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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 5

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NTBurkitt's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

Observe here, 1. Our apostle compares the body of a believer to an house, to an earthly house, and to an house of tabernacle: to an house, because of its comely fabric and composure, as also in regard of the inhabitant that dwells in it, the never-dying soul; to an earthly house, in regard of the means by which it is sustained; and to an house of tabernacle, because such buildings consist of slight and mean materials, they are soon set up, and as soon taken down.

Observe, 2. The necessity of this earthly tabernacle of the body's dissolution by death; it must lie down, and be dissolved.

3. The believer's future happiness, after the body's present dissolution, asserted and declared: They have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Learn hence, 1. That it is the pleasure and will of God that his people should for a short time remain in this earthly tabernacle of the body.

Learn, 2. That this earthly tabernacle of the believer's body, sooner or later, must by death be dissolved.

Learn, 3. That after the dissolution of this earthly tabernacle of the body, all the faithful have an eternal habitation, a building of God, not made with hands, in the highest heavens.

Learn, 4. that it is both the duty and interest of every sincere and serious Christian, to labour for the certain knowledge and full assurance of this happy privilege, and be able to say, We know, &c.

Verse 2

For in this, that is, in this ruinous earthly tabernacle.

Observe here, The strength and vehemency of the saints' affection, we groan; the word signifies such a groaning as of a man that has a load or burden lying upon him, which makes him fetch his wind from his very bowels: as there are groans which proceed from sorrow, so there are groans which arise from desire and hope. Thus here, We groan, earnestly desiring.

Observe, 2. What is the subject which the apostle's groaning desires were carried out after; namely, to be clothed with a celestial body, instead of that clogging body of earthly corruption which here they carried about with them, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon, &c.

Learn thence, That such as do believe and wait for a blessed immortality, do groan for it, and earnestly desire it, because of the miseries and pressures by sin and sorrow in this present life; because they have already a taste of the happiness and glory of the life to come; and because the Holy Spirit doth excite and stir up these groaning desires in the hearts of believers; Romans 8:23 We also, that have the first fruits of the Spirit, do groan within ourselves.

Verse 3

That is, if so be, at our passage hence, we shall have the happiness to be of the number of those who are found clothed with glory, or clothed with holiness and good works, to fit us for our clothing in glory; that we may not be found naked, in our natural turpitude of sin and spiritual nakedness, which will render us abominable in the sight of God.

Learn hence, That none can groan or long for heaven but such as are clothed with a gospel-righteousness, that of justification, sanctification, and new obedience: none shall be clothed upon with glory hereafter, but such as are clothed with grace and holiness here.

Verse 4

Note here, That this groaning desire again mentioned by the apostle in this verse, with respect to the burden of the body, to get rid of it, is not either an unnatural desire, or a discontented desire, or a desire of death as death, or a desire to be unhoused, and without clothing for the soul; but he would be better clothed with a celestial body, that his mortal part might be swallowed up by immortal glory. As if the apostle had said, "As weary as I am of life, by means of sin and sorrow, by reason of corruption and affliction, yet I would not barely for the sake of that desire a dissolution, but for the hope's sake of eternal and immortal life."

Learn hence, 1. That whilst the saints live in this earthly, mortal body, they are burdened with a heavy load of sin and affliction.

2. That believers, thus burdened, do in an holy manner groan and long for a better state.

3. That in that better state mortality shall be swallowed up of life.

4. That in that life we shall be clothed again with our own bodies, glorious and heavenly: We groan, not to be unclothed, but clothed upon.

Verse 5

That is, he that hath wrought and appointed us, he that hath prepared and fitted us, for this glorious change, and hath set our souls a-longing for this immortal state, is God; who hath also given us by his Spirit those holy affections, fervent desires, and faithful endeavours, which are the earnest of heaven before we enjoy it.

Learn hence, 1. That Almighty God doth fit and frame his people for that happy state of bliss and glory, which he has designed them for, and appointed them unto: He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God.

Learn, 2. That to the intent his saints may look and long for that glorious and immortal state with the greater vehemency and desire, he has already given them an earnest and foretaste of it, by his Holy Spirit in their hearts.

Verse 6

We are confident, that is, by the Holy Spirit comfortably assured of a better state. They who have the earnest of the Spirit may be confident of their future glorious state.

Or, we are confident; that is, we are of good courage, fearing neither death nor danger in the way of our duty, knowing that whilst we are at home here in the body, that is, whilst sojourning in the body as pilgrims and strangers, we are absent from the Lord; that is, we are detained from the blessed sight and enjoyment of God, and kept out of the possession of that happiness which makes heaven. Here the apostle plainly intimates, that whilst we remain in the body, we are detained from our happiness; and that as soon as we leave the body, we shall be admitted to our happiness.

