Chapter XLIII.—No Disparagement of Our Doctrine in St. Pauls Phrase, Which Calls Our Residence in the Flesh Absence from the Lord.
In the same way, when he says, “Therefore we are always confident, and fully aware, that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not be sight,” 7566 it is manifest that in this statement there is no design of disparaging the flesh, as if it separated us from the Lord. For there is here pointedly addressed to us an exhortation to disregard this present life, since we are absent from the Lord as long as we are passing through it—walking by faith, not by sight; in other words, in hope, not in reality. Accordingly he adds: “We are indeed confident and deem it good rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord;” 7567 in order, that is, that we may walk by sight rather than by faith, in realization rather than in hope. Observe how he here also ascribes to the excellence of martyrdom a contempt for the body. For no one, on becoming absent from the body, is at once a dweller in the presence of the Lord, except by the prerogative of martyrdom, 7568 he gains a lodging in Paradise, not in the lower regions. Now, had the apostle been at a loss for words to describe the departure from the body? Or does he purposely use a novel phraseology? For, wanting to express our temporary absence p. 577 from the body, he says that we are strangers, absent from it, because a man who goes abroad returns after a while to his home. Then he says even to all: “We therefore earnestly desire to be acceptable unto God, whether absent or present; for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ Jesus.” 7569 If all of us, then all of us wholly; if wholly, then our inward man and outward too—that is, our bodies no less than our souls. “That every one,” as he goes on to say, “may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 7570 Now I ask, how do you read this passage? Do you take it to be confusedly constructed, with a transposition 7571 of ideas? Is the question about what things will have to be received by the body, or the things which have been already done in the body? Well, if the things which are to be borne by the body are meant, then undoubtedly a resurrection of the body is implied; and if the things which have been already done in the body are referred to, (the same conclusion follows): for of course the retribution will have to be paid by the body, since it was by the body that the actions were performed. Thus the apostles whole argument from the beginning is unravelled in this concluding clause, wherein the resurrection of the flesh is set forth; and it ought to be understood in a sense which is strictly in accordance with this conclusion.
2 Cor. 5:6, 7.576:7567
2 Cor. 5.8.576:7568
Comp. his De Anima, c. lv. [Elucidation III.]577:7569
2 Cor. 5:9, 10.577:7570
2 Cor. v. 10.577:7571