The apostle's strong hope of eternal glory, and earnest longings after that state of blessedness, 2 Corinthians 5:1-4. The assurance that he had of it from the Holy Spirit, and his carefulness to be always found pleasing to the Lord, 2 Corinthians 5:5-9. All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:10. Knowing that this awful event must take place, he labored to convince men of the necessity of being prepared to meet the Lord, being influenced to this work by his love of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:11-13. Jesus Christ having died for all, is a proof that all were dead, 2 Corinthians 5:14. Those for whom he died should live to him, 2 Corinthians 5:15. We should know no man after the flesh, 2 Corinthians 5:16. They who are in Christ are new creatures, 2 Corinthians 5:17. The glorious ministry of reconciliation, 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.
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.If our earthly house of this tabernacle - By earthly house, the apostle most evidently means the body in which the soul is represented as dwelling or sojourning for a time, and from which it is to be liberated at death; for as death dissolves the tabernacle, it can then be no habitation for the soul. The apostle also alludes here to the ancient Jewish tabernacle, which, on all removals of the congregation, was dissolved and taken in pieces; and the ark of the covenant, covered with its own curtains, was carried by itself; and when they came to the place of rest, then the dissolved parts of the tabernacle were put together as before. When we consider this simile in connection with the doctrine of the resurrection, which the apostle has treated so much at large in these epistles, and which he keeps constantly in view, then we shall see that he intends to convey the following meaning: that as the tabernacle was taken down in order to be again put together, so the body is to be dissolved, in order to be re-edified; that as the ark of the covenant subsisted by itself, while the tabernacle was down, so can the soul when separated from the body; that as the ark had then its own veil for its covering, Exodus 40:21, so the soul is to have some vehicle in which it shall subsist till it receives its body at the resurrection.
A building of God - Some think this refers to a certain celestial vehicle with which God invests holy souls on their dismissal from the body; others suppose it relates to the resurrection body; and some imagine that it relates merely to the state of blessedness which the saints shall possess in the kingdom of glory. See the following note.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:For in this we groan - While in this state, and in this body, we are encompassed with many infirmities, and exposed to many trials, so that life is a state of discipline and affliction, and every thing within and around us says, "Arise and depart, for this is not your rest!" Those who apply these words to what they call the apostle's sense of indwelling sin, abuse the passage. There is nothing of the kind either mentioned or intended.
Desiring to be clothed upon with our house - This and the following verses are, in themselves, exceedingly obscure, and can be only interpreted by considering that the expressions used by the apostle are all Jewish, and should be interpreted according to their use of them. Schoettgen has entered largely into the argument here employed by the apostle, and brought forth much useful information.
1. That the Hebrew word לבש labash, which answers to the apostle's ενδυσασθαι, to be clothed, signifies to be surrounded, covered, or invested with any thing. So, to be clothed with the uncircumcision, signifies to be uncircumcised. Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 163.
On the words, Exodus 24:18, Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount, Sohar Exod., fol. 77, has these words, He went into the midst of the cloud, as if one put on a garment; so he was Clothed with the Cloud. Sohar Levit., fol. 29: "The righteous are in the terrestrial paradise, where their souls are clothed with the lucid crown;" i.e. they are surrounded, encompassed with light, etc.
2. The word בית beith, House, in Hebrew often denotes a cover, case, or clothing. So, in the Targum of Onkelos, בית אפי beith appei, the House or the Face, is a veil; and so בית אצבעים beith etsbaim, the House of the Fingers, and בית יד beith yad, the House of the Hand, signify gloves; בית רגלים beith regalim, the House of the Feet, shoes. Therefore, οικητηριον - επενδυσασθαι, to be clothed on with a house, may signify any particular qualities of the soul; what we, following the very same form of speech, call a habit, i.e. a coat or vestment. So we say the man has got a habit of vice, a habit of virtue, a habit of swearing, of humility, etc., etc.
3. The Jews attribute garments to the soul, both in this and the other world; and as they hold that all human souls pre-exist, they say that, previously to their being appointed to bodies, they have a covering which answers the same end to them before they come into life as their bodies do afterwards. And they state that the design of God in sending souls into the world is, that they may get themselves a garment by the study of the law and good works. See several proofs in Schoettgen.
4. It is plain, also, that by this garment or covering of the soul they mean simply what we understand by acquiring the image of God - being made holy. This image they assert "Adam lost by his fall, and they represent man in a sinful state as being naked." So they represent the Israelites before their making the molten calf, as having received holy garments from Mount Sinai; but afterwards, having worshipped the calf, they were stripped of these, and left naked.
5. But notwithstanding they speak of this clothing as implying righteous and holy dispositions, and heavenly qualities, yet they all agree in assigning certain vehicles to separate spirits, in which they act; but of these vehicles they have strange notions; yet they acknowledge that without them, whether they be of light, fire, etc., or whatever else, they cannot see and contemplate the Supreme Wisdom. In Synopsis Sohar, page 137, we have these words: "When the time draws near in which a man is to depart from this world, the angel of death takes off his mortal garment and clothes him with one from paradise, in which he may see and contemplate the Supreme Wisdom; and therefore the angel of death is said to be very kind to man, because he takes off from him the garment of this world, and clothes him with a much more precious one prepared in paradise."
When the apostle says that they earnestly desired to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven, he certainly means that the great concern of all the genuine followers of God was to be fully prepared to enjoy the beatific vision of their Maker and Redeemer.
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.If so be that being clothed - That is, fully prepared in this life for the glory of God;
We shall not be found naked - Destitute in that future state of that Divine image which shall render us capable of enjoying an endless glory.
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.For we that are in this tabernacle - We who are in this state of trial and difficulty do groan, being burdened; as if he had said: The whole of human life is a state of suffering, and especially our lot; who are troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, cast down, bearing about in the body the dying of our Lord Jesus, and being always delivered unto death on the account of Jesus, 2 Corinthians 4:8-11. These were sufficient burdens, and sufficient causes of groaning.
Not for that we would be unclothed - We do not desire death, nor to die, even with the full prospect of eternal glory before our eyes, an hour before that time which God in his wisdom has assigned.
But clothed upon - To have the fullest preparation for eternal glory. We wish not to die, whatever tribulation we may be called to pass through, till the whole will of God is accomplished in us and by us.
That mortality might be swallowed up of life - Being fully prepared for the eternal state we shall scarcely be said to die, all that is mortal being absorbed and annihilated by immortality and glory. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 15:51-56 (note). From the use of these expressions among the Jews, this seems to be the general meaning of the apostle.
Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing - God has given us our being and our body for this very purpose, that both might be made immortal, and both be glorified together. Or, God himself has given us this insatiable hungering and thirsting after righteousness and immortality. Mr. Addison has made a beautiful paraphrase of the sense of the apostle, whether he had his words in view or not: -
" - Whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
This longing after immortality?
Or whence this secret dread and inward horror
Of falling into nought? Why shrinks the soul
Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
'Tis the Divinity that stirs within us;
'Tis Heaven itself that points out an hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man. -
The soul, secured in her existence, smiles
At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years;
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amidst the war of elements,
The wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds."
The earnest of the Spirit - See the note on 2 Corinthians 1:22.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:We are always confident - Θαρῥουντες ουν παντοτε· We are always full of courage; we never despond; we know where our help lies; and, having the earnest of the Spirit, we have the full assurance of hope.
Whilst we are at home in the body, etc. - The original words in this sentence are very emphatic: ενδημειν signifies to dwell among one's own people; εκδημειν, to be a sojourner among a strange people. Heaven is the home of every genuine Christian, and is claimed by them as such; see Philippians 1:23. Yet, while here below, the body is the proper home of the soul; but as the soul is made for eternal glory, that glory is its country; and therefore it is considered as being from its proper home while below in the body. As all human souls are made for this glory, therefore all are considered, while here, to be absent from their own country. And it is not merely heaven that they have in view, but the Lord; without whom, to an immortal spirit possessed of infinite desires, heaven would neither be a home nor a place of rest. We see plainly that the apostle gives no intimation of an intermediate state between being at home in the body and being present with the Lord. There is not the slightest intimation here that the soul sleeps, or rather, that there is no soul; and, when the body is decomposed, that there is no more of the man till the resurrection: I mean, according to the sentiments of those who do condescend to allow us a resurrection, though they deny us a soul. But this is a philosophy in which St. Paul got no lessons, either from Gamaliel, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, or in the third heaven, where he heard even unutterable things.
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)For we walk by faith - While we are in the present state faith supplies the place of direct vision. In the future world we shall have sight - the utmost evidence of spiritual and eternal things; as we shall be present with them, and live in them. Here we have the testimony of God, and believe in their reality, because we cannot doubt his word. And to make this more convincing he gives us the earnest of his Spirit, which is a foretaste of glory.
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.We are confident - We are of good courage, notwithstanding our many difficulties; because we have this earnest of the Spirit, and the unfailing testimony of God. And notwithstanding this, we are willing rather to be absent from the body - we certainly prefer a state of glory to a state of suffering, and the enjoyment of the beatific vision to even the anticipation of it by faith and hope; but, as Christians, we cannot desire to die before our time.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.Wherefore we labor - Φιλοτιμουμεθα· from φιλος, loving, and τιμη, honor; we act at all times on the principles of honor; we are, in the proper sense of the word, ambitious to do and say every thing consistently with our high vocation: and, as we claim kindred to the inhabitants of heaven, to act as they do.
We may be accepted of him - Ευαρεστοι αυτῳ ειναι To be pleasing to him. Through the love we have to God, we study and labor to please him. This is and will be our heaven, to study to love, please, and serve him from whom we have received both our being and its blessings.
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.For we must all appear before the judgment seat - We labor to walk so as to please him, because we know that we shall have to give a solemn account of ourselves before the judgment seat of Christ; where he, whose religion we profess, will judge us according to its precepts, and according to the light and grace which it affords.
That every one may receive the things - Κομισηται ἑκαστος· That each may receive to himself, into his own hand, his own reward and his own wages.
The things done in his body - That is, while he was in this lower state; for in this sense the term body is taken often in this epistle. We may observe also that the soul is the grand agent, the body is but its instrument. And it shall receive according to what it has done in the body.
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.Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord - This, I think, is too harsh a translation of ειδοτες ουν τον φοβον του Κυριου, which should be rendered, knowing therefore the fear of the Lord; which, strange as it may at first appear, often signifies the worship of the Lord, or that religious reverence which we owe to him; Acts 9:31; Romans 3:18; Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Peter 2:18; 1 Peter 3:2. As we know therefore what God requires of man, because we are favored with his own revelation, we persuade men to become Christians, and to labor to be acceptable to him, because they must all stand before the judgment seat; and if they receive not the grace of the Gospel here, they must there give up their accounts with sorrow and not with joy. In short, a man who is not saved from his sin in this life, will be separated from God and the glory of his power in the world to come. This is a powerful motive to persuade men to accept the salvation provided for them by Christ Jesus. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; the terror of God confounds and overpowers the soul. We lead men to God through his fear and love, and with the fear of God the love of God is ever consistent; but where the terror of the Lord reigns there can neither be fear, faith, nor love; nay, nor hope either. Men who vindicate their constant declamations on hell and perdition by quoting this text, know little of its meaning; and, what is worse, seem to know but little of the nature of man, and perhaps less of the spirit of the Gospel of Christ. Let them go and learn a lesson from Christ, sweeping over Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered you together, as a hen would her brood under her wings!" And another from his last words on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
But we are made manifest unto God - God, who searches the heart, knows that we are upright in our endeavors to please him; and because we are fully persuaded of the reality of eternal things, therefore we are fully in earnest to get sinners converted to him.
Manifest in your consciences - We have reason to believe that you have had such proof of our integrity and disinterestedness, that your consciences must acquit us of every unworthy motive, and of every sinister view.
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.For we commend not ourselves? - I do not say these things to bespeak your good opinion, to procure your praise; but to give you an occasion to glory - to exult on our behalf; and to furnish you with an answer to all those who either malign us or our ministry, and who only glory in appearance - have no solid ground of exultation, and whose heart is dishonest and impure. St. Paul probably speaks here concerning the false apostle, who had been dividing the Church and endeavoring to raise a party to himself, by vilifying both the apostle and his doctrine.
For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.Beside ourselves - Probably he was reputed by some to be deranged. Festus thought so: Paul, thou art beside thyself; too much learning hath made thee mad. And his enemies at Corinth might insinuate not only that he was deranged, but attribute his derangement to a less worthy cause than intense study and deep learning.
It is to God - If we do appear, in speaking of the glories of the eternal world, to be transported beyond ourselves, it is through the good hand of our God upon us, and we do it to promote his honor.
Whether we be sober - Speak of Divine things in a more cool and dispassionate manner, it is that we may the better instruct and encourage you.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:For the love of Christ constraineth us - We have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, and this causes us to love God intensely, and to love and labor for the salvation of men. And it is the effect produced by this love which συνεχει ἡμας, bears us away with itself, which causes us to love after the similitude of that love by which we are influenced; and as God so loved the world as to give his Son for it, and as Christ so loved the world as to pour out his life for it, so we, influenced by the very same love, desire to spend and be spent for the glory of God, and the salvation of immortal souls. By the fear of God the apostles endeavored to persuade and convince men, and the love of Christ constrained them so to act.
If one died for all, then were all dead - The first position the apostle takes for granted; viz. that Jesus Christ died for All mankind. This no apostolic man nor primitive Christian ever did doubt or could doubt.
The second position he infers from the first, and justly too; for if all had not been guilty, and consigned to eternal death because of their sins there could have been no need of his death. Therefore, as he most certainly died for All, then all were dead, and needed his sacrifice, and the quickening power of his Spirit.
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.And that he died for all, that they which live, etc. - This third position he draws from the preceding: If all were dead, and in danger of endless perdition; and if he died for all, to save them from that perdition; then it justly follows that they are not their own, that they are bought by his blood; and should not live unto themselves, for this is the way to final ruin; but unto him who died for them, and thus made an atonement for their sins, and rose again for their justification.
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.Know we no man after the flesh - As we know that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; and as we know that all are alienated from God, and are dead in trespasses and sins; therefore we esteem no man on account of his family relations, or the stock whence he proceeded, because we see all are shut up in unbelief, and all are children of wrath.
Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh - We cannot esteem a man who is a sinner, were he even allied to the blood royal of David, and were he of the same family with the man Christ himself; nor can we prize a man because he has seen Christ in the flesh; for many have seen him in the flesh to whom he will say; Depart from me, for I never knew you. So we: nothing weighs with us, nor in the sight of God, but redemption from this death, and living to him who died for them.
We know that the Jews valued themselves much in having Abraham for their father; and some of the Judaizing teachers at Corinth might value themselves in having seen Christ in the flesh, which certainly St. Paul did not; hence he takes occasion to say here that this kind of privilege availed nothing; for the old creature, however noble, or well descended in the sight of men, is under the curse; and the new creature only is such as God can approve.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.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.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;And all things are of God - As the thorough conversion of the soul is compared to a new creation, and creation is the proper work of an all-wise, almighty Being; then this total change of heart, soul, and life, which takes place under the preaching of the Gospel, is effected by the power and grace of God: this is salvation, and salvation must ever be of the Lord; and therefore men should apply to him, who alone can work this wondrous change.
Who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ - Having given Jesus Christ to die for sinners, they have through him access unto God; for his sake and on his account God can receive them; and it is only by the grace and Spirit of Christ that the proud, fierce, and diabolic nature of men can be changed and reconciled to God, and by and through this sacrifice God can be propitious to them. There is an enmity in the heart of man against sacred things; the grace of Christ alone can remove this enmity.
