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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2


In the first part of this chapter, the Apostle proceeds to account for his own cheerful intrepidity, as well as that of his colleagues, in the midst of dangers and persecutions. It proceeds from the consideration of their future glory, from their firm belief in the future glorification of their bodies (verse 1), which glory they are anxious to have imparted to them without bodily dissolution, as nature recoils so strongly from death (2, 3, 4). But bearing in mind, that it is God who fits them for future glory, of which he has given them a sure earnest, they have great courage and confidence in undergoing all hardships for the Gospel with the hope of arriving at this supreme felicity (5–9), to attain which they endeavour, under all circumstances to please God; and keeping before their eyes his tremendous judgement, they so act as to prove to men their sincerity, lest they should be a stumbling-block or a scandal to anyone (10, 11). He guards against the misconstruction which the false teachers might put upon the circumstance of his praising himself, by an assurance that whether he praises or speaks humbly of his own exploits—he has, in both cases, the glory of God and his neighbour’s good in view (12, 13). He is moved to pursue this disinterested line of conduct by the example of Christ, whose purchased slaves we are all become by Redemption, who has, therefore, a right to all our services (14, 15). Hence, the Apostles, dead to themselves and living only to Christ, regard no one, not even the Redeemer himself, from human considerations; but they regard all from the highest spiritual motives (16). This should not be peculiar to the Apostles, as every Christian, after having entered on his new spiritual existence, should do the same (17). He refers the merit of all these blessings resulting from our new spiritual existence, to their true source, viz., God, who made us sharers in them by having reconciled us with himself (18). He explains the mode in which this reconciliation was effected (19). He points out the exalted dignity of the ministers of religion (20); and, lastly, assigns a new reason for confidently expecting reconciliation with God, founded on the death of Christ.


1. For, we assuredly know by faith, that when this body of earth, in which the soul dwells for a time, as in a temporary abode or tabernacle, is dissolved by death, we shall have a lasting dwelling from God, viz., a spiritual body given us in the resurrection, unlike the works of art made to last but for a time, this body is not made by human hands, but by the power of God himself.

2. For, on account of the necessity of this dissolution from which nature recoils, we groan, anxiously longing for this heavenly habitation; desiring to be clothed with the glorious qualities of a heavenly glorified body, as with a garment, without being subjected to the pains of dissolution.

3. We shall receive the properties of glorified bodies in this way, provided, at the coming of our Lord, we are found vested with our bodies and not separated from them.

4. For while we are in this tabernacle of clay, oppressed with its weight, we groan for our state of incorruptibility, not that we wish to arrive at this state, through the dissolution of this moral body, but to be clothed and invested with it in such a way as that the mortality of this present body would be absorbed by immortal life, that from being mortal, the same would become immortal.

5. But it is God, who fits us for this heavenly domicile, and who has given us the abundant gifts of his Holy Spirit, as a sure earnest of a happy and glorious immortality.

6. Having, therefore, this firm faith, and sure earnest of future glory, we cheerfully undergo all sufferings in the cause of the gospel, knowing that as long as we are in the body, we are sojourners from the Lord.

7. (For, in this life we are tending towards our heavenly country, guided by the obscure and glimmering light of faith; but we have not yet arrived at the enjoyment of the clear and intuitive vision of God).

8. We have, I say, courage cheerfully to undergo all sufferings for the gospel, and we regard it as a blessing to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord to enjoy his vision.

9. And therefore, we exert our utmost might, whether absent or present in the body, to be pleasing and acceptable to him.

10. For we must all, without exception, stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the Supreme Judge of all, and have our deeds then publicly manifested and exposed, so that each one may receive either the reward or punishment due to him, conformably to the life which he led in the body, according as that life was good or wicked.

11. Keeping, therefore, always before our eyes this fearful judgment of the Lord, we endeavour to convince men of the sincerity of our ministry and profession, lest we should be a scandal or an impediment to any one; and as to God, our sincerity is perfectly known to him, and I trust, that to your consciences too, it will be perfectly manifest, notwith standing the malicious insinuations of the false teachers.

12. We do not speak thus, with the view of again commending ourselves to you, and of gaining your good will (as had been charged upon us), but with the view of affording you an opportunity of glorying in us, and of furnishing you with some answer against those who feel elated from external accomplishments, without any real interior virtue wherein to glory.

13. We do nothing on our own account merely; for whether by speaking in praise of ourselves, and of our actions, we appear to be insanely transported in mind, it is for the glory of God we do so; or whether by speaking in terms of lowliness of ourselves, we act like men in their sober senses, it is for your sakes, to give you an example of modesty and humility.

14. The gratuitous and excessive love of Christ for us, urges us to pursue such a disinterested line of conduct, considering this, that if one man has died to save all from eternal death; therefore, all were spiritually dead (and his death for all shows the extent of the benefit conferred).

15. And also bearing in mind, that Christ has died for all; so that those who now live, are bound to his service in such a way, as to live no longer for themselves, but for him who has died and has risen for their sakes. (Hence, we should live solely for the service of our Redeemer, whose ransomed slaves we are).

16. Wherefore, since we, Apostles, have become Christians, and dying to ourselves have begun to live to Christ, we have regarded in no man earthly or carnal considerations; and if at anytime we have known and loved Christ from human motives, we do so no longer, but from purer and more exalted spiritual motives, we adore and serve him.

17. This is not peculiar to us, Apostles, but if any person has been regenerated with us in Christ, let him know that he is a new creature, he has received a new existence; for him the old have passed away, behold all things are made new for him (hence, he should lead a new life, conformably to the new spiritual existence which he has received).

18. But all this renewed spiritual existence, with its accompanying gifts, are from God, the author of all good gifts, who has admitted us, his enemies, by sin into his friendship, through the merits of Christ, and has constituted us the ministers of his reconciliation with others.

19. For God has reconciled a sinful world to himself through Christ, gratuitously remitting their sins, and to us he has intrusted the preaching’ of this reconciliation with others.

20. We, Apostles, are, therefore, in the place of Christ, the ambassadors of God with man. Our exhortations and entreaties, to you to return to penance, should be regarded by you, as emanating from God himself. In the name of Christ, therefore, and in his person, we beseech you to become reconciled to God, mindful of his infinite mercy.

21. A reason for seeking and confidently hoping for reconciliation with God, is grounded on his infinite benignity and mercy in making his Son, who had as little commerce with sin, as if he were utterly ignorant of its nature, a victim of sin for us, that through him we might receive real and inherent justice, being made sharers in God’s justice by the infusion of sanctifying grace.


1. “For,” connects the following with the foregoing. The Apostle assigns a reason why he and his colleagues undervalue temporal things, and regard not passing and momentary tribulations. He wishes to point out the future glory that awaits us, both as regards body and soul.

“Of this habitation.” In Greek, τοῦ σκηνους, of this tabernacle, implying that as a tabernacle is only a temporary abode, so the body, in its mortal state, is to be the tenement of the soul only for a time. “A building of God,” in Greek, εκ θεοῦ, Vulgate, ex Deo, “from God,” by which is commonly understood, the body in its glorified state after the resurrection; for it is by the hopes of the glory of the resurrection, the Apostles were encouraged to labour manfully in the work of the gospel, and to it he refers (verse 14) of preceding chapter. This interpretation derives great probability from (verse 3), where the same idea is more fully developed.

2. “In this,” that is, on this account, viz., on account of the necessity of the dissolution of our bodies—from which we naturally recoil—before they can be clothed with the qualities of a glorious immortality; others understand the words, “in this,” to mean, in this body or earthly domicile, we sigh after immortality, wishing to be invested with it, as with a garment. There are two metaphors involved in this passage—one derived from a house, another, from a garment.

3. “Yet so,” &c., i.e., we shall be invested with a glorious immortality in this way, without dissolution, if we be among those who shall be found alive on the day of judgment; because, as the death of such persons will last for only a very short time, they may be said to be vested with a glorious immortality without dissolution, and the Apostle in all his Epistles treats of the day of judgment as near, because it virtually takes place for all at death. Others understand this verse, thus; if clothed with grace, we are not found devoid of charity and good works.

4. He repeats, in different words, the idea conveyed in the preceding verses. While in this tabernacle, we sigh for a glorious immortality, being oppressed with the weight of our present body—not that we wish for it at the expense of dissolution, but only in such a way as to be invested with it, without the intervention of death, so that the mortal be absorbed by immortal life.

5. He ascribes to the grace of God all the merit of the ministry by which he is fitted for immortality, and God has increased our hope by the pledge of future glory which he has given us. “That maketh.” (In Greek, κατεργασαμενος; that hath made).

6. In consequence of the sure earnest of God’s spirit in our hearts, we always act with courage and cheerfulness under crosses and afflictions—the most secure road of safely arriving at our end—knowing that while we are in this body, we are sojourners from the Lord; we, therefore, hasten towards that country of which we are enrolled as citizens, and in which is our everlasting inheritance.

7. This verse is to be included in a parenthesis—(see Paraphrase).

8. He continues the subject digressed from in the preceding verse: We have courage, I say, under adversity, and we even prefer to be freed from the body to remaining in it, and thus to enjoy God’s beatific vision.

9. If while here “present” in the body, we merit heavenly bliss, and please God, we shall please Him hereafter, when “absent” from the body; we shall be objects always pleasing in His sight, and we shall merit that this happiness be not taken from us for eternity.

10. In this verse is given a reason why we should always endeavour to please God; because we must all stand and be examined before the judgment seat of Christ, to whom the Father has transferred all judgment, and whom he has constituted Judge of the living and of the dead. In this judgment, five circumstances are here noticed by the Apostle:—First, it is to be universal—“we all.” Second, inevitable—“we must.” Third, clear and evident, exposing both interior actions and intentions; and hence a source of shame and confusion—“be manifested.” Fourth, irrevocable, as occurring before a supreme Judge, Christ—“before the judgment seat of Christ.” Fifth, most just; being grounded on all the actions, thoughts, &c., of our entire life, “according as he hath done.” What a subject of most serious reflection!

“The proper things of the body.” In Greek, τα δια τοῦ σώματος, the things by the body. The Vulgate interpreters read, ιδια τοῦ σώματος, propria corporis, the reading of Origen.

11. “Fear of the Lord”—“fear”; the effect is put for the judgment which causes it. “We use persuasion to men,” to avoid scandalizing the weakness, or obstructing in any way the progress of the Gospel; for, as to God, the searcher of hearts, to him the fulness of our sincerity is already clear and evident.

12. The Apostle here takes precaution against a repetition of the charge made against him by the false teachers (see chap. 3 verse 1), and removes all grounds for the misconstruction of his words. His motive in referring to his past good works is, to afford the Corinthians a subject for glorifying in him, as their true Apostle, and a means of reply against the false teachers, who were in the habit of boasting of mere external advantages, such as learning, riches, worldly connections, &c.; but, were prevented by their private deeds of shame (chap. 4 verse 2) from boasting of acts of virtue, or of purity of heart and conscience.

13. Whether he praises himself at one time, or speaks in terms of modesty and humility of his actions at another, he does neither on his own account; on each occasion, he has the glory of God, or the edification of his neighbour in view. “Transported in mind,” when praising himself; for it is the mark of a madman or of a fool, to be speaking commendably of himself. “It is to God;” it is to glorify God who is the author of every good gift in us. “Be sober,” like men in their senses, who speak modestly of themselves; “it is for you,” to give them an example of modesty and humility.

14. The gratuitous, disinterested love of Christ, who did nothing to please himself, non sibi placuit (Romans, 15:3), constrains the Apostles to follow the same disinterested course, having God’s glory and the neighbour’s salvation always in view. “Judging this,” &c. He adds this to show the magnitude of the benefit of Redemption; and to point out the excess of the love of Christ, which “pressed” the Apostle. What a strong exhortation to labour unceasingly for the salvation of our brethren! If Christ died for all, why should not we give our lives for our brethren?

15. “And Christ died for all.” We have not the word “Christ” in the Greek; it is, however, understood. “That they who live,” &c. Besides the motive of Redemption and ransom, Christ in his death also wished to teach us, that we should devote our life to his service; since, as ransomed slaves, we owe all our actions to the master and Lord who purchased us.

16. “Henceforth,” that is, since we, Apostles, began to live a new life imparted to us in Christianity. “According to the flesh,” i.e., regarding in them merely human considerations (v.g.), because Jews or Gentiles, learned or unlearned, kinsmen or strangers. “And if we have known Christ,” &c., that is, if from the beginning of our conversion, we regarded in Christ the human consideration of being a fellow-countryman, or of being of Jewish extraction. “But now,” &c., we have been no longer guided by such consideration, we have begun to love and adore him from higher and more spiritual motives. Some understand this of the other Apostles, while living with Christ here on earth; for St. Paul was not a follower of His until after the Ascension. It may refer to St. Paul himself at the commencement of his conversion, for he had not wholly divested himself of human feelings, or of an over zeal for everything Jewish, at once.

17. “If then any be in Christ a new creature.” The Greek, ει τις εν Χριστῳ καινη κτισις, might be translated, if any be in Christ, he is a new creature. It is not peculiar to the Apostles to enter on a new life in accordance with the object of Christ’s death and resurrection (verse 15), but every Christian, every man who has been baptized, has received a new spiritual existence, to which his actions should conform, by living solely for him who died and rose again for him. “Old things are passed away,” i.e., the passions, inordinate affections of the old, unregenerate man should no longer domineer over him. They are dead to the things of the flesh. “Behold all things are made new.” These words are, according to St. Thomas and Cajetan, mystically allusive to, chap. 43, verses 18 and 19, of Isaias. They are illustrative of the “new creature,” and express, the newness of faith, justice and sanctity, as opposed to unbelief, sin, and immorality. They also convey an allusion to the total renovation of redeemed human nature, both as to soul and body, and to the new heavens and the new earth, the destined abode of the Saints, in which justice is to dwell.

18. “To himself by Christ.” (In the common Greek, by Christ Jesus; “Jesus” is not in the Codex Vaticanus). All these spiritual blessings resulting from our new existence should be referred to God, as their real author. This new existence is the result of our reconciliation with God, and God himself is the author of this reconciliation or his enemies with him, which, through the merits of Christ, and through the ministry of reconciliation, he has perpetuated in his Apostles and the pastors of his Church to the end of time.

19. In this verse, is explained and developed more fully the idea expressed in the preceding. He reconciled the world through Christ, by gratuitously remitting their sins in consideration of the ransom which he paid for them, and by bestowing on them his sanctifying grace which he gratuitously, merited for them. This passage furnishes no argument in favour of the heretical doctrine of imputative justice. For, the Apostle only considers one circumstance of our reconciliation, namely—the remission of our sins on the part of God. But from other sources we know that this remission is effected by the infusion of sanctifying grace. By this grace sin is really remitted; otherwise, how could God, who hates iniquity, regard with complacency, or repute as just the man who really remains in the mire and filth of sin? He has constituted the Apostles ministers of announcing this great blessing of reconciliation.

20. We, Apostles, are ambassadors, of Christ; hence, when we exhort or encourage you, it is the same as if this were done by Christ himself; because Christ speaks through us. “For Christ,” i.e., in the name and person of Christ, “we beseech you,” &c. The ministers of the gospel are, then, the ambassadors of Christ. With what reverence and respect are they not, therefore, to be treated, when acting in this capacity. The respect or contempt shown them is shown to Christ himself, by whom they are sent, and in whose name and authority they act. Whosoever touches them might as well touch the apple of his eye. On the other hand, with what circumspection should not the ministers of religion walk, and how cautious should they not be to avoid the least offence, that might mar or obstruct the interests of him by whom they were sent. What sanctity of life should they not practise, both in the presence of God and before men, in order to be fit representatives, before men, of their heavenly Master.

21. In this verse is assigned a motive to inspire us with confidence in seeking and hoping for reconciliation with God, viz., because he made his Son, who had no experimental knowledge of sin, or who had no more knowledge of it than if he knew not what it was. “Sin,” i.e., a victim of sin, according to the Scripture usage, which often uses the word “sin” to express the victim for sin, (v.g.) Osee, 4, verse 8; Leviticus, 4, verse 24. “That we might be made,” &c., i.e., that we might be made really and internally just, by a justice like the justice of God, of which we are rendered, by sanctifying grace, sharers through his merits.

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