In chapter 5, Paul discusses how the long term (i.e. judgement day, eternal life, etc.) can be related to our behaviour in the short term (i.e. our time on the Earth). He emphasises that our lives now are merely a temporary state for us to transition into a much more permanent and everlasting place and THIS should be our motivation.
4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. — 2 Corinthians 5:4-6
This is an extremely important reminder as it ensures that we do not stray from following Jesus. We must stay faithful and strong so that we can experience the ‘heavenly dwelling’ as nothing else counts – everything worldly will go away and if that’s all we devote our life to, then we will be “swallowed up by life”.
Paul reminds us to remember the purpose of our lives. In verse 11, it says that we can remain vigilant by remembering the inevitable: that one day, we will stand in front of God to be judged by all our sins and only His followers who are saved by Jesus will be freed from their sins. This is why we must be ready – blameless, righteous, with the virtues and gifts of God – for the day we are face to face with our God.
However, this, as Paul recognises, is no easy path. Verses 4-10 are written in an orderly and logical manner. It gives us instruction as to how to be a Christian in times of persecution by identifying some of the experiences and the attitude we should uphold. He acknowledges the hardships and challenges that we must endure if we choose to follow God and endure prosecution:
4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; — 2 Corinthians 6:4-5
He then lists the virtues and qualities a Christian would have to uphold when standing up for God even when faced with the challenges listed in verse 4-5:
6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; — 2 Corinthians 6:6-7
In the next three verses, Paul combines these opposing ideas in a series of clauses. He constantly uses ‘yet’ to show how our behaviour should not be dependent on our surroundings or the challenges we are being put through, but rather, we are to remain godly and unmoved regardless of what happens.
8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. — 2 Corinthians 6:8-10
These few verses really highlight the difference between worldly values and righteousness. He employs many standards that are different in the world and in God’s kingdom. For example, though our hearts are genuine and we speak truth, we will be regarded as impostors. We may suffer a lot of pain and loss, but in God, we will always be able to rejoice. Poor in that we may have nothing, but we can bless others and give them spiritual richness – and in having nothing in the material world, we can still have everything that matters to God.
With a vigilant behaviour and by our faith in God and His grace, God promises this will suffice to help us survive.