Pleasing the Right One   Leave a comment

The Apostle Paul’s aim was to be a faithful witness of the gospel among the Gentiles. Yet, he was not what the Greeks would consider an astounding speaker. One could even say that he was the opposite of a good Greek speaker. Yet, he was faithful in spreading the gospel amongst Gentile cities, including Corinth. After some time, false teachers had crept in and were trying to turn the Corinthians’ hearts away from Paul by claiming that he was not a true apostle.

Image result for image of an eternal dwelling placeThe appeal which Paul makes in theses verses is that his ministry, as an apostle, is not discredited because of his weak appearance. Paul had a hope that even though his ministry had taken such a toll on his body, he had a future resurrection that he was going to partake of. And such a hope gave him courage to press on in faithful ministry.

For we know that if our earthly housethe tent we live in, is dismantled, we have a building from Goda house not built by human handsthat is eternal in the heavensFor in this earthly house we groanbecause we desire to put on our heavenly dwellingif indeedafter we have put on our heavenly house, we will not be found naked. For we groan while we are in this tent, since we are weighed down, because we do not want to be unclothedbut clothedso that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is Godwho gave us the Spirit as a down payment. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

In chapter 4 verse 7 Paul began contrasting the treasure of the message found in verses 4-6 of the same chapter to the frailty of the minister, “We have this treasure (the ministry) in jars of clay (the minister, i.e. himself)” (4:7). What follows in verses 8-15 are the afflictions which Paul experienced in his ministry. While the message that he carried was glorious, the trials that the ministry put him through were harsh. He got through these trials by looking back to meeting the resurrected Jesus and forward to his own coming resurrection.

Even though Paul suffered through tribulations, the ministry was being accomplished. The Corinthians came to accept the gospel.  Paul had completed this ministry of unveiling eyes to the glory of the Lord (3:1-18) among the Corinthians. He had seen the gospel do its work in their lives. He sold himself out for them. All the afflictions listed through this section was all for their sakes (15a). He poured himself out so that they could be recipients and benefactors of this veil removing ministry and He knows that they will be present with him at the resurrection of Christ.

Now Paul shifted from speaking about his ministry to his weakness of appearance. He had made this sacrifice of ministry even though it had taken a toll on His body. The key to understanding what is going on in this context is found in 5:12. His deteriorating physical condition and shameful plight caused some in Corinth to wonder out loud about his power as an apostle. The false teachers were attacking Paul on the grounds that He was weak in appearance and a minister of a covenant more glorious than Moses’ covenant could be expected to be a glorious figure. Some in the ancient world interpreted affliction as a sign of a god’s judgment and as something dishonorable. Whatever the specific reason was, the false apostles were attacking Paul about his appearance. Apparently the Corinthians were beginning to accept these charges. Could they really trust a person that had such a weak appearance?

Paul knew the truth about this world. Physical decay and abuse are not reasons to doubt one’s ministry. On the contrary”, the abuse of his body in the present was no comparison to the glory which he would receive. The afflictions of this age were preparing him for a coming glory which cannot be compared to anything on this earth (4:17). Paul kept his vision located on the future where eternal things reside (18).

 

Verses 1-5 are about a future dwelling with the Lord when one dies. The gaze of the Christian should be on what is eternal. Paul looked ahead to the resurrection which he had talked about in his first letter to the Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). There Paul discusses the resurrection from the dead. Regarding the body Paul refers to it as dying in “weakness”, “natural”, and “from earth” from verse 42-47.Both talk about being clothed when the believer dies. Both speak about the body as perishing. And both end the section alluding to the same passage in Isaiah 25:8.

Following the context of the pervious verse Paul is obviously talking about the eternal things which He looked to. There is a clear contrast going on through these passages.  Looking at the terms Paul used we can see the resurrection being describe. The first term that he employs is a “tent” (οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους).  Our present bodies are like a tent. A tent “is a common picture of the earthly life and its setting in the body.” Using the tent imagery, “describes only the instability, and thus the vulnerability, of one’s mortal existence.”

Then, opposed to this weak tent, the believer will receive an eternal dwelling. There have been many proposals to what the term οἰκοδομὴν means here. Thrall lists nine different understandings of this term:

  1. An individual resurrection body.
  2. A heavenly habitation in the sense of the dwelling mentioned in John 14:2.
  3. An interim heavenly body, received immediately after death.
  4. A kind of spiritual garment, received in baptism, worn beneath the ‘garment’ of the material body and preserved beyond the grave.
  5. The body of Christ.
  6. The heavenly temple.
  7. The resurrection body of Christ.
  8. An image of the glory of the eschatological age.
  9. The heavenly dimension of present existence.

Yet, the most agreed-upon immediate meaning would be the spiritual body one would receive at the resurrection.Thus, while the body that Paul possessed would be destroyed, an eternal body was waiting for Him in the future.

The final question we have to ask concerns the meaning of the word “γυμνοὶ” in verse 3. The verse begins be stating that by putting on[29] this heavenly dwelling we may not be found “naked”. So the meaning of “naked” has direct influence on the understanding of the previous terms.

There are three main understandings of this term. It is either understood as “homeless,” “garmentless,” or “bodiless.” The understanding of “homeless” is to use architectural language which matches the terms “tent” and “building” in verses 1-2. But this understanding can be dismissed due to the fact that the word does not carry such a meaning.

The term “garment” would be used to covey a moral view. Meaning, Paul does not want to be found being guilty of sin before God.Two problems become apparent with this suggestion,  however. The first is that moral judgment is not in the immediate context. We do not see judgment until verse 10. So, where it could be a possibility, it isn’t our first choice since the theme of mortal judgment is not found in the immediate context. The second problem is that the correlating word used in verse 4, ἐκδύσασθαι, is unquestionably referring to resurrection. Because when one is clothed, the mortal (τὸ θνητὸν) is swallowed up by life (τῆς ζωῆς). And such language conveys a resurrection, not a moral standing.

Thus, the “bodiless” understanding is the best.[34] It fits with the over all context of resurrection. It, also, fits with the specific terms Paul uses in this section. Thus Paul is saying that by putting on this heavenly dwelling he will not be found in a bodiless state. [35] So, Paul is looking forward to the day when he will receive his resurrection body.

Paul used the metaphor of buildings and clothing to describe the future resurrection that awaited him. When Paul wrote that he was currently living in a ἡ ἐπίγειος οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους we understand him saying that he lived in a fragile body. Yet he knew that when the tent was destroyed he would posses a οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ θεοῦ which is a future resurrected body. And because he knew he would posses it, there was no fear that he would be γυμνοὶ, or bodiless.

Therefore, while some may consider a battered and bruised body something to be ashamed of, Paul saw it as only temporary, because he looked forward to a heavenly dwelling that would clothe him for eternity.

Therefore we are always full of courageand we know that as long as we are alive here on earth we are absent from the Lord  for we  live by faithnot by sight. Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So then whether we are alive or awaywe make it our ambition to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christso that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the bodywhether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Because of the future hope that was before him Paul could make it his aim to be pleasing to God. In verses 6-10 Paul expressed the courage which he had because of this promise and what he was working toward before he reached that hope. He could give himself to gospel ministry because of this future hope, which was a base for the courage to do his ministry.

Paul had a courage to accomplish the ministry which streams from the faith on the guarantee of the Spirit. Paul was still in this temporary body and not with the Lord, but the promise was enough for him to keep going forward. Paul expressed having faith in the promises of God and not on what he saw. He could face the afflictions upon his body by the ministry because he was confident that God would supply a superior replacement for his body. Thus, courage fills Paul as he performs his calling as an apostle.

Paul’s courage was directed at the single aim to be well pleasing to Jesus so that he could stand confidently before the judgment seat of Christ. Whatever his condition, Paul sought to be pleasing in his actions. This is completely contrary to the critics who would try to discount him based on weak appearance. For Paul, what ultimately mattered was God’s view of his ministry, not man’s, because it would be before Christ’s judgment seat where the deeds done in the body would be judged as to whether they were good or bad.

 

 

Safety, security, and peacefulness are words that can describe too much of American evangelicalism. We think of preachers, we see them nicely dressed in the attire we deem appropriate — whether it be a two-piece suit or shorts with a T-shirt. We want them to look the way we want them to look. Given those reasons Paul would probably be an outcast in our churches. He was not safe, and he did not look the part.

Image result for image of the bema seat judgmentYet, that is how true gospel ministry is suppose to look. We’re supposed to give ourselves to the glory of God and love people by telling them the gospel message, even when it hurts. Paul understood that. His eyes were centered on being well-pleasing to God and his heart was poured out for the Corinthians. He did this no matter if it took him to places where he abounded in material things or to places where death seemed imminent.

The encouragement that was set before him in all of this was the hope of the resurrection. He knew that the suffering, caused by being faithful to God, would be compensated in full by his Lord. Thus, he pressed on no matter how much it cost.

Posted January 28, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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