The ministry of reconciliation - Διακονιαν της καταλλαγης· The Office or function of this reconciliation called, 2 Corinthians 5:19, the word; τον λογον της καταλλαγης· the Doctrine of this reconciliation. Καταλλαγη, reconciliation, comes from καταλλασσω, to change thoroughly; and the grand object of the Gospel is to make a complete change in men's minds and manners; but the first object is the removal of enmity from the heart of man, that he may be disposed to accept of the salvation God has provided for him, on the terms which God has promised. The enmity in the heart of man is the grand hinderance to his salvation.
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.That God was in Christ - This is the doctrine which this ministry of reconciliation holds out, and the doctrine which it uses to bring about the reconciliation itself.
God was in Christ:
1. Christ is the same as Messiah, the Anointed One, who was to be prophet, priest, and king, to the human race; not to the Jews only, but also to the Gentiles. There had been prophets, priests, and kings, among the Jews and their ancestors; and some who had been priest and prophet, king and priest, and king and prophet; but none have ever sustained in his own person the threefold office except Christ; for none have ever ministered in reference to the whole world but he. The functions of all the others were restrained to the ancient people of God alone.
2. Now all the others were appointed of God in reference to this Christ; and as his types, or representatives, till the fullness of the time should come.
3. And that this Christ might be adequate to the great work of reconciling the whole human race to God, by making atonement for their sins, God was in him. The man Jesus was the temple and shrine of the eternal Divinity; for in him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9; and he made peace by the blood of his cross.
4. Christ, by his offering upon the cross, made atonement for the sins of the world; and therefore one important branch of the doctrine of this reconciliation was to show that God would not impute or account their trespasses to them, so as to exact the penalty, because this Jesus had died in their stead.
The whole of this important doctrine was short, simple, and plain. Let us consider it in all its connections:
1. You believe there is a God.
2. You know he has made you.
3. He requires you to love and serve him.
4. To show you how to do this he has given a revelation of himself, which is contained in his law, etc.
5. You have broken this law, and incurred the penalty, which is death.
6. Far from being able to undo your offenses, or make reparation to the offended majesty of God, your hearts, through the deceitfulness and influence of sin, are blinded, hardened, and filled with enmity, against your Father and your Judge.
7. To redeem you out of this most wretched and accursed state, God; in his endless love, has given his Son for you; who has assumed your nature, and died in your stead.
8. In consequence of this he has commanded repentance towards God, and remission of sins, to be published in his name in all the earth.
9. All who repent, and believe in Christ as having died for them as a sin-offering, (2 Corinthians 5:21), shall receive remission of sins.
10. And if they abide in him they shall have an eternal inheritance among them that are sanctified.
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.We are ambassadors for Christ - Ὑπερ Χριστου - πρεσβευομεν. We execute the function of ambassadors in Christ's stead. He came from the Father to mankind on this important embassy. He has left the world, and appointed us in his place.
Ambassador is a person sent from one sovereign power to another; and is supposed to represent the person of the sovereign by whom he is deputed. Christ while on earth represented the person of the Sovereign of the world; his apostles and their successors represent the person of Christ. Christ declared the will of the Father to mankind; apostles, etc., declare the will of Christ to the world. We are ambassadors for Christ.
As though God did beseech you by us - What we say to you we say on the authority of God; our entreaties are his entreaties; our warm love to you, a faint reflection of his infinite love; we pray you to return to God, it is his will that you should do so; we promise you remission of sins, we are authorized to do so by God himself. In Christ's stead we pray you to lay aside your enmity and be reconciled to God; i.e. accept pardon, peace, holiness, and heaven; which are all procured for you by his blood, and offered to you on his own authority.
"What unparalleled condescension and divinely tender mercies are displayed in this verse! Did the judge ever beseech a condemned criminal to accept of pardon? Does the creditor ever beseech a ruined debtor to receive an acquittance in full? Yet our almighty Lord, and our eternal Judge, not only vouchsafes to offer these blessings, but invites us, entreats us, and with the most tender importunity solicits us not to reject them." The Rev. J. Wesley's notes in loc.
This sentiment is farther expressed in the following beautiful poetic version of this place, by the Rev. Charles Wesley: -
"God, the offended God most high,
Ambassadors to rebels sends;
His messengers his place supply,
And Jesus begs us to be friends.
Us, in the stead of Christ, they pray,
Us, in the stead of Christ, entreat,
To cast our arms, our sins, away,
And find forgiveness at his feet.
Our God, in Christ, thine embassy
And proffer'd mercy we embrace;
And, gladly reconciled to thee,
Thy condescending mercy praise.
Poor debtors, by our Lord's request
A full acquittance we receive;
And criminals, with pardon blest,
We, at our Judge's instance, live."
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.For he hath made him to be sin for us - Τον μη γνοντα ἁμαρτιαν, ὑπερ ἡμων ἁμαρτιαν εποιησεν· He made him who knew no sin, (who was innocent), a sin-offering for us. The word ἁμαρτια occurs here twice: in the first place it means sin, i.e. transgression and guilt; and of Christ it is said, He knew no sin, i.e. was innocent; for not to know sin is the same as to be conscious of innocence; so, nil conscire sibi, to be conscious of nothing against one's self, is the same as nulla pallescere culpa, to be unimpeachable.
In the second place, it signifies a sin-offering, or sacrifice for sin, and answers to the חטאה chattaah and חטאת chattath of the Hebrew text; which signifies both sin and sin-offering in a great variety of places in the Pentateuch. The Septuagint translate the Hebrew word by ἁμαρτια in ninety-four places in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, where a sin-offering is meant; and where our version translates the word not sin, but an offering for sin. Had our translators attended to their own method of translating the word in other places where it means the same as here, they would not have given this false view of a passage which has been made the foundation of a most blasphemous doctrine; viz. that our sins were imputed to Christ, and that he was a proper object of the indignation of Divine justice, because he was blackened with imputed sin; and some have proceeded so far in this blasphemous career as to say, that Christ may be considered as the greatest of sinners, because all the sins of mankind, or of the elect, as they say, were imputed to him, and reckoned as his own. One of these writers translates the passage thus: Deus Christum pro maximo peccatore habuit, ut nos essemus maxime justi, God accounted Christ the greatest of sinners, that we might be supremely righteous. Thus they have confounded sin with the punishment due to sin. Christ suffered in our stead; died for us; bore our sins, (the punishment due to them), in his own body upon the tree, for the Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all; that is, the punishment due to them; explained by making his soul - his life, an offering for sin; and healing us by his stripes.
But that it may be plainly seen that sin-offering, not sin, is the meaning of the word in this verse, I shall set down the places from the Septuagint where the word occurs; and where it answers to the Hebrew words already quoted; and where our translators have rendered correctly what they render here incorrectly. In Exodus, Exodus 29:14, Exodus 29:36 : Leviticus, Leviticus 4:3, Leviticus 4:8, Leviticus 4:20, Leviticus 4:21, Leviticus 4:24, Leviticus 4:25, Leviticus 4:29, Leviticus 4:32-34; Leviticus 5:6, Leviticus 5:7, Leviticus 5:8, Leviticus 5:9, Leviticus 5:11, Leviticus 5:12; Leviticus 6:17, Leviticus 6:25, Leviticus 6:30; Leviticus 7:7, Leviticus 7:37; Leviticus 8:2, Leviticus 8:14; Leviticus 9:2, Leviticus 9:3, Leviticus 9:7, Leviticus 9:8, Leviticus 9:10, Leviticus 9:15, Leviticus 9:22; Leviticus 10:16, Leviticus 10:17, Leviticus 10:19; Leviticus 12:6, Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 14:13, Leviticus 14:19, Leviticus 14:22, Leviticus 14:31; Leviticus 15:15, Leviticus 15:30; Leviticus 16:3, Leviticus 16:5, Leviticus 16:6, Leviticus 16:9, Leviticus 16:11, Leviticus 16:15, Leviticus 16:25, Leviticus 16:27; Leviticus 23:19 : Numbers, Numbers 6:11, Numbers 6:14, Numbers 6:16; Numbers 7:16, Numbers 7:22, Numbers 7:28, Numbers 7:34, Numbers 7:40, Numbers 7:46, Numbers 7:52, Numbers 7:58, Numbers 7:70, Numbers 7:76, Numbers 7:82, Numbers 7:87; Numbers 8:8, Numbers 8:12; Numbers 15:24, Numbers 15:25, Numbers 15:27; Numbers 18:9; Numbers 28:15, Numbers 28:22; Numbers 29:5, Numbers 29:11, Numbers 29:16, Numbers 29:22, Numbers 29:25, Numbers 29:28, Numbers 29:31, Numbers 29:34, Numbers 29:38.
