2 Corinthians


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

vi] An earthenware container


C.K. Barrett says of 5:1-10 that it illustrates "further the relative unimportance of the earthenware container." In this passage Paul further develops the image of "the earthly tent" (the body) and affirms his belief that there awaits for him an "eternal house in heaven" (a resurrection body). Although still struggling with the vagaries of life, Paul is confident that he will be clothed with a "heavenly dwelling", that he will be "swallowed up by life." It is this confidence which allows him to rest lightly on the passing shadows of this age.


i] Context: See 3:1-6.


ii] Background: See 1:1-7.


iii] Structure: An earthenware container:

The dilemma of being "at home" and being "away", v6-8;

Irrespective of the dilemma, being accountable to God is what matters, v9-10.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul has touched on the tension between the troubles of this age and the glory of the next and now he "affirms his confidence in face of the tension between these two realities", Thrall. Yet, although the general thrust of Paul's words are simple enough, the detailed exegesis of this passage is anything but settled. See Pate, Adam Christology for a survey of interpretive approaches. So, as Naylor puts it, "the preceding section, 5:1-5, emphasized Paul's aspirations for the resurrection state. Assuming that this would be better than anything else, the apostle now draws attention to his preference to be with the Lord in the intermediate period, should this be God's plan for him, rather than living down here by faith."


The issue of reward for service: The idea of reward on the day of judgment seems to strike at the heart of the doctrine of justification where salvation is dependent on grace through faith and not works. Paul does speak of reward for a believer, although this reward is usually in the terms of our reward in Christ, in whose perfection we stand. Are we to argue that our service to Christ will one day be exposed and its worth, or otherwise, will be proclaimed in the heavens? Naylor suggests that Paul is making the point that his "level of blessedness in the age to come depends upon the quality of his commitment to Christ in this brief span of time", cf., v10. Surely this is the very heresy Paul condemns in Romans and Galatians.

The judaizers, who were nomist believers, knew that they were saved by grace through faith, but they believed that their progress in the Christian life rested on law-obedience. In their faithful adherence to scripture they saw sin mastered and holiness progressed for the appropriation of the promised blessings of the covenant. Yet, as far as Paul is concerned, the full appropriation of the promised blessings of the covenant are found in Christ, apart from works of the law.

So then, apart from the reward that comes from faith in the faithfulness of Christ, is there any other reward? I suspect that everything we are and will be is found in Christ. Still, it may be that the worth of our life as a believer, in preparation for eternity, affects the responsibilities and service we are entrusted within eternity. This idea is often drawn from the parable of the Talents, but can the parable sustain this interpretation? None-the-less, it is an interesting idea. If the quality of our faith (our firm reliance on the Word of God) determines the size of our Tardis (only Dr. Who fans will understand!), then my Tardis will be relatively small, underpowered and not very challenging, but at least it will fly.


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

Text - 5:6

The hope of a heavenly dwelling, v6-10: i] Paul proclaims "victory over any problem associated with the interim state", Martin, v6-8. The earthly body, "tent", may be fragile and ephemeral, but it does have an eternal end, evidenced in the gift of the Spirit, v5. For this reason, "therefore", Paul is "confident" of his eternal inheritance, even though his body is weak. He doesn't actually get to say this until v8ff, because he drifts a little in his argument and has to qualify his words in v7. He ends up saying that he is confident because he knows that his present weak and limited body is not yet part of the glorious reign of Christ in heaven. If it is a matter of choosing between being with the Lord, or remaining alive here on earth, he happily chooses being with the Lord.

The Gk. sentence covering v6-8 is awkward due to the presence of the parenthesis in v7, which statement actually carries the sense of the sentence.

oun "therefore" - Drawing a logical conclusion / expressing the result of the argument in v1-5, namely that although the body is a temporary and fragile, it has an eternal end, to "be swallowed up by life", which reality is guaranteed by the gift of the Spirit. Therefore Paul is confident in the face of his mortality. "Come what may then", Moffatt.

qarrounteV (qarrw) pres. part. "we are always confident" - being confident, of good cheer, of good courage [always]. This durative present participle is attendant on qarroumen, "we are confident", v8; "being confident ...... we are confident." So, "we are always of good courage ...... yes (de) we are of good courage ..." Paul has used a similar construction in v4 when he expresses the opposite with "we groan being burdened = we groan, [yes] are burdened." Obviously "boldness" (Barrett) in the face of death is intended, given the context and the word's common use in Platonic circles, namely confidence in the face of death, due to a belief in the soul's immortality. "We are always courageous (in the face of death)", NAB.

kai "and" - Coordinative; "and this because we know ...."

eidonteV (oida) perf. part. "know" - knowing. The perfect is best translated here as a present continuous, while the participle is probably adverbial, causal, "because we know." From this point, Paul becomes uneasy with his argument and so by v7 has to qualify his words with a parenthesis, "for I have to lead my life in faith, without seeing him", Moffatt, and then begin again in v8. Treating from "I know ...." through v 7 as a complete sentence seems to make better sense. "We realize that being 'at home' in the body means that to some extent we are 'away' from the Lord, for we have to live by trusting him without seeing him", Phillips.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception, expressing what Paul knows.

endhmounteV (endhmew) pres. part. "as long as we are at home" - being at home, with our own people. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "while I reside in the body", Moffatt.

en "in" - in [the body]. Local, expressing space / sphere. Not "in" the church, but the physical body is intended.

ekdhmoumen (ekdhmew) pres. "we are away" - we are absent, gone, away from. Although "in Christ", being "in the flesh" involves being apart from the risen Lord in glory. It is at this point that Paul realizes he is conveying the idea that a believer is apart from Christ while in their fleshly body. This is true physically, but not spiritually. So, he qualifies his words in v7, before taking up his argument again.

apo "from" - from [the lord]. Expressing separation; "away from." Typical use of a preposition to repeat the idea conveyed in the ek prefix of the verb "to be absent, away from."


Of course, being away from the Lord doesn't mean that we are without the Lord. For the present, the believer exists by daily relying on the enlivening ministry of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, rather than on the full glory of heaven. A believer today does not live in the presence of an objectively authenticated Christ, but none-the-less, we are in Christ and Christ is in us, and this "by faith."

gar "for" - for. Normally supplying the cause or reason for a previous statement, although here probably emphatic, serving to emphasize the following statement.

peripatoumen (peripatew) pres. "we live" - we walk about. The present tense indicating ongoing action, so "walking" rather than "walk"; "walking" in the sense of "conducting our lives." The issue of our living apart from Christ is not really what Paul wants to address and in any case, his words could lead to confusion. So, at this point he deals with the confusion and then returns to his subject in v8. A believer is apart from Christ when it comes to "the outward appearance of things", but not when it comes to reality. Christ is intimately with us through the indwelling Spirit, which reality is accessed by faith.

dia + gen. "by" - through, by means of [faith]. Instrumental, means, or basis, "on the basis of faith", Barrett.

eidouV (oV) "sight" - [and not by] form, outward appearance. The word may be active, "seeing", as NIV, or passive, "on the basis of what is seen." Passive seems best with Martin concurring with Barrett; "we live by believing in the absent and invisible Christ, not by looking at visible forms." Here the form of "the glorious and exalted Christ", Thrall. "Not by the outward appearance of things", Barrett.


Returning to the thought in v6, Paul restates his confidence that although the body is a temporary and fragile thing, it has an eternal end, namely, to "be swallowed up by life." It is because of the glory that awaits the believer that Paul is able to say he is "confident". Choosing his words a little more carefully, Paul makes the point he was trying to make in v6 - his eternal confidence prompts an "otherness" in his life.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional connective, indicating a step in the argument; "yes, we are of good courage", ESV.

qarroumen (qarrew) pres. "we are confident, I say" - we are confident. Paul now retraces his steps. A believer can be confident of being with the Lord, whether alive in the body, asleep awaiting the day of resurrection, or in the heavenly assembly at the last day.

eudokoumen (eudokew) pres. "would prefer" - [and] we are well pleased. "We wish rather / we would prefer", cf. BAGD.

mallon ...... kai ... " .... and ...." - more [to leave home from the body] and [to be at home with the lord]. A correlative construction.

ekdhmhsai (ekdhmew) aor. inf. "to be away [from]" - to leave home. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "would prefer". The aorist indicating punctiliar action, which probably indicates that Paul has death in mind. If it is a matter of preference, Paul would rather be out of the body and home with the Lord. The language is a bit strange, given that Paul, like all of us, fears "nakedness" (death), but then he is expressing a principle rather than dealing with an actual life-threatening situation. "We would much prefer to leave our home in this body", Barclay.

endhmhsai (endhmew) aor. inf. "at home" - to be at home. Complementary infinitive, as above.

proV + acc. "with [the Lord]" - to, toward [the lord]. Here the preposition contains both a linear sense of motion toward, as well as a punctiliar sense of arrival into, at rest in, so as NIV.


ii] Irrespective of one's opinions as to the better state to be in, either with the Lord or with living humanity, what is important is that we are acceptable to ("please") the Lord, and this with the knowledge that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, v9-10. All that matters, whether living within the limitations of the present moment, or within the glory of eternity, is that we make it our ambition "to be acceptable to the Lord" (better than "please"). Acceptance in the sight of God is realized through faith in Christ, both now and for eternity.

dio kai "So" - therefore also. Inferential / drawing a logical conclusion, with kai being emphatic or adjunctive; "for this reason [also]", Barrett.

filotimoumeqa (filotimeomai) pres. "we make it our goal" - we make it our aim, we are ambitious, we are aspiring, we set our goal, we devote ourselves zealously. "It is therefore our one ambition", Barclay.

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "to" - to be. The infinitive of the verb to-be probably serves here to express purpose, "in order to be."

euarestoi adj. "please" - acceptable, well pleasing. Predicate adjective of the verb to-be. Used of a slave giving satisfaction to their master, and therefore of being acceptable, irrespective of whether the master feels happy about the slaves good service, cf., Tit.2:9. Although the sense of "pleasing the Lord" is dominant in translations, the idea that anything we do can be pleasing to God is somewhat far fetched. It is presumptuous to assume that God is pleased with us, given everything we do is compromised - "even our most noble motivations cannot tolerate close inspection", The Henderson Monster, screen. The sense "acceptable" is more likely, an acceptance in the sight of God which is ours through faith in Christ. "Satisfy", Moffatt, possibly, but better "to be acceptable to him", REB.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - to him. Dative of indirect object. The pronoun is either masculine or neuter, therefore it either refers to "the Lord" = "him", or "the body" = "it". "We make it our ambition to be acceptable to the Lord."

eite .... eite "whether [we are at home in the body] or [away from it]" - either [being at home] or [being away from home]. A correlative disjunctive construction. The two participles, endhmounteV, "being at home", and ekdhmounteV, "being away from home", both adverbial, modal, expressing manner, obviously refer to living in this present life and living in eternity, although it is not quite clear which is which. The NIV option seems best. Presumably the dual participial phrase serves to qualify "to be acceptable to him", as NIV word order, ie., a believer seeks to be acceptable to the Lord both now and in eternity.


Every person will be judged by Christ on the basis of their actions and recompensed good for good and evil for evil. Although an issue of contention, it seems more than likely that this judgment does not in any way rest upon a person's compliance with Biblical ethics, but upon their faith response to the gospel, ie., a person is assessed on the basis of their faith in the faithfulness of Christ. It is faith which makes us "acceptable to the Lord."

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why we should strive to "please him", v9.

dei "must" - [the all of us to be revealed] is necessary. Often used of a divine necessity.

touV pantaV "all" - the all. The accusative subject of the infinitive "to be revealed." "The sum total", Moulton.

fanerwqhnai (fanerow) aor. pas. inf. "appear" - to be revealed. The infinitive forms a noun clause subject of the verb "is necessary"; "for all of us to be revealed is necessary." Laid bare for the world to see the true nature of ones character", Martin.

emprosqen + gen. "before" - before, in front of. Locative.

tou bhmatoV (a atoV) "the judgment seat" - tribunal, judgment seat, platform. "Every one of us will have to stand without pretense before Christ our judge", Phillips.

tou Cristou (oV) gen. "of Christ" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

iJna + subj. "that" - that. Here introducing a purpose clause, "in order that."

komishtai (komizw) aor. mid. subj. "may receive" - [each one] may receive, be recompensed. The middle voice takes the sense "receive back", so "may be recompensed", "may receive what is due." "That each may get his pay for what he has done", Williams.

ta acc. "what is due us" - the things = the things due. The article here serves as a nominalizer, turning the prepositional construction dia tou swmatoV into a noun clause, object of the verb "to be recompensed", "in order that each one may receive backthe things [done] by means of the body."

dia + gen. "while in [the body]" - through, by means of [the body]. Commonly instrumental, "by means of his earthly body", Bruce, although a temporal sense is possible, "in the course of his bodily life", Barrett.

proV "-" - toward. Spacial, or reference / respect, possibly "in proportion to", Moule, or even "in accordance with." At this point, Paul adds a second clause concerning the recompense. Most translators simply make the point in the first clause, and leave out the second, so NIV. Barrett attempts to handle the second clause as if it were a parenthesis: "may receive recompense for the things he has done by means of his body - recompense, that is, in relation to things he has done." The sentence is best handled by NJB which properly addresses the Greek: "For at the judgment seat of Christ we are all to be seen for what we are, so that each of us may receive what he has deserved in the body, matched to whatever he has done, good or bad."

epraxen (prassw) aor. "-" - [what things] he practiced. The aorist is probably constative, expressing the sum of our actions over the whole of our life. "Whatever he has done", NJB.

eite .... eite "whether [good] or [bad]" - either [good] or [bad]. A correlative construction. "whether a good / valuable deed, or a bad / worthless deed." Of course, there is only one good deed worth our salvation, and that is a reliance on Christ's good deed on our behalf, namely his perfect submission to the Father.


2 Corinthians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]