Learn, 1. That a Christian is not in his own proper home whilst he sojourneth in the body, and lives in his earthly tabernacle here below. His birth and parentage are from heaven, his treasure and inheritance in heaven, his kindred, and relations, and best friends are there, and there shall he longest abide.

Learn, 2. That the true reason why the saints count themselves here not at home, is because they are absent from the Lord whilst present in the body: Whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.

Verse 7

That is, our condition here in this world is such, that we cannot see God face to face, but by faith only; whilst we are in the body, we do not see and enjoy, but believe and expect. Faith is the thing in expectation: sight is the thing in fruition; faith is a cloudy discovery of things at a distance; sight is a clear view and apprehension of things that are present.

Learn, 1. That faith is for earth, and sight is for heaven.

2. That till we have sight, it is a great advantage that we have faith.

3. That if we now have faith, we may be well assured that ere long we shall have sight.

Verse 8

The original words, for we are confident and willing, denote first, courage and undaunted boldness with respect to death, and complacency and satifaction in it. We are willing; the translation is too flat; evdoxdmev, we are well pleased. It is a grateful and desirable thing to us to leave the body: yet not in an absolute, but comparative consideration. We are willing rather; that is, rather than not see and enjoy the Lord, rather than be always here sinning and groaning, we had rather be absent from the body, and present with the Lord.

Learn, 1. That our happiness in the world to come lies in our being present with the Lord.

2. That we are present with the Lord as soon as the soul quits and takes its leave and farewell of the body.

3. That a state of separation from the body is much more preferable to the saints than that of dwelling in the body.

4. That this desire, preference, and choice, arises from that confident assurance which they have of a better state, and of their interest in it; We are confident, I say, &c.

Verse 9

The word signifies, to labour ambitiously, as an ambitious courtier labours for his prince's favour. We labour, whether present in the body, or absent from the body, whether living or dying, that our persons and our services may be accepted with him whenever we appear before him.

Learn, 1. That to be accepted with the Lord is a very high honour. To have our persons accepted, and our performances acceptable, are high favours; the former is the ground of the latter, and Christ is the foundation of both, Ephesians 1:6.

Learn, 2. That it is a gracious person's great ambition and desire, his aim and scope, his design and endeavour, that living and dying he may find acceptance with God, and his actions be such as God may well like and approve of: We ambitiously labour, that whether present or absent we may be accepted of him.

Verse 10

These words are fully descriptive of a future judgment.

In which observe, 1. The necessity of a future judgment, We must, willing or unwilling.

2. The universality of this judgment, We must all.

3. The person by whom, and before whom, we must be judged, Christ.

4. The manner of this judgment, All must appear, and be made manifest, both persons and actions.

5. The matter about which we shall be judged, The things done in the body.

6. The end of all this inquisiton, to be punished or rewarded according to our actions.

Learn, 1. That there will certainly come a day, when every person that ever lived in this world, shall be judged by Jesus Christ: We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.

Learn, 2. That every man's judgment and sentence at the great day shall proceed and be pronounced according to what he has done in the flesh, be it food or bad, that every one may receive the things done in his body, &c.

Verse 11

That is, knowing the terror and dread of that terrible and dreadful day in which Christ will judge the whole race of mankind; and being persuaded of the truth and certainty of it ourselves, we endeavour to persuade all men by all means to fly from the wrath to come, by repentance and faith, that they may be found of God in peace in that solemn hour.

Learn hence, That the knowledge and consideration of the present terrible judgments of God, and the future terrors of that great day, should move the ministers of God to persuade, and the people to be persuaded, to a careful and serious preparation for it. Such ministers as know and consider the terrors of the Lord, will both persuade others, and be persuaded themselves, to look after reconciliation and acceptance with God; that when Christ comes terribly, they may appear comfortably: Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men. It follows, But we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. As if he had said, We hope God hath discovered our sincerity unto you in some measure, as he is an observer of it, and witness to it himself.

Learn hence, That then a minister has the full assurance of his sincerity, when he has the approbation of God and his own conscience, and also a testimony in the consciences of his people. This is gained by the purity of our doctrine, by piety of our lives, and by the prudence of our conduct. When these are evident and manifest to the consciences of our people, how convincing is it to them, and comfortable unto us!

Verse 12

As if our apostle had said, "We commend not ourselves to you upon our own account, as if there were any need of it, with respect to us; but only to give you an occasion to vindicate us; and to glory to others on our behalf, when need requires, that you may have wherewith to answer the calumnies of the false apostles, who gloried much in outward appearance of piety and zeal, but not in purity of heart and upright intentions."

Learn hence, That though the ministers of Christ have no itching desire to exalt themselves in a way of self-commendation, yet they are sometimes constrained to it in a way of self-vindication, and this is not only lawful but a duty; because scandals cast upon a good man reach farther than himself, yea, they reflect upon God himself: therefore to be wiped off and rolled away.

Verse 13

The holy apostle was sometimes so zealously transported and carried forth in his high actings for Jesus Christ, that the false apostles represented him as a frantic person, crazy, mad, and what not; "Be it so, (says the holy man,) it is unto God, in his cause, and to propagate his glory, and not my own: or if I be sober in my words and actions, it is for your benefit, not my own."

Learn hence, That wicked and carnal men account and represent the holy servants of God as a sort of madmen. Workings of grace are sometimes so far above reason, that they seem to be without reason: there are several acts of holiness, which the profane world esteem as madness; as eminent self-denial, great seriousness in religion, their burning zeal, their holy singularity, their fervours of devotion, their patience and meekness under sufferings and reproaches. All these acts of holiness represent the saints as madmen to carnal men.

Verse 14

That is, the infinite love of Christ in dying for us, constraineth us to live unto him, and do the utmost services for him. Some understand it passively, for the love that Christ beareth us; others take it actively, for that love which we bear to him. Now this love is said to constrain. Some think it a metaphor from a woman in travail, that strives to be delivered of her burden; others, that it signifies to have one bound, and so much under power, that he cannot move without leave. The expression denotes the absolute empire which the love of Christ had over him, ruling all the inclinations of the heart, and the actions of his life. It signifies the sweet violence and force of love, by which the soul is overpowered, and cannot say nay; it does wholly possess us, rule and command us, keep us in its power, and makes us do whatever it would have us do.

Learn hence, That the love of Christ has such a constraining power, and obliging force and efficacy upon the soul, that it inclines it to a willing performance of all duties, though attended with the greatest difficulties and dangers. Love is the spring of action, 'tis a forcible and compelling, 'tis an invicible, unconquerable affection: and it has such an influence from the consideration of what Christ is in himself, and of what he has done for us, and designed for us.

Verse 15

If one died for all, then were all dead. Some understand it of a death in sin; all were in a state of sin and death when Christ died for them. Others understand it mystically, when Christ died for all, all were then dead; that is, dead in Christ unto sin; intimating, that when Christ died, all believers were dead in him to sin and the world. As Christ died for sin, so ought all to die unto sin.

Farther, Christ dying once for all, proveth the verity of his satisfaction, and the sufficiency of his satisfaction. What virtue was there in that death which merited life for all! And what love was there in our God to appoint one for all, and to accept one for all! That some so worthy in himself, that one so dear to God, should die, should die so willingly, should die so painfully, should die so shamefully, should die under a curse, to absolve from guilt, and discharge from condemnation! Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us!

Observe next, The great end and design of Christ in his death and resurrection for us; namely,

1. Negatively declared, that we should not live unto ourselves, to our own ease, profit, or honour; gratifying our own wills, inclinations, and corrupt desires, serving our own interests and ends: but, positively, to live unto him, according to his word and will, in obedience to his commands, and with an eye at this glory, who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.

Had Christ only died for us, the favour had been inexpressible and unrequitable, and required us to live to his name and glory; but when he not only died for us, but rose again, and lives forever in heaven, to pour down fresh benefits upon us, and to do good offices daily and hourly for us, how endearing are our obligations to love him, and to live unto him!

Learn hence, 1. That by virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, Christians are both obliged to, and have obtained the grace of, newness of life, and holiness of conversation.

Learn, 2. That it is the duty, and will be the endeavour, of all those that are quickened by the Spirit of Christ unto newness of life, to refer all their actions not to themselves, but unto him: none can do both, live to Christ and self together. His we are already; by creation, by redemption, by sanctification, by voluntary resignation, we live by him. Our spiritual life is from him; we expect hereafter to live with him; let us therefore now live unto him, even unto him that died for us, and rose again.

Verse 16

These words probably were spoken by the apostle to rebuke the carnal boastings of some Jews, who gloried in their having seen Christ in the flesh before he died; the apostle directs them to a more spirtual knowledge of him, now since his resurrection, as more suitable to his gloried state: q.d. "What though you have eaten and drunk in Christ's presence when on earth, all that corporeal familiarity is ceased; it is his spiritual gracious presence which now you are to depend upon, and value yourselves by." For henceforth know we no man after the flesh: we value no man for his outward advantages, for his wisdom, riches, or learning. Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, seeing and conversing with him when here on earth, yet must we know him so, and enjoy him as such, no more. Our carnal affections and relations to him must ever cease, now he is exalted into a spiritual and glorious condition.

Learn hence, 1. That a bare knowing of Christ after the flesh ought to cease among Christians. There is a knowledge of Christ after the flesh, since his ascension into heaven, namely, by a naked profession of his name without a conformity to his laws, and by acts of sensitive affection. Some by reading the history of our Saviour's passion, others by seeing in the sacramental elements a tragical representation of his crucifixion, do find their human passions stir and move; but if it rests here, without drawing forth our love to his person , and quickening our obedience to his commands; all this is but knowing Christ after the flesh to not spiritual or saving purposes.

Learn, 2. That a bare knowledge of Christ after the flesh will do us no good, be of no comfort or advantage to us, as to our eternal salvation. It is not a fond affection to his person and memory, but obedience to his laws, that Christ values.

It is observable, that an outward ceremonious respect to our Saviour's person was very little regarded by him when he was here upon earth; a serious attention to his doctrine was infinitely preferred by him before all that. Our love to Christ is better shown by religious services, than by passionate affections.

We find, John 20:17 when Mary fell at Christ's feet, after he was risen, and embraced him, when she held him by the foot and worshipped him, when in an humble and affectionate devotion she lies prostrate before him, Christ forbids it, Touch me not. He rejects all these eternal testimonies of her love, which proceeded only from human affection; but he directs her to a more acceptable service, namely, to run and carry tidings of his resurrection to his disconsolate disciples, Go to my disciples, and say, &c.

From whence I infer, That it is much more acceptable to Christ to be about his service, and doing good to our place and station, than performing any offices of human love and respect unto his person. Seeing, then, that this ceremonious respect pleased Christ, neither when on earth, nor now he is in heaven, henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we him no more.

Verse 17

As if the apostle had said, "If any one amongst you pretend to be a Christian indeed, ingrafted into Christ, by baptism and regeneration, and is a member of his body; he is by regeneration made a new man, all the faculties of his soul are renewed: his principles, affections, and practices, are all new: Old things are passed, or passing away daily, the old carnal inclinations of mind are wearing off, the old will is changed, the old life is reformed; and in a word, whatever was old and carnal, is now beome new and spiritual." Behold all things are become new : new affections, new inclinations, new dispositions, a new course, and a new conversation. Nothing is new physically; he is the same person, he has the same faculties: but all things are new qualitatively; he is renewed in the spirit of his mind.

Learn hence, 1. That all such as call themselves the disciples of Christ, and own themselves to be his followers, are and ought to be new creatures. This implies a real and inward, a thorough and prevailing change, both in heart and life; not a civil change, barely from profaneness to sobriety; not a sudden change, only under some great affliction or awakening providence; not a change from one sect or party of professors to another; but the change of the new creature consists in a new mind, a new will, a new judgment, new affections; in a new conversation, not in a new form and profession; the change of the new creature introduces the life of God, and produces the nearest likeness to God.

Learn, 2. That this new creation, wrought in a man by the word and Spirit God, is an indubitable evidence of his interest in Christ, and title to salvation; for where the new creature is, there all the saving graces of the Spirit are, as a pledge and an earnest of glory and happpiness.

Verse 18

That is, all those things forementioned belonging to this new spiritual creation, are of God, as the author and efficient cause of them.

Learn, That God is the original author of the new creature, and of all things belonging thereunto. This appears partly from the nature of the work, 'tis a new creation; and partly from the objects of the work, the persons wrought upon. They are averse from God, in enmity to him, and rebellion against him, dead in sin, under the dominion of Satan. Well therefore might the apostle say, All these things are of God.

Verse 19

In these words the apostle gives us a short but full account of the grand doctrine of a sinner's reconciliation unto God by the death of Christ, which is the principal subject and substantial part of the gospel.

Where observe, 1. The privilege itself, reconciliation; this is two-fold; fundamental, in the death of Christ, he is our peace: God laid the foundation of our peace and reconciliation with himself in the death of his Son: actual, in the application of it, on our part, by faith. The death of Christ rendered God reconcileable. Faith renders him actually reconciled.

Observe, 2. The Author of this reconciliation, God the Father: he was the Person wronged by sin, declaring his anger against the sinner: hence we are said to have access to the Father through Christ, and by the Spirit. The Son brings us to the Father, and the Spirit directs us to the Son; Christ takes away God's enmity against us, and the Spirit takes away our enmity against God.

Observe, 3. The medium or mean by which we become reconciled to God, Jesus Christ; Christ was the meritorious cause of this privilege; Christ is the centre of that agreement between the justice of God and the mercy of God.

Observe, 4. The parties at variance, and made one by reconciliation: God and the world, God and mankind. Almighty God, in consideration of Christ's death, did so far reconcile and forgive the offending world, as to offer them pardon of sin, and salvation by a Redeemer, upon a conditon of their believing acceptance: but none are actually reconciled but believers, who actually accept the terms and conditions of peace and reconciliation by faith, which is a necessary receptive qualification.

Learn hence, That there is an happy peace and reconciliation made in and by Jesus Christ, between an offended God and an offending world.

Reconciliation is a repairing of decayed friendship, or the making up of a breach between two that were formerly friends, but now at variance. The reconciliation is mutual, because the enmity is such; yet the scripture speaks more of our being reconciled to God, than of God's being reconciled tu us, because we are in the fault, and not God; we the cause of the breach, we offended God, not God us; and because we have the benefit of this reconciliation, and not God, 'tis no profit to him that we are at peace with him; and because all the difficulty of being reconciled lies on our part, and not God's.

Verse 20

Observe here, 1. The minister's office and employment declared: they are ambassadors for Christ; ambassadors from God to man, and as ambassadors they have their mission, their commission, from a great Prince, about great concerns; they must be faithful to their instructions, they are inviolable by the law of nations, and their embassy must be received upon pain of displeasure.

Where let us remark the wonderful goodness and wisdom of God, in appointing men of the same level with us, and not angels superior to us, to dispense the mystery of reconciliation to us. As God deals more familiarly with us in this way, (for we cannot bear the voice of God, or the sight of angels,) so there is more certainty in this way, because ministers must deceive their own souls, if they deceive us: and and herein God magnifies his own power, and lets us know, that the efficacy of the gospel is from him the Author, and not from man the dispenser.

Observe, 2. The minister's duty discovered: in God's name, and Christ's stead, to entreat, beseech, and persuade sinners to become reconciled unto God.

Here note, 1. That God and man were once friends.

2. That God and man are now enemies.

3. That man, and not God, first made the breach of friendship, and occasioned that unhappy controversy, which is now depending between God and man.

4. That though man was first in the breach, yet God is the first in the offer of reconciliation.

5. That therefore it is the highest duty and chiefest interest of man to accept of terms of peace and reconciliation with God.

6. That in order to all this, the great duty incumbent upon the ministers of the gospel, is this, with all earnestness to press upon people the doctrine of reconciliation, and to use all arguments with them, to persuade them to become reconciled unto God.

Verse 21

Observe here, 1. The spotless innocency of our Lord Jesus Christ, as mediator, declared: He knew no sin; that is, practically and experimentally, he knew it not so as to commit it in the least degree; he was a pure, innocent, and sinless, Person: but theoretically and speculatively he did know sin. He well understood its nature, its effects, and fruits: none knew the bitter fruits of sin so well as our blessed Saviour.

Observe, 2. God's ordination of Christ with reference unto sin, He hath made him to be sin; not made him a sinner, but a sin-offering, a sacrifice for sin. Made; that is, ordained a sacrifice to expiate sin, and to bear the punishment due to sinners.

Observe, 3. The end of this ordination with respect to us, That we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Here note, The righteousness of the Mediator is called the righteousness of God; because,

1. It was the righteousness of that Person who was God.

2. Because the only wise God found out and appointed it.

And, 3. Because it is accepted by God; and the penitent believer, for the sake of it, looked upon as righteous and justified.

Learn hence, 1. That sin must have a sacrifice. He hath made him to be sin; that is, a sin-offering, or a sacrifice to expiate sin. Under the law the sacrifice was called sin, because the sin of the person was laid upon the sacrifice; there was a sort of a translation of the sin from the sinner to the sacrifice.

Learn, 2. That Jesus Christ was made a sacrifice for our sin. Our guilt was imputed to him, and our punishment was borne by him; which made Luther call Christ "the greatest sinner in the world;" not that he had any sin in his nature, or in his life, but because the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Learn, 3. That Jesus Christ being made sin for us, is the meritorious cause and means of our being made the righteousness of God in him. Surely God may be as just in pardoning us, who have no righteousness of our own, as in condemning his own Son, who had no sin of his own.

Have we broken his royal and righteous law? yet Christ has kept it and fulfilled all righteousness, Have we sinned against mercy? yet Christ has suffered without mercy: and all this by the ordination and appointment of God the Father, who made his own and only Son to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/2-corinthians-5.html. 1700-1703.
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