Monday, May 19, 2014

2 Corinthians 5: 17-21

Here is yet another paper.

2 Corinthians 5: 17-21

Different eyes different views

            Some people approach the Bible as a book that dropped from the sky direct from God. Others read it as mythology or other piece of literature. How someone reads the Bible will set the stage for what he or she will receive from it. Such means as Exegesis or careful systematic study to find the original meaning can help aid in understanding the original intent of the writer. [1] By properly using the tools needed to interpret the Bible, the Bible can say what it was intended to say and not be some esoteric religious book that only the enlightened can understand.

            Since the Bible was written in at least three different languages, (Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek), and then translated into English, it is good to have more than one translation to compare thoughts or ideas as to the meaning of the text. [2] By limiting the choice to only one translation, Fee and Stuart point out, that as a reader, you are committed to only one exegetical choice of the translator. [3] This limiting of choice would not allow nuances or thoughts another translation may bring out. Fee and Stuart say this is even true even if it is a very good translation. [4] For this paper the choice of the New King James Bible, (NKJ), New International Version, (NIV) and an occasional dip into The Living Bible, (TLB) as far as Bible References. Each Bible has written or slanted a bit exegetically. The NKJ and NIV were translated by a group of scholars, or specialists in the languages, to give us the best scholarly reading. [5] Personally, the NKJ has a more poetic ring to it and will be the most referenced version in this paper. The TLB is a one-person perspective meaning that one person may have created his or her own translation from the original language or from another translation and wrote in a more paraphrased fashion. [6] According to Fee and Stuart, each translation used in this paper would fall under the categories of:
Formal Equivalence: NKJV
Functional Equivalence: NIV
Free: LB

            Even commentaries and other resources are written under differing exegetical backgrounds. A group of different authors may write some commentaries while others may have only one person’s ideas. While this paper will use a variety of one-person commentaries or even some that many writers, the result will be what is a personal belief as to be the best view of the passage of scripture presented here.

Hermeneutics: making sense of the here and now
            The cry of today is “relevance”. Many believe the Bible must be made relevant now for the people of this day and age. There is even a popular Christian magazine and website called Relevant that have pressed to show that the ancient book called the Bible is still applicable in the present. There is no problem with this unless someone makes a biblical text say something that was never intended or meant. All believers need to read the Bible and let it speak to us on a personal level. However again, if God is speaking, it assuredly in the context of the original intent of the writer of whatever book he, or she is studying. Each book of the Bible has a purpose behind it. For example, Old Testament books such as Job or Proverbs are considered Wisdom Literature and thus the focus in those books is to convey wisdom to the reader so that he or she can understand foolishness from wisdom. Some of these books go deeper while others may not but the focus and purpose is to bring the reader into a deeper understanding of God’s wisdom.

Other books such as the Gospel have specific groups of people to whom they are written. The book of Matthew would be considered written to a Jewish audience while Luke would be a Greek oriented audience. While Matthew focuses on prophetic fulfillment, Luke would be about getting the facts straight in a more linear fashion that would appear logical to the Greek mind. While there is some difference in the books, overall both tell the same story though told from different vantage points.  

While there are differences in the Gospels, other books of the NT are letters meant for correction and others for encouragement, and all lead toward teaching the readers how to go deeper in his or her faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus summed up the core of hermeneutics as well as exegesis in John 5:39. "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” [7] Without the understanding, that the Bible is about the Person of Christ Jesus, it is hard to understand the motivation or meaning of any Book in the Bible. As Fee and Stuart succinctly state of one of the most important things to remember is, “A text cannot mean what it never meant. “ [8]

We all wear glasses
One example that Mickelsen and Mickelsen, (MM), mentions any student of the Bible should beware of is, we can read the Bible through lenses that which, in some ways may be helpful, these lenses may also taint the purity of the Bible. MM give at least five such examples that will be briefly touched on here.
1.      We can be bound up in the “scientific method”.[9]
2.      We can be more committed to our religious beliefs than what the Bible actual teaches.[10]
3.      Our fear of paradox may influence our thinking. [11]
4.      We may practice “selective literalism”. [12]
5.      We may settle for easy answers to complex problems, even at the expense of the truth. [13]

As proposed by MM, we must not take up a “fortress mentality” to defend what our idea of what is “Christianity”. [14] As with point one, the Bible is not a science book that is meant to prove or disprove any modern scientific theory, though it does surprisingly well. Point two often comes out of trusting a denomination or person over interacting with the text itself. Point three most often is not allowing God’s written word to be complex by allowing tensions that seem in opposition. Point four is often practices today as many take the Bible literally, but miss at times it is also metaphoric, allegoric, and can be in some cases meant to be read as hyperbole. To take passages we agree with and ignore others we do not is not a good way to read any book let alone a book meant to help us grow in our knowledge and faith in our relationship with Christ Jesus.
But, what does it mean?
While sitting with a group of friends we began to joke about making a new phone application called, “The Eight Ball Bible”. The idea is much like the “magic eight ball” where you ask it a question, shake it and a triangular cube will float up and give you an answer. Early in my faith, I would desperately seek what God wanted for me by praying, opening the Bible up, and reading the verse given. While I personally experienced one time this was a way God spoke to me on a very personal level, it is not the best approach to the Bible, let alone seeking the Will of God.

