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2 Corinthians 4:1 . Seeing we have this ministry, of grace and reconciliation to a guilty world; the ministry of righteousness, not of condemnation; the ministry of life, and not of death; we have lived in the spirit of our mission, and in full conformity to our calling. If judges and magistrates keep up the dignity of their courts, it will never do for the ambassadors of heaven to lower the style of their address, especially when addressing the enemies of the truth.
2 Corinthians 4:2 . We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, or the shameful secrets of false teachers, who corrupt the word of God: 2 Corinthians 2:17. Not walking in craftiness, to make a gain of godliness, or turn the ministry to gain mankind with guile. Nor handling the word of God deceitfully, to flatter any man’s passions, or opinions; for if we seek to please men, we cease to be the servants of Christ. We know nothing of the wisdom of this world, but proclaim the gospel as the heralds of the Lord. We publish the law in the midst of the cities, and go through the nations in the fulness of the gospel of Christ. We make manifest the truth, and nothing but the truth, to gain the conscience, and to win the heart.
2 Corinthians 4:3 . But if our gospel be hid. The Greek has various bearings.
Κεκαλυμμενον , covered, obscurely seen, veiled, or so dimly seen as not to perceive its beauty. In like manner the veil was on the jews, when Moses and the prophets were read. Their passions were so attached to a reigning Messiah, that they did not perceive that Christ must first suffer, and then enter into his glory. Therefore they saw no form nor comeliness in him that they should desire him.
2 Corinthians 4:4 . In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not. But we are clear of their blood. We have manifested the truth; the fault is wholly their own, and they are left without excuse. The veil, the same veil of unbelief which blinded their fathers, still blinds their children. The gospel light shines with splendour like the sun, but the darkness does but faintly perceive it. They hear it, or hear its report with hearts unclean, with passions which blind their eyes. For the god of this world, to whom they willingly bow, hath so blinded their minds with sin, that the glory of Christ, the image of God, is not perceived; while he who sees Christ with eyes of faith, sees the Father also. This image is not to be understood of the moral image of God in which Adam was created, but as in Colossians 1:15, the image of the invisible God, the Son, Εαυτου , of Himself. Romans 8:3. Christ is the image of his perfections, beaming out in a plenitude of wisdom, power, and love; and in all the forms of grace and mercy to a fallen world. But though those unbelievers are indeed lost by sin; yet as they are spared, we must still dig about the roots of the barren figtree, for who can tell the power of truth and grace.
2 Corinthians 4:5 . We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus, the Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:2. Joh 17:3 . Hebrews 1:2. We so preach him in all the glory of his person and offices, as to excite men to believe on his name for salvation and eternal life. We preach him as the Lord and heir of all; for all things are put under him. Psalms 110:1. We are sent by him to minister to you, and to be faithful in all things, that we may give up our account with joy.
2 Corinthians 4:6 . God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts. After God had created the matter and masses of heaven and earth, when darkness was on the face of the deep, he said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Then the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. The same miracle he has now repeated in the gospel age. He, the Sun of righteousness, illuminates the mind with the light of the glory of God. Nay, more; he shines into the heart with all the renovating influences of light, and life, and love. He gives us the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:7 . We have this treasure in earthen vessels, as stated on Philippians 3:21, and not like the manna in a golden pot. The humility of our condition derogates nothing from the divinity of our mission. Workmen should be dressed like workmen, and conformably to the work they have to do. Our real glory consists in the dignity of our mission, the unsearchable riches of the gospel, in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, in all the powers of grace to regenerate the world.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 . We are troubled, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair. Paul here uses a figure which rhetors call the paradiastole, which grants one thing but denies another. In the plenitude of his soul he poured forth eloquence which contained the utmost force of argument, and all the spontaneous beauties of figure. Where is the earthly lord who had servants like these? Killed indeed all the day long, but not destroyed; and servants that faint not in his work.
2 Corinthians 4:10 . Bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. The jews of Antioch and Iconium, who had pursued him to Lystra with a view to kill him, stoned him in that city. Acts 15:19. Thrice was he scourged by the Roman lictors, and five times whipped in the synagogues. His body was a living sacrifice to God, crucified with Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:16 . The inward man is renewed day by day. See on 2 Corinthians 5:17. Isaiah 40:31.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 . Our light affliction is but for a moment. Here we have the true spirit of heroism. We see the veteran in war: jucundi sunt acti labores, past labours are pleasant. Prisons, and frequent deaths, are of small account compared with the weight of glory. We forget the storms and tempests, for the sunbeams which succeed are eternal. But it should especially be noted, that all the sanctifying transformations of the Holy Spirit are produced by looking, not at the things which are seen, lest we sink like Peter when he looked at the waves, but at the glories of the celestial kingdom; the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. In all these acts of divine contemplation we see the Lord, we see his glory, and become prepared for the exceeding great reward.
Passing from the glory of the gospel to that of the ministry, we find it clothed with a correspondent excellence. The first preachers of the gospel were models to those of future times. No man could reproach them with the secret immoralities of pagan priests; and no man could charge them with the selfish craft of judaizing teachers, and of false apostles. In illustrating the scriptures they gave no deceitful glosses of the sacred text, nor made any inferences from patriarchal liberties to flatter the concupiscence of men in national society. The whole ministry was a manifestation of the glory of Christ, the image of the invisible God, for the salvation of mankind.
Men who are not converted by the gospel, but who obstinately degrade it, as though the Lord Christ was not the image of God, and the only-begotten of the Father, are blinded by Satan, who accounts himself the god of this world. The process to ultimate blindness has three degrees. Satan first blinds men by prejudice and temptation. They then blind themselves by a wilful rejection of the truth, and an obstinate attachment to carnal pleasures. And lastly, God most justly blinds them by withdrawing the grace they have so long abused.
The primitive ministers were not only free from craft and immorality, but they were faithful to their Master. They preached not what related to their own interest, nor recited their personal achievements in a pompous display of learning, talent and eloquence; but they preached Christ and him crucified. Their minds were filled with the glory of their Master, and their hearts impressed with the miseries of men; hence they failed not to communicate the same ideas and sentiments to their hearers.
The poverty of their outward condition, so revolting to the haughty world, was no small addition of credit to their Master and their mission. The vessels were earthen, but the treasure was divine. It was a treasure incorruptible, abundant, and supreme. Who among the princes of this world could boast of servants that loved their master’s name and work so as to wear out their lives in martyrdom, hunger and anguish, to promote their glory and the good of their subjects. Who among the princes of this world has servants that suffer so cheerfully, so piously and invincibly; and what is more, always overcoming evil with good. Hence their thanksgiving redounded to the glory of God; and the perishing body was renovated day by day.
The marvellous support of those holy men was the hope of immortality, and a steady regard to invisible things. They called their complicated and severe afflictions light, being of transient duration; and the glory they regarded as an eternal weight. When the Lord himself makes the eulogium of his servants, it amounts to such a degree of applause as surpasses all description, and all estimation. May we therefore learn to realize unseen things, that we may find more than adequate support under the troubles of life, and follow the early examples of faith and patience till we obtain the crown.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany