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Paul and the False Teachers
In 2Co_3:6 , Paul had said he was a minister of the new covenant. Knowing that he had tried to destroy Christianity, Paul was ever thankful for God's mercy which allowed him to preach the gospel ( 1Ti_1:12-13 ). That mercy and great message gave him courage to endure persecution ( 2Co_4:1 ).
Apparently, the false teachers Paul opposed had done things in secret which they would have been ashamed to have exposed. It also appears that they would use any means at their disposal to gain followers. They may even have misused God's word in order to escape exposure and punishment. Paul didn't use the false teachers' approach. Instead, he openly proclaimed the truth ( Act_20:26-27 ) with the realization that he would be tested by men in God's sight ( 2Co_4:2 ).
Even though Paul proclaimed the truth openly, there were those who did not see that truth. As verse 14 of chapter 3 would show, there were some who could not see the truth because they did not want to. These were "those who are perishing" by choice. Sinful man made Satan his god, thus giving him control over the world. To retain his power, Satan has to blind his subjects so they cannot see the light of the truth ( 2Co_4:3-4 ; Luk_8:12 ).
It may be that the false teachers proclaimed themselves, but Paul saw himself as a servant for Jesus' sake. He only reflected the glory of the Savior. To proclaim Jesus as Lord is to tell others that He is Master, Ruler, and Savior. Those who knew the word of God should have remembered that He gave light to a newly created world ( Gen_1:3 ). In much the same way, the Father sent Jesus to be the Light of the world ( Isa_60:1-2 ; Joh_1:1-5 ). Jesus reflected God's light and gave man knowledge of God that he might give to others ( 2Co_4:5-6 ).
God's Proclaimers Will Overcome
The treasure would be the gospel. That treasure is carried to the world in earthly vessels, that is, our bodies. Because the body is weak, the greatness of the message it carries is better seen. Also, it is easy to see such a frail body is not the source of such a powerful message ( 2Co_4:7 ).
Paul also pictured gospel proclaimers as soldiers fighting for the gospel treasure. He knew the enemy might move in on all sides at close quarters. However, the apostle said God's soldier would still have room to wield his sword and defend himself with his shield. Though he might be greatly troubled by the close fighting, he should not lose hope. In the thick of the battle, the soldier might seek safety by running. Even then, Paul said God would not leave him in a helpless state. In fact, the apostle said God would not allow His soldier to be defeated even if he was overtaken by the enemy and knocked down ( 2Co_4:8-9 ).
Paul and other proclaimers of the good news suffered persecution like Jesus and died, as it were, because of it ( 1Co_15:31 ; Rom_8:36 ; Php_3:10 ; Col_1:24 ; Gal_6:17 ). Paul's sufferings caused the selfish man to be dead and Christ to be seen in Paul's response to that suffering ( Gal_2:20 ). That death, brought about by suffering for Christ, also brings eternal life through the gospel, for those who hear us proclaim despite trials. Despite affliction, which might have caused Paul to give up, he took the attitude of the Psalmist who was compelled to speak because he believed in God ( 2Co_4:10-13 ; Psa_116:10 ).
The ultimate source of the proclaimers’ belief and hope rested in the resurrection. It was the knowledge that all believers, including the bearer of good news, would one day overcome the grave and be taken home to be with the Lord that kept them strong and faithful. Everything done in the service of the gospel is done for the believer. They were taught that they might receive God's grace and, in turn, that grace received by them might glorify God ( 2Co_4:14-15 ).
A Proper View of Suffering
Since he believed death would be followed by a resurrection, and his suffering brought God glory, Paul did not give up hope and quit fighting. While the physical body was gradually destroyed by suffering, the spiritual man grew stronger, because of it, daily. The apostle counted his troubles as light because of the reward withstanding them would bring. Trials are temporary, while the reward will be eternal. Scripture clearly teaches bearing up under tribulation will bring reward ( 2Co_4:16-17 ; 2Ti_2:12 ; 1Pe_4:13 ; Rom_8:17 ).
Jesus left us an example that we should respond to worldly trouble by obeying God. ( Php_2:7-11 ) If we think only in terms of this world, we may not be able to bear suffering. Yet, the Christian thinks in terms of eternity and the spiritual rewards to come ( 2Co_4:18 ; Col_3:1-4 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany