Chrysostom on 2Cor 1000
1000 of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. (2Co 5,1-10)
1001 Again he arouses their zeal because many trials drew on. For it was likely that they, in consequence of his absence, were weaker in respect to this [need]. What then saith he? One ought not to wonder that we suffer affliction; nor to be confounded, for we even reap many gains thereby. And some of these he mentioned before; for instance, that we “bear about the dying of Jesus,” and present the greatest proof of His power: for he says, “that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God:” and we exhibit a clear proof of the Resurrection, for, says he, “that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” But since along with these things he said that our inward man is thus made better also; for “though our outward man is decaying,” saith he, “yet the inward man is renewed day by day;” showing again that this being scourged and persecuted is proportionately useful, he adds, that when this is done thoroughly, then the countless good things will spring up for those who have endured these things. For lest when thou hearest that thy outward man perishes, thou shouldest grieve; he says, that when this is completely effected, then most of all shalt thou rejoice and shalt come unto a better inheritance. So that not only ought not one to grieve at its perishing now in part, but even earnestly to seek for the completion of that destruction, for this most conducts thee to immortality. Wherefore also he added, “For we know, that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved: we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” For since he is urging again the doctrine of the Resurrection in respect to which they were particularly unsound; he calls; in aid the judgment of his hearers also, and soestablishes it; not however in the same way asbefore, but, as it were, arriving at it out of another subject: (for they had been already corrected:) and says, “We know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Some indeed say that the ‘earthly house’ is this world; But I should maintain that he alludes rather to the body. But observe, I pray, how by the terms [he uses,] he shows the superiority of the future things to the present. For having said “earthly” he hath opposed to it “the heavenly;” having said, “house of tabernacle,” thereby declaring both that it is easily taken to pieces and is temporary, he hath opposed to it the “eternal,” for the name “tabernacle” often times denotes temporariness. Wherefore He saith, “In My Father’s house are many abiding places.” (Jn 14,2) But if He anywhere also calls the resting places of the saints tabernacles; He calls them not tabernacles simply, but adds an epithet; for he said not, that “they may receive you” into their tabernacles, but “into the eternal tabernacles.” (Lc 16,9) Moreover also in that he said, “not made with hands,” he alluded to that which was made with hands. What then? Is the body made with hands? By no means; but he either alludes to the houses here that are made with hands, or if not this, then he called the body which is not made with hands, ’a house of tabernacle.’ For he has not used the term in antithesis and contradistinction to this, but to heighten those eulogies and swell those commendations.
[2.] 2Co 5,2 “For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven.”
What habitation? tell me. The incorruptible body. And why do we groan now? Because that is far better. And “from heaven” he calls it because of its incorruptibleness. For it is not surely that a body will come down to us from above: but by this expression he signifies the grace which is sent from thence. So far then ought we to be from grieving at these trials which are in part that we ought to seek even for their fulness, as if he had said: Groanest thou, that thou art persecuted, that this thy man is decaying? Groan that this is not done unto excess and that it perishes not entirely. Seest thou how he hath turned round what was said unto the contrary; having provedthat they ought to groan that those things werenot done fully; for which because they were done partially; they groaned. Therefore he henceforth calls it not a tabernacle, but a house, and with great reason. For a tabernacle indeed is easily taken to pieces; but a house abideth continually.
2Co 5,3. “If so be that being unclothed we shall not be found naked.”
That is, even if we have put off the body, we shall not be presented there without a body, but even with the same one made incorruptible. But some read, and it deserves very much to be adopted, “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.” For lest all should be confident because of the Resurrection, he says, “If so be that being clothed,” that is, having obtained incorruption and an incorruptible body, “we shall not be found naked” of glory and safety. As he also said in the former Epistle; “We shall all be raised; but each in his own order.” And, “There are celestial bodies, and bodies terrestial.” (1Co 15,22-23 1Co 15,40). For the Resurrection indeed is common to all, but the glory is not common; but some shall rise in honor and others in dishonor, and some to a kingdom but others to punishment. This surely he signified here also, when he said; “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.”
