the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Nave's Topical Bible - Character; Creature; Regeneration; Righteous; Salvation; Thompson Chain Reference - Abiding in Christ; All Things; Christ; Creature, New; Holy Spirit; In Christ, Abiding; Life-Death; Man; New; Regeneration; Things, All; The Topic Concordance - Newness; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Character of Saints; Creation; New Birth, the; Repentance; Reward of Saints, the; Union with Christ;
Verse 17. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature — It is vain for a man to profess affinity to Christ according to the flesh, while he is unchanged in his heart and life, and dead in trespasses and sins; for he that is in Christ, that is, a genuine Christian, having Christ dwelling in his heart by faith, is a new creature; his old state is changed: he was a child of Satan, he is now a child of God; he was a slave of sin, and his works were death; he is now made free from sin, and has his fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. He was before full of pride and wrath; he is now meek and humble. He formerly had his portion in this life, and lived for this world alone; he now hath GOD for his portion, and he looks not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are eternal. Therefore, old things are passed away.
Behold, all things are become new. — The man is not only mended, but he is new made; he is a new creature, καινη κτισις a new creation, a little world in himself; formerly, all was in chaotic disorder; now, there is a new creation, which God himself owns as his workmanship, and which he can look on and pronounce very good. The conversion of a man from idolatry and wickedness was among the Jews denominated a new creation. He who converts a man to the true religion is the same, says R. Eliezer, as if he had created him.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/2-corinthians-5.html. 1832.
The power of love (5:11-6:13)
Because Paul knows that he is accountable to Christ, he knows what it means to fear the Lord, and this makes him more diligent in his service. God knows that his motives are pure and he trusts that the Corinthians know also (11).
In making these statements, Paul is not trying to write a recommendation for himself. He is trying to give his supporters reason to be bold in defending him against those who criticize him (12). They may have seen him display his feelings in different ways at various times, but they know he never acted out of self-interest (13). His constant awareness of Christ’s love was the inner spiritual power that guided his actions. Christ died the death that sinners should have died, firstly to bear the penalty of their sins, and secondly to put an end to living for self. From now on they should live for him (14-15).
Before he became a Christian, Paul had judged Jesus by the standards of the ordinary person of the world, and in so doing had judged him wrongly. Now he no longer judges Jesus, or anyone else, from a merely human standpoint, because in Christ he sees everything in a new light. Old attitudes go and new attitudes replace them (16-17).
This changing from the old to the new is done by God through Jesus Christ. It is part of the total work that God does as he reconciles people to himself, and turns sinners into his friends. Having reconciled them, God then sends them out to preach the message of reconciliation to others, so that other sinners might be brought to God (18-20). The basis of this message is the death of Christ. Through the judgment of sin in Christ, God is able to forgive repentant sinners and give them a righteous standing before him (21).
Some at Corinth had heard this message but not responded to it. They were still spiritually dead. Paul therefore offers salvation to them once again, and they must decide whether to accept it or reject it (6:1-2). They are not to make excuses by trying to find fault with Paul, for he has never given anyone grounds for rejecting the gospel (3). He has had all kinds of difficult experiences (4-5), but through them all he has proved his genuineness by the spiritual quality of his life and the truth and power of his message (6-7). Some people have honoured him, others insulted him, but in all circumstances he has shown by his consistent behaviour that he is a true servant of God (8-10).
The Corinthians have not returned to Paul the open-hearted love that he has shown them. He has room in his heart for them, but they have no room in their hearts for him (11-12). He appeals to them to return his love (13).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/2-corinthians-5.html. 2005.
Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold they are become new.
In Christ … A phenomenal blindness is the only thing that could account for the total absence from the writings of so many scholars of any reference whatever to this little prepositional phrase which is nothing if not THE VERY EYE OF CHRISTIANITY. Paul used this expression, or its equivalent, 169 times!<footnote> John McKay, God’s Order (New York: Macmillan Company, 1953), p. 67.</footnote> Failure to appreciate what Paul means by this is to misunderstand everything. Paul had just written that all people are dead spiritually, a deadness that shall never abate unless they are risen again IN CHRIST. In Christ, a new spiritual life is given to the convert; in Christ all of his previous sins are cancelled; in Christ he is endowed with the Holy Spirit; in Christ a new and glorious life begins; in Christ old values are rejected, old standards repudiated, and old lusts are crucified; in Christ are "all spiritual blessings" (Ephesians 1:3); out of Christ, there is nothing but death, remorse, hopelessness and condemnation; in Christ there is the life eternal!
In the light of the above, how is it that one can read 57 commentaries and find not one single reference to the all important question of "How does one find the status of being ’in Christ’"? The answer to this question is the concern of every man ever born, or at least it should be. Here is the answer:
Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3).
As many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ (Galatians 3:27).
For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13).
The baptism "into one body" in the third reference above is exactly the same as being baptized into Christ, because the one body is the spiritual body of Christ. The entire New Testament gives no other means, provides no other device, and suggests no other ceremony or action that can bring the believer INTO CHRIST. Why? Because there is none.
But, it is alleged that "faith in Christ" saves; and so it does, but notice the meaning of this oft-repeated and frequently misunderstood expression. "Faith in Christ" means faith exercised by a believer who is "in Christ," having been baptized into him. For any believer who has not been baptized, his faith is not "in Christ" (because HE is not in Christ); and thus the believer’s faith prior to his baptism is not "in Christ" at all, but "out of Christ." The preposterous assumption that one who is not "in Christ" at all may have, in fact, "faith in Christ" is an utter impossibility. These are among the significant reasons why the dominating expression in this marvelous verse is in the words "if any man is in Christ," which appear at the head of the verse. Not a word subsequently appearing in the verse applies to any person in heaven or upon earth who is NOT "in Christ."
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/2-corinthians-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Therefore if any man be in Christ - The phrase to “be in Christ,” evidently means to be united to Christ by faith; or to be in him as the branch is in the vine - that is, so united to the vine, or so in it, as to derive all its nourishment and support from it, and to be sustained entirely by it. John 15:2, “every branch in me.” John 15:4, “abide in me, and I in you.” “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can ye except ye abide in me.” See also John 15:5-7, see the note on John 15:2. To be “in Christ” denotes a more tender and close union; and implies that all our support is from him. All our strength is derived from him; and denotes further that we shall partake of his fullness, and share in his felicity and glory, as the branch partakes of the strength and vigor of the parent vine. The word “therefore” (Ὥστε Hōste) here implies that the reason why Paul infers that anyone is a new creature who is in Christ is that which is stated in the previous verse; to wit, the change of views in regard to the Redeemer to which he there refers, and which was so great as to constitute a change like a new creation. The affirmation here is universal, “if any man be in Christ;” that is, all who become true Christians - undergo such a change in their views and feelings as to make it proper to say of them that they are new creatures. No matter what they have been before, whether moral or immoral; whether infidels or speculative believers; whether amiable, or debased, sensual and polluted yet if they become Christians they all experience such a change as to make it proper to say they are a new creation.
A new creature - Margin, “Let him be.” This is one of the instances in which the margin has given a less correct translation than is in the text. The idea evidently is, not that he ought to be a new creature, but that he is in fact; not that he ought to live as becomes a new creature - which is true enough - but that he will in fact live in that way, and manifest the characteristics of the new creation. The phrase “a new creature” καινὴ κτίσις kainē ktisis) occurs also in Galatians 6:15. The word rendered “creature” (κτίσις ktisis) means properly in the New Testament, creation. It denotes:
- The act of creating Romans 1:20;
- A created thing, a creature Romans 1:25; and refers:
- To the universe, or creation in general; Mark 10:6; Mar 13:9-11; 1 Peter 3:4.
- To man, mankind;Mark 16:15; Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23.
Here it means a new creation in a moral sense, and the phrase new creature is equivalent to the expression in Ephesians 4:24, “The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” It means, evidently, that there is a change produced in the renewed heart of man that is equivalent to the act of creation, and that bears a strong resemblance to it - a change, so to speak, as if the man was made over again, and had become new. The mode or manner in which it is done is not described, nor should the words be pressed to the quick, as if the process were the same in both cases - for the words are here evidently figurative. But the phrase implies evidently the following things:
- That there is an exertion of divine power in the conversion of the sinner as really as in the act of creating the world out of nothing, and that this is as indispensable in the one case as in the other.
(2)That a change is produced so great as to make it proper to say that he is a new man. He has new views, new motives, new principles, new objects and plans of life. He seeks new purposes, and he lives for new ends.
If a drunkard becomes reformed, there is no impropriety in saying that he is a new man. If a man who was licentious becomes pure, there is no impropriety in saying that he is not the same man that he was before. Such expressions are common in all languages, and they are as proper as they are common. There is such a change as to make the language proper. And so in the conversion of a sinner. There is a change so deep, so clear, so entire, and so abiding, that it is proper to say, here is a new creation of God - a work of the divine power as decided and as glorious as when God created all things out of nothing. There is no other moral change that takes place on earth so deep, and radical, and thorough as the change at conversion. And there is no other where there is so much propriety in ascribing it to the mighty power of God.
Old things are passed away - The old views in regard to the Messiah, and in regard to people in general, 2 Corinthians 5:16. But Paul also gives this a general form of expression, and says that old things in general have passed away - referring to everything. It was true of all who were converted that old things had passed away. And it may include the following things:
(1) In regard to the Jews - that their former prejudices against Christianity, their natural pride, and spirit of seducing others; their attachment to their rites and ceremonies, and dependence on them for salvation had all passed away. They now renounced that independence, relied on the merits of the Saviour, and embraced all as brethren who were of the family of Christ.
(2) In regard to the Gentiles - their attachment to idols, their love of sin and degradation, their dependence on their own works, had passed away, and they had renounced all these things, and had come to mingle their hopes with those of the converted Jews, and with all who were the friends of the Redeemer.
(3) In regard to all, it is also true that old things pass away. Their former prejudices, opinions, habits, attachments pass away. Their supreme love of self passes away. Their love of sins passes away. Their love of the world passes away. Their supreme attachment to their earthly friends rather than God passes away. Their love of sin, their sensuality, pride, vanity, levity, ambition, passes away. There is a deep and radical change on all these subjects - a change which commences at the new birth; which is carried on by progressive sanctification; and which is consummated at death and in heaven.
Behold, all things are become new - That is, all things in view of the mind. The purposes of life, the feelings of the heart, the principles of action, all become new. The understanding is consecrated to new objects, the body is employed in new service, the heart forms new attachments. Nothing can be more strikingly. descriptive of the facts in conversion than this; nothing more entirely accords with the feelings of the newborn soul. All is new. There are new views of God, and of Jesus Christ; new views of this world and of the world to come; new views of truth and of duty; and everything is seen in a new aspect and with new feelings. Nothing is more common in young converts than such feelings, and nothing is more common than for them to say that all things are new. The Bible seems to be a new book, and though they may have often read it before, yet there is a beauty about it which they never saw before, and which they wonder they have not before perceived. The whole face of nature seems to them to be changed, and they seem to be in a new world. The hills, and vales, and streams; the sun, the stars, the groves, the forests, seem to be new. A new beauty is spread over them all; and they now see them to be the work of God, and his glory is spread over them all, and they can now say:
“My Father made them all.”
The heavens and the earth are filled with new wonders, and all things seem now to speak forth the praise of God. Even the very countenances of friends seem to be new; and there are new feelings toward all people; a new kind of love to kindred and friends; and a love before unfelt for enemies; and a new love for all mankind.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/2-corinthians-5.html. 1870.
17.Therefore if any man is in Christ. As there is something wanting in this expression, it must be supplied in this way — “If any one is desirous to hold some place in Christ, that is, in the kingdom of Christ, or in the Church (551) let him be a new creature ” By this expression he condemns every kind of excellence that is wont to be in much esteem among men, if renovation of heart is wanting. “Learning, it is true, and eloquence, and other endowments, are valuable, and worthy to be honored; but, where the fear of the Lord and an upright conscience are wanting, all the honor of them goes for nothing. Let no one, therefore, glory in any distinction, inasmuch as the chief praise of Christians is self-renunciation.”
Nor is this said merely for the purpose of repressing the vanity of the false apostles, but also with the view of correcting the ambitious judgments of the Corinthians, in which outward disguises were of more value than real sincerity — though this is a fault that is common to almost all ages. For where shall we find the man that does not attach much more importance to show, than to true holiness? Let us, therefore, keep in view this admonition — that all that are not renewed by the Spirit of God, should be looked upon as nothing in the Church, by whatever ornaments they may in other respects be distinguished.
Old things are passed away. When the Prophets speak of the kingdom of Christ, they foretell that there will be new heavens and a new earth, (Isaiah 65:17,) meaning thereby, that all things will be changed for the better, until the happiness of the pious is completed. As, however, Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, this change must take place chiefly in the Spirit, and hence it is with propriety that he begins with this. There is, therefore, an elegant and appropriate allusion, when Paul makes use of a commendation of this kind, for the purpose of setting forth the value of regeneration. Now by old things he means, the things that are not formed anew by the Spirit of God. Hence this term is placed in contrast with renewing grace. The expression passed away, he uses in the sense of fading away, as things that are of short duration are wont to fall off, when they have passed their proper season. Hence it is only the new man, that flourishes and is vigorous (552) in the kingdom of Christ.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​cal/2-corinthians-5.html. 1840-57.
This time, let's turn in our Bibles to II Corinthians, chapter five.
Paul talked about how he was constantly facing death for the cause of Jesus Christ. But though he was constantly facing death, various perils, it didn't really trouble him, for he had a correct understanding of death. And I think that this is something that we as Christians need to have: a correct understanding of what death is for the child of God.
And it is because we often do not have a correct understanding, we hear such statements made when a person dies, "Oh, what a shame. He was so young. Oh, how tragic. He had his whole life before him." As though death is some tragedy for the child of God.
Paul faced death, but he didn't worry about it because he knew,
For we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle [this tent] were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ( 2 Corinthians 5:1 ).
So Paul realized that the real me is spiritual. I dwell in a body; the body isn't me. It's the house in which I live. And here, Paul reduces it from the house to the tent. Now, whenever you think about a tent, you don't think about a permanent place to live. There's always something very transient and temporary about a tent. And we should look at our bodies as tents; they are not permanent dwelling places for my spirit. My spirit is dwelling presently in this tent while my house is being prepared.
Now, you that have been around Calvary Chapel for any length of time know what it is to dwell in a tent while we're waiting for the building to be prepared. We dwelt for two years in a tent while we were building this facility.
"We know that when this earthly tent is dissolved," when my body goes back to the dust, "that I have a building of God, it's not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." And so your contrast, the tent which is always thought of in temporal terms, and the "building of God, not made with hands, which is eternal in the heavens."
This tent in which I presently live is a composite of the genes of my ancestry. And I have picked up certain brown-eyed genes and certain bald genes and the physical characteristics and so forth have been passed down to me from my parents and grandparents and all. So, I become an interesting composite of these combination of genes. But being passed down to me through the progression of generations back to Adam, back to Noah, back to Adam, Noah's family back to Adam, I've received, of course, a lot of interesting type of characteristics, weaknesses and strengths. But flawed at the best, because it didn't come to me directly from God. He wouldn't make a mess like this.
But I do have a new building that I'm going to move into. It's a building of God. It's going to come to me directly from God. It's not made with hands; it's eternal, compared with the temporary, in the heavens. So for the child of God, death is moving out of the tent and, at this point I'd say the worn out tent, into the beautiful new house, building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
You remember Jesus said to His disciples, "Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me. For in My Father's house there are many mansions. And I'm going to prepare one for you" ( John 14:1 , John 14:2 ). Now our minds immediately go to Beverly Hills, perhaps. And some of these beautiful estates, large column porches and all, and we think, "Oh my. The Lord's going to take me by the hand and lead me up Glory Road, and we'll turn left on Hallelujah Lane and halfway down the lane on the right-hand side, He's going to show me this beautiful white home with these large columns in front and He's going to say, 'Chuck, that's your new mansion.'" Not so. Hate to disappoint you.
The new body that I'm going to get from God is not going to need sleep. So why would I need bedrooms? There are a lot of characteristics of this new body that I'm going to have that it won't require a house to live in. The mansion that the Lord is talking about is the new body He's got for me. I'm living in this tent, but one day I'm going to move into a mansion. And one of these days, should the Lord tarry, you no doubt will pick up your paper and read, "Chuck Smith died last night. Pastor of Calvary Chapel, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera." Don't believe it. That's poor reporting. If they're going to tell the truth, they're going to have to say, "Chuck Smith moved last night out of a decrepit old holy tent, leaky tent, into a beautiful new mansion." Hey, you don't need to wait for me, because I moved out of the tent into the house, the building of God, not made with hands, you see. Death for the child of God.
And that's why Paul said, "Hey, you think I'm worried about being bound for Christ? I'm ready to die for Christ." Because he understood what death was to the child of God. It is the moving from the tent into the house. Now he goes on to amplify that.
For in this we groan ( 2 Corinthians 5:2 ),
Or while we are still in these bodies, we groan.
earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven ( 2 Corinthians 5:2 ):
These bodies subject to weakness, subject to fatigue, subject to pain. In Romans, the eighth chapter, Paul talked about how we groan. And all of creation was groaning together with us as we were "waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, to wit, the redemption of our bodies" ( Romans 8:23 ). That new body . . . I'm yearning, I'm desiring to have that new body, that building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked ( 2 Corinthians 5:3 ).
Now, this completely eliminates any concept or thought of soul sleep. For Paul goes on to declare,
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed ( 2 Corinthians 5:4 ),
I do not desire to be an unembodied spirit. Now, of course, the goal of the Buddhist is to someday progress into Nirvana. "For all of the problems come to us because of these bodies. And hopefully we will progress from one body into another, into a higher state, until finally we are freed from the body and we enter into that unity bliss of the eternal spirit, and we become an essence."
But that isn't the hope of the Christian. We are going to move out of this old tent into the "building of God, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." And my desire is not to be unclothed, not to be an unembodied spirit.
but [to be] clothed upon [with that new body], that mortality might be swallowed up of life ( 2 Corinthians 5:4 ).
Now, we have a lot of difficulty in understanding the state of the believer between now and the rapture of the church. Have their spirits gone to be with God, their bodies in the grave awaiting a renewing of that body? It is interesting that Paul the apostle, when he was talking about the resurrection in his first epistle, likened to it . . . likened the resurrection to a seed planted into the ground and dying. But then Paul made an interesting statement. He said that the body that comes forth from the ground is not the body that you planted, because all you planted was a bare grain. And God gave to it a body that pleased Him, so is the resurrection of the dead.
Now, there are a lot of people that are hoping for some kind of a resurrection of this body in which it's presently living. I'm personally looking for a far superior model. Not a renewing or rejuvenating or whatever of this body. I'm ready to move out of the tent. I'm ready to move into the new house. The "building of God, not made with hands."
Couple of things. First Thessalonians, chapter four is one that people often question, because Paul there seems to be talking about the order of the resurrection. And there Paul declares, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with the voice of the archangel, the trump of God: the dead in Christ shall rise first: And we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with Him in the air, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" ( 1Th 4:16 , 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ). And so it brings confusion to them, thinking that somehow our spirits may be with God, but there will be a re-uniting of our bodies and our spirits at the time of the resurrection. Somehow this body is going to be rejuvenated.
Of course, there are some atheists that have really found some real problems with this. What about a person who has a heart transplant? In the resurrection, who gets the heart? These bodies are made up of chemicals, molecules, elements. The same seventeen elements in the dirt outside are the same seventeen elements that make up your body. And when your spirit moves out of this body, this body goes back to dust. "Dust thou art, and to dust thou shall return" ( Genesis 3:19 ). Spoken of the body, not of the spirit. As (what was it) Longfellow said,
Tell me not in mournful numbers. Life is but an empty dream. For the soul is dead that slumbers. Things are not what they seem. Life is real, life is earnest. The grave is not your goal. "Dust thou art, to dust returneth" was not spoken of the soul. Spoken of the body.
Now back in the days of the Wild West, when a man was buried where he was shot, the body was buried in the ground, decomposed, went back to dirt, went back to the basic chemical elements. Prairie grass grew. The roots went down. Took up some of the same chemicals that once made it up, a part of a person's body. The cows graze. Took those chemicals into their systems. Created milk which was drank by others. And so, the chemicals that were once a part of another person's body now become a part of my body as my body assimilates those chemicals and makes it a part of my body. So, who gets the chemicals in the resurrection? Which body do they get to go with?
And in reality, they say that you have a new body every seven years anyhow. You know, that through this process of rejuvenation of cells and so forth and the re-creating of the cells, that every seven years you actually go through a major change. You're not the person you were seven years ago, chemically speaking. So, which of the bodies that I've dwelt in during the last fifty-plus years do I get? I would opt for one that I had back twenty-five or thirty years ago. In fact, I'd opt for the one that I had before I injured my knee in college football. That is, if I had to make a choice of this body. But thank God I don't. I got a whole new building of God "not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
Now the Thessalonian believers were troubled, because Paul had taught them the fact that Jesus was coming to establish His kingdom. But after Paul left, some of the believers there had died. And the rest of them were disappointed. They said, "Oh, what a shame. They died before Jesus came. They won't have a chance to enjoy the kingdom now. How tragic. They can't enjoy the kingdom of God because they died before Jesus came." So Paul was writing this section in chapter four as comfort to those who were concerned over their loved ones who had died before the Lord had come back for the church and established His kingdom.
"Now concerning those that have gone asleep in Christ, I'm going to write unto you that you sorrow not, as those who have no hope. For we know that if Jesus both died and rose again, so then those that are asleep in Christ shall He bring with Him at His coming." Now the Bible teaches that the Lord is coming for us in the clouds of the air. When He comes for us, those who were asleep in Christ will be coming with Him for "we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord will not precede them which sleep" ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 ). The word prevent there is a poor translation, really, as far as our present-day understanding of the word. The Greek word is precede. We are not going to precede those. They have preceded us. "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first." That's correct, they have risen first. We're not going to precede them. "Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up when the Lord comes with them in the clouds of heaven to receive us, then we will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
As Chuck Missler so ably points out on many occasions, God dwells outside of time. We dwell within the framework of time presently. But one of these days, I, too, will move outside of the time domain. I will no longer be bounded by time. For I will move, at death, into the eternal, which is outside of this time dimension. In the eternal, there is no past, present and future. In the eternal, there is only present. As God sought to describe it through His name, "I AM THAT I AM" ( Exodus 3:14 ). Now, our minds are so bound by the time dimensions that we cannot even think apart from time, apart from a beginning and an ending. My mind cannot even grasp or conceive the concept of timelessness. But I will as I enter into the eternal.
Now, being in the eternal where everything is now in the present, I am, all of time, then, is bound then in it. And you'd be able to look at the beginning and the ending of time at just one glance, one view, which God can do because He's outside of time. And God proves that He can, because He tells you of these things that are going to be happening down here, though maybe we are only at this point. Yet God goes ahead and speaks of things that are going to be taking place out at this point, because He can see them as already existing. And God, oftentimes, speaks of things as existing, though they haven't yet existed in the framework of time, because God knows they're going to exist. And so He speaks of them, being God, as though they already existed.
God spoke of Isaac as existing before Isaac was ever born. But God can do that because outside of time, He looks down, and as far as God is concerned, Isaac was already born and had married Rebekah and the whole thing was all complete, as far as God was concerned, because He could see the whole thing. Of course, I'm sort of encouraged by that, because God, looking at the whole thing, speaks of me being glorified. Now, that hasn't happened yet, but God spoke of it in the past tense because He's outside of time and He can see that completion of my redemption through Jesus Christ, and I've been glorified together with Him. That's comforting that God would speak with such assurance of my future. I'm comforted by that, because God knows it's going to be.
Now when I die, I leave the time dimensions. I enter into the eternal where everything is now. So, anything that will ever be, is already. So you can't say, "Well, in the future when the whole body is made up, then the Lord's going to bring me into the heavenly scene." Because I'm into the heavenly scene, I've passed into the eternal. I've passed out of time. And so I've left this time zone thing, I've entered into the eternal the moment my spirit leaves this body. It is my body that holds me within the time framework in the time dimension. And so, those who are asleep in Christ have left the time dimension; they've entered into the eternal where the completion is already now. We'll catch up with them when we leave the time zone, for we, too, will enter into the eternal.
Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God ( 2 Corinthians 5:5 ),
God is the One who has created me for this. He has purposed this for us.
who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit ( 2 Corinthians 5:5 ).
The down payment, so to speak. Or as they refer to earnest money. "Show me you really mean it. You want to buy my car? Look, I've got an ad in the paper, fellow, you say you're going to come back in fifteen minutes, how do I know? What if someone calls me in five minutes, wants to buy the car, has the cash, you see. You really want to buy it? Give me some earnest money. Show your intentions."
God showed His intention of your full redemption by giving to you now the Holy Spirit. Of course, Paul refers to this also in the second chapter of Ephesians being "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" ( Ephesians 1:13 , Ephesians 1:14 ).
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) [But] we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord ( 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 ).
That's what I really desire. Now I know that, as long as I am living in this body, I'm at home in this body or this body is my home, I'm absent from dwelling there in the kingdom of God. But I would rather, I'm willing rather to move out of this old body that I might be present with the Lord in His kingdom. So death releases me. It releases my spirit from this body that it might move into the new house, the building of God, where there I will dwell with the Lord forever.
Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him [well pleasing unto him] ( 2 Corinthians 5:9 ).
So, my desire is that my life might be pleasing to God, while I'm living in this body. And when I ultimately move out of the body, my chief desire is that my life be pleasing to God again, that Jesus might be able to say to me, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful in the little things, now I will make thee ruler over many: enter into the glory of the Lord" ( Matthew 25:21 ). The desire, the real driving purpose behind my life is to be pleasing to God.
Paul, in writing to the Philippians, said, "That Christ might be glorified in my body, whether by life or by death, I really don't care. I just want to be pleasing. I want the Lord to be glorified through me."
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 [which] he hath done, whether it be good or bad ( 2 Corinthians 5:10 ).
Now, this is not to be confused with the great white throne judgment of God in Revelation, chapter twenty, where the sinners will all appear before the judgment bar of God. That's something entirely different than the believer's coming before the bema seat of Christ. This bema seat of Christ is much like the Olympics judges' seat, where the participants in the various contests would come before the bema seat, and the judges would lay on their heads the wreaths, laurel or olive, to indicate their success in their particular event. Instead of the gold, silver, and bronze medals, they received something far more corruptible in those days of the Olympics. They received these wreaths made out of laurel or out of olive branches and all, and they were placed on their head.
And that's what Paul was talking about: how that they train, they exercise, they discipline their bodies for a corruptible crown, but we are working for an incorruptible crown. But how they put us to shame in the discipline that they exercise for that corruptible crown, and how carelessly so often we run the race for the incorruptible crown.
The Bible teaches that our works are going to be judged by fire. And those works which are wood, hay, and stubble will be consumed. Those works of ours which can survive this fire we will then be rewarded for. A lot of things that are done in the name of Christ will receive no reward at all in heaven. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, beginning the sixth chapter said, "Take heed to yourself that you do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of men: for I say unto you, you have your reward" ( Matthew 6:1 , Matthew 6:2 ). Our works are to be judged what sort they are, or what the motive was behind them. And Jesus illustrated this principle in how we pray, how we give, how we mortify the flesh.
There are two ways of praying. One is to pray to be heard of men and to be known by men as a man of prayer. To receive the approval, favor, awe of men because I am a godly man of prayer. Or there are prayers that are unto God: prayers in the closet, the secret prayers, and I'm not really concerned about man hearing me pray, but about God.
Now, if I'm praying for the effect that it will have on men so men will say, "Oh my, what a wonderful man of prayer," then Jesus said, "You have your reward." Everybody knows what a wonderful man of prayer you are. But you should rather pray to your Father which sees in secret, and then your Father which sees in secret will reward you. Now, it all depends on where you want to get your perks. If you want to get them from man now, then you can go ahead and live your religious life in such a way that everyone can see and know what you're doing and all acclaim what a marvelous, wonderful person you are.
You can do things in such a way as draw attention to yourself. Oh, there are several ways by which you may cleverly just call attention to people of the depth of your own devotional life. Even your tone of voice, even the way you sort of get in a sort of ethereal look on your face, sort of a saintly look, you know, as you begin to talk about things of the Spirit. You sort of sigh, you know, and "Lord," you know. And you can get the message across how close you walk with God, how deeply spiritual you really are. The body gestures and all. Subtle little ways by which I let people know how spiritual I really am.
But the problem is, as I am doing that, I'm really fouling up my future as far as the rewards from God are concerned. My works are going to be judged. I will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. There will be a fiery judgment, and those works coming from the wrong motivations will be burned. Those that endure the fire I'll be rewarded for, as the Lord gives to me that crown of righteousness, and my position in the heavenly kingdom will be determined much by my faithfulness to the responsibilities that God has given to me now.
Now, do not confuse this with salvation. Salvation is God's gift to you through your faith in Jesus Christ. "By grace are you saved through faith; that not of yourself: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" ( Ephesians 2:8 , Ephesians 2:9 ). So don't confuse this with your salvation, which many people do. There is nothing I can do of works to enhance my salvation. That's complete. My righteousness is complete in Jesus Christ. And yet, my works are to be judged before the bema seat or the judgment seat of Christ, that I might receive the reward, or in some cases, the loss of reward because of the improper motivations behind the works.
So, those works which remain after the fiery judgment, they're put in the crucible of fire and they're determined what sort they are. Those gold and silver, refined, God will say, "Well done, blessed, you know, here's your reward. Now you can have Hawaii." I'm hoping He doesn't say Baghdad.
"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive for the things that were done in his body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad," as far as my works for the Lord.
Knowing therefore the terror [fear] of the Lord ( 2 Corinthians 5:11 ),
And that word terror is an old English word which has lost its . . . it has come to a totally new meaning. The word is the fear of the Lord. And I don't think that we really properly understand the fear of the Lord. You see, for many years, I feared that the Lord might hurt me because I had a wrong concept of God. Now I fear that I might hurt the Lord. And I think that that's what the fear of the Lord really is. The fear that I might hurt Him by my failure to do what He wants me to do. My failure of living up to His expectations or desires. He doesn't have expect . . . His desires for me. "Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord,"
we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto you ( 2 Corinthians 5:11-12 ),
Now, again, the false teachers that have followed Paul in Corinth, those Judaizers and others who were sort of speaking in a degrading way of the grace that Paul had taught. They also were putting down Paul himself as an authority. They had challenged his apostleship. "He's just some renegade. He's a Jimmy Jones." And they were saying mean things about Paul. But Paul said, "I don't have to have letters of recommendation to you as others need letters of recommendation. You are my letters of recommendation. Your faith in Christ bears witness to the authenticity of my ministry. Your faith in Jesus really validates my apostleship. So, we are not commending ourselves again unto you."
but [we] give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart ( 2 Corinthians 5:12 ).
So for those who were loyal friends of Paul, Paul said, "Look, I'm writing these things, not that I'm commending myself to you, but when these guys come along and give their, you know, wild stories and reports about me, at least you'll have something to answer them with." Those men who "glory in appearance." And there are, unfortunately, a lot of those people today who still "glory in appearance, and not in heart."
They'd accused Paul of being crazy. They said, "That guy is crazy." It's interesting that Paul on other occasions is also thought to be crazy. You remember when Paul was making his defense before Agrippa. Festus finally cried out, "Paul you're crazy. Your much learning has made you mad." And so, that was something that followed Paul around, because he was a radical and his detractors were saying, "Oh, the guy's crazy." And so Paul said, "If I am crazy . . . " And that word beside ourselves is it means a person who is to the point of talking to himself. So I say, "Yes, I want to go there. Are you sure you want to go there? Yes, I want to go there. Well, why you want to go there? Well, I just want to go there, you know." And a guy gets to talking to himself. He's beside himself, there's two persons, you know. And so here I am, and here I am, and we're having a conversation back and forth. And he's beside himself. So Paul said,
For whether we be beside ourselves [if I'm beside myself], it is to God: or whether we be sober [I have a sound mind], it is for your cause ( 2 Corinthians 5:13 ).
So, Paul answering the detractors. But then he goes on to declare,
For the love of Christ constraineth us ( 2 Corinthians 5:14 );
Paul introduces here the subject of the love of Christ as a constraining force within his life. He's not really talking here about motivations to ministry, though we so often hear this taught as motivation to ministry. Whenever Paul talked of the love of Christ, he was thinking of one thing: the cross of Jesus Christ. The only way God has ever sought to show or to prove that He loved you was by sending His Son to die for your sins. And whenever God wants to declare His love for you, He always declares it through the cross.
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" ( 1 John 4:10 ). For God commended, or demonstrated His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly" ( Romans 5:8 ). "For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son" ( John 3:16 ). And always God's love for you is tied up in the death of Jesus Christ for you. And they never thought of the love of God apart from the cross, because that is God's demonstration, His supreme demonstration of His love. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man will lay down his life for his friends" ( John 15:13 ).
And so, as Paul says, "For the love of Christ constrains me," his mind is now taken to the death of Christ for mankind.
because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead ( 2 Corinthians 5:14 ):
The love of Christ forces me to this conclusion. The fact that He died for all indicates that all men then were dead. Paul said in Ephesians 2 , "And you hath He made alive, who were dead as the result of your trespasses and sins" ( Ephesians 2:1 ). "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" ( Romans 3:23 ). "The soul that sinneth, it shall surely die" ( Ezekiel 18:4 ). If those scriptures both be correct, then the assumption must be made that all natural men are dead; that is, spiritually dead, which is the separation of a man's consciousness from God.
Jesus said, "If you live and believe in me, you will never die" ( John 11:26 ). That's why I say, "Don't believe it if the papers write I've died." I cannot die. I will move, yes, thank God for that. But I won't die. For I will never be separated from God, because of Jesus' death for me. Never for a moment will I be separated from Him. And that's what real death is. Physical death, the separation of your consciousness from your body, you're not to worry or be fearful about that. But what you really need to fear is the separation of your spirit from God for eternity, that's what you ought to be concerned about. Now, it's interesting that the opposite is true in most cases.
Most people are so concerned about their physical death, but think nothing of spiritual death. But Jesus said, "Don't be afraid of those who can kill your body, and after that have no power. But rather fear Him who after the body is dead is able to cast both soul and spirit into Gehenna; I say unto you, fear ye Him" ( Luke 12:4 , Luke 12:5 ). "So, we thus judge, we come to the logical conclusion if Jesus died for all men, then it must be that all men were dead."
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves ( 2 Corinthians 5:15 ),
Now, that is the mark of the flesh life. Even as there is physical death and spiritual death, there is physical life and spiritual life. And we have passed from death into life through the work of the Holy Spirit and as the result of the work of Jesus Christ. And "you hath He made alive who were dead in your trespasses and sins."
Now having come into this new life, I now have a new center, and that is God. The old life of the flesh was centered around me. It was a self-centered life. But Christ died for me that I would no longer be living for myself. No longer living the self-centered life, only seeking to gratify the needs of my own body. And now living a God-centered life, the life of the Spirit in fellowship with God, I am living to satisfy and to please God. Before, I lived to satisfy and please myself. The life of the flesh.
The life of the flesh creates the mind of the flesh. If my body is ruling, if I am body, soul and spirit and the body is ruling, then my mind is under the control of my body and what I am thinking about is the body needs. That's what occupies my thinking. What shall I eat? What shall I drink? What shall I wear?
If I am living the new life after the Spirit, a God-centered life, then I have the mind of the Spirit and I'm thinking about God and my relationship with Him. My love for Him, His love for me. Worshipping Him. Aware of Him. Conscious of Him. In all the little things around me, God-conscious. Oh, what glory it is to have a mind quickened by the Spirit of God. Heaven above, a deeper blue. Earth around, a deeper green. Something lives in every hue that Christ-less eyes have never seen. I never saw that before. The beauty of the flower. The glory of the colors. The fragrance.
The mind quickened by the Spirit, we become aware of God in just, all around us. As Paul declared ultimately, "In Him we live, we move, we have our being" ( Acts 17:28 ). And I begin to be aware of that, I'm surrounded by God. My heart living in worship and fellowship with Him day by day. The mind of the Spirit resulting from the life of the Spirit, a life that is controlled by the Spirit, a life that is a God-centered life.
Now, that's why Christ died for you. That you might be freed from the bondage of corruption, the bondage of your flesh. That you might be able now to live a whole new life in a new dimension, in the dimension of the Spirit. "For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and joy and peace" ( Romans 8:6 ).
Now for this cause, Jesus died, that we "should henceforth not live to ourselves,"
but unto him which died for them, and rose again. ( 2 Corinthians 5:15 ).
And so, as Paul the apostle said, "For me to live is Christ" ( Philippians 1:21 ). He said, "I've been crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; and yet it is not I, but Christ who is living in me. And the life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and who gave Himself for me" ( Galatians 2:20 ). That we should no longer "live unto ourselves, but now live for him who died for us, and rose again."
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh ( 2 Corinthians 5:16 ):
"From now on," Paul said, "I'm not concerned in the fleshly man. The exploits, whatever, I'm not concerned in knowing a man after the flesh." Though this is how, he said, "I once knew Christ." At one time, Jesus Christ was to Paul the apostle a heretic, a leader of a new sect that was a threat to Judaism. And he went about to stamp out this new sect. He once knew Christ after the flesh. But no more, he said. "That's not the way I know Him now." He now knows Him after the Spirit, and he has received that life and power from Him.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [or creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ).
These are direct positive statements. Now, John tells us that many times a person can say something, but yet their life isn't in harmony with what they're saying. It is possible for a man to make glorious professions. And as you go through the first epistle of John, you'll find over and over John says, "If a man says," "If a man says," "If a man says he abides in Him, then he ought to also walk, even as he walked" ( 1 John 2:6 ). If you're abiding in Christ, you're going to walk like Jesus walked. If you say you're abiding in Christ and you're walking after the flesh, you're a liar. You're deluded. You're living in deception, self-deception.
"If a man says, I love God, oh, what a glorious thing to say. But if, at the same time, you hate your brother, you're a liar. How can you love God whom you have not seen and yet hate your brother who was made in His image whom you have seen" ( 1 John 4:20 )? "If a man says, Hey, I have no sin, then you deceive yourself, the truth isn't in you" ( 1 John 1:8 ). And so all the way through, John's giving us little things that men profess. But he's saying, "Hey, you're only fooling yourself. You're deceiving yourself." It isn't what you profess; it's what you are. And "if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: and the old things have passed away." And if the old things have not passed away, then you have no real proof that you're in Christ, no matter what you say. Your professions are empty and false and deceptive, and the tragedy is, you're the one who is deceived the most.
So many people in church are deceived into thinking that their attendance at church is going to buy them a place in the kingdom of God. Their giving to the church is going to secure their place in heaven. Their faithfulness to the church. Church attendance, church membership, church contributions cannot do anything towards your eternal life. And these things can be a deception.
"Oh well, I pray." Well, Isaiah said that "God's hand is not short, that He cannot save; neither is His ear heavy, that He cannot hear: But your sins have separated you from God, and if you are regarding iniquity in your heart, the Lord doesn't even hear you" ( Isaiah 59:1 , Isaiah 59:2 ). It's like cutting the telephone line that comes to your house, and then going in and dialing the number and talking to your sweetheart and telling her how much you love her and all the glorious things you think about her. Well, it's not going anywhere; you got a broken connection. It's going into the ground, the wire's grounded outside. And no matter how beautiful or persuasive you may be expressing yourself, your heart, your love, it's not doing anything, not getting any results.
And so prayer, if you're regarding sin in your heart, sin breaks your connection with God, and prayer is meaningless. Oh, it's worse than that. It's deceptive, because you have a tendency to still rest on the fact, "Well, I pray, you know. I know I'm not doing what I should; I know I'm not living right, but I still pray." But prayer becomes, in that case, a deceptive thing. It's the changed life. It's the new life manifested by the fact that the old things are passed away. You cannot continue to live after the flesh and walk after the flesh. The life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit are mutually exclusive. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. And if you sow to the flesh, of the flesh you're going to reap; and if you sow to the Spirit, of the Spirit you will reap. But the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these" ( Galatians 6:7 , Galatians 6:8 ). And Paul gives us that horrible list, the works of the flesh, of which, unfortunately, we are all too familiar. "Strife, envying, deceit, murders, lies, fornication, adultery." But Paul said, "Let no man think that if he is doing these things, he is going to inherit the kingdom of heaven" ( Galatians 5:19-21 ).
You better read that list over again. Read it prayerfully. And read Paul's conclusive remarks. If you are living after the flesh, don't think you're going to inherit the spiritual kingdom of heaven. "If any man's in Christ, he's a creature: the old things have passed away." Have they? That's the question. "Let a man examine himself," because you're going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and "if you will judge yourself now, then you will not be judged then" ( 1 Corinthians 11:28 , 1 Corinthians 11:31 ).
How much time do you spend living after the Spirit, and how much time do you spend living after the flesh? He's a new creature, the old things are passed away and behold, all things are become new.
And all things are [now] of God ( 2 Corinthians 5:18 ),
Not some of the things in my life. Well, God has His place. I believe that God should have the place in every man's life and every man should have a place for God. No, He wants more than a place in your life. He wants the totality of your life. "All things are of God,"
who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 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. Now then we are ambassadors of Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God ( 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ).
Now, some people talk about God being reconciled to us. Never. God didn't leave us. God didn't turn His back and go away from us. We are the ones that need to be reconciled to God. We are the ones that turned our back on Him and walked away from Him. We are the ones that need the reconciliation. And so Paul's plea, and he said, "I'm doing it in Jesus' place, in His stead. As for God I'm doing it. I'm an ambassador, a representative of God. I'm speaking on His behalf, in His stead. Be ye reconciled unto God."
So this glorious work of reconciliation. God, in His love, created man; created man in His image, in His government of light and life. That man might live in fellowship with God and know the glory, the joy, the beauty of living in fellowship with God. But man turned from that. Turned his back on God. Walked away from God. And he began to experience the miseries of life without God. The emptiness, the hopelessness, the despair of life without God. And God so loved the world that He send His only begotten Son to die for man's sins in order that through the death of Christ, man might be brought back to God or reconciled to God. And so Paul said, "I'm God's ambassador, and I'm here representing Jesus Christ, and I'm saying for Him, 'Be ye reconciled to God.'" Come back into fellowship with God. Come back into the government of light and life. Know again the joy, the glory, the blessing of walking in the Spirit. The life of the Spirit. The life after the Spirit.
For he [God] hath made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in [through] him ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 ).
Here is one of the most glorious scriptures in the New Testament, as we see what God has done for us in Christ in reconciling us to Himself. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we turned every one of us to our own ways; and God laid on Him the iniquities of us all" ( Isaiah 53:6 ). "God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin."
I sometimes start to read in the paper some horrible, vicious crime that has been committed, and I just can't read it. My being just revolts against it too strongly. I sometimes have been given reports from the social welfare department of child abuse, and some of the things that are done to these little one-, two-, three-year old babies. And when I read of some of the abuses of these little children, I have to quit reading. I can't stand it. My system just won't take it. I just have to set it aside; I get sick. I cannot conceive a person doing such horribly, ugly, vile thing. And my whole being just is revolted by it. And I'm not that righteous as a person. I have my own flaws. I've done some pretty terrible things myself.
Jesus knew no sin. Absolutely pure. Absolutely holy. Absolutely righteous. But God laid on Him every horrible, vile deed that has ever been done by perverted, fallen man. Now, can you imagine what a shock that must have been? No wonder He cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" ( Matthew 27:46 ) As He tasted of death for every man, that separation from God, that spiritual death. That cry that came from His lips upon the cross was made in order that you might not have to make it for eternity. There, as God laid upon Him our sins, He was reconciling man to God. And so He became what we were, in order that He might make us what He is.
Love divine, all loves excelling. The love of Jesus Christ, who was willing to take all of my ugliness, all of my sin and bear in His body, there on the cross, my sins. The love of God who was willing to allow His Son to become sin for us. He who knew no sin and die in our place. Now you see why the greatest sin that any man can ever commit is the sin of rejecting this love of God offered to him through Jesus Christ. You see, that's the only sin for which a man will ever be judged.
You won't have to face the great white throne judgment of God because you were a cheat, a thief, a liar, a prostitute, a murderer, an adulterer, fornicator. You'll face the great white throne judgment of God if you have rejected the love of God offered to you through Jesus Christ. That's the greatest sin.
Jesus said, "I didn't come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Me might be saved. And he that believeth is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, seeing he has not believed on the only begotten Son of God. This is the condemnation, that light came into the world, but men would not come to the light" ( John 3:17-19 ). That's what it's going to be. God has offered salvation, but you didn't take it. God has offered love, but you rejected it. No hope. For there remains no further or no other sacrifice. There's nothing else you can do for the atoning of your sin, for being reconciled to God. No other way you can be reconciled to God.
That's why Satan hates the cross. That's why your cults hate the cross. That's why the liberals hate the cross. The cross declares to mankind there is only one way by which you can be reconciled to God. And that's through the cross and the death of Jesus Christ.
And if you reject that, there remains no other sacrifice, only the "fearful looking forward to of the fiery indignation of the wrath of God, which will devour His adversaries. For if they that despised Moses' law died because of the witness of two or three: Of how much worse punishment, suppose ye, he to be accounted worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of His covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who has said, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' saith the Lord. And again, 'It is a fearful thing to fall in the hands of a living God'" ( Hebrews 10:27-31 ).
I'll tell you what, if I were God and did that much to redeem man, offering my son and giving my son and man would reject and cast him aside, and do despite to that spirit of grace, I would do as God does, and God will do. I would say, "You want to live in darkness? That shall be your sentence." And I would cast you into outer darkness throughout eternity, which God is going to do to the fearful and the unbelieving. Those who fail to receive His grace and offers of love through Jesus.
So in Christ's stead, as ambassadors of Christ, we encourage you: Be reconciled to God. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/2-corinthians-5.html. 2014.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: The conditional "if" is included to make an affirmation to teach about the conversion process: every time a person changes his life to "be in Christ," that is, he becomes obedient to Christ and belongs to Him, he abandons his old life and becomes "a new creature" (ktisis), meaning he becomes a new "creation" (Strong 2937). In order for one to be "in Christ," he must be baptized. Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, says, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
His life becomes new. It is as though his life begins again. Paul teaches the same message to the Christians in Rome:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:3-11).
old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new: Since one’s life starts over when he becomes a follower of Christ, his old way of thinking and acting "pass away" (parerchom), meaning his past actions totally "perish" (Strong 3928). As a new creation, his thinking and acting change in obedience to Jesus’ teaching. Bernard quotes Stanley’s explanation of this phrase:
Paul’s words show how completely he regarded the Death of Christ as a new epoch in the history of the human race. Had he foreseen distinctly that a new era would be dated from that time; that a new society, philosophy, literature, moral code, would grow up from it over continents of which he knew not the existence; he could not have more strongly expressed his sense of the greatness of the event than in what is here said (72).
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​ctf/2-corinthians-5.html. 1993-2022.
The new creation 5:16-17
Paul now illustrated how Christ’s love had changed his viewpoint.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/2-corinthians-5.html. 2012.
Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) had had another effect besides altering Paul’s viewpoint (2 Corinthians 5:16). 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 each begin with the same Greek word, hoste: "therefore" or "so." Whenever a person experiences conversion, as Paul did, he or she really becomes a new person. It is not just his or her viewpoint that should change and can change, but many other things also change. Certain old conditions and relationships no longer exist (Gr. parelthen, aorist tense), and others take their place and continue (Gr. gegonen, perfect tense).
Obviously there is both continuity and discontinuity that takes place at conversion (justification). Paul was not denying the continuity. We still have the same physical features, basic personality, genetic constitution, parents, susceptibility to temptation (1 Corinthians 10:14), sinful environment (Galatians 1:4), etc. These things do not change. He was stressing the elements of discontinuity: perspectives, prejudices, misconceptions, enslavements, etc. (cf. Galatians 2:20). God adds many new things at conversion including new spiritual life, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, the righteousness of Christ, as well as new viewpoints (2 Corinthians 5:16).
The Christian is a new creature (a new man, Romans 6) in this sense. Before conversion we did not possess the life-giving Holy Spirit who now lives within us (Romans 8:9). We had only our sinful human nature. Now we have both our sinful human nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit. This addition makes us an essentially new person since the Holy Spirit’s effects on the believer are so far-reaching. We also possess many other riches of divine grace that contribute to our distinctiveness as believers. Lewis Sperry Chafer listed 33 things that the Christian receives at the moment of justification. [Note: Systematic Theology, 3:234-65. See Robert A Pyne and Matthew L. Blackmon, "A Critique of the ’Exchanged Life,’" Bibliotheca Sacra 163:650 (April-June 2006):131-57.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/2-corinthians-5.html. 2012.
JOY AND JUDGMENT TO COME ( 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 )
5:1-10 For we know that if this earthly house of ours, that tent which is the body is pulled down, we have a building which comes from God, a house not made with hands, eternal and in the heavens. For indeed so long as we are as we are we earnestly long to put on our abode which is from heaven, and if indeed we have put it on we shall not be found naked. For, while we are in this tent of the body, we groan, for life weighs us down, for it is not so much that we desire to be stripped of this house, but rather that we desire to put on our heavenly body over it, so that that which is subject to death may be swallowed up by life. He who has designed us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a first instalment of the life to come. So then we are always in good heart, although we know that, while we sojourn here in the body, we are absent from the Lord--for it is by faith we walk and not by sight--but we are in good heart and we are willing rather to depart from the body and to stay with the Lord. So then it is our one ambition, whether we are present with him or absent from him, to be the kind of people in which he can find pleasure. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one of us may receive the consequences of the thing we did while we were in the body, consequences which will correspond to what each one of us has done, be it good or bad.
There is a very significant progression of thought in this passage, a progression which gives us the very essence of the thought of Paul.
(i) To him it will be a day of joy when he is done with this human body. He regards it as merely a tent, a temporary dwelling place, in which we sojourn till the day comes when it is dissolved and we enter into the real abode of our souls.
We have had occasion before to see how Greek and Roman thinkers despised the body. "The body," they said, "is a tomb." Plotinus could say that he was ashamed that he had a body. Epictetus said of himself. "Thou art a poor soul burdened with a corpse." Seneca wrote, "I am a higher being and born for higher things than to be the slave of my body which I look upon as only a shackle put upon my freedom.... In so detestable a habitation dwells the free soul." Even Jewish thought sometimes had this idea. "For the corruptible body presses down upon the soul and the earthly tabernacle weighs down the mind that muses on many things." ( Wis_9:15 ).
With Paul there is a difference. He is not looking for a Nirvana with the peace of extinction; he is not looking for absorption in the divine; he is not looking for the freedom of a disembodied spirit; he is waiting for the day when God will give him a new body, a spiritual body, in which he will still be able, even in the heavenly places, to serve and to adore God.
Kipling once wrote a poem in which he thought of all the great things that a man would be able to do in the world to come:
"When earth's last picture is painted
And the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colours have faded,
And the youngest critic has died,
We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it--
Lie down for an aeon or two,
Till the Master of All Good Workmen
Shall put us to work anew.
And those that were good shall be happy,
They shall sit in a golden chair
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas
With brushes of comets' hair.
They shall find real saints to draw from,
Magdalene, Peter and Paul,
They shall work for an age at a sitting
And never be tired at all.
And only the Master shall praise them,
And only the Master shall blame;
And no one will work for money
And no one will work for fame;
But each for the joy of the working,
And each in his separate star,
Shall draw the thing as he sees it,
For the God of things as they are."
That was how Paul felt. He saw eternity not as release into permanent inaction, but as the entry into a body in which service could be complete.
(ii) For all his yearning for the life to come, Paul does not despise this life. He is, he says, in good heart. The reason is that even here and now we possess the Holy Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit is the arrabon ( G728) (compare 2 Corinthians 1:22), the first instalment of the life to come. It is Paul's conviction that already the Christian can enjoy the foretaste of the life everlasting. It is given to the Christian to be a citizen of two worlds; and the result is, not that he despises this world, but that he finds it clad with a sheen of glory which is the reflection of the greater glory to come.
(iii) Then comes the note of sternness. Even when Paul was thinking of the life to come, he never forgot that we are on the way not only to glory, but also to judgment. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." The word for judgment seat is bema ( G968) . Paul may be thinking simply of the tribunal of the Roman magistrate before which he himself had stood, or he may be thinking of the Greek way of justice.
All Greek citizens were liable to serve as judges, or, as we would say, as jurymen. When an Athenian sat in judgment on a case he was given two bronze discs. Each had a cylindrical axis. One axis was hollow and that disc stood for condemnation; one was solid and that disc stood for acquittal. On the bema ( G968) there stood two urns. One, of bronze, was called "the decisive urn", for into it the judge dropped the disc which stood for his verdict. The other, of wood, was called "the inoperative urn", for into it the judge dropped the disc which he desired to discard. So at the end the jury dropped into the bronze urn either the disc that stood for acquittal or the one that stood for condemnation. To an onlooker they looked exactly alike and none could tell the verdict the judges gave. Then the discs were counted and the verdict given.
Even so some day we shall await the verdict of God. When we remember that, life becomes a tremendous and a thrilling thing, for in it we are making or marring a destiny, winning or losing a crown. Time becomes the testing ground of eternity.
THE NEW CREATION ( 2 Corinthians 5:11-19 )
5:11-19 So then, it is because we know the fear of the Lord that we keep on trying to persuade men, but to God we are already known through and through, and I hope that in your conscience, too, we will come to be as completely known. We are not trying to give ourselves another testimonial, but we are giving you an opportunity to express your pride in us, so that you may be able to answer those who pride themselves on outward appearances but not in the things of the heart. For, if we have behaved like a madman, it is for the sake of God's work. If we behave like a sensible person, it is for your sake. For it is the love of Christ which controls us, because we have come to this conclusion that one died for all, and that the inevitable conclusion is that all died. And he did die for all in order that those who live should no longer live for their own sakes, but for the sake of him who died and was raised again. The result is that from now on we value no man on the world's standards. There was a time when we applied our human standards to Christ, but now that is no longer the way in which we know him. The result is that if a man is in Christ he has been created all over again. The old things have passed away, and lo! they have become new. And all things are from God who reconciled us to himself by means of Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation, a ministry whose message is that God, through Christ, was reconciling the world to himself, not debiting their sins against them, and has given us the story of this reconciliation to tell.
This passage follows very directly on the one that has gone before. Paul had just spoken of standing at the judgment tribunal of Christ. All his life is lived with that kept in view. It is not so much the terror of Christ he really talks about. It is rather awe and reverence that he means. The Old Testament is full of the thought of a cleansing fear. Job speaks of "the fear of the Lord that is wisdom." ( Job 28:28). "What does the Lord your God require of you?" asks the writer of Deuteronomy, and the first item on his answer is, "to fear the Lord your God." ( Deuteronomy 10:12). "The fear of the Lord," says Proverbs, "is the beginning of knowledge." ( Proverbs 1:7 compare Proverbs 9:10). "By the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil." ( Proverbs 16:6). This does not describe the fear of a dog who waits for a whipping or of a cowed child. It is that which keeps even a thoughtless man from desecrating a holy place. It is that which keeps a man from doing things which would break the heart of someone whom he loves. "The fear of the Lord," said the psalmist, "is clean." ( Psalms 19:9). There is a cleansing fear without which a man cannot live the life he ought.
Paul is trying to persuade men of his own sincerity. He has no doubt whatever that in the sight of God his hands are clean and his motives pure. but his enemies have cast suspicion on them, and he wishes to demonstrate his sincerity to his Corinthian friends. This is not from any selfish desire to vindicate himself. It is from the knowledge that, if his sincerity is questioned, the impact of his message will be injured. A man's message will always be heard in the context of his character. That is why the preacher and the teacher must be beyond suspicion. We have to avoid, not only evil, but the very appearance of evil lest anything make others think less, not of us, but of the message which we bring.
In verse 13, ( 2 Corinthians 5:13), Paul insists that behind all his conduct there has been one motive only--to serve God and to help the Corinthians. More than once Paul was thought to be crazy ( Acts 26:24). He was suffering the same misunderstanding as Jesus suffered ( Mark 3:21). The real enthusiast always runs the risk of seeming crazy to lukewarm people.
Kipling tells how, on a world tour, General Booth boarded the ship at a certain port. He was seen off by a horde of tambourine-beating Salvationists. The whole thing revolted Kipling's fastidious soul. Later he got to know the General and told him how much he disapproved of this kind of thing. "Young man," said Booth, "if I thought that I could win one more soul for Christ by standing on my hands and beating a tambourine with my feet I would learn to do it."
The real enthusiast does not care if others think he is a fool. If a man follows out the Christian way of generosity, forgiveness and utter loyalty, there will always be worldly-wise people who will bluntly call him crazy. Paul knew that there was a time for calm, sensible conduct, and he knew, too, that there was a time for the conduct which to the world looks mad. He was prepared to follow either for the sake of Christ and of men.
Paul goes on to the moving motive of the whole Christian life. Christ died for all. To Paul the Christian is, in his favourite phrase, in Christ, and therefore the old self of the Christian died in that death and he arose a new man, as new as if he had been freshly created by the hands of God. In this newness of life he has acquired a new set of standards. He no longer judges things by the standards the world uses. There was a time when Paul had judged Christ by human standards and had set out to eliminate the Christian faith from the world. But not now. Now his standards are different. Now the man whose name he had sought to obliterate is to him the most wonderful person in the world, because he had given to him that friendship of God which he had longed for all his life.
AMBASSADOR FOR CHRIST ( 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 )
5:20-21 So then we are acting as ambassadors on Christ's behalf, for God is sending you his invitation through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made him who had no acquaintance with sin to be sin for us, that through him we might become the righteousness of God. Because we are trying to help him to win men, we urge you not to have received the offer of the grace of God all to no purpose. (For scripture says, "At an accepted time I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." Lo! Now is the accepted time. Lo! Now is the day of salvation).
The office that Paul claims as his one glory and his one task is that of ambassador for Christ. The Greek he uses (presbeutes, compare G4246) is a great word. It had two uses corresponding with the Latin word of which it is a translation (legatus).
(i) Roman provinces were divided into two types. One was under the direct control of the senate, the other under the direct control of the Emperor. The distinction was made on this basis--provinces which were peaceful and had no troops in them were senatorial provinces; provinces which were turbulent and had troops stationed in them were imperial provinces. In the imperial provinces, the man who administered the province on behalf of the Emperor, was the legatus presbeutai. So then, the word in the first place paints a picture of a man who has a direct commission from the Emperor; and Paul regarded himself as commissioned by Jesus Christ for the work of the Church.
(ii) But presbeutes (compare G4246) and legatus have an even more interesting meaning. When the Roman senate decided that a country should become a province they sent to it ten legati or presbeutai, that is, envoys, of their own number, who, along with the victorious general, arranged the terms of peace with the vanquished people, determined the boundaries of the new province, drew up a constitution for its new administration, and then returned to submit what they had done for ratification by the senate. They were the men responsible for bringing others into the family of the Roman Empire. So Paul thinks of himself as the man who brings to others the terms of God, whereby they can become citizens of his empire and members of his family.
There is no more responsible position than that of ambassador.
(i) An ambassador of Britain is a Briton in a foreign land. His life is spent among people who usually speak a different language, who have a different tradition and who follow a different way of life. The Christian is always like that. He lives in the world; he takes part in all the life and work of the world; but he is a citizen of heaven. To that extent he is a stranger. The man who is not willing to be different cannot be a Christian at all.
(ii) An ambassador speaks for his own country. When a British ambassador speaks, his voice is the voice of Britain. There are times when the Christian has to speak for Christ. In the decisions and the counsels of the world his must be the voice which brings the message of Christ to the human situation.
(iii) The honour of a country is in its ambassador's hands. His country is judged by him. His words are listened to, his deeds are watched and people say, "That is the way such-and-such a country speaks and acts." Lightfoot, the great Bishop of Durham, said in an ordination address, "The ambassador, while acting, acts not only as an agent, but as a representative of his sovereign.... The ambassador's duty is not only to deliver a definite message, to carry out a definite policy; but he is obliged to watch opportunities, to study characters, to cast about for expedients, so that he may place it before his hearers in its most attractive form." It is the great responsibility of the ambassador to commend his country to the men amongst whom he is set.
Here is the Christian's proud privilege and almost terrifying responsibility. The honour of Christ and of the Church are in his hands. By his every word and action he can make men think more-or-less of his Church and of his Master.
We have to note Paul's message. "Be reconciled to God." The New Testament never speaks of God being reconciled to men, but always of men being reconciled to God. There is no question of pacifying an angry God. The whole process of salvation takes its beginning from him. It was because God so loved the world that he sent his son. It is not that God is estranged from man but that man is estranged from him. God's message, the message which Paul brought, is an appeal from a loving Father to wandering and estranged children to come home where love is waiting for them.
Paul beseeches them not to accept the offer of the grace of God all to no purpose. There is such a thing--and it is eternity's tragedy--as the frustration of grace. Let us think of the matter in human terms. Suppose that a father sacrifices and toils to give his son every chance, surrounds him with love, plans for his future with care, and does everything humanly possible to equip him for life. And suppose the son feels no debt of gratitude, never feels the obligation to repay by being worthy of all this; and suppose he fails, not because he has not the ability, but because he will not try, because he forgets the love that gave him so much. That is what breaks a father's heart. When God gives men all his grace and they take their own foolish way and frustrate that grace which might have recreated them, once again Christ is crucified and the heart of God is broken.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Barclay, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dsb/2-corinthians-5.html. 1956-1959.
Therefore, -- G5620; so then;
if anyone is in Christ, -- To be in fellowship with Christ, in a personal relationship. The way one moves from being "out" of Christ and "into" Christ is pictured in Galatians 3:26-27; and Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-6;
he is a new creation [creature] -- In Christ man finds forgiveness and a new way of living. He turns from a sinful way of living for self, and now lives an obedient life to the glory of Christ.
new creature, G2537, new in the sense of freshly made.
The old has passed away; -- G744, archaia, Paul may be referring to: 1) the old dispensaton of the Law of Moses, and the new age of the Messiah and the Gospel for all nations; or 2) the old man of sin has been forgiven and he now lives a new life in Christ.
behold, -- G2400,
the new has come. -- A new life, a new age.
become new -- see James 2:24 note "Being Saved" about become a new creature in Christ.
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Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​gbc/2-corinthians-5.html. 2021.
Therefore if any man be in Christ,.... There's a secret being in Christ from everlasting; so all that are loved by him, espoused unto him, chosen and preserved in him, to whom he was a covenant head, surety, and representative, are in him, united to him, and one with him; not in such sense as the Father is in him, and the human nature is in him, but as husband and wife, and head and members are one: and there is an open being in Christ at conversion, when a man believes in Christ, and gives up himself to him; faith does not put a man into Christ, but makes him appear to be in him: and such an one "is a new creature"; or, as some read it, "let him be a new creature": who understand being in Christ to be by profession, and the sense this, whoever is in the kingdom or church of Christ, who professes himself to be a Christian, ought to be a new creature: the Arabic version reads it, "he that is in the faith of Christ is a new creature". All such who are secretly in Christ from everlasting, though as yet some of them may not be new creatures, yet they shall be sooner or later; and those who are openly in him, or are converted persons, are actually so; they are a new "creation", as the words may be rendered: ברייה חדשה, "a new creation", is a phrase often used by the Jewish h doctors, and is applied by the apostle to converted persons; and designs not an outward reformation of life and manners, but an inward principle of grace, which is a creature, a creation work, and so not man's, but God's; and in which man is purely passive, as he was in his first creation; and this is a new creature, or a new man, in opposition to, and distinction from the old man, the corruption of nature; and because it is something anew implanted in the soul, which never was there before; it is not a working upon, and an improvement of the old principles of nature, but an implantation of new principles of grace and holiness; here is a new heart, and a new spirit, and in them new light and life, new affections and desires, new delights and joys; here are new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with, new feet to walk, and new hands to work and act with:
old things are passed away: the old course of living, the old way of serving God, whether among Jews or Gentiles; the old legal righteousness, old companions and acquaintance are dropped; and all external things, as riches, honours, learning, knowledge, former sentiments of religion, are relinquished:
behold, all things are become new; there is a new course of life, both of faith and holiness; a new way of serving God through Christ by the Spirit, and from principles of grace; a new, another, and better righteousness is received and embraced; new companions are sought after, and delighted in; new riches, honours, glory, a new Jerusalem, yea, new heavens, and a new earth, are expected by new creatures: or the sense of the whole may be this, if any man is entered into the kingdom of God, into the Gospel dispensation, into a Gospel church state, which seems to be the sense of the phrase "in Christ", in Galatians 3:28 he is become a new creature, or is got into a new creation, as it were into a new world, whether he be a Jew or a Gentile; for with respect to the former state of either, "old things are passed away"; if a Jew, the whole Mosaic economy is abolished; the former covenant is waxen old, and vanished away; the old ordinances of circumcision and the passover are no more; the daily sacrifice is ceased, and all the other sacrifices are at an end, Christ, the great sacrifice, being offered up; the priesthood of Aaron is antiquated, there is a change of it, and of the whole law; the observance of holy, days, new moons and sabbaths, is over; the whole ceremonial law is at end; all the shadows of it are fled and gone, the things they were shadows of being come by Christ, the sum and substance of them; and there is no more a serving God in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit: and if a Gentile, all the former idols he worshipped he turns from, and his language is, "what have I to do any more with idols? or what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" all former sacrifices, superstitious rites and ceremonies, with which he worshipped them, are relinquished by him; with all other Heathenish customs, rules, and methods of conduct he had been used to: "behold, all things are become new"; to the one, and to the other; the Gospel dispensation is a new state of things; a new form of church state is erected, not national, as among the Jews, but congregational, consisting of persons gathered out of the world, and anew embodied together; new ordinances are appointed, which were never in use before, as baptism and the Lord's supper; a new and living way is opened by the blood of Christ into the holiest of all, not by the means of slain beasts, as among the Jews, nor by petty deities as with the Gentiles; a new commandment of love is enjoined all the followers of the Lamb; and another name is given them, a new name, which the mouth of the Lord their God has named, not of Jews nor Gentiles, but of Christians; and new songs are put into their mouths, even praise to God: in short, the Gospel church state seems to be, as it were, a new creation, and perhaps is meant by the new heavens and new earth, Isaiah 65:15 as well as those who are the proper members of it, are new creatures in the sense before given.
h T. Hieros. Roshhashana, fol. 59. 3. Vajikra Rabba, fol. 170. 4. Bemidbar Rabba, fol, 202. 3. Cosri, fol. 62. 2. & R. Levi ben Gersom in Exod, fol. 108. 1. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 121. 2.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/2-corinthians-5.html. 1999.
|Ministry of the Apostles.||A. D. 57.|
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. 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 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; 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. 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. 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.
In these verses the apostle mentions two things that are necessary in order to our living to Christ, both of which are the consequences of Christ's dying for us; namely, regeneration and reconciliation.
I. Regeneration, which consists of two things; namely, 1. Weanedness from the world: "Henceforth we know no man after the flesh,2 Corinthians 5:16; 2 Corinthians 5:16. We do not own nor affect any person or thing in this world for carnal ends and outward advantage: we are enabled, by divine grace, not to mind nor regard this world, nor the things of this world, but to live above it. The love of Christ is in our hearts, and the world is under our feet." Note, Good Christians must enjoy the comforts of this life, and their relations in this world, with a holy indifference. Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet, says the apostle, we know him no more. It is questioned whether Paul had seen Christ in the flesh. However, the rest of the apostles had, and so might some among those he was now writing to. However, he would not have them value themselves upon that account; for even the bodily presence of Christ is not to be desired nor doted upon by his disciples. We must live upon his spiritual presence, and the comfort it affords. Note, Those who make images of Christ, and use them in their worship, do not take the way that God has appointed for strengthening their faith and quickening their affections; for it is the will of God that we should not know Christ any more after the flesh. 2. A thorough change of the heart: For if any man be in Christ, if any man be a Christian indeed, and will approve himself such, he is, or he must be, a new creature,2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17. Some read it, Let him be a new creature. This ought to be the care of all who profess the Christian faith, that they be new creatures; not only that they have a new name, and wear a new livery, but that they have a new heart and new nature. And so great is the change the grace of God makes in the soul, that, as it follows, old things are passed away--old thoughts, old principles, and old practices, are passed away; and all these things must become new. Note, Regenerating grace creates a new world in the soul; all things are new. The renewed man acts from new principles, by new rules, with new ends, and in new company.
II. Reconciliation, which is here spoken of under a double notion:--
1. As an unquestionable privilege, 2 Corinthians 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:19. Reconciliation supposes a quarrel, or breach of friendship; and sin has made a breach, it has broken the friendship between God and man. The heart of the sinner is filled with enmity against God, and God is justly offended with the sinner. Yet, behold, there may be a reconciliation; the offended Majesty of heaven is willing to be reconciled. And observe, 1. He has appointed the Mediator of reconciliation. He has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:18. God is to be owned from first to last in the undertaking and performance of the Mediator. All things relating to our reconciliation by Jesus Christ are of God, who by the mediation of Jesus Christ has reconciled the world to himself, and put himself into a capacity of being actually reconciled to offenders, without any wrong or injury to his justice or holiness, and does not impute to men their trespasses, but recedes from the rigour of the first covenant, which was broken, and does not insist upon the advantage he might justly take against us for the breach of that covenant, but is willing to enter into a new treaty, and into a new covenant of grace, and, according to the tenour thereof, freely to forgive us all our sins, and justify freely by his grace all those who do believe. 2. He has appointed the ministry of reconciliation,2 Corinthians 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:18. By the inspiration of God the scriptures were written, which contain the word of reconciliation, showing us that peace was made by the blood of the cross, that reconciliation is wrought, and directing us how we may be interested therein. And he has appointed the office of the ministry, which is a ministry of reconciliation: ministers are to open and proclaim to sinners the terms of mercy and reconciliation, and persuade them to comply therewith. For,
2. Reconciliation is here spoken of as our indispensable duty, 2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 5:20. As God is willing to be reconciled to us, we ought to be reconciled to God. And it is the great end and design of the gospel, that word of reconciliation, to prevail upon sinners to lay aside their enmity against God. Faithful ministers are Christ's ambassadors, sent to treat with sinners on peace and reconciliation: they come in God's name, with his entreaties, and act in Christ's stead, doing the very thing he did when he was upon this earth, and what he wills to be done now that he is in heaven. Wonderful condescension! Though God can be no loser by the quarrel, nor gainer by the peace, yet by his ministers he beseeches sinners to lay aside their enmity, and accept of the terms he offers, that they would be reconciled to him, to all his attributes, to all his laws, and to all his providences, to believe in the Mediator, to accept the atonement, and comply with his gospel, in all the parts of it and in the whole design of it. And for our encouragement so to do the apostle subjoins what should be well known and duly considered by us (2 Corinthians 5:21; 2 Corinthians 5:21), namely, (1.) The purity of the Mediator: He knew no sin. (2.) The sacrifice he offered: He was made sin; not a sinner, but sin, that is, a sin-offering, a sacrifice for sin. (3.) The end and design of all this: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, might be justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Note, [1.] As Christ, who knew no sin of his own, was made sin for us, so we, who have no righteousness of our own, are made the righteousness of God in him. [2.] Our reconciliation to God is only through Jesus Christ, and for the sake of his merit: on him therefore we must rely, and make mention of his righteousness and his only.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/2-corinthians-5.html. 1706.
The Believer A New Creature
Delivered on Sunday Morning, July 18th, 1869, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." 2 Corinthians 5:17 .
THIS TEXT IS exceedingly full of matter, and might require many treatises, and even multitudes of folios, to bring forth all its meaning. Holy Scripture is notably sententious. Human teachers are given to verbiage; we multiply words to express our meaning, but the Lord is wondrously laconic; he writeth as it were in shorthand, and gives us much in little. One single grain of the precious gold of Scripture may be beaten out into acres of human gold leaf, and spread far and wide. A few books are precious as silver, fewer still are golden; but God's Book hath a bank note in every syllable, and the worth of its sentences it were not possible for mortal intellect to calculate.
We have two great truths here, which would serve us for the subject of meditation for many a day: the believer's position he is "in Christ;" and the believer's character he is a "new creature." Upon both of these we shall speak but briefly this morning, but may God grant that we may find instruction therein.
I. First, then, let us consider THE CHRISTIAN'S POSITION he is said to be "in Christ."
There are three stages of the human soul in connection with Christ: the first is without Christ, this is the state of nature; the next is in Christ, this is the state of grace; the third is with Christ, that is the state of glory.
Without Christ, this is where we all are born and nurtured, and even though we hear the gospel, and the Bible be in all our houses, and even though we use a form of prayer, yet until we are born again, we are without God, without Christ, and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel. A man may stand at the banqueting-table, and may be without food, unless he puts out his hand to grasp that which is provided; and a man may have Christ preached in his hearing every Sabbath-day, and be without Christ, unless he putteth forth the hand of faith to lay hold upon him. It is a most unhappy condition to be without Christ. It is inconvenient to be without gold, it is miserable to be without health, it is deplorable to be without a friend, it is wretched to be without reputation, but to be without Christ is the worst lack in all the world. O that God would make all of us sensible of it who are now the subjects of it, and may we no longer tarry in the position of being without Christ.
The next state is that indicated in the text, "in Christ," of which I will say more by-and-by. "In Christ" leadeth to the third state, which we can never reach without this second one, namely, to be with Christ; to be his companions in the rest which he has attained, all his work and labour done; to be with him in the glory which he has gained, made to see it and to participate in it world without end. To be with Christ is the angels' joy, it is the heaven of heaven, it is the centre of bliss, the sun of paradise. Let us seek after it, and in order that we may have it, let us labour with all our heart and mind to be found in Christ now, that we may be in Christ in the day of his appearing.
Turn we now to the expression itself, "in Christ." I never heard of any persons being in any other man but Christ; we may follow certain leaders, political or religious, but we are never said to be included in them. We may take for ourselves eminent examples and high models of humanity, but no man is said in that respect to be in another. But this is a grand old scriptural phrase in which the disciple and the follower of Christ becomes something more than an imitator of his Lord, and is said to be in his Master. We must interpret this scriptural phrase by scriptural symbols. We were all of us in the first Adam. Adam stood for us. Had Adam kept the command, we had all of us been blessed. He took off the forbidden fruit and fell, and all of us fell in him. Original sin falleth upon us because of the transgression of our covenant head and representative, Adam the first; but all believers are in the same sense in Christ, Adam the second, the only other representative Man before God, the heavenly Man, the Lord from heaven. Now, as in Adam we all fell, so all who are in Christ are in Christ perfectly restored. The obedience of Christ is the obedience of all his people; the atonement of Christ is a propitiation for all his people's sins. In Christ we lived on earth, in Christ we died, in Christ we rose, and he "hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places" in himself. As the apostle tells us that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchisedec met him, so were we in the loins of Christ from before the foundation of the world; faith apprehends that blessed truth, and thus by faith we are experimentally in Christ Jesus.
Noah's Ark was a type of Christ. The animals that were preserved from the deluge passed through the door into the ark, the Lord shut them in, and high above the foaming billows they floated in perfect safety. We are in Christ in the same sense. He is the ark of God provided against the day of judgment. We by faith believe him to be capable of saving us; we come and trust him, we risk our souls with him, believing that there is no risk; we venture on him confident that it is no venture; giving up every other hope or shadow of a hope, we trust in what Jesus did, is doing, and is in himself, and thus he becomes to us our ark, and we are in him.
Another similitude may be taken from the old Jewish law. By God's commands certain cities were provided throughout all Canaan, that an Israelite who should slay his fellow at unawares, might flee there from the avenger of blood. The city of refuge no sooner received the manslayer than he was perfectly free from the avenger who pursued him. Once within the suburbs or through the gate, and the manslayer might breathe safely, the executioner would be kept at bay. In the same sense we are in Christ Jesus. He is God's eternal city of refuge, and we having offended, having slain, as it were, the command of God, flee for our lives and enter within the refuge city, where vengeance cannot reach us, but where we shall be safe world without end.
In the New Testament the Lord Jesus explains this phrase of being in himself in another way. He represents us as being in him as the branch is in the vine. Now, the branch derives all its nourishment, its sap, its vitality, its fruit-bearing power, from the stem with which it is united. It would be of no use that the branch should be placed close to the trunk, it would be of no service even to strap it side by side with the stem, it must be actually in it by a vital union. There must be sap-streams flowing at the proper season into it, life-floods gushing into it from the parent stem; and even so there is a mysterious union between Christ and his people, not to be explained but to be enjoyed, not to be defined but to be experienced, in which the very life of Christ flows into us, and we by the virtue that cometh out of him into us, become like unto him, and bring forth clusters of good fruit unto his honour and unto God's glory. I trust you know what this means, beloved, many of you. May you live in the possession of it daily! May you be one with Jesus, knit to him, united to him never to be separated for ever. As the limb is in the body, even so may you constantly be one with Jesus.
We may be in Christ also as the stone is in the building. The stone is built into the wall and is a part of it. In some of the old Roman walls you can scarcely tell which is the firmer, the cement or the stone, for their cement was so exceedingly strong, that it held the stones together as though they were one mass of rock; and such is the eternal love which binds the saints to Christ. They become one rock, one palace wall, one temple, to the praise and glory of the God who built the fabric. Thus you see what it is to be in Christ: it is to trust him for salvation as Noah trusted the ark; it is to derive real life from him as the branch does from the stem; it is to lean on him, and to be united to him as the stone leans on the foundation and becomes an integral part of the structure.
The phrase "in Christ Jesus," then, has a weight of meaning in it. "How do we come to be there?" saith one. To whom we answer: our union to Christ is practically and experimentally wrought in us by faith when a man giveth himself up to Christ to sink or swim with Christ, when he leaneth his soul wholly on the Beloved, when as for his good works he abhorreth them, and as for his self-righteousness, he counteth it dross and dung, when he clingeth to the sole hope of the cross, then is such a man in Christ. He is further in Christ when he loves Jesus, when the heart having trusted and reposed in the cross, is moved with deep and warm affection to the Crucified, so that the soul clings to Christ, embracing him with fervent love, and Christ becomes the bridegroom, and the heart becomes his spouse, and they are married to one another in a union which no divorce can ever separate. When love and faith come together, then is there a blessedly sweet communion; these two graces become the double channel through which the Holy Spirit's influence flows forth daily, making the Christian to grow up more fully unto Christ Jesus in all things. The riper the Christian becomes, the nearer to the glory, the closer to the perfection which is promised, the more completely will he think and act, and live and move, in Christ his Master, being one with Jesus in all things. I shall not detain you longer over that one matter, every true Christian is in Christ.
II. Now we survey THE BELIEVER'S CHARACTER, for it is said that if any man be in Christ he is a "new creature." This is a great utterance. We shall not attempt to dive into it this were work for a leviathan divine but merely like the swallow, we touch the surface of it with our wing, and away.
What is meant by the Christian being a new creature? Three thoughts seem to me to spring up from the words, and the first is, the believer must then have been the subject of a radical change. He is said to be a new creature, which is of all things a most sweeping change. There are many changes which a man may undergo, but they may be far from being radical enough to be worth calling a new creation. Saul is among the prophets: hear how he prophesies; if they speak with sacred rapture the secrets of God, so doth he. Is not Saul converted the Scripture tells us that God gave him another heart! Ay, another heart, but not a new heart. A man may be changed from one sin to another, from reckless profanity to mocking formality, from daring sin to hypocritical pretension to virtue; but such a change as is very far from being saving, and not at all like the work which is called a new creation. Ahab went and humbled himself after his murder of Naboth, and God turned away His vengeance for awhile from him, but that temporary humiliation of Ahab was no sign of a renewal of his nature; it was like the changes of the sea, which today is smooth, but which anon will be as ravenous after wrecks as ever, being still unchanged in its nature, still voracious and cruel, fickle and unstable. Ahab may humble himself, but he is Ahab still, and as Ahab will he go down into the pit.
Conversion is sometimes described in Scripture as healing; yet the idea of healing does not rise to the radical character of the text. Naaman went down to the Jordan full of leprosy, and he washed himself, and came up, after the seventh immersion, with his flesh clean like unto a little child; but it was the same flesh and the same Naaman, and he was by no means a new creature. The woman, bowed down with infirmity those sad eighteen years, was marvellously changed when she stood upright, as a daughter of Abraham, loosed at last from her bondage; but she was the same woman, and the description does not answer to a new creature. No doubt there are great moral changes wrought in many which are not saving. I have seen a drunkard become sober; I have known persons of debauched habits become regular; and yet their changes have not amounted to regeneration or the new birth. The same sin has been within them, reigning still, though it has assumed a different garb, and used another voice. Ah, ye may be washed from outward leprosies, and ye may be made straight from your visible infirmities, but this will not suffice you; if you are in Christ you must have more than this; for "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Nor will the most startling changes suffice unless they are total and deep. The Ethiopian might change his skin, the leopard might suddenly lose his spots these would be strange prodigies; but the leopard would remain a leopard, and the Ethiop would still be black at heart; the improvement would not amount to new creation. So may a man give up every outward lust and every crying sin which he was wont to indulge, and yet, unless the change shall go far deeper than the outward life, he is not saved he is not a new creature, and, therefore, he is not in Christ Jesus. I venture to say, that even the metaphor of resurrection, which is often applied to conversion, does not go so far as the language of the text. The young daughter of Jairus is placed upon her bed, and she dies, and our Lord comes and saith to her, "Talitha cumi," and she opens her eyes, she awakes, she lives, she eats," still she is not a new creature; her mother receives her as the selfsame child. Even Lazarus, who has been dead and is supposed through four days of burial to have begun to stink, when he is called from the grave by the voice of Jesus, is the subject of a remarkable miracle, but it scarcely amounts to a new creation. He is the same Lazarus restored, not a new creature, but the same creature vivified from a transient sleep of death. Do you see, then, how very searching the word is here, a "a new creature," absolutely a new creation. It is a root and branch change; not an alteration of the walls only, but of the foundation; not a new figuring of the visible tapestry, but a renewal of the fabric itself. Regeneration is a change of the entire nature from top to bottom in all senses and respects. Such is the new birth, such is it to be in Christ and to be renewed by the Holy Ghost.
The text saith that we are new creatures through being in Christ. How comes that about? We have known persons inveigh very earnestly against the doctrine that men are saved by a simple faith in Jesus Christ. That is the gospel, and nothing else is the gospel, and those who do not preach that truth know nothing of God's gospel at all; for it is the very soul and essence of the gospel the article, as Luther used to say, by which a church stands or falls. We are saved by a simple faith in Jesus, but these people argue against this on the ground that there must be a great moral change in man before he can be reconciled to God and made meet to be with God for ever. But, my brethren, if the text be true, that those who are in Christ are new creatures, what greater change than this can be desired? I know no language, I believe there is none, that can express a greater or more thorough and more radical renewal, than that which is expressed in the term, "a new creature." It is as though the former creature were annihilated and put away, and a something altogether new were formed from the breath of the eternal God, even as in the day when the world sprang out of nothing, and the morning stars sang together over a new-made universe. Such is the fruit of being in Christ, to be a new creature. And what, ye moralists, want ye more than this? What, ye pretenders to perfection, what, ye mystic spiritualists, who strive after a strange holiness to which ye never attain, what, ye that bind heavy burdens upon men's shoulders which ye do not touch with your fingers yourselves, what want ye more than this, for a man to be absolutely made a new creature by being in Christ?
How is this done? We reply that the man who is in the first Adam, being translated into the second Adam, becomes legally a new creature. As in the first Adam he is judged and condemned, his punishment is laid upon his substitute; but as viewed in the second representative Man, he is legally, and before the bar of God's justice, a new creature. But this is not all: he who believes in Christ, finding himself completely pardoned as the result of his faith in the precious blood of Jesus, loves Christ, and loves the God who gave Christ to be his redemption, and that love becomes a master passion. We have all heard of the expulsive power of a new affection; this new affection of love to God coming into the soul, expels love to sin. It enters into the heart of man with such a royal majesty about it that it puts down all his predispositions towards evil, and his prejudices against the Most High, and with a real and divine power it reigns within the soul. I suppose the mode of this great change is somewhat after this sort: The man at first is ignorant of his God; he does not know God to be so loving, so kind, so good as he is; therefore the Holy Spirit shows the man Christ, lets him see the love of God in the person of Christ, and thus illuminates the understanding. Whereas the sinner thought nothing of' God before, or his few stray thoughts were all dark and terrible, now he learns the infinite love of God in the person of Christ, and his understanding gets clearer views of God than it ever had before. Then, in turn, the understanding acts upon the affections. Learning God to be thus good and kind, the heart, which was hard towards God, is softened, and the man loves the gracious Father who gave Jesus to redeem him from his sins. The affections being changed, the whole man is on the way towards a great and radical renewal, for now the emotions find another ruler. The passions, once rabid as vultures at the sight of the carrion of sin, now turn with loathing from iniquity, and are only stirred by holy principle. The convert groweth vehement against evil, as vehement as he once was against the right. Now he longeth and pineth after communion with God as once he longed and pined after sin. The affections, like a rudder, have changed the direction of the emotions, and meanwhile the will, that stubbornest thing of all, that iron sinew, is led in a blessed captivity, wearing silken fetters. The heart wills to do what God wills, yea, it wills to be perfect, for to will is present with us, though how to perform all that we would we find not. See then, beloved friends, how great is the change wrought in us by our being in Christ! It is a thorough and entire change, affecting all the parts, powers, and passions of our manhood. Grace doth not reform us, but re-creates us; it doth not pare away here and there an evil excrescence, but it implants a holy and divine principle which goes to instant war with all indwelling sin, and continues to fight until corruption is subdued, and holiness is enthroned.
I shall only pause to ask this one question do my hearers all know what such a change as this means? Believe me, you must know it personally for yourselves, or you can never enter heaven. Let no man deceive you. That regeneration which is said to be wrought in baptism, is a figment without the shadow of foundation. The sprinkling of an infant makes no change in that child whatever; it is, as I believe, a vain ceremony, not commanded of God, nor warranted in Scripture; and as the Church of England practises it, it is altogether pernicious and superstitious, and if there be any effect following it, it must be an evil effect upon those who wickedly lie unto Almighty God, by promising and vowing that the unconscious shall keep God's commandments, and walk in the same all the days of his life; which they cannot do for the child, inasmuch as they cannot even so do for themselves. Ye must have another regeneration than this, the work not of priestly fingers, with their hocus-pocus and superstitious genuflexions, but the work of the Eternal Spirit, who alone can regenerate the soul, whose office alone it is that can give light to the spiritually blinded eye, and sensation to the spiritually dead heart. Be not misled by the priests of this age. Ye profess to have cast off Rome, cast off her Anglican children. Wear not the rags of her superstition, nor bear her mark in your foreheads. Ye must be born again in another sense than formality can work in you. It must be an inward work, a spiritual work, and only this can save your souls. If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature, that is, he has experienced a radical change.
Secondly, another thought starts up from the expression in the text. There is divine working here. "A new creature." Creation is the work of God alone. It must be so. If any doubt it, let us bid them make the effort to create the smallest object. The potter places his clay upon the wheel, and shapes it after his own pleasure, he fashions the vase, but he is not the creator of it. The clay was there beforehand, he does but change its shape. Will any man who thinks he can play the creator, produce a single grain of dust? Call now, and see if there be any that will answer thee call unto nothingness, and bid a grain of dust appear at thy bidding. It cannot be. Now, inasmuch as Paul declares the Christian man to be a new creature, it is proven that the Christian man is the work of God, and the work of God alone, "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The inner life of the Christian is the sole work of the Most High, neither can any pretend to put his finger thereto to help the Creator. In creation, who helped God? who poised the clouds for Him? who weighed the hills in scales to aid His skill, or helped Him dig the channels of the sea? Who aided in rolling the stars along? who took a torch to light up the lamps of heaven? With whom took the Almighty counsel, and who instructed him? If there be any that can stand with God in the making of the world, then may some pretend to compare with Him in the conversion of souls, but until that shall be, the new creation is God's sole domain, and in it His attributes, and His attributes alone, shine resplendent. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." The sovereign will of God creates men heirs of grace.
My brethren, it was more difficult, if such terms are ever applicable to Omnipotence, it was more difficult to create a Christian than to create a world. What was there to begin with when God made the world? There was nothing; but nothing could not stand in God's way it was at least passive. But, my brethren, in our hearts, while there was nothing that could help God, there was much that could and did oppose Him. Our stubborn wills, our deep prejudices, our ingrained love of iniquity, all these, great God, opposed thee, and aimed at thwarting thy designs. There was darkness in the first creation, but that darkness could not obstruct the incoming of light. "Light be!" was the eternal fiat, and light was. But, O great God, how often has thy voice spoken to us and our darkness has refused thy light! We loved darkness rather than light, because our deeds were evil; and it was only when thou didst put on the garments of thine omnipotence, and come forth in the glory of thy strength, that at the last our soul yielded to thy light, and the abysmal darkness of our natural depravity made way for thy celestial radiance. Yes, great God, it was great to make a world, but greater to create a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Chaos there was when God began to fit up this world for man; confusion dire, disorder rampant. But the Spirit of God moved on the face of the deep, and brought order speedily, for chaos could not resist the Spirit. But, alas! the disorder of our soul was stout in resistance to the order of God. We would not have His ways nor yield to His commands; but even as we could we set our faces like a flint against the will and power and majesty of the Eternal. Yet hath He subdued us, yet hath He made us the creatures of His mercy. Unto Him, then, be glory and strength! Unto Him be praise, world without end!
In the creation of the old world God first gave light, and afterwards he created life the life that crept, the life that walked, the life that dived, the life that flew in the midst of heaven. So hath He wrought in our hearts; He hath given us the life that creeps upon the ground in humiliation for sin; the life that walks in service, the life that swims in sacred waters of repentance, the life that flies on the wings of faith in the midst of heaven; and, as God separated the light from the darkness, and the dry land from the sea, so in the new creature He hath separated the old depravity from the new life. He hath given to us a holy and incorruptible life which is for ever separated from, and opposed to, the old natural death; and at last, when the old creation was all but finished, God brought forth man in His own image as the topstone. A like work He will do in us as His new creatures. Having given us light, and life, and order, He will renew in us the image of God. Yea, that image is in every man who is in Christ Jesus at this hour. Though it is not yet complete, the outlines, as it were, are there. The great Sculptor has begun to chisel out the image of Himself in this rough block of human marble; you cannot see all the features, the lineaments divine are not yet apparent; still, because it is in His design, the Master seeth what we see not; He seeth in our unhewn nature His own perfect likeness as it is to be revealed in the day of the revealing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Thus, dear brethren, I have tried to show you that the work which wrought in us when we come to be in Christ Jesus, is a divine work, because it is a new creation. I shall pause here again, and say to each hearer, Dost thou know what it is to be under God's hand, and to be wrought by God's workmanship? Strangers to God must be strangers to heaven. Beloved, if you have no more religion than you have worked out in yourself, and no more grace than you have found in your nature, you have none at all. A supernatural work of the Holy Ghost must be wrought in every one of us, if we would see the face of God with acceptance. This change is assuredly wrought in every man that is in Christ Jesus. If thou believest in the Lord Jesus, this work is begun and shall be carried on in thee; but if thou hast nothing about thee but thine own strivings and resolvings, thine own prayings and reformings, thou fallest short of the glory of God, and thou hast not that which will be a passport to the skies. God grant you yet to have it. I pray God His truth may go right through and through your souls like refining fire, and may you not be satisfied unless a true new birth, the work of the living God, be really in your possession even now.
We shall now come to the third point which the singular expression of the text brings up. The expression "a new creature," indicates remarkable freshness. It is very long since this world saw a new creature. If geologists tell true, there have been several series of creatures in different periods of time, and each race has given place to another race of new creatures fresh from creation's mint, new from God's hand. But it is now six thousand years at least, and some of us think many thousand years more, since the day when this last set of creatures came into this world, and started upon the race of life: all the creatures we now see are old and antiquated. The flower which springs from the soil, is the repetition of its like which bloomed five thousand years ago. Yonder meads bedecked with yellow king-cups and fair daisies are the facsimiles of those our sires looked upon three score years ago. As for ourselves, removed by long lines of pedigree from the man whom Jehovah formed in the garden, we by nature show small signs of the undefiled hand and sacred finger. The world is hackneyed and stale and old. Time wearily drags on to its Saturday night, it draws near to the last of its work-days with heavy footsteps. Any new creature coming fresh into the world would startle and amaze us all. What would men give if the Almighty hand would form a novelty in life, and send it among us; and yet, ye Athenian wits, that are for ever seeking after some new thing, the text tells you that there are new creatures upon earth, positive new creations, fruits that have the freshness and bloom of Eden about them, flowers unfaded, life with the dew of its youth upon it; and these new creatures are Christian men; these new creatures fresh from the divine hand, as though just fashioned between the eternal palms, are the men that weep for sin, the inca that confess their iniquity, the men that say, "God be merciful to us, sinners," the men who rest in the blood of the atonement, the men who love Christ Jesus, and live to the glory of the Most High; these are new creatures. There is a freshness about them; they have just come from the hand of God, they enjoy nearness to God, they get to the fountain-head of life, and drink where the crystal stream is cool and clear, and not mudded by long trickling through earthly channels. There is a freshness, I say, about them which is to be found nowhere else. I do believe this, believe it because I have experienced it. This world's a dream, an empty show; there is nothing lasting beneath the stars, everything of seeming joy soon palls upon the mind. Take to study, and ransack all the learned tomes, and your mind will soon be satiated with knowledge. Take to travel, and behold the fairest realms, climb the summits of the Alps, or traverse the valleys with all their picturesque beauty, and you will soon say, "I have exhausted all, I know it, I am weary of it." Follow what pursuit you will, like Solomon you may get to yourself gardens and palaces, singing men and singing women; or you may, if your folly be great enough, give yourself to wine; or if you will, addict yourself to commerce; but of the whole you will say ere long, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." The world is but a mirage; it melts, it disappears as the traveller passes on, and mocks his thirst with the deceptive image of the true. But, beloved, the spiritual life is not so. There is a freshness, a vivacity, a force, an energy, a power about it that never grows stale. He that prayed yesterday with joy, shall pray in fifty years' time, if he be on earth, with the selfsame delight. He that loves his Maker, and feels his heart beat high at the mention of the name of Jesus, shall find as much transport in that name, if he lives to the age of Methuselah, as he doth now. Year by year its sweets grow sweeter, its lights grow brighter, its novelties grow fresher, its joys more joyous, and its exhilarations more intense. We dance yet before the ark. While heart and flesh are failing the spirit gathers new strength, and joy gathers growing force. Let us seek after this new creatureship, this new power, this fresh life, this ever-vigorous youth, that laughs at decrepit earth and worn out time; this new life which counts even sun, and moon, and stars, but dying things, like flickering lamps smoking out their lives for want of oil; while the life divine, since it is fed by God, wears within it a secret immortality which death, and hell, and time, cannot impair.
Now I shall appeal to you again. Do you know anything about this freshness? If you do, you will find that the world does not understand you. A new creature put into this world, would be in a very strange position, from the mere fact of its being a new creature. Believer, you will find that the world does not suit you as it once did. You will be out of your element, pining for another world; for there must needs be a new world to suit a new creature. Do you feel pantings after the new world? God will not give you what He has not taught you to long for, but your cravings and longings are the shadows of the coming mercy. Ask yourselves whether you know these mysteries. If you do not, may the Lord teach you; and if you do, praise and bless his name.
To conclude. This subject leads us to two things. It leads us to self-examination. May I press upon every one to search himself, whether he knoweth what this being made a new creature means! But I will not detain you on this point, lest I weary you on this sultry morning. Pursue practically the exhortation I fail to enlarge upon verbally.
I would lead you to another thought, on which I will dwell for a moment. Our subject excites hope in the Christian. If God has made a new creature of him, which is the greatest work of grace, will he not do the lesser work of grace namely, make the new creature grow up unto perfection? If the Lord has turned you to himself, never be afraid that He will leave you to perish. If He had meant to destroy you, he would not have done this for you. God does not make creatures for annihilation. Chemists tell us that though many things are resolved into their primary gases by fire, yet there is not a particle less matter on the earth today than there was when it was created. No spiritual life that comes from God is ever annihilated. If you have obtained it, it never shall be taken from you it shall be in you a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. If when you were an enemy, God looked upon you in grace, and changed you, and made you what you now are, will He not now that you are reconciled continue to preserve and nurture you till He presents you faultless before His presence with exceeding great joy? The Lord grant it to you.
One other word of hope, and it is this: If salvation be entirely a creation of God, if God alone can work it, what hope this ought to give the most forlorn sinner! Ah! my dear friend, if your salvation rested on you, you might well despair. Chaos, if it remained with thee to make order, order could never be! Darkness, if it were thine to create the light, light could never shine! But God's fiat brings forth order and light. Sinner, if it were for thee to make thyself a saint, and work out thine own salvation alone, thou mightst well despair; but it is God's work, and He can do whatsoever He will. He can instantly dispel thy gloom, He can immediately overcome thine unbelief. He can change thy heart, He can make thee, the greatest of sinners, to become the brightest of saints. Lift up thy heart to Him. He heareth prayer. Heaven's gate is open. Seek, for he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened; and God bless thee, for Christ's sake Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON 1 John 3:1-24 .
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​spe/2-corinthians-5.html. 2011.
2 Corinthians 1:1-24. It is impossible to read the two epistles to the Corinthians with the smallest care without perceiving the strong contrast between the wounded tone of the first epistle (the heart aggrieved so much the more because it loved the saints), and now, in the second, that same heart filled with consolation about them from God. This is exceedingly assuring, and it is as evidently divine, the effectual working of God's own grace.
In human things nothing really shuts out decay. The utmost wise men essay is to put a drag on the progress of corruption, and to stave off as long as may be the too rapid inroads of death. Thanks be to God, it h not so in divine things. There is nothing which so brings out the resources of God as His supremacy over evil in grace, nothing that so manifests His tender mercy and His goodness wherever there is real faith. And spite of the painful disorders of the Corinthians, reality was there. So the apostle, though heart-broken because of their state, would confidently look up to God about them, even in his first so strongly reproving epistle; for it was the Lord Himself who had told him He had much people in that city. There was small appearance of it when he wrote the earlier letter to them; but the Lord was right, as He always is, and the apostle confided in the Lord spite of appearances. He now tastes the joyful fruit of his faith in the recovering grace of the Lord. Hence in this epistle we have not so much as in the former the evidence of their outward disorders. The apostle is not occupied as there with the regulation of the state of the church as such, but we see souls restored. There is indeed the result of that salutary dealing in the very different state of individuals, and also of the assembly; but very emphatically, whatever might be the effect on the many, to a large extent there is a blessed unfolding of life in Christ in its power and effects.
Thus our epistle reminds us to a certain extent of the epistle to the Philippians, resembling it, though not of course the same, nor by any means of so lofty a character; but nevertheless a state appears wholly different from the downward path which the first epistle had reproved. For this change God had prepared His servant; for He takes in everything in His matchless wisdom and ways. He considers not only those written to, but the one He was employing to write. Assuredly He had dealt with them, but He had also dealt with His servant Paul. It was another sort of dealing, not without humbling to them, in him withering to nature, without the shame that necessarily befell the saints at Corinth, but so much the more fitting him to go out in love toward them. As he knew what God's grace had wrought in their hearts, he could the more freely express the sympathy he felt, and, encouraged by all that had been wrought, take up what remained to be accomplished in them. But the unfailing grace of God, that works in the midst of weakness and in the face of death, and had so wrought mightily in him, made the Corinthians very dear to him, and enabled him to bring to bear on their circumstances and their state the most suited comfort that it was ever the mission of that blessed man to minister to the hearts of those that were broken down.
This he now pours forth abundantly, "Blessed be God;" for his heart, surcharged with grief when the first epistle was written, could open, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble," no matter what, were it through grave faults, were it to their own deep shame and to his grief as once. But now the comfort far overcomes the sorrow, and we are enabled to "comfort them that are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." Here with a true heart he at once brings in the sufferings of Christ: "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation."
The difference in this from Philippians, to which I have referred, is remarkable. The point in hand there is, that they were working out their own salvation, the apostle being, in a certain sense, completely shut out from them. Unable from circumstances, he there lets them know that he does not mingle himself with them in the same way. Their state did not need it. Undoubtedly this is a difference; but it is only that which is owing to their manhood in grace. Here they wanted more. It was the unfolding of grace in both; but the difference was largely to the credit of His name in the Philippians. It was the proof of their excellent condition that the apostle had such perfect confidence in them, even while he was absolutely precluded from being near them. He was at a distance from them, and had but small prospect of meeting with them shortly.
To the Corinthians he could speak otherwise. He was comparatively near, and was hoping the third time, as he tells us in the latter part of the epistle, to come to them. Nevertheless he interweaves his own experience with theirs in a way which is wonderfully gracious to those who had a heart. "And whether we be afflicted," he says, "it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation." Was it not the reckoning of grace? Whatever came on them, it was for their comfort. If affliction, the Lord would turn it to their blessing; if joy and consolation, no less to their blessing. At the same time he lets them know what trouble had come upon himself, and in the most delightful manner turns it to account. Whatever was the might of God that had sustained him when there was nothing on their part to give him comfort, but rather to add to the anguish of his spirit, now that grace was operating in their hearts, he shows how dependant he felt on their prayers. Truly beautiful is grace, and far different from the manner of man.
How blessed to have the working of God not only in Him that is absolute perfection, but in one who feels like ourselves, who had the same nature in the same state that has wrought such continual mischief towards God! At the same time, it is proved by such a one as this servant of God to be only the means of furnishing additional proof in another form that the might of God's Spirit is without limit, and can work the greatest moral wonders even in a poor human heart. Undoubtedly we should lose much if we had it not in its full perfection in Christ; but how much we should lose if we had not also the working of grace, not where human nature was itself lovely, not a spot without nor a taint of sin within, but where everything natural was evil, and nothing else; where nevertheless the power of the Holy Ghost wrought in the new man, lifting the believer completely above the flesh. This was the case with the apostle.
At the same time there was the answer of grace in their hearts, though it might be developed comparatively but little. Evidently there was a great deal that required to be set right in them; but they were on the right road. This was a joy to his heart, and so at once he encourages them, and gives them to know how little his heart had turned away from them, how he loved to link himself with them instead of standing aloof from them. "Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf. For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity," etc. He had been charged with the contrary. Being a man of remarkable wisdom and power of discernment, he paid the penalty that this must always entail in this world. That is, they imputed it to his ability and natural penetration; and the real power of the Spirit of God was thus merely accredited to flesh.
There was also an imputation of vacillation if not dishonesty. His purpose of visiting Corinth had been set aside. First of all the apostle takes this up in a spirit of self-renunciation, bent on Christ's glory. Supposing their imputation to be true, supposing Paul had been as fickle-minded a man as his enemies insinuated, if he had said he would come and did not come after all, what then? At any rate his preaching was not thus. The word that Paul preached was not "yea and nay." In Christ it was "Yea," where there is no "nay." There is no refusal nor failure. There is everything to win, and comfort, and establish the soul in Christ. There is no negation of grace, still less of uncertainty in Christ Jesus the Lord. There is everything that can comfort the sad, attract the hard, and embolden the distrustful. Let it be the very vilest, what is there lacking that can lead on and into the highest place of blessing and enjoyment of God, not only in hope, but even now by the Spirit of God in the face of all adversaries? This was the Christ that he loved to preach. By Him came grace and truth. He at least is absolutely what He speaks. Who or what was so worthy of trust? And this is put in a most forcible way. "For," says he, "all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen." It is not a bare literal accomplishment of the promises. This is not the, statement any more than the state of things which is come in now; but as to all the promises of God, it matters not what they may be, in Him is the yea, and in Him the Amen, to the glory of God by us. They have found their every verification in Christ.
Was eternal life promised? In Him was eternal life in its highest form. For what will be eternal life in the millennial day compared with that which was and now is in Jesus? It will be a most real introduction and outshining of eternal life in that day; but still in Christ the believer has it now, and in its absolute perfection. Take, again, remission of sins. Will that display of divine mercy, so needed by and precious to the guilty sinner, be known in the millennium at all comparably with what God has brought in and sends out now in Christ? Take what you please, say heavenly glory; and is not Christ in it in all perfection? It does not matter, therefore, what may be looked at, "whatever be the promises of God, in him is the yea, and in him the Amen." It is not said in us. Evidently there are many promises not yet accomplished as regards us. Satan has not lost but acquired, in the dominion of the world, a higher place by the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ; but faith can see in that very act by which he acquired it his eternal downfall. Now is the judgment of the world. The prince of the world is judged, but the sentence is not executed yet. Instead of being dethroned by the cross, he has thereby gained in the world that remarkable place and title. But for all that, whatever the apparent success of the devil, and whatever the delay as to "the promises of God, in Him is the yea, and in Him the Amen, unto the glory of God by us."
But further, the apostle is not content with this alone. He would have them know, having thus described the word which he preached, that which was infinitely dearer to him than his own character. Now he tells them that it was to spare them he had not come to Corinth. This ought to have been a reproof; and it is given in the most delicate manner. It was the sweet result of divine love in his heart. He preferred to tarry or turn aside, rather than to visit the Corinthians in their then condition. Had he come at all, he must have come with a rod, and this he could not endure. He wished to come with nothing but kindness, to blame nobody, to speak of nothing painful and humiliating to them (albeit, in truth, more humiliating to him, for he loved them). And as a parent would be ashamed in his child's shame far more than the child is capable of feeling, so precisely the apostle had this feeling about those he had begotten in the gospel. He loved the Corinthians dearly, spite of all their faults, and he would rather bear their unworthy suggestions of a fickle mind because he did not visit them at once, than come to censure them in their evil and proud state. He wished to give them time, that he might come with joy.
In 2 Corinthians 2:1-17 this is entered into a little more, and the deep anxiety of his heart is shown about them. We may easily gather what an open door for evangelizing is to one who was a great preacher of the gospel, as well as an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles. Although such an opportunity now offered itself, and was, no doubt, a strong impelling cause to work there, still he had no rest for his spirit. His heart was disturbed about the state of Corinth, and the case that tried him most in their midst. It seemed as if he felt nothing else, as if there was no sufficient call to occupy him in other quarters. He could turn from that most animating and immediate reward to any labourer in this world. Whatever might be the preciousness of presenting Christ to those who knew Him not, to see the manifestation of the glory of Christ in those that did know Him, to see it restored where it was obscured was something even nearer to his heart. The one would be, no doubt, great joy to wretched souls, and the spread of the glory of the Lord in the regions beyond; but here the glory of the Lord had been tarnished in those that bore His name before men; and how could Paul feel this lightly? What pressed so urgently on him? Hence it was that no attraction of gospel service, no promise of work, however fair, that called him elsewhere, could detain him. He felt the deepest affliction about the saints, as he says here, and had no rest in his spirit, because he found not Titus his brother, who had been to see them.
Then, again, among the particular instances which most pressed on him was, his exceeding trouble about the man he had ordered them to put away. For this he had authority from God, and the responsibility of heeding it abides, I need not say, in its entirety for us. We are just as much under that authority as they were. But now that God had wrought in the man who was the chief and grossest evidence of the power of Satan in the assembly, what a comfort to his heart! This sin, unknown even among the Gentiles, and the more shameful as being where the name of the Lord Jesus had been confessed and the Spirit dwelt, became the occasion of the most salutary instruction for all their souls, for they had learnt what becomes God's assembly under such humiliating circumstances. And they had responded to the solemn call pressed on them in the name of the Lord, and had purged out the evil leaven from the midst of their paschal feast. Only now they were in danger on the judicial side. They were disposed to be as over-severe as they had been previously unexercised and lax. Paul would infuse the same spirit of grace towards the penitent offender that filled himself. They had realised at length the shame that had been done to the Lord's glory, and were indignant with themselves as parties to identifying His name, not to speak of themselves, with such scandals. Thus they were slow to forgive the man that had wrought such a wrong, and Satan sought in an opposite way to separate them in heart from the blessed apostle, who had roused them to just feelings after their too long slumber. Just as Paul was horrified at their indifference to sin at first, so now it was impossible but that he must be concerned, lest there should be a failure in grace as a little before in righteousness. But there is nothing like a manifestation of grace to call out grace; and he lets them know what was his own feeling, not merely about the wrong-doer, but about themselves. "To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also; for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; lest Satan should gain an advantage over us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." This is his spirit. It is no longer a command, but a trust reposed in the saints; and when we think of that which is afterwards to appear in this epistle, what was still at work among them as well as what had been, it is certainly a most blessed and beautiful proof of the reality of grace, and of the effects which can be, as they have been, produced by it in the heart of a saint here below. What do we not owe to Jesus?
After having disposed of this matter for the present (for he recurs to it afterwards), he turns to speak of the way in which he was led of God through trial, no matter of what character. let the question be of the man who had wandered so far astray, but was now restored really to the Lord, and to whom he desired that his brethren should publicly confirm their love; or let it be that he is turned aside from gospel work because of his anxiety on their account, he now tells them of the triumph which the Lord gave him to prove everywhere.
This leads in2 Corinthians 3:1-18; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18 to an unfolding of righteousness in Christ, but in a style considerably different from what we found in the Epistle to the Romans. There the broad and deep, foundations were exposed to view, as well as the Spirit's power and liberty consequent on the soul's submission to Christ's work. The proposition was God just and the justifier, not by blood only, but in that resurrection power in which Christ rose from among the dead. According to no less a work of such a Saviour we are justified.
But in this chapter the Spirit goes higher still. He connects righteousness with heavenly glory, while at the same time this righteousness and glory are shown to be perfectly in grace as regards us. It is not in the slightest degree glory without love (as sometimes people might think of glory as a cold thing); and if it withers up man from before it, the fleshly nature no doubt, it is only with a view to the enjoyment of greater vigour, through the power of Christ resting on us in our detected and felt weakness.
The chapter opens with an allusion to the habit so familiar to God's church of sending and requiring a letter of commendation. "Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?" Not at all. And what then is his letter of commendation? Themselves. What confidence he must have had in the gracious power of God, that his letter of commendation could be the Corinthian saints! He does not look around to choose the most striking instances of those converted by him. He takes what was perhaps the most humiliating scene that he had ever experienced, and he points even to these saints as a letter of commendation. And why so? Because he knew the power of life in Christ. He was reassured. In the darkest day he had looked up to God with confidence about it, when any other heart had failed utterly; but now that light was beginning to dawn upon them, yet still but dawned so to speak afresh, he could boldly say that they were not merely his, but Christ's, letter. Bolder and bolder evidently he becomes as he thinks of the name of the Lord and of that enjoyment which he had found, and found afresh, in the midst of all his troubles. Hence he says, "Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." There were not wanting there those that endeavoured to impose legal principles on the Corinthians. Not that here it was the strongest or subtlest effort of the enemy. There was more of Sadduceeism at work among them than of Pharisaism; but still not infrequently Satan finds room for both, or a link between both. His ministry was emphatically not that which could find its type in any form of the law, or in what was written upon stone, but on the fleshy table of the heart by the Spirit of the living God. Accordingly this gives rise to a most striking contrast of the letter that kills and of the spirit that gives life. As is said here, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new covenant." Then lest any should conceive that this was the accomplishment of the Old Testament, he lets us know it is no more than the spirit of that covenant, not the letter. The covenant itself in its express terms awaits both houses of Israel in a day not yet arrived; but meanwhile Christ in glory anticipates for us that day, and this is, of course, "not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
Next, we find a long parenthesis; for the true connection of the end of verse 6 is with verse 17, and all between properly forms a digression. I shall read the words outside the parenthesis, in order to make this manifest. He had said that "the spirit giveth life." Now the Lord (he adds) "is that spirit;" which last word ought to be printed with a small "s," not a capital. Some Bibles have this, I dare say, correctly; but others, like the one in my hand, incorrectly. "That spirit" does not mean the Holy Ghost, though it is He alone that could enable a soul to seize the spirit under the letter. But the apostle, I believe, means that the Lord Jesus is the spirit of the different forms that are found in the law. Thus he turns aside in a remarkable but characteristic manner; and as he intimates in what sense he was the minister of the new covenant (i.e. not in a mere literal fashion but in the spirit of it), so he connects this spirit with the forms of the law all through. There is a distinct divine purpose or idea couched under the legal forms, as their inner spirit, and this, he lets us know, is really Christ the Lord "Now the Lord is that spirit." This it is that ran through the whole legal system in its different types and shadows.
Then he brings in the Holy Ghost, "and where" (not simply "that spirit," but) "the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." There is a notable difference between the two expressions. "The Spirit of the Lord" is the Holy Spirit that characterizes Christianity; but underneath the letter of the Jewish system, faith seized "the spirit" that referred to Christ. There was the outward ritual and commandment with which flesh made itself content; but faith always looked to the Lord, and saw Him, however dimly, beyond the letter in which God marked indelibly, and now makes known by ever accumulating proofs, that He from the first pointed to the One that was coming. A greater than anything then manifested was there; underneath the Moseses and the Aarons, the Davids and the Solomons, underneath what was said and done, signs and tokens converged on One that was promised, even Christ.
And now "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." This was unknown under the Levitical order of things. There was a veiled form of truth, and now it is manifest. The Holy Ghost brings us into the power and enjoyment of this as a present thing. Where He is, there is liberty.
But looking back for a moment at the parenthesis, we see that the direct effect of the law (no matter what may be the mercy of God that sustained, spite of its curse) is in itself a ministration of death. Law can only condemn; it can but enforce death as on God's part. It never was in any sense the intention of God by the law to introduce either righteousness or life. Nor these only, but the Spirit He now brings in through Christ. "If the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away," it was not at all an abiding thing, but merely temporary in its own nature, "how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be, rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation" (another point after the ministration of death; if it then) "be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory." It is not simply the mercy of God, you observe, but the ministration of righteousness. When the Lord was here below, what was the character of His ministration? It was grace; not yet a ministration of righteousness. Of course, He was emphatically righteous, and everything He did was perfectly consistent with the character of the Righteous. Never was there the smallest deflection from righteousness in aught He ever did or said. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. But when He went up to heaven on the footing of redemption through His blood, He had put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself: the ministration was not of grace merely, but of righteousness. In short, righteousness without redemption must destroy, not save; grace before redemption could not deliver, but at most forbear to judge; but righteousness founded on redemption provides the stablest possible basis for the believer.
Whatever the mercy displayed to us now, it is perfectly righteous in God to show it. He is vindicated in everything. Salvation is no stretch of His prerogative. Its language is not, "The person is guilty; but I will let him off; I will not execute the sentence against him." The Christian is now admitted to a place before God according to the acceptance of Christ Himself. Being altogether by Christ, it brings nothing but glory to God, because Christ who died was God's own Son, given of His own love for this very purpose, and there in the midst of all wrongs, of everything out of course here below, while the evil still remains unremoved, and death ravages still, and Satan has acquired all possible power of place as god and prince of this world, this deepest manifestation of God's own glory is given, bringing souls which were once the guiltiest and the vilest out of it, not only before God, but in their own souls, and in the knowledge and enjoyment of it, and all righteously through Christ's redemption. This is what the apostle triumphs in here. So he calls it not the ministration of life indeed; for there was always the new birth or nature through the mercy of God; but now he brings in a far fuller name of blessing, that of the Spirit, because the ministration of the Spirit is over and above life. It supposes life, but moreover also the gift and presence of the Holy Ghost. The great mistake now is when saints cling to the old things, lingering among, the ruins of death when God has given them a title flowing from grace, but abundant in righteousness, and a ministration not merely of life, but of the Spirit.
So he goes on farther, and says that "that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." This again is another quality that he speaks of. We come to what abides to what never can be shaken, as he puts it to the Hebrews later. To this permanence of blessing we are come in Christ, no matter what else may come. Death may come for us; judgment certainly will for the world for man at least. The complete passing away of this creation is at hand. But we are already arrived at that which remains, and no destruction of earth can possibly affect its security; no removal to heaven will have any other effect than to bring out its lustre and abidingness. So he says, "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses, which put a veil over his face."
This characterized the dealings of the law, that there never was the bringing God and man, so to speak, face to face. Such a meeting could not yet be. But now it is. Not only has God come down to man face to face, but man is brought to look in where God is in His own glory, and without a veil between. It is not the condescension of the Word made flesh coming down to where man is, but the triumph of accomplished righteousness and glory, because the Spirit comes down from Christ in heaven. It is the ministration of the Spirit, who comes down from the exalted man in glory, and has given us the assurance that this is our portion, now to look into it, soon to be with Him. Hence he says it is "not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away in Christ." This is as in Christ when known to us. So "even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." But then we do not wait here for their turning to the Lord, which will be their portion by-and-by. Meanwhile the Lord has turned to us, turning us to Himself, in His great grace, and brought us into righteousness, peace, as well as glory in hope yea, in present communion, through redemption. The consequence is, all evil is gone for us, and all blessedness secured, and known to be so, in Christ; and, as he says here, "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Then, he adds further, "We all, with open [unveiled] face, beholding ["as in a glass" is uncalled for] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Thus the effect of the triumph of our Lord Jesus, and of the testimony of the Holy Ghost, is to put us into present association with the glory of the Lord as the object before our souls; and this is what transforms us according to its own heavenly character.
In 2 Corinthians 4:1-18 the apostle takes into account the vessel that contains the heavenly treasure. He shows that as "we have this ministry, and "have received mercy" therefore to the uttermost, "we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is bid to them that are lost." Such is the solemn conclusion: "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
This is the gospel of the glory of Christ. It is not merely that we have the heavenly title, as we are taught in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58. The utmost on this subject brought before us there was, that we are designated "heavenly," and are destined to bear the image of the heavenly One by-and-by. The second epistle comes between the two points of title and destiny, with the transforming effect of occupation with Christ in His glory on high. Thus space is left for practice and experience between our calling and our glorification. But then this course between is by no means sparing to nature; for, as he shows here, "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." God makes us feel this, and helps on the practical transformation; and by what means? By bringing us into every kind of trouble and sorrow, so as to make nothing of flesh. For it is the allowed liveliness of nature that hinders the manifestation of the treasure; whereas its judgment leaves room for the light to shine out. This, then, is what God carries on. It explained much in the apostle's path which they had not been in a state to comprehend; and it contributed, where received and applied in the Spirit, to advance God's objects as regards them. "Death worketh in us, but life in you." What grace, and how blessed the truth! But see the way in which the process is carried on, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death." He speaks of the actualisation: all helps the great object, even such circumstances as seemed the most disastrous possible. God exposed His servant to death. This was only carrying out more effectually the breaking down that was always going on. "So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes." And thus then, if there was the endurance of affliction, he would encourage their hearts, calling, as he felt it, "light affliction." He knew well what trial was. "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
This introduces the Christian's estimate of both death and judgment as measured by Christ. He looks now steadily at all that can possibly appal the natural heart. Death the Christian may pass through. Judgment will never be for the Christian. Nevertheless his sense of judgment, as it really will come, although not for himself, is most influential and for others too. There may be a mighty effect on the soul, and a deep spring of worship, and a powerful lever in service, through that which does not concern us at all. The sense of what it is may be all the more felt because we are delivered from its weight; and we can thus more thoroughly, because more calmly, contemplate it in the light of God, seeing its inevitable approach and overwhelming power for those that have not Christ. Accordingly he says, "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. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven."
But let us not forget that he takes care (for his heart was not relieved as to every individual in Corinth) to add solemnly, "If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked." He was not quite sure but that some there might be found exposed, because devoid of a Saviour. There are those who give this a very different turn, and make it to be a verse of consolation instead of warning; but such a view deprives us of the true scope of the clause. The common version and natural interpretation appears to me quite correct. It does not mean "since being clothed we shall not be found naked," which has no worthy lesson to convey to any soul. The readings differ, but that which answers to the common version I believe to be correct. The apostle would warn every soul that, although every one will be clothed in the day that is coming (namely, at the resurrection of the body, when souls are no longer found without the body but clothed), nevertheless some, even in spite of that clothing, shall be found naked. The wicked are then to be clothed no less than the saints, who will have been already raised or changed; their bodies shall be raised from the dead just as truly as those of the righteous; but when the unrighteous stand in resurrection before the great white throne, how, bare will they appear? What will it be in that day to have no Christ to clothe us?
After so salutary a caution to such as made too much of knowledge in the neglect of conscience, the apostle turns to that fulness of comfort which he was communicating to the saints. "We," he says, "that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened." He has no wish to deny the sorrow and weakness. He knew what it is to suffer and be sorrowful far better than any of them. "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed." Thus there is no mere wish to get away from the present scene with its sadness and trial. It is never allowed one to be impatient. To desire to be with Christ is right; but to be restive under that which connects us with shame and pain is not of Christ. "Not for," then, "that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon." This was his ardent wish, to be "clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life." It is not that he might die, but the very reverse, that the mortality already working in him might be swallowed up by Him who is eternal life, and our life.
He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God." It is not here wrought something for us, but "wrought us." This is a remarkable expression of the grace of God in associating with His unfailing purpose in Christ. "He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit;" given us, therefore, even now a taste of the blessedness and glory that are in store for us. "Therefore we are always confident." Think of such language! Think of it as the apostle's words describing, our portion, and in full view of both death and judgment! "We are always confident." We can easily understand one whose eye was simply on Christ and His love, saying, "We are confident," though turning to look at that which might well tax the stoutest heart. Certainly it were madness not to be overwhelmed by it, unless there were such a ministration of the Spirit as the apostle was then enjoying in its fruits in his soul. But he did enjoy it profoundly; and, what is more, he puts it as the common enjoyment of all Christians. It is not alone a question of his own individual feelings, but of that which God gave him to share now with the saints of God as such. "Therefore," says he, "we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: for we walk by faith, not by sight: we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ."
This, again, is a very important truth indeed in its own place, and the effect is most striking; namely, deep anxiety about the lost, and the consciousness of our own manifestation to God now. Not that I mean by this that we shall not be manifested by-and-by; for we shall be perfectly. But if we are manifest in conscience before God now, it is evident that there is nothing that can cause the slightest uneasiness in our being manifested before Christ's tribunal. The truth is, so far is the manifestation before our Lord a source of alarm to the saint (though it should surely solemnise the heart), that I am persuaded the soul would lose a positive and substantial blessing, if it could by any possibility escape being manifested there. Nor does it matter what the degree of manifestation may now be in conscience. Still, it can never be perfect till then; and our God would give us perfection in this as in all else. It is now hindered by various causes, as far as we are concerned. There is the working of self-love in the hearts of the saints; there is that which has cast a film over the eye which dulls our souls. Alas! we know it too well.
The effect of our manifestation before the tribunal of Christ is, that we shall know as we are known. That is, it will be carrying out in absolute perfection what we now know in the measure of our spirituality. Now, what is the effect of one's arriving at a better knowledge of himself, and a deeper consciousness of the Christian's place in Christ? Always a real blessing, and a means of greater enjoyment of Christ. Is it not much to have a lowlier feeling about ourselves? to esteem others better than ourselves? and thus to deepen daily in the grace of the Lord Jesus? And are not these things the result? And will the perfect knowledge of ourselves be a loss, and not a gain?
At the same time, it is solemn assuredly for every secret to be spread out between the Lord and ourselves. It is solemn for all to be set in the light in which we may have been misled now, and which may have caused trouble and grief to others, casting reproach on the name of the Lord, in itself an affecting and afflicting thing. Never should we be deceived by Satan. He may accuse the saints, but they ought in no case to be deceived by him. He deceives the world, and accuses the brethren. Alas! we know, in point of fact, that we are liable through unwatchfulness to his wiles; but this does not make it less a humiliation for us, and a temporary advantage for Satan when we fall into his trap. We are not ignorant of his devices; but this will not always, nor in itself in any case, preserve us. There are defeats. The judgment-seat of Christ will disclose all; where each hidden thing will be clear; where nothing but the fruit of the Spirit shall stand for ever.
Nevertheless the sight of that judgment-seat brings at once before his eye, not the saints, but the perishing world; and so complete is the peace of his own spirit, so rich and sure the deliverance Christ has accomplished for all the saints, that the expressed effect is to kindle his heart about those that are braving everlasting destruction those on whom the judgment-seat can bring nothing but hopeless exclusion from God and His glory.
For we say here by the way, that we must be all manifested, whether saints or sinners. There is a peculiarity in the phrase which is, to my thinking, quite decisive as to its not meaning saints only. As to the objection to this founded on the word "we," there is no force in it at all. "We" is no doubt commonly used in the apostolic epistles for saints, but not for them exclusively. Context decides. Be assured that all such rules are quite fallacious. What intelligent Christian ever understood from scripture all the canons of criticism in the world? They are not to be trusted for a moment. Why have confidence in anything of the sort? Mere traditional formulas or human technicalities will not do for the ascertainment of God's word. The moment men rest on general laws by which to interpret scripture, I confess they seem to me on the brink of error, or doomed to wander in a desert of ignorance. We must be disciplined if we would learn indeed; and we need to read and hear things as God writes them; but we do well and wisely to eschew all human byways and short-cuts for deciding the sense of what God has revealed. It is not only the students of medieval divinity, or of modem speculation, who are in danger. None of us is beyond the need of jealousy over self, and of simple-hearted looking to the lord.
Here, indeed, the apostle's reasoning, and the nicety of language, furnish demonstrative evidence in the passage (that is, both in the spirit and in the letter), that we must all, whether saints or sinners, be manifested before Christ; not at the same time nor for the same end, but all before His judgment-seat at some time. Had the language been, "we must all be judged," the "we" must have been there limited to the unconverted. While they only come into judgment, believer and unbeliever must alike be manifested. The effect of manifestation for the believer will be the fulness of rest and delight in the ways of God. The effect of the manifestation for the unbeliever will be the total withering up of every excuse or pretence that had deceived him here below. No flesh shall glory in His presence, and man must stand self-convicted before the Judge of all. Thus the choice of language is, as usual in scripture, absolutely perfect, and to my mind quite decisive that the manifestation here is universal. This acts on the servant of Christ, who knows what the terror of the Lord is, and calls him out to "persuade men." What is meant by this? It is really to preach the gospel to men at large.
At the same time the apostle adds, "We commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf." For he had expressed his trust of being made manifest to their consciences, as well as stated how absolutely we are manifested to God. "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause." Then he brings in the constraining power of the love of Christ, and why? Because, as he looked round him, he saw nothing but death written on man, and all that pertains to him here below. The whole scene was one vast grave. Of course, he was not thinking of the saints of God, but, contrariwise, in the midst of this universal death, as far as man is concerned, he rejoices to see some alive. I understand, therefore, that when he says, "If one die for all, then were all dead," he means those who had really died by sin, and because of the contrast it seems to me plain "He died for all, that they which live" (these are the saints, the objects of God's favour) "should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." What was the effect of this? That having thus before his soul, not the universal death of all only, but some who by grace were alive, through the death and resurrection of Christ, he now brings out, not the contrast of the new creation with all that went before yea, the contrast of the Messianic hopes as such with that higher glory which he was now asserting. Even a living Messiah could not satisfy what his soul had learnt to be in accordance with the glory of God. Not, of course, that he did not delight in the hope of his nation. It is one thing to value what God will do for the earth by-and-by, it is quite another to fail in appreciating that which God has now created and revealed in a risen Christ above, once rejected and dying for us. Accordingly it is one glory that will display the promises and ways of God triumphing over man and Satan; it is another and far surpassing glory which He who is the Messiah, but much more, and now the heavenly man, reveals. His death is the judgment of our sins in God's grace, and an end of the whole scene for us, and hence perfect deliverance from man and from present things yea, even from the best hopes for the earth.
What can be better than a Messiah come to bless man in this world? But the Christian is not occupied with this at all. According to the Old Testament he looked at it, but now that the Messiah is seen dead and risen, now that He is passed into heavenly glory through death, this is the glory for the Christian. "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh:" this puts the saints in a common position of knowledge. "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh." As for a living Messiah, and all the expectations that were bound up with Him and His coming here below, all this is passed away for the Christian. It is not that the Messiah will not return as such; but as for the sphere and character of our own relations, they are founded on death and resurrection, and seen on high. Such is the way the apostle treats it. He looks at Christ in His relationship with us as One that has passed out of this earth and the lower creation into heavenly places. It is there and thus we know Him. By knowing Him he means the special form of the truth with which we are concerned, the manner in which we are put into positive, living association with Him. That which we know as our centre of union, as the object of our souls, is Christ risen and glorified. In any other point of view, however bright and glorious, "now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ," etc.
It is not merely if any man look to Christ: the Old Testament saints rejoiced to see His day; but this is a very different thing from being in Christ. There are many who take the scriptures in so crude and vague a manner that to their eyes it is all the same; but I hope such is not the case with any here. No doubt, to be in Christ as we are now is through looking, to Him. But it was not always so. Take the disciples in the days of Christ's pathway here below: were they in Christ then? Certainly not. There was the working of divine faith in them. They were unquestionably "born again;" but is this the same thing as being "in Christ"? Being in Christ means that, redemption having come in, the Holy Ghost can and does give us a conscious standing in Christ in His now risen character. To be "in Christ" describes the believer, not in Old Testament times, but now.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." Thus there is a blessed and suited ministry. The law directed a people at a distance from God. It Supposed such a condition and dealt accordingly. Even if a poor brute touched the mountain, it was to be stoned. At length God came down to meet man in grace as he is; and man rejected God manifest in flesh. Redemption was thereby effected; man is brought without sin to God. Christ is the person who made both good. He brought God down to man, and He brought man in Himself up to God. Such is the position in which we stand. It is not any longer merely God coming down to man in Christ. This is neither the manner nor the measure in which He reveals Himself now. The Lord Jesus Christ is gone up to heaven; and this not as a sole individual, but as the head of a family. He would not take the place of headship until all the evil was completely gone. He would give us His own acceptance before God. He took His stand on retrieving God's moral glory by bearing our sins; yet as He came down, so He went up to God, holy and spotless. He had by His own blood blotted out the sins of others who believe in Him. It was not merely a born Messiah, the chief of Israel, but "God was in Christ."
Observe, not that God is in Christ, but that He was. It is a description of what was manifested when the Lord was here below. But if it be a mistake to read God is, it is a still greater error too common in books, old and new alike, that God has reconciled the world. This is not the meaning of the statement. The English version is perfectly right; the criticism that pretends to correct it is thoroughly wrong It is never said that the world is reconciled to God. Christ was a blessed and adequate image of God; and God was in Him manifesting Himself in the supremacy of His own grace here below. No doubt His law had its suited place; but God in grace is necessarily above the law. As man, at least as of Israel, Jesus was born under the law; but this was in not the slightest degree an abandonment of God's rights, and still less of His grace. God came near to men in love in the most attractive form, going in and out among them, taking up little children, entering into houses when asked, conversing by the way, going about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him. It was not merely in quest of the lost sheep of Israel. How could such grace be restrained only to Jews? God had larger thoughts and feelings than this. Therefore let a Gentile centurion come, or a Samaritan woman, or any body else: who was not welcome? For "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them."
Full of grace and truth, He would not even raise the question of this trespass or that. There was no doubt of man's guilt; but this was not the divine way of Christ. Other and more efficacious aims were in the hand of the God of all grace. He would save, but at the same time exercise the conscience more than ever. For great would be the loss for a sinner awakened, if it were possible for him not to take God's part against himself. This is the real course and effect of repentance in the soul. But God was in Christ reconciling the world for all that, yea in order to it. It was not a question of dealing with them for their trespasses. And what now that He is gone away? "He hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." He is gone, but not the errand of mercy for which He came. The Messiah as such disappears for the time; there remains the fruit of the blessed manifestation of God in Christ in an evil world. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us: we pray in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God." But how can this be? On what basis can we essay such a task! Not because the Spirit of God is in us, however true it may be, but because of the atonement. Redemption by Christ's blood is the reason. "For God hath made him. to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Then, following up this in the next chapter (2 Corinthians 6:1-18), the, true moral traits of the Christian ministry are shown, and what a price it had in his eyes. What should not be done and endured for the sake of worthily carrying out this ministration of Christ here below! What should be the practical witness to a righteousness not acquired by us, but freely given of God! Such is the character of it, according to the work of Christ before God and of His redemption; so we should "give no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments." In every thing crushing to nature did the apostle fulfil his mission. Is the reproach of Christ to be an apostolic perquisite? Are not His servants to share it still? Is it not true from first to last?
Again, in serving the Lord, there are two special ways in which we are apt to go astray. Some err by an undue narrowness, others by as injurious laxity. In fact, it is never right to be narrow, and always wrong to be lax. In Christ there is no license or excuse for either. But the Corinthians, like others, were in danger on both sides; for each provokes the other. Hence the appeal, "O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels." There was the caution against a narrow heart; but now against a lax path he warns, "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" Thus is embraced individual responsibility as well as corporate. "For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them."
Thus, as in the exercise of ministry according to Christ, there was nothing that should not be endured; there was no scorn or trial, no pain or shame, but what he himself counted as nothing that Christ only should be served, and the witness of His name kept up in this world according to His grace; so now he presses on the saints what is incumbent on them as the epistle of Christ, to make good a true witness for Him in this world, steering clear of all that is hard and narrow, which is altogether alien from the grace of God, and of that laxity which is still more offensive to His nature. In the first verse of 2 Corinthians 7:1-16 the whole matter is wound up, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." The second verse evidently belongs to the subject succeeding. In the rest of the seventh chapter he renews (and has, I think, connected both with these words about the ministry and the responsibility of the saints) what he had alluded to already among them. He touches, with that delicate tact so characteristic of him, on their repentance. He would encourage their hearts in every way, but now ventures to go somewhat farther in the grace of Christ.
Accordingly his own feelings are told out, how exceedingly cast down he had been, and oppressed on every side, so that he had no rest. "Without were fightings, within were fears." Indeed, the fear had gone so far, that he had actually been tried as to the inspired epistle he had written. The apostle had a question raised in his mind about his own inspired epistle! Yet what writing was more certainly of God? "For though I made you sorry with the letter, I do not regret, though I did regret." How clearly we learn, whatever the working of God in man, that after all the inspiration of a vessel is far above his own will, and the fruit of the action of the Holy Ghost! As we find an unholy man might be inspired of God to bring out a new communication for example, a Balaam or a Caiaphas, so holy men of God still more. But the remarkable thing to note is the way in which a question was raised even about an epistle which God has preserved in His own book, and, without a doubt, divinely inspired. But he also mentions how glad he was now that, having sent off that letter, he had made them sorry. "For I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance; for ye were made sorry according to God, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing." How great is the grace! "For sorrow according to God worketh repentance to salvation not to be regretted: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed according to God, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." What a comfort to the heart that had been so profoundly touched by their state!
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-24, and 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, the subject of contributing for saints is resumed, though a great deal more fully than in 1 Corinthians 16:1-24, and with a fresh spring of joy communicated to his spirit. What an evidence is given of the exercises of his heart in this thing too! It appears he had spoken confidently about the Corinthian saints. There had been afterwards much to wound and weaken that confidence; but he now returns to the matter, and reckons with certainty that the God who had wrought in the painful matter, not of the guilty man only, but in them all about it, that His grace would also give him cause for joy in rousing their hearts into largeness of love for those that were depressed elsewhere. He had boasted of the liberality of the Corinthians, which had kindled zeal in others. On the one hand, he would have his hope of them verified, on the other he desired none to be burdened, but certainly fruit Godward both in the givers and in the receivers. How rich and enriching in His grace! Blessed be God for His unspeakable gift!
In 2 Corinthians 10:1-18, and 2 Corinthians 11:1-33 he comes to another subject his own ministry on which a few words must suffice. Enough had been cleared away to open his heart on it: he could enlarge here. It was his confidence in them that made him write. When his spirit was bound, because of there being so much to cause shame and pain, he could not be free; but now he is. Hence we have here a most blessed opening of what this servant of God felt in what was necessarily a sore distress to his spirit. For what could be more humbling than that the Corinthian saints, the fruit of his own ministry, had admitted into their hearts insinuations against him, doubts of the reality of his apostolate, all that lowering which, in other forms but not substantially unlike, we may have too often observed, and just in proportion to the importance and spiritual value of the trust reposed of God in any on the earth? The apostle knew sorrow as no other ever knew it. Not even the twelve tasted its bitterness as he did, from spirituality and from circumstances; and the manner in which he deals with it, the dignity, and at the same time the lowliness, the faith that looked right to the Lord, but at the same time the warmth of affection, grief of heart mingling with joy, furnish such a tableau as is unique even in the word of God. No such analysis appears anywhere else of the heart of one serving the saints in the midst of the greatest outrages to his love, as we recognise in this epistle. He bows to the charge of rudeness in speech; but they had used the admitted power of his letters against himself. Yet he warns lest what he is absent they may learn in him present. Others might exalt themselves through his labours; he hoped when their faith was increased to preach the gospel in the regions beyond. (2 Corinthians 10:1-18) They had exalted the other apostles in disparagement of him. They had even imputed to him selfishness. It might be true, thought they, that he had reaped no material benefit himself from them; but what about others, his friends? How much there was calculated to wound that generous heart, and, what he felt yet more, to damage his ministry! But in the midst of such sorrow and the rather as flowing from such sources, God watched over all with observant eye. Wonderfully hedged in was His servant, though to speak of himself he calls his folly. (2 Corinthians 11:1-33) But no human power or wit can protect a man of God from malice; nothing can shut out the shafts of evil speaking. In vain to look to flesh and blood for protection: were it possible, how much we should have missed in this epistle! Had his detractors been brethren of the circumcision from Jerusalem, neither the trial nor the blessing would have been anything like what it is for depth; but the fact that it came to Paul from his own children in Achaia was enough to pain him to the quick, and did prove him thoroughly.
But God sometimes lifts us up to look into the glory, as He comes down into the midst of our sorrows in pitiful mercy. This, with his own heart about it, the apostle brings before us lovingly, though it is impossible, within my limits, so much as to touch on all. He spreads before us his sorrows, dangers, and persecutions. This was the ministry of which he had boasted. He had been often whipped and stoned, had been weary, thirsty, hungry, by sea and land: these were the prizes he had received, and these the honours which the world gave him. How it all ought to have gone to their hearts, if they had any feeling at all, as indeed they had! It was good for them to feel it, for they had been taking their ease. He closes the list by telling them at last how he had been let down from the wall of a city in a basket, not a very dignified position for an apostle. It was anything but heroism thus to escape one's enemies.
But the same man who was thus let down immediately after speaks of being caught up to heaven. Now, it is this combination of the truest and most proper dignity that ever a man had in this world, for how few of the sons of man, speaking of course of Christians, that approached Paul in this respect; so on the other hand, how few since have known the dignity of being content to suffer and be nothing, of having every thought and feeling of nature thoroughly crushed, like Paul, within as well as without! So much the more as he was one who felt all most keenly, for he had a heart and mind equally capacious. Such was he who had to be thus tried as Christ's bondman. But when he comes to special wonders, he does not speak about himself; when about the basket he is open. Thus here he talks ambiguously. "I know a man" is his method of introducing the new portion. It is not I, Paul, but "a man in Christ" is taken up, who had seen such things as could not be expressed in human words, nor suited to man's present state. It is therefore left completely vague. The apostle himself says he does not know whether it was in the body, or out of the body; so completely was all removed from the ordinary experience and ken of man. But he adds what is much to be observed, "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh." Thus a deeper humiliation befell him than he had ever known, "a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan," the allowed counterbalance to such extraordinary experiences. It was Paul. The secret could not be hid. But Christ is here, as ever, the theme of the apostle from first to last. This was the treasure in the earthen vessel; and in order to bring about corresponding profit, God works by external means as well as by inward grace, so as to carry forward His work of enhancing always and increasingly what is in Christ, and making less and less of man.
The close of the chapter sketches, with painful truth but a loving hand, the outbreakings of that nature, crushed in him, pampered in them. For he dreaded lest God should humble him among them because of their evil ways. What love such a word bespeaks!
The final chapter (2 Corinthians 13:1-14) answers a challenge which he kept for the last place, as indeed it ill became the Corinthians above all men. What a distress to him to speak of it at all! They had actually dared to ask a proof that Christ had spoken to them by him. Had they forgotten that they owed their life and salvation in Christ to his preaching? As he put in the foreground patience as a sign of apostleship, which in him assuredly was taxed beyond measure, so now he fixes on this as the great seal of his apostleship at least, to them. What can be more touching? It is not what Jesus had said by him in books, or in what power the Spirit had wrought by him. "Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you . . . . . examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves." They were the living proof to themselves that he was an apostle of Christ to them. There is no allowance of a doubt in this appeal: rather the very reverse was assumed on their part, which the apostle admirably turns to the confusion of their indecorous and baseless doubts about himself. "Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction." Brief and pregnant salutations follow, with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:17". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​wkc/2-corinthians-5.html. 1860-1890.