The Certainties Of God We Know
April 22nd, 1956 @ 10:50 AM
2 Corinthians 5:1-8
THE CERTAINTIES OF GOD WE KNOW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 5:1-8
4-22-56 10:50 a.m.
You’re listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Certainties of God We Know. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter. And if you will open your Bible and turn to it and leave it before you, you can follow the message as we go through the Word of the Lord: the second Corinthian letter and the fifth chapter.
The last Sunday night I preached, we closed with the last verse of the fourth chapter. Now today, we begin with the first verse of the fifth chapter, and the message continues through the eighth verse. This is one of the great passages in all the Scriptures. This is it:
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this house we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing 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 confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
[2 Corinthians 5:1-8]
Paul, beyond any man that you could know, knew that art of being always confident. In distress, above measures, persecuted, cast down, forsaken, in trials and tribulations, he was always the noblest and the quietest of spirits. There was something grand, noble, incomparable about the apostle Paul as he faced privation and distress. He always did it always confident: "We are confident, I say" [2 Corinthians 5:8].
If one could point to a victorious and a triumphant life, I think he might well point to the life of the apostle Paul – a man yet who was the most wearied and suffering of all mortals [2 Corinthians 11:23-28].
And I do not know of a better delineation of that trait in his spirit than in this passage here where he is facing the problem, the prospect, of the dissolution of his body. But he does it with great assurance and in steadfast faith.
I could well think that a prince might exchange his crown for such a sure, firm belief in immortality. I would think that emperors might exchange their honors and their dominions and their glories if they could stand by that humble tentmaker in his poverty and say with the apostle Paul, "We are always confident, for we know. We know" [2 Corinthians 5:1, 8].
There was a reason for the triumph of Paul, for the glory of his spirit, for the gladness of his faith. Some people are religiously, deliriously happy, but they can’t give you any reason for their happiness. They roll and they shout and they sing and they go through many, many manifestations of ecstasy, but if you ask them why, they could hardly tell you why of their joy. They get in a groove and the excitement is infectious, so they go into all of those deliriums of joy and gladness. I do not condemn them. I rejoice with them. I just have this to say that there is a more excellent way. Any joy that is not substantiated by firm reasons will soon pass away.
Paul is glad. He is the gladdest of the glad, but he can give you a reason to why of his gladness. Paul’s faith is like a house that is built on a rock [Matthew 7:24-29]. It’s like a tree whose roots are firmly settled. It’s like a star fixed in its sphere. For watch him: he begins the chapter with a "for," a "for" – "therefore" – and then his next verse, his next word – "we know. We know." He’s like those old-time Baptist people. They had an assurance of their salvation, and they were wont to quote from Job: "I know that my redeemer liveth" [Job 19:25]. That’s the apostle Paul.
How many times will he speak like that? [Second] Timothy 1:12: ". . . for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He’s able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day;" or again in Romans 8:28: "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." And here again, very typical: "For we know – we know" [2 Corinthians 5:1].
In the day of Paul, there were many, many, speculative philosophies. There were Greeks and Romans. Some of them said, "I am an agnostic" – prided himself on the fact he didn’t know anything – agnostic. Then others said, "We are Gnostics. We know everything." And in their mysterious philosophies, they reduced the universe and God and man down to some kind of a formula that they had worked out in their intellectual superiority. Then, in that day too is the oddity, there are fools and fanatics who turn to enchanters and magicians and fake diviners and mediums in order to exploit all of the great mysteries of God.
I have never seen, not in my life, any such craze as is going through our world today about such things as Bridey Murphy, and some people are honestly and actually being overwhelmed by such fake mediums. They had those in the days of Paul.
Paul had a great faith. He had a great assurance. He had a great revelation, and he writes it large here on the page. And he starts off with a, "We know. We know. For, we know" [2 Corinthians 5:1]. Then he faces the dissolution of his body [2 Corinthians 5:1-4], and he faces death, and he faces an eternity with a vast and immeasurable and illimitable assurance [2 Corinthians 5:5-10].
Well, let’s look at it. What he has in his heart, he writes here on the page: "For we know" [2 Corinthians 5:1]. These are the certainties of God, and these are the certainties of Paul: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have another house, a building of God, one not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" [2 Corinthians 5:1].
Do you see something there? If this tent of mine, tabernacle – you can translate it "tent." Paul was a tentmaker and often he will use the phraseology and the background of a man who made tents. "For we know that if this earthly house or this tent – this frail tabernacle – be dissolved, we have another house" [2 Corinthians 5:1].
Now, isn’t that strange? Paul distinguishes between the tent that he lives in and he himself. Paul distinguishes between the house that we live in and we ourselves. He speaks of this body as being a frail tent, and in the next verse, he speaks of it as being a garment [2 Corinthians 5:2]. And in the verse above in the fourth chapter, he speaks of it as being the outer man [2 Corinthians 4:16].
And so Paul says, "This frail tent may be – may be destroyed, may collapse, may be torn up, may dissolve" [2 Corinthians 5:1]. He says, "This garment with which I am clothed may be put aside" [2 Corinthians 5:2]. And he says, "This outward man may perish, but there’s an inward man that is renewed by God day by day" [2 Corinthians 4:16]. We – there’s somebody who lives on the inside of the tent and who wears the garment of this body.
Paul faced the probability, the possibility – the continuing probability – of the dissolution of his body. Any day, the Roman emperor might strike off his head. Any day, a fanatical mob might crucify him. Any day, a group might stone him to death. But Paul says, "If this frail tent is destroyed, if this house of clay is dissolved, we have another house, another building made by God without hands that can never be destroyed. It is eternally ours in the heavens" [2 Corinthians 5:1].
Now, it was the hope of Paul, very earnestly written here in the Bible, it was the hope of Paul that he would not live to see the dissolution of his body [2 Corinthians 5:4]. He prayed to live to see the Lord Jesus come when his body might be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and corruption might put on incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:50-53].
But Paul knew that God Himself did not screen even the most precious of men. God doesn’t screen us. However valued we are in His kingdom, all alike we face that imminent possibility of the tearing up of the tent, of the exchanging of the garment, of the perishing of the outward man.
But how shall we look upon it? Like Paul: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be torn down, this frail tent be dissolved, we have another house made without hands, eternal in the heavens" [2 Corinthians 5:1]. For in this one – this frail body, this house, this tent, this earthen clay – "for in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked" [2 Corinthians 5:2-3].
Now, what Paul means by that is this. He is saying when this tent is torn down and this earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved – is destroyed – I am looking forward to being with the Lord Jesus and I am looking forward to my other house and my other tent. But you don’t get that tent, you don’t get that garment, you don’t get that house, you don’t get that other glorified body until the resurrection. So what Paul is saying here is that when this tent is destroyed, we will be disembodied. We will enter into an intermediate state.
There’s a time between when a man dies and the day of the resurrection when the Lord Jesus comes again [1 Thessalonians 4:13-16]. So that’s what he calls "being naked" [2 Corinthians 5:3]. By being naked, he means a disembodied spirit. When we die, we don’t have our new bodies, and disembodied, we go to be with the Lord Jesus. Now, Paul doesn’t like that, and I don’t like that, and you don’t like that. I’ve often said, as nature abhors a vacuum, so the Christian faith and the Christian religion abhors disembodiment. There’s no such a thing in the Christian religion and in the Christian faith as being at home in heaven forever disembodied, just a spirit.
A corollary, a concomitant, the very heart and soul of one of the great revelations in Jesus Christ is this: the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, the redemption of the whole man. God regenerates the spirit [Titus 3:5]. God also regenerates the body [1 Corinthians 15:50-53]. It is a whole man who is going to be presented some day in glory before the Lord Jesus Christ, but in the meantime, we have a disembodiment.
When you die, you are disembodied: "For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened" [2 Corinthians 5:4]. You get old and sick and finally, in all kinds of suffering and misery, reap senility in the grave. "Not that we would be unclothed" [2 Corinthians 5:4]. We don’t look forward to disembodiment. We don’t want to be naked, unclothed, but clothed upon – the new body that mortality might be swallowed up of life [2 Corinthians 5:2-4].
Now, Preacher, of all of the things in this earth, how is it that a spirit can be disembodied and live in the presence of Jesus?
Well, that’s not nearly, not nearly so difficult as the thing that I see around me all the time. How a spirit could be disembodied and live in the presence of Jesus is comparatively easy compared to how a spirit can live in a body. And yet I see it all the time. Every time I go down the street, I meet spirits in bodies; and when I stand up here this morning and look out over this great congregation, I see a whole house full of spirits in bodies. And isn’t that an amazing thing how a spirit can take inanimate matter and move it from here to there and how the spirit can take inanimate matter and make it see and make it hear and make it walk and make it do?