[3.] 2Co 5,4. “For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan, not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon.” Here again he hath utterly and manifestly stopped the mouths of the heretics, showing that he is not speaking absolutely of a body differing in identity, but of corruption and incorruption: ‘For we do not therefore groan,’ saith he, ‘that we may be delivered from the body: for of this we do not wish to be unclothed; but we hasten to be delivered from the corruption that is in it’. Wherefore he saith, ‘we wish not to be unclothed of the body, but that it should be clothed upon with incorruption.’ Then he also interprets it [thus,] “That what is mortal may be swallowed up of life.” For since putting off the body appeared to many a grievous thing; and he was contradicting the judgments of all, when he said, “we groan,” not wishing to be set free from it; (‘for if,’ says one, ‘the soul in being separated from it so suffers and laments, how sayest thou that we groan because we are not separated from it?’) lest then this should be urged against him, he says, ‘Neither do I assert that we therefore groan, that we may put it off; (for no one putteth it off without pain, seeing that Christ says even of Peter, ‘They shall “carry thee,” and lead thee “whither thou wouldest not; ”— Jn 21,18) but that we may have it clothed uponwith incorruption.’ For it is in this respect that we are burdened by the body; not because it is a body, but because we are encompassed with a corruptible body and liable to suffering, for it is this that also causes us pain. But the life when it arriveth destroyeth and useth up the corruption; the corruption, I say, not the body. ‘And how cometh this to pass?’ saith one. Inquire not; God doeth it; be not too curious. Wherefore also he added,
2Co 5,5. “Now he that hath wrought us for this very thing is God.”! Hereby he shows that these things were prefigured from the first. For not now was this decreed: but when at the first He fashioned us from earth and created Adam; for not for this created He him, that he should die, but that He might make him even immortal. Then as showing the credibility of this and furnishing the proof of it, he added,
“Who also gave the earnest of the Spirit.” For even then He fashioned us for this; and now He hath wrought unto this by baptism, and hath furnished us with no light security thereof, the Holy Spirit. And he continually calls It an earnest, wishing to prove God to be a debtor of the whole, and thereby also to make what he says more credible unto the grosser sort.
[4.] 2Co 5,6. “Being therefore always of good courage, and knowing.”
The word “of good courage” is used with reference to the persecutions, the plottings, and the continual deaths: as if he had said, ‘Doth any vex and persecute and slay thee? Be not cast down, for thy good all is done. Be not afraid: but of good courage. For that which thou groanest and grievest for, that thou art in bondage to corruption, he removes from hence-forward out of the way, and frees thee the sooner from this bondage.’ Wherefore also he saith, “Being therefore always of good courage,” not in the seasons of rest only, but also in those of tribulation; “and knowing,”
2Co 5,7-8. “That whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight); we are of good courage, I say, and are willing to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.”
That which is greater than all he has put last, for to be with Christ is better, than receiving an incorruptible [body.] But what he means is this: ‘He quencheth not our life that warreth against and killeth us; be not afraid; be of good courage even when hewn in pieces. For not only doth he set thee free from corruption and a burden, but he also sendeth thee quickly to the Lord.’ Wherefore neither did he say, “whilst we ‘are’ in the body:” as of those who are in a foreign and strange land. “Knowing therefore that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: we are of good courage, I say, and willing to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.” Seest thou how keeping back what was painful, the names of death and the end, he has employed instead of them such as excite great longing, calling them presence with God; and passing over those things which are accounted to be sweet, the things of life, he hath expressed them by painful names, calling the life here an absence from the Lord? Now this he did, both that no one might fondly linger amongst present things, but rather be aweary of them; and that none when about to die might be disquieted, but might even rejoice as departing unto greater goods. Then that none might say on hearing that we are absent from the Lord, ‘Why speakest thou thus? Are we then estranged from Him whilst we are here?’ he in anticipation corrected such a thought, saying, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Even here indeed we know Him, but not so clearly. As he says also elsewhere, (1Co 13,12) “in a mirror,” and “darkly.”
“We are of good courage, I say, and willing.” Wonderful! to what hath he brought round the discourse? To an extreme desire of death, having shown the grievous to be pleasurable, and the pleasurable grievous. For by the term, “we are willing” he means, ‘we are desirous.’ Of what are we desirous? Of being “absent from the body, and at home with the Lord.” And thus he does perpetually, (as I showed also before) turning round the objection of his opponents unto the very contrary.
2Co 5,9. “Wherefore also we make it our aim whether at home or absent, to be well pleasing unto him.”
