Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
Attention!
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 4

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Introduction

God’s Light Shining in Darkness

Beginning in the first verse of this chapter, Paul resumes the subject of the dignity of his apostolic office that he veered away from in chapter three, verse 12.

Verse 1

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;

Therefore seeing we have this ministry: The word "Therefore" goes with the words "we faint not" at the end of this verse. Thus, Paul is saying he will not give up because God, through His mercy, gave him this ministry. Paul refers to his apostolic work of teaching the New Covenant as a "ministry." The word "ministry" (diakonia) means "those who by the command of God proclaim and promote religion among men" (Thayer 137-2-1248).

as we have received mercy: Paul shows humility by emphasizing that he does not preach the gospel as a self-chosen profession; instead, he was chosen by God (Acts 9:20). Paul’s call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ was received by the "mercy" of God. The word "mercy" (eleeo) means to "receive as a gracious gift" (Arndt and Gingrich 249). In other words, Paul acknowledges that he was called by God to be an apostle and was chosen by God to preach the message of Jesus Christ.

we faint not: With the confidence of knowing that he is called by God, Paul says we "faint not." The words "faint not" (ekkakeoou) are "properly a military term, signifying ’to give way from cowardice’ " (Bloomfield 217) and mean not to "lose heart" (Arndt and Gingrich 240). With this confidence, Paul never behaves in a cowardly manner by shrinking from plainness of speech about Jesus.

Verse 2

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty: The word "renounced" (apeipomen) means "to give up" (Thayer 55-2-550), referring to renouncing "the things that one hides from a sense of shame" (Arndt and Gingrich 82). Paul, however, is not indicating that in the past he has been guilty of "hidden things of dishonesty." Instead, he says he has "renounced" or "abstain(ed) from" (Bratcher 41) these "hidden things of dishonesty." Bloomfield says Paul’s message is that he has "nothing to do with" (217) these "hidden things." The words "hidden things" (kruptos) mean the "concealed (or) secret" things (Thayer 362-2-2927) of "dishonesty" (aischune), meaning "shame" (Thayer 17-2-152). The specific shameful deeds Paul has in mind are the following sins of which he denies guilt. He is probably alluding to the actions of his adversaries who were teaching false doctrine.

not walking in craftiness: Paul denies being guilty of "walking in craftiness." The word "walking" (peripateo), as used in this context, means "to conduct one’s self" (Thayer 504-2-4043); and "craftiness" (panourgia) means "cunning (or) trickery" (Arndt and Gingrich 613). Since Paul was chosen by God to preach Jesus Christ, he has never attempted to deceive people by the use of cunning speech, but instead he always speaks boldly and clearly to them (Acts 9:29; Acts 13:46; Acts 19:8).

nor handling the word of God deceitfully: Paul also denies "handling deceitfully" (doloo) God’s word. The words "handling deceitfully" mean "to corrupt … divine truth by mingling with it wrong notions" (Thayer 155-1-1389). This sin implies twisting and distorting God’s words in such a way to teach a false message as is often done by false teachers.

but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God: The words "manifestation of the truth" (phanerosisaletheia) mean an "announcement" (Arndt and Gingrich 861) or "a clear statement of the truth" (Arndt and Gingrich 35). By Paul’s clear statement of the truth, he is "commending" (sunistao) himself "to every human conscience" (Arndt and Gingrich 798). Man’s "conscience" (suneidesis) is defined as "the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending the one, condemning the other" (Thayer 602-2-4893). Paul’s desire is for everyone to have a good opinion of him and recognize that he acts with integrity and sincerity. Paul is careful not to insinuate that it is enough only to please "man’s conscience"; therefore, he states the commendation of himself is "in the sight of God." Instead of satisfying the conscience of men only, Paul is proving that he does all things honestly. He acknowledges that he recognizes that his actions and spoken words declaring the truth of the gospel are done so in the presence of God.

Verse 3

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

Paul returns to his metaphor in the previous chapter, showing the gospel is hidden to some (see comments on 3:12-16). The "gospel" will save; however, the gospel will not save everyone. Paul says, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." The word "hid" (kalupto) means "to hinder the knowledge" (Thayer 323-1-2572). Those who reject the knowledge of the gospel are "lost" (apollumi), meaning they will "incur the loss of true or eternal life" (Thayer 64-2-622). The fault of being lost is on the part of the hearer, not on the part of the gospel preached.

Verse 4

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

In whom the god of this world: "The god of this world" refers to "Satan" who is mentioned in chapter two, verse 11, and who is the ruler of the world. Satan is not the god of this cosmos (world), referring to the earth, but is the god of this aion ("world"), meaning this "present age" (Arndt and Gingrich 27) or dispensation of time. Men make Satan their god by choosing to follow him instead of obeying the one true God. The reason Satan is the "god of this world" goes back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:16-17), they chose to allow Satan to rule them instead of God (Genesis 3:1-6). If Adam and Eve had obeyed God and resisted Satan, they would have been under the government of God. By yielding to the lies of Satan, they started the process of the whole world being under Satan’s influence (Genesis 3:14-24).

While Jesus lived on this earth, He acknowledged that someone other than himself is the ruler of this world:

My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence (John 18:36).

The phrase "the god of this world" means Satan is the major influence on the majority of people of this world. Jesus warns us that Satan is the father of all lies:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44).

Through his lies and deceptions, Satan’s influences have been the cause of false teaching, false doctrines, and false religions. Later, in this same epistle, Paul warns Christians about Satan’s deceptive tactic of turning himself into an angel of light and about his followers’ deception in claiming they are the ministers of righteousness:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (11:13-15).

Satan’s capabilities are signified by different titles. Not only is he called "the god of this world," he is also called "the prince of this world," that is, "the ruler of this world": "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out" (John 12:31 NKJV). Paul also refers to him, in the letter to the Ephesians, as the "the prince of the power of the air":

You once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others (2:2-3 NKJV).

These titles for Satan do not suggest that Satan rules the world of his own free will. God, in His infinite wisdom, allows Satan to operate in this world as a way to give man the freedom of choice. God rules the believers, but Satan rules the unbelievers. To the Christians in Colosse, Paul, speaking of God, says:

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).

Man’s true battle is against Satan, "the god of this world." Paul gives Christians instructions about how to prepare for this battle when he says:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:11-13).

The Apostle Peter, likewise, warns Christians about the devil, their enemy, and then gives instruction regarding standing against him:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world (1 Peter 5:8-9).

hath blinded the minds of them which believe not: Paul has reference to the "lost," mentioned in the previous verse, of whom Satan "hath blinded the minds." He is not saying Satan affects the intellectual understanding of these people, but instead he diminishes their spiritual insight. The word "blinded" (tuphloo) means "to blunt the mental discernment, (or to) darken the mind" (Thayer 633-1-5186). The "minds" (noema) are the "thoughts and purposes" (Thayer 427-1-3540) of those who refuse to believe in the gospel. Through deception and lies, Satan confuses people, causing them not to accept the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them: Satan blinds the spiritual understanding of people because he does not want them to see "the light of the glorious gospel of Christ." The "light" (photismos) means mental "enlightenment" (Arndt and Gingrich 881), specifically referring to being blind to the knowledge of the gospel of Christ. Satan does not want the knowledge of the gospel of Christ to shine upon people. In other words, he does not want people to understand the truth about the "gospel" of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the "image" (eikon) of God, that is, he is "the exact likeness of God (or) the same nature as God" (Bratcher 43). God’s and Jesus’ message is one and the same. Their characteristics of love and holiness are the same as well. When one accepts Christ, he accepts God. This is a fact that Jesus explains to Philip, saying, "…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (John 14:9).

John says, "…He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son" (2 John 1:9).

Verse 5

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord: The word "preach" (kerusso) is not limited to delivering a sermon in a worship service; instead, it includes any "public proclamation" (Thayer 346-2-2784). Paul emphasizes that his purpose is not to preach and exalt himself but to exalt Christ Jesus. Paul, also, does not preach his own message but the message of Christ. On the other hand, he is not suggesting that he never makes reference to his personal salvation or that he hesitates to express his thankfulness to God for His mercy showered upon him. As a way to exalt Jesus, Paul frequently tells the Corinthians about the spiritual blessings and the grace he receives from God.

and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake: Instead of exalting himself above other Christians, Paul emphatically states that he considers himself as their "servants (or a slave) for Jesus’ sake." In a previous letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more" (1 Corinthians 9:19).

Verse 6

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness: The reference to God’s commanding "the light to shine out of darkness" refers to the creation of light where God separated light from darkness (Genesis 1:3).

hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God: As God created this universe and commanded physical light to come forth, He likewise gives spiritual light through Jesus. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s children were in a stage of darkness in the sense that they were not able to understand God’s plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus. Now, however, through inspired writers, such as the Apostle Paul, God shines in the hearts of mankind, giving us the "knowledge of the glory of God in the face (prosopon) of Jesus Christ." As the Holy Spirit gives God’s word to Paul, he shares these messages to the people personally and by letters.

in the face of Jesus Christ: The expression "in the face of Jesus Christ" refers to our knowledge of God’s word as given to us by Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus that believers can know the way leading to salvation. The glory of God is reflected upon mankind and is communicated through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Verse 7

The Sources of Paul’s Comfort in the Ministry

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels: The pronoun "we" refers to Paul and others who are inspired of God and given the heavenly truths. These truths of God are committed to him to be presented to the world that all may learn God’s will. "Treasure" (thesaurus) is "the light of the gospel" of Jesus Christ (Thayer 291-1-244). It is the capability of turning on the light of the knowledge that others may be able to understand God’s will for them. The expression "earthen vessels" (ostrakinosskeuos) is a "suggestion of frailty" (Thayer 457-2-3749), and is used here "as a symbol denoting breakableness" (Arndt and Gingrich 591). Paul speaks of "earthen vessels" metaphorically, referring to the infirmities of his own perishing body. God uses this fragile body for His purpose. A similar example of the use of this metaphor is recorded in Paul’s letter to the Romans where he writes:

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory (Romans 9:20-23).

that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us: The word "excellency" (huperbole) means "superiority (or) pre- eminence" (Thayer 640-2-5236). Paul refers to something that is "extraordinary" (Arndt and Gingrich 848)—the power of the gospel of Christ given to him from God. In other words, Paul shows that the power of the gospel comes from God and not from him or any other apostle. Paul insists that God receive all the glory for the success that comes from his preaching.

Verse 8

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed: Paul uses his personal experiences and begins here by contrasting four sets of cause-and-effect descriptions. The first description of each set depicts the horrible condition that he is actually experiencing during his ministry as an apostle. The second description pictures how his response to these conditions could have been worse; he did not experience the worse condition, however, because God was with him and protected him by providing a way of escape.

Paul recognizes that the knowledge he possesses and the ability he has to overcome adversity come from God. He now portrays himself as a warrior protecting God’s word and battling evil to sustain the truth of His message. Paul is "troubled" (thlibo), meaning he is "afflicted" (Arndt and Gingrich 362) or "hard- pressed" (NKJV), on "every side" (pas) or "in every way" (Thayer 492-2-3956); however, he is never "distressed."

By the word "distressed" (stenochoreo), he means he is never "straiten(ed)" (Thayer 587-1-4727). This word stenochoreo is used only two times in the New Testament—here and in 2 Corinthians 6:12 where it is translated "straitened" (KJV) or "restricted" (NKJV). In other words, Paul is "not crushed" (NKJV). He never gives way to the misery that often confronts him because he knows that God is his shield.

we are perplexed, but not in despair: Some of the hostile persecution Paul has faced have "perplexed" (aporeo) him, meaning that at times he does not know "what to do" (Thayer 66- 2-639). But again, because he knows that his knowledge comes from God, he is never "in despair" (exaporeomai), meaning he is never "utterly at a loss" (Thayer 221-2-1820) or faced "doubt (and) embarrassment" (Arndt and Gingrich 272) about his teaching. Paul knows that the solution to every problem begins with God because God rules all things.

Verse 9

Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Persecuted, but not forsaken: Paul is often "persecuted" (dioko) or "harass(ed) (Thayer 153-2-1377) by those who oppose him; however, he is never "forsaken" (egkataleipo), meaning that he knows that he is not "abandon(ed)" or left "helpless" (Thayer 166- 1-1459) by God.

cast down, but not destroyed: There are times when Paul is "cast down" (kataballo) physically to the ground; however, here he refers to being figuratively cast down. It is his teaching about Jesus Christ for which his enemies "cast down" or "strike down" him (Arndt and Gingrich 409). Even when he is cast down, he never considers himself "destroyed" (apollumi), which is translated "lost" in verse 3 and means "to incur the loss of true or eternal life" (Thayer 64-2-622). Paul’s belief in God and confidence in Jesus Christ never falter, for he, just as the other apostles, received this promise from Jesus:

When they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you (Matthew 10:19-20).

Paul’s confidence that God would sustain him throughout all trials of life as he preaches His word causes him never to give up. He recognizes that his physical body, as an earthen vessel, is perishing because of the persecution he faces; but his confidence in God never diminishes. Paul will emphasize this fact again later in this chapter when he writes:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (4:16-18).

Verse 10

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus: Paul begins this verse with the word "Always" (pantote) or "at all times" (Thayer 476-2-3842) to call attention to his constant realization that he is suffering for preaching Jesus.

The expression "bearing about" (periphero) or "carry(ing) here and there" (Arndt and Gingrich 659) "in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus" means that Paul knows he is constantly exposed to death just as Jesus was ultimately exposed to a violent death. As Jesus travelled from place to place teaching His gospel message, He was mistreated and persecuted in many ways; likewise, as Paul teaches Jesus’ message, he also suffers so much that he is not hesitant to identify himself with Jesus’ sufferings and death. In a previous letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, "I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31).

Paul expresses the same sentiments to the Christians in Rome when he says, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Romans 8:36). Again, to the Christians in Galatia, Paul refers to bearing in his body "the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Galatians 6:17 NKJV). Paul sends the same message to the Christians in Colosse: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24). In these statements Paul is saying that since he preaches Jesus’ message of salvation, he is exposed to a similar violent death. Paul’s being exposed to death is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise:

Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me (John 15:20-21).

that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body: Having talked about the dying of Jesus, Paul now speaks of the life of Jesus to show the two cannot be separated. The dying of Jesus is effectively the starting point of His resurrection. The same is true of all believers who persevere in faithfulness to Him. All the faithful who die will be resurrected to eternal life. The word "manifest" (phaneroo), meaning to "be revealed" (Arndt and Gingrich 860), proves that Paul is determined to live his life and preach Jesus’ message. Paul wants people to see Jesus in his own body, that is, in his life; consequently, others can learn the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul takes courage in the knowledge that just as he is a partaker of Jesus’ suffering, he will also be a partaker of Jesus’ life: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Philippians 3:10).

Verse 11

For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Verses 10 and 11 are essentially parallel verses in which the Apostle Paul, in verse 11, gives confirmation to verse 10. For example, "our mortal flesh" in verse 11 is a more literal way of describing "our body" in verse 10.

For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake: In Paul’s mind, potential death is a risk he experiences on a daily basis. He frequently makes reference to that fact; for example, he does so in his previous letter to the Corinthian church: "Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:30-31).

Paul is frequently the victim of persecution for Jesus’ sake, as he will write about more specifically later in this letter:

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches (11:23- 28).