One of the most colossal, stupendous, indescribable of all the miracles and phenomena that is in this earth is you: how spirit can take materiality, corporeality, and move it around. Ah, no man can enter into that mystery, into that mystery. Where is the junction between a man’s spirit and his body? Where is the union between the two? Where is the link between a soul and a sinew? How is it that a spirit can take materiality and move it around?
Do something for me. Everybody here, take your right hand and move it, would you? Just take your right hand and move it. How’d you do that? How’d you do that? How could a spirit bring corporeality and materiality to move and it moves?
"Oh, but preacher, you don’t understand. This is my hand."
Yes, sir, that’s your hand.
"And this is my eye."
That’s your eye.
"And this is my ear."
That’s your ear.
"And this is my tongue; that’s my tongue."
But take the spirit away from my hand, take my spirit away from my eye, take my spirit away from my ear and my tongue, and it’s dust! It’s the same stuff I walk on in this earth. This hand is dust! This eye is dust! This ear and this tongue and this body is dust! But my spirit animates it, quickens it, makes it alive; and my spirit speaks to my body, and it’s quickened and moves. Isn’t that an amazing thing? Far more miraculous.
Why, if you had never seen a body, and somebody had come by and said to you, "Did you know a spirit can take inanimate matter and move it and make it think and love and hate and sing, can you imagine that?" You’d say, "Well, that’s impossible, that."
But it happens, and here we are. So when the spirit is taken out of the body, the spirit lives and the body goes back to dust. But that’s not what we look forward to. That’s not what we’re longing for. We don’t want to be disembodied, not we. We want to be clothed upon. We don’t want to be found naked. We don’t want to be unclothed. We want to be clothed upon. We want to have another body that mortality might be swallowed up of life [2 Corinthians 5:2-4].
And that’s the great doctrine, I say, of the Christian religion: the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. We bury this body in weakness, but it is raised in power [1 Corinthians 15:43]. We bury this body in dishonor, but it is raised in glory. We bury this body in corruption, but it is raised in incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:42]. We bury this body, a natural body made out of dust, it is raised a spiritual body [1 Corinthians 15:44], made according to the will and work of God.
And that’s what he says in the – in the next verse: "Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God" [2 Corinthians 5:5].
"Preacher, how does all this come to pass?" He says, "It is God that made us for this thing." God did it. It is God that did it.
Now you just look what God has done, and then read what Paul says God’s going to do. This is what God has done. God has taken an angel, and He’s taken an animal, and He’s put them together, and that’s a man. God has taken the divine and He’s taken the material and He has mixed it together, and that’s a man. God has taken heaven and God has taken the earth and He’s put them together, and that’s a man. And the same Lord God that prepared the first man and set him in the garden and paradise of Eden, that same Lord God is going to prepare the second man and set him in the new Jerusalem that will come down from heaven [1 Corinthians 15:50-53; Revelation 21:1-2] out of the heart and hands and workmanship and glory and power of God Himself [John 14:3].
"Oh, Preacher, my soul, such things!" But I say God does it. God does it. "He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God" [2 Corinthians 5:5]. God does it.
Oh, suppose I have a convocation of scientists – learned, scholarly men. They know all about zoology and biology and chemistry, and they know everything. So here they are all before me.
I got me a little caterpillar. I got a little caterpillar, and the little caterpillar goes into hibernation after he weaves, sews, spins a little cocoon around himself. And then we watch that little caterpillar, and it’s upon a day, out he comes. And he’s got the most beautiful wings, and he flies around – that same thing. So I say to these men, "Now who did that?"
Oh, one of the scientists, he stands up and he says, "I made the caterpillar in the first place."
"Fine, wonderful scientist, you may sit down."
Then another one stands up, and he said, "And I showed him how to hibernate in the second place."
"Oh, wonderful for you. You may sit down."
And the third one stands up, and he says, "I taught him how to weave a cocoon around himself."
"Oh, wonderful. You may sit down."
And the other one stands up and he says, "And I showed that little caterpillar how on the inside to trans – to metamorphize himself, to transfigure himself, and to change himself from a crawly, fuzzy worm into a beautiful butterfly."
"Now you may sit down. You may sit down."
And then another scientist stands up, and he says, "And I painted his wings with all the beautiful colors of the rainbow."
"Fine and you may sit down."
And another one said, "And I breathed into his little body the breath of life so he could live and fly."
I’d say they were a convention of fools, wouldn’t you? I don’t care how smart they are! Wouldn’t you?
Who did that? God did it! "He that hath wrought us for this selfsame thing is God" [2 Corinthians 5:5]. God did that! There’s a not a scientist in the world who did it. There’s not a man in the world can understand it. There’s not a scientist in the world can duplicate it. God did that!
And the Lord God says, "And I made a man. And I made a man" [Genesis 1:26-28]. And He wrought that man not to be just a worm of the dust and to live in this earth and to inhabit just this house of clay and of dust and this frail tent. "But I made the man," says the Lord God.
There’s a little picture and a little exemplary: "I made it like I made the caterpillar with heaven in his head and with the longing and visions of the glory laying in its soul, and some of these days, he will metamorphosize. Some of these days, he’ll transfigure. Some of these days, he’ll be incorruptible."
"He that hath wrought us for this selfsame thing is God" [2 Corinthians 5:5]. God does it. God does it. And what God proposes, He never discouraged. He never turns aside. He never fails, but He carries it through.
When I was in Florence [Florence, Italy] – in the museum of fine arts in Florence, when you go into the long corridor, nave, of that beautiful and impressive museum, here, there, on either side all down that long corridor, you’ll find tremendous blocks of marble. And in those tremendous blocks of marble, you will find statues about half-made here, two-thirds made there, four-fifths made there, one-third made there, one-tenth made there, just beginning there.
And when you say, "Isn’t it the strangest thing all of these great blocks of marble and these statues in those great blocks just half out, just a third out, just almost out, just beginning to get out," and the man will tell you, "These are all wrought by Michelangelo [1475-1564], and we do not understand." That is, he didn’t understand at least. He said, "We do not understand why Michelangelo did that. He would take a tremendous block of marble, and he would carve and chisel, and he’d get the figure almost out. Then he’d leave it, never return to it again. And this one here’d be just the face, and this one here would be just the torso – all of them vastly incomplete."
You know, when I looked on that, I said in my heart, "How different Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor and painter the world has ever known. How different the best of man is compared to what God does. He never does it halfway. He never proposes and is discouraged. He never suggests and it isn’t not done."
"But he that hath wrought us for this selfsame thing is God" [2 Corinthians 5:5]. God’s going to do it, and God will see it through.
May I make one comment here before I go on about that house over there and about that home over there? Do you have a earthly father, or did you? And did you love him, and was he good to you? Did you have a father like that? All right, may I make a comment? As long as your dad had a house, you had a home. Isn’t that right? I don’t care what you did. I don’t care where you turned. I don’t care what happened. As long as Dad had a house, you had a home.
Or, is your dad living today? May I put it in the present? As long as your father has a house, you know that you have a home. That’s the way with us. As long as the Lord God Almighty reigns over this earth and as long as He holds the worlds in the hollow of His hands, we are all right. We have a home. Our Father waits over the way.
Now may I haste to conclude? "Therefore – therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are home in the body, we are absent from the Lord . . . We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" [2 Corinthians 5:6-8].
Now, there’s a play on two Greek words there that you don’t see as it’s translated here. There’s a Greek word meaning endēmeō. There’s a Greek word, endēmeō, which means "at home, in home, in the house" – endēmeō. And there’s a Greek word meaning ek – there’s a Greek word ekdēmeō which means "out of the house, away from home, absent from home" – endēmeō and ekdēmeō; en – in the house; ek – out of the house; endēmeō, ekdēmeō.
All right. Now – now you look at this thing as Paul wrote it: "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are endēmeō – in the body – we are ekdēmeō from the Lord . . . We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be ekdēmeō from the body, that we might be endēmeō with the Lord. Wherefore we labor, that, whether endēmeō or ekdēmeō, we may be with the Lord" [2 Corinthians 5:6, 8-9].
Now, do you see that? "Therefore, we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home" – let me translate it "at home" and "away from home." "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are away from home as to the Lord . . . We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be ekdēmeō – away from the home as to the body – and to be endēmeō, to be at home with the Lord . . . but whether we are endēmeō – at home – or ekdēmeō – away from home – we’re with the Lord" [2 Corinthians 5:6, 8-9]. We’re with the Lord.
What he’s saying is this. He is saying – and that’s the reason that we read the Scripture of this morning over in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews – what Paul is saying is that we’re pilgrims and strangers here. We have no permanent, abiding place here in this earth. Not we. We are looking "for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and whose maker is God" [Hebrews 11:10]. And all of us here, we’re just strangers. We’re just pilgrims. All of us here are soldiers. We’re at camp, and we’re not at home. All of us here are travelers. We just going down the highway. All of us here are children who are playing at school looking forward to the recess or the holiday. All of us here are laborers. We are working out in the fields, and the evening will bring us home. All we have here is a possession of a burying place. That’s all.
I don’t care how much you hold in your hand, what wealth you may amass, all of us have just a place to be buried and that’s all. According to Philippians 3:20, our citizenship is in heaven. Our home is in glory, and here we’re just strangers and wayfarers and pilgrims. We’re exiles. We’re like the Jews way over there in Babylon and when they sang the 137th Psalm:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For they that wasted us required of us mirth and they that carried us away captive required of us a song, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion."
How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
. . . let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Our possession, our inheritance, lies over Jordan. Our home is over yonder, not here – not here. "There remaineth a rest for the people of God" [Hebrews 4:9]. There’s something better. There’s something sweeter. There’s something finer. There’s something yet God hath in store for those who love Him – so, I say, the tremendous confidence of and joy of the apostle Paul.
The tent dissolves. The garment is taken off. The outward man perishes, but we are confident always; yea, I say, we are confident: "For we know when the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, eternal in the heavens, made without hands" [2 Corinthians 5:1] – our true and only home abiding over yonder, beyond Jordan, in the fair and happy land God shall give us by and by. Oh my soul, we could shout and sing forever thinking about the certainties of God and the immutable, unchanging promises of the Lord in Christ Jesus.
While we sing our song this morning, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord; somebody you, put his life with us in the church. As God shall say the word and open the door, while we sing, while we make appeal, into that aisle and down here to the front, would you come?
We’re still on the radio. Some of you who have listened on radio this morning, by your chair, would you kneel, or by your bed, would you kneel? Would you give your heart to God? "Lord, I know these things that preacher said, I know they’re true."
The days waste away, and we waste with them. We have just this little moment in the frail tent in which we live. O God, but my hope is not anchored here and my treasures are not gathered here. O God, they’re hid with Thee in Christ. And if this house is dissolved, got another house – got a better one made without hands, made by God eternal in the heavens.
While we sing this song, would you come? Would you come? Would you come putting your life in the church? "Here’s a whole family of us, pastor," or just one somebody you. Upon the first note of the first stanza, make it now while we stand and while we sing.
THE CERTAINTIES OF GOD WE KNOW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 5:1-8
A. Paul knew the art of being always confident(2 Corinthians 5:9)
1. Seen here in such strong light – contemplating the prospect of death, the dissolution of his body
2. Was able to defy the present and rejoiced in the prospect of the future
B. Paul was able to give a reason for his gladness
1. His faith is like a house built on rock – "for we know"(2 Corinthians 5:1)
2. Like old-time Baptists (Job 19:26, 1 Timothy 1:12, Romans 8:28)
3. In his day there were many speculative philosophies
II. This tent is frail
A. Paul distinguishes between the tent he lives in and he himself
1. Speaks of our body as a frail tent, a garment, the outer man
2. He faced the continuing possibility of the dissolution of his body
B. He hoped to be alive when Jesus came
III. Our other house, the new body, eternal in the heavens
A. Paul did not cringe before dissolution, but desired not to be found naked, but immortalized in a new garment, new body(2 Corinthians 5:2-3)
1. Disembodied – there is a time between when a man dies and the day of the resurrection
3. We bury this body in weakness, but it is raised in power
IV. God has made us for this very thing(2 Corinthians 5:5)
A. He has taken the divine and the material and mixed it together – man
B. He has prepared us for the dropping of this present body and the putting on of the next
C. He never undertakes what He does not finish
V. Our pilgrimage here(2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
A. Endemeo/ekdemeo – at home, in the house; away from home
B. We are pilgrims and strangers here (Hebrews 4:9, 11:10, Philippians 3:20, Psalm 137:1-6)