I received the following question:

You have mentioned in the I Timothy 2 study that we exhibit faith without “sight” (no miracles following) in our dispensation and that this is different than during the Acts period. In view of this distinction, how is II Corinthians 5:7 (written during the Acts period) to be explained?

II Corinthians 5:7 is speaking of a very specific thing. Paul is about to make the stunning statement in verse 20 that “we are ambassadors for Christ.” This statement would seem to contradict reality, for Paul is ministering to his own people, the Jews, among the nations. While one can be an ambassador for one people to another, one cannot be an ambassador to his own people. So how then can Paul be an ambassador to his own people, the Jews among the nations? This is the dilemma Paul is dealing with in this portion.

II Corinthians 5:6. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.

This verse is translated in a misleading way in the New King James Version, which I have quoted here. The Greek word that is translated “at home,” as well as the word that is translated “absent,” are words that occur only in this passage and in no others in the Greek Bible. They are the words endemeo and ekdemeo in Greek. Central to these words is the stem dem, which we use in words like democracy, demographics, or epidemic. This root comes from the Greek demos, which means “the people.” The Greek “en” means “in” or “among,” and “ek” means “out of” or “away from.” Therefore, endemeo means “to be among one’s own people,” and ekdemeo means “to be away from one’s own people.” Therefore, the thrust of II Corinthians 5:6 is,

And so we are confident at all times, perceiving that while we are among our own people in reality, we are away from our own people from the Lord.

This idea, that a prophet could speak against his own people as if he were not one of them, runs all the way through the Bible, though it is not explained in detail elsewhere as it is here. Paul was a Jew and a loyal one, but from the Lord he was given the position of acting like he was not one of them at all so that he could entreat them or condemn them as from God, not from among themselves.

Now this whole situation was strange, for things were not as they appeared to be. As far as external appearances were concerned, Paul was a Jew speaking to his fellow Jews, and that is what anyone observing him would have seen. Yet Paul and his companions did not walk by sight like this. They walked by faith in what God said, and God said they were ambassadors with God pleading through them as to a people not their own. Therefore, in this case, in this instance, under these circumstances, they were walking by faith, not by sight.

So the point of II Corinthians 5:7 is not that they did not see evidence before they believed, or that they believed without seeing, as we do today. Rather, it was that they were walking by faith, not by sight, when they considered themselves as ambassadors for God even when they were among their own people.