Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.Ch. 2 Corinthians 5:1. For we know] This verse gives the reason for what has gone before. ‘We are consoled in our present afflictions, sustained in our hope of future glory, supported in our conviction that what is visible is speedily to be replaced by what is eternal, by the knowledge, spiritually acquired, that God has prepared a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44) to replace the present frail and temporary habitation of the soul.’ Calvin remarks that this with St Paul is not a matter of opinion or belief, but of actual knowledge, a boast which no heathen dare have made.
our earthly house of this tabernacle] Earthly, not earthy. That which exists upon the earth, not what is made of earth. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:40; 1 Corinthians 15:47. See also John 3:12; Php 2:10. House of this tabernacle is better rendered tabernacle-house. The Hebraistic genitive is “to define the nature of the house” (Stanley), i.e. as temporary, a tent or tabernacle as opposed to a permanent dwelling. Stanley suggests our English word tenement as best expressing the idea of the original, and supposes the Greek word to have been suggested to St Paul by his Cilician house, as well as by his occupation of tent-making, Acts 18:3. A similar expression is found in 2 Peter 1:13, and in Wis 9:15.
were dissolved] or, perhaps, were destroyed. Cf. Matthew 5:17; Matthew 24:2; Matthew 26:61; Galatians 2:18, where the same Greek word is used.
we have a building of God] i.e. a building originating with God. The present tense signifies either (1) that it awaits us “the moment our present house is destroyed” (Stanley), or (2) that it exists now in the eternal purpose of God. See next note but one.
a house not made with hand] So the earlier copies of the Authorized Version. The later—the innovation seems to have been made about 1661—have ‘hands,’ which is less correct. “Not as contrasted with the earthly body, which is also ‘not made with hand,’ but with other houses which are made with hand.” Alford. The expression is used to mark the Divine origin of the spiritual body.
in the heavens] These words should be joined with ‘we have,’ not as is usually done with ‘eternal.’ There is a difficulty here. The new body is said in 1 Corinthians 15:52; Php 3:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 to be given us at the coming of Christ. The condition of the believer between death and the judgment is represented as a sleep. The explanation is that we possess our future body already in the mind and will of God. So the Hebrew prophets frequently speak of a future event as’ past, because it is already decreed in the providence of God. We are in said to ‘have it in the heavens’ because its organization and communication to us are not natural, but heavenly and spiritual.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:2. For in this] i.e. this tabernacle.
we groan] Cf. Romans 8:23.
to be clothed upon] i.e. to put on in addition. See 1 Corinthians 15:53. “The flesh will not be annihilated, but spiritualized, glorified and beautified, as the human body of Christ was at the Transfiguration.” St Jerome, cited by Bp Wordsworth. The Greek for the ‘fisher’s coat’ spoken of in John 21:7 is, as Dean Stanley reminds us, derived from the word used here.
with our house] Rather, dwelling-place. The word house (οἰκία) is more absolute, dwelling-place (οἰκητήριον) has reference to the inhabitant. Bengel.
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.3. if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked] Rather, with Tyndale, whom Cranmer follows, yet if (some recent editors, following another reading, would render seeing) that we shall be found clothed, not naked. This passage has been variously explained. Some regard it (1) as asserting that at the last day we are certain to receive a Resurrection-body, and not to be left as disembodied spirits. Others, as Bp Wordsworth, remembering that γυμνός does not mean literally naked, but (John 21:7; cf. Xen. Anab. iv. iv. 12) destitute of the upper garment, interpret it (2) ‘if we shall be found in the Resurrection-body at the last day,’ not in the frail mortal tenement which we must otherwise resume. The chief objection to these interpretations is that the word ‘found’ applies rather to the condition in which we are, than to that in which we are to be when Christ comes. It will therefore be best to follow the interpretation which regards the passage as referring to the possibility of St Paul and those to whom he is speaking being alive at the coming of Christ (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and note on 1 Corinthians 15:51), and to translate if (in that day) we shall be found clothed (with the body), not naked (i.e. disembodied). The various readings which are found in this passage increase the difficulty of explaining it. For (1) the word translated if so be is found in two different forms in the early Greek copies of this Epistle, the one expressing a greater, the other a less degree of uncertainty. Then (2) some copies read ‘unclothed’ for ‘clothed,’ so that the passage then runs if when unclothed (of the body) we shall not be found naked. But this reading was probably introduced by some copyist who could not comprehend the passage as it stood.
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.4. in this tabernacle] Literally, in the tabernacle, i.e. the ‘tenement,’ of which we have already spoken (2 Corinthians 5:1).
do groan, being burdened] “Not because we desire to be delivered from the body, for of it we do not wish to be unclothed, but we hasten to be delivered from the corruption that is in it.” Chrysostom. This verse carries on the thought of v, 2 and explains it.
not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon] Better with Tyndale and Cranmer (also Wiclif), for we wold not be unclothed, but wolde be clothed upon. “It is quite possible that men might conceive (of the future state) as a disembodied state and suppose the Apostle to represent life in a visible form as a degradation.” Robertson. Such was the view of Greek philosophers almost without exception (see note on 1 Corinthians 15:12). St Paul, affirming the old Jewish view that God had created all things, and made them very good, entirely repudiates this doctrine, and declares that he does not desire separation from the body, but only its spiritualization. “Paul regards it as an especial happiness not to taste death, not to be obliged to put off this body, but to be glorified living, like Elijah, drawing the heavenly body over the present mortal body as a garment, yet in such a manner that the mortal body is absorbed in the nature of the spiritual body.” Olshausen. So Tertullian, “not as wishing to undergo death, but that death should be anticipated by life.” The whole passage should be compared with 1 Corinthians 15:35-54. See also note on 2 Corinthians 5:2.
that mortality might be swallowed up of life] i.e. “covered over and arrayed in the vesture of immortality.” Tertullian. ‘Mortality’ should rather be rendered what is mortal.
Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.5. wrought us] Literally, wrought us out, i.e. fitted and prepared us by a course of training. See ch. 2 Corinthians 4:17.
for the selfsame thing] The swallowing up of mortality by life.
the earnest of the Spirit] For earnest, see ch. 2 Corinthians 1:22, a very similar passage. Cf. also Romans 8:1-11. It is because the Spirit dwells in us by faith while we are here that we are raised hereafter. The body thus possessing a principle of life is as a seed planted in the ground (1 Corinthians 15:36-38) to be raised again in God’s good time. See Introduction to First Epistle and notes on ch. 15.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:6. Therefore we are always confident] Because we always possess the inner life of the Spirit, and are therefore always, in a sense, with God.
at home in the body] The body (see note on 2 Corinthians 5:4) is really a home, though not a permanent one. “Quamdiu domi sumus in hoc corporis habitaculo.” Erasmus.
we are absent from the Lord] “God is present with all mankind, because He sustains them by His power; He dwells in them, because ‘in Him they live, and move, and have their being.’ He is present with His faithful ones by the greater energy of His Spirit; He lives in them, dwells in their midst, and so within them. But in the meantime He is absent from us, in that He does not yet present Himself to be seen face to face; because as yet we are exiles from His kingdom, and lack the blessed immortality which the Angels, who are with Him, are privileged to enjoy.” Calvin.
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)7. for we walk by faith, not by sight] Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 4:18 and John 20:29. The word translated sight signifies not the Acts of vision, but the thing seen. Cf. Luke 3:22; Luke 9:29; John 5:37, in two of which passages the word is translated shape, in the third fashion. This is the reason of the statement made in the last verse. We are absent from God, because we are not yet face to face with the heavenly realities, but dimly realize them afar off (1 Corinthians 13:12; Hebrews 11:1).
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.8. we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord] Our confidence is not even disturbed by death, though it is not (2 Corinthians 5:4) death in itself that we seek. But even in death we ‘sleep in Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 4:14; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:18), and though removed from our earthly tenement we are still at home with God. Cf. also Luke 23:43. The word translated ‘present’ here is translated ‘at home’ in 2 Corinthians 5:6, a variation which commenced with Tyndale. He returns however to ‘at home’ in the next verse.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.9. we labour] The word implies “una ambitio legitima” Bengel; a strife in which one’s honour is concerned. See Romans 15:20, where the word is translated strive.
whether present or absent] whether at home or from home, Tyndale. The meaning is either (1) whether at home in the body, or absent from it, as in 2 Corinthians 5:6, or (2) at home with God or absent from Him, as in 2 Corinthians 5:8. The latter is preferable, as being in more immediate connection with what precedes. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:10.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.10. For we must all appear] Literally, be manifested, the same Greek word being used as in the next verse. A reason for what goes before. It is natural to try and please God when present with Him. But even when absent, Christians do not forget that He will judge them.
before the judgment seat of Christ] Cf. Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 14:10. Observe that ‘God’ is the word used in the latter passage, as though “the two ideas were convertible.” Stanley. The βῆμα, or ‘judgment seat’ (trone, Wiclif), is in Classical Greek the pulpit from which the orators addressed the assemblies. In the N. T. it is used of the judge’s seat, which in the Roman basilica or judgment hall was “a lofty seat, raised on an elevated platform, so that the figure of the judge must have been seen towering above the crowd which thronged the long nave of the building.” Stanley. This, he adds, was “the most august representation of justice which the world at that time, or perhaps ever, exhibited.”
the things done in his body) Literally, through the body. Wiclif’s translation is more literal, ‘the propre thingis of the bodi, as he hath don.’ This is the reason why Christians are to strive during the present life to be pleasing to God. Their wages in the next world shall be according to their acts in this. Cf. Romans 2:5-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; Judges 14, 15.
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.11–21. The Christian Ministry one of Reconciliation
11. the terror of the Lord] i.e. “His to-be-dreaded judgment.” Beza. This translation is due to the Geneva Version, following Beza and Calvin (Wiclif, drede). Tyndale (whom Cranmer follows) renders more correctly ‘how the Lorde is to be feared’ (literally ‘the fear of the Lord,’ timorem Domini, Vulg.). It is not the terror which God inspires, but the fear which man has of Him that is meant, ‘knowing what it is to fear God.’
we persuade men] Rather, perhaps, we win over men. Compare the use of the Greek word here used in Acts 12:20. The Apostle is still keeping in mind his object of clearing himself from the unjust accusations brought against him (cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 2:17). That the digressions in ch. 3, 4, 5 have not caused him to lose sight of his main object, the vindication of the purity of his motives from the aspersions cast upon them, may be seen by comparing 2 Corinthians 5:12 with ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1. Having the fear of God’s judgment continually before his eyes, he persuades men to obey the Gospel of Christ.
but we are made manifest unto God] Literally, we have been made manifest, i.e. we are and have been all along. He knows the purity of our motives, and will one day bear witness to them before all men. See note on last verse.
and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences] Literally, have been made manifest, with the same meaning as above, either (1) ‘by the change (see 2 Corinthians 5:17) which our ministry of Christ has produced in your hearts and lives,’ or (2) ‘in your conscientious conviction of our integrity.’ Ch. 2 Corinthians 4:2 makes the former the more probable interpretation. See also chap. 2 Corinthians 11:6.
For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.12. For we commend not ourselves] ‘For’ is omitted by the best editors, and its omission clears the sense. “We are not endeavouring once more to recommend ourselves to you by what we have said. (For ‘again’ see note on ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1.) That is quite needless (ch. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3). We simply give you an opportunity of ‘answering the fool according to his folly,’ of shewing to those who judge by the appearance only, that we, too, have some fruits at least of our ministry to shew.”
occasion to glory] The word here translated ‘to glory’ means, here as elsewhere in the N. T. (see note on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:14 and on 1 Corinthians 5:6), cause of glorying or boasting. According to its strict meaning (which probably ought not to be pressed here) it should be rendered ‘supplying you with a source whence you may find a cause of boasting on our behalf.’
in appearance] Literally, in face, i.e. in that which is visible. See ch. 2 Corinthians 10:7.
and not in heart] Who have no ground for boasting in the purity of their motives, because self-interest is the only spring of their actions. Cf. 1 Corinthians 3. throughout, and ch. 2 Corinthians 11:12-13; Galatians 4:17.
For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.13. For whether we be besides ourselves] Literally, were beside ourselves, i.e. when we were with you. The reproach of madness was afterwards cast upon St Paul by Festus (Acts 26:24), and may well have been cast upon him before this. Cf. Acts 17.
it is to God] Better, for God, i.e. for His cause. See ‘for your cause’ below. Literally, for you.
or whether we be sober] The word here used signifies the quiet self-restraint characteristic of the Christian. Its original meaning is to have one’s thoughts safe, and hence to be of sound, healthy mind (cf. the Latin salvus and our ‘safe and sound’). Cf. Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35 (where the word is opposed to the idea of madness). Also Romans 12:3; Titus 2:2; Titus 2:4; Titus 2:6, &c.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:14. For the love of Christ constraineth us] i.e. the love which Christ has not only displayed, but imparted (De Wette). He refers to Romans 8:35; Ephesians 3:19 (which however must be read in the light of 2 Corinthians 5:17-18). The word translated constrain signifies to coop up, keep within narrow bounds. Cf. Luke 12:50, where the same word occurs. It is also used by St Luke of diseases, as in Luke 4:38; Acts 28:8, and of a multitude crowding, as in Luke 8:45. Here it means ‘prevents us from doing anything but serve you for Christ’s sake.’
because we thus judge] Not merely equivalent to think, but strictly judge, i.e. form an opinion upon sufficient evidence.
that if one died for all, then were all dead] Most modern editors omit the ‘if,’ which is not contained in any of the best MSS. nor versions (except the Vulgate), and render thus, ‘That one died for all: therefore all died, not ‘were dead’ as in the A. V. The meaning of the Apostle would seem to be not that all men were dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore needed one to die for them, but that the death of Christ, Who had taken upon Himself to represent mankind before His Father’s throne, was in a sense a death of all mankind (οἱ πάντες—all collectively. Wordsworth). “What Christ did for Humanity was done by Humanity.” Robertson. Cf. Romans 6:6; Romans 6:10; Romans 7:4; Romans 7:6 (margin); Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20-22; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10. Also Galatians 2:19-20,‘I through law died to law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ.’
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.15. that they which live should not … live unto themselves] Cf. Romans 5:8-11; Romans 6:10-13; Romans 14:7; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:24-25; Galatians 6:14; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 John 5:18 See also note on ch. 2 Corinthians 4:10-11. Christ’s death is our life, because He thus made atonement for sin, reconciled us to the Father, shewed how He could be ‘both just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,’ and thus made obedience possible for us on the principle that we were ‘reconciled to God,’ and that henceforth there would be ‘no condemnation for our past sins or present sinfulness, provided we set ourselves to ‘walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ His death was the means of freeing us from our bondage to sin. His lift was the enabling power which wrought our conversion.
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.16. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh] i.e. we regard no man from a purely fleshly point of view (see note on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:17), but look upon him as endowed with a new vital principle from above which has changed his heart. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:1-11; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16. “Even in Christ a transition took place analogous to that which happened to man in regeneration. In the Resurrection the life according to the flesh passed over into a life according to the Spirit.” Olshausen. “He who knows no man after the flesh has entirely lost sight in the case of a Jew, for example, of his Jewish origin, in the case of a rich man of his riches, in that of a learned man of his learning, in that of a slave of his slavery, and so on.” Meyer. Cf. Matthew 3:9; John 8:39; Romans 2:28-29; Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11.
yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh] i.e. from a purely human point of view, as the Son of David simply (Romans 1:3), not as the Incarnate Son of God, the Divine Word. See Bishop Wordsworth’s note here. St Paul, and many others of the first preachers of the faith (cf. Acts 1:6), had started with such carnal conceptions, but they had disappeared before the light of God’s truth.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.17. Therefore] i.e. as a conclusion from 2 Corinthians 5:15-16, in consequence of Christ’s Death, His Life, His superhuman, Divine personality.
if any man be in Christ] The Vulgate puts no stop at Christ, and renders ‘if there be any new creature in Christ’ (‘if ony newe creature is in Crist,’ Wiclif). Tyndale translates as above. For ‘in Christ,’ see Romans 16:7; Galatians 1:22; and chap. 2 Corinthians 12:2.
he is a new creature] These words may be rendered there is a new creation, i.e. a new creation takes place within him. Whosoever is united to Christ by faith, possesses in himself the gift of a Divine, regenerated, spiritual humanity which Christ gives through his Spirit (cf. John 5:21; John 6:33; John 6:39-40; John 6:54; John 6:57; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 2:2; and 2 Peter 1:4. Also chap. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 2 Corinthians 4:11, 2 Corinthians 5:5). This life, which he possessed not before, is in fact a new creation of the whole man, “not to be distinguished from regeneration.” Meyer. So also Chrysostom. Cf. John 1:13; John 3:3; John 3:5; Titus 3:5. The margin of the A. V. renders let him be, which is grammatically admissible, but hardly suits the context.
old things] Literally, the old things. Cf. the ‘old man,’ Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9; the ‘former conversation’ or manner of living, before the soul was dominated by the Spirit of Christ.
are past away] Literally, passed away, i.e. at the moment of conversion. But as the Dean of Peterborough has shewn in the Expositor, Vol. vii. pp. 261–263, this strict use of the aorist cannot be always pressed in Hebraistic Greek.
behold, all things are become new] Many MSS., versions and recent editors omit ‘all things.’ The passage then stands ‘behold, they are become new.’ If we accept this reading, the passage speaks more clearly of a conversion of the whole man as he is, thoughts, habits, feelings, desires, into the image of Christ. The old is not obliterated, it is renovated. As it stands in the A.V. it relates rather to a substitution of a new nature for the old. Isaiah 43:18-19; Revelation 21:5.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;18. all things are of God] Whether natural or spiritual. He is the Creator of heaven and earth, Genesis 1:1, as well as of the work of redemption and of the new heart of man. Cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 1:21, 2 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 15:28; also John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:32. Christ came only to fulfil His Fathers Will (John 4:34; John 5:30; John 6:39-40). The Father and He were one in love to the human race as in everything else, John 17:21-23. “All the life of God is a flow of this Divine self-giving charity. Creation itself is sacrifice, the self-impartation of the Divine being.” Robertson.
who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ] We have to observe here that not only was man estranged from God, but God from man. “We cannot imagine that God, Who is essentially just, should not abominate iniquity, yet there is no incongruity in this—that a father should be offended with that son which he loveth, and at that time offended with him when he loveth him.” Bp Pearson. “God is angry with the wicked. For Christ was the representative of God under the name of Humanity. Now Christ was angry. That therefore which God feels”—or rather the relation in which He stands towards sin—“corresponds with that which in pure Humanity is the emotion of anger. No other word then will adequately represent God’s feeling” (or rather attitude). Robertson. But the reconciliation was God’s work of love, carried out by Jesus Christ, Who came to reveal His Nature and beneficial purposes to mankind, and to accomplish them by taking our mortal flesh, by His pure and stainless life, by His mysterious Death upon the Cross for our sakes, by His Resurrection from the dead, as well as by His sending His Spirit to work out His blessed Will in us. This is ‘reconciliation by Jesus Christ.’ The words reconcile, reconciliation, are deliberately preferred by the translators of the A. V. to the word atone, atonement, which is only to be found as an equivalent for the Greek word here used in Romans 5:11. Cf. Romans 5:10; Romans 11:15; 1 Corinthians 7:11, as well as a similar word occurring in Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20-21. See also notes below.
the ministry of reconciliation] Literally, the reconciliation, i.e. that which has just been mentioned. Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 3:3, where St Paul describes the Corinthians as an Epistle of Christ ministered by him with the Spirit of the living God. The word ministry signifies service rendered freely, not of compulsion. It carries with it the idea of diligence, whatever derivation of the Greek word we take. It was the Apostles’ task, voluntarily undertaken by themselves, to proclaim the good tidings of reconciliation through Christ throughout the world, and thus to put it in men’s power to accept and act upon it. Tyndale, followed by Cranmer and the Geneva Version, render and hath given unto us the office to preach the atonement.
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.19. to wit, that] i.e. this is the tenor of our message.
God was in Christ reconciling] Or ‘that God in Christ was reconciling.’ Either translation is grammatically and theologically admissible. The former translation, preferred by the Latin expositors, lays most stress upon the indwelling of God in Christ (cf. John 14:10; John 14:17). The latter, which has found most favour among the Greek commentators, indicates the fact, not merely that God reconciled the world, but that the process of reconciliation was carried on “in the Person and work of Christ.” Meyer.
the world unto himself] It is frequently declared in Scripture that God’s purpose embraces all mankind (“the whole world,” Alford). Cf. John 1:29; John 3:16; John 4:42; John 6:33; 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:2, &c.
not imputing their trespasses unto them] παραπτώματα, trespasses, literally, fallings aside from the path. The English word is derived from an old French word trespasser, which, like transgress, has a similar meaning to the Greek, namely, to pass over the boundary. This passage explains the nature of the process of reconciliation. It is a very simple one. It consists in the fact that in consequence of Christ’s mediatorial work, God no longer imputes sin to man, i.e. regards his sin as though it had not been committed. Cf. Romans 3:25; Romans 3:4; Romans 8:1. Why this is so, and how it comes to pass that God is both ‘just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus,’ the Apostle does not explain, nor is any complete explanation given in Holy Scripture, which has concerned itself on this point less with theory than with fact. See however 2 Corinthians 5:15-18; also Romans 5:8-11; Hebrews 9:12-14; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10-14, &c. The word here translated imputed is translated indifferently by that word, and by reckoned and accounted in the A. V. It signifies (1) to consider (as in Romans 8:18), and hence (2) to consider a thing as having been done, to reckon or impute.
and hath committed unto us] Literally, and placed in us (puttid in us, Wiclif). It signifies more than a simple entrusting with, including (1) the reception of the reconciliation by the first preachers of the Gospel, and (2) their proclamation of it as well by their lives as by their teaching.
the word of reconciliation] So Wiclif and the Rhemish Version. Tyndale, Cranmer and the Geneva Version render the preaching of the atonement. The Greek, which is here rendered by ‘word,’ signifies (1) the abstract reason of a thing, (2) the discourse which is held about it, and (3) the word which expresses it. The use of three distinct tenses in the three members of this sentence is not a little remarkable. The imperfect, used of God’s reconciling work in Christ, relates to the continuation of that work throughout the whole of His earthly ministry. The present, in the word ‘imputing’ signifies that this work of non-imputation is still going on. The aorist, used in the word translated ‘hath committed,’ relates to the moment when God ‘accounted’ St Paul ‘faithful, putting him into the ministry,’ 1 Timothy 1:12.
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.20. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ] Literally, we undertake an embassy (legatione fungimur, Vulgate; usen message, Wiclif). Tyndale, followed by Cranmer and the Geneva Version, render, are messengers in the roume of. The Rhemish characteristically renders by legates. The signification ‘in the room of,’ for ὑπέρ, is doubtful. It is perhaps better to render ‘for’ with the A.V. (Vulgate, pro). Cf. Ephesians 6:20. An ambassador represents the monarch from whom he is sent, in all matters relating to his mission. What the nature of the mission was, and what the powers of the ambassadors, is stated in the remaining words of the verse.
as though God did beseech you by us] See notes on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:3. God may be said rather to exhort or encourage than to beseech (as if God monestith bi us, Wiclif). This, then, was the object for which the full powers of the ambassadors were given, an object still more clearly defined in what follows. Cf. Malachi 2:7; Galatians 4:14.
we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God] Rather, we intreat on behalf of Christ (sec above). First there was the encouraging tidings that there was ‘henceforth no condemnation’ to those who accepted the reconciliation offered through Christ (or perhaps the exhortation to accept it, see last note), and next the still more urgent entreaty on Christ’s behalf that they would accept it.
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.21. For he hath made him to be sin for us] Literally, He made, i.e. in the Sacrifice on the Cross. The word sin has been variously explained as a sin-offering, a sinner, and so on. But it is best to take the word in its literal acceptation. He made Him to be sin, i.e. appointed Him to be the representative of sin and sinners, treated Him as sin and sinners are treated (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15). He took on Himself to be the representative of Humanity in its aspect of sinfulness (cf. Romans 8:3; Php 2:7) and to bear the burden of sin in all its completeness. Hence He won the right to represent Humanity in all respects, and hence we are entitled to be regarded as God’s righteousness (which He was) not in ourselves, but in Him as our representative in all things. See also 2 Corinthians 5:14.
who knew no sin] Cf. Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; also John 8:46.
that we might be made the righteousness of God in him] We not only are regarded as God’s righteousness, but become so, by virtue of the inward union effected between ourselves and Him by His Spirit, through faith. See 2 Corinthians 5:17 and note. “He did not say righteous, but righteousness, and that the righteousness of God.” Chrysostom. See also Bp Wordsworth’s note. Cf. Romans 1:17; Romans 3:22; Romans 5:19; Romans 10:3; 1 Corinthians 1:30.