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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 5

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

2 Corinthians 5:1 . οἴδαμεν γὰρ κ . τ . λ .: for (in explanation of 2 Corinthians 4:17 ) we know, sc. , we Christians ( cf. Romans 7:14 , 1 Corinthians 8:1 ), that if our earthly ( ἐπίγειος as contrasted with ἐπουράνιος ; see reff.) tabernacle-house be dissolved , etc. Despite the fact that he was himself a σκηνοποιός (Acts 18:3 ), this is the only place where St. Paul employs any of the terms correlative to σκηνή . It is natural to think of the temporary character of the σκῆναι used by the Chosen People in the desert wanderings, an idea which is probably present in 2 Peter 1:14 , ἡ ἀπόθεσις τοῦ σκηνώματός μου ; but the use of σκῆνος as a depreciatory term for the “bodily frame” (R.V. mg.) is borrowed, as Field has shown, from the Pythagorean philosophy. It is the “tenement house,” the “earthen vessel” (see 2 Corinthians 4:7 ), and is called in Wis 9:15 , τὸ γεῶδες σκῆνος . καταλύειν (see reff.) is often used of the “destruction” of a house; and the application of the word “dissolution” for death is probably derived from this passage. οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ Θεοῦ κ . τ . λ .: we have ( i.e. , at the very moment of bodily dissolution, when the Resurrection takes place, according to the Apostle’s thought here; see Charles’ Eschatology , pp. 395, 400) a building from God, sc. , not built up by the natural processes of growth but the direct gift of God, a house not made with hands (this being added to emphasise its “supernatural” character; the σκῆνος of the natural body is also , of course, ἀχειροποίητον , and so the idea is not as fitly in place as at Hebrews 9:11 ; Hebrews 9:24 , but it is suggested by the word οἰκία . It is just possible that his own trade of tent-making may have been in his mind at the moment), eternal, in the heavens. Cf. Luke 16:9 , αἰωνίους σκηνάς ; as he has just said (2 Corinthians 4:18 ) τὰ μὴ βλεπόμενα αἰωνία . It will be observed that here αἰωνίος is used with the special intention of emphasising the permanent character of the heavenly house, in contrast with the earthly house which is dissolved; it is therefore not accurate to say (as is sometimes said) that αἰωνίος never connotes length of time, although it is true that in St. John it is a “qualitative” rather than a “quantitative” term.

Verses 1-5

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 . His expectation of a Glorified Body hereafter; and his desire to survive until the Second Advent.

Verse 2

2 Corinthians 5:2 . καὶ γὰρ ἐν τούτῳ κ . τ . λ .: for indeed in this, sc. , in this tabernacle ( cf. 2 Corinthians 5:3 ), we groan, sc. , being weighed down by the body, longing to be clothed upon, i.e. , to have the heavenly body put on in addition, like an outer garment over our mortal flesh, with our habitation which is from heaven, sc. , which is brought thence by the Lord at His Coming ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 , Revelation 21:2 , and Ascension of Isaiah (ed. Charles), iv. 16, ix. 17). The verb ἐπιποθεῖν always expresses in St. Paul a yearning for home; here it is used of the heavenly home-sickness of the saints.

Verses 2-3

2 Corinthians 5:2-3 and 2 Corinthians 5:4 form two parallel sentences, both introduced by καὶ γάρ , of which either may be used to elucidate the other. Both bring out the Apostle’s shrinking from death, i.e. , the act of dying, and his half-expressed anxiety that he may survive until the Day of Christ ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ).

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 5:3 . εἴ γε καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι κ . τ . λ .: if so be that ( εἴ γε = siquidem; cf. Ephesians 3:2 ; Ephesians 4:21 , Colossians 1:23 ) we shall be found also clothed, sc. , with the heavenly body (note ἐνδυς ., not ἐπενδυς ., which would only be appropriate of the body to be “superindued” in the case of one surviving to the Second Advent), not naked, sc. , disembodied spirits at the Day of His Appearing, a condition from the thought of which he shrinks. γυμνός was commonly used in this sense in Greek philosophy; Alford quotes Plato, Cratyl. , p. 277 c. , ἡ ψυχὴ γυμνὴ τοῦ σώματος (see 1 Corinthians 15:37 ); cf. also Philo de Hum. , 4, τῆς ψυχῆς ἀπογυμνουμένης .

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 5:4 . καὶ γὰρ οἱ ὄντες κ . τ . λ .: for indeed we who are in the body (see 2 Corinthians 5:1 ) groan, being burdened ( cf. Wis 9:15 , φθαρτὸν σῶμα βαρύνει ψυχήν ), not for that ( ἐφʼ ᾧ ; cf. Romans 5:12 ) we would be unclothed ( cf. 2Es 2:45 ) but clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life, i.e. , that the mortal body may, without passing through death, be absorbed, as it were, in the heavenly body which is to be superindued ( cf. Isaiah 25:8 ). The double metaphor in these verses from that of a house to that of a garment is quite in St. Paul’s manner. Stanley finds the explanation of both “in the image which both from his occupation and his birthplace would naturally occur to the Apostle, the tent of Cilician haircloth, which might almost equally suggest the idea of a habitation and of a vesture” ( cf. Psalms 104:2 ). The truth is that no single metaphor could possibly convey to the mind a true conception of heaven or of the condition of the blessed. We may speak of the heavenly home as a place ( οἰκητήριον ), but we have to remind ourselves that it is rather a state here expressed by the image of heavenly vesture.

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 5:5 . ὁ δὲ κατεργασάμενος κ . τ . λ .: now He that worked us up for this very thing, sc. , the change from mortality to life, is God ( cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6 and especially 2 Corinthians 1:21 for the form of the sentence), who gave to us the earnest of the Spirit; cf. Romans 8:11 . The “Holy Spirit of promise” is “an earnest of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14 ; see above on 2 Corinthians 1:22 ).

Some theologians, e.g. , Martensen, take a somewhat different view of 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 , and interpret them as implying St. Paul’s belief in a body of the intermediate state between death and judgment, distinct at once from the “earthly tabernacle” and the “heavenly house,” which latter will be “superindued” at the Second Advent. But ( a ) there is no hint elsewhere in the N.T. of such an ad interim body; ( b ) the “house” which “we have” at death is described in 2 Corinthians 5:1 not as temporary, but as “eternal”. This it is which enables him to face death with courage; he would shrink from any γυμνότης or disembodied condition, and so far as the “body” is concerned he does not contemplate any further change at the Day of Judgment. If it might be so, he is reverently anxious to live until the Parousia, and then to be “superindued”; but even if he is to pass through the gate of death he is content. See Salmond’s Christian Doctr. of Immortality , p. 565 ff.

Verse 6

2 Corinthians 5:6 . θαρροῦντες οὖν κ . τ . λ .: being therefore, sc. , on account of “the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 5:5 ), always, sc. , in any event, whether we die before the Day of Christ or survive to see it in the flesh, of good courage, and knowing that whilst we are at home in the body (see reff.) we are absent from the Lord, sc. , from Christ, our true home. The O.T. phrase that man is a sojourner only ( παρεπίδημος ) on the earth (Psalms 38:13 ; cf. Hebrews 11:13 ) is verbally comparable with this ἐνδημοῦντες … ἐκδημοῦμεν ; but the idea here is rather that of the body as the temporary habitation of the man’s self ( cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1 ). We are citizens of earth, but our true πολίτευμα is ἐν οὐρανοῖς (Philippians 3:20 ).

Verses 6-8

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 . IN ANY CASE TO BE WITH CHRIST IS BEST.

Verse 7

2 Corinthians 5:7 . διὰ πίστεως γὰρ κ . τ . λ .: for we walk by faith ( cf. John 20:29 , and chap. 2 Corinthians 4:18 ), i.e. , in a state of faith (see note on διά with the gen. of attendant circumstances 2 Corinthians 2:4 ), not by appearance ( εἶδος , as the reff. show, must be thus translated = quod aspicitur ; but nevertheless the rendering of A.V. and R.V. “not by sight,” though verbally inexact, conveys the sense. cf. Hebrews 11:1 , ἔστιν δὲ πίστις … πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων , and 1 Corinthians 13:12 ). The verse is parenthetical and explanatory of the sense in which we are “absent from the Lord”.

