I am leading our pastor’s text study this week, so I thought I’d share with you all the commentary snippets I have collected to share with that group:
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10:
(Proclamation Commentaries: Paul and His Letters, Leander E. Keck): “What does ‘Spirit’ mean in Paul’s thought? To begin with, Paul shares the early Christian understanding of Spirit as eschatological gift of power; the divine presence is a gift received, not an essence released (Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 2:12; Gal. 3:2).
Also he regarded the Spirit as a sign that the New Age is already dawning, and receiving it is a mark of one’s participation in the future. The two metaphors that express this understanding appear to be uniquely Paul’s: down-payment (arrabón; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5) and first fruits…The arrabón is not so much a guarantee (as the RSV renders it) as a pledge (as the EB has); the word used to be rendered ‘earnest’ as in ‘earnest money’ in real estate. Earnest money is paid to indicate that the buyer will complete the transaction without delay…In Pauls’ mouth, both metaphors express the conviction that that Spirit means inauguration, not consummation. Both celebrate the present gift as something that points ahead, as a reality that characterizes Christian life between ‘already’ and ‘not yet.’” p. 98
“The ethical significance of Paul’s theology of body manifests itself throughout his letters…the basic theological position, ‘The body is not meant for immortality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.’ (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Paul provides several warrants for this. (1) ‘God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?’ Paul’s rationale seems to be the following: (a) Christ’s resurrection transformed him (as sóma/self). (b) His resurrection is the prototype of the resurrection to come, of Christian somatic selves. (c) Christ’s present Lordship lays a claim on the body/self, destined for resurrection. (2) Because body equals self, Paul can express this claim by saying that the sóma of the Christian is an organ (‘member’) in the body of Christ. (3) ‘Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.’ The mortal body/self is not a prison for the Spirit but its shrine. The body/self does not inhibit the Spirit; the Spirit, being stronger, sanctifies the body/self. Sanctification is not an intense religious experience but a moral process which hallows the self. (4) ‘You are not your own; you were bought with a price’ – a metaphor derived from the slave market. Redemption means belonging to Christ, whose death was the (implied) price paid. So the moral meaning of having the Spirit is the imperative: ‘Glorify God in your body’ – the actual selves you are. Paul’s ethics is body-ethics.” pp. 105-106
(Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: II Corinthians, Frederick W. Danker): “In short, Paul is not concerned about winning cheap laurels from human beings in the present time. As he will state in 5:9, his constant aim is to ‘please’ God. And it is God who will reward him amply for his labors. Everything connected with the present is transitory. Paul wants to possess the things that will abide forever…There is no suggestion in 2 Cor. 4:17 that one can improve a relationship with God through virtuous performance. Such a perception would have nullified Paul’s strong protest against attempts to make bargains with God (cf Rom. 3:20), for reconciliation is God’s gift to the world (2 Cor. 5:19)” p. 69
“Facing the fact that death may take place before the return of Jesus Christ, [Paul] states that God will remedy the problem of present dissolution with a dwelling that is not subject to the vicissitudes of time…The life of resurrected body is in continuity with the Spirit-life in the mortal body. Therefore, when the body dies, the person is not found ‘naked,’ for the Spirit-life is not doffed in the process. Rather, there is more to put on; that is, God guarantees that we will be further clothed.” pp.70-71
“Confident that God will not be remiss in generosity, Paul goes on to explain that God “equips” (has prepared) us for the very goal of realizing the glorious expectation of fullness of life in the Spirit…To that end God gives us the Spirit as a guarantee or down payment for the future.” p. 74
“A few sentences earlier [Paul] wrote about groaning. Now he writes about courage, as he ponders the significance of one of the most important words in his vocabulary – faith. In Paul’s thought faith or commitment is intimately linked with uprightness… [through faith] the way is cleared for the Holy Spirit to create the new life of uprightness…Paul’s pneumatology is intimately connected with his Christology. His thoughts about the Spirit-filled and Spirit-permeated life are dictated by his understanding of the role of Jesus Christ in salvation.” p. 74
“The Greek word that underlies the phrase ‘what they have done’ connotes policy. The term good (agathon) refers to quality performance that in some way benefits others. The term evil (phaulon) denotes that which is substandard. Paul in effect says that Christ will judge whether one’s conduct was first or second class, of value to the public or self-centered. And the body is the instrument for production…In view of their familiarity with the Greco-Roman custom of recognition of public-spirited citizens, Paul’s Corinthians addressees would feel the persuasive force of the apostle’s line of argument, and they would agree, ‘We certainly do not want to appear before Christ as second-class performers.’” p.76
(The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul Barnett): “Paul began to develop his teaching on the believers’ hope of glory at 3:12, as amplified in the ‘we all…are being transformed’ in 3:18. This universal transformation of the messianic people is picked up in their general resurrection (4:14) at which ‘we all’ must be made manifest at the tribunal of Christ (5:10). In a word, 4:16-5:10 engages in theological reflection on his
and their present and future.
Paul sets this out as an overarching eschatological contrast between this age, which is temporary and whose elements are visible, and that age which is to come, which is eternal and whose elements are as yet invisible (4:17-18). The present age ends and the coming age begins at that point when God ‘raises us…and presents us’ to Jesus (4:14), when we will be ‘made manifest’ at his seat of judgment (5:10). The general resurrection/judgment is the point at which the present age ends and the coming age begins. That moment is the hinge around which those eschatological ages turn.
Corresponding to and contingent upon this eschatological dualism is an anthropological dualism. The outer person (exo anthropos), who belongs to the present age, is wasting away, while the inner person (eso anthropos), who belongs to the coming age, is being renewed (4:16). The contrast between the two ages, present and coming, and between the outer and the inner person, is the source of powerful antitheses that characterize the majority of the verses in this passage. Whereas the eschatological dualism hinges on the general
resurrection, the anthropological dualism is created by the eschatological Spirit, whom God gives now as a ‘deposit, guaranteeing what is to come’ (5:5). It is the Spirit who creates the sense that the ‘outer person’ is ‘wasting away’ and the ‘inner person’ is ‘being renewed.’” p. 246
“Consistent with his insistence that, as yet, ‘we are at home in the body’ and therefore ‘are away from the Lord’ Paul canvasses the possibility that death, with its nakedness and bodily divestiture (5:1, 3, 4), could precede the arrival of the new age, though this is not his preference (5:8). It would be ‘far better’ to be ‘clothed upon’ with a heavenly dwelling at the onset of the end time than to be found naked — bodiless — at death, ‘far better’ to be ‘away from the body’ and present ‘with the Lord.’ If the dead will be ‘changed’ by resurrection (cf, I Cor. 15:52), the living — Paul’s concern in this passage — will also be changed at the resurrection by transfiguration, by the superimposition of a dwelling/garment from heaven. Thus while ‘we have a building from God,’ as God’s sure promise to be fulfilled at the general resurrection, we do ‘not yet’ have it in our present experience within this age.
How do we live in the time between ‘now’ and ‘not yet’? Against possible romantic or ethically minimal attitudes from a superspiritual worldview Paul’s attitude toward this ‘in-between’ time is carefully balanced. On
the one hand, there is to be confidence, based on the certainty of God’s purposes for those who are ‘in Christ’ (5:1, 6, 8), Of particular interest are the resumptives in this passage — ‘therefore we do not lose heart’ (4:16), ‘for we know . . .’ (5:1), ‘therefore we are always confident’ (5:6), ‘therefore we make it our goal”— which maintain the trajectory of hope. On the other hand, there is the sober recognition that we ‘groan’ with hope mingled with pain, like a woman in the pain of childbirth (5:2, 4); at the same time, however, God has given the Spirit as a ‘deposit, guaranteeing what is to come’ (5:5), Moreover, Paul sounds the strong ethical note that believers must seek to please the Lord, in light of his judgment tribunal at which all that they have done — whether good or evil — will be brought to light (5:9-10).” p. 248