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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 5

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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2 Corinthians 5:0


Living By FaithAssurance of the ResurrectionConfidence in Facing DeathLiving By FaithThe Hardship and Hopesof the Apostolate
(2 Corinthians 4:16-10) (2 Corinthians 4:16-10)(2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
2 Corinthians 4:16-5
2 Corinthians 5:1-82 Corinthians 5:1-5 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
2 Corinthians 5:6-10The Judgment Seat of Christ2 Corinthians 5:6-102 Corinthians 5:6-102 Corinthians 5:6-10
The Ministry of Reconciliation2 Corinthians 5:9-11Further Defenseof His Ministry of ReconciliationFriendship with God Through ChristThe Apostolate in Action
2 Corinthians 5:11-15 2 Corinthians 5:11-152 Corinthians 5:11-152 Corinthians 5:11-15
Be Reconciled to God(2 Corinthians 5:11-13)(2 Corinthians 5:11-13)
2 Corinthians 5:12-21
2 Corinthians 5:16-10 2 Corinthians 5:16-102 Corinthians 5:16-192 Corinthians 5:16-19
2 Corinthians 5:20-32 Corinthians 5:20-10

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Paul discusses his death in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.

1. He uses two metaphors.

a. an earthly tent versus a permanent, God-made building

b. clothed versus unclothed (i.e., naked)

2. It is very difficult to follow Paul's antecedent thoughts. Is he talking about

a. our being clothed in Christ at baptism (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:2-4)

b. the Spirit's indwelling at salvation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:5)

c. our receiving a new spiritual body at Christ's return (cf. vv 2 Corinthians 5:3 and 10)

3. The best Pauline parallels to interpret this text are found in Romans 8:18-25, Romans 8:26-30 (i.e., groaning) and 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 (i.e., "swallowed up").

4. Somehow this text must be related to Paul's discussion of suffering in chapters 4 and 6. Faithful, godly living amidst difficult circumstances is a recurrent theme.

B. Paul makes a major theological assertion in 2 Corinthians 5:6 and 8. Previously believers and non-believers were thought to go to Hades at death to await judgment (see SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at 2 Corinthians 5:6). Rabbinical Judaism even asserted a division in this holding place of the dead (i.e., OT Sheol) between the righteous and the wicked. Paul asserts that at Jesus' resurrection He took the righteous with Him to heaven. Now believers do not go to hades, but are with the Lord. Whether this implies a full fellowship or a limited fellowship is uncertain. The Bible does not reveal detailed information about the afterlife.

C. Paul makes another startling statement in 2 Corinthians 5:10. Apparently all believers and unbelievers will stand before Christ as Judge. Is this a parallel to the sheep and goat judgment of Matthew 25:0 or the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:0? If believers are forgiven of all sin through Christ, what will they be judged for? Again these specific questions cannot be answered biblically. The logical assumption is that they are responsible for

1. the gospel message

2. their spiritual giftedness

3. their use of physical resources

4. their availability for service

But, this is only conjecture based on the content of 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.

D. Paul's discussion of spiritual responsibility in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 obviously reflects the false teachers' selfish, possibly immoral actions/teachings.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Does this chapter teach a disembodied period between death and resurrection?

2. Does 2 Corinthians 5:10 imply that believers will also be judged? If so, for what?

3. List Paul's two motives for evangelism (2 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 5:14).

4. Explain why verses 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 are crucial for a proper understanding of the Christian life.

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 1For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.

2 Corinthians 5:1 "we know" It is difficult in this book to know the antecedent to Paul's plural pronouns. Sometimes he refers to (1) himself; (2) his mission team; or (3) all believers. Context alone must determine which is implied. Here I assume it is #3.

