11-20-2021 2 Corinthians 5:1-10
I will die. You will die. All of us will one day die. This is in no way to try to set anyone off, or to depress anyone, it’s just sheer fact. The greatest scientists in the world have yet to overcome death. The greatest priests and saints have yet to overcome death. And this is worth bearing, because we so often think about how the scientist can overcome this fault in our programming. We often think about how the priest can over come this fault in our structure. And yet, in the end, we will all put off this mortal coil and remain no longer living in the physical sense of the world. No amount of medication shot into our bodies, no amount of proper dieting, no amount of friends or family, will ever change this fact. The fall of Adam is so often thought to have brought sin into the world, but the real travesty was that it brought death into our world.
I wanted to begin with that, because in today’s passage, St Paul is speaking about this exact fact. He begins with stating that though our earthly home may be destroyed, we should have no fear of that, because we have a home with God. And this is an amazing revelation to not only the Church in Corinth, but to us as well. This fear of death is overcome for the true Christian by hope in the Resurrection. The soul, Saint Paul says, is naked (v.3), unclothed (v.4) when it dies. The soul is clothed in our flesh, and once we fall asleep in the Lord, the soul leaves that clothing. And yet we groan because we long to be clothed in the Kingdom. We long to be embraced and welcomed into the Kingdom, clothed in the Spirit of Christ.
All together, we see that he is teaching that while we should never seek death, we should never long for it, neither however should we fear it. We should not long for the clothing of the flesh, but rather we should long to be clothed in the resurrection. God did not create us to die, it was the introduction of sin which begat the introduction of death, but rather He created us to be transformed from mortality into life everlasting. Thus, he speaks of not the bliss of the soul naked without a body, but rather the glory of the soul in union with the glorified body; that is in union with Christ in the resurrection. Again, when we contemplate the Cross, we should think less of it’s forgiveness of sins, and more about the fact that through Christ’s death and resurrection, He overcame the power of death, and thus the fear of it for His followers.
He goes on to say that we are always confident with the Lord. While we are present in the flesh, we are apart from the presence of God. Thus the time we spend at home in the flesh is spent drawing closer to the Lord, learning about Him, becoming more like Him, being taught those things which He expects. We walk not by sight, by those things which are visibly seen, by those things which seem so important to us in the world; but rather by faith, living in accordance with those things which Christ has deemed are truly important. It’s again this idea that in the flesh, we are fallen and therefore vulnerable to the temptations of the flesh; what feels good, what makes us feel good, what do we desire; to chase those temptations and pleasures. And yet, so long as we have faith in Christ, we have the power to refuse those carnal ways. Our bodies and our desires are not our god, our lord, Jesus is. And so long as we understand and adhere to that fact, death carries no fear for us. No, we should never seek to escape this gestational stage, but neither should we fear the full blooming of the soul into the Kingdom. Walking by sight becomes the spirit living according to the physicality of the flesh, the sinful nature which we have inherited from the world. And yes, Paul states that we are not only confident, but actually well pleased with the thought of being absent from the body and present in the Lord.
“Therefore, we make it our aim, whether absent or present, to be well pleasing to Him.” To be present with the Lord, we have learned, is to be absent from the body, thus whether we are living or dead, our goal must always be to be well pleasing to Him. To obey His commands and to stay as far as possible away from sinful thoughts and deeds. And this is far from an easy task, but is absolutely imperative for us. For all of us will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, believers and non-believers alike. And in this fact, we find that our time in the flesh is preparing us for that very day. It is preparing us for the day when we will stand before the Lord. And, St Paul explains to us that we will stand before Him so that “each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (Vs 10).
For Christians, right belief gives the power and motivation for right behavior. And we don’t like to hear this. Our generation has been given the power to cancel anyone that we don’t agree with, but we can’t overlook what Jesus and the apostles taught us just because we don’t like it. Here again, we see our faith tied to our works. We must believe in Him who alone is able to forgive, but we must believe in Him with a belief that can put behind us what we want or what we desire. We must believe with a belief that doesn’t please us, but change us. The true Christian in a world whose prince is the enemy should never be comfortable, our lives here should never be easy. Accepting the true faith means we walk away from the world, it’s decrees, it’s mandates; it means we recognize and never accept sinful behavior regardless of who endorses it. It means we walk away from our own sinful deeds, sinful thoughts. Not that these deeds will save us, it is our faith, but it is our faith that begets these deeds. It is this blending of faith and works which leads us to this eternal life. And nowhere in Scripture does it ever rebuke these facts, to the contrary, all through Scripture we find warnings against faith which doesn’t beget deeds and deeds that don’t beget behavior.
Our salvation in Christ is through our faith, which begets our obedience, which begets our deeds. Jesus loves us, and it is not His will that any sinner should perish, but all should have eternal life; and He tells us how we can accomplish that. He lays forth for us very strict morals, very strict guidelines, to inherit the Kingdom. And to those of us who follow Him, who take heed to these, there is no need to fear death. “Each of us will receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” True faith in Christ isn’t meant to please you, it’s meant to change you. To please you in this life is to make you a slave to the very death that He came to save you from in the resurrection.
Christ is in our midst.