2 Corinthians


4. The character of Paul's ministry, 3:1-6:13

v] Eternal in dimension


In the passage before us, Paul extends to his readers the dual idea of living with death and life. They too live with the eschatological reality of the now and not-yet, the hinge being the day of resurrection and judgment. This reality imposes itself on the life of a believer who experiences, on the one hand, a wasting away, a fading of their life, their tent-house, but on the other hand, the presence of the Holy Spirit who is for them a foretaste of the age to come and of the resurrection life, of that heavenly-house which will be theirs.


i] Context: See 3:1-6.


ii] Background: See 1:1-7.


iii] Structure: Eternal in dimension:

Suffering and death in the present prepares us for glory to come, v16-18:

Outwardly wasting away in contrast to spiritual renewal, v16;

A moment of suffering in contrast to eternal glory, v17;

A temporary sensual experience in contrast to an eternal spiritual reality, v18.

The glory of a future beyond death - the resurrection body, v1-5:

A statement of faith - a body, not made with hands, awaits us, 5:1;

The deep-seated desire ("groan") to be housed in our new body, v2-5.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul continues to defend the character of his apostolic ministry, and as he does so, deals with the subject of death and it's consequence for believers. He strives to counter the criticism that his ministry is ignoble, not in any way comparable to the ministry of Moses. "Paul's intention is to demonstrate yet again that his apostolic career is nothing other than a visual representation of the principle that there must be death before resurrection, and that the grave is the cradle of life", Naylor.


Paul's view of the resurrection in this passage: In the eschatology of the NT, the resurrection consists of a future rising from the dead of all believers on the day of judgment. Dodd, among others, has argued that in this passage Paul adopts the Greek idea of a rising of the human spirit at death. This is unlikely since Paul views a person's being as a united whole, not something made up of separate entities which can be parted at death. A person, their body and soul, is a united whole - dying, rising and transformed as a whole. In this passage Paul is arguing against an overly-realized eschatology evident in the Corinthian fellowship rather than developing a full-blown doctrine of the last-things.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:16

Present distress and future glory, 4:16-5:5: i] A future beyond suffering and death, v16-18. Paul reinforces his strength-in-weakness theme by explaining that "the re-creation of the inner person is in prospect of the coming age of eternal, weighty glory, which suffering of the present time is preparing for [us]", Barnett. This renewal can only be seen through the eyes of faith. Seen from without, there is only decay and corruption; seen from within, there is change and renewal. It is important to note that Paul is not pushing a Platonic dualism of body and soul at this point. He is not suggesting that the body is a cage for the soul, and once decayed, the soul is able to break free and be united with the cosmic force of the Universe. Paul is speaking of the whole person, outwardly withering while at the same time bursting into new life.

dio "therefore" - Drawing a logical conclusion based on v13-15. Because Paul believes that the one who raised Jesus to life will raise him also, "therefore we do not lose heart."

all (alla) "though" - [we do not lose heart] but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ....., but .....". "Therefore, we do not lose heart, but rather, although our outward self is progressively decaying, our inward self is being renewed day by day."

ei "although" - if [and = indeed as is the case, our outward person is decaying, then (all, "but", serves here as an intensifying correlative conjunction, "then we know full well that") our inward person is being renewed day and day]. Introducing a conditional clause 1st class where the condition is assumed to be true. "The inner person is subject to incessant renewal in prospect of the hope of glory in the coming age", Barnett.

kai "-" - and. Here probably emphatic; "if indeed ...."

exw adv. "outwardly" - outside, out. This adverb is being used here as an adjective; "outward man."

hJmwn gen. pro. "we" - of us. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "which belongs to us." The expression is unique, so also "the inward man of us."

hJmera/ kai hJmera dat. "day by day" - [but our inward man is being renewed] to day and to day. As long as life on earth endures. The dative is temporal; a colloquial Hebraism according to Bultman.


And this wasting away, with all its troubles and afflictions, actually serves to shape a renewal in our lives which finally leads to glorification. Affliction schools us for eternity, shapes us into the image of Jesus. The troubles Paul has in mind are not just the bitter-sweet experiences of life, but also the troubles that come our way as followers of Christ. Our sufferings for Christ range from persecution through to the difficulties of discipleship. Paul is in no way suggesting that such troubles earn us salvation, there is no merit in suffering, rather the troubles of life burn out the dross of our lives; troubles shape us for eternity, or as Joe Cocker put it, "troubles lift us up to where we belong."

gar "for" - More reason than cause, explaining the connection between the outer self wasting away and the inner self being renewed, and therefore best left untranslated; "We have our troubles, but they are transitory", Barclay.

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - [the present lightness of the affliction] of us. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, or verbal objective, of the troubles that act upon us.

thV qliyewV (iV ewV) gen. "troubles" - of the afflictions, distress. The genitive is adjectival, attributed, as NIV. Thrall notes that an abstract noun with a dependent genitive is a classical and hellenistic idiom sometimes found in Paul. Paul certainly likes to work the genitive, often piling one upon another. "Our afflictions are light in nature."

katergazetai (katergazomai) pres. "achieving" - works, prepares, makes. The NIV's translation of the verb is suspect. Troubles do not achieve for us eternal glory. The ESV's "affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory", is closer to the mark. For Paul, affliction and glory go hand in hand due to a believers identification with Christ; "it is because a believer is united with Christ that glory follows suffering, since this is what happened in the case of Christ himself", Thrall. "These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory", CEV.

hJmin dat. "for us" - to us. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV.

doxhV (a) "an eternal glory" - [an eternal weight] of glory, brightness, splendor, radiance. The genitive is adjectival, probably attributed, as NIV; "a superlative and eternal glory", Barclay. The word is regularly used to image God's divinity and sovereignty, and thus for the believer there lies before us a transformation into divine likeness. The language used in the verse implies present affliction with future glory, but of course, glory does seep into the present.

kaq uJperbolhn "that far outweighs them all" - from what is exceeding [to what is exceeding]. As with eiV uJperbolhn, this prepositional phrase is adverbial, modal, modifying the verb katergazetai, "works / are achieving." Both phrases are best taken together expressing the sense "out of all proportion", Barrett, "beyond all comparison", Furnish, RSV, ESV; "incomparable, indeed immeasurable", Zerwick.


So, rather than being focused on our present frailty with all its afflictions, we focus on eternity and on the glory we are about to share.

skopountwn hJmwn gen. "so we fix our eyes" - we looking at, fixing one's eyes upon. This unusual relative substantival genitive absolute construction serves to make the pronoun hJmwn, "we", emphatic; "we are those who look at." The genitive absolute construction here is sometimes treated as causal, "so / because", Barnett, or temporal, "as we look", Thrall, "while we look", AV, or an accompanying circumstance to v17, or even conditional, "the suffering will be light provided that ...", Chrysostom. Long suggests result. "As we look to the things that are seen", ESV.

ta blepomena (blepw) pres. pas. part. "[not] on what is seen" - [we are not looking at] the things being seen. The participle serves as a substantive.

alla "but" - but [the things not being seen]. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ...., but ...."

gar "since" - for, because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why believers are not focused on the things that are seen.

proskaira adj. "is temporary" - [the things begin seen are] temporary, transient, lasts only for a time, fleeting. Predicate adjective of an assumed verb to-be. "For the things that are seen last only for their brief moment", Barclay.

aiwnia adj. "eternal" - [but/and the things being seen are] eternal. Predicate adjective of an implied verb to-be. Here probably used in the sense of "permanent." "It is the things which are unseen that endure forever", Cassirer.


ii] The groaning, v1-5. The future beyond death (v1-10) does not remove the struggles of the present age, due to which "we groan and are burdened." So, in these verses Paul "draws a further contrast between earthly existence and its decay and anxieties, and the invisible and eternal sphere upon which his attention is fixed, and he affirms his confidence in face of the tension between these two realities", Thrall. Paul uses the imagery of the wilderness wanderings to describe the old and the new self. The old is like a tent in the wilderness, an impermanent building suitable for camp life. The new is like a permanent building in the promised land. In that new land we will receive a "tabernacle not made with hands", Heb.9:11. Ambrose explains it in these words: "this house signifies the immortal body in which, when we rise again, we shall ever be, and the form of which is already made clear in the body of the Lord of Heaven."

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause further explaining why "we fix our eyes ... on what is unseen", namely, because our permanent home is in heaven. Best left untranslated; "Our present body is like a tent ....", Barclay.

oJti "that" - [we know] that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what "we know." The "we", as usual, may refer to Paul and his missionary team, Paul and the other apostles, just Paul himself (the royal plural), or possibly even "we all."

ean + subj. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, .... then [we have a building from God, ......]"

tou skhnouV (oV) gen. "[the earthly] tent [we live in]" - [the earthly house of us] of the tent of us [is destroyed]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "house", "tent house", with hJmwn, "our", a possessive genitive; "our tent house upon the earth." Long suggests that it is epexegetic; "if our earthly house, the tent, is destroyed." The word "tent" is probably used to indicate the impermanence of "the house", although in Greek literature the word is often used of "the body", the receptacle of the soul. The idea that the "tent house" is a receptacle for the soul is unlikely, rather the image signifies a person's being, their "total earthly existence", Thrall. "If our temporary house of flesh should be destroyed", Junkins.

ecomen (ecw) pres. "we have" - we have [a house]. Introducing the apodosis of the conditional clause. Often a future tense is used in a 3rd. class condition, but here we have a present tense. Possibly the present tense is futuristic, although Paul's realized now / not-yet eschatology applies - the "house" is already built and waiting for us (is this "house" our Tardis or are we the Tardis? The mind boggles!). Harris surveys the full range of options of our having this spiritual body ("eternal house", God-given building): a) Present possession of the spiritual body, either in heaven, or on earth in embryonic form; b) Future acquisition of the spiritual body, either at death, or in reality / as an ideal possession actualized at the parousia, or at the parousia. Harris opts for b) at death, although b) at the parousia, seems more likely. Of course, given the now / not-yet realities of the kingdom, there is a sense where we already possess our spiritual body / self, seated as we are, with Christ Jesus in the heavenly places, Eph.2:6. Time is a divine construct for our age.

ek + gen. "from" - from [god]. Expressing source / origin.

aiwnion adj. "an eternal [house]" - [not made with hands] permanent, eternal. Standing in apposition to "building". The image of an eternal heavenly habitation has prompted endless speculation. Thrall actually lists 9 prominent interpretations. She takes the view that the image is being used for the individual resurrection body, the new spiritual self, cf. 1Cor.15:44, so also Barnett, Naylor, Harris, although note how many translations follow the John 14:2 line, cf., Martin. Of those commentators who see the house that Paul is speaking of as something other than the resurrection body, two propositions come to the fore: a) it is the heavenly dwelling place of God's people, the new Jerusalem; b) it is a staging place for those who have died and are awaiting the day of resurrection (very unlikely).

en + dat. "in [heaven]" - in [the heavens]. Local, expressing space; "made to last in heaven for ever", Barclay.


In the meantime we yearn for the day when we will put on the glorious resurrection body; we groan for that day. In fact Paul tells us in Romans 8:22 that the whole of creation yearns for the day when the corruptible creation puts on incorruptibility. Note how Paul has changed his simile of the resurrection body from a habitat to be lived in to a garment to be put on. He does not speak of the putting off of the old garment of the body, but rather of the putting on of a new garment over the old, and thus the transforming of the old into something new. Augustine used the following words to describe the process; "the natural body will rise a spiritual body, the outward man too shall attain the dignity of celestial character."

kai gar "for" - and for. Lenski notes the importance of kai here, giving the sense "in addition" (adjunctive, "also"), or possibly emphatic, "indeed". The addition is a further explanation (gar, expressing cause / reason) why "we fix our eyes on what is unseen", v18, namely, because the struggle of our present existence prompts a desire for release, for the freedom of our resurrection body. "Because also we long for its possession", Thrall.

en "meanwhile" - in [this]. The NIV has seemingly taken this prepositional phrase as temporal, but the preposition is more likely expressing space, "in this", ie., "in this tent house / house of flesh." "For in this tent", ESV.

stenazomen (stenazw) pres. "we groan" - we groan, mourn, sigh. The present tense is durative: "continually groan."

epipoqounteV ((epizoa) pres. part. "longing" - greatly desiring, longing. Again the present tense is durative; "continually longing for." The participle may be classified in a number of ways. It may simply be serving as attendant to the verb "we groan", so " we groan and long for ..."; "we yearn and cry out", TH. It may be adverbial, causal, "we groan because we long for ....", so Plummer; "we sigh because we want ...", CEV.

ependusasqai (epeduomai) aor. mid. inf. "to be clothed instead with" - to be fully clothed with. The infinitive introducers a dependent statement of perception expressing the content of the "longing"; "we desire that we might be clothed with a new spiritual self." Note the shift in imagery. Paul is moving from the image of separate dwellings, a tent on earth and a house in heaven, to that of putting on a robe. We may not want to be disrobed, but we do want to put on the new eternal robe - possibly put on the new robe over the old robe.

to "heavenly [dwelling]" - [the dwelling of us] the [from heaven]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase ex ouranou, "from heaven" (ek = source / origin) dwelling", into an attributive adjective, "heavenly dwelling." Here describing the nature of "the dwelling", ie., it is spiritual.


Paul now touches on a very real part of our experience, v3-4. Death is something we find no pleasure in. It is a disruptive and destructive event, something shunned at all cost. It leaves us naked and lost. None-the-less, we yearn for the day of our glorification and the swallowing up of our mortal flesh. Paul's point, of course, is that we will not be found naked in that day, rather we will be found clothed in glorious cloths indeed. In Biblical thought it is not possible to separate body and soul, as the Biblical view of humanity is holistic. At the resurrection our soul and our new body will be reintegrated and thus give life again to our being.

Two important variants clarify the verse, but their textual support is limited so it well may be that they were added to sort out what is a difficult verse to translate.

ei ge kai "because" - and if indeed. The variant eiper, "if after all", an emphatic condition, dispenses with the implied doubt of ei. Yet, ei ge kai, by no means implies doubt. In fact, it does the opposite. Long opts for the sense "inasmuch as", Harris goes for "assuming that." The conjunction ei, "if", introduces a 1st. class condition where the proposed condition is assumed to be true. This likelihood is reinforced by ge, "indeed". So, "and if indeed (ge), as is the case, we are unclothed, then we will not be found naked." "Should believers be clothed over - as they will be at the onset of the coming age - then, of course, they will not be found naked", Barnett.

ekdusamenoi "when we are clothed" - having been unclothed [then we will be found not naked]. This adverbial participle, temporal, NIV / instrumental, ESV, "by putting on", refers to the spiritual self. In some manuscripts it is replaced with endusamenoi "having put on, having been clothed", referring to the tent-house, the fleshly body. Either way, the point is clear enough: "if, as is the case, we put off the tent-house, then we will not be found naked" because we will have put on our resurrection body.


kai gar "for" - and for. As in v2, kai takes the sense "in addition to" (adjunctive, "also"). The addition is a further explanation (gar, expressing cause here) why "we fix our eyes on what is unseen", v18, namely, because the struggle of our present existence prompts a desire for release. Here Paul qualifies this desire. It is not so much a desire for being "unclothed", we don't wish death on ourselves, but rather we desire immortality, to be clothed with the freedom of our resurrection body.

oiJ onteV (eimi) "while we are" - [we], the ones being [in the tabernacle, groan]. The participle serves as a substantive, "the ones being in the tent"; "we, whose existence is bound to this earth, sigh deeply." Yet, note that many translations treat it adverbially, temporal, "while we are still in this tent", or causal, "because we are in this tent."

baroumenoi (barew) pres. pas. part. "and are burdened" - being burdened, weighed down. The participle is adverbial, possibly causal, so Harris, "we sigh because we yearn", or modal, expressing the manner of the groan, "with a sense of oppression", temporal, or even attendant circumstance, "utter groans and are heavy hearted", Cassirer.

ef w|/ "because" - inasmuch as, because. This construction serves to introduce a causal clause; "on the basis of which", Long. it stands for epi touto/ w|/, "for this reason, namely that." "We sigh and are burdened because we desire not [so much as] to strip off [our tent-house] but [desire] to put on [our heavenly-house]." A nice example of Pauline short-talk! Or do we blame Paul's amanuensis to resorting to his own version of shorthand?

ekdusasqai (edkuw) aor. inf. "to be unclothed" - [we do not want] to be unclothed. This infinitive, as with ependusasqai, "to be clothed", may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb qelomen, "we wish / will", or as introducing a dependent statement expressing what is wished; "it is not our desire that we be disrobed." "For we sigh deeply while in this tent, not because we want to be stripped of it, but rather to be invested with the other covering", Berkeley. As already noted, Paul is not developing a Platonic idea here - the casting of of the fleshly outer robe so that the spirit may be set free. The tent is the whole of life, existence itself, the totality of our being. Although we rightly desire to be set free in our new spiritual self, our resurrection body, our new being, we are not disdainful of our present life and all that it entails. We groan and are burdened, but life still remains precious to us.

all (alla) "but" - but [to be clothed]. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that. Introducing a final clause expressing the purpose, aim, object driving our groaning while in this tent-house.

to qnhton (oV) "what is mortal" - the mortal. "Our earthly existence" with "life" meaning "sin-free existence in the age to come", Naylor. Naylor argues that in this verse, Paul particularly has in mind those who are alive at Christ's return, of their life / mortality being swallowed up into eternal life. None-the-less, it is likely that Paul has in mind the totality of the mortal believing community, those alive and those who are deceased at the day of Christ's coming.

uJpo + gen. "by [life]" - [may be swallowed up] by [life]. Expressing agency. "Because then our mortality will be engulfed in the ocean of life", Barclay.


de "now" - but/and. Transitional connective, as NIV, so Furnish, although Barnett argues that it is adversative, "but", since Paul is moving to correct any possible misunderstanding of v4.

oJ .. katergasamenoV (katergazomai) aor. part. "the one who has fashioned [us]" - the one having made, equipped, prepared [us]. The participle serves as a substantive, while the aorist, being punctiliar, expresses a completed work - God has prepared us already for the coming day. Harris nicely defines the different meanings of this verb: a) with ti it means "accomplish" something; b) with tini ti "produce" or "bring about" something for someone; c) with tina eiV ti "prepare" or "equip" someone for something - the sense here.

eiV + acc. "for [this] very purpose" - to = for. Here expressing purpose, as NIV.

auto touto "this" - this thing. "Precisely / just this", Zerwick. The antecedent of "this" is our investiture by God of the heavenly house, the resurrection body / life, cf., Eph.1:14, Rom.8:23. Barnett suggests that the groaning is also part of the "this", and that it has its origin with God. This seems unlikely.

qeoV (oV) "is God" - is god. Serving as a predicate nominative with the verb to-be assumed, as NIV; "the one having made ..... is God."

oJ douV aor. part. "who has given [us]"- the one having given [to us]. The participle serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "God"; "God, the one who has given us ...."

tou pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "the Spirit" - [the earnest] of the spirit. The genitive is adjectival, probably epexegetic, limiting "deposit" by specifying / defining the " deposit", "namely / consisting of the Spirit."

ton arrabwna (wn wnoV) "as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come" - the earnest, deposit, installment , / pledge. The Holy Spirit is a down payment of the resurrection life that awaits a believer. The NIV has taken a liberty with the text by defining the "deposit" as a "guarantee". The ESV translates the noun as "guarantee"; "has given us the Spirit as a guarantee", so Harris, Thrall. The provision of a first installment of glory is not necessarily a guarantee / pledge; it's just a first installment, an act of grace serving to prepare us for glory, a deposit in "the inner person that points to the coming age", Barnett.


2 Corinthians Introduction


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