HQ Bible Study Team: Mark Vucekovich, Mark Yang, Ron Ward, Teddy Hembekides, Joshua Hong, and David Kim.
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
Key Verse: 5:9
LONGING FOR OUR HEAVENLY DWELLING (1-5)
What was Paul’s hope? (4:17-18) What assurance did this give him? (5:1) What does Paul mean by “the earthly tent we live in”? What is “the building from God”? (Jn14:2) How do the earthly tent and the building from God differ?
How does Paul describe our lives in the earthly tent? (2-4) Why are we groaning and burdened? (Ro8:23) What do we long for? (2b; 1Co15:42-44) Why do we need to be clothed in this way? (1Co15:50-53)
Who planned for us to live in the heavenly dwelling? (5a) What guarantee has God given us of this heavenly hope? (5b) Why is it so important to have this assurance? (4:8-9,16a)
LIVE BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT (6-10)
How does the hope of the heavenly dwelling affect our inner life? (6a) What was Paul’s confidence while in the body? (6,8) With this confidence, how should we live? (7) What are the differences and outcomes of living by faith and by sight?
Read verse 9. When we are confident of being with the Lord, what life goal should we set for ourselves? How is this different from living to please ourselves? What does it mean to please God? (Heb11:6; 2Co5:7) How can we live to please God? (1Ti2:3-4)
Read verse 10. How does this explain why we should live to please God? What hope and what warning can we find here? In light of this, how should we live while in the body?
“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”
In the previous passage we learned that we have a treasure, Jesus, in jars of clay. We have a great treasure in our body. Wow! Because of this we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. God will turn all of our troubles into everlasting glory in his kingdom. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. In chapter 5 Paul explains more specifically what is unseen. He teaches us what our true hope is, and what our life goal should be.
I. Longing for our heavenly dwelling (1-5)
In verses 1-5 Paul uses metaphors to explain what our true hope is. In verse 1 he mentions “earthly tent” and “eternal house,” or “building from God.” In verses 2-4 he mentions “clothed with our heavenly dwelling” and “nakedness.” Verse 5 explains how we can have assurance of our great hope.
First, we have a building from God (1). Look at verse 1. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Here, Paul compares our body to an earthly tent and the kingdom of God to a building, an eternal house. Why did he compare our body to an earthly tent? Tents were familiar to Paul because he was a tentmaker. There are many similarities between a tent and our bodies. Tents are temporary, flimsy and shabby. People usually use tents for camping. It is refreshing to be in the great outdoors for a little while. However, nobody lives in tents permanently except refugees or nomads. Like tents, our bodies are temporary. Still, God created our bodies in an amazing way. When we compare a human body to a car engine we can understand this. If a car engine is used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it will wear out in less than a year. However, a human heart, which weighs less than a pound, pumps blood at a rate of about 70 beats per minute, without ceasing for 70, 80, or even 100 years. Still, no one can live forever. And during the time of our life on earth we suffer from disease, disasters, accidents, violent crimes, and so on. Moses said in Psalm 90:10: “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” The problem is that people want to live in their bodies forever. Emperor Chin of China sent 3,000 young people out to find the secret to eternal life. No one did, and Emperor Chin died at age 49. Though a man possesses honor, power and wealth, he is destined to die. Once a human body is destroyed, it cannot be restored again. Because of this, people despair.
If our body is destroyed, is it the end of everything? No. As believers, we have hope. Verse 1b says “…we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” In John 14:1,2 Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms (mansions KJV)....” In the kingdom of God there is no housing problem. Everyone has their own spacious and beautiful house as a free gift from God with no mortgage. Hebrews 11:10 says that the architect and builder is God. It never perishes, spoils or fades; it is eternal (1 Pe 1:4). God constructed this building on the foundation of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which destroys the power of sin and death. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Though our bodies will be destroyed, we have this kind of hope. So we do not lose heart. Instead we live a powerful life full of spirit.
There are two kinds of people in the world. One is those who have hope in this world. The other is those who have hope in the kingdom of God. Those who have hope in this world try to pile up treasures on earth during their lifetime. That is why they are selfish and greedy. They have no room in their hearts to think about others. However, when they die they lose everything. Death snatches away their wealth, power, beauty, and honor, and they can never get it back. However, as Christians we have hope. Those who have this hope have room in their hearts to serve others. They live sacrificially in this world. They live a holy life as pilgrims.
