Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.2 Corinthians 5:1-9 Paul declareth that, in assured hope of a blessed immortality hereafter, he was indifferent to life, and laboured only to approve himself to Christ,
2 Corinthians 5:10,11 that knowing the general judgment that would follow, and the terrors of it, he was solicitous to persuade men,
2 Corinthians 5:12,13 that this was said not by way of boasting, but purely to furnish the Corinthtians with a reply in his justification against false pretenders,
2 Corinthians 5:14-16 that, moved by the love of Christ, he was become dead to all former regards,
2 Corinthians 5:17-19 and all things being now made new by God in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
2 Corinthians 5:20,21 He, as ambassador for Christ, besought men to embrace the offered reconciliation.
The apostle had before said, that he looked at the things not seen; in this verse he openeth himself, and showeth what those unseen things are:
We (saith he) know, we have a certain persuasion, we doubt not of it, but that if our body were dissolved. This body he calleth an earthly house, either because it is made of the dust of the earth, into which it must again be resolved; or because it is only the habitation of the soul, so long as the soul is on this side of heaven; and therefore he calleth it also, the
earthly house of this tabernacle. A tabernacle is a moving house or booth built up for a time. This tabernacle (saith the apostle) must be pulled down, and taken in pieces; and we are certain, that if it be dissolved,
we have a building of God, either a blessed, eternal mansion, (according to that of our Saviour, John 14:2: In my Father’s house are many mansions), or else, God will give us a spiritual, glorious, incorruptible body; not
a house made with hands, nor a house that shall be dissolved and any more pulled down, but which shall be
eternal in the heavens; in such a state, as that it shall be incorruptible, and no more subject to any corruption or decay.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:We are so confident of such a blessed state, that we passionately desire to be invested into it; and this groaning is also an evidence of it, for the desire of grace shall not be made frustrate; desirous that our mortality may put on immortality, and our corruption may put on incorruption. It is against the nature of man to desire death, which is the stripping or unclothing the soul of flesh; but not to desire that the garment of immortality may be put upon mortality, which is that our house from heaven, which is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:1.
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.Some make the clothing here spoken of different from the clothing before mentioned; and make this verse restrictive of what the apostle had before said, of the certainty which some have of being clothed upon with a glorious body.
If so be (saith the apostle) we shall not be found naked, but clothed, i.e. with the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness; for concerning those that do not die in the Lord, that do not watch, and keep their garments, it is said, Revelation 16:15, they shall walk naked, and men shall see their shame. But considering the clothing before mentioned was not this clothing, but the superinducing of an immortal, incorruptible, glorious state of body, upon our mortal, corruptible state, some judicious interpreters think, that the clothing here mentioned is the clothing of the soul with the body. It is manifest that the apostles apprehended Christ’s second coming much nearer than it hath proved. Therefore he saith, 1 Thessalonians 4:15: We that are alive (supposing that generation might live) to Christ’s second coming; and 1 Corinthians 15:51: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. This some think (and that not improbably) is the cause of this passage; the sense of which they judge to be this: If so be that we be, at the resurrection, found in the flesh, clothed still with our bodies, and shall not be found naked, that is, stripped of our flesh, and dead before that time.
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.By tarbenacle, he meaneth (as he had before expounded it) the earthly house of our body.
Do groan; both a groaning of grief, and also of desire.
Being burdened; either with the body of flesh; or with sin, the body of death, Romans 7:24; or with the load of trials and afflictions.
Not that we would be unclothed, that is, die, be unclothed of our flesh, (nature abhorreth death, and flieth from it),
but clothed upon; which is expounded, 1 Corinthians 15:54, our corruptible having put on incorruption, and our mortal having put on immortality. And this confirmeth what was observed before, that the apostles had some persuasion, (though not from any Divine revelation of that hour), that the resurrection, and day of judgment, would be before the determination of that age and generation; that so we might come into the possession of eternal life (for that the apostle meaneth by
mortality being swallowed up of life). Death is not desirable for its own sake, but upon the account of that immortal life into which it leadeth the souls of believers; nor (as was said before) doth the apostle here directly desire death, (which is that which in this verse he calleth unclothing), but rather the change mentioned 1 Corinthians 15:52, which he here calleth a clothing upon.
Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.The selfsame thing is the life, the eternal life, mentioned in the former verse; the house in the heavens, not made with hands, 2 Corinthians 5:1. God
hath wrought us for it (as some interpret the text) in creation, and by his providence, forming our bodies in the womb: but it is much better interpreted by others concerning regeneration; for in the first birth (without respect to the decree of election) God hath no more wrought us for it, than the worst of men. The apostle therefore is, doubtless, to be understood, as speaking concerning the work of grace, which is here attributed to God; we have not wrought ourselves into or up to any fitness or any grounded expectation of the future blessed and glorious estate; but it is God who hath prepared us for it, and wrought such a lively hope of it in us.
Who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit; and hath also given us his Holy Spirit as the pledge and earnest of it; (concerning this, see 2 Corinthians 1:22) he hath given us his Spirit to dwell and to work in us, and to assure us of what we speak of, viz. the house in the heavens, the building of God, that is not made with hands. The Spirit of grace given to the people of God, working and dwelling in them, is a certain pledge of that glory and life eternal, which he hath prepared for them.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:We are always full of courage and comfort, being confident of this glory, and the swallowing up of mortality in life: for we know, that while we are in our earthly home (which is our body) we are farthest off from that which is our true home, (which is heaven), from the vision and fruition of God; for believers are but strangers and pilgrims on the earth, desiring a better country, that is, an heavenly, Hebrews 11:13,16.
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)That is, we live, and order our conversations, not by sight, or any evidence of sense, but by faith, which is described by the apostle, Hebrews 11:1, to be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We see nothing here by the eye of sense but mortality, corruption, and misery; but by faith we see another more excellent and glorious state, and we order our life according to our faith, and sight of things that are invisible: or sight here may be taken more strictly for the beatific vision prepared in heaven for the saints.
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.We are confident of such a blessed state, and this makes us willing to be out of this body, that we might have the glorious presence and enjoyment of God to all eternity.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.Having such a hope, yea, not such a hope only, but such an assurance and confidence,
we labour, both actively, doing the will of God, and passively, submitting to the will of God in all afflictive providences; that while we are in the body, and absent from the Lord,
we may be accepted of him; as we know we shall be, when we shall be present with him, in another sense than we now are.
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.The apostle declareth, either the ground of his confidence, or, rather, the reason of his and other believers’ labour, so to behave themselves, as that, both in life and death, they might be accepted of God; that was, his knowledge and firm belief of the last judgment. It is called
the judgmentseat of Christ, because he it is whom God hath appointed to be the judge both of the quick and the dead, Acts 10:42. The word translated appear, is pefanerwsyai, which signifieth to be made manifest, and so signifieth not only to appear, but to be inquired into, searched, and examined, and narrowly sifted: and this lets us know, that those texts which speak of believers not being judged, or not coming into judgment, must not be understood of the judgment of inquiry, (for all shall come into that judgment), but of the judgment of condemnation. And it lets us also know the vanity of their opinion, who think that pagans shall not rise again in the last day.
That every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad: the end of this judgement is declared, that every man may receive according to what he hath done in his body; that is, according to the thoughts he hath thought, the words that he hath spoken, the actions which he hath done, during the time that his soul dwelt upon the earth in his body; whether the things which he did in that state were good, and such things as God required; or sinful, and contrary to the revealed will of God. What this receiving means, we are told, Matthew 25:46: These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. Hence we read, John 5:29, of a resurrection of life, and a resurrection of damnation.
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.We believing and being fully persuaded, that there shall be such a great and terrible day of the Lord, when there shall be such a narrow inquiry and search into whatsoever men have thought, spoke, or done in the flesh;
we persuade men to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to walk according to the rule of the gospel, to be charitable towards us, and not to censure or judge us, or use against us hard speeches. If any will not be persuaded to think well of us, yet the sincerity of our hearts and ways is
made manifest unto God; he knoweth what we are, and how we have behaved ourselves: and
I trust we have so behaved ourselves, that we are not only made manifest unto God, but we
are made manifest in your consciences; so as your consciences will bear us a testimony, how we have behaved ourselves amongst you.
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.I do not speak this to commend myself unto you; he had before declared, that he trusted that he was made manifest to their consciences, and so needed not further to commend himself. But (saith he) I speak it only
to give you occasion to glory, to glory in me as the apostle of Christ unto you, or to defend me against the scandals and reproaches of those that reproach me, when themselves have no true inward cause of glorying, though they have in outward appearance, in respect of their riches, wit, wisdom, or the like.
For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.It should seem, that some amongst the Corinthians, amongst other reproaches, had reproached Paul for a madman; either taking advantage of the warmth and fervour of his spirit, or of those ecstasies in which he sometimes was; or of his speaking things which they could not apprehend and understand: as the Roman governor, in the Acts, told him:
Much learning hath made thee mad. The apostle tells them, that if indeed he was beside himself in any of their opinion, it was
to God, that is, for the honour and glory of God: or if he was sober, it was for their sake; in what temper soever he was, it was either for service to God, or them.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:The love of Christ signifieth either that love towards the sons of men which was in Christ before the foundation of the world; for even then (as Solomon telleth us, Proverbs 8:31) he was rejoicing in the habitable part of the earth, and his delight was with the sons of men: which love showed itself in time, in his coming and assuming our natures, and dying upon the cross for us; John 15:13: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Or else it signifieth that habit of love to Christ, which is in every believer; for it is true of either of these, that they constrain a believer’s soul.
Because (saith the apostle) we thus account, or reason, that if one died for all. All here is interpreted according to the various notions of men, about the extent of the death of Christ. Some by the term understanding all individuals; some, all the elect, or all those that should believe in Christ; others, some of all nations, Jews or Gentiles. Be it as it will, that point is not to be determined by this universal particle, which is as often in Scripture used in a restrained sense, as in a more general sense. The apostle here concludeth,
that if one died for all, then were all dead; which is to be understood of a spiritual death, as Ephesians 2:1. And the apostle’s argument dependeth upon this, that if all, for whom Christ died, had not been dead in sin, there then had been no need of his dying for to expiate their sin, and to redeem them from the guilt and power of it; but be they what they would, for whom Christ died, whether all individuals, or all the elect only, his dying for them was a manifest evidence that they were dead.
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 he died for all those for whom he died, not only to redeem them from the guilt of sin, but also from their vain conversation; that they which live by his grace, might not make themselves the end of their life, and live to serve themselves, and gratify their own corrupt inclinations; but might make the service of Christ, the honour and glory of him who died for them, and also rose again from the dead, the end of their lives; arguing the reasonableness of a holy and Christian life, from the love and end of Christ in dying for them; according to that, Romans 14:7,8: For none of us, liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. This is one way by which a believer fetcheth strength from the death of Christ to die unto sin, and from his resurrection to live unto newness of life; he concluding: If Christ died, and rose again for him, that then he was once dead in trespasses and sins; and therefore he judgeth himself obliged, now that he is made spiritually alive, not to live to himself, or serve his own profit, honour, reputation, lusts, or passions, but to live in obedience to him, and to the honour and glory of him, who died to redeem him from the guilt and power of sin, and rose again to quicken him to newness of life and conversation, to the honour and glory of his Redeemer.
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.Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: words of sense in Scripture ordinarily signify more than the act of that sense which they express; particularly this term know ordinarily signifieth to approve and acknowledge; and so it signifies here. We know, that is, we regard, we acknowledge no man in the discharge of our office; we regard no man with respect to any external fleshly consideration. Under which notion he comprehends all things not spiritual, whether carnal relations, riches, &c.
Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh; not from any sight of him, for we read not that Paul at any time saw Christ, but, Acts 9:1-43, when he saw him, not according to the flesh, but as exalted at the right hand of God: but by the hearing of the ear Paul had known Christ, as one that had lived in the flesh, and who had conversed with men for above thirty years;
yet (saith he) we know him no more, we shall neither see nor hear him any more in the flesh; we now only know him as he hath a glorious body, with which he sitteth at the right hand of God.
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, is as much as, if any man be implanted or ingrafted into Christ, by faith united to him,
he is a new creature; ( the Greek is, a new creation); a phrase which argueth the greatest change imaginable, and such a one as can be wrought in the soul by no other power than the power of God. We have the same expression, Galatians 6:15. The ellipsis of the verb makes some translate it: Let him be a new creature, supplying estw for esti. But the next words show us, that the apostle is speaking of what is past:
Old things are passed away, old affections, passions, notions, &c. He hath the same soul, but new qualities, new apprehensions in his understanding, new inclinations in his will and affections, new thoughts, counsels, and designs. The predicate showeth, that the term, be in Christ, cannot be understood of those that are only in the church, and turned from paganism to the Christian faith; for there are many such in the world, in whom there is no new creation, and who have in them nothing of this new creature.
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; this change, which is wrought in our hearts, is not of ourselves, but wrought in us by the great and mighty power of God: so John 1:13: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; of God, as the principal efficient Cause.
Who hath reconciled its to himself by Jesus Christ; who, by the blood of his Son Jesus Christ, meritoriously, and by the Spirit of Christ, actually, hath reconciled us unto himself; of enemies hath made us friends.
And hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; hath intrusted us with the preaching of the gospel. It is God that hath reconciled us; it is Christ by whom we are reconciled, his blood is the price of our reconciliation; but he committed to his apostles, and so to the successive ministers of the gospel,
the ministry of reconciliation, that is, the ministry of the gospel, by which this reconciliation is published to such as are yet enemies to God. They have but a ministration in it; God hath appointed them to publish and to declare it, and to entreat men to be reconciled unto him.
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.God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; by world, here, some would understand all mankind, and by reconciling, no more than making God reconcilable; but this proceedeth from an over fondness of their principle of Christ’s dying for all, and every man. For as it is manifest from a multitude of scriptures, that world is many times taken in a much more limited and restrained sense; so there is nothing here that guides us to interpret it in such a latitude; nay, that which followeth, doth manifestly so restrain it; for God was not in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, that is, every man and woman in the world, so as not to impute their sins to them. This the apostle here affirmeth; which makes it manifest, that by world here is meant many, some of all sorts, as well Gentiles as Jews; even so many as he pleaseth not to impute their sins unto.
And hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation: now, (saith the apostle), the dispensing and publishing that word, by which this reconciliation is made known to the children of men, God hath committed to us; to us, that are apostles, and so to the ministers of the gospel that shall succeed us in the work of the ministry. This mightily commendeth the gospel, and the preaching of it, that it is the word by which, as a means, souls are reconciled unto God.
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.The apostle here giveth us a true notion, not only of apostles, which were the first and principal ministers of the gospel, but of all other ministers; teaching us what all ministers should be, and what all true ministers of the gospel are. They
are ambassadors for Christ. There is by nature an enmity between the creature and God; he naturally hateth God, and God is angry with him. Those that were sometime alienated, and enemies in their minds by wicked works, Christ hath reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, Colossians 1:21,22; he hath purchased a reconciliation for them. But yet, till they have received Christ as their Lord and Saviour, they are not actually recovered to God by him. God does by men, as great princes do by such as they are at enmity with; he sends his ministers to them, who are his ambassadors; and as all ambassadors represent the person of him whose ambassadors they are, and speak in his name, and as in his stead, persuading to peace; so these speak as in Christ’s name, and in God’s stead; their business is to beseech men to be reconciled unto God, to lay down their arms, and to accept of the terms of the gospel for peace and reconciliation.
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, who knew no sin: Christ knew no sin, as he was guilty of no sin; Which of you (saith he, John 8:46) convinceth me of sin? 1 Peter 2:22, He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: but God made him to be sin for us. He was numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12. Our sins were reckoned to him; so as though personally he was no sinner, yet by imputation he was, and God dealt with him as such; for he was made a sacrifice for our sins, a sin offering; so answering the type in the law, Leviticus 4:3,25,29 5:6 7:2.
That we might be made the righteousness of God in him; that so his righteousness might be imputed to us, and we might be made righteous with such a righteousness as those souls must have whom God will accept. As Christ was not made sin by any sin inherent in him, so neither are we made righteous by any righteousness inherent in us, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us; as he was a sinner by the sins of his people reckoned and imputed unto him.