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2 Corinthians Chapter Five


I. Content of the Chapter


The Minister Who Lives to the Lord

A.  The hope of living to the Lord ---- the light before the judgment seat of Christ (v.1-10):

1. Groan in this tent and earnestly desire to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven (v.1-2a);

2. We want to be unclothed with this, but further clothed with that (v.2b-4);

3. God has given us the Spirit as a guarantee so that we shall know we will be with the Lord forever (v.5-8);

4. We make it our aim of being well pleasing to Him and will be rewarded by the Lord in the future (v.9-10).

B.  The incentive of living before the Lord ---- the love of Christ (v.11-15):

1. Whether a man has lived before the Lord can be seen from how he lives before men (v.11-13);

2. We should live no longer for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again (v.15);

C.  The means of living before the Lord ---- in the new creation (v.16-17):

1. We regard no one according to the flesh ---- the old creation (v.16);

2. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (v.17);

D.  The responsibility of living before the Lord ---- the ministry of reconciliation (v.18-21):

1. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (v.18-19);

2. We are ambassadors for Christ and we implore men to be reconciled to God (v.20);

3. The basis of man’s being reconciled to God (v.21);


II. Verse by Verse Commentary


2Cor. 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

YLT: “For we have known that if our earthly house of the tabernacle may be thrown down, a building from God we have, an house not made with hands -- age-during -- in the heavens,”

Meaning of Words: “destroy”: loosen down, demolish, overthrow, dissolve, lodge; “eternal”: everlasting, forever;

Literal Meaning: “for we know that”, the word “for” indicates that the following words are the explanation of the previous chapter, verse 16 to 18.

“If our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, earthly house” refers to our flesh (see 2Pet. 1:13). There are several characteristics of our physical body: 1) it is out of earth (1Cor. 15:42-44, 47-49), so it is of “the earth”; 2) just like the tent which is a temporary and delicate, our body is also fragile and easily broken and will be destroyed one day (see 4:10-12, 16); 3) the tent also symbolizes the place in which man sojourns (see Heb. 11:9). Therefore, our body is a merely shell for our spirit to live, and is not our true “self”.  

“We have a building from God, a house not made with hands, “from God”, it suggests that the risen body of us will be perfectly excellent and will be in no wise as coarse or simple as things that are man-made (see Heb. 9:11).

“Eternal in the heavens”, it refers to the risen body of us in the future. Comparing with our physical body, the risen body has characteristics as below: 1) it is out of “heaven” (1Cor. 15:49), so it is “in the heaven”; 2) just like the house is the stable and endurable building with its foundation, it is incorruptible (1Cor.15:42-44), so it is “eternal”.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     All the pleasure in this age will pass away. Therefore, what believers shall attach importance to is not things of this age, but the eternal things concerning the coming age.

2)     No matter how healthy our physical body is, it will be destroyed sooner or later. Therefore, we do not need to pay too much attention to our flesh, but only nourish and cherish it (see Eph. 5:29).

3)     All those who are drawn by Christ will feel the restriction of the flesh and “groan” (see v.4), and yet “earnestly desire” (see v.2) to enter into the eternal fullness of Christ. Therefore, they would rather suffer the affliction in this age to “destroy” the tent on the earth ---- the flesh so that they will have part of the eternal house in the heaven ---- the full Christ ---- of which God is artificer and constructor.


2Cor. 5:2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,

YLT: “for also in this we groan, with our dwelling that is from heaven earnestly desiring to clothe ourselves,”

Meaning of Words: “groan”: in straits, sign, murmur, pray inaudibly; “earnestly desire”: dote upon, intensely crave possession, long after; “be clothed with”: in the sense of sinking into a garment;

Literal Meaning: “for in this we groan”, we groan in the flesh and wait for the adoption, namely, the redemption of our body (Rom.8:23), which will be fulfilled when the Lord Jesus comes again.

“Earnestly desiring to our habitation which is from heaven”, “earnestly desire”: long after; we desire to receive the spiritual body so as not to be ruled by corruption in the flesh (see Rom. 8:21).

“Be clothed with”, it shows that our body is only physical and the real person of us is our soul and spirit (see 4:16).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Though the body of Christians is a tent that provides rest for our soul and spirit, it is still the corrupted body containing corruptible constitutions. Therefore, the body also brings us burdens and difficulties that make us groan. 

2)     If we desire to be delivered from the bondage and attraction of things on the earth, we shall firstly see things in the heaven. If we have seen the glory and beauty of the heavenly things, all the earthly things will lose their color and brilliance. And thus we will naturally not groan for the sake of the earthly things, but earnestly desire the heavenly things.


2Cor. 5:3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.

YLT: “if so be that, having clothed ourselves, we shall not be found naked,”

Meaning of Words: “if”: seeing that, unless; “be found”: be seen; “naked”: nude;

The Background: in the ancient times, men often took apart the tent before the journey and then slept in the open air temporarily. Since there was no tent to shelter before pitching the tent again, if they were found by others, they felt like naked.

Literal Meaning:if indeed, having been clothed, “if”: when our desire has been truly realized; “if indeed, having been clothed”, it does not mean that we believers will possibly not be clothed with the spiritual bodies, for our bodies will be incorruptible (see 1Cor. 15:52-53), so we will be clothes with … surely.

“We shall not be found naked”, “be found”: be found by the Lord or others in spiritual realm, e.g. the angels. “Naked”, the soul or spirit without the covering of the body:


2Cor. 5:4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

YLT: “for we also who are in the tabernacle do groan, being burdened, seeing we wish not to unclothe ourselves, but to clothe ourselves, that the mortal may be swallowed up of the life.”

Meaning of Words: “burden”: weigh down, press, charge; “want”: desire, will; “swallow up”: drink down, gulp entire, devour;

Literal Meaning: “for we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, groan, being burdened”, for there is much inconvenience, disease, suffering and labor in the fleshly body.

“Not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, be unclothed, but further clothed”, it speaks of the paradox of we Christians. On one hand, death is far better for us, and on the other hand, we do not desire to die immediately (see Phil. 1:23-24).

“That mortality may be swallowed up by life”, “mortality”, it relates to the mortal flesh of us (see 4:11; Rom. 8:11; 1Cor. 15:53). “Be swallowed up”, this mortal must put on immortality (see 1Cor. 15:53-54; Is. 25:8), through which our bodies will be transformed. Men in the world regard death and grave as the grievous swallower (see Ps. 69:15; Pro. 1:12). However, we Christians need not fear death.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Groans and burdens are unavoidable for Christians who still live on the earth. However, if we live in the spirit, joy and life and peace will embrace us (see Rom. 8:6).

2)     We believers are often ruled and restricted by the physical bodies. And the bondage will not be loosened until we die. Therefore, death is not fearful to us, and yet is far better.

3)     A student can suffer the labor of study throughout many years for the sake of the advantages after he has obtained the academic degree. The parents bring up and foster their children in spite of the labor for many years due to the hope after the children are grown up. Likewise, Christians suffer the groans and burdens in the flesh in view of the joy lying before him (Heb. 12:2).

4)     Once one has the best one, he will lay down the bad one and even that which is ordinarily good. Since we Christians have the incomparable eternal glory lying before us, we will not be pressed by the affliction or death in our mind. If we have not been attached to things on the earth, there is no opportunity for our mind to be pressed.

5)     The groans and burdens brought by the physical body do not render us sorrowful or lose hope, but make us more desire the glorious resurrection in Christ.


2Cor. 5:5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

YLT: “And He who did work us to this self-same thing God, who also did give to us the earnest of the Spirit;”

Meaning of Words: “prepare”: work, spit at/upon; “guarantee”: pledge, earnest;

Literal Meaning: “now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, it indicates that God works on believers so as to make us be swallowed up by life (see v.4).

“Who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee”, it means that God gives us the Spirit who dwells in us so that we can experience the power of Christ’s risen life in our daily life. Therefore, we can foretaste the spiritual reality that “life swallows up death” and be fully confident that we will be raised up in the future (see 1:22; Eph. 1:14).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The regeneration means that God puts the life of Christ in us so that we have obtained a new life. How the new born life is totally of God, the growth of this life will also totally be wrought by God. Here, man can do nothing by his own hands, and even the “best” work of man should be rejected. The best work that man can do is cooperation with God.

2)     After we have been saved, God always works in us ---- he may draw us to have fellowship with Him, or make us understand the scriptures, or nourish and cherish us in the church ---- so as to make us grown up and mature, thus fulfilling His will.

3)     In order to make Christ fully manifested in us, God the Father “has prepared us” and also given us the Spirit as a guarantee” to foretaste the reality of the fullness. Therefore, no matter the preparation of God the Father or the indwelling Spirit, they are both for the purpose of arriving at the fullness of Christ.

4)     Only those who have been born again in the Spirit can be transformed and redeemed after they are dead. Therefore, it is important to be grown up in spirit for Christians.


2Cor. 5:6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.

YLT: “having courage, then, at all times, and knowing that being at home in the body, we are away from home from the Lord, --”

Meaning of Words:confident”: bold, exercise courage; “be absent from”: quit, be away from, and emigrate;

Literal Meaning: “so we are always confident, “be confident”: be not fearful of death due to the preparation of God and assurance of the Holy Spirit (see v.5).

“Knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord”, “be at home in the body”: live in the physical realm; “be absent from the Lord”, be apparently away from the Lord who is in the spiritual realm;

It does not mean we believers can not experience the presence of the Lord when we live, but means that our fellowship with the Lord is quite encumbered with the corporeal body.


2Cor. 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.

YLT: “for through faith we walk, not through sight --”

Meaning of Words: “walk”: tread all around; “faith”: persuasion, belief, assurance; “sight”: appearance, form, shape;

Literal Meaning: “for we walk by faith, “walk” refers to the conduct in Christians’ daily life and outlooks on life; “by faith”, here, it has the following three aspects of meaning: 1) we believe that life and death are in the Lord’s hands and we need only to be concerned about the condition of our living to God rather than the time of our going to see the Lord (see v.9); 2) we believe the sovereignty of the Lord and thus live for Him (see v.15); 3) we obey the Lord’s will and know that everything coming upon us is well-pleasing in His sight, thus giving thanks and glory unto Him (see 4:15; Matt. 11:26).

  “For”, this word shows that only when we walk by faith, can we know that we are absent from the Lord when we are at home in the body (see v.6).

“Not by sight”, “by sight”: according to the visible and material things; “sight”: see by eyes, the most sensitive organ. Therefore, here “sight” represents all sensations in material realm.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Before we believe the Lord, we walked and dealt with everything by our own sight and judgments. Now we have been saved, we shall look upon Him in everything by faith and rely on His guidance.

2)     Christians should walk “by sight” only ---- the inner conscious knowledge, not “by sight” ---- the outer feeling.

3)     Many times, our outer physical eyes are so bright that we lack the inner conscious knowledge. Therefore, may the Lord make our physical eyes increasingly blind and be delivered from earthly and fleshly knowledge so that our real spiritual knowledge about Christ will increase.

4)     The greatest fault of the children of God is that many disputes of them are caused by their eyes, their backgrounds, experiences and views. Therefore, they do not know what is really “right” or what is really “wrong”.

5)     A Christian shall live by his inner life and judge according to his “heart”. If we are peace inside, it is right. If we are not peace inside, it is wrong. We do not walk by our feeling, but according to the guidance inside given by Christ.

6)     A normal Christian follows the Lord in faith, serves the Lord in faith and experiences the Lord in faith. Whether it is smooth or rough in our environment, we shall always follow the Lord.

7)     If we walk by sight, we cannot walk in the way of the Lord. Only when we are in faith, can we keep on going and finish the way that we shall walk in.

8)     The true faith is man’s obedience to God after hearing the will of God. Since faith is man’s response to God’s will, we need not care whether it is smooth in environment or whether men have shown sympathy to us, but care what God says.

9)     Man’s doubts are always because they have failed to seize God’s words closely and are unwilling to pay any cost for the sake of catching the promise of God. The servant of God should not consider how much cost he shall pay or how much loss he shall suffer. Once he considers these things, he will fall into sight and draw back away from the way of the Lord.

10)  We believers shall learn to know the invisible God in our walking by following the guidance of the Spirit in faith, not by the visible supernatural signs or proof.

11)  Christians who live in this age need not to strive for fame and gain against those who are in the world, but shall only rely on the righteousness of God and hope the coming blessings in faith.


2Cor. 5:8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

YLT: “we have courage, and are well pleased rather to be away from the home of the body, and to be at home with the Lord.”

Literal Meaning: “we are confident”, “confident”, here the word is mentioned for the second time in this chapter (see v.6).

“Well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” “Be absent from the body”, it means that the souls and spirits of believers have been delivered from the encumbrance of the corporeal bodies after death; “and to be present with the Lord”, it indicates that the fellowship with the Lord will be more smooth if there is no encumbrance of the physical bodies, not that we cannot enjoy the Lord’s presence when we live in the body.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     He who really loves the Lord must desire to be with the Lord, because love makes man miss those whom he loves.

2)     Though believers in the world have the spiritual life with the Lord, it is still not better than the condition after death because of the encumbrance of things in the world as well as the physical body. Therefore, as regards the true spiritual profit, to live is indeed not better than to die.

3)     On that day, we will be caught by the Lord and will no longer be restricted by time and space, nor grow old nor get ill nor distress any more (see Rev. 21:4). Furthermore, we will not be absent from the Lord any more because of the physical body. When we imagine that perfect enjoyment and rest, how can we not desire it?


2Cor. 5:9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

YLT: “Wherefore also we are ambitious, whether at home or away from home, to be well pleasing to him,”

Meaning of Words:make it our aim”: be fond of honor, emulous; “well pleasing”: fully agreeable, acceptable;

Literal Meaning: “therefore whether present or absent”, the word “therefore” shows that this verse is the conclusion of the previous paragraph. “Present”: live in the world; absent”: die and depart from the world;

  “We make it our aim to be well pleasing to Him”, “make it our aim”: make it a great purpose in one’s life;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     To we who have believed the Lord, no matter live or die, the only aim is to please the Lord, without which we can not walk in the way of the Lord due to the lack of the right purpose.

2)     Though we cannot please the Lord by our own effect, our willingness can provide an opportunity for God to work on us. God’s working in us is the precondition of our working out. Therefore, our willingness is of crucial importance (see Phil. 2:12-13).

3)     Many Christians do not please the Lord, but please themselves by making use of the Lord. Though they call the Lord the Lord in mouth, they want the Lord to be their servants and hear their commands and work for them.

4)     If man desires to please the Lord, he must have love to the Lord. The power of love makes man ignore his own loss but care for the pleasure of the one whom he loves only. Only love can compel one to seek to satisfy and please whom he loves without caring whether he himself is safe, or whether he himself is joyful, or whether he himself can survive.

5)     If we desire to please the Lord, we shall catch the opportunity when we still live.

6)     As long as we can please the Lord in everything, whether present or absent, we will have confidence toward God.

7)     If we desire to please the Lord, we may be unable to please men and have to deny our own interests and prejudices and apply our heart to keep the will of God.


2Cor. 5:10 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.

YLT: “for all of us it behoveth to be manifested before the tribunal of the Christ, that each one may receive the things through the body, in reference to the things that he did, whether good or evil;”

Meaning of Words: “appear”: manifest, reveal, expose; “receive”: accept, obtain;

Literal Meaning: “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, “for”, here it shows the reason of making it our aim (see v.9); “we…all”, it refers to all believers throughout the past generations; “the judgment seat of Christ”, the judgment when the Lord comes again begins from the house of God (1Pet. 4:17). No matter live or die, all believers will be caught up together in clouds to meet the Lord in air (see 1Thess. 4:16-17) and receive the judgment of the Lord before the tribunal of Christ. Such judgment is irrelevant to sins before we believe the Lord, for all of those sins have been washed by the precious blood of the Lord and the Lord will not reckon with us. This judgment is in connection with our works and thoughts after we believers have believed the Lord.

“That each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad”, “each one”, it shows that everyone has to be responsible to the Lord. The Lord will not judge according to the work of each group. Therefore, the spiritual condition of the church or the group one is in will not become the element of the Lord’s judgment upon him. Moreover, if the church one is in disobeys the truth and sins against the Lord and he still ignores such situation or is even associated with them, it is relevant to his personal work and the Lord will judge him.

“According to what he has done”, it includes: 1) one’s words (see Matt. 12:36); 2) one’s deeds (see Rom. 2:3, 6); 3) one’s works (see 1Cor. 3:13-15); 4) one’s thoughts (see 1Cor.4:4-5);

“Whether good or bad”, it means the works and conditions of pleasing the Lord (see v.9).

“Receive the things”, be rewarded with what we are worthy of;

Controversial Clarification: some Bible exegetes think here it carries no meaning of being punished so they hold that believers are only chastened when living on the earth (see Heb. 12:5-11) and that there is only the difference between being rewarded and being unrewarded after departing from this world. Furthermore, they conclude that there is no judgment after believers die on the earth and all the judgments mentioned in the scriptures relate to those who do not believe the Lord. Their reasons are as follows: 1) according to the First Book of Thessalonians, chapter four, when the Lord comes again, believers will be caught in clouds to meet the Lord in the air and be always with the Lord (see 1Thess. 4:17). Here the scriptures have not clearly told us the detailed situation after meeting the Lord in the air. 2) All the cases in the scriptures concerning punishment in the future refer to the false Christians, and it can be seen from their end, e.g. “I never knew you. Depart from me, workers of lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23); “and shall cut him in two and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:51); “but he answering said, Verily I say unto you, I do not know you” (Matt. 25:12); “and cast out the useless bondman into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30); especially the twice-mentioned “ weeping and the gnashing of teeth” above refers to those who do not believe the Lord (see Matt. 13:42, 50).

  The author of this book does not agree with such explanation, because: 1) God is righteous. He must judge the failures of believers after believing the Lord. If He does not reward those who have failed, it goes against His righteousness. 2) Though the scriptures have not mentioned the situations between “believers’’ being caught to meet the Lord in the air” and “believers’ being with the Lord forever”, it does not mean that we will immediately be with the Lord forever after being caught, because we know that there are at least a thousand years between the Lord’s second coming and the eternal age and not every Christians can reign with Christ a thousand years (see Rev. 20:4-6). Concerning the cases mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter seven, twenty-four and twenty-five, please confer my writing: the Commentary of the Gospel of Matthew. We can know that the scriptures do not relate to those who do not believe, but the workers who do not keep the will of the Lord, and the unfaithful servants and the foolish believers respectively. 4) “Weeping and the gnashing of teeth”, it refers to repentance. However, it is not only those who do not believe shall repent. If we believers have not caught the present opportunities, we will repent in the future.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The judgment upon believers when the Lord comes again is irrelevant to the eternal salvation, but is in connection with the reward before we enter into the eternal world.

