From 2 Corinthians 5-9
Paul looks forward to his resurrection, but he knows he will be judged by Christ. Paul says he seeks to please God because he knows Christ will judge him according to what he has done and give him his due. Do you seek to please God because you will be judged by what you have done in the body?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
For the last few chapters of the letter Paul has been speaking about several themes related to his gospel ministry (2 Cor 3-4). He and the other apostles are afflicted and persecuted. They know their bodies are weak and decaying (2 Cor 4.16). But Jesus strengthens them through his Spirit urging them to look to what is unseen and eternal (2 Cor 4.16-18).
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 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 Cor 5:1–5)
Paul speaks about tents, earthly homes, buildings from God, nakedness and clothing. When they are ‘further clothed’, what is ‘mortal’ will be swallowed up by life – eternal life.
Paul is speaking about people’s physical bodies which are mortal now, but at the resurrection will become imperishable and immortal.
If Paul’s ‘earthly home’ is destroyed. That is, if Paul is killed. Paul will receive an eternal body from God. In his current body Paul groans (cf. 2 Cor 12.7-10) and he longs to put on this new body (‘heavenly dwelling’).
When he does put the heavenly dwelling on he will not be found naked. If we look further, it’s possible Paul is speaking about being clothed in good deeds. Those who are naked are without.
Receiving a new resurrection body is what God plans for all his people. The Holy Spirit is a guarantee.
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. (2 Cor 5:6-8)
The evidence and guarantee of the Holy Spirit gives them courage.
Their knowledge and courage specifically address the fact they may/will die. Rather the fact their bodies will be destroyed (2 Cor 5.1). Despite this he is confident they will be raised from the dead just as Christ was (2 Cor 4.14).
Until this happens they walk by faith not by sight, because they do not have much in the way of evidence or assurance these things will happen in the future. Given the choice between his existence now and what it will be like for him with the Lord. Paul prefers to be with the Lord by far.
Either way, Paul makes it his aim to please God.
9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 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 Cor 5:9-10)
The reason why Paul and the apostles aim to please God is because they know they will be judged by Christ. Everyone will be judged by Christ (Mt 25.31-33; Jn 5.27; Rom 2.16; Acts 17.31).
Future judgment should inspire believers to please God by doing good.
There is only one judgment given to believers and unbelievers which will determine who receives eternal life and who receives punishment. What people receive will depend on what they have done in their bodies (Eph 6.7-9; 1 Cor 3.13-15; 1 Pet 1.16-17).
Paul has said similar things before which directly link judgment according to works with receiving eternal life (Rom 2.6-11; Gal 6.7-10; cf. Mt 25.31-46; Jn 5.27-29).
This is clearly a salvation issue. We should note Paul has a lot of confidence in the fact he and the other apostles will be raised from the dead (2 Cor 5.1 ‘we know’,5 ‘prepared’, ‘guarantee’). He is of good courage he will be fine, and this I assume applies to many believers (e.g. Phil 1.6; Rom 5.9; 1 Thes 1.10).
But we should also note Paul is not so confident with believers who persist in sin (Gal 5.21; 6.8; Rom 8.13). His confidence in whether an individual or group will be favourably judged therefore varies with his assessment of who he is speaking to. Believers can fall away and come under judgment (Gal 5.4; Rom 11.22; cf. Heb 6.1-6; 10.26-31).
So Paul aims to please God by doing good as much as he can and encourage others to do the same.
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. (2 Cor 5:11)
The future judgment also motivates Paul and the other apostles to preach the gospel. Telling them about Jesus and urging them to repent of their sins and bear fruit in response.
Words for Believers
Believers should look forward to receiving new resurrection bodies. Paul uses a lot of imagery here to describe something amazing. Eternal and imperishable bodies that will never decay.
We should see the Holy Spirit and its good fruit as a guarantee we will receive a resurrection body. Quite often the evidence of the Spirit is not even sought out.
Believers can please God. Even more, Paul encourages believers to please him because they will be judged by Christ on the good and bad things they have done. This judgment has eternal consequences.
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