The Bible has amazing unity as stated above; the unifying factor is, of course, Jesus. This unifying factor aids us greatly. However context is also greatly needed to gain the true value of a Biblical passage. As MM point out, the whole book should be understood as the overall context for a passage. [15] The next point would be reading what comes before or after a passage. One personal observation however, is that the headings and verses in a Bible are not part of the text but aids in helping see the collective thought of a passage. This is helpful, however at times a passage thought may not end in chapter two but end in chapter three. For example many read Romans chapter one and miss the one – two punch of the point Paul is making that concludes in chapter two. Likewise, for our passage in 2 Corinthians it seemed necessary to widen the passage for better grasp of the thought Paul was attempting to present. While the core verses will be 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 we will actually start in verse 16 and continue into 2 Corinthians 6:1-2. While the case will have to be built, I believe the conclusion of the passage of scripture does not end in chapter 5 but chapter 6.

Context: Who, what, where, when, and why
 It is good to have been discipled by someone who understood simple but helpful questions such as “who, what, where, when, and why”. These questions are a very good way to open up meaning of a passage. Here are the questions:
1.      Who is speaking and who is listening?
2.      What is the historical context?
3.      Where is this taking place?
4.      When did this happen? For example: Was what is being stated before or after the Cross and Resurrection?
5.      Why is the person stating these things?

The final questions to ask are “How does this apply to me and what am I willing to do about what I learned?” Asking questions of God and the text is a way of interacting with God and His written word that gives meaning to the text. These questions also help to read the passage for what it states, not what we were taught it states or want it to mean. It is too easy to read a passage, miss that one point, and thus miss an important idea that is presented. Sometimes a passage may mean one thing, and at times, a passage may have layered meanings so it is a good idea to take a careful and critical look and see what the passage is saying. As stated above, such things like doctrinal glasses, political views, and other ideas, can taint the purity of the passage to what we are comfortable. The Bible may comfort, but more, if a person is a true student, it will confound and cause someone to begin to question everything on a deeper level. Of course, the Guide to the Bible is the Holy Spirit, and even someone without the access to commentaries and other aids can still learn what a passage means. However, there are times when the Holy Spirit will use a commentary or other aid to help us understand a passage better.

One last thing that is sometimes overlooked by even some of the best books on the Bible is how we should approach the Bible is humility. Humility opens the door of understanding as God pours out His Grace to us. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.''[16] It is a temptation to gain knowledge, and then be puffed up with pride. Pride closes the door to learning. Unfortunately, sometimes arrogance blinds us to see what God has for us and we mistake pride for certainty.  Proverbs 11:2 states, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” [17] This should be a warning that a person will be humbled either by choice or by shame. As the passage is considered the prayer is not for a good grade or a way to show off knowledge of a passage, but rather that Christ be shown more clearly to all.

Historically the city of Corinth was destroyed and rebuilt to be a strategically position for trade. [18] Being a place of commerce meant many people would pass through and a church there would be well positioned to present the Gospel. [19] However, Corinth also had an “unsavory reputation” of excess and sexual license. [20] For example, we find in 1 Corinthians a man who is bragging that he is sleeping with his father’s wife. [21] Sadly, this man may also have been using the Grace of God as a license to do such a thing! So, we see with Paul’s first letter there is passionate chastising and correction. The second letter to the Corinthians has Paul having received good news from Titus that the church in Corinth has “come to their senses”.[22] The letter is one of encouragement as well as teaching how to restore someone who was cast out of the church community. Overall, after reading 1 Corinthians, there seems to be a weight lifted when reading 2 Corinthians as Paul’s words do not sting as a whip or have the despairing urgency of the first letter.

Down to the letter
After having dealt with “fleshly” issues in the church, Paul uses 2 Corinthians to defend and protect his Apostleship. Paul speaks of how as an Apostle, he has abandoned himself for the sake of Christ. [23] Stegman points out the idea that Paul once regarded Jesus as a mere man who lived and died. However, in light of the revelation of the Resurrection, Paul has now see Jesus through a lens that is “scratched and distorted by selfishness and falsehood”. [24]

In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul continues his defense of his calling as an Apostle. However, around verse 11 Paul begins to use more inclusive language. The transition hits in verse 14 where Paul states, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” [25] Paul initially speaks of “us” meaning Apostles, then moves to “us” that may still refer to the Apostles, but a bit more open, to the all-inclusive, “all”. Paul speaks in universal term as far as the “one died for all, therefore all died.” [26] Here is the shift where the readers must decide what Paul states next has authority or not. Do we regard Paul or anyone else in a mere human level? Do they continue to view Jesus in the same way one would regard other humans or is there something more? Is the ministry only for the Apostles or is it a ministry that “all” take a part in doing? If Jesus has become so much more than a mere man, then what is next for the church?

The phrase “in Christ” even today seems a bit of a mystery as commentaries go. One commentary states it is a direct contrast to “in law”. [27] Talbert puts forth the idea that ‘in Christ” means “by means of Christ”. [28] However, Stagg suggests it is related more to the idea of new creation”. [29] N.T. Wright states it this way, “If anyone is in the Messiah—New Creation!” [30] I tend to agree with Frank Stagg, and N.T. Wright that New Creation is bigger than we think.

According to Stagg, the word “ktisis” in Greek may describe, “creative results”, however, more commonly, it describes creative origins. [31] Stagg goes on to explain this is not the “indulgence of sin or the juggling of account books”, but rather a creative work, or in fact, the newness of life. [32] It is a new creation. Being new, the old is now passed away, is referring to the Resurrection, but not just that, it is all humanities Resurrection! It is a new beginning. The chalkboard was not only erased, it has been replaced with the internet! This is something so different we have yet to realize what God has done. Stagg goes on to say Jesus represented life as resurrection and Jesus claiming to be the embodiment of each. [33] As Revelation 20:5 refers to the “first resurrection” which may refer to our birth and death, so Paul speaks of being “saved in his life”, referring to the risen life of Jesus. [34] While Baptist theology is clearly present, the LB states this very well in its paraphrase of Colossians 2:12: “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” Always impressing, Stagg goes on to state, “Man needs more than an improvement; he must have a new origin, and that new origin must be from God.” [35] This new life is not “coercive, but essential and indispensable”.[36] To be bold, it is to say it is an act of divine grace. Dead is dead, and gone, but now is the new!
Reconcile the tension of belief
There is an illusion of a rabbit or duck. The issues is that whatever way you look at it, it is either a rabbit or duck. For some it is clearly a duck. For others it is a rabbit. However, for some of us it is both! Somehow, we want to reconcile this picture in our minds yet however hard we try there are two choices. Through Jesus Christ, God has reconciled life and death. Jesus died and yet lived and now has passed that ministry to each of us by forgiveness and somehow made all things right. The ministry of reconciliation should not be confused with the ministry of death as so many practices. For earlier in the letter, Paul speaks of two ministries. One ministry is of death and one of life. [37] One ministry had the glory of death; the other has the glory of new life.

A living new testament

            As believers, we walk through our life as a living new testament to the new creation. We have become “ambassadors for Christ”. [38] An ambassador is someone who represents a country or rather in the time of Jesus, a king. Jesus is not some earthly king with a kingdom, but rather a King whose Kingdom is one of complete emersion. This is not as if someone taking a vacation in a foreign country that immerses his or her self in the culture and language, for they could still return to their former country. This Kingdom demands that we forsake and even forget our old kingdom. In fact, it is liken to great King overtakes another king and the lesser king now must subject himself to the greater. In a sense, this was a message to Israel that The King with a greater Kingdom has come, and now, the kingdom of Israel must bow down and accept the newly created Kingdom that has more worth than even the chosen kingdom of humankind.

            According to Henry’s Concise Commentary, “The renewed man acts upon new principles, by new rules, with new ends, and in new company. [39] The believer is created anew; his heart is not merely set right, but a new heart is given him.” It is literally the death of the old and the birth of the new. Humankind is reduced to the metaphor of the mustard seed that must die in order to be reborn “greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.'' [40] As believers, we sacrifice this life for the greater life—eternal life, in Christ.

            While many see reconciliation and justification as judicial, the idea of an accountant who reconciles the books seems a better view. While a judge can bring reconciliation between people by finding a means that appease the two opposing parties, an accountant merely seeks to make the books reconcile the transactions that have already taken place. This means that a debt must be forgiven as it will never be repaid, as the one indebted has no means to repay it. An accountant must make the books reconcile. The numbers must match the amount that is spent. Once the account is reconciled, it is justified. The idea is that all is accounted for and the bottom [41]line— the owner of the account knows were all the money is. We, as believers profess this about God as we proclaim our reconciliation with God. Not only that, we who believe profess that “all things have become new”, and anyone can be reconciled with God. [42]

Not yet to the finish line
            Sin is a dragon made up of sin, pride, and fleshly desire. As we discovered, the flesh we now have has been forgiven and conquered. First, death overtook us, but now life is here to take us over through Jesus Christ. Somehow, Jesus became sin, though still without being sinful. The Beacon Bible commentary, (BBC), states that verse 21 usage of “in Him” corresponds to “we are made righteous”. [43] The idea that the BBC presents is that “Both parties embraced that which is not deservedly theirs. [44]Yes, we do not deserve life any more than Jesus deserved death, however, though Jesus was innocent of sin, “he entered a sphere utterly alien to him that we might enter a sphere from which we alienated ourselves.” [45] BBC continues this thought by pointing out that through Christ, God made visible what happens to fallen humanity when humans are against God. [46] This is an incredible revelation, as it is an inversion of the example of Adam and Eve and opens the door to better understanding salvation.

The end is the beginning
            Reconciliation and righteousness mean nothing without salvation. One can have his debt forgiven and the books are set to right, however, if the debtor does not recognize the debt as forgiven, he or she still remain in the state of being a debtor. Likewise, even if someone understands the debt is forgiven yet continues to claim he or she need to pay all back, do not receive the forgiveness of the said debt. In addition, if someone is told that all is set right and there is nothing he or she can do to add to the work already done. It is as if he or she does not understand what it means to be set right. It is as if many believers are on an overturned boat that is set right again, yet keep trying to help turn it over again as it was preferable to rest on the keel instead of the cushioned seats.

            Salvation is a gift. It is like a car that appears on a driveway with a note attached to the keys saying, “Today, this car is yours!” However, if the receiver of said gift does not take the keys and drive, the gift is wasted on the driveway and is all for nothing. Here is the closing. Not were the NIV, KJV or LB may state the chapter ends but where Paul concludes this passage. Paul pleads for all to not receive the gift of grace in vain—as equal co-workers. Not as some “Apostle” worthy of being listened to, but as “workers together”. [47] Paul concludes his thought as any evangelist would, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” [48]Salvation cannot be earned, but only received. The debt was paid and sin was dealt a deathblow. Now it is our choice as to what we do or not do with Jesus Christ—and our choice of response is our salvation.


Frank G. Carver, B.D., Th.M., Ph.D. Beacon Bible Commentary. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1970.

Henry, Matthew. 1706. 2 Corinthians. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible
     complete/genesis/ (accessed April 22 2014).
Mickelsen, A. Berkeley Mickelsen & Alvera M. Understanding Scritpure How to Read and Study the Bible. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers' Inc., 1992.
Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1962.
Stegman, Thomas. Second Corinthians. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed April 17, 2014).
Stuart, Gordon D. Fee and Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Talbert, Charles H. 2002. Reading Corinthians : A Literary and Theological Commentary. Macon, Ga: Smyth & Helwys Pub, 2002. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2014).
Walton, Steve. Zondervan Handbook to the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
Wright, N. T. Paul. Minneapolis: First Fort Press, 2005.
Walton, Steve. Zondervan Handbook to the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

[1] Stuart, Gordon D. Fee and Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. 23

[2] Ibid 33

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid (Fee and Stuart give great examples on p. 34)

[5] Mickelsen, A. Berkeley Mickelsen & Alvera M. Understanding Scripture How to Read and Study the Bible. 42

[6] Ibid 43
[7] NKJ
[8] Stuart 2003, 30
[9] Mickelsen, A. Berkeley Mickelsen & Alvera M. Understanding Scripture How to Read and Study the Bible, 9

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid. 11

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid, 13
[15] Ibid 63
[16] James 4:6b, NKJ

[17] NKJ

[18] Walton, Steve. Zondervan Handbook to the Bible. 694

[19] Ibid

[20] Ibid

[21] 1 Corinthians 5:1

[22] Walton, Steve, 706

[23] For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. (4:5 NKJ).

[24] Stegman, Thomas. Second Corinthians. 138

[25] NIV

[26] Ibid

[27] Frank G. Carver, B.D., Th.M., Ph.D. Beacon Bible Commentary. 554

[28] Talbert, Charles H. 2002. Reading Corinthians: A Literary and Theological Commentary. 200

[29] Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology, 114

[30] N.T. Wright. Paul. 34

[31] Stagg, Frank. 114

[32] Ibid
[33] Ibid, 115

[34] Ibid (Romans 5:10)

[35] Ibid 115

[36] Ibid 116
[37] 2 Corinthians 2

[38] 2 Corinthians 5:20

[39] Henry, Matthew. 1706. Genesis. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible
     complete/genesis/ (accessed March 18, 2011).

[40] Matthew 13:32 NKJ

[42] Vs. 17

[43] Frank G. Carver, B.D., Th.M., Ph.D. 556

[44] Ibid
[45] Ibid

[46] Ibid

[47] 2 Corinthians 6:1

[48] NKJ