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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
2 Corinthians 5

 

 

Verse 1

1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Ver. 1. For we know] Not we think, or hope only; this is the top gallant of faith, the triumph of trust; this is, as Latimer calls it, the deserts of the feast of a good conscience. There are other dainty dishes in this feast, but this is the banquet. The cock on the dunghill knows not the worth of this jewel.

Our earthly house] In the wonderful frame of man’s body the bones are the timberwork, the head the upper lodging, the eyes as windows, the eyelids as casements, the brows as penthouses, the ears as watchtowers, the mouth as a door to take in that which shall uphold the building, and keep it in reparations; the stomach as a kitchen to dress that which is conveyed into it; the guts and baser parts as sinks belonging to the house, &c., as one wittily descants.

Our earthly house of this tabernacle] Our clay cottage. Man is but terra friabilis, a piece of earth neatly made up. The first man is of the earth earthy; and his earthly house is ever mouldering over him, ready to fall upon his head, 1 Corinthians 15:47. Hence it is called "the life of his hands," because hardly held up with the labour of his hands, Isaiah 57:10. Paul, a tentmaker, elegantly compares man’s body to a tent. Plato also in his dialogue of death, calleth the body a tabernacle, το οκηνος. A house the body is called, as for the singular artifice showed in the framing of it (the woman’s body is, by a specialty, called God’s building, Genesis 2:22, because her frame consisteth of rarer room; of a more exact composition, say some, than man’s doth), so, secondly, because the soul dwells in it; the reason whereof (besides God’s will, and for the order of the universe) Lombard gives this, that hereby man might learn and believe a possibility of the union of man with God in glory, notwithstanding the vast distance of nature and excellence.

We have a building of God] The ark, transportative till then, was settled in Solomon’s temple; so shall the soul be in heaven. As when one skin falls off, another comes on; so when our earthly tabernacle shall be dissolved or taken down, we shall have a heavenly house. The soul wears the body as a garment, which when it is worn out, we shall be clothed with a better suit, we shall change our rags for robes, &c. Itaque non plangimus, sod plaudimus, quando vitam claudimus, quia dies iste non tam fatalis quam natalis est.


Verse 2

2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

Ver. 2. For in this] That is, in this tabernacle of the body. How willingly do soldiers burn their huts, when the siege is ended; being glad that their work is done, and that they may go home and dwell in houses.

We groan earnestly] As that avis Paradisi, which being once caught and engaged, never leaves sighing, they say, till set at liberty. (Macrob.) The Greeks call the body δεμας, the soul’s bond, and σωμα, quasi σημα, the soul’s sepulchre.

To be clothed upon] By a sudden change, and not to die at all, as 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. Quis enim vult mori? prorsus nemo. For who wishes to die, certainly no man. Death when it comes will have a bout with the best, as it had with Hezekiah, David, Jonah, others. For nature abhors it, and every new man is two men. But when a Christian considers that non nisi per angusta ad angusta perveniatur, that there is no passing into Paradise but under the flaming sword of this angel death that standeth at the porch; that there is no coming to the city of God, but through his strait and heavy lane; no wiping all tears from his eyes, but with his winding sheet, he yields, and is not only content, but full glad of his departure; as in the mean while he accepts life rather than affects it, he endures it rather than desires it, Philippians 1:23.


Verse 3

3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

Ver. 3. If so be that, &c.] q.d. Howbeit, I know not whether we shall be so clothed upon, that is, whether we that are now alive shall be found alive at Christ’s coming to judgment, whether we shall then be found clothed with our bodies, or naked, that is, stripped of our bodies.


Verse 4

4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

Ver. 4. Do groan, being burdened] viz. With sin and misery, whereof we have here our backburdens. And surely great shame it were (as that martyr, Mr Bradford, said) that all the whole creatures of God should desire, yea, groan in their kind for our liberty, and we ourselves to loathe it, as doubtless we do, if for the cross, yea, for death itself, we with joy swallow not up all sorrow that might let us from following the Lord’s call and obeying the Lord’s providence, &c.

Might be swallowed up of life] Not as a gulf or fire swallows up that which is cast into it, but as perfection swallows up imperfection, as the perfecting of a picture swallows up the rude draught, as perfect skill swallows up bungling, or manhood childhood, not extinguishing, but drowning it that it is not seen. (Dr Preston.)


Verse 5

5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

Ver. 5. He that hath wrought us] Curiously wrought us in the lowermost parts of the earth, that is, in the womb, as curious workmen perfect their choice pieces in private, and then set them forth to public view, Psalms 139:15; cf. Ephesians 4:9. Others expound it by Romans 9:23.

The earnest of the Spirit] He saith not the pawn, but the earnest. A pawn is to be returned again, but an earnest is part of the whole bargain.


Verse 6

6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

Ver. 6. Therefore we are confident] Not hesitant, or halting, as Adrian the emperor was, and as he that cried out on his deathbed, Anxius vixi, dubius metior, nescio quo vado, I have lived carefully, I die doubtfully, I go I know not whither: Socrates also, that wisest of philosophers, could not with all his skill resolve his friends whether it were better for a man to die or live longer. Cicero, comforting himself as well as he could by the help of philosophy against the fear of death, cries out and complains at length, that the medicine was too weak for the disease, nescio quomodo, imbecillior est medicina quam morbus; it is the true Christian only that can be confident that his end shall be happy, though his beginning and middle haply may be troublesome, Psalms 37:37.

Whilst we are at home] Or stay for a night as in an inn, ενδημουντες. A man that comes into an inn, if he can get a better room, he will; if not, he can be content with it; for, saith he, it is but for a night. So it should be with us.


Verse 7

7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

Ver. 7. For we walk by faith] Which puts our heads into heaven, sets us on the top of Pisgah with Moses, and therehence descries and describes unto us the promised land, gives us to set one foot aforehand in the porch of Paradise, to see as Stephen did Christ holding out a crown, with this inscription, Vincenti dabo I die conquering.

Not by sight] Sense corrects imagination, reason sense, but faith corrects both, thrusting Hagar out of doors, when haughty and haunty grown. But as Nabash, so the devil labours to put out the right eye of faith, and to leave us only the left eye of reason.


Verse 8

8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Ver. 8. And willing rather] Death is not to be desired as a punishment of sin, but as a period of sin; not as a postern gate to let out our temporal, but as a street door to let in eternal life.

To be present with the Lord] This Bernard calleth Repatriasse. Plotinus the philosopher could say when he died, that which is divine in me I carry back, επι το πρωτογονον θειον, to the original divine, that is, to God. (Synes. Eph 139.) But whether this man believed himself or not, I greatly doubt.


Verse 9

9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

Ver. 9. Wherefore we labour] Our hope of heaven maketh us active and abundant in God’s service. The doctrine of assurance is not a doctrine of liberty, but the contrary, 1 John 3:3. We make it our ambition, φιλοτιμουμεθα, saith the apostle here, to get acceptance in heaven, waiting till our Father shall call us home, and passing the time of our sojourning here in fear, 1 Peter 1:17. The saints have their commoration upon earth, ενδημουντες, their conversation in heaven.


Verse 10

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Ver. 10. For we must all, &c.] This great assize will not be such an assembly as that of Ahasuerus, of his nobles, princes, and captains only; nor such as the biddings of rich men to their feasts, of their rich neighbours only; but like the invitation of that householder that sent his servants to compel all to come in, Luke 14:12. On that day Adam shall see all his nephews together.

Appear before, &c.] Be laid open, and have all ripped up, φανερωθηναι. Our sins that are now written as it were with the juice of lemons, shall then by the fire of the last day be made legible. And as in April both wholesome roots and poisonous discover themselves, which in the winter were not seen, so at the day of judgment good and evil actions. (Mac. Hom. 12.)

The things done in his body] That is, the just reward of those things; In die iudicii plus valebit conscientia pura, quam marsupia plena. (Bernard.) Then shall a good conscience be more worth than all the world’s good. And this was that which made Paul so sincere a preacher and so insatiable a server of God, as Chrysostom calleth him.

Whether it be good or bad] Wicked men shall give an account, 1. De bonis commissis, of goods committed to them. 2. De bonis dismissis, of good neglected by them. 3. De malis commissis, of evils committed. 4. De malis permissis, of evils done by others, suffered by them. Itaque vivamus, saith the orator. (Cic. iv. in Ver.) Let us so live as those that must render an account of all.


Verse 11

11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

Ver. 11. Knowing therefore the terror, &c.] What a terrible time it will be with the wicked, who shall in vain tire the deaf mountains with their hideous outcries to fall upon them, &c.

We persuade men] To flee from the wrath to come; to repent and be converted, that their sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come, Acts 3:19. We speak persuasively to this purpose, but it is God only that persuades.


Verse 12

12 For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

Ver. 12. Which glory in appearance] Gr. εν προσωπω, in the face. Hypocrites, as they repent in the face, Matthew 6:16, so they rejoice in the face, not in the heart. Their joy is but skin deep, it is but the hypocrisy of mirth; they do not laugh, but grin; their hearts ache many times when their faces counterfeit a smile; their mirth is frothy and flashy, such as smooths the brow but fills not the breast, such as wets the mouth but warms not the heart.


Verse 13

13 For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.

Ver. 13. It is to God] i.e. When to the world we seem mad of pride and vain glory, yet then we respect only God’s glory.

It is for your sakes] i.e. For your learning, that we are more modest and sparing in commending our apostleship. It is a good rule, Quicquid agas, propter Deum agas, do all for God’s sake.


Verse 14

14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

Ver. 14. The love of Christ, &c.] As reward hath an attractive, and punishment an impulsive, so love hath a compulsive faculty. This love of Christ had so closed in St Paul, so hemmed him in, and begirt him round, that his adversaries reported him a mad man, as 2 Corinthians 5:13; he erred in love toward his sweet Saviour, and even exhaled has blessed soul in continual sallies, as it were, and expressions of his dear affection to the Lord Jesus. The word συνεχει he here useth, imports that he was even shut up by his love to his dear Lord, as in a pound or pinfold, so that he could not get out. He had meditated so much upon Christ’s love, donec totus fixus in corde, qui totus fixus in cruce, that his heart was turned into a lump of love.

