Study Notes—Chapter 5
our earthly house, this tent: Here Paul uses a man-made tent as a metaphor for the human body of a spirit-anointed Christian. Like a collapsible tent that is temporary and relatively fragile, the earthly bodies of anointed Christians are mortal, corruptible, and temporary. However, they look forward to “a building from God,” that is, a spiritual body that is everlasting and incorruptible.—1Co 15:50-53; compare 2Pe 1:13, 14; see study note on 2Co 5:4.
torn down: Or “dissolved.” In connection with Paul’s illustration of the human body as a man-made tent, the Greek term ka·ta·lyʹo can also be rendered “dismantled; taken down.”
house: Or “dwelling.” The Greek word oi·ke·teʹri·on occurs only here and at Jude 6, where it is rendered “dwelling place.”
the one for us from heaven: Or “our dwelling that is from heaven; our heavenly dwelling.”—See study note on 2Co 5:1.
we will not be found naked: Paul knew that he and other anointed Christians who died prior to Christ’s presence would, for a time, be “naked,” or unclothed, in death. They would live neither a life in the flesh nor a life in the spirit but would be asleep in the Grave. However, if they had been faithful when they lived on earth, they would not remain “naked” in death. Rather, they were guaranteed a future resurrection; they would “put on” a spiritual body to make their “home with the Lord.”—2Co 5:1-8; see study note on 2Co 5:4.
we want to put the other on: Paul and other anointed Christians were “earnestly desiring” to be resurrected to heaven as immortal spirit creatures. (2Co 5:2) They had a strong God-given hope of heavenly life, but that did not mean that they wanted to die. Speaking of their earthly body as a tent, Paul said that they did not want to put this one off. (See study note on 2Co 5:1.) That is, they were not eager to die just to avoid earthly infirmities as well as the responsibilities and hardships that were associated with their ministry. (See study note on 2Co 5:3.) Paul’s words “we want to put the other on” express the desire that anointed Christians have for life in heaven. They are eager, along with Christ Jesus, to serve Jehovah forever.—1Co 15:42-44, 53, 54; Php 1:20-24; 2Pe 1:4; 1Jo 3:2, 3; Re 20:6.
a token of what is to come: Or “a down payment; a guarantee (pledge) of what is to come.”—See study note on 2Co 1:22.
walking by faith, not by sight: In the Bible, “to walk” is often used figuratively, meaning “to live; to act; to follow a certain life course.” So “walking by faith” refers to pursuing a life course that is governed by faith and trust in God and in what he has revealed. It is here contrasted with “walking . . . by sight,” that is, pursuing a life course guided by what can be seen or by outward appearance. In this context, Paul had in mind spirit-anointed Christians. They could not see their heavenly reward with the physical eyes, but their faith was well-founded. All Christians should let their life course be guided by faith.
the judgment seat of the Christ: At Ro 14:10, Paul referred to “the judgment seat of God.” However, Jehovah judges by means of his Son (Joh 5:22, 27), so it is here called “the judgment seat of the Christ.” In early Christian times, a judgment seat (Greek, beʹma) was usually a raised outdoor platform, accessed by steps. Seated officials could address the crowds and announce their decisions from this platform. (Mt 27:19; Joh 19:13; Ac 12:21; 18:12; 25:6, 10) Paul’s use of the term here might have reminded the Corinthians of the formidable judgment seat in Corinth.—See Glossary, “Judgment seat,” and Media Gallery, “Judgment Seat in Corinth.”
bad: Or “vile.” The Greek word here rendered “bad,” or “vile,” is phauʹlos. In some contexts, it may convey the idea of “being evil in the sense of moral baseness.” Paul shows that the choice put before humans is to practice either what is good or what is bad, that is, to live by God’s standards or to ignore them.
the fear of the Lord: In this context, “the Lord” apparently refers to Jesus Christ. In the preceding verse, Paul mentions that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of the Christ.” (See study note on 2Co 5:10.) Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ role as Judge. (Isa 11:3, 4) “The fear of the Lord” stems from deep love and profound respect for Jehovah, who appointed Jesus as Judge.—Joh 5:22, 27.
are well-known: Or “have been made manifest.” Paul was convinced that God knew what kind of people he and his associates were. Here Paul hopes that the Corinthians also recognized the motives and conduct of these brothers as being acceptable, or good.
those who boast over the outward appearance: The Greek verb for “to boast” (kau·khaʹo·mai) is often used in the sense of selfish pride. It is used several times in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. The Bible shows that no man has grounds for boasting in himself or in his accomplishments. (Jer 9:23, 24) The apostle Paul gives strong counsel to the congregation, showing that there is no room for boasting in anyone but Jehovah God and what he has done for them.—1Co 1:28, 29, 31; 4:6, 7; 2Co 10:17.
