“We are Always of Good Courage”
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened — not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Cor. 5:1-10, ESV)
The best approach to chapter 5 of Second Corinthians is through chapters 3 and 4, which might be summarized in this fashion:
Chapter three – Paul and his fellow workers were appointed by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit, as ministers of the New Covenant. Their ministry was to deliver the New Covenant message to people, urging their response, to be forgiven of sin and transformed from glory to glory.
Chapter four – As Paul and his co-workers delivered the New Covenant, they did not lose heart; though persecuted, they were not forsaken; and they considered their difficulties to be only “light affliction.” These sections function to highlight the difference between the false teachers who sought access to Christians in Corinth and the true ministers of the New Covenant. The tone is set to enter chapter five, at the end of chapter four: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” (4:17,18, emphasis mine to note contrast, web). Taking off from here, Paul affirms what he and all Christians know…
We know there is something better: “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” (v.1).
Several times, in chapter four, Paul described the persecution he and others endured – and at least three times, he alluded to DEATH; he used the language of death, I think not just figuratively, but as a reality.
4:10 – “carrying in the body the death of Jesus.”
4:11– “given over to death.”
4:12 – “death is at work in us.”
The question would naturally arise, how did Paul and the other apostles and inspired evangelists face death? They apparently came close to it many times before their final passing. How did they deal with that? The next question becomes – how do we deal with the approach of death? This passage tells us how the apostles and faithful Christians back then managed their fear. It is how we can manage ours.
The earthly body, “house” or “tent,” is destroyed. We face that, knowing that God has something else prepared for us. There is something better: “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
My understanding is, this is about the spiritual bodies the inhabitants of heaven will have. In the first epistle (chapter 15), Paul affirmed: Earthly bodies now, spiritual bodies then! While we occupy these earthly bodies, we are able to endure difficulty and face death, knowing God has something better in store for us. Thus, we can be people “of good courage,” (v.8).
“We know” is strong in conveying to us Paul’s certainty of this. “The apostle shares with us his knowledge about what will happen to the real person if dying daily eventuates in physical death,” (Curry, 171). Drawing from the imagery of chapter four, if we are “jars of clay” now, we will be buildings from God then!
This truth upholds us under suffering, even unto death. When we become conscious of our earthly tent moving toward death, decay and destruction, we do not lose heart, because our eyes are fixed, not on what is
seen, but what is unseen. We walk by faith.
“In this tent we groan”
To “groan” is to express pain, frustration, to utter displeasure. But I think Paul is talking about something here that is beyond the ordinary groaning we do.
This is a specific kind of groaning, that is defined in this context by this phrase, “longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” NIV: “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling…” New Century: “But now we are tired of this body. We want God to give us our heavenly home.”
This is more than just wanting relief from a backache or complaining about a tooth ache. This is a longing to have that better body, similar to Paul’s emotion expressed in Phil. 3:20,21. You remember that? “Eagerly waiting for the Savior.”
Not Just Escape!
For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened — not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Paul’s desire was not just to escape suffering, but to be a participant in glory! The thought was not to just get out of suffering; it was not just the emotion or desire of pure, carnal relief or escape. The essence of his desire was “that we would be … further clothed, so that what is moral may be swallowed up by life.”
God has prepared us “for this very thing”
He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Paul had the Spirit’s assurance, these things were so. This connects to “we know” in verse 1. Paul did not speak from speculative supposition. The Holy Spirit revealed it, Paul wrote it and we can place our confidence in this. As we walk by faith, God is preparing us for better things - - so we can face suffering and death knowing – mortality will be swallowed up by life.
What is the value of this?
Confidence. “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” While we live on earth in these bodies, there is an absence from the Lord in the sense indicated in this context. We do not yet enjoy His complete presence as we will eternally. Here on earth, in this body, we are tent-bound. We enjoy fellowship with the Lord, but there is an even closer contact with him in prospect.
What must we do, while in these temporal bodies, to know – we will someday enjoy His eternal presence? Walk by faith, not sight. Verse 7 expresses both obligation and ground of confidence. It is teaching both obedience and the trust behind obedience.
It is our trust, and therefore the obedience of our lives – that moves us to think of these bodies as tents – yet knowing, we have a building from God, “eternal in the heavens.” Because we believe this, we live as we do . . .
Walk by faith, and not by sight. What does that mean in practice? It means hearing, believing and doing as God directs. It means not living according to what you see in the temporal world. It means even in the face of death, maintaining your obedience of heart to Jehovah. As we walk by faith – verse 8 says, “we are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from body and to be present with the Lord.”
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Look in verse 9, at the outcome this teaching should have on us, and will have on each of us, if we are wise – making it our aim to please the Lord.
If you want to face death the way Paul faced it – make it your aim to
please the Lord.
If you want hope to strengthen you and get you through the struggles on earth – make it your aim to please the Lord. As you please the Lord – though the body may deteriorate, your spirit will soar to great heights.
You will be strong and courageous. And, you’ll be ready – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
About all this some will reply, “I would love to have that hope!” The good news is, you can!
It may occur to you – that you cannot have this courageous hope, because of what you have done.
You have not lived wisely;
You have committed every sin in the book;
You have not treated people right;
You have entertained evil thoughts;
You have not maintained good priorities;
You have ruined your life . . .
Because of your sin – you may think, all of this we have studied is not within your reach.
The message of the gospel is – You can have this hope; you can depend upon this confidence every day, and have this hope every hour - - even to your last hour! Regardless of what you have done – you can receive these blessings and have this hope – because of who Jesus Christ is, and what He did.
Resource, Truth Commentaries, 2 Corinthians, Melvin Curry
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 20.10; October 2013