Verse 8

2 Corinthians 5:8 . θαρροῦμεν δὲ κ . τ . λ .: nay (the δέ is resumptive of the thought in 2 Corinthians 5:6 , which has been interrupted by 2 Corinthians 5:7 , the grammatical structure involving an anacoluthon), we are of good courage (for this is demanded even of the most faithful by the prospect of death) and are well-pleased (see reff. for cases where εὐδοκεῖν is used of men, not of God) rather to be away from the home of the body and to be at home with the Lord ( cf. John 1:1 for such a use of πρός ). Even if we must die before the Second Advent, we would say, we are content, for this absence from the body will be presence with Christ ( cf Luke 23:43 , Philippians 1:21-23 ), though the glory of that Presence shall not be fully manifested until the Day of the Parousia.

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 5:9 . διὸ καὶ φιλοτιμούμεθα κ . τ . λ .: wherefore also we make it our ambition (see reff.), whether at home or away from home, sc. , whether at His coming He finds us “in the body” or “out of the body,” to be well pleasing to Him ; cf. Romans 14:8 , Php 1:20 , 1 Thessalonians 5:10 .

Verses 9-10


Verse 10

2 Corinthians 5:10 . τοὺς γὰρ πάντας κ . τ . λ .: for (explanatory of the reason of our desire to be “well-pleasing” to Him) we all ( τοὺς πάντας is emphatic, not only Paul who has been speaking of himself as ἡμεῖς , but “all of us” quick as well as dead ) must be made manifest . The A.V. “appear” weakens the force of the word; the Day of Judgment is to be a day when men’s characters shall be made patent to the world, and to themselves, as they have always been to God; cf. Mark 4:22 , Romans 2:16 ; Rom 14:10 , 1 Corinthians 4:5 , Revelation 20:12 . ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ βήμ κ . τ . λ .: before the judgment-seat of Christ . In the N.T. (see reff.) βῆμα is always used (except in the quotation Acts 7:5 ) of the official seat of a judge, although twice in the LXX (Nehemiah 8:4 , 2Ma 13:26 ), as generally in classical Greek, it stands for the pulpit from which a formal speech is made. ἵνα κομίσηται ἕκαστος κ . τ . λ .: that each one may receive, i.e. , obtain the wages of (see reff.), the things done through the medium of the body ( cf. Plato’s phrase αἰσθήσεις αἱ διὰ τοῦ σώματος , cited by Meyer; there is no need to identify διὰ τοῦ σώματος with ἐν τῷ σώματι of 2 Corinthians 5:6 as the A.V. and R.V. do) according to what he did, sc. , in this present life (note the aorist and cf. Luke 12:47 ), whether it be good or bad ( cf. , for this constr. of εἴτε … εἴτε , Ephesians 6:8 , Philippians 1:18 ). Similar expressions are used of a future judgment, at, e.g. , Ps. 61:13, Proverbs 24:12 , Jeremiah 17:10 ; Jeremiah 32:19 ( cf. Job 34:11 ?) in the O.T., and in the N.T. at Romans 2:6 ; Romans 14:12 , 1 Peter 1:17 , in all of which passages the power of judgment is ascribed to the Eternal Father. But He “hath given all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22 ), and thus Christ is repeatedly spoken of as the future Judge of men, e.g. , Matthew 16:27 , Acts 17:31 , Revelation 2:23 ; Revelation 22:12 , and esp. Matthew 25:31-46 . Cf. Luke 21:36 , σταθῆναι ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου . And so (from the present verse) the variant Χριστοῦ has crept into the parallel passage, Romans 14:10 , πάντες γὰρ παραστησόμεθα τῷ f1βήματι τοῦ Θεοῦ . A reference to the O.T. parallels makes it tolerably plain that the statement that men will be judged according to their works is a broad and general one, and that to find a difficulty, as the Fathers did, in the case of the death of infants (whether baptised or unbaptised), who are incapable of self-conscious and voluntary actions, is quite perverse.

