TRUTH. For doctrine is like the frail tent, and truth is like the granite mansion that outlasts the passing ages. We cannot be too thankful for the forms in which sacred truth is conveyed to us, unfolded before us, or impressed upon us. We bless God for all holy and helpful words, full of tender and dear associations; words of simple catechism for our childhood's weakness; words of formal doctrine fashioned to help us when, in our youth time, we tried to get personal hold of mysterious and many-sided truth. Let no man despise the doctrines which, like tents, have often given us their shelter and their help. And yet they are only like "earthly houses of this tabernacle." Truth is the "building of God, the house not made with hands," wherein alone human souls may find quietness from controversy or from fears. Doctrines are only symbols and shadows, the human representations of the Divine and eternal things, the unspeakable realities which yet our souls may apprehend. Within, behind, above, around, the doctrine ever dwells the truth; and, at first, we are very dependent on the forms which it gains for mortal eyes and ears and minds; but, as the soul grows, and gains its vision, its hearing, and its touch, we get loosened from our dependence on the forms, we can calmly see them change and pass. Resting in the stable house of truth, we calmly look on all transitory forms, even of doctrine, and say, "We have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

III. NATURE AND GOD. Nature, the world of things seen—the firmament, golden-glowing, cloud-shaded, and star-sprinkled; earth, with its vales, and hills, and flowers, and trees; the great and wide sea—is in a very serious sense God. It is God manifest to our senses. Behind what is called pantheism there is a deeply poetical and spiritual truth, Nature is God seen; God in toned picture for mortal eyes to see; God, if we may so say, in photograph. Earth is the plate which has caught all that human eyes may see of the figure of God. Nature is the tent symbol of the eternal house. The Jew called his mountains "the hills of God," because they brought to him the sense of the highness and almightiness of God. He called the splendid trees "the cedars of Jehovah," because they brought to him a sense of the stately beauty of God. Yet nature is not really God himself, only God in expression for our apprehending, only the veil that he shines through. Therefore we turn from the shadow to the substance which throws it; from the form to the reality which it does but exhibit. And if all nature passed away, we should lose nothing. It would be but dropping the veil that we might see the face.

IV. OUR EARTHLY AND OUR HEAVENLY BODIES. St. Paul was plainly thinking of his body, the vehicle by means of which our souls come into contact with the world of created things. But he cherished the idea of a spiritual body, which could be the clothing and vehicle of his soul through the long, the eternal ages. Thinking of it he could say, "What matter if my tent body be destroyed? I have a building of God, a house not made with hands."—R.T.

2 Corinthians 5:5 - "The earnest of the Spirit."

The apostle has been referring to the great hope set before us in the gospel, which, as he regards it, is this, that "mortality might be swallowed up of life." That is the object of the Divine working in the believer, and of its final realization he has this "earnest," or pledge of assurance, God has given us already the "earnest of the Spirit," who is the power that alone can work out such a sublime result as our final triumph over the flesh and sin, and meetness to take our place and part in a spiritual and heavenly state. "It is because the Spirit dwells in us by faith while we are here that we are to be raised hereafter. The body thus possessing a principle of life is as a seed planted in the ground to be raised again in God's good time" (comp. the sentence in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Romans 8:1-11). Observe that the Holy Spirit is presented to us under many aspects and figures; no one representation of his Divine mission can exhaust his relations to us. We must see his work on one side after another, and be willing to learn from all She figures under which it is presented.

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY AN "EARNEST"? It is something offered as a pledge and assurance that what is promised shall surely be given. But it has been well pointed out that an "earnest" materially differs from a "pledge." A pledge is something different in kind, given as assurance for something else, as may be illustrated by the sacraments; but an earnest is a part of the thing to be given, as when a purchase is made and a portion of the money is paid down at once. The idea of the "earnest" may be seen in the "firstfruits," which are a beginning of, and assure the character of, the coming harvest.

II. WHAT IS THE SPIRIT AS "EARNEST" TO US NOW? St. Paul's one point here is that it is an assurance of the final victory of the higher life over the lower. We have indeed that higher life now, in its initial and rudimentary stages, in having the Spirit dwelling in us.

III. WHAT FUTURE IS PLEDGED IN OUR HAVING THE SPIRIT NOW? Precisely a future in which the spiritual life shall be victorious and supreme, and our vehicle of a body simply within the use of the Spirit. That is full redemption, glory, and heaven.—R.T.

2 Corinthians 5:7 - Walking by faith.

"We walk by faith, not by sight." "Walking" is a familiar Scripture term for a man's life on the earth. It seems to have been associated with the figure of life as a "pilgrimage" in the Old Testament, and as a "racecourse" in the New Testament. It is joined to another word sometimes, and our "walk and conversation" are spoken of, our "going forward" and "turning about."

I. WALK AS DESCRIPTIVE OF HUMAN LIFE. Its suitability will be seen if we notice:

1. That it is a moving on. The days of our life go by as do the scenes in a panorama.

2. It is a slow moving on, steady and regular as the clock; time moves on, bearing all its sons away.

3. It is a moving on through ever-changing scenes, as is the path of the traveller, now up the hillside, now along the dusty highway, and now through the shaded valleys, with ever-varying sights and sounds around us.

4. It is a moving on somewhere; for he who walks has some end before him or some home in view. So our human life has its goal. We pass on into the eternal, where we may find our home.

II. WALK BY SIGHT AS DESCRIPTIVE OF THE WORLDLY LIFE. "Walk by sight" does not mean "in the power of our vision," but "under the influence and persuasion of things seen and temporal." It is the one essential characteristic of the worldly man that his judgments and decisions are made, his affections are ruled, and his conduct is ordered by what may be gathered under the term "the fashion of this world." Sense condi-tions determine his place. Sense-requirements command his allegiance. Sense principles inspire his doings and decide his relations. He "walks" with a horizon no further off than yonder ridge of hills, and with no thought really bigger in his soul than "What shall we eat? what shall we drink? and what shall we enjoy?" Saying this is the saddest revelation of man's essential wrongness before the God who "made him for himself."

III. WALK BY FAITH AS DESCRIPTIVE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. We are not yet face to face with the eternal realities, but faith as the "substance of things hoped for" gives us a present actual possession of those eternal things, and makes them exert their power on our "walk." Faith in the unseen and eternal can

(1) cheer;

(2) raise the tone;

(3) bring steadfastness into our walk and conversation.

The realities are revealed to faith; human sight can only see passing shadows of things.—R.T.

2 Corinthians 5:10 - "The judgment seat of Christ."

It is needlessly forcing language to regard this expression as referring to the general judgment of mankind. This letter is addressed to the saints, the Church at Corinth, and it may be specially instructive to keep within the limits of St. Paul's thought when he said, "For we"—that is, we Christians—"must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." Such a judgment, or appraisement, of our conduct is involved in the very idea of our mastership to Christ. He will be sure one day to take account of his servants, and this Jesus himself taught as in his parables of the talents and pounds. Christians are as stewards, men entrusted for a time with their Master's goods. They are even to be thought of as "slaves," wholly the Master's possession; and he has full power to estimate their conduct, reward faithfulness, and punish neglect and disobedience. St. Paul even loves to think of himself as the bondslave of Jesus. And the apostles long to prove so faithful in all things that they may not be ashamed, or terrified, or loth to meet their Master at his coming. "The feeling of accountability may take two forms. In a free and generous spirit it may be simply a sense of duty; in a slavish and cowardly spirit it will be a sense of compulsion." To us it should be a joy and an inspiration that our own loved Master will appraise our lives; and that, if he is true to observe our faults, he will be no less gracious to recognize what he may call our goodnesses and our obediences. The thought of his judgment can only be a terror to the rebellious, disobedient, and wilful among his servants. We notice three things.

I. LOYALTY TO CHRIST IS OUR SPIRIT. "We call him Master and Lord, and we say well; for so he is." The rule of our life is the will of our glorified and ever-present Lord. We have voluntarily given ourselves to him. To him we owe our supreme allegiance. He is to us what his queen and country are to the general who leads forth his army. We must be ever true to him; and he, and he alone, is the Lord whose approval or condemnation of our work we should seek. Because I am loyal to Christ I will care about nobody's judgment of my life until I know his.

II. SERVICE OF CHRIST IN RIGHTEOUSNESS IS OUR LIFE. This is the very essence of the matter. Christ is served by righteousness, and really by nothing else. Our place of service, our kind of service, our success in service, are quite the secondary things. The first thing is the rightness with which we do the service. Was the work good?—this it is that Christ asks. Herein Christ differs from all other masters. They can only judge the work; he judges the character which found expression through the work. It is that personal righteousness that Christ will search for when he judges his servants.

III. THE APPRAISEMENT OF CHRIST IS OUR EXPECTATION AND OUR HOPE. A day of final judgment is men's expectation, but not their hope. It is too often a terror to them, a thought put away in fear. Christ's judgment of his saints is our hope; it is the first day of our glory. The thought of it may make us serious and watchful, but it never can make us sad. Christ will test and try our lives. Christ will weigh us in his balances. Christ will apportion our future place. Christ will chastise if there be found evil in us, and his chastisements shall be our joy; for we too want all the evil in us found out and put away. We even glory in this coming appraisement by our Lord; for if, in subtle disguises, evil lurks in any of our secret places of heart and life, Jesus will find it out, and will not leave us until we stand in the likeness of his own spotless purity. And upon our Lord's judgment of us our future, our eternal location and work, must depend. Tested in this life, he will know what we can do; and it may be that he will give us trust of higher things, "authority over ten cities."—R.T.

2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15 - The power of the Christian motive.

The life of an intelligent being must be under the sway of some chosen and cherished motive. High degrees of intelligence find their expression in the careful selection of the motive. Where the intelligence is low and untrained, we find men blindly obeying motives which the accident of the hour may have raised up, or to which the bodily passions may excite. We can look into the face of no fellow man and say, "That man is living without a motive." The consideration of the motives that actually rule men's lives give us very sad thoughts of our humanity. They range all the distance between the animal and the Divine, but they belong for the most part to the lower levels. The entire aspect and character of a man's life may be changed by a change of his motives. A new and nobler motive will soon make a man a better man. No man ever did rise to do noble things while his motive concerned only self and self interests. All noble lives have been spent in service to others. All the best lives in private spheres have been self-denying lives. All the heroic lives in public spheres have been the lives of patriots, the lives of the generous, the pitying, and the helpful. St. Paul was in every way a remarkable man, full of energy, consecration, self-denial, and the "enthusiasm of humanity;" and in the passage now before us he tells us what was the supporting motive, the secret strength, of it all. "The love of Christ constraineth us."

I. THE SOURCE OF THE CHRISTIAN MOTIVE. "Because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died in him." Apparently that life of the apostle was the life of an enthusiast. But if you used that word in any bad sense he would indignantly deny such an accusation. It was indeed a life to which he was constrained, held fast, impelled, coerced, and that by the intense love of his soul for another—a love passing the love of women. But St. Paul would most earnestly urge that this love of his was no mere passion, no mere impulse, no blind force taking sudden mastery of his heart, and crushing down and silencing thought and judgment and will. He declares it to be a love based on judgment, and strengthened by maturer judgment. If that love was first won by the gracious vision granted to him when be was nearing Damascus, it was more truly a love confirmed and established by the serious meditations and calm decisions of his time of blindness, and by the Scripture studies of his lonely days in the desert. That sober consideration took up:

1. The sadness of man's condition. "Then were all dead;" or, as otherwise read, "then all died."

2. St. Paul's judgment decided that it was quite true about Jesus Christ—he had intervened to save men by his own sufferings and death. "He died for all." Paul—or Saul, as he was then called—was nearing the fulness of manhood when he heard of the appearance of a new prophet teacher in the land of his fathers. But all his prejudices arrayed themselves against the acceptance of him and against belief in his special commission and authority. It appeared from the reports that he was a poor man; that he came from the despised Galilean Nazareth, about which Old Testament Scriptures prophesied no such great thing; that he made himself the "friend of publicans and sinners;" that he was an unsparing foe of Paul's own sect, the Pharisees; but that at last he had been stopped in his mischievous career, and made a public example of by an ignominious and shameful death. And then one day prejudice was overthrown. Prejudice was made to see the living glory of him whom it had tried to believe was disgraced and dead. Prejudice heard the authoritative voice of the supposed impostor speaking out of the heavenly places. Prejudice was conquered; the reason, the judgment, and the heart were enthroned, and set to form a judgment concerning Christ. And what a different thing the career of the Lord Jesus became when it was soberly, thoughtfully judged! Poor was he? It was the worthy outer garb of the unspeakable humiliation of the Divine Lord to the weakness of men. It was the fit outward seeming for "Immanuel," God with us. Out of Nazareth did he come? That was only one of the thousandfold proofs that he was indeed the Messiah promised to the fathers, now in dimmer and now in clearer outlines. Friend of publicans and sinners was he? No wonder; for he well knew that the real want of men is, not the removal of diseases, or the extensions of ceremonial worship, or even the unfolding of new truths, but the pardon of sin, the cleansing away of iniquity, and the assurance, carried home to the very soul, that God loves and would save the sinner. Despised and rejected of men was he? Yes; and it must have been so. Sinful humanity could not bear the reproach of the presence of perfect virtue. The forces of evil would be sure to wrestle hard against him who came that he might cast them out and destroy them. Die, did he, a mournful, shameful death? Judgment says—There, amid the very shame of the cross, thrown up by the very darkness that lies behind it, shine forth rays of transcendent glory. There, in those hours of agony, may be seen sublime self-sacrifice, mystery of spiritual suffering, Divine sin bearing, and the most persuasive manifestation of God's love to men. There is God "not sparing his own Son, but delivering him up for us all;" and there is God's Son "bearing our sins in his own body on the tree." On that sober judgment the apostle based his new life motive. He set the love of that dying Saviour so high in his soul that it became from henceforth the master motive of all that he did.

II. THE WAY IN WHICH THE CHRISTIAN MOTIVE WORKS. "They which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." The motive works by establishing a new law for the ruling of our life and conduct. It is the not-unto-self law. We do not know ourselves as we really are in our carnal state if we think that is not a new law. Gratification of self is the great unnatural human law. The not-unto-self law is the chosen life principle of all the good. It is the law of God, the life rule of Jesus the Christ; and, learnt of him, it has made many a human story since then beautiful and gracious. Could it be established in all hearts, the golden age would have come, in which the unselfish King can reign forever and ever. The only possible deliverance from the sway of the old self law is found in the elevating of some new and inspiring love to the throne of the heart. And Jesus makes himself the Object of just such love. The new motive also works in another way. It gives an inner spiritual force to sustain us in the endeavour to obey the law. Love becomes to us what it is to the child. The love of the parent becomes the law of the child's life; but the love, as it dwells in the heart of the child, makes obedience easy. So our love to Christ can become the inner force by which our obedience is sustained day by day.—R.T.

2 Corinthians 5:19 - God the Reconciler.

"God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." "This is the first occurrence, in the order of time, in St. Paul's Epistles, of this word 'reconcile' as describing God's work in Christ. The idea involved is that man had been at enmity and had now been atoned (at-oned), and brought into concord with God. It will be noted that the work is described as originating with the Father and accomplished by the mediation of the Son" (Plumptre).

I. THE DISTURBANCE WHICH CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION. This may be presented as a disturbance occurring between

(1) a Creator and his creatures;

(2) a King and his subjects; or

(3) more worthily in this case, a Father and his children.

The point of impression is, that the disturbance is in no sense due to any action or neglect of God as Creator, King, or Father, but is wholly due to the self-willed and rebellious conduct of the creatures, subjects, or children. It involved a state of enmity, a withdrawal of pleasant relations, and acts of judgment on the part of God. All these statements need illustration and enforcement. Only as the difficulty is duly estimated can the grace of the remedy be fully understood.

II. THE SIDE ON WHICH WAS THE EARLIEST DESIRE FOR RECONCILEMENT, Not man's side. The offenders did not seek forgiveness and restoration. Show that this is true

(1) historically,

(2) experimentally.

None of us, now, are before God in seeking reconciliation. The offended Creator, King, and Father seeks to make both one, and break down the middle walls of partition. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." The deep ground of redemption is God's pitying love for us sinners. We must not think that we claimed the love or that Christ persuaded God to show it. "God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son." The enmity of man to him grieved him, and love found the ways in which to break the enmity, and win, by a free forgiveness, the very heart of the offenders.

III. THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD EFFECTS THE RECONCILEMENT. All are summed up in Christ. He is the Agent through whom God practically carries out his reconciling purpose. We may gather all the ways under two heads.

1. God reconciles by removing the hindrances.

2. God reconciles by persuading the offenders. For both Christ is the Agency. He takes "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us out of the way, nailing it to his cross." He could say, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Plead, in conclusion, that God's reconciling mercies, embodied in Christ Jesus, ought to be a mighty persuasion on us to yield ourselves to him. They should say in our hearts, "Be ye reconciled to God."—R.T.

2 Corinthians 5:21

The Sinless counted as a sinner.

We give but the bare outline of a course of thought on this subject, because it is so suggestive of controversial theological topics, and can be treated from the points of view of several distinct theological schools.

I. CHRIST AS A SINLESS MAN. What proofs of this have we? And how does such sinlessness separate him from man and ensure his acceptance with God?

II. THE SINLESS CAN NEVER, IN FACT, BE OTHER THAN SINLESS. Neither God nor man can be deceived into regarding Christ as a sinner. No exigencies of theology may make us speak of God as regarding Christ as other than he was.

III. THE SINLESS CAN TAKE, AS A BURDEN ON HEART AND EFFORT, THE SINS OF OTHERS. Show fully in what senses this can be done.


V. WHEN THE SINLESS MAN THUS TAKES THE SINS OF OTHERS ON HIM HE BEARS THE SIN ALTOGETHER AWAY. Jesus took up the matter of our sin that it might be a hindrance and trouble to us no more forever.—R.T.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/2-corinthians-5.html. 1897.
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