2)     Though the reward is good, it is not better than the proof of the reward, that is, the Lord will confess we have pleased Him. Before the tribunal of Christ, what is most beautiful is that the Lord confesses that we have pleased Him and He also pleases us indeed.

3)     Believers can neither lay the blame upon others, nor be embroiled in cases of others, for each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor (see 1Cor.3:8).


2Cor. 5:11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

YLT: “having known, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, and to God we are manifested, and I hope also in your consciences to have been manifested;”

Meaning of Words: “terror”: fright, fear; “be well known”: manifest, reveal;

Literal Meaning: “knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men”, “the terror of the Lord”, we fear the Lord because: 1) the Lord is faithful, and He will come again to judge (see Rev. 22:12); 2) the Lord is righteous, so there will be of no mistake in His judgment (see Rev. 2:18; 19:11). “Persuade men”, he persuades men to fear the Lord according to the Lord he knows.

“But we are well known to God, “we” refers to Paul and his fellow workers. Here it means that their walking (see v.7) is open before God without any concealment.

“And I also trust are well known in your consciences”, “your”: of believers in Corinth; Paul hopes that they are also regarded as true in believers’ consciences.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Our service is not only out of love but also out of a fearing heart. The Lord is not only adorable but also “fearful”. We shall draw near the Lord and love Him because of His amiability, and also fear Him due to His terror.

2)     Not only God but also all believers can clearly know those who serve the Lord truly faithfully.

3)     The Lord’s workers are supposed to have no secrets or fruit of darkness on the way of serving the Lord ---- do everything in light and in truth and be fully known by God and in men’s consciences.

4)     There are two demands upon the servants of God for their life and service: live before God with a clear conscience; let their service known by others so as to avoid misunderstanding.


2Cor. 5:12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart.

YLT: “for not again ourselves do we recommend to you, but we are giving occasion to you of glorifying in our behalf, that ye may have in reference to those glorifying in face and not in heart;”

Meaning of Words:commend”: approve, stand near; “boast”: the chances of boasting, the accordance of boasting; “appearance”: countenance, face;

Literal Meaning: “for we do not commend ourselves again to you, “we”: Paul and his fellow workers; “you”: believers in Corinth; Paul writes these words for the purpose of making them able to distinguish between the true and false ministers, not making them honor them.

“But give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, opportunity to boast” refers to the right attitudes and attainments of Paul and his fellow workers concerning spiritual things.

“That you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart”, those false teachers boasted of the apparent things, e.g. their appearance, letters, money, fame and etc. What they really paid attention to was not the true and deep spiritual life or virtues. Paul wants to let believers in Corinth know what is really worthy of being boasted, through which they can distinguish between right and wrong.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Only if we have touched and experienced the real spiritual treasure, we can discern what is low and disagreeable. May God make us able to distinguish between right and wrong in order to avoid falling into traps.

2)     We are often fooled by man’s appearance, for we do not know man’s inner hearts. However, it is not as man sees, for man looks upon the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks upon the heart (1Sam. 16:7).


2Cor. 5:13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you.

YLT: “for whether we were beside ourselves, to God; whether we be of sound mind -- to you,”

Meaning of Words:beside ourselves”: put out of wits, insane, be astonished; “be of sound mind”: sane, be in right mind, be sober;

Literal Meaning: “for if we are beside ourselves, it is for God”, it means that if we have some abnormal actions in the sight of others or we seem to be excessively excited or somewhat foolish (see Acts 26:24-25), that is for the sake of God’s glory, so we have not acted decently. 

“Or if we are of sound mind, it is for you”, if we pay heed to our words and deeds and act properly, that is for the purpose of letting others be profited.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Paul is “beside himself” before God and is sober before men. This is the balanced life of Christians. However, we are not so compelled by the love of Christ, so we are not insane enough before God and even often feel dreary. And we are not fully governed by Christ, so we are not sober enough before men and unduly loose.

2)     To be beside oneself is very personal, and to be of sound mind is corporate. An ever zealous heart before God is good, which makes one free from constraint. Today, a very unwholesome condition is that a lot of men perform the insane condition before God before men. It is improper to do what one can do before God before men. One shall walk in order and care about the feelings of others.

3)     If a believer is not insane enough before God, his soberness before men may be of affectation. If one is not sober enough before men, his insanity before God may not be true.

4)     The unduly insanity and soberness are both hindrances to knowing God (see 1Cor. 14:23-25).

5)     The first effect of Christians’ service is getting the capability of distinguishing between “before God” and “before men” (see 1Cor. 9:20-22).


2Cor. 5:14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;

YLT: “for the love of the Christ doth constrain us, having judged thus: that if one for all died, then the whole died,”

Meaning of Words:compel”: constrain, preoccupy, compress, straiten, hold; “judge”: conclude, condemn, decide;

Literal Meaning: “for the love of Christ compels us, the love of Christ”, it refers to the love that He died for us and gave His life on the cross. “Compel”: the compulsion is as violent as great waters so that we can not help responding to the love.

“Because we judge thus”, “judge”: draw a conclusion after careful meditation and consideration.

“That if One died for all, “One” refers to the incarnated Christ Jesus, the Son of God; “all” refers to all human beings in a broad sense, and all believers in a narrow sense. The Lord’s death on the cross is an all-inclusive death. He was crucified for the whole creature, and yet the gracious effect of His death has only abounded unto those who believe and receive His salvation. All those who refuse to believe and receive Him have nothing to do with “His death”.

“Then all died”, “all”, here it only refers to all believers who have received the gracious effect of the Lord’s death. “Die”, it means being crucified with Christ (see Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20) ---- we all died in the Lord in the sight of God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Love makes one defy all difficulties and dangers. And love makes one sacrifice himself but perfect others. Love is the mightiest power.

2)     The love of Christ is the motive power of our life and service. If we have not been touched by the love of Christ, we will have no good life service. 

3)     The love of Christ impacts upon us as powerfully as great waters. Love is not a physical object that can be shown to men. However, if one has really tasted the sweetness of the love, he is bound to be compelled by it.

4)     The love of Christ cannot be isolated from the death of Him. We feel the love of Christ because we have seen the death of Christ. If we have not seen the death of Christ, probably, the love of Christ cannot touch us.

5)     “Love” and “truth” complement each other. Love is the incentive to our service, and truth provides the direction and content of our service. If there is only love without truth, our service may be deviated from the right way. And if there is only truth without love, our service will become lacking in living and fresh life.

6)     He who has really known the graciousness of the Lord can not help showing his fervent love to the Lord. However, today, there are few believers who serve the Lord for the sake of loving and satisfying the Lord in Christianity, and yet many believers who serve for the sake of service merely. Most services are for the satisfaction of men and few is for that of God.


2Cor. 5:15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

YLT: “and for all he died, that those living, no more to themselves may live, but to him who died for them, and was raised again.”

Literal Meaning:and He died for all, “and”, it means that the elements that “our judgment” involves also include the points as below.

“That those who live”, “those who live” refer to believers who still live in the physical bodies.

“Should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again”, it is better to use the word “to” than “for” here. “Living to the Lord” has deeper meanings than “living for the Lord”:

1)    “Living for the Lord”, it indicates that the motive power of life lies in me. “Living to the Lord” means that the motive power of life lies in the Lord; it is the Lord that draws me, and so I will run after Him (see Song. 1:4).

2)    “Living for the Lord” regards the Lord as the purpose of life. “Living to the Lord” regards the Lord as the center of life. The Lord and I are separated in the former one. And the Lord and I are in the same circle in the latter one ---- just like the centre of a circle and its circumference, or like the husband and the wife who are jointed into one in the marriage life.

3)    “Living for the Lord”, it is because of responsibility. “Living to the Lord”, it is out of love. The greatest is love in spiritual realm (see 1Cor. 13:13).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Those who have tasted the grace of the Lord often find a kind of incentive to live for the Lord all their life when remembering the great love of the Lord Jesus. This is the experience of every normal Christian.

2)     To truly live for the Lord is motivated by the great love of Christ. Besides, the vision of the loving Christ constrains and binds man so that he cannot refrain from devoting himself. How amazing it is to see the vision of Christ! The whole freedom of a man all his life will be transformed henceforward.

3)     “Living to the Lord” is more beautiful and more excellent than “living for the Lord”. “Living to the Lord” is drawing near the Lord at all times and beholding the beauty of the Lord and knowing His will from the fellowship with Him and thus walking according to His will. Therefore, all our life and actions are for the Lord, no matter work, or not work.


2Cor. 5:16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.

YLT: “So that we henceforth have known no one according to the flesh, and even if we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him no more;”

Meaning of Words: “flesh”: body (as opposed to the soul or spirit); “know (the first one)”: see, perceive, behold ---- the inner conscious knowledge; “know (the second one)”: be aware, understand ---- the objective knowledge;

Literal Meaning: “therefore, from now on,

“We regard no one according to the flesh”: regard no one according to the physical appearance;

Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, Paul confessed that he had evaluated Christ according to the “worldly” sight ---- fleshly elements, before he repented to believe the Lord. 