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 5:11 . εἰδότες οὖν τὸν φόβον κ . τ . λ .: knowing, therefore, sc. , because of the conviction expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:10 , the fear of the Lord, sc. , as Judge ( cf. Hebrews 10:31 ), we persuade men, sc. , of our sincerity, but we have been (already) made manifest to God , as we shall be at the Day of Judgment (see 2 Corinthians 5:10 ). To regard πείθομεν ( cf. Acts 12:20 , Galatians 1:10 ) as referring to a “persuading” of the truths of Christianity is to depart from the context. He is now returning to the question at 2 Corinthians 3:1 , and he has explained the motives of his ministry and the obligations to sincerity of speech which bind him. We should expect (in classical Greek) ἀνθρώπους μὲν πείθ . κ . τ . λ ., but the omission of μέν does not destroy, though it obscures, the antithesis. It would be out of place to speak of “persuading” God of our sincerity; to Him we are “made manifest” whether we will or no. ἐλπίζω δὲ κ . τ . λ .: and I hope (as we say, “I trust”) we have been made manifest also in your consciences ; see 2 Corinthians 4:2 for a similar appeal.

Verses 11-13


Verse 12

2 Corinthians 5:12 . οὐ γὰρ πάλιν κ . τ . λ .: we are not again (see 2 Corinthians 3:1 , and the note there; he takes up this theme again after a long digression) commending ourselves to you, but [write these things] as giving you occasion of glorying on our behalf . We must understand in the latter clause some such words as γράφομεν ταῦτα : there are similar anacolutha at 2 Corinthians 7:5 , 2 Corinthians 8:18 . ἵνα ἔχητε πρὸς τοὺς κ . τ . λ .: that ye may have it, sc. , some καύχημα or matter of glorying, against those who glory in outward appearance and not in heart, sc. , against his opponents at Corinth. The phrase προσώπῳ οὐ καρδία occurs in 1 Thessalonians 2:17 in the sense of πνεύματι οὐ σώματι ( cf. 1 Corinthians 5:3 , Colossians 2:5 ); but a better parallel for the present passage is 1 Samuel 16:7 , where Samuel is told that while man looks εἰς πρόσωπον , God looks εἰς καρδίαν . So St. Paul here refers to teachers who lay stress on the outward appearance and the “face” (see note 2 Corinthians 1:11 ) of things, such as a man’s enthusiasms and visions (2 Corinthians 12:1 and 2 Corinthians 5:13 ), or his eloquence (chap. 2 Corinthians 10:10 ), or his letters of commendation (2 Corinthians 3:1 ), or his Jewish birth (2 Corinthians 11:22 ), or his personal intimacy in the flesh with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16 ) rather than on the inward motive and “heart” of his message.

Verse 13

2 Corinthians 5:13 . εἴτε γὰρ ἑξέστημεν κ . τ . λ .: for whether (see on 2 Corinthians 1:6 for constr.) we are beside ourselves, it is unto God; or whether we are of sober mind, it is unto you (note the dat. commodi ). At a later period Festus told Paul that he was mad (Acts 26:24 ), so impressed was he with the Apostle’s enthusiasm; and it is probable that the anti-Pauline party at Corinth were not slow to point to the “visions and revelations of the Lord” which St. Paul claimed for himself (chap. 2 Corinthians 12:1-6 ), and to the facility with which he spoke “with tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:18 ), as proofs of his madness. A similar accusation was made against his Master (Mark 3:21 ). But St. Paul bids them (2 Corinthians 5:12 ) look a little deeper, and not judge by mere outward phenomena such as these. He repeatedly asks them to bear with his seeming foolishness (chap. 2 Corinthians 11:1 ; 2 Corinthians 11:16-17 , 2 Corinthians 12:6 ; 2 Corinthians 12:11 ). It is possible that a charge of a contrary nature had been also made by his opponents, and that his regard for other men’s prejudices (1 Corinthians 9:20 ), and the “craftiness” with which he caught the Corinthians “with guile” (chap. 2 Corinthians 12:16 ), were urged as savouring more of worldly wisdom than of true piety. His answer to both charges is contained in this verse. If he has exceeded the bounds of moderation, it is in his moods of highest devotion, when he is pouring out his soul to God and not to man; if he has exercised a sober prudence in his dealings with his converts, it is all for their sakes, and not for selfish ends.

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 5:14 . ἡ γὰρ ἀγάπη τοῦ Χρ . κ . τ . λ .: for the Love of Christ constraineth us, sc. , within the limits laid down in 2 Corinthians 5:13 . The words are often quoted as meaning that the love which Christians bear to Christ is the supreme motive of the Christian life; but however true this is in itself, it is not the meaning of the Apostle here. The genitive of the person after ἀγάπη is in St. Paul’s Epistles always subjective ( cf. ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ , Romans 5:5 ; Romans 8:39 , chap. 2 Corinthians 13:13 , 2 Thessalonians 3:5 , and cf. also Romans 15:30 , Ephesians 2:4 , Colossians 1:13 , and for ἡ ἀγ . τοῦ Χρ . reff. above); i.e. , “the Love of God” and “the Love of Christ” signify with him the love which God and Christ bear towards ( εἰς ) man. (St. Paul often uses the verb ἀγαπάω to express man’s love to God, but never the substantive ἀγάπη ), St. John’s usage varies, the genitive sometimes being objective and sometimes subjective ( cf. John 5:42 and 1Jn 2:5 ; 1 John 2:15 ; 1 John 3:17 ; 1Jn 4:9 ; 1 John 5:3 ; see also Luke 11:42 ), but St. Paul’s is not doubtful. The “Love of Christ” here, then, is the love which Christ has for us, not the love which we bear to Him; the constraining power of Christian ministration and service is more effective and stable than it would be if it sprang from the fickle and variable affections of men ( cf. John 15:16 ).

Verses 14-16


Verse 15

2 Corinthians 5:15 . κρίναντας τοῦτο ὅτι εἶς κ . τ . λ .: judging this; that One died for all ( cf. Romans 5:15 ), therefore all died, and He died for all, that they who live (see 2 Corinthians 3:11 ) should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who died and rose again for them . To die ὑπέρ τῶν φίλων αὐτοῦ is the greatest proof that anyone can offer of his love (John 15:13 ). The proof to us of the Love of Christ to all is that He died ὑπὲρ πάντων . Of this Death two consequences are now mentioned: ( a ) one objective and inevitable, quite independent of our faith and obedience; ( b ) another subjective and conditional. ( a ) ἄρα οἱ πάντες ἀπέθανον , then all died, sc. , in Him who is the “recapitulation” of all humanity, Jew and Greek, bond and free, faithless or believing. We must not weaken the force of οἱ πάντες : the Incarnation embraces all men ( cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22 ). The A.V. “then were all dead” (the same mistranslation occurs Romans 6:2 , Colossians 3:3 ) does not bring out the sense, which is that the Dying of Christ on the Cross was in some sort the dying of all mankind. But ( b ) the purposes of the Atonement are not completely fulfilled without the response of man’s faith and obedience; He died for all , ἵνα οἱ ζῶντες κ . τ . λ . This is the frequent exhortation of St. Paul (Romans 6:11 and see 1 Peter 3:18 ); the purpose of Christ’s Death is to lead us to Life, a life “unto God” ( cf. Romans 6:11 ; Romans 14:7-8 ) the “life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:19 ) which must be begun here if it is to be perfected hereafter. The preposition ὑπέρ , “on behalf of” ( cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 12:10 ), employed in these verses is the one usually employed in the N.T. to express the relation between Christ’s Atoning Death and our benefit: it was “for our sake,” “on our behalf” ( e.g. , Luke 22:19-20 , John 10:15 ; John 11:51 , Romans 5:6 , 1 Corinthians 1:13 , Galatians 3:13 , Ephesians 5:2 , Hebrews 2:9 , 1 John 3:16 ). It is not equivalent to ἀντί , “instead of” (although in Philemon 1:13 its meaning approximates thereto), and ought not to be so translated; although the preposition ἀντί is used of our Lord’s Atoning Work in three places (Matthew 20:28 , Mark 10:45 , 1 Timothy 2:6 ), and the implied metaphor must have a place in any complete theory of the Atonement. But here ὑπέρ is (as usual) used, and the rendering “instead of,” even if linguistically possible (which it is not), is excluded by the fact that in the phrase ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀποθανόντι καὶ ἐγερθέντι , ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν is governed by both participles. Christ rose again “on our behalf”; He is never said to have risen “instead of us”.

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 5:16 . ὥστε ἡμεῖς ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν κ . τ . λ .: so that, sc. , because of our conviction, that we should not live unto ourselves but unto Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15 ), we, sc. , Paul as contrasted with his opponents at Corinth, from henceforth, sc. , this conviction having mastered us, know no man after the flesh, i.e. , are quite indifferent as to his mere external qualifications as a preacher of the Gospel, his eloquence, Jewish birth, etc.: we are not like those who glory ἐν προσώπῳ and not ἐν καρδίᾳ (2 Corinthians 5:12 ); cf. Galatians 2:6 . f1εἰ καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν κ . τ . λ .: even though we have known (the distinction between οἴδαμεν and ἐγνώκαμεν is hardly to be pressed) Christ after the flesh, i.e. , though there was a time in my life when I, like my Judaising opponents now, laid great stress on the local and hereditary, and, so to speak, fleshly “notes” of the Messiah who was to come, yet now we know Him so no more, i.e. , I know better now, for I have learnt since my conversion that the national Messiah of the Jews is Himself the Incarnate Word, to whom every race of men is alike related, for He is the Christ of the Catholic Church of God. In personal religion the merely historical must yield precedence to the mystical element; it is of great interest and of real value to learn all that can be known about the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, but it is the present Life of Christ, “in whom” we may be found if we will, that is of religious import, as is further explained in 2 Corinthians 5:17 . This “is the same feeling which appears in the fact … that no authentic or even pretended likeness of Christ should have been handed down from the first century; that the very site of His dwelling place at Capernaum should have been entirely obliterated from human memory; that the very notion of seeking for relics of His life and death, though afterwards so abundant, first began in the age of Constantine. It is the same feeling which, in the Gospel narratives themselves, is expressed in the almost entire absence of precision as to time and place” (Stanley). Beyschlag and others (see Knowling, Witness of the Epistles , p. 2) conclude from the words εἰ καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν κατὰ σὰρκα Χριστόν that St. Paul had seen, and possibly heard, Jesus during His public ministry at Jerusalem ( cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1 ); on this interpretation the words would be introduced at this point to indicate that, however much stress the other Apostles and their adherents might lay on such outward knowledge, yet to St. Paul, though he could lay claim to it as well as they, this did not seem the essential matter. But ( a ) the words do not necessarily imply this; it is noteworthy that he says Χριστόν , not Ἰησοῦν , which we should expect on Beyschlag’s hypothesis. ( b ) The explanation given above is quite in accordance with the usage of κατὰ σάρκα with a verb (see reff.), and the order of the words here and in the preceding clause does not allow us to take κατὰ σάρκα with οὐδένα in the one case and with Χριστόν in the other. ( c ) As Schmiedel points out, if St. Paul really had had personal experience of the public ministry of Jesus, he would hardly have failed to mention it in the great apologetic passage, chap. 2 Corinthians 11:22-33 . Other writers, e.g. , Jowett, explain the latter clause of this verse by supposing that the Apostle is contrasting his more mature preaching with his preaching at an earlier stage of his Christian ministry when he had not yet emancipated himself from Jewish prejudices. But of his consciousness of such a “development” in his views, subsequently to his conversion, there is no trace in the Epistles. The contrast is really between Saul the Pharisee and Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles.

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 5:17 . ὥστε εἴ τις κ . τ . λ .: so that (a consequence of the higher view of Christ explained in the last verse) if any man (note the universality of the doctrine which he expounds) be in Christ, there is a new creation . To be ἐν Χριστῷ is a very different thing from claiming to be ἐν Χριστοῦ “of Christ,” sc. , of the Christ-party (1 Corinthians 1:12 , chap. 2 Corinthians 10:7 ); this indeed is exactly the distinction which St. Paul has had in mind in the last verse. The expression “a new creation” was a common Rabbinical description of a converted proselyte (see Wetstein in loc. ); but its meaning was enriched in the religion of the Incarnation ( cf. John 3:3 , Romans 6:4 , Ephesians 2:10 ; Ephesians 4:23 , Colossians 3:10 , etc.). The Vulgate “si qua ergo in Christo nova creatura,” which takes τις with κτίσις , is plainly a mistake. τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν κ . τ . λ .: the old things have passed away; behold, they are become new, sc. , not only the ancient customs of Jewish ritual observance, but the old ways of conceiving of the Messiah who was to come; more generally, the old thoughts of God and of sin and salvation nave received fresh colouring they are “become new” ( cf. Hebrews 8:13 ). The words of Isaiah 43:18-19 offer a close verbal parallel: τὰ ἀρχαῖα μὴ συλλογίζεσθε · ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ποιῶ καινὰ ( cf. Isaiah 65:17 , Revelation 21:4-5 ), but the parallel is rather in words than in sense. The thought of the new interpretation of life offered in the Incarnation carries us a step beyond the prophets of the Old Covenant. St. Paul’s words show how completely he regarded “the Death of Christ as a new epoch in the history of the human race. Had he foreseen distinctly that a new era would be dated from that time; that a new society, philosophy, literature, moral code, would grow up from it over continents of which he knew not the existence; he could not have more strongly expressed his sense of the greatness of the event than in what is here said” (Stanley).

Verses 17-19


Verse 18

2 Corinthians 5:18 . τὰ δὲ πάντα κ . τ . λ .: but all things, sc. , all these new things, are of God . See reff. St. Paul is especially anxious in this Epistle to trace up spiritual blessings to their true source; see chap. 2Co 1:21 , 2 Corinthians 4:6 , 2 Corinthians 5:5 , and cf. 1 Corinthians 3:23 , ὑμεῖς δὲ Χριστοῦ , Χριστὸς δὲ Θεοῦ . τοῦ καταλλάξαντος κ . τ . λ .: who reconciled (note the aorist) us, sc. , all mankind, to Himself through Christ . The words καταλλάσσω , καταλλαγή should be studied (see reff.) in all the contexts where they occur. The verb signifies (i.) to exchange and (ii.) to reconcile, i.e. , to reestablish friendly relations between two parties who are estranged, no matter on which side the antagonism exists. Thus in Matthew 5:24 it is the brother who has given offence (not he who has received it) that is spoken of as “being reconciled” to the other ( cf. also 1 Samuel 29:4 ). And so too St. Paul’s usage is to speak of man being reconciled to God, not of God being reconciled to man; but far too much has been made of this distinction. In fact, in 2 Macc. (see reff.) the usage is the other way, for God is there always spoken of as “being reconciled” to His servants. It is, no doubt, more reverent in such a matter to keep as close to the language of the N.T. as we can, and to speak nakedly of God “being reconciled” to man might readily suggest false and unworthy views as to the Supreme. But that St. Paul would have felt any difficulty in such a phrase is very unlikely. The important point to observe in the present passage is that it is God Himself who is the ultimate Author of this Reconciliation; cf. Romans 5:8 ; Romans 8:31-32 , and especially John 3:16 . That the Reconciliation is “through Christ” is the heart of the Gospel of the Atonement ( cf. Romans 3:24 , Colossians 1:20 , etc.). καὶ δόντος ἡμῖν κ . τ . λ .: and gave to us, sc. , to me, Paul (he is not now thinking of others), the Ministry of Reconciliation; cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 3:9 , ἡ διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύνης , the genitive in both cases being, of course, of the thing ministered.

Verse 19

2 Corinthians 5:19 . ὡς ὅτι Θεὸς ἦμ κ . τ . λ .: viz., that God was reconciling the world, sc. the whole human race ( cf. Romans 4:13 ; Romans 11:12 , and note the absence of the article), to Himself in Christ ( cf. Galatians 2:17 ). The pleonastic ὡς ὅτι is not classical, but it is found in late authors (see reff.). The A.V., “God was in Christ, reconciling,” etc., is not accurate; ἦν goes with both καταλλάσσων and θέμενος , ἦν with a participle being more emphatic than a simple imperfect ( cf. Luke 4:44 ). If we take ἦν with ἐν Χριστῷ , we should have to treat θέμενος κ . τ . λ . as a parallel clause to λογιζόμενος κ . τ . λ ., which it is not. μὴ λογιζόμενος αὐτοῖς κ . τ . λ .: not reckoning unto them their trespasses , a parenthetical sentence explanatory of καταλλάσσων ; cf. Romans 4:8 (Psalms 32:2 ). καὶ θέμενος ἐν ἡμῖν κ . τ . λ .: and had placed in our hands ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 , 1 Timothy 1:12 ; the verb is specially used of the Divine purposes) the Word of Reconciliation, i.e. , the Divine Message which speaks of reconciliation to God; cf. Acts 13:26 , ὁ λόγος τῆς σωτηρίας ταύτης , 1 Corinthians 1:18 , ὁ λόγος τοῦ σταυροῦ , Philippians 2:16 , λόγος ζωῆς , etc.

Verse 20

2 Corinthians 5:20 . ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ οὖν πρεσβεύομεν κ . τ . λ .: we are ambassadors therefore, sc. , because to us has been committed the Ministry of Reconciliation, on behalf of Christ , as Christ’s representative (see on 2 Corinthians 5:15 above for the force of ὑπέρ ), as though God were entreating by us ( cf. 2 Corinthians 6:1 and see on 2 Corinthians 1:4 ). The construction of ὡς followed by a genitive absolute is found also at 1 Corinthians 4:18 , 2 Peter 1:3 . δεόμεθα ὑπέρ Χρ . κ . τ . λ .: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, Be ye reconciled to God . The imperative καταλλάγητε is much more emphatic than the infinitive καταλλαγῆναι (see crit. note) would be; all through we perceive the Apostle’s anxiety that the Corinthians should turn from the sin which beset them, whatever it might be in any individual case ( cf. 2 Corinthians 2:16 , 2 Corinthians 4:1 , 2 Corinthians 6:1 , 2 Corinthians 11:3 ). Note that the appeal, “Be ye reconciled to God,” is based on the fact (2 Corinthians 5:18 ) that God has already “reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ”.

Verses 20-21


Verse 21

2 Corinthians 5:21 . The very purpose of the Atonement was that men should turn from sin. τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν κ . τ . λ .: Him who knew no sin (observe μὴ rather than οὐ , as it is not so much the bare fact of Christ’s sinlessness that is emphasised, as God’s knowledge of this fact, which rendered Christ a possible Mediator) He made to be sin on our behalf . Two points are especially deserving of attention here: (i.) That any man should be sinless ( cf. Ecclesiastes 8:5 ) was an idea quite alien to Jewish thought and belief; and therefore the emphasis given to it by St. Paul, and the absolutely unqualified way in which it is laid down in a letter addressed to a community containing not only friends but foes who would eagerly fasten on any doubtful statement, show that it must have been regarded as axiomatic among Christians at the early date when this Epistle was written. The claim involved in the challenge of Christ, τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐλέγχει με περὶ ἁμαρτίας (John 8:46 ), had never been disproved, and the Apostolic age held that He was χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας … ἀμίαντος , κεχωρισμένος ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν (Hebrews 4:15 ; Hebrews 7:26 ), and that ἁμαρτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἕστιν (1 John 3:5 ; cf. St. Peter’s application of Isaiah 53:9 at 1 Peter 2:22 ). That He was a moral Miracle was certainly part of the primitive Gospel, (ii.) The statement ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν is best understood if we recall the Jewish ritual on the Day of Atonement, when the priest was directed to “place” the sins of the people upon the head of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:21 ). ἁμαρτία cannot be translated “sin-offering” (as at Leviticus 4:8 ; Leviticus 4:21 ; Leviticus 4:24 ; Leviticus 4:34 ; Leviticus 5:9-12 ), for it cannot have two different meanings in the same clause; and further it is contrasted with δικαιοσύνη , it means “sin” in the abstract. The penalties of sin were laid on Christ ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν , “on our behalf,” and thus as the Representative of the world’s sin it becomes possible to predicate of Him the strange expression ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν ( ποιέω being used here as at John 5:18 ; John 8:53 ; John 10:33 ). The nearest parallel in the N.T. is γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα (Galatians 3:13 ); cf. also Isaiah 53:6 , Romans 8:3 , 1 Peter 2:24 . ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα κ . τ . λ .: that we might become, sc. , as we have become (note the force of the aorist), the righteousness of God in Him ( cf. Jeremiah 23:6 , 1 Corinthians 1:30 , Philippians 3:9 , and reff.). “Such we are in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God Himself. Let it be counted folly or frenzy or fury or whatsoever. It is our wisdom and our comfort; we care for no knowledge in the world but this, that man hath sinned and God hath suffered; that God hath made Himself the sin of men, and that men are made the righteousness of God” (Hooker, Serm. , ii., 6).

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/2-corinthians-5.html. 1897-1910.
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