2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (Fourth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 6—Series B)
“Tents and Buildings from God”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
June 17, 2018
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text today is from the Epistle lesson recorded in 2 Corinthians 5:
1For we know that if the earthly house, the tent we live in, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. 2For in this earthly tent we groan, longing to put on our dwelling from heaven, if indeed by putting it on we would not be found naked. 4For we groan while we are in this tent since we are burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, in order that mortal should be swallowed up by life. 5Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit.
The Church Father Ambrosiaster, writing in the late 300s AD, said, “Our present body is our earthly home. Our resurrection body is our heavenly one.” That is a nice neat and compact summary of our text this morning. As Christians, “we know,” Paul says, that when our earthly house, this tent of a body in which we live here, is destroyed, “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens.” So let’s look at what we have now.
First, as human creatures, we are comprised of a mortal body and an immortal soul in one complete person. We have eyes that see, ears that hear, a heart that beats and sends the blood through the lungs to be purified and filled with oxygen so that it may pass throughout our entire body to build up its tissues, a delicate nervous system that carries messages to and from the brain. In the words of the Psalmist, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Ps. 139:14 ESV). Yet this wonderful body that God created is subject to the consequences of sin and death. It is an imperfect body, a mortal body, that, according to God’s Word, will die because of our sinful natures inherited from Adam and Eve.
The soul is different in that it is the immortal, living, spiritual essence of a person. What it is made up of and what it looks like and how it works per se we simply do not understand. The soul dwells in the body but takes up no room or space. It gives life to the body and makes use of the body’s members according to the purpose for which they are designed. It is said that the soul is the carrier of a person’s personality, of his conscious self, his “ego.”
So in our present condition, we are made up of a mortal body and an immortal soul. Paul compares our current situation to living in a tent. Tents are meant to be temporary and not permanent shelters. Tents are not designed to be lived in 24-7-365. So also there is a “temporariness” to our condition living in the body. We are fallen creatures. We carry the disease of sin around in our bodies day in and day out. From the moment of birth, we are marching toward death. It is the just consequence of our sin. Even if we never ever “did” a single thing wrong, if we never ever committed an act contrary to God’s Word, we would still be sinners by nature because of the original sin with which we were conceived and born.
And sin wreaks havoc on us in body and soul. In chapter 4 Paul speaks of our “outer self” that is “wasting away.” He talks about a “light momentary affliction” that is “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” I have to tell you, Paul’s understanding of “light” and “momentary” in regards to affliction must be different from mine. What you and I go through in this life isn’t often felt to be light or momentary. Yes, Paul’s talking “big picture” here, but when you are in the thick of things here and now, you sure do feel your mortality, your bodily weaknesses, your inclination to fall into temptation and to do what is contrary to God’s Word. You feel helpless, hopeless, hurt. The illness, the cancer, the anxiety or depression, the worry, the fear, the job loss, the bills, the lust, the hatred, and the desires to live for self—attack after attack, affliction after affliction. And yes, we “groan while we are in this tent since we are burdened.”
That’s what sin and its consequences and effects on us in body and soul are—burdens, weights that cannot be lifted off of us by ourselves nor removed with the help of other people who are just as weak and helpless as we are to change our situation. Ah, but wait! There is One who is fully human, but not like us who are weak and helpless under the weight of sin. There is One who is fully human with an immortal body and an immortal soul. He is the God-Man, Jesus Christ. God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, equal with the Father and the Spirit, took to His divine person a true human body and soul. He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” For what purpose? To redeem us in body and soul, to save us from sin and death, to recreate us to be like Him.
We read God’s Word in Hebrews 2, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. . . . Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make [a sacrifice of atonement] for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:14-18 ESV). Jesus, true God and true Man, offered His body to the suffering of a sin-filled world. He subjected Himself willingly to the afflictions that all humanity endures—hunger, thirst, homelessness, loneliness, temptation, pain, grief, and fear. Then He willingly subjected Himself to the full wrath of God’s anger against humanity’s sin. Jesus took the full punishment of hell and death for us on the cross, suffering and dying in our place, shedding His holy blood to atone for our sins and to make us once again right with God through the forgiveness of sins.
Where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is also eternal life in body and soul. We walk by faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God—the Son of Man, who suffered and died to win the forgiveness of sins and a new life for us by grace. Since you are in Christ by grace through faith, you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). You now possess “a building from God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens.” Eternal life, yes, resurrection life, is now yours through the baptismal faith given you through the Gospel. Because Jesus won your forgiveness of sins and has made you a new creation by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel Word and Sacraments, you have awaiting an immortal body in the resurrection on the Last Day.
This present possession of a transformed and glorified body and soul is now seen with the eyes of faith in the promise. But at Christ’s coming, it will be completed in all its fullness. Then we will have a body and soul just like the body and soul of the Risen Lord Jesus. Philippians 3:20-21 gives us the guarantee by the power of the Spirit, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21 ESV).
This heavenly dwelling, our resurrected, transformed, and glorified body, will be put on each us in the resurrection. The old earthly life and mode of existence will be taken down and folded away like a tent. The new heavenly life and existence will be put on us like a garment of glory, and we will be like the Lord. St. Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 15, “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. . . . I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:35-57 ESV).
The victory of Jesus’ death and resurrection is for you a new life in a glorious, perfect, immortal body and soul so that you will be with the Lord forever in the new creation that He will make for all who live by faith in Him. In this mortal body, you may groan under the burden of your fallen sinfulness, but then “the mortal shall be swallowed up by life,” by the resurrection life of Jesus given to you! Truly, you have this resurrection body and life in Christ now. Today you see it through the eyes of your most holy faith as you look forward to receiving it in on the Last Day. On the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ, you will indeed see your resurrection body as you live eternally in glory with the only true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
1-2 Corinthians, ed. Gerald Bray, vol. New Testament VII, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 239.
 Edward W.A. Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine (St. Louis: Concordia, 1952), 48-49.