For if we were out of our mind, it was for God: Paul here uses a Greek verb that literally means “to stand out of oneself; to be beside oneself.” Paul may simply have been referring to the boasts he made later in this letter in order to defend his qualifications as an apostle, which his critics had questioned. (2Co 11:16-18, 23) Although Paul was completely qualified, he felt uncomfortable boasting. He did not boast because of pride. Rather, “it was for God,” in order to defend the truth and protect the congregation from dangerous influences. In truth, Paul was sound in mind, with a balanced view of himself. (Compare Ac 26:24, 25; Ro 12:3.) His soundness of mind greatly benefited those whom he taught, so he could rightly say, it is for you.
the love the Christ has: Or “the love of the Christ.” The Greek phrase could be understood to mean either “the love Christ shows us” or “the love we show Christ.” Some have suggested that both meanings are possible. The context, though, shows that the emphasis is on the love Christ has shown.—2Co 5:15.
compels us: This Greek verb literally means “to hold together” and may convey the meaning “to exercise continuous control over someone or something”; “to urge”; “to impel strongly.” The love Christ showed in laying down his life in our behalf is so outstanding that as a Christian’s appreciation grows, his heart is deeply moved. In this manner, Christ’s love controlled Paul. It moved him to reject selfish pursuits and to confine his objectives to serving God and his fellow man inside and outside the congregation.—Compare study note on 1Co 9:16.
from a fleshly viewpoint: Or “from a human point of view.” Lit., “according to the flesh.” In this context, the term “flesh” (Greek, sarx) refers broadly to things connected with the limitations of humans, including the way they reason and the things they achieve. (See study notes on Ro 3:20; 8:4.) Paul’s point was that Christians would not evaluate one another on the basis of position, wealth, race, national origin, or other such factors. Since Christ died for all, those fleshly distinctions were irrelevant. It was the spiritual relationship between fellow believers that mattered.—Mt 12:47-50.
we certainly no longer know him in that way: Any Christian who initially viewed Jesus from a fleshly, or human, perspective—hoping that he had come to restore the Jews’ earthly kingdom—abandoned such a viewpoint. (Joh 6:15, 26) Instead, Christians realized that Jesus had given his fleshly body as a ransom and that he was now a life-giving spirit.—1Co 15:45; 2Co 5:15.
in union with Christ: Lit., “in Christ.” Each spirit-anointed Christian enjoys a oneness with Jesus Christ. (Joh 17:21; 1Co 12:27) This special relationship comes into existence when Jehovah draws the individual to his Son and begets that individual with holy spirit.—Joh 3:3-8; 6:44.
he is a new creation: Each anointed Christian is a new creation—a spirit-begotten son of God with the prospect of sharing with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom. (Ga 4:6, 7) Though new material things have not been created since the end of the sixth creative day (Ge 2:2, 3), new spiritual things have been created.
new things have come into existence: Jesus became God’s initial “new creation” upon being anointed at his baptism as a spirit-begotten son of God with heavenly prospects. Additionally, Jesus and his anointed corulers collectively make up the Christian congregation, which is also a new spiritual creation.—1Pe 2:9.
God, who reconciled us to himself: All humans need to be reconciled to God because the first man, Adam, was disobedient, and he passed sin and imperfection on to all his descendants. (Ro 5:12) As a result, they are in a state of alienation from God; they are at enmity with God, whose standards do not allow for condoning wrongdoing. (Ro 8:7, 8) The Greek words for “to reconcile” and “reconciliation” basically convey the meaning “change; exchange,” and in this context they refer to changing from a hostile relationship to a friendly, harmonious relationship with God. Paul here shows that God first reconciled “us” (Paul, his associates, and all spirit-anointed Christians) to Himself through Christ, that is, by means of Christ’s ransom sacrifice. Then Paul says that God “gave us the ministry of the reconciliation.”—See study note on Ro 5:10.
the ministry of the reconciliation: That is, the ministry of helping people to become “reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” (Ro 5:10) This ministry involves an urgent message to help those alienated from God to come into a peaceful relationship with him, to become his friend.—2Co 5:18-20; for a discussion of the term “ministry” (Greek, di·a·ko·niʹa), see study notes on Ac 11:29; Ro 11:13.
God was by means of Christ reconciling: Some Bible translations render this phrase “God was in Christ, reconciling.” However, the Greek preposition en, literally meaning “in,” is very broad and must be understood according to context. The preceding verse (2Co 5:18) clearly states that “God . . . reconciled us to himself through [Greek, di·aʹ] Christ.” In harmony with this, en is here properly translated “by means of.”
reconciling a world to himself: The world of mankind needs to be reconciled to God because the first man, Adam, was disobedient, and he passed sin and imperfection on to all his descendants. (See study note on 2Co 5:18.) God is accomplishing this reconciliation by means of Christ, that is, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. (Ro 5:10; 2Co 5:21; Col 1:21, 22) Jehovah has appointed those who are in union with Christ to be “ambassadors” to a hostile world and has given them “the ministry of the reconciliation.”—2Co 5:18, 20.
the message of the reconciliation: Or “the word of the reconciliation.” God’s word, or message, to mankind is described in a number of ways that show the breadth, meaning, and various aspects of its content. Here it is described as “the message of the reconciliation.” It is also referred to as “the word [or “message”] of the Kingdom” (Mt 13:19), “the word of this salvation” (Ac 13:26), “the word of truth” (Eph 1:13), and “the word of righteousness” (Heb 5:13). Here Paul shows gratitude for the privilege of conveying this message of reconciliation, saying that God “entrusted [the message] to us,” that is, to Paul and all spirit-anointed Christians.
we are ambassadors: Paul is here speaking of himself and his fellow workers as “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” In Bible times, ambassadors and other messengers could be dispatched for several reasons. For example, during periods of hostility, ambassadors were dispatched to see if warfare could be averted or to arrange terms for peace where a state of war prevailed. (Isa 30:1-4; 33:7) In Paul’s day, peoples, cities, or provinces of the Roman Empire would send ambassadors to Rome to reinforce friendship, to receive assistance, or to plead for some cause. The Greek verb for “to be (act as) an ambassador” (pre·sbeuʹo) appears twice in the Christian Greek Scriptures, here and at Eph 6:19, 20, where Paul speaks of himself as an ambassador for the good news. At Lu 14:32 and 19:14, the related noun pre·sbeiʹa is rendered “body of ambassadors.” Both of these words are related to the word pre·sbyʹte·ros, meaning “older man; elder.”—Mt 16:21; Ac 11:30.
substituting for Christ: Or “instead of Christ; in the name of Christ.” After Christ was resurrected to heaven, his faithful followers were appointed to act in his place, as “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” They were first sent to the Jews and then to people of the nations, all of whom were alienated from the Supreme Sovereign, Jehovah. These anointed Christians serve as ambassadors to a world not at peace with God. (Joh 14:30; 15:18, 19; Jas 4:4) In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, written during his first imprisonment in Rome (c. 59-61 C.E.), he described himself as “an ambassador in chains.”—Eph 6:20.
The one who did not know sin: That is, Jesus, who never sinned. However, Jehovah made him to be sin for us, that is, for our sake. Jehovah arranged for Jesus to die as a sin offering to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin. (Compare Le 16:21; Isa 53:12; Ga 3:13; Heb 9:28.) The phrase “made to be sin for us” could also be rendered “made to be a sin offering for us.” Regarding Jesus, the apostle John says: “He is a propitiatory sacrifice [or, “an atoning sacrifice; a means of appeasement”] for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1Jo 2:2) While the Israelites had a limited means of approach to God through their animal sacrifices, Christians have a superior basis for approaching God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.—Joh 14:6; 1Pe 3:18.
so that by means of him we might become God’s righteousness: That is, by means of Jesus, we may attain a righteous, or approved, standing before God. Paul may have had in mind Isaiah’s prophecy regarding Jehovah’s Messianic servant, who is said to “bring a righteous standing to many people.”—Isa 53:11.