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2 Corinthians chapter 5

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King James Version

What does 2 Corinthians chapter 5 mean?

This renowned chapter continues without interruption from the end of chapter 4. Scripture was originally written without chapter or verse divisions, so Paul's thoughts flow without pause from the earlier text.

This passage begins with Paul's honest description of the experience of life on this side of eternity. He calls our temporary bodies "tents." They are not meant to last forever and while we live in them, we groan in longing for our permanent home with God and eternal, unburdened bodies. For believers in Jesus, Paul describes death as that which is mortal being swallowed up by life. God has prepared eternal bodies for all who are in Christ and has given to them the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of what we will receive when this life is done (2 Corinthians 5:1–5).

Paul acknowledges that he is ready to be at home with the Lord, right now, free of his earthly body. He is not suicidal. He simply recognizes how much more glorious that experience will be. In the meantime, this knowledge gives him the courage to fearlessly risk everything for the mission God has given him. He walks by faith in that reality and not according to the reality he sees with his physical eyes. That makes Paul's goal simple: to please God for as long as he lives. He is motivated, in part, by an awareness that all Christians will be judged by Christ. This is not to decide their eternal destiny, but to determine rewards for whatever earthly works they did, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:6–10).

Paul turns his attention back to the Corinthians. Because of all of this, he writes, he and his co-workers continue to be motivated to persuade others to believe the gospel. He insists that God knows they have no other agenda. He hopes the Corinthians who know him are convinced of this, as well. That knowledge will embolden them to answer Paul's critics: those who are judging him by the outward appearances of his circumstances. Some may have suggested that Paul's mental health was in question because he continued to preach the gospel despite continually suffering for it. Paul, though, emphasizes again that he can do nothing else. Christ's love compels him to keep telling everyone that Christ died for all so they, too, can live for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:11–15).

Paul describes his changed perspective: He now views every person as an eternal being and not merely "according to the flesh." That began when he learned Christ was more than just a man. Anyone who is in Christ becomes like Christ. That person is a new creation. The old version of who they were is gone, replaced by the new Christlike version (2 Corinthians 5:16–18).

Once God reconciled Paul to Himself, Paul's life work became telling others about this message of reconciliation: In Christ, God is not counting people's sins against them. God made the sinless Jesus to be sin in order to declare all who trust in Him righteous people, rather than sinful people. In Paul's role as Christ's ambassador on earth, he implores everyone he can to be reconciled to God in this way.
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