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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 4

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-6


1. Therefore, having this ministry,” i. e., the wonderful and responsible ministry of the Holy Ghost, in contradistinction to the Levitical ministry under Moses, “as we obtained mercy, we faint not,

2. But we lay aside the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the Word of God deceitfully, but through the manifestation of the truth presenting ourselves to every conscience of men before God.” As Christ had not come and Moses was only a type, it was pertinent that the Mosaic ministry should preach the gospel through types and symbols. Hence the bloody sacrifices symbolizing the work of Christ, and the watery catharisms representing the work of the Holy Ghost, constant and exceedingly operose during the Mosaic dispensation. The gospel ministry under the Holy Ghost dispensation is entirely different, being a pure spirituality, whose end is the revelation of Christ to the human spirit, i. e., to the sinner as a Savior and to the Christian as a Sanctifier. This is done by faithfully preaching the Word, and not handling it deceitfully in craftiness. Priestcraft is one of the devil’s most successful inventions. It is the quintessence of handling the Word deceitfully, i. e., bending it about to suit the creed, the congregation, the times and circumstances. The devil’s preachers are wonderfully shrewd and accommodating. They will twist the Scripture around to suit everybody and everything except holiness to the Lord. It is so deplorable to see the religious world today groping along in the dispensation of Moses, wasting the Lord’s money in building costly church edifices, pouring out thousands for mere show, and even ruining the acoustic facilities of the building. Then the services are all about as rigidly ritualized as in the days of the Levitical priesthood. I do believe that in many instances the worship in the Jewish synagogue was more simple and spiritual than in the metropolitan churches of the present day, where it is ritualized to death. It is so alarming to see the millions of Christendom today groping along in the dispensation of Moses, reading the Bible with the veil over their faces, pulled and hauled about by the devices of priestcraft, often “handling the Word of the Lord deceitfully,” making the Bible the mere tool of their caprices. It is a sine qua non of the Holy Ghost ministry to let the blessed Spirit have His way in everything; read and preach the Word just as it is, fearlessly of men and devils, and recognize the Holy Ghost in His personal presence, not only preaching to them His own Word, but conducting the service in song, prayer, testimony, exhortation and sermon.

3. If our gospel is hidden, it is hidden among those who are being lost.” All the wicked are now in a perishing condition, going every moment down to Hell, opportunities and privileges incessantly taking their flight into the vast eternity. All this is because the gospel is being hidden to them, and they are living as if they had no Savior.

4. In whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those that believe not, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ may not shine on them.” Here we find the problem solved, and the reason why people are going into Hell by millions is because they do not see Hell open and coming to meet them, and black devils dragging them into the burning pit. The reason why they see none of these things is because the devil has blinded them through unbelief. Faith is the medium through which all light enters the mind. One of the darkest omens of the age is the rapid rush of all religious denominations into the infidelity of No-Hellism. This subtle demon has already put a padlock on the mouths of about ninety-nine preachers out of every hundred. If you would keep people out of Hell, you must convince them there is one, and that they are going to it. You can not convince them without telling them so. This part of the gospel constitutes the grand break-water against the wild rush of people into Hell. So soon as they wake up to the fact that the Bible Hell is an awful reality, and they are rushing into it at race-horse speed, they will begin to cry out: “What must I do to be saved?” Then the time comes to preach the gospel of grace, get them saved and sanctified, and put them in the school of Christ to feed on His precious Word and glorify Him in the salvation of others. This explains the reason why the fear of God is not in the popular churches. People go there with the pomp and hilarity of the theater. The true readiness “the god of this age,” not as E.V., “this world.” When Satan captured Eden, the ages of his dark and gloomy reign set in.

“One day with God is a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8).