"if" This is a third class conditional which means potential action. Paul's death was certain unless the Second Coming occurred first. He had thought he was going to die in Asia (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10). His life as an Apostle had not been easy or painless (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:24-28). Paul simply did not know the time or circumstances of his death. He may have thought or hoped he would be alive when Christ returned (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 1 Thessalonians 4:17). However, in other passages he expected to be raised from the dead (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14. For a good discussion see F. F. Bruce's Answers to Questions, pp. 200-201). The hope of being alive at Christ's return is the hope of every generation of believers but reality for only one persecuted generation.

"tent" This is one of several biblical metaphors for the frailty of the human body (i.e., grass, pottery). Paul knew his body was wearing out. He had tried to repair many an old tent!

NASB, TEV"is torn down" NKJV, NRSV"is destroyed" NJB"is folded up"

This is an aorist passive subjunctive. Paul knew that life and death were in the hand of God (i.e., passive voice). He knew he would die, but he did not know when or how (i.e., subjunctive mood).

This term has a wide semantic field. In the OT and the NT kataluma was used for a lodging place and kataluô for a place to live or settle or rest. However, it is also used of the destruction or abrogation of something (which is the metaphorical extension of luô, i.e., loose, cf. Matthew 24:2). In Isaiah 38:12 it is used of taking down a tent. This seems to be the best parallel of Paul's usage here.

"we have a building from God" This is a permanent building (cf. John 14:2-3; Hebrews 11:10) compared with a moveable, transient tent (cf. Hebrews 11:9). This is a present tense. Paul is stating a prophetic truth as if it were a current reality.

"house not made with hands" Our new bodies will be spiritual (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35-49), like Jesus' (cf. Mark 14:58; 1 John 3:2).

"eternal in the heavens" This is referring to the dwelling place of God. The term "heaven" is plural because the rabbis debated over how many "heavens" there were. In Genesis 1:0 the term heaven refers to the atmosphere above the earth. So the rabbis used their knowledge of biblical numerology to assert a third heaven or a seventh heaven as the place where God dwelt. See Special Topic" Heavens at 2 Corinthians 12:2.

Heaven is not up or out. It probably is another dimension without time and space. Jesus was able after the resurrection to appear and disappear, as well as move from place to place. Once the size of the physical universe is understood the awesomeness of the spiritual realm is staggering.

2 Corinthians 5:2 "in this" This is neuter in gender, which refers to "house" in 2 Corinthians 5:1.

"groan" This word is a present active indicative, believers continue to groan or sigh deeply for God's new order and our new spiritual bodies (cf. Romans 8:18-27; creation groans, 2 Corinthians 5:2 Cor. 5:22; believers groan, 2 Corinthians 5:2 Cor. 5:23; and the Spirit groans, 2 Corinthians 5:2 Cor. 5:26).

"longing" This is a strong term for desire (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:14). The noun form is in 2 Corinthians 7:7 and 11. Paul was a man of strong feelings.

2 Corinthians 5:3-4 "Put it on" Paul often uses clothing as a metaphor for the spiritual life. The garment referred to here was the outer or upper tunic (ependutçs, cf. John 21:7). He used clothing as a metaphor for a person's lifestyle choices. Believers are encouraged to take off the old life and lay it aside like a garment (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:8, 2 Corinthians 3:9; Ephesians 4:22, Ephesians 4:25, Ephesians 4:31; James 1:21; 1 Peter 2:1). They are to put on Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:10, 2 Corinthians 3:12, 2 Corinthians 3:14; Ephesians 4:24; Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27). These believers were once controlled and dominated by their evil desires, but now, through Christ, they can turn from them (cf. Romans 5-6). This terminology of putting on Christ may have even been connected to the ordinance of baptism in the early church, where new converts put on clean, white clothing after baptism. Paul did not want to experience a disembodied state between death and the resurrection, but wanted to participate in the events related to the Second Coming (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), one of which is the new spiritual body.

