Second Corinthians, chapter 5, part 2
May 01, 2018
The law regulates pledges in Deuteronomy 24:6, 10-13, and 17. It was forbidden to take a person’s millstone as a pledge on a debt, because it was considered a necessity by which a family could eat their daily bread. Likewise, a creditor was not allowed to enter and search the debtor’s house and take the pledge. He was required to remain outside, allowing the debtor to bring it to him personally.
Deuteronomy 24 does not use the Hebrew word arrabon when speaking of pledges. Instead, Moses uses the word chabal, “to wind tightly, to bind as in a pledge.” It is not that he was unfamiliar with arrabon; after all, he used the word arrabon in Genesis 38 in the story of Judah and Tamar. There was more than one word that meant “pledge,” and so both chabal and arrabon carry the same meaning. Having said that, Paul uses arrabon in 2 Corinthians 5:5.
Perhaps most important for our purposes is the law forbidding a creditor from taking “a widow’s garment in pledge” (Deuteronomy 24:17). The point is that garments could be used as pledges. When Adam and Eve sinned, God took their heavenly garments as a pledge on their debt, and so they discovered that they were naked (Genesis 3:7).
God’s Self-Imposed Debt to the World
Recall that all sin is reckoned as a debt, and so Adam and Eve became debtors when they sinned. Their heavenly garments were thus taken as pledges on their debt, and God gave them earthly “garments of skin” (Genesis 3:21) to replace them.
As long as Adam was a debtor to the law on account of his sin, he and his descendants were clothed with earthly garments, being deprived of their heavenly garments. Their heavenly garments were their pledge to pay the debt that they owed.
This debt, however, could not be paid, for when he does good, the best he can do is break even. At best, doing good only prevents him from sliding further into debt. So he can never pay off the debt from a previous sin. Hence, Adam found himself in need of a Savior, who might have mercy on him and pay off his debt.
That is why Jesus came to die on the cross. He came to pay the debt that Adam could not pay, thereby releasing the heavenly garment that had been taken as a pledge. The moment Jesus died on the cross, paying the penalty for Adam’s sin, the debt was paid, and God was obligated to return the heavenly garment to Adam—and, indeed, to the whole world, whose debt had been paid (1 John 2:2).
The problem is that God did not give back anyone’s heavenly garment! He intends to give it back only as men and women reach spiritual maturity, each in their own order. It is an event scheduled for the feast of Tabernacles, but to get there, one must first experience Passover and Pentecost.
Regardless of the wisdom of God’s plan, one thing is sure: The moment Jesus paid the debt for the sin of the world, the creditor-debtor relationship was reversed. No longer was Adam the debtor and God the creditor. Because God has not returned Adam’s pledge, God Himself became the debtor to Adam and to the whole world! For this reason, He has given us the Spirit as a pledge on His debt to us (2 Corinthians 5:5). The fact that the Spirit has been given to us “as a pledge” shows that God is our debtor! We are God’s creditors! If it were not so, then God would not need to give us a pledge, for only debtors give pledges.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:1,
1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, aionian [“hidden”] in the heavens.
Instead of returning our heavenly “tent,” “house,” or “building,” (later called “clothing”), He has chosen to hide it in His house, refusing to give it back to us when the debt of the world was paid on the cross. The law then makes God the debtor, and every man is God’s creditor.
Instead of returning Adam’s pledge (heavenly garment), God retained it in heaven until the appointed time that He had determined was appropriate—the feast of Tabernacles. God’s intention was good, but it did not absolve God of His debt to the world. God understood this, of course, for He had devised this incredible plan from the beginning. Imagine the enormity of the idea that man could become God’s creditor!
God recognized that He had become man’s debtor, for 2 Corinthians 5:5 says,
5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
The Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4, not only to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), but also as a pledge on His debt. God’s debt, or obligation, is not only an arrabon, but a chabad, which binds Him by an oath to give the heavenly garments back to the whole world. The Holy Spirit is the surety on that debt, pledging the salvation of all men (1 Timothy 4:10).
Getting Dressed through Pentecost
When we understand this great truth, we can see how the Holy Spirit was sent to fulfill God’s “promise.” In Luke 24:49 Jesus says,
49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.
The New Covenant is based upon the promises of God, as distinct from the promises of men. Jesus was sent to earth to fulfill God’s promise (or vow, oath) to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and to all mankind (Deuteronomy 29:12, 13, 14, 15). That promise was not merely to give all men the opportunity to be saved, but to save all mankind and to be their God. God obligated Himself to do this by swearing many oaths to make it happen by the counsel of His own will.
Likewise, Jesus said in John 14:16 that the Holy Spirit was “another Helper” (or “Comforter”) sent to fulfill the promise of God. The Holy Spirit’s main responsibility is to begin changing men’s hearts by the slow process of experience (leading of the Spirit). This responsibility is based on the law of altars in Exodus 20:25,
25 And if you make an altar of stone for me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.
In other words, if you try to change your “altar” (heart) by shaping it with man-made tools and psychology, you will only pollute it. Only the Holy Spirit can change the heart, and our focus should be on following the leading of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, then, is already working to fulfill the promises of God. Whenever a man or woman finds that their heart has changed little by little over time, they should view this as evidence of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the New Covenant promise of God in their lives. This slow process has already begun under Pentecost. Pentecost cannot complete the work, but it is designed to bring us to the feast of Tabernacles, under which feast the work is completed.
So Jesus told His disciples before His ascension that they were to tarry in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high.” Here we see that the purpose of the Holy Spirit was to provide CLOTHING. What clothing? Was this not the heavenly garment from “on high”? But if we had received the entire outfit the moment we received the Holy Spirit, then how could it be a pledge on a debt that yet had to be paid?
The fact is, only Tabernacles can give us the full outfit, at which time God is no longer our debtor. But even now, under Pentecost, we have been clothed with power from on high. This is best thought of, not as a single experience but as a beginning point for the Holy Spirit building an acceptable altar in the heart.
Just as God gave Adam and Eve garments of skin after their heavenly garments were taken as a pledge on their debt to sin, so also the Holy Spirit has been given to us on account of the work of the Last Adam. Pentecost serves to clothe us, but we must understand that this is only a beginning point. Think of it as a lengthy time of getting dressed. We put on one piece of clothing at a time, but we are not fully clothed until the appointed time at the feast of Tabernacles.
In other words, on one level, God began to give us back our heavenly garments at Pentecost, but because the Holy Spirit requires time to change our hearts, God still did not really give us the fulness of what He owed us. There is, therefore, both a process of Pentecost and a final fulfillment of Tabernacles.
The Resolution of God’s Debt
Paul says that meanwhile “we groan, being burdened” (2 Corinthians 5:4) while we are yet under Pentecost. We are burdened by the mortal body, the skins of flesh. Our situation has no present solution, “because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed.” We were given skins of flesh, and we are unable to discard those skins until the appointed time. So Paul says that we do not want to be unclothed nor found to be naked, while at the same time, our desire is to be clothed with the heavenly garment, so that we may come into immortality.
We conclude, then, that even now we are already beginning to put on the heavenly garment through the feast of Pentecost, but that this is a process that will not be completed until the fulfillment of Tabernacles. Only then will God be absolved of the debt-obligation with which He bound Himself every time He swore an oath. Remember that swearing an oath requires a person to do everything that he has sworn to do. Man’s Old Covenant vow put him “under the law” to fulfill his vow. But when God swore New Covenant vows, He put Himself “under the law” until such time that He fulfills everything that He has promised.
Hence, God is under the law until the last man on earth receives his heavenly garment and God is "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28).
This is part 11 of a series titled "Studies in Second Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.