on 2-corinthians 5 :16
Know we no man after the flesh - As we know that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; and as we know that all are alienated from God, and are dead in trespasses and sins; therefore we esteem no man on account of his family relations, or the stock whence he proceeded, because we see all are shut up in unbelief, and all are children of wrath.
Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh - We cannot esteem a man who is a sinner, were he even allied to the blood royal of David, and were he of the same family with the man Christ himself; nor can we prize a man because he has seen Christ in the flesh; for many have seen him in the flesh to whom he will say; Depart from me, for I never knew you. So we: nothing weighs with us, nor in the sight of God, but redemption from this death, and living to him who died for them.
We know that the Jews valued themselves much in having Abraham for their father; and some of the Judaizing teachers at Corinth might value themselves in having seen Christ in the flesh, which certainly St. Paul did not; hence he takes occasion to say here that this kind of privilege availed nothing; for the old creature, however noble, or well descended in the sight of men, is under the curse; and the new creature only is such as God can approve.
on 2-corinthians 5 :16
Wherefore henceforth - In view of the fact that the Lord Jesus died for all people, and rose again. The effect of that has been to change all our feelings, and to give us entirely new views of people, of ourselves, and of the Messiah, so that we have become new creatures. The word "henceforth" (ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν apo tou nun) means properly from the present time; but there is no impropriety in supposing that Paul refers to the time when he first obtained correct views of the Messiah, and that he means from that time. His mind seems to have been thrown back to the period when these new views burst upon his soul; and the sentiment is, that from the time when he obtained those new views, he had resolved to know no one after the flesh.
Know we no man - The word "know" here (οἴδαμεν oidamen) is used in the sense of, we form our estimate of; we judge; we are influenced by. Our estimate of man is formed by other views than according to the flesh.
After the flesh - A great many different interpretations have been proposed of this expression, which it is not needful here to repeat. The meaning is, probably, that in his estimate of people he was not influenced by the views which are taken by those who are unrenewed, and who are unacquainted with the truths of redemption. It may include a great many things, and perhaps the following:
(1) He was not influenced in his estimate of people by a regard to their birth, or country. He did not form an attachment to a Jew because he was a Jew, or to a Gentile because he was a Gentile. He had learned that Christ died for all, and he felt disposed to regard all alike.
(2) he was not influenced in his estimate of people by their rank, and wealth, and office. Before his conversion he had been, but now he learned to look on their moral character, and to regard that as making the only permanent, and really important distinction among people. He did not esteem one man highly because he was of elevated rank, or of great wealth, and another less because he was of a different rank in life.
(3) it may also include the idea, that he had left his own kindred and friends on account of superior attachment to Christ. He had parted from them to preach the gospel. He was not restrained by their opinions; he was not kept from going from land to land by love to them. It is probable that they remained Jews. It may be, that they were opposed to him, and to his efforts in the cause of the Redeemer. It may be that they would have dismissed him from a work so self-denying, and so arduous, and where he would be exposed to so much persecution and contempt. It may be that they would have set before him the advantages of his birth and education; would have reminded him of his early brilliant prospects; and would have used all the means possible to dissuade him from embarking in a cause like that in which he was engaged. The passage here means that Paul was influenced by none of these considerations.
In early life he had been. He had prided himself on rank, and on talent. He was proud of his own advantages as a Jew; and he estimated worth by rank, and by national distinction, Philippians 3:4-6. He had despised Christians on account of their being the followers of the man of Nazareth: and there can be no reason to doubt that he partook of the common feelings of his countrymen and held in contempt the whole Gentile world. But his views were changed - so much changed as to make it proper to say that he was a new creature, 2 Corinthians 5:17. When converted, he did not confer with flesh and blood Galatians 1:16; and in the school of Christ, he had learned that if a man was his disciple, he must be willing to forsake father and mother. and sister and brother, and to hate his own life that he might honor him, Luke 14:26. He had formed his principle of action now from a higher standard than any regard to rank, or wealth, or national distinction; and had risen above them all, and now estimated people not by these external and factitious advantages, but by a reference to their personal character and moral worth.
Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh - Though in common with the Jewish nation we expected a Messiah who would be a temporal prince, and who would be distinguished for the distinctions which are valued among people, yet we have changed our estimate of him, and judge of him in this way no longer. There can be no doubt that Paul, in common with his countrymen, had expected a Messiah who would be a magnificent temporal prince and conqueror, one who they supposed would be a worthy successor of David and Solomon. The coming of such a prince, Paul had confidently expected. He expected no other Messiah. He had fixed his hopes on that. This is what is meant by the expression 'to know Christ after the flesh.' It does not mean that he had seen him in the flesh, but that he had formed, so to speak, carnal views of him, and such as people of this world regard as grand and magnificent in a monarch and conqueror. He had had no correct views of his spiritual character, and of the pure and holy purposes for which he would come into the world.
Yet now henceforth know we him no more - We know him no more in this manner. Our conceptions and views of him are changed. We no more regard him according to the flesh; we no longer esteem the Messiah who was to come as a temporal prince and warrior; but we look on him as a spiritual Saviour, a Redeemer from sin. The idea is, that his views of him had been entirely changed. It does not mean, as our translation would seem to imply, that Paul would have no further acquaintance with Christ, but it means that from the moment of his conversion he had laid aside all his views of his being a temporal sovereign, and all his feelings that he was to be honored only because he supposed that he would have an elevated rank among the monarchs of the earth. Locke and Macknight, it seems to me, have strangely mistaken this passage. The former renders it, "For if I myself have gloried in this, that Christ was himself circumcised as I am, and was of my blood and nation, I do so now no more any longer," The same substantially is the view of Macknight. Clarke as strangely mistakes it, when he says that it means that Paul could not prize now a man who was a sinner because he was allied to the royal family of David, nor prize a man because he had seen Christ in the flesh.
The correct view, as it seems to me, is given above. And the doctrine which is taught here is, that at conversion, the views are essentially changed, and that the converted man has a view of the Saviour entirely different from what he had before. He may not, like Paul, have regarded him as a temporal prince; he may not have looked to him as a mighty monarch, but his views in regard to his person, character, work, and loveliness will be entirely changed. He will see a beauty in his character which he never saw before. Before, he regarded him as a root out of dry ground; as the despised man of Nazareth; as having nothing in his character to be desired, or to render him lovely Isaiah 53:1-12; but at conversion the views are changed. He is seen to be the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely; as pure, and holy, and benevolent; as mighty, and great, and glorious; as infinitely benevolent; as lovely in his precepts, lovely in his life, lovely in his death, lovely in his resurrection, and as most glorious as he is seated on the right hand of God. He is seen to be a Saviour exactly adapted to the condition and needs of the soul; and the soul yields itself to him to be redeemed by him alone.
There is no change of view so marked and decided as that of the sinner in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ at his conversion; and it is a clear proof that we have never been born again if our views in reference to him have never undergone any change. "What think ye of Christ?" is a question the answer to which will determine any man's character, and demonstrate whether he is or is not a child of God. Tyndale has more correctly expressed the sense of this than our translation." Though we have known Christ after the flesh, now henceforth know we him so no more."
on 2-corinthians 5 :16
5:16 So that we from this time - That we knew the love of Christ. Know no one - Neither ourselves, nor you, neither the rest of the apostles, Gal 2:6, nor any other person. After the flesh - According to his former state, country, descent, nobility, riches, power, wisdom. We fear not the great. We regard not the rich or wise. We account not the least less than ourselves. We consider all, only in order to save all. Who is he that thus knows no one after the flesh? ln what land do these Christians live? Yea, if we have known even Christ after the flesh - So as to love him barely with a natural love, so as to glory in having conversed with him on earth, so as to expect only temporal benefits from him.