An often quoted verse from the Bible is "We walk by faith, not by sight."
This verse is found in 2 Corinthians 5:7.
It is commonly quoted when people are going through difficult times and are suffering as a result.
In these difficulties, they use this verse to declare their dependence upon God, even though they may see problems or be suffering in pain.
By quoting this verse, they are demonstrating their trust in the goodness of God, even though they are in the worst of situations.
Trusting God in the difficulties of life is biblical when we can’t escape the pain or find a solution to the problem.
2 Corinthians 5:7 definitely includes this biblical principle.
Yet there is a deeper meaning to this verse that is found within its context.
The context of this verse is found 2 Corinthians 3:1-5:21.
The writer of 2 Corinthians is Paul.
Paul was given by Jesus the assignment of traveling into cities to teach people about God’s grace (Acts 20:24).
He was told by the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus inside him) that prison and hardships awaited him as he journeyed from city to city to declare the truths of grace (Acts 20:23).
The truths of grace are expounded upon by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:1-5:21.
He refers to these truths as the new covenant in contrast to the old covenant.
He describes the old covenant as the Ten Commandments written on stone that is a ministry of death (2 Corinthians 3:7)
It is a temporary covenant of law that kills and condemns. (2 Corinthians 3:6).
In contrast, the new covenant is a covenant of grace.
Paul describes this covenant as an eternal covenant where God is not counting our sins against us because all of our sins were counted against Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19).
It is covenant that brings righteousness (2 Corinthians 3:9).
It is a covenant where the Spirit of Jesus lives in our hearts freeing us from the old covenant of law (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
It is a ministry that reconciles us to God (2 Corinthians 3:19-20).
It is a covenant of a new creation, where the old covenant of law is gone and the new covenant of grace has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Paul was a teacher of the new covenant and was given the ministry to take the new covenant of grace into cities as a missionary (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).
As Paul journeyed from city to city to deliver grace to people, he experienced tremendous difficulties, which greatly deteriorated his body.
He lists the difficulties in 2 Corinthians 4:7-14.
Yet Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4:15 that all the difficulties he endured was worth it because “the grace that was reaching more and more people resulted in thanksgiving overflowing to God.”
The transformation grace was producing in the lives of people and the gratitude that flowed from their hearts to God for his grace, caused Paul “not lose heart”, though his body was “wasting away” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
He described these difficulties as “light and momentary troubles [that] are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Consequently, Paul said, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
What is he talking about?
What is seen, or what was temporal, was the “wasting away” [deterioration] of his body as he delivered grace to people through difficulties.
What was unseen, or what was eternal, was the “eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Included in what was unseen (temporal) was his body, which Paul called an earthly tent, and the burdens that weighed upon his body as he traveled from city to city to share grace with others (2 Corinthians 5:1).
He said even if the earthly tent he lived in was destroyed, he had a building from God,"an eternal house in heaven”, which he would live in one day, and “a heavenly dwelling” he longed to be clothed in one day, which was a new body (2 Corinthians 5:1-4).
Until the time came for Paul to be with the Lord and live in his eternal house in heaven and be clothed in his heavenly dwelling, he wrote that he and his companions would “live by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
In this verse, Paul is saying he did not fix his eyes (sight) on the difficulties he faced, causing his body to deteriorate as he journeyed from city to city to tell others about God’s grace.
Instead, he lived by faith in what was unseen, which was his eternal house in heaven and eternal clothing (new body).
So the context of this verse centers around the perspective Paul had as his body deteriorated from the difficulties he faced during his travels from city to city to teach others about God's grace.