2 Corinthians 5:5 ~ 20181104 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/04_2 Corinthians 5:5; Prepared For This Very Thing; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181104_2cor5_5.mp3
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul is looking to the resurrection. He speaks of what he knows, and he speaks of his desires, his preferences. He knows (v.1)
This he knows. But in this passage he also expresses his desires. He says that he is groaning in this (v.2), he is groaning under the burden (v.4). He groans because he has a strong desire to put on over this his dwelling from heaven (v.2). His will is not to be unclothed but to be clothed on over (v.4) in order that that which is subject to death would be swallowed up by life.
He knows (v.6) that to be at home in this body is to be away from home; away from the Lord. And his desire (v.8) is to be away from home; away from this body and at home with the Lord.
Paul's ultimate desire is for the resurrection, which he knows will happen when Christ returns. His desire is not to be without a body. But he would rather be with the Lord in the bodiless intermediate state than in his earthly body and away from the Lord. To be with the Lord is what matters. To be with the Lord in his resurrection body is the best; but to be absent from the body and present with the Lord is better than remaining in the earthly body.
Paul has his eyes fixed on what he can't see. His perspective is eternal. We see a similar hope in Hebrews 11.
And he gives as examples Abel, Enoch, Noah, and then Abraham and Sarah, who lived in tents,
Then he says:
They had their eyes fixed on what they did not see, they looked forward to the promise. He continues with the examples of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets;
They died in faith. They died not having received the things promised. They were strangers and exiles seeking a homeland. They had their eyes fixed on the eternal, the heavenly. This is amazing. They didn't receive the promise because of us; God had prepared something better for us. Not without us will they be completed or made perfect. Not without us. God has prepared something better for us. In Hebrews, the 'something better' are all the New Covenant realities that we have in Jesus, which would include the promise of being with him when we die, and then at the second coming, being with him in glorified resurrection bodies.
Last time we looked at the big picture of these verses, 1 Corinthians 5:1-10 and the biblical and theological framework and categories that shape Paul's thought. Today I want to focus our attention on verse 5, and the rich treasures it holds for us.
This Very Thing
First, we have to ask, what is 'this very thing'? What is it that we are being prepared for? This very thing looks back to the end of verse 4:
What we are prepared for is that which is mortal and subject to death being swallowed up by life. This word 'swallowed up' could be translated 'to drink down or gulp down'.
This phrase echoes what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:54, where he also proclaimed our bodily resurrection.
There he uses the same metaphor of perishable mortality putting on imperishable immortality like clothing, and then he quotes Isaiah 25:8 that “Death is swallowed up in victory.” But here in 2 Corinthians he goes further. Life doesn't just beat death or overcome death; life gulps down mortality; life consumes that which is subject to death. Life eats death for breakfast.
This is what we are prepared for; these dying bodies being swallowed up and transformed by life. We are prepared for the 'if' of verse 1;
We do not lose heart, we are of good courage, even in the face of persecution and death, because we know; because we have been prepared for this very thing.
Who Prepares Us?
We have to pay attention in this verse to who it is that prepares us. We don't prepare ourselves for this. We can't. We can't prepare each other for this. 'God' comes at the end of the phrase for emphasis. It is God. Only God can prepare us for this tent being taken down; this mortality being swallowed up by life.
The word translated 'prepared us' is very interesting. It is the same word he used back in 4:17.
There we saw that this word is an active word; it means to work fully or accomplish. Our afflictions are actually doing something. They are working for us a surpassingly surpassing eternal weight of glory. Afflictions are accomplishing something; they are making us what we were meant to be; they are working in us glory.
Here we see the one who is behind the afflictions wielding them as a master craftsman to work glory in us. 'Now the one who has worked us into this very thing is God.' God is doing something. God is fully active in us, accomplishing his plans for us. It is God who is making us into what we ought to be.
And when we put these two verses together, we see that God is working a surpassing weight of eternal glory in us through the light momentary afflictions of this mortal existence. Our mortality is being swallowed up by life through the sufferings we experience. Paradoxically, eternal life is worked in us through our carrying around death in these fragile earthen vessels. And it is God who is doing it.
How? The Gift of the Spirit
This seems so contradictory! How has God fully accomplished in us the swallowing up of our mortality by life? And how can he speak of it as already accomplished, in the past tense? He has prepared us; he has fully worked and finished this in us. The next phrase tells us how.
God worked this in us by giving us the downpayment of the Spirit. A downpayment is the initial installment that guarantees more to come. If you win the lottery, or if you have been promised an inheritance, when you get that first check in your hand, when you receive the first installment, you experience in a different way that this is real. You may have heard from credible sources that it was coming to you, and you believed, but when the first installment is in your possession, it is tangible. This is how we should respond to the gift of the Spirit. We have been made heirs of eternal life. We have been given reconciliation with God through the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are promised joy in his presence forever. But upon believing, we have been given the Spirit. God the Holy Spirit has come to live in us, never to leave us. Ephesians 1 tells us
When we heard the good news of Jesus and believed in him, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit marks us as belonging to him.
There is more to come; 'now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face' (1Cor.13:12). There is so much more to come, but we have been given so much already!
And notice, the Spirit is given. He is not earned. We do not make ourselves worthy enough to receive him. There is nothing we could ever do to make ourselves fit to receive him. It is God who made us for this; it is God who gave his Spirit to us. He is given. He is a gift. This is all grace.
This 'guarantee of the Spirit', this 'downpayment' is a word we have seen already in 2 Corinthians. In chapter 1, we saw that all the promises of God are 'Yes' in Jesus Christ,
God establishes us in Christ, he has anointed us, he has sealed us, and he has given us the downpayment of the Spirit.
In the context of the hope of the resurrection and our current groaning while at home in the body and away from the Lord, the downpayment of the Spirit means that God has given us part of himself as a promise of more to come. We long to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better, and yet God has already worked in us the swallowing up of our mortality with life and has given us the guarantee of the Spirit.
This is astounding! We long to be with Jesus, but when Jesus was here on earth, he told his disciples:
It is better to have the Spirit than it was to have Jesus physically present before his death and resurrection. It was to the disciples' advantage that Jesus was taken from them. But the Spirit who is the downpayment will never be taken away. And it is far better now, having the Spirit, to depart and be with Christ.
Tying it All Together
It is as if Paul has pulled on some threads and left them hanging, and now he is picking them all up and tying them all together into something beautiful. He takes the thread of mortality being swallowed up from 1 Corinthians 15:54, and the thread of afflictions working in us a weight of glory from 2 Corinthians 4:17, and the thread of the downpayment of the Spirit from 2 Corinthians 1:22 and he ties them all together here.
God is using our afflictions to dig deep in us the reservoir of joy. God has prepared us, remade us for this very thing; to be swallowed up by life. To put off these mortal perishable bodies and to be clothed with the immortal imperishable spiritual bodies. Not yet are we experiencing this eternal weight of glory. Not yet are we absent from the body and present with the Lord. Not yet have we been fully clothed. But we do already have the downpayment, the guarantee. We already have the gift of the Spirit.
God has prepared us for this very thing; to be swallowed up in life, ultimately to be with the Lord Jesus forever. God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee. Father, Son and Spirit, together working in us, by grace fitting us for eternal joy in their presence. We are made for this.
What carries more weight for you today? What matters more to you? What you can see, or the unseen reality that is prepared for you and that you have been prepared for? Are you enjoying the gift of the Spirit that you have, and is that enjoyment causing you to groan, longing for a more intimate relationship with Jesus?
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org