Can someone else take the punishment of death, which we deserve, and enable us to go free?
The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS – Chapter 5
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. – 2 Corinthians 5:1
To me this is a tremendous promise. Another confirmation that whatever happens here on earth we have a heavenly position waiting for us. Jesus has told us that He has gone to prepare a place for us and whether you believe the mansion He referred to is our resurrected body or a wonderful eternal dwelling place in the New Jerusalem matters not, because both are true. Here Paul considers the worst thing that can happen here on earth. Our bodies are destroyed. No matter because we have a heavenly eternal place to stay made for us by God. David Guzik notes that the Greek word destroyed has the meaning to tear down a tent, so the theme is consistent in this verse, of a military, breaking down its camp to move to a better place. Just like the Children of Israel had to break down their camp every time the cloud or the pillar of fire moved as they traveled to the promised land. Maybe each time our tent is torn down we see ourselves getting nearer Jesus in Glory. Each time we face a situation that brings death to our self, we see more of heaven’s glory revealed in our lives.
2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,
3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.
4 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.
5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. – 2 Corinthians 5:2-5
Paul, using the imagery of being clothed and being naked, is referring indirectly to being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. If we are found in self-righteousness we are naked. Jesus mentioned a parable on this subject:
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.
12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” – Matthew 22:11-14
In that culture a guest would be provided a set of clothing to wear to the wedding and it would be an insult to the host not to ware the garments. Christ died so that we could be covered by His righteousness. It is the highest insult to God when we present ourselves in our own righteousness, because we are naked having nothing to offer:
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. – Revelation 3:17-18
It is the Spirit of God which is our guarantee, being covered by the righteousness of Christ is our clothing and eternity is our our home. Mortality swallowed up by life.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,
7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-9
How do we please God? We live by faith and not by sight. We give Him the glory believing what He says not what we assess by our five senses and our intellect.
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. – Habakkuk 2:4
Pride is the opposite of faith. Pride promotes self-sufficiency. Faith promotes self-depreciation, not trusting in ourselves but In God, who will raise us from the dead. Faith promotes trust, reliance, hope, believe, endurance and courage. It takes courage to walk by faith because the world will not understand you and will try and undermine your faith. But God calls us to stand strong. To guard our minds. To protect ourselves spiritually with the shield of faith, quenching every fiery dart the enemy will launch.
but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” – Hebrews 10:38
We are of good courage because we know our eternal destiny. We do not shrink back. We look to the author and finisher of our faith. Living by His faith, His courage, to be pleasing to the Father.
10 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 Corinthians 5:10
Many believe this referred to the judgment believers will face before Christ. It is known as the Bema seat judgment as the Greek word ‘bema’ means step: the raised platform where the judge of Olympic competitions would hand out the rewards. We have looked before at the passage in 1 Corinthians that describes this judgment:
12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-
13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. – 1 Corinthians 3:12-15
It is a judgment that tests out works not our eternal salvation. Salvation is through faith in Jesus alone. But, we will give account and will suffer loss and gain reward dependant on our behaviour and probably more importantly our motivation. The Lord looks upon the heart and knows us through and through, as psalm 139 testifies:
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24
Guzik points out ‘It is possible to have a saved soul but a wasted life’ but goes on to say we should be encouraged to do what we can to please the Lord now, in this life as we will have no opportunity in eternity live by faith or prove our love in the face of adversity, or to face suffering for His sake. James says count it all joy when you face trouble:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4
Jesus will reward us for our faithfulness, which after all is a gift from Him, so as ever it will all be by grace of God.
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. – 2 Corinthians 5:11-12
The heart is always the issue.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23
Paul wants the Corinthians to be able to boast in the truth. The truth manifest in Paul’s life and which is a witness to all of the love of God. The true fear of the Lord is showed outwardly through faith. If you live by faith you trust in the Lord and offer Him the true respect or fear He is worthy of. God knows us:
O LORD, you have searched me and known me! – Psalm 139:1
And He knows us inwardly and outwardly, our motivations and our actions. People judge by the outward appearance but God knows the heart. For us to fear the Lord is a positive attitude but for the unbelieving the fear of the Lord is a terror of the consequences of their actions. We are to persuade men: make the effort not only to tell but persuade them that they need to repent. Paul used arguments to persuade his fellow Jews because he did not want any to be lost. They were so concerned about the outward appearance, the keeping of the law, to be seen to be doing right, but needed their heart to be right before God.
13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. – 2 Corinthians 5:13-15
The concept of being dead to oneself is hard for us to grasp. Mentally we may assent. We may quote the classic verse on this:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
To live by faith we have to believe this, believe this is how God sees us, believe that even as our human body, soul and mind continues to dwell on earth and fail, and fall in to sin at times, God’s perspective is from the finished work.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- – Ephesians 2:4-5
Made us alive – passed tense.
and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, – Ephesians 2:6
Seated us with Him – passed tense. It has happened. It is fulfilled, in eternity. We have to live by faith and believe what the Word of God tells us, Over what we experience with our senses, which takes us back to verse 7:
for we walk by faith, not by sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7
As we walk by faith the love of God controls us, not in a ‘robot’ fashion but as a loving Father knows what is best for a wayward child, with patience and compassion as we mature. No longer living for ourselves but for Christ.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
What does it mean to regard according to the flesh? Well, there were many people who met the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah but considered Him to be a carpenter, a good teacher, a wise man but never got to know the true person. If we regard someone according to the flesh we admire them, want to be like them, covert their skills and possessions, we idolise them. But that is based in pride and lust. Because we want to be able to boast in ourselves. But the flesh has been crucified, we are spiritual beings first and the flesh comes second now. We are a new creation. What we had and what we were means nothing:
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ – Philippians 3:7-8
Paul was a proud man but when he became a new creation he learned to count all his qualifications, abilities and wisdom as dung. What he had before did not count:
18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19
Christ is doing a new thing in our life today. May our boast be in Him:
14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. – Galatians 6:14-15
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
The ministry of reconciliation. One of the main tasks of Jesus and therefore passed on to us as His body here on earth. What does it mean to be reconciled? Jesus mentioned it in Matthew:
leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:24
First be reconciled. Enemies are reconciled.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. – Romans 5:10
Reconciled by His death saved by His life. This passage in Ephesians echoes the theme:
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. – Ephesians 2:14-16
So to reconcile is to bring those together who were once enemies. We were once enemies of God and Jesus reconciled us to God through His death and gave us life through His Spirit. As ambassadors we bring the message of reconciliation and peace.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
God made Christ to be sin. How could a perfect, sinless man become sin for us? How did Jesus take the sins of the whole world upon Himself? Question like this are as hard to understand as how did God become a man? Jesus never became a “sinner” even on the cross He took our sin, which was never His own. This was the supreme work of God to take the punishment we deserved, death, upon Himself. And in exchange gives us the righteousness of God. He gives us His own nature making us more perfect than Adam was in the garden. So sin and righteousness, both could be could be exchanged, but in Jesus taking our sin He destroyed death and put Satan to shame.
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. – 1 Corinthians 15:24-26
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. – Colossians 2:13-15
What a victory Jesus has won for us! Praise God He did not leave us in our sinful state, destined to be separated from Him forever. The greatest exchange ever, where we are the undeserving beneficiaries. Now we have become the righteousness of God.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers