1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we don't faint. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3 Even if our Good News is veiled, it is veiled in those who perish; 4 in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. 5 For we don't preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake; 6 seeing it is God who said, "Light will shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in clay vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not to despair; 9 pursued, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the putting to death of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death works in us, but life in you. 13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, "I believed, and therefore I spoke." We also believe, and therefore also we speak; 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we don't faint, but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; 18 while we don't look 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.
This chapter 2 Cor. 4 is intimately connected with the preceding, and is indeed merely a statement of the consequences or results of the doctrine advanced there. In that chapter, Paul had stated the clearness and plainness of the gospel as contrasted with the institutions of Moses, and particularly that the Christian ministry was a ministration more glorious than that of Moses. It was more clear. It was a ministration of justification 2-Corinthians 3:9, and of the Spirit 2-Corinthians 3:8, and was a ministration where they were permitted to look upon the unveiled and unclouded glories of God, 2-Corinthians 3:18. In this chapter he states some of the "consequences," or "results" of their being called to this ministry; and the design is, to magnify the office of the ministry; to show the sustaining power of the truths which they preached; the interest which the Corinthian Christians and all other Christians had in the ministry, and this to conciliate their favor; and to show what there was to comfort them in the various trials to which as ministers they were exposed. Paul states therefore in this chapter:
1. That these clear and elevated views of the gospel sustained him; kept him from fainting; preserved him from deceit and all improper acts; made him open and honest; since he had no necessity for craft and guilt, but proclaimed a system of religion which could be commended to every man's conscience, and be seen to be true, 2-Corinthians 4:1-2.
2. That if any persons were lost, it was not the fault of the gospel, 2-Corinthians 4:3-4. That was clear, open, plain, glorious, and might be understood; and if they were lost, it was to be traced to the malign influence of the god of this world, and not to the gospel.
3. That the great purpose of Paul and his associates was to make known this clear and glorious truth of the gospel, and that, therefore, the apostles did not preach themselves, but Christ Jesus, the revealer and source of all this glory. 2-Corinthians 4:5-6. Their sole object was to show forth this pure and glorious light of the gospel.
4. That it was so arranged by God's appointment and providence that all the glory of the results of the ministry should be his, 2-Corinthians 4:7-11. He had taken special care that they should have no cause of self-exultation or glorying in preaching the gospel; and had taken effectual means that they should be humbled, and not lifted up with pride, from the fact that they were commissioned to make known such glorious truths, and had a ministry more honorable than that of Moses. He had, therefore, committed the treasure to earthen vessels; to frail, weak, dying people, and to people in humble life 2-Corinthians 4:7, and he had called them to submit to constant trials of persecution, poverty, peril, and want, in order that they might be humbled, and that God might manifestly have all the glory, 2-Corinthians 4:8-11.
5. All this was for the sake of the church, a fact which was adapted to conciliate the favor of Christians and excite their sympathy in the sufferings of the apostles, and to lead them to honor the ministry in a proper manner, 2-Corinthians 4:12-15. It was not for their own welfare, happiness, honor. or emolument that they endured these trials in the ministry; it was that the church might be benefitted, and thus abundant praise redound to God.
6. These considerations sustained them in their trials, 2-Corinthians 4:16-18. They had comfort in all their afflictions. They felt that they were doing and suffering these things for the salvation of souls, and the glory of God, 2-Corinthians 4:16; they had inward strength given them every day, though the outward man perished 2-Corinthians 4:16; they knew that the result of this would be an eternal weight of glory 2-Corinthians 4:17; and they were enabled to look to another and a better world; to keep the eye on heaven, and to contemplate by faith the things which were unseen and eternal, 2-Corinthians 4:18. These things supported them; and thus upheld, they went cheerfully to their great work, and met with calmness and joy all the trials which it involved.
St. Paul shows the integrity with which he had preached the Gospel of Christ, 2-Corinthians 4:1, 2-Corinthians 4:2. And that, if it was unprofitable to any who had heard it, it was because their unbelieving hearts were blinded, 2-Corinthians 4:3, 2-Corinthians 4:4. How he preached, and how he was qualified for the work, 2-Corinthians 4:5-7. The troubles and difficulties he met with in his labors, and the hope and consolations by which he was supported, 2-Corinthians 4:8-15. And the prospect he had of eternal blessedness, 2-Corinthians 4:16-18.
INTRODUCTION TO 2 CORINTHIANS 4
In this chapter, the apostle declares the constancy, sincerity, and integrity of him, and his fellow ministers, in preaching the Gospel; asserts the clearness and perspicuity of it; removes the charge of pride and arrogance from them; takes notice of the afflictions he and others endured, for the sake of the Gospel; what supports they had under them, and what comforts they enjoyed: in 2-Corinthians 4:1 he observes, that seeing they were employed in such a ministry, as before described in the preceding chapter, though they met with troubles in it, they did not sink under them; the reason of which was, partly the excellency of the ministry, and partly the grace and mercy of God; and they were no less sincere than they were diligent; and were the reverse of the false teachers, who used dishonest methods, craftiness and deceit; these they disclaimed, and delivered out naked truth, with all simplicity and evidence, and as in the sight of God, in confirmation of which they could appeal to the consciences of all that heard them, 2-Corinthians 4:2 and whereas the apostle had affirmed the plainness and clearness of the Gospel ministry, both in the preceding chapter, and in the foregoing verse, he foresaw that an objection would be raised against it, which he anticipates, 2-Corinthians 4:3 showing, that though the Gospel was not spiritually discerned and savingly understood by some persons, yet this was not to be charged upon the Gospel, as if it was attended with darkness and obscurity; but it was owing to the unbelief of men, and the power of Satan over them, in blinding their minds; otherwise the Gospel in itself was light and glorious, in which Christ, the image of God, in a most resplendent manner appears; and those on whom Satan thus wrought were such as did not belong to God's elect, but were of the number of them that perish: moreover the integrity of the apostle and other ministers appeared in their preaching Christ, and not themselves; and in serving the churches in that way, for the sake of Christ; so that they were far from being chargeable with pride, vanity, and arrogance, 2-Corinthians 4:5 and they readily acknowledged, that all the Gospel light they had was from that God, who spoke light out of darkness in the first creation, whereby they were qualified to communicate light to others, in the name of Christ, 2-Corinthians 4:6 and though they had a treasure committed to their trust, and which they had within them, yet they freely owned they were but earthen vessels; and the reason why such treasure was put there was, that the power seen in the conversion of sinners by their ministry might appear to be not of themselves, but of the Lord, 2-Corinthians 4:7 and then the apostle proceeds to give an account of the afflictions endured by them, and of the divine supports they had, by which they were preserved from being overwhelmed with them, 2-Corinthians 4:8 one end of which afflictions, and which are signified by bearing the dying of Jesus in their bodies, and by being exposed to death for his sake, was, that his life might be manifest in them, or his power in the upholding of them, 2-Corinthians 4:10 and herein lay the difference between them and the Corinthians; the one were in deaths oft, and in very great distresses, and the other in prosperous circumstances, 2-Corinthians 4:12 but however, they had much consolation amidst their sorrows and troubles, and which they had partly through the Spirit of faith, and in a way of believing; and who after the example of David, and having the same Spirit as he had, believed and spake, 2-Corinthians 4:13 and partly through the hope of the resurrection of the dead, to which they were encouraged by the resurrection of Christ, 2-Corinthians 4:14 as also by considering what valuable ends were answered by their bearing afflictions for the sake of Christ, and preaching the Gospel, namely the good of the churches of Christ, and the glory of God, 2-Corinthians 4:15 and besides, they had an experience of the daily renovation of the inward man, or of the carrying on of the work of grace upon their souls; and of an increase of grace, right, and joy in them; and this kept them from fainting, though their outward circumstances and outward man were but in a poor condition, 2-Corinthians 4:16 but more especially what raised their spirits, and kept them from sinking under their afflictions, was the view they had of eternal glory and happiness, to which they had respect; and the comparison they were led to make between their present afflictions, and glory, which their afflictions were working for as, that their afflictions were light, glory heavy; their afflictions were but for a moment, their weight of glory was for ever; their afflictions were seen and temporal, their glory unseen and eternal; or the things of this world, which they often needed, and yet did not regard, were visible and temporary things; but the things of another world they had their eye upon were invisible, only visible to faith, and would endure for ever.
(2-Corinthians 4:1-7) The apostles laboured with much diligence, sincerity, and faithfulness.
(2-Corinthians 4:8-12) Their sufferings for the gospel were great, yet with rich supports.
(2-Corinthians 4:13-18) Prospects of eternal glory keep believers from fainting under troubles.
SUMMARY.--Paul's Sincerity and Earnestness in the Ministry. The Eyes of Some Blinded by the God of the World. Troubles and Persecution Redound to the Glory of God. Paul's Sufferings for the Gospel's Sake. Exposed to Death in Order to Carry Life. The Present Affliction Working Glory. The Unseen Things Eternal.
*More commentary available by clicking individual verses.