Then were all dead] All the body suffered in and with Christ the head, and so are freed by his death, Hebrews 2:9, as if themselves in person had died.


Verse 15

15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

Ver. 15. Should not henceforth] Servati sumus ut serviamus. The redeemed among the Romans were to observe and honour those that ransomed them as parents, all their days.


Verse 16

16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

Ver. 16. No man after the flesh] i.e. We esteem no man simply the better or worse for his wealth, poverty, honour, ignominy, or anything outward. See James 1:9-11. Thomas Watts, martyr, spake thus at his death to his wife and children: Wife, and my good children, I must now depart from you, therefore henceforth know I you no more; but as the Lord hath given you to me, so I give you again to him, whom I charge you see that ye obey. (Acts and Mon.)

Though we have known Christ] As possibly Paul might have known Christ in the flesh; for Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, Luke 24:19. Austin wished that he might have seen three things: Rome flourishing, Paul preaching, Christ conversing with men upon earth. Bede comes after, and correcting this last wish, saith, Yea, but let me see the King in his beauty, Christ in his heavenly kingdom. Paul was so spiritualized that he took knowledge of nothing here below; he passed through the world as a man in a deep muse, or that so looks for a lost jewel, that he overlooks all besides it.


Verse 17

17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Ver. 17. Is a new creature] Either a new man or no man in Christ. Get into him therefore with all speed; for till this be done, though thou shouldest spend thy time in gathering up pearls and jewels, thou art an undone creature.

All things are become new] The substance of the soul is the same, the qualities and operations altered. In regeneration our natures are translated, not destroyed, no, not our constitution and complexion. As the melancholy man doth not cease to be so after conversion, only the humour is sanctified to a fitness for godly sorrow, holy meditation, &c., so of other humours.


Verse 18

18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

Ver. 18. And all things are of God] He is both author and finisher of our faith, the God of all grace, the Father of all lights, &c.

And hath given us the ministry] He hath taken this office from the angels, those first preachers of peace, Luke 2:10; Luke 2:14. The angel told Cornelius his prayers were heard in heaven; but for the doctrine of reconciliation he refers him to Peter, Acts 10:36.


Verse 19

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Ver. 19. That God was in Christ, &c.] As the salt waters of the sea, when they are strained through the earth, they are sweet in the rivers; so (saith one) the waters of majesty and justice in God, though terrible, yet being strained and derived through Christ, they are sweet and delightful.

Reconciling the world] What the apostle meaneth by this, see his own exposition. {See Trapp on "Romans 11:15"}


Verse 20

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

Ver. 20. Ambassadors for Christ] And therefore sacred persons, not to be violated on pain of God’s heavy displeasure: "Do my prophets no harm." They that would annihilate the ministry, go to pull the stars out of Christ’s hand; and they will find it a work not feasible.

As though God did beseech you] God’s grace even kneels to us. En flexanimam suadae medullam; who can turn his back upon such blessed and bleeding embracements?


Verse 21

21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Ver. 21. To be sin for us] That is, a sin offering, or an exceeding sinner, as Exodus 29:14. So Christ was, 1. By imputation, for our sins were "made to meet upon him," as that evangelical prophet hath it, Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 2:1-22. By reputation, for he was reckoned among malefactors, ibid. And yet one Augustinus de Roma, archbishop of Nazareth, was censured in the Council of Basil for affirming that Christ was peccatorum maximus, the greatest of sinners. See Aug. Enchirid. xli. Christ so loved us, saith one, that he endured that which he most hated, to become sin for us (he was made sin passive in himself to satisfy for sin active in us), and the want of that which was more worth than a world to him, the sense of God’s favour for a time. Ama amorem illius, &c., saith Bernard. There are two things in guilt, saith a late reverend writer (Dr Sibbs): 1. The merit and desert of it; this Christ took not. 2. The obligation to punishment; this he took, and so he "became sin," that is, bound to the punishment of sin. The son of a traitor loseth his father’s lands, not by any communion of fault, but by communion of nature, because he is part of his father. The son is no traitor; but by his nearness to his father is wrapped in the same punishment; so here. In a city that is obnoxious to the king’s displeasure, perhaps there are some that are not guilty of the offence; yet being all citizens, they are all punished by reason of their communion. So Christ, by communion with our natures, took upon him whatsoever was penal that belonged to sin, though he took not, nor could take, the demerit of sin.

Who knew no sin] That is, with a practical knowledge; with an intellectual he did, else he could not have reproved it. We know no more than we practise. Christ is said to "know no sin," because he did none.

That we might be made, &c.] As Christ became sin, not by sin inherent in him, but by our sin imputed to him; so are we made the righteousness of God, by Christ’s righteousness imputed and given unto us. This the Papists jeeringly call "putative righteousness."

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-corinthians-5.html. 1865-1868.

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