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Bible: What Does 2 Corinthians 5-6 Teach Us About the Resurrection Body and the New Creation in Christ?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Apostle Paul


The Child Timothy


The Resurrection Body

Paul affirms the Christian view of the resurrection body (“a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”) that will one day replace the believer’s temporary “tent” (“our earthly house”) [v. 1].

[He changes the metaphor from an earthen vessel (4:7)].

The apostle exclaims how greatly Christians desire their resurrection clothing, for they know that it will deliver them from the pain and suffering that they now experience (v. 2).

God will clothe believers with a real body at the resurrection (v. 3).

The burdens of life cause them to groan now because of the weakness of their bodies.

They do not desire to “shuffle off this mortal coil” so that they could then exist as mere spirits, but they look forward to an immortal body free from limitations and death (v. 4).

God began this transaction at initial salvation when He made the downpayment of His Spirit, the Guarantee He will bring the bodily resurrection to pass as well (v. 5; cf. Eph. 1:13, 14).

While Christians live their earthly lives courageously by faith, they would much prefer “to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (vv. 6-8).

Whether on earth or in heaven, the believer should aim to please God (v. 9).

[Will not all believers not only aim to please the Lord when “absent from the body,” but be incapable of doing otherwise?]

Christ will summon all Christians before His bematos (judgment seat), so that He may judge the value of their works and reward them accordingly (v. 10).

Having in mind the awesome event of their own judgment, Paul and Timothy seek to persuade unbelievers, whom they know will not fare well without trusting Jesus [v. 11a].

God knows Paul and Timothy’s heart; the apostle hopes that the Corinthian saints know it as well (v. 11b).

Paul does not boast to the Corinthians about his faithfulness because he needed to build himself up in their sight.

On the contrary, he tells them about his good motives because he wants to give these saints the ammunition with which they can combat the apostle’s opponents who do not have a heart for God (v. 12).

Whereas some of his detractors regard Paul as insane (“beside ourselves”) [cf. Festus in Acts 26:24], the apostle is merely acting fervently in his defense of God’s gospel.

When he works with the Corinthians, he always exercises good moral and ethical judgment (v. 13).

The Cross: The Heart of the Gospel


The Heart of the Gospel

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Christ’s love for Paul or vice versa—both the objective and subjective genitives work well here—keeps him within the boundaries of propriety, and enables him to live his life dedicated to the One who died and was raised from death for him (vv. 14-15).

At present, Paul determines not to recognize or regard the worldly status of any human being.

He once thought Christ a mere man; however, since his conversion he has changed his mind, and now regards Him as the God-man (v. 16).

New Creatures in Christ

Believers (those who are “in Christ”) have become new creations; God has separated them from their old life, and has imparted to them the life of Christ which He continues to form in them (v. 17; cf. Col. 2:10).

God the Father acts as the Source of the reconciliation between Himself and believers by not counting their trespasses against them, and Christ serves as the Conduit of peace between Himself and saved humanity (vv. 18-19).

Paul asserts that he and Timothy, to whom God has committed this message of grace, have dedicated themselves as ambassadors of Christ to reconcile the world (that is, other human beings) to God (v. 20a).

The Heart of the Gospel

Speaking to those who hear this epistle and who may not have yet believed the gospel, Paul exhorts to get right with the Lord as though God were pleading through him (v. 20b).

The apostle presents “the heart of the gospel”: God the Father made His sinless Son to become a sin offering, humanity’s sin, on the cross.

The Son died in the place of those who believe this gospel message in order that they might have God’s righteousness credited to their account (v. 21).

II Corinthians 6

As God’s co-worker, Paul also begs those who have not received God’s grace to take advantage of the present opportunity to be saved; he supports his plea with a passage that asserts God’s willingness to save people who call upon Him (vv. 1-2; cf. Is. 49:8 [LXX]).

The apostle now assembles an impressive list of characteristics common to God’s servants (vv. 3-10).

The following table shows how he structures this description around two prepositions (en and dia) and two pairs of contrasting particles (hos and kai, and hos and de):

in, by (en)
by (dia)
as . . . yet (hos . . . kai/de)
In much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses
by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
As deceivers, and yet true
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings
By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report
As unknown, and yet well known, as dying, and behold we live, as chastened, and yet not killed
By purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, By the word of truth, by the power of God,
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

The first group delineates the emotional and physical sufferings spiritual leaders oftentimes endure (vv. 4-5);

the second section focuses on their Christ-like character despite their suffering (vv. 6-8a);

the third series emphasizes the paradoxical nature of their selfless service (vv. 8b-10).

The apostle confesses his complete honesty with the Corinthians, and avers that their own affections restrict their ability to be open with him (vv. 11-12).

He pleads with them, as he would with children, to imitate his attitude (v. 13).

Hearkening back to his opponents, Paul admonishes his readers not to commit themselves to intimate relationships with unbelievers, since saints and sinners occupy opposite extremities just as do righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial (Satan), and the temple of God and idols (vv. 14-16a).

Paul cites Ezekiel 37:26-27—a passage in which God foretells that He would live among Israel in the future, just as He used to dwell in the Jerusalem temple.

(The apostle refers to the Corinthians, however, as the present-day temple of God [v. 16b]).

Since God now indwells them, they ought to separate themselves from the “unclean”; if they obey this command, God will treat them as their heavenly Father (vv. 17-18; cf. Is. 43:6; 52:11; Hos. 1:10 for future fulfillment).

© 2013 glynch1


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