McGarvey, speaking of Paul, says:

He is, as it were, constantly dying and yet continuing to live. Paul typically re-enacted the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord. By surviving so many trials he made it evident to the world that he was sustained by a life other than human, viz.: the life of Jesus (190).

that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh: Paul proposes a reason for his being permitted to suffer. He has not overcome death because of his own merits but for "Jesus’ sake." Paul teaches that because of his faith in the resurrection of Jesus, he is able to withstand, even though he is:

"troubled … yet not distressed" (4:8); "perplexed, but not in despair" (4:8); "persecuted, but not forsaken (4:9); "cast down, but not destroyed (4:9).

These situations are similar expressions to words quoted by David who says, "For thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter" (Psalms 44:22).

Jesus’ power to save is made apparent by Paul’s willingness to endure severe persecution. In his physical body, he shows weakness; but in Christ he could suffer all things. In Philippians, Paul writes, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (4:13). "God exhibit Death in the living, that He may exhibit Life in the dying" (Alford 653).

Paul’s words in this verse imply that even in his weakness, he has had triumph over death just as Jesus displayed victory over death by His resurrection. "The mortal body of the believer delivered from death represents the resurrection of Jesus from the dead" (Lipscomb 64). Even though he is often found near death for teaching Christ, he is protected by the Lord that he might continue teaching, not only Jesus’ death, but also Jesus’ life to the world.

Verse 12

So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

The word "death" is spoken of as working in Paul, meaning that the apostles were always in danger of death. The word "worketh" (energeo), used in this context, means "to display one’s activity" (Thayer 215-2-1754). This verse is composed of two parts: it is a "cause" and "result" sentence. The "cause" is that Paul preaches Jesus to them even at the point of death; and the "result" is that the Corinthians receive spiritual "life." The Corinthian Christians are not exposed to death as Paul is; however, they are receiving the spiritual benefits as if they were exposed to death. Therefore, Paul’s message is that his day-to-day persecution provides spiritual life and blessings to others, such as the Corinthians. His own sufferings are not fruitless; instead, his self-denials are for the good of others in the hope that it will result in their salvation. Paul is reminding the Corinthians that through his afflictions his teachings have transformed them from being dead spiritually to "life" in Christ Jesus. The Apostle John teaches the same message:

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).

Verse 13

We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken: The expression the "spirit of faith" refers to the unwavering faith of Paul and other apostles that has empowered them to do their work. Also, because of this unshakeable faith, Paul believes that what he preaches comes from the Holy Spirit and not from human thoughts and imaginations. By the words "according as it is written," Paul has the same attitude as David when he says, "I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted" (Psalms 116:10). Indeed, it is appropriate for Paul to quote the psalmist here because David’s words involve a prayer of thanksgiving for delivering him from death. Notice that David says:

I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted (Psalms 116:1-10).

we also believe, and therefore speak: Paul’s point, therefore, is that since his message comes from the Holy Spirit, it allows him, with all confidence, even though he faces afflictions as David did, to continue preaching the message of the crucified and resurrected Christ. Factually, Paul’s attitude about preaching the gospel is that he could do nothing less, as he clearly states: "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Verse 14

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus: Paul’s assurance of a future resurrection sustains him to continue preaching Jesus. Even though he is often persecuted and faces many dangers in life—even to the point of death—for teaching Jesus Christ, he is encouraged to continue his teaching with the knowledge that as God raised Jesus to life, so will He raise all faithful Christians to eternal life; therefore, the faithful will live in the presence of Jesus. "This expression denotes the full and unwavering belief in the minds of the apostles, that the doctrines which they preached were true" (Barnes 90). Paul makes a similar statement in writing to the Christians in Rome: "If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 6:10-11).

and shall present us with you: By the pronoun "us," Paul refers to all faithful Christians, including those in Corinth. All people will be raised from the dead regardless of whether they have been faithful to God or if they have remained sinners; however, the righteous will stand together and be presented to Jesus. Later, in this same letter, Paul declares that Christians, faithful members of the church, will be presented to Christ when he says, "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (11:2). The indication here is that the church, as a bride, will be presented to Jesus, the bridegroom. Paul teaches this same message again in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus:

As the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:24-27).

By the pronoun "us" Paul refers to all Christians, including those in Corinth. In the same way that God raised Jesus to life, so will He take "us," faithful Christians, into the presence of Jesus. This same promise of being presented to God is spoken of again in the letter to the Christians in Colosse when Paul declares:

It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church (Colossians 1:19-24).

Verse 15

For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

For all things are for your sakes: The "all things" mentioned here refers to the subject matter Paul has been discussing in the preceding verses, that is, all the sufferings and persecutions that confronted him. The emphasis here is that all the troubles and difficulties that Paul has suffered are not predominantly for the happiness of those engaged in these difficult trials, but, instead, for the sake of other Christians—such as the Corinthians.

that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God: After Paul’s conversion, he has lived his life in a way that will lead as many people to Christ as possible. He has deprived himself; he accepts toil; he has been confronted by enemies; he has exposed himself to dangers; and he has pursued all means possible to bring as many as he could to praise God.

By the expression "abundant grace," Paul has reference to the amount of grace God has bestowed on him. The word "abundant" (pleonazo) means to "grow" or "increase" (Arndt and Gingrich 673). Since faithful believers are the beneficiaries of God’s grace, the more believers there are, the more grace there is bestowed by God and the more "thanksgiving" or "the rendering of thanks" (Arndt and Gingrich 328) is given by God’s children to God; therefore, the more God is abundantly glorified.

Verse 16

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

For which cause we faint not: Even though Paul is often persecuted, he does not "faint" (ekkakeo), meaning he does not "lose heart" (Arndt and Gingrich 540). He takes comfort in that his sufferings bring glory to God

but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day: The "outward man" or fleshly body that is subject to abuse and persecution will "perish" (diaphtheiro), meaning it will change and is constantly "decaying" (Thayer 143- 2-1311). The physical body is relentlessly wasting away; but, on the other hand, the "inward man" is constantly "renewed" (anakainoo) or given "new strength and vigor" (Thayer 38-2- 341).

The emphasis here is that even though Paul’s physical body grows weaker every day because of persecution, his spiritual body grows stronger every day because God is glorified and the Corinthians are strengthened.

Verse 17

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

Paul is here contrasting a momentary lightness of affliction to the "eternal" weight of glory. He refers to his suffering as "light" (elaphros) or "insignificant affliction" (Arndt and Gingrich 348) since it is only for a limited time. Paul is not here suggesting that his persecutions have been light; but, instead, he considers it "light" when compared to the greatness of the eternal blessings to come. As he does not overly worry about his earthly problems, he, at the same time, keeps his attention on "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," referring to the "heavenly glory" (Arndt and Gingrich 28), that is, glory "without end" (Thayer 20- 2-166). In writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul teaches this same message, saying, "…we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience" (Romans 5:3).

Verse 18

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

In this verse, Paul is encouraging Christians not to be excessively anxious over temporary things. He is speaking about what is most important in life. The word "look" (skopeo) does not mean to look with the eyes but "to contemplate" (Thayer 579-2-4648). He wants them to consider seriously what he is teaching. He does not encourage them to consider the things they can see, that is, Christians are not to reflect on "temporal" (proskairos) or "temporary" (Thayer 546-2-4340) things "of the visible world" (Arndt and Gingrich 722). What he wants them to contemplate seriously are the things that are "eternal" (aionios)things which are not seen.

Paul’s emphasis, here, is that he does not dwell on temporary things, such as his own persecutions, and he does not want these Christians to dwell on these things either. Rather, he encourages them to keep their eyes on the future kingdom of God. The emphasis on the Christian’s purpose in life should be limited to the unseen things eternal in heaven, not the visible things of this life on earth; therefore, the difficulties encountered through persecutions are actually rewarded with the eternal weight of glory.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/2-corinthians-4.html. 1993-2022.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile