2 Corinthians 5:16-21

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.
17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO 2 CORINTHIANS 5

The apostle, in this chapter, enlarges upon the saints' comfortable assurance, expectation, and desire of the heavenly glory; discourses of the diligence and industry of himself and other Gospel ministers in preaching the word, with the reasons that induced them to it; and closes it with a commendation of the Gospel ministry from the important subject, sum, and substance of it. Having mentioned in the latter part of the, preceding chapter, the eternal weight of glory, the afflictions of the saints are working for, and the invisible realities of that state they are looking to, here expresses the assurance that he and others had of their interest therein; and which he signifies by an edifice, and illustrates it by its opposition to the body, which he compares to an house and tabernacle; the one is man's, the other of God, and not made with hands; the one is earthly, the other in heaven; the one is to be, and will be dissolved, the other is eternal, 2Co 5:1 and therefore it is no wonder that it should be so earnestly desired, as it is said to be in 2Co 5:2 where the desire of it is signified by groaning, which supposes something distressing, and which makes uneasy; and by an earnest longing after deliverance and happiness, and which is explained by a desire to be clothed upon with the house from heaven; where the heavenly glory is not only, as before, compared to an house, but also to a garment, which all those that are clothed with the righteousness of Christ may justly expect to be arrayed with; for these will not be found naked nor remain so, 2Co 5:3 which earnest desire after immortality and glory is more fully explained, 2Co 5:4 in which not only the body, in its present state, is again compared to a tabernacle, and the saints represented as being distressed, and so groaning whilst in it; but the cause of this groaning is suggested, which is a burden they labour under, both of sin and affliction; and yet such is the natural inclination of man to remain in the body, and his unwillingness to part from it, that he does not desire to be stripped of that, but to have the robe of immortality put upon it, that so the present mortality that attends it might be wholly swallowed up in it: and that the saints had reason to believe there was such an happiness to be enjoyed, and that they had such an interest in it is clear; because as God had prepared that for them, he had also wrought and prepared them for that; and besides, had given them his Spirit as the earnest and pledge of it, 2Co 5:5 wherefore, as they were confidently assured of it, and considering that they were but sojourners and strangers whilst in the body, and in the present state of things, and not at home in their Father's house, and absent from Christ, 2Co 5:6 as is evident from their walking by faith in the comfortable assurance, lively hope, and earnest expectation of things future and unseen, and not in the beatific vision of them, 2Co 5:7. Hence they were very desirous, and chose rather to quit their present dwelling, the tabernacle of the body, that they might be at home, and enjoy the presence of the Lord, 2Co 5:8. And this confidence and hope of eternal things wrought in the apostle, and other faithful ministers of the word, great carefulness and diligence to serve the Lord acceptably, and discharge with faithfulness the trust reposed in them, 2Co 5:9 the reason of which concern also, or what likewise animated them to a diligent performance of their duty, was their certain appearance before the judgment seat of Christ; which appearance will be universal, and when there will be a distribution of rewards and punishments to everyone according to his works, 2Co 5:10. And besides, it was not only their own personal concern in this awful affair that engaged them to such a conduct, but the regard they had to the good of immortal souls, to whom the day of judgment must be terrible, unless they are brought to believe in Christ; and for the truth of this they could appeal both to God, and to the consciences of men, particularly the Corinthians, 2Co 5:11. And lest this should be imputed to pride and arrogance, the apostle suggests the reason why he made mention of all this, that they might have wherewith to answer the false teachers, and vindicate the faithful ministers of the Gospel, 2Co 5:12. However, let it be construed which way it will, as the effect of madness or sobriety, this he could with the greatest confidence affirm, that his view was the glory of God, and the good of souls, 2Co 5:13 and to this diligence and faithfulness in preaching the Gospel, he and others were not only moved by their desire and expectation of happiness, by the future judgment in which they must appear, and by their concern for immortal souls, that they might escape the vengeance of that day; but they were constrained thereunto by the love of Christ in dying for them, and in whom they died, 2Co 5:14 the end of which was, that they might live not to themselves, but to him that died and rose again, 2Co 5:15. And as a further instance of their integrity and faithfulness, the apostle observes, that they had no regard to men on account of their carnal descent, and outward privileges, as the Jews; nor even did they consider Christ himself in a carnal view, or esteem of him as a temporal king, as they once did, 2Co 5:16 their sole aims and views being the spiritual good of men, and the advancement of the spiritual interest and kingdom of Christ; and the conclusion from hence is, that whoever is truly in Christ, and in his kingdom, is a new creature, and is in a new world, in a new dispensation, in which both the old things of the law, and of Heathenism, and of his former conversation are gone, and all things in doctrine, worship, and conversation are become new, 2Co 5:17. And from hence the apostle proceeds to a commendation of the Gospel dispensation, and the ministry of it, from its author God, and from the subject matter of it, reconciliation of men to God by Christ, 2Co 5:18 which is more fully explained and enlarged on, both with respect to the efficient cause of reconciliation, the objects of it, and the means and manner in which it is brought about, and also the publication of it in the Gospel by the ministers of it, 2Co 5:19 and who are described as the ambassadors of Christ, acting in the name of God, and as in the stead of Christ, for the good of men, 2Co 5:20. And closes the chapter with an account of the great propitiation, Christ, by whom reconciliation is made; as that he was in himself without sin, and yet was by imputation made sin for sinners, that they, in the same way, might be made righteous in the sight of God through him, 2Co 5:21.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 In-Context

14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.
15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.
17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Gk [according to the flesh]
  • [b]. Gk [according to the flesh]
  • [c]. Or [God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself]
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.