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"A Building from God - Eternal"
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
Wednesday AM Bible Study
August 5, 2008
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul was writing to explain why he did not 'lose heart' in the midst of the great strains and trials he felt in the ministry of the gospel. He had explained, in 4:18, that the frame of mind that he and his co-workers kept in their work was that of not looking at the things which are seen (that is, which relate to the frail 'earthen vessel'—the mortal body—in which he ministered), but at the things which are not seen. "For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." It is these "unseen things" which Paul describes in 5:1-10.
As we follow our Lord in this fallen world, we too are subject to times of affliction and trial. But Paul is, here, passing on to us truths that will help us keep an eternal perspective during those times of "our light affliction, which is for a moment" (4:17); and that cause us to "not lose heart" even when the "outward man is perishing" (4:16).
I. WHAT IT IS THAT WE KNOW (v. 1).
A. When we place our trust in Jesus Christ, we become "new creations" (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are brand new people inside—risen from the dead with Christ (Romans 6:4), and seated, positionally, with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:4-7). But all of this is our spiritual condition while still in a frail, mortal body. When we look at each other, the "inward man" that is made new in Christ isn't visible. What we see is the perishable "outward man" (4:16) in which that "inward man" dwells. Paul calls it "our earthly house, this tent" (5:1). A "tent" is an apt metaphor for this "outward man"; because a "tent" is meant to only be a temporary residence—something that is easily taken down.
B. But here is where Paul speaks of what we, as believers, can "know" in a settled and assured way. If this earthly "tent" is destroyed, we know that we have a glorified body yet to be given to us—a "building from God". A "building" is a structure that is strong and stable, and that will not be taken down. It is meant to be a permanent residence for the renewed "inward man".
1. Paul describes it as a building "from God". It has God Himself as its direct source. Jesus said, "In My Father's house are many mansions; . . . I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). Thus it isn't subject to the frailties that our present "tent" is subject to; because our future "building" is "not made with hands".
2. What's more, it is "eternal in the heavens". This doesn't mean that there is some unoccupied "body" waiting for us in storage on a shelf for us in the heavenlies. Rather, it means that it is a body that is, itself, eternal—like Jesus' own glorified body; and thus fit to dwell forever with Him in the heavenly realms (see 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). It will not be a different body; but rather either the resurrection of this present body in glory (with respect to those who are asleep in the Lord at the Lord's coming; see 1 Corinthians 15:35-49), or the transformation of this present body into glory (with respect to those who are alive in Him at His coming; see 1 Corinthians 50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
C. The "knowing" of this truth is the basis of the encouragement that Paul drew in times of affliction of the body. If we would enjoy the encouragement of heart that Paul enjoyed, then this truth must first be fixed in our minds!
II. WHAT IT IS FOR WHICH WE EARNESTLY DESIRE (vv. 2-4).
A. Paul was realistic about the trials he suffered in the body. He "groaned, being burdened" (v. 4). Part of our groaning, certainly, is because of the trials. But we also groan because of our longing to be finally clothed with our habitation which is from heaven (v. 2).
B. On one hand, when finally thus clothed, we will "not be found naked" (v. 3). When God made man, He first made the body, and then blew the breath of life into the body. Both body and spirit together constitute full humanity. And so, in eternity, we will not be without a body. Both our spirit will be renewed, and our body will be glorified. But on the other hand, it's not just nakedness we want to avoid. When "further clothed", our mortality will be swallowed up in life (v. 4). We will enter into the full experience of eternal bliss.
III. WHAT IT IS THAT GIVES US GOOD COURAGE (vv. 5-8).
A. Paul had absolute assurance of this hope; and because of it, had "confidence" or "good courage". It was something that God assures us of by the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit; whose presence in us is our "guarantee" of future glory (v. 5; see also Romans 8:11 and Ephesians 1:13-14).
B. This confidence rested in the fact that Paul knew that, when absent from this body, he would be present with the Lord (v. 6-8); which is something that he was able to assert because he walked by faith rather than by sight. He didn't count on what he saw, but rather looked to the promise of God—validated to us by the resurrection of Jesus Himself from the dead. He held this so strongly that he asserts that the believer would be "well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord". Paul elsewhere expresses such confidence in this that he couldn't decide which was better—to stay on in the frail "tent" and serve God's people; or depart and be with the Lord, which, as he says, was far better (Philippians 1:23-24).
IV. WHAT IT IS THAT WE MAKE OUR AIM (vv. 9-10).
A. As eager as the believer should be to be present with the Lord, he or she should recognize that God has placed them in this temporary body for a short season of service. "Therefore", Paul writes, "we make it our aim [that is, our ambition] whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him" (v. 9).
B. We are motivated by this commitment to service in this temporal body by the fact that, one day, we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for what we've done in it (v. 10). This would not be a judgment of condemnation; because there is no condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:1). Rather, this is an accounting of service—and the rewards that follow (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Our motivation in Christ is not one of fear. Rather, it's our desire to be found pleasing to the One who has so loved us. And because of our expectation of the resurrection of the body, we make His pleasure our ambition.
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