Study Notes on 2 Corinthians 4
2 Corinthians 4
This chapter talks about the sincerity of Paul and his companions, as well as the great persecution and difficulties they have endured for the gospel. This chapter goes well with the previous one and they should be read and understood together.
1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
What ministry? The ministry of the new testament, the gospel, as described in the previous chapter.
Per faint not (ουκ εκκακουμεν), The Pulpit Commentaries says, "The word implies the maintenance of a holy courage and perseverance."
We also see this repeated in verse 16, and 2 Thessalonians 3:13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
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.
In their ministry of the gospel they have been transparent, giving the full Word of God in the sight of God.
Acts 20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Just as in our day there have always been people that would use and twist the bible for their own purposes and their own profits.
If the truth has been manifested, which they preach, why do the Jews (see previous chapter) and others reject it? Answered in the next two verses.
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
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.
This is a great verse. It is the devil, the "god of this world", that blinds people and turns them against the gospel. God wants all to be saved and the devil is constantly working against that. John 1 talks about Jesus being the light of the world that shines in darkness.
The Manichean pagans, and their Calvinist offspring want this verse to say that it is God who blinds people, but this is clearly not the case, and is blasphemous to suggest such a thing.
See Ephesians 2:2.
Also a great verse on the deity of Christ (see Hebrews 1:3).
5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
It's not in our authority, not in from our own power, but it's all about pointing people to Christ. This is the job of every preacher and everyone that shares the gospel. As soon as you start lifting yourself up you're going off track.
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.
Another great verse on the deity of Christ. Paul relates the creation of light in Genesis to the light of the gospel from Jesus Christ. This is the reason give for what was said in verse 5. Why did they preach Christ? Because Christ/God had shined in their hearts.
Genesis 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
What treasure? The treasure that God has shined in our hearts giving us the knowledge of the glory of God! We have the Holy Spirit, God in us, and that is the greatest treasure there could ever be.
We have this treasure in our fragile vessels, our bodies, that all the power and glory belongs to God. Paul is furthering his case that his only mission is to preach Christ.
Luke 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
The next two verses contain paradoxes as the world would see them. These things do not make sense outside of Christianity, yet for those in Christ we can see it clearly.
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
For the world, to be troubled on every side would mean you are distressed! To be persecuted would mean forsaken! Yet not for Paul, neither should it be for us.
We have Christ, so we have everything we need. We have treasure in our fragile earthen vessels, yet we can go through so much and be able to bear it.
Some great verses applicable here: Hebrews 13:5; 2 Timothy 3:12
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.
As Christ suffered and rose again, so our own sufferings can give us hope of the life that is ahead for us. We read a lot about suffering here in 2 Corinthians. And this is such a strong epistle against the heretical "health, wealth, & prosperity" nonsense that some false churches sell.
Galatians 6:17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
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.
Delivered unto death, meaning they are frequently exposed to death because of their testimony and work for the Lord. Why suffer? So that people can receive the gospel and the manifestation of truth that is Christ.
People should be able to see Christ in us. How dare we, as believers, show any fear.
12 So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
Paul was under constant threat of death, but it was for the benefit of others. Specifically here the benefit of the Corinthian church. See verse 15 below.
Imagine suffering such incredible persecution as Paul did in order to get the gospel out and save souls, and yet so many believers today are not even being willing to sacrifice a couple hours once a week to go door to door soulwinning.
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;
It is the Lord that sustains us through anything. Quoted in part from Psalm 116.
See Psalm 116:1-12.
14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
Adam Clarke: "And though we shall at last seal this truth with our blood, we fear not, being persuaded that as the body of Christ was raised from the dead by the power of the Father, so shall our bodies be raised, and that we shall have an eternal life with him in glory."
Christians should have no fear of death because God will raise us up. Our earthen vessels may experience whips, and beatings, but we will be given new bodies in the resurrection at the coming of the Lord. See Luke 12:4-5.
Abraham was fearless in obedience also because he knew God's power over death. Hebrews 11:17-19
1 Corinthians 6:14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
Paul was still defending his office and his sincerity. He suffers all that he suffers for the Corinthians and other believers.
The suffering is so that the gratitude of many for the outpouring of God's grace will work to glorify God. That's our whole purpose, to glorify God. We can give him glory, and be eternally grateful for what He has done for us, regardless of our current circumstances.
16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
Just like in the beginning of this chapter, "we faint not." Our flesh, our vessels, may suffer harm and will perish, but our spiritual being is renewed daily, and grows in the Lord. Our inward man grows in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.
2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
Beautiful verse. This one along with Romans 8:18 are a couple of my favorite verses in the bible. Consider this verse in light of what we just read, in light of what Paul suffered in Acts, and what he describes in this epistle, specifically chapter 11, and realize all that he endured was merely "light affliction" for just a "moment." All the horrible things we can suffer here in this life are nothing compared with eternal glory, and the rewards for our obedience to Christ and our dedication to sharing the gospel.
Light vs. Exceeding
Moment vs. Eternal
See 1 Peter 4:12-16.
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.
We don't have our focus or our aim at physical earthly things. Neither financial blessings, nor pain and imprisonment last. We keep our sights set on things above and live for eternity.
See 1 John 2:15-17; Colossians 3:2
J. R. Thomson, "Thus shall strength be experienced to endure what is appointed for us to bear on earth; and thus shall an aspiring hope anticipate the glory which shall hereafter be revealed."