The sixth one-thousand year days of Satan’s dreary week of darkness, toil, bloodshed and damnation are almost at an end, when he is to be arrested like a common criminal and taken out of the world (Revelation 20:0) and locked up in Hell. So, while he is the god of this age, ruling kings, princes, potentates and ecclesiastical hierarchies, it is a happy reflection that he is not the god of this world, but that Jesus has redeemed it by His blood and is going to utterly rescue it from Satan’s black tread, glorify it and add it back to Heaven, where it first swung out from the creative fiat amid the shouts of angels and archangels. During the present age of darkness, sin and misery, as we see here, the devil is god on the earth, ruling its rulers in State and Church, and tumbling all into Hell as fast as possible. The word for “church” in the Scriptures, ecclesia, from ek, “out,” and kaleo, “call,” simply means the people who have come out of this wicked world, responsive to the call of the Holy Ghost. In every case in all by-gone ages, when the good ones go to Heaven, the devil has supplied their places with his counterfeits from the world, thus maneuvering soon to capture the church and fill it up with the world. Hence we have this day the whole world crowded with the devil’s churches, eight hundred millions being pagans, two hundred millions Mohammedans, two hundred and fifty millions Roman Catholics, a hundred millions Greek Catholics, and among the hundred millions of Protestants he certainly has the lion’s portion. God, in His great mercy, ever and anon calls His people to come out of the world. If He did not call them out of the worldly churches, the devil would get them. The very fact that a church is worldly is demonstrative proof that the devil has it; because he is the god of this age, i. e., the god who rules the world during the present age of darkness and sin. So fast as the devil can keep the people from believing the Bible, he blinds them through their own unbelief, thus utterly disqualifying them to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

5. For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ the Lord, and ourselves the servants for Jesus’ sake.” The true gospel preacher has but one theme, and that is Christ the Lord. Christ means God’s Anointed One, who redeemed the world by His blood, and is the name of our Savior in His mediatorial capacity. Lord means a ruler of this world, and has always been applied to the temporal rulers of the earth Hence in its application to our Savior, it signifies His regal office and character. Jesus is His birth-name and means “Savior”; Christ, Redeemer; and Lord, “King.” Hence we are to preach all of these great cardinal truths appertaining to the Christhood everywhere we go. The whole Bible is but the biography of Christ; the Old Testament that of Christ concealed, the New Testament that of Christ revealed. We are to preach faithfully the historic Christ in His first advent, bleeding and dying to redeem the world, and actually perfecting the universal, vicarious atonement. We are also to preach the experimental Christhood, enforcing with all our might the great fact that all of His followers must be like Him. At the manger, where He was born in utter obscurity, we must follow Him and be born of the Spirit from above. We must also follow Him to the cross, be nailed to it, bleed and die to this world, rise again to walk in newness of life. We must also follow Him in the transfiguration if we would ascend with Him to glory. It is an awful insult to the gospel calling to preach anything but Christ. Hence we have no right to preach our opinions, creeds nor dogmatisms of any kind.

6. Because God is the one saying, ‘Out of darkness the light will shine which shone in our hearts in order to the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ.’” This is still contrastive with the case of Moses, who had a veil over his face, whereas Christ has none. This Scripture is fulfilled in all human experience wrought by the Holy Ghost. In regeneration, lie reveals Christ to the sinner, shining on him, his heart yet much encompassed with the darkness of his sinful nature, in which he was born. In sanctification, lie reveals Christ sitting on the throne of the heart shining in cloudless splendor, reigning without a rival.

Verses 7-15


2 Corinthians 4:7-15 .

7. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, in order that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” All the splendor, pomp, pageantry, gold, silver and adornment appertaining t6 the priesthood, tabernacle and temple of the former dispensation has been entirely eliminated, not a vestige surviving. Hence the folly and impertinency of filling the world with it during the gospel ages. It was all symbolic in its day and passed away with all the types and shadows superseded by the glorious Antitype. Hence the gospel ministry is all in the valley of humiliation. Human power, pomp and splendor all totally eclipsed by the supernatural glory of the Christ we represent. Whenever we bring in human power, learning, wealth and influence we thereby put a veil over the popular mind, disqualifying them to see the Invisible One. Therefore our Savior selected the most humble, impotent and uninfluential to preach the gospel, even “unlearned and ignorant men.” In every subsequent age, when human power, wealth and culture come to the front we see the Holy Spirit retreat away, leaving them to run their own machinery, and, pursuant to first principles, picking up others, poor, weak and uninfluential, from the low places of the earth, and sending them out, the custodians of this invaluable Heavenly treasure. God is not going to change His gospel economy to suit any of us, giving His glory to another. The humiliation of the gospel is here exemplified by the apostles themselves, down at the very bottom of society, the contempt of the world’s elite.

