C.K. Barrett says of 5:1-10 that it illustrates "further the relative unimportance of the earthenware container." In this passage Paul develops the image of "the earthly tent" (the flesh and blood 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 shadows of life.
v6. 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. Paul 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.
v7. 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."
v8. 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 - Paul's eternal confidence prompts an "otherness" in his life. The thought is well summed up in the old chorus, "this world ain't my home, I'm just passing through."
v9. 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.
v10. Every person will be judged by Christ on the basis of their actions and recompensed good for good and evil for evil. This judgment does not rest upon a person's compliance with Biblical morality, but upon their response to the gospel, ie. a person is assessed on the basis of their faith in Christ. It is faith in the faithfulness of Christ which makes us "acceptable to the Lord."
"We need to get away from economic melancholy. We may be fallen angels, but we do have wings that can carry us to heaven." These are the words of an economist and they are words which certainly address the economic circumstances facing the West.
These are not confident times and so insecurity is rife. We see the world in turmoil. We are totally debilitated by the present financial storm and terrorism, constantly fearing the worst. We see our nation drifting away from Christian values. We are unsure of the capacity of government to handle practical matters such as health and education, let alone matters of ethics. We see the institutional church in decline. We see a loss of confidence in the shapes of the past. For example, even in the church we have set aside nearly all the children's choruses of our childhood, along with the great hymns of praise, and replaced them with dumbed down, banal reflections of pop culture. We worry for our own personal welfare and that of our children and grandchildren. Naturally, within this "melancholy" our personal faith takes on an air of insecurity.
As Paul the apostle observed the weakness of humanity, the corrupted power of the Roman Empire along with the intransigence of his fellow Jews and the lunacy of Christian churches out of control, he was able to affirm his confidence in an eternal future which transcends the fading shadows of day-to-day life. This confidence rests on substantial truth:
i] A believer is separated from Christ by their earthly existence, v6.
ii] Yet, a believer does find union with Christ in the present, and this by faith, v7.
iii] A believer's desire for their complete union with Christ in eternity lightens the grip of this world's things, v8.
iv] As a believer awaits eternity, it is expected that they will serve Christ in the present, as they will serve him in eternity, v9.
v] And all of this will be tested one day, v10.
So, be reminded of the relative unimportance of this earthly container, as compared to the glory that awaits us, a glory we glimpse in the shadows of our life.
1. Let each member of the group speak about those areas of their Christian life where they don't feel confident.
2. The Christian life is made up of a substantial journey with a glorious end. How can we employ these truths to renew our confidence?