************ Sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 15, 2005
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
2 Corinthians 5:5
"The Spirit as Deposit"
Today is Pentecost Sunday. Today we remember the outpouring of the Spirit upon Peter, the other apostles, and the rest of the 120 who were in the upper room.
Pentecost is a very important day in the life of the church. It marks the start of the church's witness to the world. It commemorates the gift of the ascended and all-powerful Jesus to His followers so that they can share in Him and all His blessings. At Pentecost we remember that Christ is present with us always, as He has promised, by means of the Spirit. At Pentecost, and this is what we will look at today, we are reminded that the Spirit is God's guarantee to us of future glory.
I The Spirit as Guarantee
A Our text tells us that God "has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." The word translated as "deposit" is rendered as "earnest" or "pledge" in some other Bible versions.
The Holy Spirit, we can say, is a down-payment. You must come up with a down-payment when you buy a car, a house, a farm, a dairy, a business. Generally, the down-payment is non-refundable if you back out on the deal. A friend of mine, for instance, recently sold his business. He was given a $150,000 deposit. When the buying party backed out of the deal my friend got to keep the $150,000 deposit. The down-payment, then, is a pledge, a guarantee, an earnest that one will live up to all further obligations and complete the deal.
The Holy Spirit, we can also say, is a security-deposit. When the church rented the house of the Ipema family we had to put down a security deposit – we had to pay the first and last month's rent in advance. The security deposit is a guarantee, a pledge, an earnest that we will live up to all future obligations.
One last image in mind here is that of first-fruits. The Holy Spirit, we can say, is the first-fruits. In the Old Testament the farmers of Israel, at the start of the harvest, would take first-fruits to the Temple; i.e., they could take the first of the grain, wine, olive oil, sheared wool, and honey to the Temple as a gift to the Lord. These first-fruits were a pledge, a guarantee, an earnest of more to come.
B Whatever image we use, the Holy Spirit is God's pledge, God's guarantee, God's earnest that there is more to come. The Spirit is God's down-payment, God's security-deposit, God's first-fruits to the Christian church. The Holy Spirit is just the beginning of God's fulfilment of His wonderful promises.
How do we sum up God's promises? God promises in His Word to give us a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth. All of these promises are still in the future. But one installment has already been paid: the Holy Spirit has come. This down-payment, this security-deposit, this first-fruits is God's pledge that all the rest is still coming.
C The Holy Spirit is the connection between this life and the life to come. It is the one gift in the present world which has come from the future world. By the Spirit we have the beginning of the future, and through the Spirit God prepares us for the future. When we finally come to God's new world, it will be a new kind of existence, an existence quite different from what we have now. But whatever we have already received from the Spirit of God goes with us.
Because of the Spirit the Christian lives in a state of tension between the "already" and "not yet." The Christian already possesses everlasting life but it is not yet fully his or hers to enjoy. In this way the Christian life is like a pregnancy: a pregnant woman already has a child but she is not yet able to fully enjoy that child. In the same manner, the Christian has the embryo, the seed, of everlasting life in her because of the Spirit but this life is not yet hers to fully enjoy.
D When we look at our evil and corrupt world, when we look at the sin in the church and in the lives of fellow believers, it seems that the Kingdom and the Lord of the Kingdom will never come. But the Spirit is God's pledge that He does not stop with the first installment. The Spirit is God's pledge that there is more, lots more, to come. Whenever you get discouraged, whenever you feel yourself or the church overwhelmed by evil, whenever you question whether Christ will ever return, whenever you wonder if there is a glory and joy worth waiting for – at times like these think of Pentecost. Think of the Spirit as God's down-payment, God's security-deposit, God's first-fruits to the Christian church of more to come.
II The Spirit Guarantees Through Renewal
A The question can and should be asked, "How precisely is the Spirit God's guarantee or pledge?" This question is answered in verse 16 of our Bible reading where Paul paints a contrast between the inner and outer nature. Paul writes:
(2 Cor 4:16) Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
B "Outwardly we are wasting away." Paul has in mind here what he calls "jars of clay" and the "mortal body" in earlier passages (2 Corinthians 4:7,11). Paul is talking of the physical body here. This body is wasting away. It is steadily and irreversibly going down hill. Someone in the church office had a 45th birthday this past week and this person mentioned it is all downhill from here. I replied that it has been downhill for 20 years already. This is the case with all of us, of course, because of increasing age. But, in Paul's case, there is another factor involved as well – namely, his sufferings. Paul mentions these sufferings in a number of places:
(2 Cor 4:8-10) We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; (9) persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (10) We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
(2 Cor 11:23-28) Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. (24) Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, (26) I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. (27) I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (28) Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
C What is amazing, as the apostle puts it, is that "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed every day" (2 Cor 4:16). The heart, the lungs, the brain, the legs, the arms, the back, the muscles all suffer decline yet the inner nature is being renewed every day.
As I told the boys and girls, this inner renewal is the work and operation of the Spirit. This inner renewal by the Spirit is God's down-payment, God's security-deposit, God's first-fruits to the Christian church of more still to come.
God has given the church the Spirit as a down-payment, a security-deposit, a first-fruits. This Spirit dwells in our hearts and accomplishes marvelous things. It is the Spirit which takes a heart and life opposed to God and turns it towards God in repentance, faith, and obedience. It is the Spirit which works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the Gospel and confirms it through the sacraments. It is the Spirit which grafts us into Christ and sanctifies us to be like Christ. It is the Spirit which renews us in the image of Christ – i.e., in true righteousness, holiness, and knowledge. Each and every day the Holy Spirit renews us by cleansing us from sin and filling us with Christ's righteousness.
As I showed the boys and girls, because of the Holy Spirit's work of renewal the Christian is transformed like a block of wood into the figure of a loon. Because of the Holy Spirit's work of renewal each and every day the Christian's life is directed towards God. Because of the Spirit's renewing work the old man of sin is dying and the new man of righteousness is coming to life. Because of the Spirit's renewing work the Christian experiences here on earth already the beginning of eternal joy, bliss, and happiness. Because of the Spirit's renewing work the Christian experiences fellowship with God and the communion of saints – a fellowship and communion which is a foretaste of what awaits us.
III The Spirit Guarantees Eternal Glory
A The question can and should also be asked, "What exactly is it that God guarantees or pledges through the Spirit? What is the extent of the guarantee? What does the coverage include?"
The guarantee of Pentecost is "eternal glory" (2 Cor 4:17).
How frustrated, depressed, and even angry many middle-aged and elderly become as they see themselves outwardly wasting away: sight, hearing, speech, and muscular control are in a state of decline. Yet, the Christian can put up with the decay of the outer man because she sees this against the backdrop of eternal glory. I listed the many troubles the Apostle Paul experienced yet he calls them "light and momentary" (2 Cor 4:17). Because the coming glory is so awesome and wondrous, the present decay and troubles we experience ought to seem light; because the coming glory is eternal the present decay and troubles we experience ought to seem momentary. The unbeliever, however, has no such compensation or consolation. All the unbeliever has is this physical life – a physical life whose decline and death he faces with horror.
For this reason the Christian keeps his or her eye of faith fixed not upon this world or the things of this world but upon the eternal things which really matter. Paul knew that God's guarantee through the Spirit for the follower of Christ does not include a nice, safe, and comfortable life here on earth. This may happen, but it is not a promise from the Lord. God's Pentecost guarantee covers the future life. The Apostle says
(2 Cor 4:18) So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
B The Pentecost guarantee of eternal glory is described for us in the first four verses of chapter 5. In these verses the Apostle Paul compares our earthly body to our heavenly or resurrection body. Here on earth, says the Apostle, we live in an "earthly tent" (2 Cor 5:1). A tent calls to mind the wilderness experience of Israel as she moved from place to place. At the time of Paul, people on the move lived in tents: nomads, travelers, merchants. On the other hand, towns people, farmers, and established business men all lived in fixed homes. Right now we live in an "earthly tent." This emphasizes how transitory and temporary our life on earth really is. A tent highlights that a Christian is a pilgrim, a sojourner, a traveler, making her way to a better and richer life. Or, to use the name of the choir piece, Christians are "Marching Up To Heaven."
The Pentecost guarantee, then, is that though we may live in a tent now, there will come a time when we will live in a "building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands" (2 Cor 5:1). This is a reference to our resurrection body. We many now live in a tent, we may now live in a decaying and aging body, but there awaits us a glorious resurrection body which is just like Christ's glorious resurrection body.
This body does not grow old. It does not suffer pain or illness. There are no back-pains, no cancer, no heart attack, no strokes, in this body. It has no mental or physical disabilities. It is perfect in every way imaginable. It is not afflicted with a forgetful memory, poor eyesight, clumsy coordination, partial hearing, or a failing and faltering heart. It is a perfect, glorious, wonderful body that will last throughout all eternity.
C The Spirit is God's down-payment, God's security-deposit, God's first-fruits to the Christian church as we are "Marching Up To Heaven." Because of the Spirit Paul gets a foretaste of what the future life will be like. That foretaste is enough for Paul to want more, much more. So he groans and longs to get rid of his earthly body and put on his heavenly body.
(2 Cor 5:2) Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling ...Paul hopes and prays that he will soon exchange one body for another. He hopes and prays for the glorious return of the Lord Jesus when this will take place.
Topic: Heavenly HomeYes, there is so much pain and suffering on this earth. Yes, there is disease and death, divorce and separation and brokenness, hurt and heartache and disappointment. And, if there were none of these, none of us would long for heaven. But there is, so we long for heaven, for our future glory.
Years ago, Andre Kole, the talented illusionist who traveled all over the world as a representative of a Christian youth organization, wrote about the death of his wife Aljeana. She had an incurable brain tumor, and for two years she endured incredible suffering. She gradually lost the use of her arms and legs and couldn't move her head or body. She became totally blind. Day after day she could do nothing but lie helplessly in bed. Kole wrote, "While Aljeana was still able to do some speaking, she always shared a poem that ended with these lines: 'We should not long for heaven, if earth held only joy.'"
My brothers and sisters, today is Pentecost Sunday. Today, we remember that the Spirit is God's down-payment, God's security-deposit, God's first-fruits to the Christian church of a glorious future life in a glorious future body on a glorious future earth!
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