Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:1-21
[This is Week 4 of a 5-week preaching series on 2 Corinthians.]
Week 4 (August 2, 2020)
Preaching text: 2 Corinthians 5:1-21; accompanying text: Mark 8:22-26
Theme: Walk by Faith not Sight
As Paul has maintained, all of this takes place amid everything we undergo in bodies. Every momentary affliction — every pathos we undergo — now becomes a place where the excess of an “eternal weight of glory” gets worked out in our lives. This takes place precisely as we interpret what we can see, what is temporary in our lives, from the standpoint of what we cannot see, what is eternal.
To describe how all this takes place in our lives, Paul mixes two classic metaphors for mortal vulnerability: nakedness and a tent. Longing to be “clothed” with a heavenly “building,” we groan — much like a mother groans as she gives birth to a child — yearning for protection against life’s vicissitudes and a permanent space for ourselves. But amid all this God is producing the very things we groan for within us. We have been given us God’s Spirit as a guarantee and the Spirit, as Paul will later say in Romans 8, groans within and through our very groans (2 Corinthians 5:1-5; see also Romans 8:26).
So we can always be confident — even amid our yearning for an immediate intimacy with God where we can be completely “at home.” But we walk by faith not sight. God’s consolation does not take place in some ethereal heaven or out of body experience; it does not immune us from life’s travails or our responsibilities to one another. Like everyone else, we too will have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ and receive recompense for what we have done in our bodies, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:6-10).
As we move through the 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, we see that the basis of all this is the love of Christ that presses us on together — with Christ and with one another. One has died for all so that all might live for him who died and was raised for them (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). We no longer need to deny death — or the sheer pathos of life — because we know that Christ’s love is stronger than death. We are now free to live for the one who died and was raised for us, embodying in our lives God’s very justice and mercy (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This gives us a radically fresh perspective on life. We no longer need to view others from the standpoint of human criteria — in the same way that we no longer view Jesus as just one more martyr for a righteous cause. In Christ, there is new creation; all that distorts in the systems and worlds we have created for ourselves and others are now archaic; “see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).
All this comes from God, who has reconciled us to Godself and has not given us a special status to lord it over others — or to be immune from life’s suffering — but a ministry or a service (diakonia) of reconciliation. And this diakonia is grounded in the fact in Christ God was reconciling the entire cosmos to Godself — not judging them and calculating their trespasses against them — and entrusting us also with a message or a word (logos) of reconciliation for everyone (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
So we are now ambassadors for Christ. God speaks God’s word of consolation through us and this word calls us all to be reconciled with God so that we might be reconciled with one another (as Paul sought to be with the Corinthians). For our sake, the one who knew no sin was made to be sin; the righteous one, Jesus, took on all the ways we are hooked in abusive patterns with ourselves or one another, whether as victims or perpetrators. And he did this so that we might become the very righteousness of God, the very spaces where God’s reign of mercy and consoling justice might overflow as grace — free gift — for all.