8. In everything troubled but not inextricably crushed, in perplexity but not in despair.

9. Persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed,

10. Always bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus, in order that truly the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our body.” They were constantly exposed to martyrdom; not many years after this writing till Paul laid down his neck at Nero’s block, and the universal tempest of imperial persecution broke out against them, deluging Christendom in blood. Most of the apostles lived like the poorest sanctified pilgrims you ever saw, homeless, money-less and friendless so far as the world was concerned. Nowadays they would universally be recognized, enunciated, calumniated and despised as the poorest tramps. The brightest lights and the grandest examples of Christian purity and heroism in every age have lived and died down in the bottom of the valley of humiliation. It is dangerous to climb, lest we fall and break our necks. Whenever we get to where the people will account for our efficiency by our own resources, we are on dangerous ground and fearfully liable to the abandonment of the Holy Ghost, leaving us to paddle our own canoe, because He dare not compromise the glory of Christ in human instrumentality. We must keep in such position that “the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. “

11. For we who are alive are all the time being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake,” i. e., in constant perils and persecutions and liable to be killed for Jesus’ sake. It is equally true to-day, if you are constantly loyal to God, your life hangs upon a thread and you are in constant jeopardy. So many people will hate you, that in ways you never dreamed they will seek to take your life. I have been mobbed a number of times, and repeatedly threatened with immediate death, firearms drawn on me, and on one occasion all possible effort made to shoot me, the gun refusing to go off, only snapping. Of course, current civilization is much in our favor, for which we are to be thankful to God; but still this Scripture is true. Fisher, a godly Baptist preacher, was murdered in Louisville, Ky.; Haddock, a Methodist preacher in Sioux City, IA., and others not a few, swell the martyr roll of the present day. “In order that the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” The grand end in view is the exemplification, both in soul and body.

12. So death worketh in us, and life in you.” This is an antithetical statement meaning physical death in us and spiritual life in you.


16. Therefore we faint not, but if indeed our outer man is perishing, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” Paul uses the term “man” in quite a diversity of figurative senses; e. g., “the outer man” simply means your body, and has no spiritual signification whatever. “The inner man,” as well as the “hidden man of the heart” (1 Peter 3:4), and “the new man” so frequently mentioned, are all synonymous, meaning the new creature, created in the heart by the Holy Ghost in regeneration; while “the old man” and “the man of sin” means Adam the first, human depravity, original sin. Hence we see from this verse that while the body is constantly wearing out, and really may be regarded as beginning to die when it begins to live, the spiritual man under the reign of grace is diametrically opposite, all the time growing larger and stronger. It is a significant fact that the very operations of vitality involve a series of nutrient and absorbent agencies by which the entire physical body is eliminated away and a new one given every seven years. Hence, if you have truly been saved seven years, you will not only have a new spirit, but your body has been entirely renovated, so that you have not a single atom which you had when you were a servant of the devil. This accounts for the radical revolution in the physical personalities of people all around us; evolving complete and total changes either for good or evil. If a person goes into dark and diabolical sins, the time will soon come when he will no longer resemble his former self; while the same is true in the kingdom of God, a few revolving years working out transformations, not only intrinsical, but extrinsical, completely revolutionizing the physical character, putting on you an unearthly luster, rendering you literally unlike your former self. While these physical revolutions are moving on so wonderfully, it is still infinitely more preeminently true that internal and spiritual revolutions are all the while transpiring in a most marvelous manner, the renovating powers of the Omnipotent Spirit day by day working miracles of grace in the deep interior of our immortal being. “For the present light burden of our affliction worketh out for us an eternal weight of glory, according to hyperbole unto hyperbole.” This beautiful verse was the last text used by our beloved Bishop Kavanaugh. When he arose in the pulpit in Mississippi announcing the first clause, in reference to the insignificance of temporal afflictions when contrasted with Heavenly glories, he dropped dead by sudden paralysis. When Bishop McTyeire preached his funeral from this same text, he said that the glorified bishop whose remains were lying in the coffin passed on up to Heaven, announcing the second clause of his text, so vividly descriptive of celestial glory, and preached from it there. This is certainly a very beautiful conception, and not at all improbable. The legitimate conclusion from this verse is that God makes all of our temporal afflictions grand sources of blessing to our immortal spirits. While all sickness originated from Satan in the Fall, you must remember that “where sin did abound, there did grace much more abound” (Romans 5:20). Consequently our wonderful Deliverer has made all the sickness, trouble, sorrow and persecution, which He permits us to encounter in this world, rich in spiritual blessing if we are only true to Him, receiving it gladly, not as from the devil, but from God, whose permissive Providence suffers it to come, and whose triumphant grace makes it a medium of blessings untold. There is a Divine philosophy at the bottom of this truth. When we consider the irrepressible conflict between the material and the spiritual in this life, and the fearful ability that the former may drag down and subordinate the latter, rendering us demonized brutes, we can see very clearly how the good Providence of God may sanctify our temporal afflictions to wean us from earth and ripen us for Heaven. Paul is exceedingly bold, recognizing all the temporal afflictions that can overtake us here as a “light burden,” while at the same time they work out for us “an eternal weight of glory.” Baros, translated “weight” in E.V., I here render “burden.” Hence we have Paul assuring us that these temporal afflictions will actually burden us with glory in the world to come. Oh, how unutterably delectable to be literally burdened with glory! Then, you must remember it is an “eternal burden of glory”! Not only is it “an eternal burden of glory,” but this “eternal burden of glory” is to be according to “hyperbole unto hyperbole”! This Greek word “hyperbole” is used in rhetoric to express the very highest figure of speech conceivable or utterable. Not only does Paul use it to describe the “eternal burden of glory” that shall prove the happy lot of the saint who has been the recipient of much sorrow, trouble and suffering in this life, but he intensifies the figure of speech by this wonderful combination of rhetorical superlatives, assuring us that it will be according to “hyperbole unto hyperbole.” This paradoxical figure of speech actually carries the mind not only to the highest and grandest and most ultimate conception, but triumphantly sweeps away, into the illimitable, the indescribable and the incommunicable realities and fruitions of glory and immortality, fledged and pinioned for grander and loftier flights through the cycles of never-ending eternity. Then, who wants to sail to Heaven on flowery beds of ease, only to squeeze through the pearly gate by the skin of his teeth, and go crownless through all eternity? Nay, verily! But give me the hottest of the battle and the thickest of the fight!

18. We are not looking at things which are seen, but at things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporary ” (not “temporal,” as E.V., but fleeting and transitory), “but things which are not seen are eternal.” With these facts before us, how strange to see not only all the worldly people running after the fleeting things of time and giving no attention to the things of the Spirit, which abide forever, but we see that religious people are almost as proclivitous in their grasp after the transitory baubles of this fleeting life to the depreciation of the eternal realities of the Spirit, as the outside world. Take the ministry, for example. Where can you find a preacher who does not want the appointment which stands at the head of the list in temporal affairs? The most dangerous temptations I ever incurred in my life were with Methodist preachers, godly men and my true personal friends, who loved me dearly and sought what they regarded as my chief good. The sanctification the Lord gave me thirty years ago disharmonized me with the proud, popular churches which paid the big money. Twenty-seven years ago I was hauled from off my circuit by my proud, worldly church officers, who had concluded I was a crazy man because I told them the truth. They actually gave me a free ride to the presiding elder’s office, rejecting me as their pastor and turning me over to the proper authority. The temptation above mentioned was when the presiding elders would tell me that they could send me to a magnificent, rich appointment, where I could get lots of money, if I would only leave off my peculiarities, which meant to let the devil slow me out of my sanctification.

I am so glad God gave me grace in that awful emergency, the most perilous temptation I can now recognize as I retrospect my whole past life. I said to the presiding elders: “Go tell the bishop and his cabinet that W. B. Godbey is a candidate for the poorest, roughest and hardest work in the Kentucky Conference.” The old bishop straightens up and asks a repetition of that report, which is given, the elders certifying: “That is so, bishop. And he means that very thing.” Tears were seen in the eyes of the good bishop, who responds: “Well, brethren, it becomes our duty to take care of that man, as we see he will not take care of himself.” The result was, they never did send me to an appointment that did not give me an ample support, feeding and clothing me and mine like a family of kings. It is a fond trick of the devil to keep preachers out of sanctification by the starvation scarecrow. It is all a lie, for “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” If the preachers would lose sight of the temporal in the constant and enthusiastic appreciation of the eternal, they would have power with God to shake Heaven, earth and Hell, bring on the Millennium, and bring back the King of Glory. If all the Christians in the world would adopt this maxim, the apocalyptic angel would begin at once to get his chain ready to put round the devil’s neck.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/2-corinthians-4.html.
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