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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
2 Corinthians 5

 

 

Verses 1-21

2 Corinthians 5:1. We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God — eternal in the heavens. The contrast between a house made with hands, and a house made by Jehovah’s fiat, is very striking. But the assurance of it is more to be remarked. “We know” that if our bodies were dissolved, we have a mansion in the heavens. On the superior excellence of the ministry, and on the eternal weight of glory, our confidence is built, that whenever we shall be summoned away from this frail cottage, which may more appropriately be called a tent than a mansion, we have a celestial habitation, and therefore care the less about a mortal life, in hopeof a more glorious resurrection. Our hope is built upon the promises of God: on this hope Joseph gave commandment concerning his bones, and Abraham sought a better country. — We rely on the resurrection of Christ, as the firstfruits of them that slept. We are the more consoled in our hope, for having received the firstfruits of the Spirit, and now wait for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

2 Corinthians 5:2. Desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. Many of the heathens had a notion that the souls of men were corporeal; and Tertullian seems to have embraced it, before he knew the gospel. They thought, as Thespesias, in Plutarch, is said to have returned from the dead, that souls retained the form and features of their bodies, and that the passions were to be traced on their countenance. Some critics also have conjectured that the soul receives a vehicle, an envelope, on leaving the body. But Beza, with many others, understand this passage, as in 1 Corinthians 15:53, of this mortal putting on immortality. Tirinus understands the soul to be clothed on leaving the body with a vestment of celestial glory. Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Theodoret understand it of a clothing of divine charity, justifying grace, and good works, implying all the fruits of the Spirit. And our wish not to be found naked, like Adam, certainly imports the being clothed with the glorious image of God.

2 Corinthians 5:3. That being clothed we shall not be found naked. Job says, I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my judgment was as a robe and a diadem: Job 29:14. The woman seen in a vision, is clothed with the sun. Revelation 12:1. The saints put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and are arrayed in the armour of light. When the Lord therefore shall come, they will not be found naked.

2 Corinthians 5:4. We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened. This is the lot of the whole creation, but believers do not groan with impatience, having the fullest confidence in a Father’s love, and in that wisdom which cannot err. Nevertheless, we groan and sigh, that mortality may be swallowed up of life; that this mortal may put on immortality, and that we may be absorbed in the sunbeams of celestial glory. The soul disburdened of its load, exults in the Lord,

And swells unutterably full Of glory and of God.

2 Corinthians 5:6-8. Therefore we are always confident. Whatever be the storms and conflicts of life, we still press forward, and walk by faith. Confident, I say, that the issue shall be an eternal weight of glory, we would rather that the work and pilgrimage should be hastened, that we may follow the faithful armies, and be present with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:10. We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. He will first of all, call his servants to give account of their time, their talents, and all the offices and trusts of life. Therefore, while we are absent in the body, we labour the more to be accepted of him. On the slothful servant, who has hid his Lord’s money, and wronged him of the good which might have been done, he will cast an eye of severe displeasure. On the prodigal, who has wasted all his substance in the circles of dissipation, who has robbed and ruined his friends, and ever revolted at correction, the final strokes will fall. On the effeminate, who have wasted their finest summer-mornings in chambering, while all the living beings of the earth were active, he will record the sentence, that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9. Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15. The impartial Judge will so enlighten the conscience, that it shall ever have the presence of every crime; he will superadd the terrors of his high displeasure, and drive them to the congregation of the giants, as all the prophets have said. Job 26:4. Isaiah 14:9; Isaiah 14:20. Ezekiel 32:21.

2 Corinthians 5:11. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; not only by uplifting the veil of futurity, but by every persuasive argument suggested by the gospel, to flee from the wrath to come. In so doing, our real character is made manifest to God, and to the consciences of men, that we act in conformity to our mission. By spending our life in this way, I know the false apostles, those angels of light, put the worst construction on our best deeds, and attribute our conduct to derangement, and imbecility of mind.

2 Corinthians 5:13. But, whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God. We smile contemptuously at their feeble malice. They may not, or they will not know, that having entered into the wisdom of God in the redemption of the world, and seeing the whole human race lying in the arms of the wicked one, dead in trespasses and sins, we are constrained, we are urged and stimulated by the love of Christ to live as he lived, and preach as he preached. Therefore, we give you occasion to boast and glory in having apostles who live like their Master, and who put his death and resurrection in full power by causing the dry bones to revive, and live for him who died for them, and rose again.

2 Corinthians 5:16. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh. Though those false apostles come to you with mails and packets of letters, with all the honours that the rabbinical schools can confer, or all the powers with which the sanhedrim can invest them, we know them not. They are emissaries of darkness, transformed into angels of light. They come to beguile you, as the serpent beguiled Eve: 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14. — Nay more, we are not allowed now to dwell on the innocent infirmities of Christ, which were the most striking marks of his love to fallen man. We leave the unitarians to make a parade of his parentage, his hunger, his thirst, his weariness at the well; his soul sorrowful even unto death: all these are now swallowed up of life. Men may destroy their souls by looking at what is human, instead of looking only at the glory of Christ, the image of the invisible God. We do not forget the death of Robert Robinson, who, after making a shipwreck of faith in Birmingham on a Sunday, was found dead in his bed on the following Wednesday. The Lord cometh quickly, and his reward is with him.