‘For what we seek for is this,’ saith he, ‘whether we be there or here, to live according to His will; for this is the principal thing. So that by this thou hast the kingdom already in possession without a probation.’ For lest when they had arrived at so great a desire of being there, they should again be disquieted at its being so long first, in this he gives them already the chief of those good things. And what is this? To be well “pleasing.” For as to depart is not absolutely good, but to do so in [God’s] favor, which is what makes departing also become a good; so to remain here is not absolutely grievous, but to remain offending Him. Deem not then that departure from the body is enough; for virtue is always necessary. For as when he spoke of a Resurrection, he allowed [them] not by it alone to be of good courage, saying, “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked;” so also having showed a departure, lest thou shouldest think that this is enough to save thee, he added that it is needful that we be well pleasing.
[5.] Seeing then he has persuaded them by many good things, henceforth he alarms them also by those of gloomier aspect. For our interest consists both in the attainment of the good things and the avoidance of the evil things, in other words, hell and the kingdom. But since this, the avoiding of punishment, is the more forcible motive; for where penalty reaches only to the not receiving good things, the most will bear this contentedly; but if it also extend to the suffering of evil, do so no longer: (for they ought, indeed, to consider the former intolerable, but from the weakness and grovelling nature of the many, the latter appearsto them more hard to bear:) since then (I say) the giving of the good things doth not so arouse the general hearer as the threat of the punishments, he is obliged to conclude with this, saying,
2Co 5,10. “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat.”
Then having alarmed and shaken the hearer by the mention of that judgment-seat, he hath not even here set down the woful without the good things, but hath mingled something of pleasure, saying,
“That each one may receive the things done in the body,” as many as “he hath done, whether” it be “good or bad.”
By saying these words, he both reviveth those who have done virtuously and are persecuted with those hopes, and maketh those who have fallen back more earnest by that fear. And he thus confirmed his words touching the resurrection of the body. ‘For surely,’ sayeth he, ‘that which hath ministered to the one and to the other shall not stand excluded from the recompenses: but along with the soul shall in the one case be punished, in the other crowned.’ But some of the heretics say, that it is another body that is raised. How so? tell me. Did one sin, and is another punished? Did one do virtuously, and is another crowned? And what will ye answer to Paul, saying, “We would not be unclothed, but clothed upon?” And how is that which is mortal “swallowed up of life?” For he said not, that the mortal or corruptible body should be swallowed up of the incorruptible body; but that corruption [should be swallowed up] “of life.” For then this happeneth when the same body is raised; but if, giving up that body, He should prepare another, no longer is corruption swallowed up but continueth dominant. Therefore this is not so; but “this corruptible,” that is to say the body, “must put on incorruption.” For the body is in a middle state, being at present in this and hereafter to be in that; and for this reason in this first, because it is impossible for the incorruption to be dissolved. “For neither cloth corruption inherit incorruption,” saith he, (for, how is it [then] incorruption?) but on the contrary, “corruption is swallowed up of life:” for this indeed survives the other, but not the other this. For as wax is melted by fire but itself doth not melt the fire: so also doth corruption melt and vanish away under incorruption, but is never able itself to get the better of incorruption.
[6.] Let us then hear the voice of Paul, saying, that “we must stand at the judgment-seat of Christ;” and let us picture to ourselves that court of justice, and imagine it to be present now and the reckoning to be required. For I will speak of it more at large. For Paul, seeing that he was discoursing on affliction, and he had no mind to afflict them again, did not dwell on the subject; but having in brief expressed its austerity, “Each one shall receive according to what he hath done,” he quickly passed on. Let us then imagine it to be present now, and reckon each one of us with his own conscience, and account the Judge to be already present, and everything to be revealed and brought forth. For we must not merely stand, but also be manifested. Do ye not blush? Are ye not astonied? But if now, when the reality is not yet present, but is granted in supposition merely and imaged in thought; if now [I say] we perish conscience-struck; what shall we do when [it] shall arrive, when the whole world shall be present, when angels and archangels, when ranks upon ranks, and all hurrying at once, and some caught up on the clouds, and an array full of trembling; when there shall be the trumpets, one upon another, [when] those unceasing voices?