Second, we groan, longing for the heavenly dwelling (2-4). Look at verse 2. “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling....” Here, Paul explains that we groan inwardly. Why do we groan? It is because of the limitation of our earthly body. Though we want to live a holy life, the weakness of our mortal body limits us, and we despair. But this leads us to long for our heavenly dwelling. Usually when people groan it expresses one’s desire to escape hardship. For example, if one cannot find a proper marriage partner, he or she groans. If a student has to stay up late at night to study for an exam, he or she groans. But the groaning Paul mentions is different. It comes from our longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, “because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked” (3). Here, “naked” describes one whose earthly body has died and who is waiting to be clothed with a spiritual body when Jesus comes again. At that time, our bodies will be raised into glorious, spiritual bodies (1 Cor 15:42-44). Paul longed to be clothed with a heavenly dwelling, that what was mortal might be swallowed up by life (4). Why do we need to be clothed in this way? While on earth, we need an earthly body. However, in the heavenly kingdom we need a spiritual body in order to be fitted to live there. Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1Co 15:50). Here we learn that we should not groan only over our wretchedness, but in the great hope that Christ will clothe us with a glorious spiritual body. The groaning of a Christian must be different than that of worldly people who have no hope. Furthermore, We should not avoid hardship with the excuse that we will go to heaven. Instead, with this hope, we must work hard as a stewards of God’s world.
Third, we have the Spirit as a deposit (5). How can we really be sure of this hope? Look at verse 5. “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” Usually we decide that something is trustworthy by looking at the expertise of the one who made it. However, even experts make mistakes. But God never makes mistakes. God is the one who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead. God is almighty God. What is impossible with man is possible with God (Mk 10:27). It is God’s unchanging purpose to give us an eternal house in heaven and a glorious spiritual body. God has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing this. Because we have received the Spirit we can call God our Father. As God’s children we are heirs of God who inherit his kingdom (Ro 8:15-17). When we have this assurance we can go through hardships in this world. So Paul said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed…” (2 Cor 4:8).
II. Live by faith, not by sight (6-10)
In this part Paul teaches us what our life goal should be when we have true hope in the kingdom of God. Look at verse 6. “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” Here, “we are at home in the body and away from the Lord,” refers to living on earth in our mortal bodies. While we live in this world we are always confident that we will live in the heavenly kingdom forever with a glorious spiritual body. Paul stresses that we are “always” confident. That means that we live always with a sense of victory even though we go up and down according to the situation and our own spiritual condition. However, basically we have confidence. It is like the undercurrent of the ocean. Even though the surface waves go up and down, the undercurrent is steady. Those who do not have hope of the kingdom of God always have a sense of defeat. Even though outwardly they seem to be courageous and full of confidence, inwardly they always feel defeated. Finally they will be destroyed by death. But when we have true hope of the kingdom of God in our hearts we will live with a sense of victory. When we see the “Rocky” movies, we know that Rocky Balboa will win the victory in the end. In the process, Rocky is beaten and goes through many hardships. But we never lose heart because we know that finally he will win the victory. Likewise, though sometimes we lose a battle, we know that we will have final victory in the end. So we can always live with a sense of victory in Christ.
Some people think that the kingdom of God is only for the future. It is unproductive and unrealistic. They think that hope in the kingdom of God does not apply to young people but only to old people. But this is not true. The hope of the kingdom of God is closely related to our real life. So those who do not have this true hope are always fearful. But those who have hope in the kingdom of God are always full of confidence and spirit. Their lifestyle is different. Verse 7 says, “We live by faith, not by sight.” The people who do not have true hope in their hearts will live by sight. For example, the people of Noah’s day lived without God. They had no true hope. As a result, when they married, they only looked at the outer appearance and married anyone they chose. The fruit of these marriages looked good. But their inner beings were corrupted and they became violent. This was the main cause of destruction through the Flood. So we should not marry by sight, but by faith.
By faith means we trust God to bless us in the best way and to be responsible for our future. To live by faith means that we should not follow the pattern of this world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” In order to live by faith we must know what God’s will is. In order to know God’s will we have to study the Bible. When we study the Bible we should not just try to get what we want. Rather, we have to listen to what God really wants us to do. Then God will surely guide us into the best way and bless us. People think that to live by faith is a losing job in this pragmatic society. But it is absolutely not a losing job because God blesses those who please him. Paul was absolutely sure about this. So he said in verses 8-9, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” Paul wanted to leave this world and go to be with Jesus as soon as possible. However, whether he lived in this world or went to be with the Lord, his life goal was the same. It was to please God.
Why did he set his life goal to please God? We are created to please God as our life purpose. The Westminister Catechism asks “What is man’s chief end in life?” The answer is: “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” God purchased us with the precious blood of Jesus (1 Cor 6:20). Romans 14:8 says, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” We make it our life goal to please God in whatever we do. So 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” When we say we have to live for the glory of God then many people have a rebellious reaction, saying, “Why should we live for the glory of God instead of pleasing ourselves? Who can please me if I don’t please myself?” But if we try to please ourselves we will be miserable. We will be empty, weary and tired. For example, King Saul in the Old Testament tried to please himself instead of pleasing God. Then God’s Spirit left him and demons occupied him. He became a slave of jealousy and a murderous man. His end was tragic. The Samaritan woman tried to please herself by stealing men’s hearts one after another looking for the perfect husband. She became weary and thirsty and a stench to her townspeople. But when she met Jesus, her life goal was changed. She ran back to her townspeople and witnessed to Christ. Levi the tax collector tried to please himself by making money. He became rich, but he was not happy. He became selfish and greedy. He lost everything: his identity, reputation, and friends as he pleased himself. When he was called to be a disciple of Jesus, his life goal totally changed. He tried to please Jesus. His said: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:33). He was happy and full of spirit.
Then how can we please God? Verse 7 says, “We live by faith, not by sight.” So we must live by faith. Hebrews 11:6 clearly says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” When we do something, motive is important. When we study to get a good grade in order to get a good job or earn a good reputation, surely we study hard. But the motivation is not pleasing God. If one works hard at his job only to be promoted and to make more money, he cannot please God. If one raises their children only for their own honor and glory in the world, it does not please God. If one feeds many sheep in order to gain recognition and be honored by church members, it does not please God. If we do not please God, God will not bless us. However, when we please God by faith, then God will surely bless us in whatever we do. Joseph in the Old Testament, whether he was at home or as a slave or a prisoner or a prime minister, he worked hard by faith to please God. So God blessed him to be a blessing in whatever he did. At one time, Marsha Teodori was sorrowful because she could not have children. Dr. Samuel Lee encouraged her not to dwell in her sorrow, but to please God by teaching the Bible one-to-one. Students responded and her ministry became fruitful. God blessed her with three beautiful children, whom she is rearing by faith. Dr. Alan Wolff helped many UBF members obtain decent jobs at Northwestern, though they did not join his fellowship. He worked to advance the kingdom of God, not his own fellowship. Then God blessed him and made him a fruitful steward of God’s work and gave him a Ph.D. for the glory of God. So let’s pray that we may live to please God.
Verse 10 explains the reason why we should please the Lord. It says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Here the judgment seat of Christ is the seat of final judgment. First of all, the final judgment determines eternal life and eternal condemnation. After that, there is a judgment of rewards among those who are saved. It is the evaluation of how much one works for the Lord. The parable of the talents explains this (Mt 25:14-30). Talents were given to each worker according to their ability. One person received five talents, a second person received two talents, and a third person received one talent. The one with five earned five more, and the one with two earned two more. When the master returned they joyfully presented their profit, saying, “See, I have earned five more!” “See, I have earned two more.” Then the master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” (Mt 25:21) However, the one who didn’t work hard and hid his talent in the backyard for fear that it would be lost, was rebuked by the master: “You wicked and lazy servant!” He took the man’s talent and gave it to the one with ten talents. In the final judgment, even though we Christians are saved from eternal condemnation, God will evaluate what we have done. That is why we have to make it our goal to please him.
In this passage we learned what is our true hope and what our life goal should be. Our true hope is the eternal house which God established through Jesus’ death and resurrection. When we have true hope in our hearts, we will not be crushed or destroyed. We will always be full of confidence. We can live with a sense of victory. We can live by faith, not by sight. We are not deceived by the things we can see. We can make it our life goal to please God. When we please him by faith, God will please us and will surely bless us. We will live the most fruitful and blessed life in this world and finally we will inherit the kingdom of God.