Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Second Corinthians 5 continues the description of the New Testament ministers. This description began in 3:12 with the word concerning their constitution. In chapter four we see the way these ministers conduct themselves (4:1-6), and we have a record regarding their living (4:7-18). They were constituted of the Triune God, they conducted themselves in such a way as to shine out the gospel of the glory of Christ, and they lived a crucified life for the manifestation of resurrection life. In 5:1-8 we see another characteristic: their longing to be clothed upon with the transfigured body.
As the ministers of the new covenant were conducting themselves according to their inner constitution and living a crucified life for the manifestation of resurrection life, they were longing, desiring, aspiring, to be clothed upon with the transfigured body. This means that they were longing for the redemption of their body. Their spirit had been regenerated and their soul had been renewed and transformed, but there was still a problem related to the fallen, mortal body. This body was a burden to them. They sighed, groaned, under this burden. They did not have any problems in their spirit or in their soul. Their soul had been constituted of the divine element. But they still had a problem with the mortal body.
In God’s full and complete salvation, there is a matter which takes care of our mortal body. This is transfiguration. Transfiguration changes our mortal body into a body of glory, just like the resurrected body of the Lord Jesus. This aspect of God’s salvation is very promising; it is the hope of glory.
After giving us a clear view of how the new covenant ministers have been constituted of the Triune God and how they conduct themselves for the shining of the gospel and live a crucified life, Paul goes on to speak of their longing to have the fallen body redeemed. In this Epistle, however, Paul does not speak of the redemption of our body, a term used in Romans 8. Rather, he chooses another kind of word, a somewhat deeper expression.
Second Corinthians 5:1 says, “For we know that if our earthly tabernacle house is taken down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.” “For” indicates that what is to be mentioned is an explanation of what is spoken of in 4:13-18. In this chapter the apostle tells us of the apostles’ aspiration for the redemption of their body (Rom. 8:23), their ambition to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9-15), and their commission from the Lord for His new creation (vv. 16-21). They cared for the things that are not seen, not for the things that are seen.
The word “earthly” in verse 1 does not mean made of earth; it means upon the earth. The word “tabernacle” indicates that our physical body, in which our person dwells, is not only for living, but also for worshipping God (see 1 Cor. 6:19). The word “building” denotes a building with a foundation, not like a tabernacle without a foundation. This building is from, or out of, God, a “house” that is our spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44). In contrast to something upon the earth, it is a house in the heavens.
The expression “tabernacle house” is unusual. Our body is a house and also a tabernacle. The word house indicates that the body is our dwelling place, and the word tabernacle indicates that this house is a temporary dwelling place. It is not a building with a foundation, but a tabernacle similar to the one erected in the wilderness. As Paul indicates, some day this tabernacle-house will be taken down. Here Paul does not simply say that our mortal body will die. Instead, he speaks of the earthly tabernacle-house being taken down. When this happens, we shall have a building from God, not another tabernacle. This building will be solid and will have a foundation. Furthermore, this house is not heaven, but it is in the heavens in contrast to upon the earth.
This building will be our resurrected, transfigured body, the spiritual body mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15. Today our body is a soulish one, but one day it will be transfigured into a spiritual body. As a soulish body, it is now animated by the soul. When it becomes a spiritual body, it will be directed by the spirit. That building will become our house, a house not made with human hands, but a house from God in the heavens.
In verse 2 Paul says, “For indeed in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our dwelling place from heaven.” The word “this” refers to the tabernacle in verse 1. To be clothed upon is to be transfigured and conformed to the body of Christ’s glory. The apostles were longing for this. Our dwelling place from heaven, or out of heaven, refers to the house in the heavens in verse 1.
In our spirit we rejoice and in our body we groan. If you want to rejoice, get into the spirit. But if you want to groan or sigh, remain in the body. As Paul says, in the body we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our dwelling place from heaven. Since we have not experienced this kind of clothing, we cannot say much about it. We know what it is to rejoice in the spirit and to groan in the body, but we do not know what it is to be clothed upon with the resurrected, spiritual, heavenly body. But according to what is prophesied in the New Testament, we shall eventually be clothed with such a body. This is one item in the New Testament, in the will. I have the full confidence this will happen, and I am waiting for it.
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