“Yet now we know Him thus no longer”, “now”: after the judgment in verse fourteen and fifteen;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     To know Christ “according to the flesh”: it means how inaccurate to know Christ according to his physical appearance and how impossible to know Christ through our fleshly power and natural wisdom. Man’s “flesh is of no avail to know Christ. One can only know Christ through the revelation of the Father in the heavens (Matt. 16:17).

2)     Men have two kinds of knowledge about the Lord Jesus after the Lord’s resurrection till now ---- one is to know Him according to the flesh, and the other is to know the Lord in the Spirit (see Gal. 1:15-16).

3)     To a man who knows God’s things according to the appearance, the more he seeks, the further he will depart from God; and the more he works, the further he will diverge from the will of God.


2Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

YLT: “so that if any one in Christ -- a new creature; the old things did pass away, lo, become new have the all things.”

Meaning of Words: “old”: original, primeval;

Literal Meaning: “if anyone is in Christ, in Christ”, it means believing and receiving Christ and being united with Him in the life of God and enjoying the provision of his life as well as regarding Him as the life sphere.

“He is a new creation”, the “new creation” is opposite to the old creation. Since believers are of the new creation, we shall no longer know Him according to the old creation.

“Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” “Old things” refer to the life, habits, interests and histories in the old creation.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    We Christians have only bright future but no burden in our memory.

2)    After we have believed the Lord, God has placed us in Christ and made us a new creation. All the old things, interests, purposes and relations have passed away. Henceforth, we have another new life and another new way.

3)    Many people like to live in the past histories. No matter good or bad, they always keep them in mind. However, if we want to run the way well, we shall forget the things behind, and stretch out to the things before (Phil. 3:13). Not only those sins and failures and shameful things in the past but also the achievements and victory, shall we forget them.

4)    If one does not forget his past achievements, he will be proud and self-satisfied. However, if one does not forget his failure or infirmity, he will be discouraged and depressed and thus lack strength to press on.

5)    Both the victorious and failed experiences in the past will have passive effect upon us and hinder us from going ahead. Therefore, we shall get rid of all that has passed away and go forward.

6)    The Lord has effaced the handwriting in ordinances which against us, which was contrary to us, he has taken it also out of the way (see Col. 2:14). Therefore, we shall not pick it up again, especially those grievous memories. All the mistakes that we had made in the past have been eliminated due to our believing the Lord.

7)    We are not counted as the new creation on account of our transformation, but because of the divine position ---- in Christ. In Adam, all the nature, life and works have passed upon us. In like manner, as long as we are in Christ, all the fullness of Christ will abound unto us.

8)    God never does any work on us outside of Christ. The first step of God’s works, also the primary step, is putting us in Christ.

9)    Men of the new creation shall have new visions and walk in newness and serve in newness.


2Cor. 5:18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,

YLT: “And the all things of God, who reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and did give to us the ministration of the reconciliation,”

Meaning of Words:reconciliation”: exchange (adjustment), restoration to (the divine) favor;

Literal Meaning: “now all things are of God, “all things” here refer to the salvation that we believers have obtained in Christ, especially our position and service. God is the creator and initiator of all active and spiritual things.

“Who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, through Jesus Christ”, it indicates that Christ is the mediator between God and men. Through Christ, God accepts men (see 1Pet. 2:5) and men can draw near God (see Rom. 5:1, 11).

“And has given us the ministry of reconciliation”, the previous half verse indicates that God is willing to make men reconciled to Him. And this verse tells us that God calls the apostles and entrusts them with the responsibility of reconciliation in order to accomplish His will.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     God will take back the world that was lost in the first Adam through the second Adam ---- Christ.

2)     The apostles’ “ministry of reconciliation” is according to the redemption of Christ that makes men reconciled to God through the cross (Col. 1:20-22). Therefore, the true bondservants of Christ must do only the works of Christ and will in no wise do any works outside of Christ.

3)     Every divine ministry revolves around the reconciliation between men and God. All the works cannot be isolated from this focus no matter how many details there are. If this point is ignored, all works cannot be called divine service.


2Cor. 5:19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

YLT: “how that God was in Christ -- a world reconciling to Himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses; and having put in us the word of the reconciliation,”

Meaning of Words:trespass”: side-slip, error, offence; “word”: utterance; “commit”: appoint, ordain, settle;

Literal Meaning:that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, here it is the first phase of the reconciliation between God and men ---- sinners who were afar off are brought near and reconciled to God in Christ (see Eph. 2:13-16).

“Not imputing their trespasses to them”, God has laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all (Is. 53:6), so he was punished in place of us. Therefore, God will no longer impute our trespasses to us.

“And has committed to us the word of reconciliation”, God has put the word of reconciliation in us so that we can fulfill the ministry.


2Cor. 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.

YLT: “in behalf of Christ, then, we are ambassadors, as if God were calling through us, we beseech, in behalf of Christ, `Be ye reconciled to God;'”

Meaning of Words:ambassador”: senior;

Literal Meaning: “now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, ambassadors for Christ” represent Christ, just like the seniors who instruct others.

“As though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God”, “you” refers to believers in Corinth; “be reconciled to God”: this is the second phase of reconciliation. The first phase is from sinners to believers, and from being afar off to being brought near God (see v.19). And the second phase is from being of the flesh to being of the Spirit (see Rom. 8:5-8) and from loving the world to loving God (1John 2:15; James 4:4).

Here, Paul uses two words to express his means of fulfilling this ministry: “plead” and “implore” ---- he has truly humbled himself and condescended to men to fulfill the responsibility entrusted by God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The Lord’s servant is the “ambassador for Christ”, namely, the representative of Christ. His works are for the purpose of manifesting Christ’s being and preaching Christ’s works.

2)     The works of the Lord’s workers are making men be reconciled to God ---- the means is “plead”, and the attitude is “implore”.


2Cor. 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

YLT: “for him who did not know sin, in our behalf He did make sin, that we may become the righteousness of God in him.”

Meaning of Words: “make”: do, fulfill; “become”: to cause to be, come into being;

Literal Meaning: “for He made Him who knew no sin”, the incarnated Jesus was not only holy and sinless inside but also never had the experience of sin. Therefore, he did not know sin at all (see John 8:46; Heb. 4:15; 1Pet. 2:22).

“To be sin for us, “for us”, it means standing on the position of sinners; “be sin”, it indicates that He had become in likeness of flesh of sin (Rom. 8:3) and for sin in order to bear our sins before God. It does not mean He had sin inside but that He had borne all our sins when He was under the judgment of God on the cross ---- He seemed to be like sin in the sight of God, so He was forsaken by God (Matt. 27:46).

“That we might become the righteousness of God in Him”, “in Him”, it is deeper than standing on His position, for we have been in Christ and have been united with His risen life (see Rom. 6:5). “Become the righteousness of God”, it is not becoming righteous one, but becoming “the righteousness of God”. The righteousness of God is Christ Himself. In faith, God has made Christ our righteousness (1Cor. 1:30) and has also made us in Christ become the righteousness of God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Christ knew no sin” and yet “had been sin for us” ---- he had undergone the judgment of sins in place of us so that we who were unrighteous “might become the righteousness of God in Him”. He who knew no sin becomes sin, and the unrighteous becomes righteous ---- what amazing salvation of God!

2)     When we are united with the Lord in life, the constitutions of God’s life will become our provision and His life will saturate and fill us so that He will be manifested in us, thus we have become the righteousness of God in our experience.

3)     The focal point of the ministry of the Lord’s workers is preaching Christ’s being and doing. “Knew no sin’: it is Christ’s being; to be sin for us” and that we might become the righteousness of God” are Christ’s doing.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


Some Comparisons between the Flesh and the Spirit

A.   Earthly house and house in the heavens (v.1-2);

B.   Eternal and mortal (v.1, 4);

C.   Be unclothed and be clothed (v.3-4);

D.   Be at home in the body and be absent from the body (v.6-9);


The Outlooks on Life of Living for the Lord

A.   Walk by faith, not by sight (v.6-7);

B.   Be well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (v.8);

C.   Make it our aim to be well pleasing to Him when present (v.9);

D.   Walk according to the manifestation before the judgment seat of Christ (v.10);

E.   Fear the Lord (v.11);

F.    Seek to glorify God in everything (v.12);


The Power that Compels the Workers of the Lord to Serve

A.   Serve because of being constrained by the terror of the Lord (v.11);

B.   Serve because of being constrained by the testimony of the conscience (v.12);

C.   Serve because of being constrained by the glory of God and the profits of men (v.13);

D.   Serve because of being constrained by the love of Christ (v.14);


Old Things Have Passed Away, and All Things Have Become New

A.   No longer commend oneself, but have boast indeed (v.12);

B.   No longer boast in appearance, but in heart (v.12);

C.   No longer live for oneself, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (v.15);

D.   No longer regard man according to the flesh, but according to the inner reality (v.16);

E.   Be no longer the old creation, but a new creation (v.17);

F.    Be no longer enemies of God, but have been reconciled to God (v.18a);

G.   No longer do other things, but fulfill the ministry of reconciliation (v.18b);

H.   Be no longer sinners, but the righteousness of God in Christ (v.21);


The Messages of the Lord’s Workers

A.   The message of regeneration ---- the new creation (v.17);

B.   The message of reconciliation ---- man is brought back before God (v.18-19);

C.   The message of ambassadors ---- be fellow workers of God (v.20);

D.   The message of redemption ---- man has become the righteousness of God in Christ through Christ’s becoming sin for man (v.21).


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou