How to Walk by Faith and Not by Sight

How to Walk by Faith and Not by SightText: 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9

In our text, Paul told the brethren in Corinth that we are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We could say that this is the fundamental idea behind being a Christian. But what does it mean? How do we “walk by faith” and “not by sight”? To answer that question, we can look at the context. Paul described six great contrasts that describe what this means.

The Outward and Inward Man (2 Corinthians 4:16)

  • Our outer man is decaying – our bodies are wearing out (Ecclesiastes 12:2-7); we will die one day (Hebrews 9:27); this is a depressing thought to one who walks by sight (Ecclesiastes 2:18-23); the goal often becomes to enjoy life as much as possible (1 Corinthians 15:32), yet this is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
  • Our inner man is renewed day by day – we have an eternal soul that will live past this life (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59); we are renewed and strengthened by God’s word (Romans 12:2; Acts 20:32), which produces faith (Romans 10:17); we gain encouragement as we look forward to our home in heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)

Affliction and Glory (2 Corinthians 4:17)

  • We face momentary, light affliction – does not feel “light” in the moment (2 Corinthians 1:8); intense suffering and affliction can feel hopeless to one who walks by sight (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13); this world is filled with trouble (Job 14:1) and everyone experiences this
  • This affliction produces an eternal weight of glory – there is no comparison; “glory” is an exalted state of being with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17; John 14:3), in His presence (Revelation 22:3-4); heaven is described in the “richest” terms possible (Revelation 21:15-21); it is symbolic, but emphasizes beauty/extravagance

The Seen and the Unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18)

  • The things which are seen are temporal – that which pertains to this life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:14); the world is passing away (1 John 2:17); the same is true for the things of this world (1 Timothy 6:17); therefore, to walk by sight and make these things our priority is foolish (Luke 12:16-21; Ecclesiastes 2:17-18)
  • The things unseen are eternal – spiritual things, particularly what is beyond this life (2 Corinthians 5:1); these are not just dreams, wishes, or fables (2 Peter 1:16-18), they are based upon evidence (Hebrews 11:1); Jesus emphasized the reward of eternal life (John 3:16), but we must put our trust in Him (John 3:36)

The Earthly and the Heavenly (2 Corinthians 5:1-3)

  • The “earthly tent” in this context is our body – “our outer man is decaying” (2 Corinthians 4:16); this “house” can be torn down (v. 1) by age (Ecclesiastes 12:2-7), disease (James 5:13-14), violence (Mt. 10:28), or accident (Luke 13:4); while “in this house we groan” (v. 2); if we walk by sight, we cannot see past this
  • We have “a building from God…eternal in the heavens” (v. 1) – this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20); that house is not able to be destroyed since it was prepared by the Lord (John 14:1-2); we still “groan,” not out of despair, but longing for this change (Philippians 1:21-23); we anticipate this by faith

Mortality and Life (2 Corinthians 5:4)

  • We are mortal – one day we will die; this has been “appointed for men” (Hebrews 9:27); the creation has been subjected to this (Romans 8:20); this is because of sin (Genesis 3:19, 22-24; Romans 5:12); our life is a vapor (James 4:14) and could end at any time (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:8)
  • We long for life – not just life here, but “life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:19); Jesus came that we might have an abundant life (John 10:10); new life in Christ brings hope (Romans 6:4-5); this is only possible if we know the Lord (John 17:3); if we don’t know Him, we cannot be saved (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Thessalonians 1:8)

Absent and Present (2 Corinthians 5:6-9)

  • In life, we are “absent from the Lord” (v. 6) – not separation due to sin (Isaiah 59:2), but personal presence; because of this, those who walk by sight ignore the evidence for God here (Romans 1:20; Acts 14:17); those who walk by sight see no reason to strive to be in the presence of God (cf. Exodus 5:2)
  • If we walk by faith, our preference is to be “present” (KJV) with the Lord – in His presence in heaven (Philippians 1:23); we have fellowship with God here (1 John 1:3), but we long to see Him (Philippians 1:23; Revelation 22:4); so our ambition is to be pleasing to Him (v. 9; cf. James 2:17-18) and be judged to be faithful (2 Corinthians 5:10)


  • The result of walking by faith is that “we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16) – encouragement to endure hardships
  • Also “we are of good courage” (2 Corinthians 5:8) – motivation to remain faithful

[Adapted from a sermon outline by Boyd Taylor.]

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