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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 5 - Verse 1
Continuation of Notes of 2 Corinthians 4:18
(20.) We have in this chapter an illustration of the sustaining power of religion in trials, 2 Co 4:8,9. The friends of Christianity have been called to endure every form of suffering. Poverty, want, tears, stripes, imprisonments, and deaths have been their portion. They have suffered under every form of torture which men could inflict on them. And yet the power of religion has never failed them. It has been amply tried; and has shown itself able to sustain them always, and to enable them always to triumph. Though troubled, they have not been so close pressed that they had no room to turn; though perplexed, they have not been without some resource; though persecuted by men, they have not been forsaken by God; though thrown down in the conflict, yet they have recovered strength, and been prepared to renew the strife, and to engage in new contentions with the foes of God. Who can estimate the value of a religion like this? Who does not see that it is adapted to man in a state of trial, and that it furnishes him with just what he needs in this world?
(21.) Christianity will live, 2 Co 4:8,9. Nothing can destroy it. All the power that could be brought to bear on it to blot it from the earth has been tried, and yet it survives. No new attempt to destroy it can prevail; and it is now settled that this religion-is to live to the end of time. It has cost much to obtain this demonstration; but it is worth all it has cost, and the sufferings of apostles and martyrs, therefore, have not been for nought.
(22.) Christians should be willing to endure anything in order that they may become like Christ on earth, and be like him in heaven, 2 Co 4:10. It is worth all their efforts, and all their sell-denials. It is the grand object before us; and we should deem no sufferings too severe, no sell-denial or sacrifice too great, if we may become like him here below, and may live with him above, 2 Co 4:10,11.
(23.) In order to animate us in the work to which God has called us; to encourage us in our trials; and to prompt us to a faithful discharge of our duties, especially those who like Paul are called to preach the gospel, we should have, like him, the following views and feelings—views and feelings adapted to sustain us in all our trials, and to uphold us in all the conflicts of life:
1st. A firm and unwavering belief of the truth of the religion which we profess, and of the truth which we make known to others, 2 Co 4:12. No man can preach successfully, and no man can do much good, whose mind is vacillating and hesitating; who is filled with doubts, and who goes timidly to work or who declares that of which he has no practical acquaintance, and no deep-felt conviction, and who knows not whereof he affirms. A man to do good must have a faith which never wavers; a conviction of truth which is constant; a belief settled like the everlasting hills, which nothing can shake or overturn. With such a conviction of the truth of Christianity, and of the great doctrines which it inculcates, he cannot but speak of it, and make known his convictions. He that believes that men are in fact in danger of hell, WILL tell them of it; he that believes there is an awful bar of judgment, will tell them of it; he that believes that the Son of God became incarnate and died for men, will tell them of it; he that believes that there is a heaven, will invite them to it. And one reason why professing Christians are so reluctant to speak of these things is, that they have no very settled and definite conviction of their truth, and no correct view of their relative importance.
2nd. We should have a firm assurance that God has raised up the Lord Jesus, and that we also shall be raised from the dead, 2 Co 4:14. The hope and expectation of the resurrection of the dead was one of the sustaining principles which upheld Paul in his labours, and to attain to this was one of the grand objects of his life, Ac 23:6; Php 3:11. Under the influence of this hope and expectation, he was willing to encounter any danger, and to endure any trial. The prospect of being raised up to eternal life and glory was all that was needful to make trials welcome, and to uphold him in the midst of privations and toils. And so we, if we are assured of this great truth, shall welcome trial also, and shall be able to endure afflictions and persecutions. They will soon be ended; and the eternal glory in the morning of the resurrection shall be more than a compensation for all that we shall endure in this life.
3rd. We should have a sincere desire to promote the glory of God, and to bring as many as possible to join in his praise, and to celebrate his saving mercy, 2 Co 4:15. It was this which sustained and animated Paul; and a man who has this as the leading object of his life, and his great purpose and aim, will be willing to endure much trial, to suffer much persecution, and to encounter many dangers. No object is so noble as that of endeavouring to promote the Divine glory; and he who is influenced by that, will care little how many sufferings he is called to endure in this life.
(24.) Christians should have such a belief of the truth of their religion as to be willing to speak of it at all times, and in all places, 2 Co 4:13. If we have such a belief we shall be willing to speak of it. We cannot help it. We shall so see its value, and so love it, and our hearts will be so full of it, and we shall see so much the danger of our fellow-men, that we shall be instinctively prompted to go to them and warn them of their danger, and tell them of the glories of the Redeemer.
(25.) Christians may expect to be supported and comforted in the trials and toils of life, 2 Co 4:16. The "outward man" will indeed perish and decay. The body will become feeble, weary, jaded, decayed, decrepit. It will be filled with pain, and will languish under disease, and will endure the mortal agony, and will be corrupted in the tomb. But the "inward man" will be renewed. The faith will be invigorated, the hope become stronger, the intellect brighter, the heart better, the whole soul be more like God. While the body, therefore, the less important part, decays and dies, the immortal part shall live and ripen for glory. Of what consequence is it, therefore, how soon or how much the body decays— or when, and where, and how it dies? Let the immortal part be preserved, let that live, and all is well. And while this is done, we should not, we shall not "faint." We shall be sustained; and shall find the consolations of religion to be fitted to all our wants, and adapted to all the necessities of our condition as weak, and frail, and dying creatures.
(26.) We learn from this chapter how to bear affliction in a proper manner, 2 Co 4:17,18. It is by looking at eternity, and comparing our trials with the eternal weight of glory that awaits us. In themselves afflictions often seem heavy and long. Human nature is often ready to sink under them. The powers of the body fail, and the mortal frame is crushed. The day seems long while we suffer; and the night seems often to be almost endless, De 28:67. But compared with eternity, how short are all these trials! Compared with the weight of glory which awaits the believer, what a trifle are the severest sufferings of this life. Soon the ransomed spirit will be released, and will be admitted to the full fruition of the joys of the world above. In that world, all these sorrows will seem like the sufferings of childhood, that we have.now almost forgotten, and that now seem to us like trifles.
(27.) We should not look to the things which are seen as our portion, 2 Co 4:17,18. They are light in their character, and are soon to fade away. Our great interests are beyond the grave. There all is weighty, and momentous, and eternal. Whatever great interests we have, are there. Eternity is stamped upon all the joys and all the sorrows which are beyond this life. Here all is temporary, changing, decaying, dying. There all is fixed, settled, unchanging, immortal. It becomes us then, as rational creatures, to look to that world, to act with reference to it, to feel and act as if we felt that all our interests were there. Were this life all, everything in relation to us would be trifling. But when we remember that there is an eternity; that we are near it; and that our conduct here is to determine our character and destiny there, life becomes invested with infinite importance. Who can estimate the magnitude of the interests at stake? Who can appreciate aright the importance of every step we take, and every plan we form?
(28.) All here below is temporary, decaying, dying, 2 Co 4:17,18. Afflictions are temporary. They are but for a moment, and will soon be passed away. Our sorrows here will soon be ended. The last sigh on earth will soon be heaved; the last tear will have fallen on the cheek; the last pain will have shot across the seat of life! The last pang of parting with a beloved friend will soon have been endured; and the last step which we are to take in "the valley of the shadow of death" will soon have been trod. And in like manner we shall soon have tasted the last cup of earthly joy. All our comforts here below will soon pass from us. Our friends will die. Our sources of happiness will be dried up. Our health will fail, and darkness will come over our eyes, and we shall go down to the dead. All our property must be left, and all our honours be parted with for ever. In a little time—oh, how brief!—we shall have gone from all these, and shall be engaged in the deep and awful solemnities of the unchanging world. How vain and foolish, therefore, the attachment to earthly objects! How important to secure an interest in that future inheritance which shall never fade away!
(29.) Let it not be inferred, however, that all affliction shall be light, and for a moment, or that all earthly trial shall of course work out a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. There are sorrows, beyond the grave, compared with which the most heavy and most protracted woes this side the tomb are "light," and are "but for a moment." And there are sorrows in this life—deep and prolonged afflictions—which by no means tend to prepare the soul for the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Such are those afflictions where there is no submission to the will of God; where there is murmuring, repining, impatience, and increased rebellion; where there is no looking to God for comfort, and no contemplation of eternal glory. Such are those afflictions where men look to philosophy or to earthly friends to comfort them; or where they plunge deeper into the business, the gaiety, or the vices of the world, to drown their sorrows and to obliterate the sense of their calamities. This is "the sorrow of the world which worketh death," 2 Co 7:10. In afflictions, therefore, it should be to us a matter of deep and anxious solicitude to know whether we have the right feelings, and whether we are seeking the right sources of consolation. And in such seasons it shall be the subject of our deep and earnest prayer to God that our trials may, by his grace, be made to work our for us "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." All are afflicted; all suffer in various ways; and all may find these trials terminate in eternal blessedness beyond the grave.
Introduction to 2nd Corinthians Chapter 5
THIS chapter is closely connected with the former; and indeed has been improperly separated from it, as is manifest from the word "For" (gar) with which it commences. It contains a further statement of reasons for what had been said in the previous chapter. The main subject there was the MINISTRY: the honesty and fidelity with which Paul and his fellow-labourers toiled, 2 Co 5:1-3; the trials and dangers which they encountered in the work of the ministry, 2 Co 5:7-12; and the consolations and supports which they had in its various trials, 2 Co 5:13-18. This chapter contains a continuation of the same subject, and a further statement of the motives which prompted them to their work, and of the supports which upheld them in the arduous duties to which they were called. It is a chapter full of exquisite beauties of sentiment and of language, and as well adapted to give consolation and support to all Christians now as it is to ministers; and the sentiments are as well adapted to sustain the humblest believer in his trials as they were to sustain the apostles themselves. The following are the points of consolation and support, and reasons for their zeal and self-denial, to which the apostle refers.
(1.) They had the assured prospect of the resurrection, and of eternal life, 2 Co 5:1-4. The body might decay, and be worn but; it might sigh and groan; but they had a better home, a mansion of eternal' rest in the heavens. It was their earnest desire to reach heaven; though not such a desire as to make them unwilling to endure the toils, and trials which God should appoint to them here below, but still an earnest, anxious wish to reach safely their eternal home in the skies. In the prospect of their heavenly home, and their eternal rest, they were willing to endure all the trials which were appointed to them.
(2.) God had appointed them to this; he had fitted them for these trials; he had endowed them with the graces of his Spirit; and they were, therefore, willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord, 2 Co 5:5-8. They had such a view of heaven, as their home, that they were willing at any time to depart and enter the world of rest; and they did not, therefore, shrink from the trials and dangers which would be likely soon to bring them there.
(3.) They had a deep and constant conviction that they must soon appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, 2 Co 5:9-11. They laboured that they might be accepted by him, 2 Co 5:9; they knew that they must give a solemn accost to him, 2 Co 5:10; they had a clear view, and a-deep impression of the awful terrors of that day; and they laboured, therefore, to save as many as possible from the condemnation of the great Judge of all, and endeavoured to "persuade" them to be prepared for that scene, 2 Co 5:11.
(4.) Though, to some they might appear to be under the influence of improper excitement, and even to be deranged, 2 Co 5:14, yet they were acting only under the proper influence of the love of Christ, 2 Co 5:14,15. They were constrained and urged on by his love; they knew that he had died for all, and that all men were dead in sin; and they felt themselves the constraining influence of that love prompting them to deny themselves, and to devote their all to his service and cause.
(5.) Their views of all things had been changed, 2 Co 5:16,17. They had ceased to act under the influences which govern other men; but their own hearts had been changed, and they had become new creatures in Christ, and in. their lives they evinced the spirit which should govern those who were thus renewed.
(6.) They had been solemnly commissioned by God as his ambassadors in this cause. They had been sent to make known the terms and the way of reconciliation, and their felt it to be their duty to proclaim those terms on as wide a scale as possible, and with the utmost zeal and self-denial. It was God's glorious plan of reconciliation; and on the ground of the atonement made by the Redeemer, they could now offer salvation to all mankind; and as all might be saved, they felt themselves bound to offer the terms of salvation to as many as possible, 2 Co 5:18-21. The grand argument for urging sinners to be reconciled to God, is the fact that Christ has died for their sins; and therefore the apostles, apprized of this fact, sought to urge as many as possible to become him friends, 2 Co 5:21.
Verse 1. For we know. We who are engaged in the work of the gospel ministry. Paul is giving a reason whir he and his fellow-labourers did not become weary and faint in their work. The reason was, that they knew that even if their body should die, they had, an inheritance reserved for them in heaven. The expression "we know" is the language of strong and unwavering assurance. They had no doubt on the subject. And it proves that there may be the assurance of eternal life; or such evidence of acceptance with God as to leave no doubt of a final admission into heaven. This language was often used by the Saviour in reference to the truths which he taught, Joh 3:11; 4:22 and it is, used by the sacred writers in regard to the truths which they recorded, and in regard to their own personal piety, Joh 21:24; 1 Jo 2:3,5,18; 1 Jo 3:2,14,19,24; 4:6,13; 5:2,15,19,20.
That if our earthly house. The word "earthly" here (epigeiov) stands opposed to "heavenly," or to the "house eternal (en toiv ouranoiv?) in the heavens." The word properly means, "upon earth, terrestrial, belonging to the earth, or on the earth;" and is applied to bodies, 1 Co 15:40; to earthly things, Joh 3:12; to earthly, or worldly wisdom, Jas 3:15. The word house here refers doubtless to the body, as the habitation, or the dwelling-place, of the mind or soul. The soul dwells in it as we dwell in a house, or tent.
Of this tabernacle. This word means a booth, or tent—a movable dwelling. The use of the word here is not a mere redundancy; but the idea which Paul designs to convey is, doubtless, that the body—the house of the soul—was not a permanent dwelling-place, but was of the same nature as a booth or tent, that was set up for a temporary purpose, or that was easily taken down in migrating from one place to another. It refers here to the body as the frail and temporary abode of the soul. It is not a permanent dwelling—a fixed habitation; but is liable to be taken down at any moment, and was fitted up with that view. Tindal renders it, "if our earthly mansion wherein we now dwell." The Syriac renders it, "for we know that if our house on earth, which is our body, were dissolved." The idea is a beautiful one, that the body is a mere unfixed, movable dwelling-place; liable to be taken down at any moment, and not designed, any more than a tent is, to be a permanent habitation.
Were dissolved. kataluyh. This word means, properly, to disunite the parts of anything; and is applied to the act of throwing down, or destroying a building is applied here to the body, regarded as a temporary dwelling that might be taken down.; and it refers, doubtless, to the dissolution of the body in the grave. The idea is, that if this body should moulder back to dust, and be resolved into its original elements; or if by great zeal and labour it should be exhausted and worn out. Language like this is used by Eliphaz, the Temanite, in describing the body of man. "How much less in those that dwell in houses of clay," etc., Job 4:19; 2 Pe 1:13,14.
We have a building of God. Robinson (Lexicon) supposes that it refers to "the future spiritual body as the abode of the soul." Some have supposed that it refers to some "celestial vehicle" with which God invests the soul during the intermediate state. But the Scripture is silent about any such celestial vehicle. It is not easy to tell what was the precise idea which Paul here designed to convey, Perhaps a few remarks may enable us to arrive at the meaning.
(1.) It was not to be temporary; not a tent or tabernacle that could be taken down.
(2.) It was to be eternal-in the heavens.
(3.) It was to be such as to constitute a dwelling; a clothing, or such a protection as should keep the soul from being "naked."
(4.) It was to be such as should constitute "life" in contradistinction from "mortality." These things will better agree with the supposition of its referring to the future body of the saints than anything else; and probably the idea of Paul is, that the body there will be incorruptible and immortal. When he says it is a "building of God," (ek yeou,) he evidently means that it is made by God; that he is the architect of that future and eternal dwelling. Macknight and some others, however, understood this of the mansions which God has fitted up for his people in heaven, and which the Lord Jesus has gone to prepare for them. Comp. Joh 14:2. But See Barnes "2 Co 5:3".
An house. A dwelling; an abode; that is, according to the interpretation above, a celestial, pure, immortal body; a body that shall have God for its immediate author, and that shall be fitted to dwell in heaven for ever.
Not made with hands. Not constructed by man; a habitation not like those which are made by human skill, and which are therefore easily taken down or removed, but one that is made by God himself. This does not imply that the "earthly house" which is to be superseded by that in heaven is made with hands; but the idea is, that the earthly dwelling has things about it which resemble that which is made by man, or as if it were made with hands; i.e., it is temporary, frail, easily taken down or removed. But that which is in heaven is permanent, fixed, eternal, as if made by God.
Eternal in the heavens. Immortal; to live for ever. The future body shall never be taken down or dissolved by death. It is eternal, of course, only in respect to the future, and not in respect to the past. And it is not only eternal, but it is to abide for ever in the heavens—in the world of glory. It is never to be subjected to a dwelling on the earth; never to be in a world of sin, suffering,, and death.
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