Besides the above places, it occurs in the same signification, and is properly translated in our version, in the following places: -
2 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles 29:21, 2 Chronicles 29:23, 2 Chronicles 29:24 : Ezra, Ezra 6:17; Ezra 8:35 : Nehemiah, Nehemiah 10:33 : Job, Job 1:5 : Ezekiel, Ezekiel 43:19, Ezekiel 43:22, Ezekiel 43:25; Ezekiel 44:27, Ezekiel 44:29; Ezekiel 45:17, Ezekiel 45:19, Ezekiel 45:22, Ezekiel 45:23, Ezekiel 45:25. In all, one hundred and eight places, which, in the course of my own reading in the Septuagint, I have marked.
That we might be made the righteousness of God in him - The righteousness of God signifies here the salvation of God, as comprehending justification through the blood of Christ, and sanctification through his Spirit or, as the mountains of God, the hail of God, the wind of God, mean exceeding high mountains, extraordinary hail, and most tempestuous wind; so, here, the righteousness of God may mean a thorough righteousness, complete justification, complete sanctification; such as none but God can give, such as the sinful nature and guilty conscience of man require, and such as is worthy of God to impart. And all this righteousness, justification, and holiness, we receive in, by, for, and through Him, as the grand, sacrificial, procuring, and meritorious cause of these, and every other blessing. Some render the passage: We are justified through him; before God; or, We are justified, according to God's plan of justification, through him.
In many respects, this is a most important and instructive chapter.
1. The terms house, building, tabernacle, and others connected with them, have already been explained from the Jewish writings. But it has been thought by some that the apostle mentions these as readily offering themselves to him from his own avocation, that of a tentmaker; and it is supposed that he borrows these terms from his own trade in order to illustrate his doctrine; This supposition would be natural enough if we had not full evidence that these terms were used in the Jewish theology precisely in the sense in which the apostle uses them here. Therefore, it is more likely that he borrowed them from that theology, than from his own trade.
2. In the terms tabernacle, building of God, etc., he may refer also to the tabernacle in the wilderness, which was a building of God, and a house of God, and as God dwelt in that building, so he will dwell in the souls of those who believe in, love, and obey him. And this will be his transitory temple till mortality is swallowed up of life, and we have a glorified body and soul to be his eternal residence.
3. The doctrines of the resurrection of the same body; the witness of the Spirit; the immateriality of the soul; the fall and miserable condition of all mankind; the death of Jesus, as an atonement for the sins of the whole world; the necessity of obedience to the Divine will, and of the total change of the human heart, are all introduced here: and although only a few words are spoken on each, yet these are so plain and so forcible as to set those important doctrines in the most clear and striking point of view.
4. The chapter concludes with such a view of the mercy and goodness of God in the ministry of reconciliation, as is no where else to be found. He has here set forth the Divine mercy in all its heightenings; and who can take this view of it without having his heart melted down with love and gratitude to God, who has called him to such a state of salvation.
5. It is exceedingly remarkable that, through the whole of this chapter, the apostle speaks of himself in the first person plural; and though he may intend other apostles, and the Christians in general, yet it is very evident that he uses this form when only himself can be meant, as in 2 Corinthians 5:12 and 2 Corinthians 5:13, as well as in several places of the following chapter. This may be esteemed rather more curious than important.