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1-6. The messengers of this gospel are not afraid to proclaim it, for they preach Christ, who has revealed the glory of God.
1, 2. Paraphrase. ’Having this glorious gospel to preach, we proclaim it boldly. (2) We have nothing to do with methods and practices which cannot bear the light (like those of your false teachers), for we neither seek to undo another’s work by unscrupulous hints and disgraceful insinuations, nor try to gain the favour of the Jewish Christians by false teaching about the relation of Christ and the Gospel to the Law of Moses. On the contrary, we proclaim the simple truth, and make our appeal to the conscience as in the sight of God.’
1. As we have received mercy] in his conversion from the blindness of Judaism.
2. The hidden things of dishonesty] i.e. the disgraceful methods of gaining adherents used by the false teachers: see on 2 Corinthians 2:17.
3-6. Paraphrase. ’If our gospel is not understood by any, it is only by those (4) whose minds are dulled by sin. (5) For the subject of our preaching is not ourselves, but Christ. (6) As God at first created light, so has He created spiritual light in our hearts, that we might reflect His light, even the knowledge of His love revealed in Christ.’
3. Are lost] RV ’are perishing.’ If some will not let the light of the gospel shine into their hearts, it is their own fault.
4. The God of this world] cp. John 12:31; John 14:30. Worldly men make the devil their god by serving him, and thus serving him become even more worldly. Lest the light, etc.] For the thought, cp. Matthew 13:13-15. Image of God] Christ is the expression of God’s character of love and holiness.
5. Not ourselves] as do the false teachers. For Jesus’ sake] Love to Jesus is his motive in seeking to serve the Corinthians.
6. For God.. hath shined] RV ’Seeing it is God that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts.’ The reference is to Genesis 1:3. He who gave natural light gave also spiritual light.
(iii) 4:7-5:10. The Sources of the Apostle’s Comfort in the Ministry, and the Hopes that give him Courage
7-18. This glorious gospel is entrusted indeed to frail and suffering messengers, but that is in order that the glory may be given not to man but to God. Life is a continual affliction and danger, but it enables the Apostle to learn how to comfort and edify the Corinthian converts, and he gladly suffers that many may learn the salvation of God and glorify His holy name, while he is upheld by the hope of the resurrection life.
7. This treasure] i.e. the work of the ministry. In earthen vessels] i.e. in a weakly body. Herodotus tells us that Darius Hystaspis melted his gold into earthen pots, which could be broken when it was wanted.
8. We are troubled, etc.] Images are heaped one upon another in picturesque accumulation to express the fact that, in spite of many great trials (cp. 2 Corinthians 11:26; 2 Corinthians 12:10), the Apostle has grace given him to persevere.
10-12. Paraphrase. ’In suffering for Christ’s sake we are drawn into close communion with Him who suffered and died on our behalf; and thus sharing His experience and “having this mind in us which was also in Him,” we are enabled to show forth in our life the power of Christ, whose indwelling influence gives us the victory over the temptations which these trials bring. (11) Indeed, it is for this very purpose that we are constantly brought into peril and affliction; (12) and the result is that, while we suffer and draw near even to death itself, your spiritual life is strengthened by the spectacle of our spiritual victory.’
10. Bearing about, etc.] He ’dies daily,’ he ’stands in jeopardy every hour’ (1 Corinthians 15:30-31) for Christ’s cause, and thus he has learnt ’the fellowship of his sufferings’ (Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24). In the body] cp. 2 Corinthians 1:5; Galatians 6:17.
11. Explaining and emphasising 2 Corinthians 4:10.
13-15. Paraphrase. ’(13) Our faith is like that of the Psalmist, who spoke out of the depths of his inward conviction, and we speak what we verily believe. (14) For we are confident that God who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead will raise us also and unite us with you in the blessings of the resurrection life. (15) And all my experiences are a source of blessing to you, because as the grace of God enables me to overcome my difficulties, many of you are inspired by my testimony to rise to higher levels of Christian life, and to give thanks to God for so many mercies.’
13. The reference is to Psalms 116:10.
14. By Jesus] RV ’with Jesus.’
15. The AV is here inaccurate. RV ’For all things are for your sakes, that the grace being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.’
16-18. St. Paul goes on to speak of the things that comfort him in the presence of his trials. These are the strengthening of his spirit, the thought that the temporal is transient, and the assurance of a future life.
16. Though our outward man perish, etc.] These afflictions may weaken the body, but through them the spirit is strengthened. Experience shows us the truth of this in many cases; e.g. bodily weakness often produces beauty of character, and grey hairs bring wisdom: cp. for the thought, John 15:2; Hebrews 12:11.
17. Our light affliction, etc.] The affliction is light, and vastly outweighed by the glory which it helps to secure; seen in its true perspective, too, it is but momentary, while the glory is eternal.
18. We look not] If we look at these afflictions they will loom so large in our view as to shut out the prospect beyond; therefore we look past them. The things which are seen] the material, including these afflictions. The things.. not seen] the spiritual, including the results of these afflictions in character and spiritual life.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25