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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
2 Corinthians 5

 

 

Verses 1-9

GLORIFICATION

2 Corinthians 5:1-9.

1. For we know that if our earthly house of the tabernacle be taken down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.” The building here which is liable any time and destined very soon to be taken down, is this tenement of mortal clay. Paul triumphantly assures us that we have another house in Heaven that will never be taken down. It does not mean a mansion in Heaven. Those mansions are worlds innumerable which our Lord is fixing up for the eternal occupancy of His saints in glory. This earth is one of them, destined ere long to be redeemed, sanctified, renovated, celestialized and added back to the glorious retinue of unfallen celestial worlds where it sped its flight in first emanation from the omnific fiat. Paul means here none other than the glorified body which we will occupy and enjoy through all eternity.

2. For in this we groan, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from Heaven.” In these mortal bodies we suffer constant humiliation, aches, pains, wounds, bruises, colds, fevers and a thousand ills incident to mortal probation. Besides, the very weight of the body holds us down here on the earth and keeps us out of Heaven. Again, much attention that we have to give the body is servile and humiliating. Hence we groan in anticipation of coming emancipation.

3. If indeed truly being clothed, we shall not be found naked.” Here we have another idea. While in these mortal bodies we groan and sigh and long for redemption, at the same time sweeping over the chasm of the disembodied state, we contemplate our house in Heaven, i. e., the glorified body, invested in which we will not be found naked.

4. For truly being in the tabernacle we groan, being burdened, not in that we wished to be unclothed, but clothed upon, in order that mortality may be swallowed up of life.” Here we see that Paul’s climacteric aspiration was not simply to get out of this body, which would be a glorious victory, but he had his eye on a vastly grander and more glorious enterprise, i. e., “that mortality may be swallowed up of life,” i. e., that he may be transfigured without ever seeing death. Hence we see in this passage, so vividly portrayed, the uniform Pauline aspiration, i. e., that the Lord may come and translate him to Heaven, so that he may never see death.

5. But He that wrought out us unto this same thing is God, who hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” The wonderful spiritual work already enjoyed by Paul was a prelibation of coming glorification. So the blessed work of entire sanctification in the heart is an advanced payment on the illustrious glorification that awaits us. The same is true of the healing of the body, a blessed privilege in this life. As the perfect and final healing of the body will utterly and eternally take away mortality, of course we can never get it till the body is glorified. Hence all the bodily healing we receive is an earnest of coming glorification.

6. Therefore being always confident, and knowing that being present in the body we are absent from the Lord:

7. For we walk by faith, not by sight:

8. But we are confident and anxious rather to be absent from the body and be present with the Lord.

9. Therefore indeed we strive, whether being present or absent, to be well-pleasing unto Him.” Here we see the complexity of this attitude. His first choice and grandest aspiration is not to be “unclothed,” but to be “clothed upon” with the body which is from Heaven,” that mortality may be swallowed up of life.” Hence we see that the chief desideratum is that the Lord shall return, take up His saints and translate him. In that case he will never be unclothed, i. e., never evacuate his body, but remain in it and rise in his glorified body to meet the Lord in the air and ever be with Him. While that was his first choice (as well as yours and mine), he now expresses a second choice, i. e., to evacuate the body and go “unclothed” to the glorified presence. This he abundantly evinces in the statement that “to be present in the body is to be absent from the Lord.” Therefore, though he does not want to leave the body if he can take it with him, yet he prefers even to evacuate the body in order to go and be present with the Lord. This is his second choice. Then there is but one other alternative, and that is to remain in the body and be absent from the Lord. This is his last choice, and of course he is perfectly acquiescent in the will of God; e. g., first choice, to be translated and soul and body go together to the presence of God; secondly, to evacuate the body, go and leave it; and last of all, to abide in the body and still labor and suffer for the glory of God. So long as we remain in the body we “walk by faith and not by sight,” from the simple fact that we are still on probation and in this dark world, where we can not see God with the natural eye.


Verses 10-17

FINAL JUDGMENT

10. For it behooveth us all to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, in order that each one may receive according to those things which he did in the body, whether good or bad.” Here is an allusion to the final Judgment, the grand appellate court of the universe, where every one will receive according to the things done in the body, whether good or bad. The final Judgment will not be determinative of human destiny so far as Heaven and Hell are concerned, for that is settled when you leave this world; but it will be vindicatory of the Divine administration and elucidatory of the infinitesimal degrees of reward on the part of the righteous and retribution appertaining to the wicked, the latter only being judged for the evil they have done as they lived and died in the devil’s kingdom, where it was impossible to do anything for God; and the former for the good they have done, their sins all being covered with the blood and not mentioned. Hence the judgment of the righteous will be exclusively on the grace side and that of the wicked altogether on the sin side, rewards and retributions being then and there settled for all eternity.

11. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, and have been made manifest unto God: and we hope also to be made manifest in your consciences.” The apostles claim here to be living in the light and approval of God, and having His holy reverence in their hearts and desiring that others may have the same.

12. Here is another castigatory allusion to his enemies, whom he charges with spiritual pride.

13. For whether we are beside ourselves, it is unto God: whether we are in our right minds, it is for you.” His enemies in that day, as in all ages, accused him of insanity. When I was sanctified thirty years ago, all professing the experience were pronounced crazy. Lord, help us to appreciate the Pauline concession. If I am crazy, it is for the Lord.

14. For the Divine love of Christ constraineth us, judging this, that one died for all. Then were all dead.” This is an unanswerable statement, forever settling the problem of universal total depravity. When God says “dead,” depend on it there is no life left. Here He says “all dead.” Hence there is no possible evasion of the conclusion of universal total depravity. The heredity also follows as an irresistible logical sequence, from the simple fact that it is impossible to transmit what we do not possess. Adam had no posterity during the period of spiritual life. Hence all the human race are the offspring of dead Adam. Christ never died for the living. It was not necessary.

15. And He died for all, in order that the living may no longer live unto themselves, but for Him who died in their stead, and arose again.” These passages gloriously cover the ground of the vicarious atonement. These great truths, i. e., hereditary total depravity and the complete vicarious atonement, are fundamental in the revealed Word. If you are deficient there, your foundation is insecure. The sand will give way, and your superstructure will fall, sooner or later. We live in an age flooded with heresies. Solid gospel truth is much at a premium, because very scarce.

16. This verse does not prove that Paul had met Christ before His crucifixion, as he had finished his education at Jerusalem and gone back to Cilicia before our Lord entered upon His ministry, and returned no more to Jerusalem till after Pentecost, but he saw Him on the Damascus road and three years afterward in the temple at Jerusalem, when He gave him his commission to the Gentiles, calling him to the apostleship.

17. If any one is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, they have become new.” “All things” (E. V.) in this passage is an interpolation, hence Zinzendorfian argument founded on it falls to the ground. It does not in the least favor the dogma of getting full salvation in regeneration. It simply says when you become a new creature, “old things have passed away; behold, they have become new”; i. e., your old habits, ways and works have passed away, and you have a new life in every respect. This does not imply the complete and radical renewal of your nature, nor argue that you may not profit by a second work of grace.


Verses 18-20

RECONCILIATION

18-20. All things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

19. As that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their transgressions to them, and having placed in us the word of reconciliation.” Christ is both God and man, hence perfectly qualified for the mediatorial office between the two. God is already fully reconciled to all the world through the vicarious atonement of Christ. So fully and completely is He reconciled that there is not the slightest legal necessity for the death of any sinner in all the world. Hence the work of the ministry is all on the human side, i. e., to get man reconciled to God.

20. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as God entreating you through us: we pray you in behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God.” Hence you see the Christian ministry are sent into all the world as ambassadors from Christ to prevail over the people to be reconciled to God. It is an old maxim, “Facit qua per alium, quis facit per se” — What one does through another he does through himself. Hence we are sent into the world to do the very work of Christ Himself, i. e., to reconcile this wicked, lost world to God. It is a deplorable pity to see multiplied millions rushing into Hell, lost to all eternity as heir gratuity. This appalling reflection on themselves methinks will prove the hottest fire-brand with which infuriated devils will lash the lost soul through all eternity. “I might as well have gone up to Heaven as down to Hell. God sent His only beloved Son to die in my place to keep me out of this awful doom. He prepared for me a sweet home in Heaven, but I would not have it. Verily, I die as the fool dieth, without a solitary reason to palliate my awful fate.” All we have to do is to get the people to be reconciled to God, as He is already reconciled to them.


Verse 21

SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT

21. He made Him heir who knew no sin, in our behalf, that we may become the righteousness of God in Him.” This verse is wonderful and paradoxical in the extreme. Translators generally soften it by inserting “sin offering,” which is not in the original and will not do, because it breaks up the antithesis with righteousness. This settles the question of absolute substitution beyond the possibility of cavil, affirming that God made him sin (i. e., the noun sin), not in an active sense, which would be shocking, but in a passive sense, in our behalf, so that He actually punished all of the sin of the ages in His own beloved Son. This accounts for His turning His face away when the dying Savior hung on the cross. That was the crucial moment when He laid the sin of the whole world on Him and “made Him sin” (noun), instead of us. We tread lightly on ground so awful. We must give it to you as it is. It is too awful for anything like criticism to be indulged. This is the irrefutable climax of the substitutionary atonement, involving the unequivocal conclusion that He not only took the sin of the whole world on Himself, but that He became the personal substitute for every human being involved in the Fall. Hence we have nothing to do but become the “righteousness of God in Him.” Here is imputed righteousness. When the sinner by simple faith casts himself on the mercy of God in Christ, He invariably imputes to him His own righteousness in Christ. This is the only hope of a guilty world. Human efforts are in vain. If we could be justified by obedience to law, the Son of God might have stayed in Heaven. This was the very reason He came and died in our room and stead, because there was no other hope. Do you believe in imputed righteousness? I do. If righteousness were not imputed to the sinner there would be no hope for him, as the Holy Spirit is not obtained to regenerate him till the law is satisfied and he is justified. This must be done through a mediator. Hence while the sinner is under the law and condemned to death eternal, God imputes to him the righteousness of Christ, justifying Him freely for Christ’s sake alone, when in the utter abandonment of all sin he casts himself on the mercy of God in Christ. Does not Christ retain His own righteousness? He has a righteousness peculiar to His divinity and essential to it which He does not give to another, but eternally retains. He has also a second righteousness peculiar to His humanity and essential to it, which he does not impart to another, but eternally retains. He has also a third righteousness arising from His perfect obedience to the Divine law, actively keeping it for us during His earthly life and passively dying to pay its penalty in the room and stead of every guilty soul in all the world. This third righteousness of Christ is neither essential to His perfect humanity nor His perfect divinity nor his perfect mediatorship. Hence He procured it for every sinner in every age of this probationary world. This is the righteousness which the Father freely imparts to every truly penitent believing sinner, when He counts him righteous for the sake of Christ alone. When the violated law is thus satisfied, the Holy Spirit, who has already convicted him and enabled him to repent and believe, immediately regenerates him, thus quickening his dead soul into Divine life. Do you believe in imputed holiness? I do not. Righteousness is synonymous with justification. It takes place in Heaven when God cancels your sins from Heaven’s chancery, blotting them all out and counting you righteous for the sake of the work which Christ has done for you when He died as your substitute. Sanctification is a work wrought in you, of which you are a conscious participant, in contradistinction to justification, which is a work done for you. Hence while imputation is homogeneous to righteousness, impartation is normal to holiness. In this controversy, like many others, we find the truth intermediate between two extremes. Some preach imputed righteousness and imputed holiness, which is an error. Others preach imparted righteousness and imparted holiness, which is also erroneous, the truth obtaining in the interim, where we preach imputed righteousness for the sinner and imparted holiness for the Christian.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/2-corinthians-5.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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