Unquestionably, many are familiar with 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” This is certainly a Scripture verse that gives us hope and encouragement as we journey through life with its many trials, but I wonder how many people actually understand this verse in its context of what Paul is writing.
Here is what Paul writes in verses 1 through 8:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Paul opens the chapter with “For we know.” He has just contrasted our light temporary affliction with an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, and things that are seen and temporary with things that are unseen and eternal (2 Cor. 4:17-18). Paul then proceeds to write more about this contrast between the earthly and the eternal.
In verse 1 Paul says the “tent that is our earthly home” is merely temporary, one that will ultimately be “destroyed” by physical death. But then Paul introduces the grand contrast that, though we die and leave our earthly body, we have “a building from God,” a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. This means we are more than our bodies and explains why Paul could consider all the pain and suffering he endured in his body as light temporary affliction compared to the eternal weight of glory to come.
Paul continues in verses 2 through 4 in speaking about our earthly bodies groaning because of the burdens of life. Consequently, we long “to put on our heavenly dwelling,” to put on our eternal bodies like new clothing. Christians groan because we see both the limitations and frailties of our physical bodies and the superiority and glory of our bodies awaiting us in heaven. Hence, we earnestly desire our new bodies, not because we want to get rid of our earthly bodies, but because we want to have a perfect, resurrected body. We desire to be clothed in our heavenly bodies “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:54, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” When we receive our eternal bodies, life completely conquers death. When we receive our eternal bodies, the groanings of this life – the affliction, the pain, the suffering – will seem but light and temporary in comparison to the eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison.
Therefore, we are all the more hopeful because God “has prepared us for this very thing” and “given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” Presently, God is preparing us for our eternal destiny. That God is preparing us for eternity is Paul’s way of saying that our light temporary affliction is working towards our eternal weight of glory. But Paul also understands that when the trials and suffering are difficult on earth, it isn’t always easy to take comfort in our eternal destiny. That is why God “has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” God assures the promise of heaven with the presence of His Holy Spirit right now.
So then, “we are always of good courage.” Just as the presence of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s life gave him courage and confidence, we too can be confident of the Spirit’s presence in our lives. Moreover, the day will come when we will no longer be “away from the Lord” but present with Him in heaven. Right now, however, our eternal glory and destiny is a matter of faith. Because we are “at home in the body” and “away from the Lord,” we therefore must “walk by faith” as we await our eternal glory in heaven. But on that day when we are in the glorious presence of God, we will not have to “walk by faith,” but we will behold the glory and presence of God “by sight.”
Because “we are still in this tent,” in our earthly bodies, we will groan as we encounter life’s trials and suffering. Yet “we are of good courage.” Why can we attest to such confidence? Because we have the promise that even though we presently live in our earthly bodies and are not yet “at home with the Lord,” we know our new resurrection body and home awaits us in heaven.
Let us, then, along with Paul, consider the trials and suffering we endure as light temporary affliction compared to the eternal weight of glory to come. Let us “walk by faith” and “not by sight” in the reality of God’s presence with us and the certainty of heaven that awaits us.
In God’s divine love,