Vol.XIX No.VIII Pg.7
October 1982

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Did Paul know Jesus while the Son of God was in the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16)?


Maybe, but that passage may not say what some think I am saying. Paul says, "Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh: even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more" (A.S.). Very obviously this is not referring to "knowing" a man when we meet him on the street, i.e., recognizing and identifying him by name. Paul says he now knows no man (not even Timothy or Barnabas) in whatever way "after the flesh" indicates.

Studies in Chronology will show Paul was converted about six years after the resurrection, which means he could have seen Jesus walk the streets of Jerusalem. "Last of all... he appeared to me also" (1 Cor. 15:8), refers to the resurrected Lord, and does not negate seeing Him earlier. But the point of 2 Cor. 5:16 is very different from this kind of seeing and knowing. Study context with me.

Verses 14-15 say the love Christ has for us is a constraining influence, moving us to look at things differently that before. We judge if One died for all, then were all dead, including Paul. The fleshly lusts and way of life which condemned us, and cost the life of God's Son, must no longer rule the new man (v.17).

Some were judging Paul by fleshly standards. "His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account," they said (10:10). Paul detailed his accomplishments under protest, feeling foolish (2 Cor. 11:), or, as he says in our text, "that ye may have wherewith to answer them that glory in appearance, and not in heart" (v. 12). But he did not approve of judging by outward show, or "after the flesh." Now — look at verse 16.

"Henceforth" — I once measured men by fleshly standards, but no more. We "know no man after the flesh" — we do not so judge men. I once judged Jesus Christ by worldly standards — outward appearance — a lowly man from Nazareth. "Even though we have known" (or have judged) "Christ after the flesh" (or, by fleshly standards) in times past, "yet now" (and from now on) "we know Him so no more" (we will no more so judge Christ — or any other).

KNOWING NO MAN AFTER THE FLESH means I must not judge by social rank, riches, clothes, etc.; must not reject because of poverty, color, nationality, and the like. Realizing I was lost, without hope in the world; and though so unworthy, Christ loved me and died for me; now I see only those who are following Christ, and those who are not. The first I love, and treat as brethren — rejoicing in our mutual hope. The last I love, and reach out for them with the good news of salvation in Christ.

"He who knows no man after flesh has, e.g., in the case of the Jew, entirely lost sight of his Jewish origin, — in that of the rich man, of his riches, — in that of the learned, of his learning, — in that of the slave, of his servitude, etc.; Cf. Gal. 3:28." (A comment by Alford.)