2 Corinthians, Lesson 7: The Resurrection Encourages Us, even in Our Suffering

Resurrection by Raffaelino del Garbo, 1510Paul and Timothy said that what was happening to them, their suffering and being brought closer to death, made them outwardly seem fragile, like jars of clay. People considered such earthen containers of little value because they held garbage or excrement. Although Paul and Timothy looked like they were of little value, what they brought (preached and taught) with them was the “treasure” of the Gospel.  

Paul and Timothy now continue in that line of thought.


The Characteristics of the Pastoral Ministry

Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

  • Why don’t Paul and Timothy “lose heart”?


  • What is the outer self that is wasting away?


Remember 2 Corinthians 3:18: The Holy Spirit is transforming us from glory [the reflected, hidden glory that we experience now] into glory [the full glory of God in eternity].

  • What is the inner self that is being renewed day by day (note the passive voice)?


Excursus: The Outer and Inner Selves

The “outer self” and the “inner self” do not refer to body and soul.

  • The “outer self” is the human body corrupted by the fall into sin. That’s why it is “wasting away,” for it is subject to aging, weakness, affliction, sickness, and death.


  • The “inner self” is what the Holy Spirit transforms and strengthens in the Christian, his “inner being” (Ephesians 3:16), with Christ living in him (Galatians 2:20). It is “inner” because we cannot see the reality of being “renewed day by day.” “Who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24b-25).

Through baptism, God has saved you (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism is God’s way of bringing spiritual birth to someone born dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1; John 3:1-6; Colossians 1:13-14, 2:11-14). This is, “I was saved,” salvation as a past-time event. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is a gift of God, not from works” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Being renewed day by day” in the ongoing process of God saving you in the present tense. This is what God the Holy Spirit does through Word and Sacrament. This is, “I am being saved,” which is why we come to Church. “For the Word of the cross[1] is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Salvation is also a future event, when the “eternal weight of glory” finally takes places. This is, “I will be saved.” This will happen on the Last Day, which Paul and Timothy make clear further on in 2 Corinthians 5. “Since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9).


Read 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

  • Although suffering is a result of the fall into sin, how does God use it in our lives?


  • Contrast how faith and our sinful nature differ in their view of the suffering that comes our way?


Lesson 7, The Contrasts Between the Outer and Inner Self


Our Earthly Body vs. Our Heavenly Body

Paul and Timothy continue their line of thought, shown by their use of “for.” They continue speaking of the current, fallen reality of our bodies, contrasting that with what awaits us on the Last Day. But now, instead of being “jars of clay” or the “outer self” to describe who are now, they use “tent.”

Read 2 Corinthians 5:1

In this verse, Paul uses imagery from Wisdom 9:15 to make his point: “The perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the mind with its many concerns.”

  • Although no one enjoys death, what good does God bring about when we die as a “tent”?


  • Contrasting our current bodies with what awaits us, what comes with the idea that those bodies are “not made with human hands”?


Read 2 Corinthians 5:2-4

“if… we may not be found naked”: Describing the human body as a “tent,” being “found naked” refers to being without a body when Christ returns. “Naked” describes those who have died, whose souls are in heaven. They, too, will get a new, perfect body, a “heavenly dwelling.”


Lesson 7, The Four States of the Christian


  • Discuss: For those now in heaven, how is their longing for a perfect, eternal body different from ours?


Our final reality in eternity is one where we are neither stripped of our bodies (unclothed) nor burdened with their present weaknesses (mortal).

Read 2 Corinthians 5:5

  • Who brings about the reality of having a heavenly body?


Romans 8:11: “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you.”

  • What is the Holy Spirit’s role?


Lesson 7, The Holy Spirit as a Guarantee


The Holy Spirit as a “guarantee” is two-fold: external and internal. God will send His Spirit to raise our bodies from the dead, just as He did for Jesus. But Jesus also had the Spirit with Him, which came to Him at His baptism (Matthew 3:16, Luke 3:22). A Christian also receives the Spirit at his baptism (John 3:5).


Excursus: The Sadducees’ Test Case against the Resurrection of the Body

The Old Testament only mentions the resurrection of the body in a few places. Job said: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. Even after my skin has been destroyed, I will see God in my flesh” (Job 19:25-26). After the time of Isaiah, Daniel said, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awaken—some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Later, during the time of the Maccabees, a family of brothers refused to recant their faith because “the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life” (2 Maccabees 7:9). The book of Hebrews mentions them as belonging to the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:35).

But when Jesus was born, not all Jews accepted the resurrection as truth. Unlike the Pharisees (and Jesus and His Apostles), the Sadducees didn’t accept all the books of the Greek-language Old Testament, the Septuagint, as Scripture, which was then the de-facto Old Testament for most Jews. The Sadducees held that only the Torah, the five books of Moses, were Scripture. Because statements testifying to the resurrection of the body were only found outside the Torah, the Sadducees didn’t believe in it.

So, some Sadducees challenged Jesus, trying to refute the resurrection. They brought up a conundrum about what would happen at the resurrection for a woman who remained childless through seven marriages to seven brothers (Matthew 22:23-34).

The Torah commanded that if a man died with no children, his brother was to marry her and raise children for him (Genesis 38:8, Deuteronomy 25:5-6). So, if seven brothers married the same woman, each dying without any offspring, then whose wife would she be since they all were married to her?

The Sadducees’ scenario bordered on the absurd. Seven brothers marrying the same woman is so far-fetched that Jesus could have legitimately responded: “Show me such a woman and I will answer you.” For Matthew tells us that before this proposed scenario, Jesus similarly said: “I will also ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I will tell you” (Matthew 21:24).

But Jesus didn’t have that option. For that proposed scenario is found in the Apocrypha book of Tobit, which was part of the Septuagint! So, if Jesus would have asked, “Show me such a woman,” the Sadducees could have answered, “It says in your Scriptures that Sarah, Raguel’s daughter, married seven husbands, who were all brothers, and they all died childless” (Tobit 3:8, 15).

The Sadducees used Tobit to turn an outlandish scenario into a brilliant trap! In the Sadducees’ way of thinking, Jesus would either have to:

  1. reject Tobit as not being Scripture. This would allow Jesus to demand a real example, or
  2. accept that nearly impossible scenario and admit that the resurrection doesn’t line up with the Law of Moses. (If there were a resurrection, how could seven brothers be married to the same woman at the same time in heaven?!)

Of course, Jesus didn’t fall for the trap. He replied, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). In others words, Tobit is Scripture and God has the power even to raise the dead back to life!

Jesus then turned the tables and used their Scripture, the Torah, against them. If God is [present tense] the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then they must still be alive. “He is not God of the dead, but the living” (Matthew 22:32).



Walking by Faith, Not by Sight

Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-7

  • Why are Paul and Timothy (and by inference us) “always of good courage”?


Only in eternity, on the Last Day, will our faith give way to sight. That’s when we will see God “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

  • “We walk by faith, not by sight” was said in the context of suffering. When, then, does walking by faith take place in our lives in the fullest way?


Read 2 Corinthians 5:8

  • What are Paul and Timothy saying in this verse?


Read 2 Corinthians 5:9-10

  • When Paul and Timothy are “walking by faith,” they are pleasing God. What happens if someone walks by sight instead of by faith?


  • When someone “walks by sight,” why is what he does “evil” in God’s eyes?


  • When someone “walks by faith,” why is what he does “good” in God’s eyes?


  • Do good works, what is done in the body, matter?



[1] “The Word of the cross” is not just the preached Word, the sermon. It is also the Word that comes to us in the Sacraments, which make them salvific (salvation causing). For example, the words Jesus used for the Lord’s Supper, which the pastor repeats, connect to His cross of death for our salvation. Jesus broke bread and said, “This is my body, which is given for you.” This giving of His body took place on the cross, which He gives to us His Supper (that’s why it’s salvific). Jesus took the cup with wine in it and said, “This is the New Covenant in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” This shedding of blood took place on the cross, which He gives to us in His Supper (that’s why it’s salvific). Thus, “the Word of the cross” consists of all the ways that Jesus, the Word, chooses to give the forgiveness and life that He earned for us on the cross. (See Matthew 28:19-20; John 20:23; Luke 24:47; and, Matthew 26:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.)


Click here to go to the next Lesson.