For suppose there were no hell, yet in the midst of so great brightness to be rejected and to go away dishonored;—how great the punishment! For if even now, when the Emperor rideth in and his train with him, we contemplating each one of us our own poverty, derive not so much pleasure from the spectacle, as we endure dejection at having no share in what is going on about the Emperor, nor being near the Sovereign; what will it be then? Or thinkest thou it is a light punishment, not to be ranked in that company, not to be counted worthy of that unutterable glory, from that assemblage and those untold good things, to be cast forth some-wither far and distant? But when there is also darkness, and gnashing of teeth, and chains indissoluble, and an undying worm, and fire unquenchable, and affliction, and straitness, and tongues scorching like the rich man’s; and we wail, and none heareth; and we groan and gnash our teeth for anguish, and none regardeth; and we look all round, and no where is there any to comfort us; where shall we rank those that are in this condition? what is there more miserable than are those souls? what more pitiable? For if, when we enter a prison and see its inmates, some squalid, some chained and famishing, some again shut up in darkness, we are moved with compassion, we shudder, we use all diligence that we may never be cast into that place; how will it be with us, when we are led and dragged away into the the torture-dungeons themselves of hell? For not of iron are those chains, but of fire that is never quenched; nor are they that are set over us our fellows whom it is often possible even to mollify; but angels whom one may not so much as look in the face, exceedingly enraged at our insults to their Master. Nor is it given, as here, to see some bringing in money, some food, some words of comfort, and to meet with consolation; but all is irremissible there: and though it should be Noah, or Job, or Daniel, and he should see his own kindred punished, he dares not succor. For even natural sympathy too comes then to be done away. For since it happeneth that there are righteous fathers of wicked children, and [righteous] children of [wicked] fathers; that so their pleasure may be unalloyed, and those who enjoy the good things may not be moved with sorrow through the constraining force of sympathy, even this sympathy, I affirm, is extinguished, and themselves are indignant together with the Master against their own bowels. For if the common run of men, when they see their own children vicious, disown and cut them off from that relationship; much rather will the righteous then. Therefore let no one hope for good things, if he have not wrought any good thing, even though he have ten thousand righteous ancestors. “For each one shall receive the things done in the body according to what he hath done.” Here he seems to me to be alluding also to them that commit fornication: and to raise up as a wall unto them the fear of that world, not however to them alone; but also to all that in any wise transgress.
[7.] Let us hear then, us also. And if thou have the fire of lust, set against it that other fire, and this will presently be quenched and gone. And if thou purposest to utter some harsh sounding [speech], think of the gnashing of teeth, and the fear will be a bridle to thee. And if thou purposest to plunder, hear the Judge commanding, and saying, “Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness,” (Mt 22,13) and thou wilt cast out this lust also. And if thou art drunken, and surfeitest continually, hear the rich man saying, ‘Send Lazarus, that with the tip of his finger he may cool this scorching tongue;’ (Lc 16,24) yet not obtaining this; and thou wilt hold thyself aloof from that distemper. But if thou lovest luxury, think of the affliction and the straitness there, and thou wilt not think at all of this. If again thou art harsh and cruel, bethink thee of those virgins who when their lamps had gone out missed so of the bridal chamber, and thou wilt quickly become humane. Or sluggish art thou, and remiss? Consider him that hid the talent, and thou wilt be more vehement than fire. Or doth desire of thy neighbor’s substance devour thee? Think of the worm that dieth not, and thou wilt easily both put away from thee this disease, and in all other things wilt do virtuously. For He hath enjoined nothing irksome or oppressive. Whence then do His injunctions appear irksome to us? From our own slothfulness. For as if we labor diligently, even what appears intolerable will be light and easy; so if we are slothful, even things tolerable will seem to us difficult.
Considering then all these things, let us think not of the luxurious, but what is their end; here indeed filth and obesity, there the worm and fire: not of the rapacious, but what is their end; cares here, and fears, and anxieties; there chains indissoluble: not of the lovers of glory, but what these things bring forth; here slavery and dissemblings, and there both loss intolerable and perpetual burnings. For if we thus discourse with ourselves, and if with these and such like things we charm perpetually our evil lusts, quickly shall we both cast out the love of the present things, and kindle that of the things to come. Let us therefore kindle it and make it blaze. For if the conception of them, although a faint sort of one, affords so great pleasure; think how great the gladness, the manifest experience itself shall bring us. Blessed, and thrice blessed, yea, thrice blessed many times, are they who enjoy those good things; just as, consequently, pitiable and thrice wretched are they Who endure the opposite of these. That then we may be not of these but those, let us choose virtue. For so shall we attain unto the good things to come as well; which may all we attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ; by Whom, and with Whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, and honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen).
1100 we persuade men but we are made manifest unto God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. (2Co 5,11-21)
1101 Knowing therefore, he says, these things, that terrible seat of judgment, we do every thing so as not to give you a handle nor offence, nor any false suspicion of evil practice against us. Seest thou the strictness of life, and zeal of a watchful soul? ‘For we are not only open to accusatation,’ he saith ‘if we commit any evil deed; but even if we do not commit, yet are suspected, and having it in our power to repel the suspicion, brave it, we are punished.‘
2Co 5,12. “We are not again commending ourselves unto you, but speak as giving you occasion of glorying in our behalf.”
See how he is continually obviating the suspicion of appearing to praise himself. For nothing is so offensive to the hearers as for any one to say great and marvellous things about himself. Since then he was compelled in what he said to fall upon that subject, he uses a corrective, saying, ‘we do this for your sakes, not for ours, that ye may have somewhat to glory of, not that we may.’ And not even this absolutely, but because of the false Apostles. Wherefore also he added, “To answer them that glory in appearance, and not in heart.” Seest thou how he hath detached them from them, and drawn them to himself; having shown that even the Corinthians themselves are longing to get hold of some occasion, whereby they may have it in their power to speak on their behalf and to defend them unto their accusers. For, says he, ‘we say these things not that we may boast, but that ye may have wherein to speak freely on our behalf;’ which is the language of one testifying to their great love: ‘and not that ye may boast merely: but that ye may not be drawn aside.’ But this he does not say explicitly, but manages his words otherwise and in a gentler form, and without dealing them a blow, saying,
“That ye may have somewhat to glory towards those which glory in appearance.” But neither this does he bid them do absolutely, when no cause exists, but when they extol themselves; for in all things he looks out for the fitting occasion. He does not then do this in order to show himself to be illustrious, but to stop those men who were using the thing improperly and to the injury of these. But what is “in appearance?” In what is seen, in what is for display. For of such sort were they, doing every thing out of a love of honor, whilst they were both empty inwardly and wore indeed an appearance of piety and of venerable seeming, but of good works were destitute.
[2.] 2Co 5,13. “For whether we are beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we are of sober mind, it is unto you.”
And if, saith he, we have uttered any great thing, (for this is what he here calls being beside himself, as therefore in other places also he calls it folly;— 2Co 11,1 and 2Co 11,17 and 2Co 11,21) for God’s sake we do this, lest ye thinking us to be worthless should despise us and perish; or if again any modest and lowly thing, it is for your sakes that ye may learn to be lowly-minded. Or else, again, he means this. If any one thinks us to be mad, we seek for our reward from God, for Whose sake we are of this suspected; but if he thinks us sober, let him reap the advantage of our soberness. And again, in another way. Does any one say we are mad? For God’s sake are we in such sort mad. Wherefore also he subjoins;
2Co 5,14. “For the love of God constraineth us, because we thus judge.”
‘For not the fear of things to come only,’ he saith, ‘but also those which have already happened allow us not to be slothful nor to slumber; but stir us up and impel us to these our labors on your behalf.‘ And what are those things which have already happened?
“That if one died for all, then all died.” ‘Surely then it was because all were lost,’ saith he. For except all were dead, He had not died for all. For here the opportunities of salvation exist; but there are found no longer. Therefore, he says, “The love of God constraineth us,” and allows us not to be at rest. For it cometh of extreme wretchedness and is worse than hell itself, that when He hath set forth an act so mighty, any should be found after so great an instance of His provident care reaping no benefit. For great was the excess of that love, both to die for a world of such extent, and dying for it when in such a state.
2Co 5,15. “That they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who for their sakes died and rose again.”
If therefore we ought not to live unto ourselves, ‘be not troubled,’ says he, ‘nor be confounded when dangers and deaths assail you.’ And he assigns besides an indubitable argument by which he shows that the thing is a debt. For if through Him we live who were dead; to Him we ought to live through Whom we live. And what is said appears indeed to be one thing, but if any one accurately examine it, it is two: one that we live by Him, another that He died for us: either of which even by itself is enough to make us liable; but when even both are united consider how great the debt is. Yea, rather, there are three things here. For the First-fruits also for thy sake He raised up, and led up to heaven: wherefore also he added, “Who for our sakes died and rose again.”
[3.] 2Co 5,16. “Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh.”
For if all died and all rose again; and in such sort died as the tyranny of sin condemned them; but rose again “through the laver of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Tt 3,5) he saith with reason, “we know none” of the faithful “after the flesh.” For what if even they be in the flesh? Yet is that fleshly life destroyed, and we are born again by the Spirit, and have learnt another deportment and rule and life and condition, that, namely, in the heavens. And again of this itself he shows Christ to be the Author. Wherefore also he added,
“Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more.”
What then? tell me. Did He put away the flesh, and is He now not with that body? Away with the thought, for He is even now clothed in flesh; for “this Jesus Who is taken up from you into Heaven shall so come. So? How? In flesh, with His body. How then doth he say, “Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth no more?” (Ac 1,11) For in us indeed “after the flesh” is being in sins, and “not after the flesh” not being in sins; but in Christ, “after the flesh” is His being subject to the affections of nature, such as to thirst, to hunger, to weariness, to sleep. For “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” (1P 2,22) Wherefore He also said, “Which of you convicteth Me of sin?” (Jn 8,46) and again, “The prince of this world cometh, and he hath nothing in Me.” (Jn 14,30). And “not after the flesh” is being thenceforward freed even from these things, not the being without flesh. For with this also He cometh to judge the world, His being impassible and pure. Whereunto we also shall advance when “our body” hathbeen “fashioned like unto His glorious body.” (Ph 3,21)
[4.] 2Co 5,17. “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.”
For seeing he had exhorted unto virtue from His love, he now leads them on to this from what has been actually done for them; wherefore also he added, “If any man is in Christ,” he is “a new creature.” “If any,” saith he, “have believed in Him, he has come to another creation, for he hath been born again by the Spirit.” So that for this cause also, he says, we ought to live unto Him, not because we are not our own only, nor because He died for us only, nor because He raised up our First-fruits only, but because we have also come unto another life. See how many just grounds he urges for a life of virtue. For on this account he also calls the reformation by a grosser name, in order to show the transition and the change to be great. Then following out farther what he had said, and showing how it is “a new creation,” he adds, “The old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.”
What old things? He means either sins and impieties, or else all the Judaical observances. Yea rather, he means both the one and the other. “Behold, all things are become new.”
2Co 5,18. “But all things are of God.”
Nothing of ourselves. For remission of sins and adoption and unspeakable glory are given to us by Him. For he exhorts them no longer from the things to come only, but even from those now present. For consider. He said, that we shall be raised again, and go on unto incorruption, and have an eternal house; but since present things have more force to persuade than things to come, with those who believe not in these as they ought to believe, he shows how great things they have even already received, and being themselves what. What then being, received they them? Dead all; (for he saith, “all died;” and, “He died for all;” so loved He all alike;) inveterate all, and grown old in their vices. But behold, both a new soul, (for it was cleansed,) and a new body, and a new worship, and promises new, and covenant, and life, and table, and dress, and all things new absolutely. For instead of the Jerusalem below we have received that mother city which is above (Ga 4,26); and instead of a material temple have seen a spiritual temple; instead of tables of stone, fleshy ones; instead of circumcision, baptism; instead of the manna, the Lord’s body; instead of water from a rock, blood from His side; instead of Moses’ or Aaron’s rod, the Cross; instead of the promised [land], the kingdom of heaven; instead of a thousand priests, One High Priest; instead of a lamb without reason, a Spiritual Lamb. With these and such like things in his thought he said, “all things are new.” But “all” these “things are of God,” by Christ, and His free gift. Wherefore also he added,
“Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation.”
For from Him are all the good things. For He that made us friends is Himself also the cause of the other things which God hath given to His friends. For He rendered not these things unto us, allowing us to continue enemies, but having made us friends unto Himself. But when I say that Christ is the cause of our reconciliation, I say the Father is so also: when I say that the Father gave, I say the Son gave also. “For all things were made by Him;” (Jn 1,3) and of this too He is the Author. For we ran not untoHim, but He Himself called us. How calledHe us? By the sacrifice of Christ.
“And gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Here again he sets forth the dignity of the Apostles; showing how great a thing was committed to their hands, and the surpassing greatness of the love of God. For even when they would not hear the Ambassador that came, He was not exasperated nor left them to themselves, but continueth to exhort them both in His own person and by others. Who can be fittingly amazed at this solicitude? The Son Who came to reconcile, His True and Only-Begotten, was slain, yet not even so did the Father turn away from His murderers; nor say, “I sent My Son as an Ambassador, but they not only would not hear Him, but even slew and crucified Him, it is meet henceforth to leave them to themselves:” but quite the contrary, when the Son departed, He entrusted the business to us; for he says, “gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation.
[5.] 2Co 5,19. “To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their tresspasses.”
Seest thou love surpassing all expression, all conception? Who was the aggrieved one? Himself. Who first sought the reconciliation? Himself. ‘And yet,’ saith one, ‘He sent the Son, He did not come Himself.’ The Son indeed it was He sent; still not He alone besought, but both with Him and by Him the Father; wherefore he said, that, “God was reconciling the world unto Himself in Christ:” that is, by Christ. For seeing he had said, “Who gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation;” he here used a corrective, saying, “Think not that we act of our own authority in the business: we are ministers; and He that doeth the whole is God, Who reconciled the world by the Only-Begotten.” And how did He reconcile it unto Himself? For this is the marvel, not that it was made a friend only, but also by this way a friend. This way? What way? Forgiving them their sins; for in no other way was it possible. Wherefore also he added, “Not reckoning unto them their tresspasses.” For had it been His pleasure to require an account of the things we had transgressed in, we should all have perished; for “all died.” But nevertheless though our sins were so great, He not only did not require satisfaction, but even became reconciled; He not only forgave, but He did not even “reckon.” So ought we also to forgive our enemies, that ourselves too may obtain the like forgiveness.
“And having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”
For neither have we come now on any odious office; but to make all men friends with God. For He saith, ‘Since they were not persuaded by Me, do ye continue beseeching until ye have persuaded them.’ Wherefore also he added,
2Co 5,20. “We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us; we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God.”
Seest thou how he has extolled the thing by introducing Christ thus in the form of a suppliant; yea rather not Christ only, but even the Father? For what he says is this: ‘The Father sent the Son to beseech, and to be His Ambassador unto mankind. When then He was slain and gone, we succeeded to the embassy; and in His stead and the Father’s we beseech you. So greatly doth He prize mankind that He gave up even the Son, and that knowing He would be slain, and made us Apostles for your sakes; so that he said with reason, “All things are for your sakes.” (2Co 4,15) “We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ,” that is, instead of Christ; for we have succeeded to His functions.’ But if this appears to thee a great thing, hear also what follows wherein he shows that they do this not in His stead only, but also in stead of the Father. For therefore he also added, “As though God were entreating by us.” ‘For not by the Son Himself only doth He beseech, but also by us who have succeeded to the office of the Son. Think not therefore,’ he says, ‘that by us you are entreated; Christ Himself, the Father Himself of Christ, beseeches you by us. What can come up to this excess [of goodnes]? He was outraged who had conferred innumerable benefits; having been outraged, He not only exacted not justice, but even gave His son that we might be reconciled. They that received Him were not reconciled, but even slew Him. Again, He sent other ambassadors to beseech, and though these are sent, it is Himself that entreats. And what doth He entreat? “Be ye reconciled unto God.” And he said not, ‘Reconcile God to yourselves;’ for it is not He that beareth enmity, but ye; for God never beareth enmity. Urging moreover his cause, like an ambassador on his mission, he says,
2Co 5,21. “For Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our account.”
’I say nothing of what has gone before, that ye have outraged Him, Him that had done you no wrong, Him that had done you good, that He exacted not justice, that He is first to beseech, though first outraged; let none of these things be set down at present. Ought ye not in justice to be reconciled for this one thing only that He hath done to you now?’ And what hath He done? “Him that knew no sin He made to be sin, for you.” For had He aChieved nothing but done only this, think how great a thing it were to give His Son for those that had outraged Him. But now He hath both well achieved mighty things, and besides, hath suffered Him that did no wrong to be punished for those who had done wrong. But he did not say this: but mentioned that which is far greater than this. What then is this? “Him that knew no sin,” he says, Him that was righteousness itself, “He made sin,” that is suffered as a sinner to be condemned, as one cursed to die. “For cursed is he that hangeth on a tree.” (Ga 3,13) For to die thus was far greater than to die; and this he also elsewhere implying, saith, “Becoming obedient unto death, yea the death of the cross.” (Ph 2,8) For this thing carried with it not only punishment, but also disgrace. Reflect therefore how great things He bestowed on thee. For a great thing indeed it were for even a sinner to die for any one whatever; but when He who undergoes this both is righteous and dieth for sinners; and not dieth only, but even as one cursed; and not as cursed [dieth] only, but thereby freely bestoweth upon us those great goods which we never looked for; (for he says, that “we might become the righteousness of God in Him;”) what words, what thought shall be adequate to realize these things? ‘For the righteous,’ saith he, ‘He made a sinner; that He might make the sinners righteous.’ Yea rather, he said not even so, but what was greater far; for the word he employed is not the habit, but the quality itself. For he said not “made” [Him] a sinner, but “sin;” not, ‘Him that had not sinned’ only, but “that had not even known sin; that we” also “might become,” he did not say ‘righteous,’ but, “righteousness,” and, “the righteousness of God.” For this is [the righteousness] “of God” when we are justified not by works, (in which case it Were necessary that not a spot even should be found,) but by grace, in which case all sin is done away. And this at the same time that it suffers us not to be lifted up, (seeing the whole is the free gift of God,) teaches us also the greatness of that which is given. For that which was before was a righteousness of the Law and of works, but this is “the righteousness of God.”
[6.] Reflecting then on these things, let us fear these words more than hell; let us reverence the things [they express] more than the kingdom, and let us not deem it grievous to be punished, but to sin. For were He not to punish us, we ought to take vengeance on ourselves, who have been so ungrateful towards our Benefactor. Now he that hath an object of affection, hath often even slain himself, when unsuccessful in his love; and though successful, if he hath been guilty of a fault towards her, counts it not fit that he should even live; and shall not we, when we outrage One so loving and gentle, cast ourselves into the fire of hell? Shall I say something strange, and marvellous, and to many perhaps incredible? To one who hath understanding and loveth the Lord as it behoveth to love Him, there will be greater comfort if punished after provoking One so loving, than if not punished. And this one may see by the common practice. For he that has wronged his dearest friend feels then the greatest relief, when he has wreaked vengeance on himself and suffered evil. And accordingly David said, “I the shepherd have sinned, and I the shepherd have done amiss; and these the flock, what have they done? Let Thy hand be upon me, and upon my father’s house.” (2S 24,17. LXX). And when he lost Absalom he wreaked the extremest vengeance upon himself, although he was not the injurer but the injured; but nevertheless, because he loved the departed exceedingly, he racked himself with anguish, in this manner comforting himself. Let us therefore also, when we sin against Him Whom we ought not to sin against, take vengeance on ourselves. See you not those who have lost true-born children, that they therefore both beat themselves and tear their hair, because to punish themselves for the sake of those they loved carries comfort with it. But if, when we have caused no harm to those dearest to us, to suffer because of what hath befallen them brings consolation; when we ourselves are the persons who have given provocation and wrong, will it not much rather be a relief to us to suffer the penalty and will not the being unpunished punish? Every one in a manner will see this. If any love Christ as it behoveth to love Him, he knoweth what I say; how, even when He forgiveth, he will not endure logo unpunished; for thou undergoest the severest punishment in having provoked Him. And I know indeed that I am speaking what will not be believed by the many; but nevertheless it is so as I have said. If then we love Christ as it behoveth to love Him, we shall punish ourselves when we sin. For to those who love any whomsover, not the suffering somewhat because they have provoked the beloved one is unpleasing; but above all, that they have provoked the person loved. And if this last when angered doth not punish, he hath tortured his lover more; but if he exacts satisfaction, he hath comforted him rather. Let us therefore not fear hell, but offending God; for it is more grievous than that when He turns away in wrath: this is worse than all, this heavier than all. And that thou mayest learn what a thing it is, consider this which I say. If one that was himself a king, beholding a robber and malefactor under punishment, gave his well-beloved son, his only-begotten and true, to be slain; and transferred the death and the guilt as well, from him to his son, (who was himself of no such character,) that he might both save the condemned man and clear him from his evil reputation; and then if, having subsequently promoted him to great dignity, he had yet, after thus saving him and advancinghim to that glory unspeakable, been outraged by the person that had received such treatment: would not that man, if he had any sense, have chosen ten thousand deaths rather than appear guilty of so great ingratitude? This then let us also now consider with ourselves, and groan bitterly for the provocations we have offered our Benefactor; nor let us therefore presume, because though outraged He bears it with long-suffering; but rather for this very reason be full of remorse. For amongst men too, when one that hath been smitten on the right cheek offers the left also, he more avengeth himself than if he gave ten thousand blows; and when one that hath been reviled, not only revileth not again but even blesseth, he hath stricken [his adversary] more heavily, than if he rained upon him ten thousand reproaches. Now if in the case of men we feel ashamed when offering insults we meet with long-suffering; much rather, in respect to God, ought they to be afraid who go on continually sinning yet suffer no calamity. For, even for evil unto their own heads is the unspeakable punishment treasured up for them. These things then bearing in mind, let us above all things be afraid of sin; for this is punishment, this is hell, this is ten thousand ills. And let us not only be afraid of, but also flee from it, and strive to please God continually; for this is the kingdom, this is life, this is ten thousandgoods. So shall we also even here obtain already the kingdom and the good things to come; whereunto may we all attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ; with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen).
Chrysostom on 2Cor 1000