IX.18. Did the Apostle Paul Know Christ and then Not Know Him?

Question:  I cannot seem to get the meaning out of 2 Corinthians 5:16 as the verse seems to contradict itself. Would you please give me your explanation.

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” - 2 Corinthians 5:16

Answer:  I believe a little background information will assist in your understanding of what Paul is expressing to the Cor-inthians in Verse 16. Paul describes himself before he was saved in Acts 22:3:

 “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city (Jerusalem) at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was ZEALOUS TOWARD GOD, as ye all are this day.”

Paul believed in God, but denied the fact that Jesus was the Messiah; i.e., God in human flesh. He viewed Jesus Christ as just another religious man trying to get a following which would undermine the Jewish religion. This is why Paul states in Acts 22:4,

“And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.”

At this point in Paul’s life, he truly was one of those whom John spoke of in John 1:11,

“He (Christ) came unto his own (Israel), and his own received him not.”

This will change when he meets the Lord Jesus.

Acts 9 records Paul’s conversion, acknowledging Christ as God. Verses 5 and 6 state,

“…And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.(5) And he trembling and astonished said, LORD WHAT WILL THOU HAVE ME TO DO?…(6)”

When Paul addressed Jesus as Lord, this was evidence that he had changed his mind about Jesus being some religious fanatic; and, he now believed he was the long-awaited Messiah, God in human flesh. (1 Timothy 3:16).

With this in mind, let us go back to 2 Corinthians 5:16. In Verses 14,15, Paul reasons with them to serve the Lord; because of what Christ extended to them in going to the Cross, and being resurrected. This is why they have eternal life and why they should serve Him.

Now, let us analyze Verse 16:

  1. “…Know we no man after the flesh…” That is, no other human being is the Savior; only Jesus Christ, who was crucified, buried and risen again.
  2. “…Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh…” Notice the past tense. In other words, before they were saved they only acknowledged Christ as a mere man, but not as the Messiah.
  3. “…Yet now henceforth know we him no more…” Therefore, now (present tense) since we are saved, we no more recognize Christ, as just a mere man.

Basically, 2 Corinthians 5:16 describes how they viewed Christ before they were saved. Verses 17 and18 describe how they see Christ, and themselves, since they are saved.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (17). “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (18)

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