Summary: Longing for home.
TOWARDS A NEW CREATION
Having spoken of the impermanence of the ‘tent’ of this body, and the ‘eternity’ of our dwelling in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1), the Apostle Paul began to mix his metaphors, yearning to be ‘clothed upon’ with ‘our habitation which is from heaven’ (2 Corinthians 5:2). ‘For we who are in this tent groan’ (cf. Romans 8:23), waiting to be ‘clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up in life’ (2 Corinthians 5:4; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54). In the meantime, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts as a ‘down-payment’ (2 Corinthians 5:5; cf. 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:14).
In Philippians 1:23-24, Paul found himself in a strait between two possibilities:
1. To depart and be with Christ: ‘which is far better’; or
2. To remain in the flesh, which was more necessary ‘for you’ the churches he served.
Here in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, we are faced with the same tension. However, in both, the presence of the Holy Spirit gives Paul “confidence” in facing up to his own mortality. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Whether here or there, Paul’s aim is to please the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:9). That should be our aim also. Death is not the end, so let us live every day for Jesus. “For “we must all appear before the bema of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10a).
In the wider context of 2 Corinthians 5:10a, Paul has been speaking about those who are in the ministry of the church (2 Corinthians 4:1ff). However, in the more immediate context, the “we” could be all who “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). What have “we” all done with the gifts and opportunities which God has given us?
The word “bema” speaks of an elevated place ascended by steps, a tribunal, or a throne. There is Pilate’s tribunal in Matthew 27:19; Gallio’s tribunal (before which Paul was dragged by his countrymen) in Acts 18:12; and Herod’s throne from which he delivered his fatal final oration in Acts 12:21.
What is being called into account as we each appear before the throne of Christ is “what we have done in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10b). Not that Jesus wants to condemn us: for ‘there is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). Rather it is to apply degrees of reward: as Jesus says, ‘some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty’ (Matthew 13:23).
The “fear of the Lord” in 2 Corinthians 5:11 is not so much ‘terror’ as “reverence”. Paul the minister is again speaking: “Knowing, therefore, the reverence of the Lord, we persuade men.” It is God who reveals the hidden things, bringing them to light (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5).
Others may glory in outward things, but the Apostle commends his team as being of the right heart (2 Corinthians 5:12). Paul has said elsewhere that he ‘speaks in tongues more than you all’ (1 Corinthians 14:18), but before them he and his team are self-controlled (2 Corinthians 5:13).
This passage directly confronts us with the subject of reconciliation. It requires spiritual thinking: no longer regarding people from a worldly point of view - “according to the flesh”; and certainly not regarding Christ from a worldly point of view - “according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 5:16).
1. The cost of reconciliation is the death of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The Cross stands as a monument to the seriousness, and dire consequences, of sin. God, who is ‘of purer eyes than to be behold evil’ (Habakkuk 1:13) cannot look upon sin, and literally turned His face away from His own only begotten Son (Psalm 22:1).
2. The method of reconciliation is the sacrifice of Christ as our representative and substitute. He died as our representative (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), doing battle with the devil through His death and resurrection, and coming out triumphant on our behalf.
3. The result of reconciliation is a new relationship with God. The old has passed away, and we are initiated into a new life in our Lord Jesus Christ. The “new creation” evidently has a cosmic dimension, but it is our privilege personally and individually to enter its newness in the here and now (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Our severed relationship with God has been repaired, and we find ourselves no longer slaves to sin, but have a new desire within our hearts to live for the One who has brought us back to life (2 Corinthians 5:15).