The theological concept of a disembodied state is not specifically stated in Scripture, but is only a reluctant implication because the concept was used in Greek philosophy as a permanent state conceived of as superior to physical embodiment. In Word Pictures in the New Testament A. T. Robertson says "Paul does not wish to be a mere disembodied spirit with his spiritual garment" (vol. 4, p. 228). The following is a brief note from my commentary, vol. 7, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (see www.freebiblecommentary.org).

"'And the dead in Christ will rise first' This phrase causes confusion about where the dead go between their death and resurrection day. This verse implies that they will remain in the grave (cf. Matthew 27:52-53).

However, 2 Corinthians 5:8 implies that they are with the Lord. The solution may be in postulating a disembodied state. The physical body remains in the grave, the life force goes to be with the Lord. There are many unanswered questions here. The Bible does not provide a clear teaching passage on this subject.

Most translations translate it as if the saints are with God/Jesus and return with Him (cf. NASB). Another view is found in TEV, "Those who have died believing in Christ will rise to life first."

2 Corinthians 5:3 Verse three is possibly a parenthesis. It is difficult to know exactly what Paul is referring to because

1. the text mixes metaphors

2. the uncertainly of how "naked" relates to "put on"

3. the contextual relationship to Apostolic suffering (death) or opposition (false teachings)

4. there is also the added problem of a textual variant. The best textual evidence is behind eudusamenoi ("put off," i.e., MSS P46, א, B, C, D2), but the very similar term ekdusamenoi ("put on," i.e., MS D*) makes more sense in the context. If one chooses by the criteria of textual criticism

a. older Greek manuscripts are better

b. the most unusual text is probably original

then Paul has written a tautology (i.e., "put off. . .naked"). The UBS4 is unable to decide ("C" rating), but puts "put on" in the text. The Net Bible also prefers option #2, "put on."

"naked" This word is often used in Greek literature for the preferred disembodied state at death (cf. Vincent, Word Studies, vol. 2, p. 822; Frank Stagg, New Testament Theology, pp.322-324; George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, pp. 552-554). The Greeks longed for this incipient release from the physical body, however, Christianity, like Judaism, asserts that we will always have a bodily expression (both believers and unbelievers, cf. Daniel 12:1-2; Matthew 25:46; John 5:28-29). Possibly Paul is again refuting the false teaching (i.e., incipient Gnosticism).

2 Corinthians 5:4 This brief and cryptic verse must be interpreted in light of Romans 8:18-25, Romans 8:26-30 (i.e., "groaning") and 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 (i.e., "mortal," "swallowed up"). It seems to be a restatement of verse 2 Corinthians 5:2.

2 Corinthians 5:5 "prepared" Paul uses this word often in 2 Corinthians (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 7:10, 2 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 12:12). Our lives are not controlled by luck, chance, fate, but by God. Even our trials can be the means of maturity and greater faith (cf. Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 5:8).

The giving of the Spirit is

1. the sign the New Age has dawned

2. the evidence of personal salvation

3. the means of ministry

4. the means for maturity

5. the surety of heaven

NASB, NJB"pledge" NKJV, NRSV, TEV"guarantee"

This concept of a pledge had an OT precedent (remember, NT writers are Hebrew thinkers writing in Koine Greek).

1. a promise to pay a debt (cf. Genesis 38:17, Genesis 38:18, Genesis 38:20; Deuteronomy 24:10-13)

2. a promise of providing sustenance (cf. 1 Samuel 17:18)

3. a personal promise (cf. 2 Kings 18:23; Isaiah 36:8)

This Greek term refers to a "down-payment" or earnest money (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5). In modern Greek it is used of an engagement ring, which is the promise of a marriage to come. The Spirit is the fulfilled promise of a new age of righteousness. This is part of the "already" and "not yet" tension of the NT, which is the overlapping of the two Jewish ages because of the two comings of Christ (see the excellent discussion in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart, pp. 129-134). The Spirit is a pledge given now for a future consummation.

Verses 6-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 6Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-7for we walk by faith, not by sight- 8we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:6

NASB"good courage" NKJV, NRSV"confident" TEV"full of courage" NJB"full of confidence"

This term is used several times in 2 Corinthians in two senses.

1. confidence, good cheer (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:6, 2 Corinthians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 7:16)

2. boldness (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:1, 2 Corinthians 10:2)

Our ongoing confidence (i.e., present active participle) in Christ gives us boldness in prayer and ministry.

"at home. . .absent" There is a word play between these two related terms (also in 2 Corinthians 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:9).

1. endçmountes, being at home (present active participle)

2. ekdçmoumen, we are away from home (present active indicative)

When you know who you are in Him, you are always at home with Him, although, while on earth, we live by faith (cf. v. 2 Corinthians 5:7).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

2 Corinthians 5:7 "for we walk by faith, not by sight" This is a recurrent NT theme (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18; Hebrews 11:1, Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:27; 1 Peter 1:8). "Walk" is a biblical metaphor for lifestyle. Believers live in the physical realm, but by faith realize and trust in the invisible realm.

2 Corinthians 5:8 This is such a wonderful verse for Christians. It asserts that we will be with the Lord in some sense at death. This refutes the concept of soul sleep. Although our fellowship with other believers is uncertain at this stage and our fellowship with the Lord is not all it will be after we receive our new bodies on Resurrection Day, the great confidence is that we will be with Him! This truth is not clearly taught elsewhere in the Bible except possibly Philippians 1:21-23, which makes this a very significant verse! In light of this truth Paul and all believers can face any and every circumstance in life.

2 Corinthians 5:9 "we also have as our ambition. . .to be pleasing to Him" This is the ambition and motivation for believers (cf. Ephesians 5:8-10; Colossians 1:10).

The term "well pleasing" has been found in several inscriptions, even before Paul's day. It was a slogan of loyalty and fidelity in the Hellenistic first century cultural milieu (cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 259). Paul was a well-read scholar of both Greek and Hebrew thought.

2 Corinthians 5:10 "all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" The immediate context is written to believers; even believers will stand before God (cf. Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10-17). Apparently, we will be judged/rewarded for our motives, availability, and use of spiritual gifts. Sin and sins have been completely dealt with in Christ's substitutionary death, but discipleship is an issue!

On the concept of Jesus as Judge, here is a brief note from my commentary on John 3:17 (see it online at www.freebiblecommentary.org).

"There are several passages in John that assert that Jesus came as Savior, not Judge (cf. John 3:17-21; John 8:15; John 12:47). However, there are other passages in John that assert that Jesus came to judge, will judge (cf. John 5:22-23, John 5:27; John 9:39; and in other parts of the NT Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5).

Several theological comments are in order: (1) God gave the work of judgment to Jesus, as He did the work of creation and redemption, as a sign of honor (cf. John 5:23); (2) Jesus did not come the first time to judge, but to save (cf. John 3:17), but by the fact that people reject Him, they judge themselves; (3) Jesus will return as King of Kings and Judge (cf. John 9:39).

These seemingly contradictory statements are similar to the statements about John the Baptist being or not being Elijah."

"according to what he has done, whether good or bad" It is a universal principle that humans are responsible for their actions and will give an account to God (cf. Job 34:11; Proverbs 24:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; Galatians 6:7-10; 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12). Even believers will give an account of their lives and service to Christ (i.e., "the book of remembrances"). Believers are not saved by works but are saved unto works (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10; James and 1 John). See Special Topic: Christian Freedom vs. Christian Responsibility at 1 Corinthians 10:23.

Verses 11-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 5:11-15 11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. 12We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

2 Corinthians 5:11 "the fear of the Lord" This phrase relates to the judgment seat of Christ mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:10. There is a respect and awe (cf. Acts 5:11; Acts 9:31) due the Judge of the Universe (cf. Hebrews 10:31; Hebrews 12:29; Jude 1:22-23)! Believers are motivated to live godly lives and share the gospel by the knowledge that each will give an account to God.

The title "Lord" can refer to YHWH or Jesus. The phrase "fear of the Lord" is common in the Septuagint, referring to YHWH. However, it is also a common NT title for Jesus. Judgment belongs to YHWH, but He has allocated it to His incarnated Son.

"we persuade men" In context this could refer to several specific groups of people.

1. unbelievers (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10)

2. false teachers (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:12)

3. weak believers (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:11-12)

Paul's ministry fulfilled the Great Commission both in evangelism (cf. Matthew 28:19) and also discipleship (cf. Matthew 28:20).

"we are made manifest to God" This is a perfect passive indicative. Paul boldly asserts that God fully and completely knows his motives and intents (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2). See note at 2 Corinthians 2:14.

"we are made manifest also in your consciences" This is a perfect passive infinitive. Paul is returning to a previous thought expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:2. His ministry with them had been completely open and honest. Paul wanted this church to understand his ministry motives and actions as clearly as God knew them.

"consciences" See full note at 2 Corinthians 1:12.

2 Corinthians 5:12 "commending ourselves" See full note at 2 Corinthians 3:1.

"so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart" Ministry motives and methods are crucial! Apparently Paul is comparing his with other leaders in the Corinthian church (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2, also note 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Some leaders were all show and no substance.

"proud. . .pride" These are both forms of the term kauchçma. There is an appropriate boasting (i.e., the church is proud of Paul) and inappropriate pride (i.e., the boasting of the false teachers). See SPECIAL TOPIC: BOASTING at 1 Corinthians 5:6.

"appearance" See full note at 2 Corinthians 1:11.

2 Corinthians 5:13 "if. . .if" These are both first class conditional sentences, which are assumed true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

NASB, NKJV, NRSV"besides ourselves" TEV"really insane" NJB"unreasonable"

This is the Greek term "stand" (histçmi, see Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 15:1) with the preposition "out of" (ek). It can be used of

1. amazement (cf. Matthew 12:23; Mark 5:42)

2. fear (cf. Mark 16:8; Luke 5:26)

3. a trance (cf. Acts 10:10; Acts 11:5; Acts 22:17)

4. loss of senses or mad (cf. Mark 3:21; 2 Corinthians 5:13)

It is difficult to know exactly to what Paul is referring. Many commentators relate it to 2 Corinthians 11:1, 2 Corinthians 11:16; 2 Corinthians 12:11. However, a different word is used: "foolish." In these chapters Paul compares his spiritual experience and qualifications to the charismatic false teachers. Possibly this is a comment that these fake teachers had made referring to Paul.

"we are of sound mind, it is for you" Paul certainly had his moments of spiritual ecstacy (cf. Acts 9:0; 1 Corinthians 14:5, 1 Corinthians 14:18; 2 Corinthians 12:0), but for ministry he lived and presented the gospel with clarity and thoughtfulness, in line with the cultural expectations of the group to which he ministered (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

2 Corinthians 5:14 "For the love of Christ" Grammatically this is either: "Christ's love for us" (i.e., subjective genitive) or "our love for Christ" (i.e., objective genitive). In this context option #1 is best.

NASB"controls" NKJV"constrains" NRSV"urges" TEV"ruled" NJB"overwhelms"

This term means "to hold together tightly." Love constrains our options and actions. The nature of the gospel mandates appropriate action; in this case death to selfish ambitions and lifestyle.

"one died for all" The universal love of God is seen in Christ as He died for Jew and Gentile (cf. Ephesians 2:11-13). All humans are potentially saved in Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19; John 3:16-18; John 4:42; Romans 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:14). Verses 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 are in a parallel relationship. Christ's vicarious atonement (cf. Isaiah 53:0) is emphasized three times. This same truth is expressed in Romans 5:12-21. It is often called the Adam/Christ typology (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:0).

"therefore all died" Theologically believers are joined with Christ's death at their baptism. His death gives us forgiveness and eternal life (cf. Romans 6:0).

As we are identified in His death we are also to be identified in His sacrificial life for others (cf. 1 John 3:16). Selfish, self-centered living is inappropriate for blood-bought believers (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15).

In Synonyms of the Old Testament, Robert B. Girdlestone has a good discussion on this new connotation of "death" for believers.

"Our Lord said to His disciples (Matthew 16:28), 'There are some standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.' The words are given in another form by St. Mark (9. 1), 'There are some who shall not taste of death until they see the kingdom of God come with power.' See also Luke 9:27.

The object of this passage was to prepare the minds of the disciples for the grand truth that death, which had been hitherto the terror of the world, was to lose its taste or sting in the case of those who united themselves to the Lord by faith. Christ Himself was to die, He was to suffer the pains of death, His soul was to be exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and to deliver them who through fear of death had been all their lives subject to bondage. He thus introduced a new view of life and death, telling His disciples that he who would save his life by denying the Lord, should lose it, whilst he who was willing to lose his life for the Lord's sake, the same should save it. The Lord would be ashamed of the one on the Great Day, but would confess the other.

The entrance into a new life which takes place through faith in Christ involves death in another sense. It is a cutting off of human nature from its old modes and principles of existence-in other words, it is death to sin. Just as in physical dissolution the body ceases to feel, the heart to beat, the hands to work, and the feet to walk, so in this mystical death the body and all its members are to be no longer servants to sin; the same breach or gulf is to be made between the Christian and sin as there is between a dead man and the outer world in which he used to live and move and have his being. This death is related to the crucifixion of Christ, who 'died to sin.' The believer is baptized into Christ's death, he dies with Christ, is made conformable to His death, is crucified with Christ (Romans 6:5; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:19, Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:20, Colossians 2:3. 3)" (pp.285, 286).

2 Corinthians 5:15 Verse 15 parallels and defines 2 Corinthians 5:14. This is such an important truth. Salvation is free, but Christlike living costs everything we are and have (cf. Galatians 2:20)!

NASB, NKJV"rose again" NRSV, TEV, NJB"was raised"

This is an aorist passive participle with an unexpressed agent. The NT often attributes the works of redemption to all three persons of the Godhead.

1. God the Father raised Jesus (cf. Acts 2:24; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30; Acts 10:40; Acts 13:30, Acts 13:33, Acts 13:34, Acts 13:37; Acts 17:31; Romans 6:4, Romans 6:9; Romans 8:11; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10)

2. God the Son raised Himself (cf. John 2:19-22; John 10:17-18)

3. God the Spirit raised Jesus (cf. Romans 8:11)

Verses 16-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 16Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:16 "Therefore from now on" Christ's life and death inaugurated a new age. Everything is different in light of Him (cf. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).

NASB"we recognize no one according to the flesh" NKJV"we regard no one according to the flesh" NRSV"we regard no one from a human point of view" TEV"no longer, do we judge" NJB"we will not consider anyone by human standards"

This may reflect 1 Samuel 16:7; Isaiah 11:3; John 7:24; John 8:15. Jesus has changed every area of evaluation. Human standards are now an inadequate means of judgment (cf. Romans 3:22; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Knowing Christ changes us (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17).

This may reflect that some within the Corinthian church had attempted to evaluate Paul, his gospel, and his ministry (cf. chapters 4, 11, and 12).

What this does not mean is that Paul considered the historical Jesus unimportant or even contrasted with the glorified Christ. Paul mentions Jesus' earthly life, teaching, and redemptive acts (i.e., cross, resurrection) often. Paul is referring to human evaluation (i.e., knowing according to the flesh). Redemption allows believers to view all of life and history in a new Christ-centered light. Human history turns into salvation history. The man Jesus becomes the Messiah, the promised One. His life and teachings become inspired Scripture. Israel's history must be reinterpreted in light of Him!

For "flesh" see Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 1:26.

2 Corinthians 5:17 "if" This is another first class conditional sentence like those in 2 Corinthians 5:13 and 16.

"in Christ" This is one of Paul's favorite metaphors to describe the Christian. It speaks of our position in Christ.

NASB"new creature" NKJV, NRSV, NJB, NIV"new creation" TEV"new being"

Paul also personifies creation in Romans 8:18-25. He characterizes God's new creation, new age, age of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15. Believers should live like citizens of the new age (cf. Romans 6:4).


"the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" Notice the purposeful interchange of verb tenses.

1. "old things passed away" This is aorist tense in the indicative mood often refers to a completed act in past time. This refers to conversion.

2. "new things have come" This is perfect tensewhich refers to a past completed act with abiding results. This refers to discipleship.

There is a Greek manuscript variant which reflects "all things" in the final clause (i.e., MS D2). This type of clarifying addition is common for the later scribes. The oldest Greek manuscripts (i.e., MSS P46, א,B, C, D*, F, G) end with kaina. The UBS4 gives this reading an "A" rating (certain).

This concept of "new" is part of OT terminology for the eschaton. The OT prophets spoke of this new age.

1. "new things" (cf. Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:19; Jeremiah 31:22)

2. "new covenant" (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34)

3. "new heart, new spirit" (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26)

4. "new name" (cf. Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 56:5; Isaiah 65:15)

5. "new song" (cf. Psalms 96:1; Psalms 96:1; Isaiah 42:10)

6. "new heavens and new earth" (cf. Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22)

This eschatological newness had come in Jesus, but the old was still present. The new has not been fully consummated. The overlapping of the Jewish "two ages" (see Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 1:20) by Jesus' two comings was unforseen by OT prophets though they did depict the Messiah in lowly servant terms as well as victorious royal terms.

2 Corinthians 5:18 "Now all these things are from God" It is God's love that sent the Son into the world (cf. John 3:16). Salvation is totally from God (see Special Topic at 2 Corinthians 8:16-17, cf. John 6:44, John 6:65; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:8-9), but believers must respond and continue to respond to the new covenant in repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance.

"reconciled" This is a major theological truth. The word basically means to exchange or change and thereby to bring together that which was alienated. Rebellious humans have been brought back into fellowship with God through Christ. God exchanged Christ's righteousness (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21) for their sin. Christ died in our place (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

This context (i.e., 2 Corinthians 5:16-21) and Romans 5:10-11 are the definitive passages on this theological term. Sinners are now friends, even family, with the Holy One. Restoration of the fellowship damaged in the Fall (cf. Genesis 3:0) has been made complete in Christ.

A discussion of "reconciliation" as a theological concept is in Frank Stagg's New Testament Theology, pp. 102-104, 142.

"and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" Theologically this is parallel to 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. Jesus became believers' reconciliation, now they must become the means of sharing the gospel of reconciliation with others. Believers share in Jesus' death and we share in His ministry (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19). Christlike service is the goal (cf. 1 John 3:16). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SERVANT LEADERSHIP at 1 Corinthians 4:1.

2 Corinthians 5:19 "God was in Christ" This is the main issue of Christianity. Was God (i.e., the God, the OT YHWH), in Jesus of Nazareth, reconciling the world to Himself (cf. Galatians 1:3-4)? If so, Christianity is true; if not, it is false. Is Jesus truly the fullness of God (cf. John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:15-16; Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 1:2-3)? Is He truly the only way to reconciliation and forgiveness (cf. John 14:6)? If so, then the gospel is the most important information that people will ever hear! We must tell the truth; we must preach the gospel; we must lift up Christ; we must offer a free salvation to a lost world.

"the world" God loves the world (cf. John 3:16). The world can be saved (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Kosmos at 1 Corinthians 3:21-22.

"not counting their trespasses against them" This may reflect Psalms 32:2, which is quoted in Romans 4:6-8. Before the Law, sin was not imputed to individuals (cf. Romans 4:15; Romans 5:13-14; Acts 17:30). But this text has an even greater truth. In the face of known human rebellion there is forgiveness in Christ. Jesus' blood cleanses from all sin! Sin is no longer the barrier between God and mankind, but now it is

1. unbelief

2. rejection of faith in Christ

3. unwillingness to respond to God's offer

"not counting" This is the term logizomai, which is used thirty-four times by Paul, but in two completely different senses. The first can be seen in 2 Corinthians 3:5, "consider." See the full note there.

The second is "counting" or "imputing." This sense is clearly seen in Romans 4:3, Romans 4:4, Romans 4:5, Romans 4:6, Romans 4:8, Romans 4:9, Romans 4:10, Romans 4:11, Romans 4:22, Romans 4:23, Romans 4:24, and Galatians 3:6. This theological usage implies depositing something into someone else's bank account.

God imputes the righteousness of Jesus into our account (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). Also God does not count or impute sin to our account. What an amazing God! What an effective Savior!

"He has committed to us the word of reconciliation" A lost world is not on the doorstep of a powerless, loveless God, but is on the doorstep of an apathetic, unconcerned church. We have the message; we have the keys of the Kingdom (cf. Matthew 16:19; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7). We have the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 8:9, Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14). We have the marching orders of Jesus (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). What will we do?

Verses 20-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:20 "we are ambassadors for Christ" To whom does the "we" and "you" in this verse refer? Is Paul speaking to the church? If so the "we" is Paul and his missionary team and the "you," believers at Corinth. These people did not need to be saved, but they did need to be brought back into unity.

Notice that Paul does not say believers should be ambassadors, but that they are ambassadors. This is similar to Jesus' statements in Matthew 5:13-16. Believers are salt and light. The question is what kind of salt and light. This is the question here. Believers are Christ's representatives, but what kind of ambassadors are they: factious, heretical, unloving, etc.?

"beg" See full note at 2 Corinthians 1:4-11.

"be reconciled to God" This is a present passive imperative. Is this a command to lost people or to saved people? The larger context is mandating an appropriate lifestyle on the part of believers. Jesus saved us from sin and strife; we are saved to serve! We are called to Christlike ministry, not personal agendas.

This context has a message to a lost, needy world-Christ died for you (positional righteousness). This context has a message for a factious, unloving church-Christ died for you (progressive righteousness).

The passive voice could be translated "let God reconcile you to Himself"; "allow yourselves to be reconciled" (cf. The Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 281); or "let God change you from enemies into his friends" (cf. TEV). Believers proclaim the truth, the Spirit convicts the lost, the Son provides the means, and the Father accomplishes His will through covenant response.

2 Corinthians 5:21 This text has several great truths.

1. God sent Jesus to die for us (cf. John 3:16). Jesus came to die for us (cf. Mark 10:45).

2. Jesus knew no sin (cf. John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).

3. The goal is personal righteousness, serving Christlikeness (cf. Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 1:15). However, there is a note of contingency (subjunctive mood). All believers do not fully realize God's complete purpose in salvation. It is a call to service, a call to self denial, a call to holiness. Christianity only begins when one trusts Christ. Belief is only the first step of a long journey.

NASB"to be sin on our behalf" NKJV"to be sin for us" NRSV"to be sin" TEV"share our sin" NJB"a victor for sin"

How did God make Jesus become sin? This may be an OT allusion to a sin offering (cf. Isaiah 53:0; Romans 8:3). God offered Jesus as the sinless lamb (cf. John 1:29, John 1:36).

I think Jesus' words from the cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me" (cf. Mark 15:34), which is a quote from Psalms 22:0, reflects the spiritual reality of the Father turning away from the Son (i.e., symbolized by the darkness, cf. Mark 15:33), as He bore the sin of the world. This is theologically parallel to Galatians 3:13, "having become a curse for us"!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/2-corinthians-5.html. 2021.
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