2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, — just the reverse of those false apostles, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. The Spirit of regenerating grace produces by the word of truth, a new creation in his soul. Having seen the glory of Christ, and embraced him by faith, he becomes one spirit with the Lord. He is then in Christ as a branch is in the vine, as a stone is in the temple, as a member is in the body, as a child is in the family. This new birth is called the hidden man of the heart, which grows in knowledge and in grace, being nourished by the milk of the word. And if we may follow the allegory, the five senses of the body are all attributed to the new creature. He tastes, he sees that the Lord is good; he feels after God, he hears the Shepherd’s voice, and his soul inhales the sweet odour and fragrance of paradise. His life is equally new, for “old things are passed away, and all things are become new.”

2 Corinthians 5:18. All things are of God, in the work of our redemption, and he it is who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. The entrance of sin into the world was followed with a breach between man and his Maker. Sin therefore must be expiated by an stoning sacrifice, prepared and approved of God, the law made honourable, the curse removed, death vanquished, and heaven and hope restored to man. The cross then became the grand theatre of reconciliation, and Satan was despoiled of all his glory. All other sacrifices were but shadows of this. Leviticus 16.

2 Corinthians 5:19. And hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. This is stated in the call of the holy prophets. Isaiah 6:8. Jeremiah 1:10. Ezekiel 3:17. Also in the call of the apostles. Matthew 10:7; Matthew 28:18-20. Ministers of Jesus, beware of lowering your credentials. Your ministry is not of men, nor by men, but by Jesus Christ. You watch as those that must give an account.

2 Corinthians 5:20. We are ambassadors for Christ. Plenipotentiaries, having full powers to preach righteousness, and promise salvation to all the rebels who turn from their foul revolt with contrite hearts, and embrace the Saviour. Here the grace is superabundant; instead of rebels suing for their life, it is God who sends to pray them to accept of mercy.

2 Corinthians 5:21. He hath made him to be sin for us. Sin is not here put in opposition to righteousness, but as a sin-offering, as often in the LXX. See Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 29:5, 6. Psalms 40:7. In English, the word should be supplied, in Italics; and so St. Augustine reads: epis. 120. Hostiam pro peccato, a sacrifice for sin. The Chaldaic on Exodus 29:14 reads as Augustine. Then it follows, as he was made a sacrifice for sin on our account, we are made the righteousness of God in him, by the removal of guilt, and the gift of righteousness by faith. In the writings of Paul, salvation and righteousness are nearly synonymous terms. Romans 1:16-18. Christ becomes our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Glorious sacrifice — glorious ministry!

REFLECTIONS.

In the preseding chapter St. Paul had recited a sketch of his sufferings and support. Here he proceeds with the subject, and completes his triumph in the full assurance of faith. We know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God. Here the poor frail body is most aptly compared to a portable tabernacle or tent, easily removed from one place to another; an idea which best assorts with men who confess themselves to be strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Tents also are not of much value; they need frequent repairs, and they are soon worn out; in all these views it is the case with the body. But tents often contain great treasure, and are the abodes of princes and heroic men; and oh what a noble soul is sometimes discovered in a poor emaciated body, a soul groaning for immortality, and superior to the charms of worldly pomp.

Holy men have assurance of their portion in the life and immortality brought to light by the gospel. “We know” that we have a building of God, because their inward man is renewed day by day with foretastes and earnests of the heavenly inheritance. 2 Corinthians 4:17. Romans 8:10. And this assurance grows and encreases, as appears from 2 Timothy 4:7-8. Victory in conflicts, and patience in suffering, augment the consciousness of God’s favour, and convey a diversified knowledge of his ways. So the poet:

“The soul’s dark cottage, battered and decayed,

Lets in new light through chinks which time has made.”

Assurance is inseparable from aspirations after heaven. An earthly mind is a canker to our comforts, and fills us with anxiety and pain. And as we cannot go to heaven till our work is done, assurance is connected with sincere efforts to please and serve God. Whether present or absent, we labour to be accepted of him. Here is the grand duty of the saints, and the object of their utmost wish to be pleasing in heart and life to God. Then they need not be over solicitous of comforts, for while they endeavour to be holy, the Lord’s comforts, like showers and sunbeams, will follow of their own accord.

Assurance, so intimately connected with the love of God, is equally connected with the love of man. Knowing the terrors of the Lord, and the awful situation of the impenitent at his bar, we persuade men: we sacrifice all on earth, and risk life itself for their salvation. The world accounted this extraordinary zeal — fanaticism; but if the apostles were beside themselves, it was for the churches, and the objects which demand our zeal also.

To this divine service they were constrained by the redeeming love of Christ, but in a way perfectly consonant to sound reason. They judged, that if Christ died for all, then all must be dead in trespasses and sins. And he really did die for all, for God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, first by the satisfaction on the cross, as explained in Romans 3.; and next, he continued the act of reconciling them by conversion. This then was the embassy and mission of the apostles. Had their Master been on earth, he would still have gone about doing good, and have diversified his ministry in a thousand forms. He would have exercised patience with diligence, and strove to remove prejudice. He would have wept over the obstinate, as over Jerusalem. Therefore his servants venture with trembling to fill his place; and they can preach mercy by commission, and realize by example, God having pardoned their sins, and made them encouraging patterns to others. Surely argumentation was never more cogent, or conclusion more impressive.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/2-corinthians-5.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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