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Ironside's Notes on Selected Books Ironside's Notes
2 Corinthians 4
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ isn/ 2-corinthians-4.html. 1914.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
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The Gospel Ministry
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 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. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 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. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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. (vv. 1-6)
We have already noticed that this is preeminently the epistle of Christian ministry, and in the section beginning with these verses the apostle undertakes to open up the nature of that ministry and the responsibilities connected with it.
Notice first, it is something that we have received from God. “Seeing,” he says, “[that] we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not.” I know that the gospel is from God because no man would ever have imagined such a message. I am somewhat familiar with most of the religious systems that have occupied the minds of men. For over forty years this subject has been my study above every other. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have read literally thousands of volumes setting forth the different religious views that have prevailed in this world for the last three or four thousand years of human history, and I want to say that you may put them all together, lump them together in one group, and then put the testimony of the Word of God in another by itself. All human religions teach men that there is something they can do and must do whereby they can placate God and earn their own salvation. The gospel, and the gospel alone, tells men that they are utterly helpless, that they can do nothing to merit divine favor, but that they do not need to do anything, for God Himself has come out in loving-kindness in the Person of His Son to save men by grace alone. This is no human thought; this did not come from the human mind; this is a revelation that came from heaven. We have received this ministry, and having received it we are accountable to God to pass it on to others. It was in His mercy that He made it known to us, and we ourselves have been saved through believing it.
Paul could say that there was a time when he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, when he hoped to work out a righteousness of his own, sufficient to admit him uncondemned into the presence of God. But there came a day when God in infinite grace revealed to Saul of Tarsus his own sinfulness and guilt, when he saw himself, not as a self-righteous Pharisee, but as the chief of sinners, and then in his deep, deep need he turned to Christ alone and found in Him a righteousness for his soul. It meant something to him when he said, “We have received this ministry.” He was referring to a very definite personal experience that he had gone through. I am wondering whether you know something of that; I wonder whether you have ever been brought by the Spirit of God to see your own innate sinfulness, your guilt, your lost condition, and not only your lost condition but your utter helplessness. I wonder whether God has ever revealed to you His own blessed Son in whom “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), who came in grace from the heights of glory to the cross of shame and there gave Himself a ransom for all. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Receiving such mercy, what a responsibility now rests upon you to make it known to others. The apostle is speaking not merely of what we may call the official ministry of the church, of a man who proclaims the gospel from the public platform, when he says, “As we have received mercy,” but every Christian is the object of mercy, and therefore should boldly go forth to proclaim the gospel of the grace of God to others. We are not afraid now, we do not lose heart, as we go to men telling of great grace for great sinners.
On the other hand, the apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of living the gospel. He says, “We have…renounced the hidden things of dishonesty.” It is not merely an intellectual thing with us. It is not simply that we come to the conclusion, after the process of logical investigation, that Jesus Christ is the divine, eternal Son of God, and confess that as a creedal statement, but we have turned to Him in heart, and turning to Him we have been delivered from our sins, and we have renounced those things in which once we lived, in which once we gloried, the activities of the flesh fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The cross of Christ has brought these things to an end. In other words, the proclaimer of the gospel must himself be a holy man, he must live the truth that he preaches to other people. “We have…renounced the hidden things of [shame], not walking in craftiness,” not walking in guile, nor hypocrisy. There is nothing that is unreal, nothing that cannot bear the light in our behavior, but there is only that which can have the approval of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Nor handling the word of God deceitfully.” Somebody has translated that, “Nor huckstering the Word of God.” We go to men and proclaim the gospel and tell them we are doing it for love of their souls. What a sinful thing if, when I profess to proclaim the gospel for love of the souls of men I should, after all, simply be preaching it for love of the money which might come to me, because Christ has said that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel. If I am going to devote all of my time to the preaching of the gospel, it is necessary that I be supported in some way, but if I make that the object, if I go out to preach as though simply performing something for which I am looking for temporal support, then I am a hypocrite and a sham, I am dealing with God’s truth as though it were butter and eggs and groceries. The apostle says we are not to do that. Paul might have been a wealthy man if he had pursued the path for which he was trained in early life. He might have been one of the most widely-recognized professors in Judea. He chose to become poverty-stricken in order to go out and preach Christ, and he was even ready to work with his hands making tents, when necessary to support himself and his companions. The preaching of the gospel was a commission given to him by the risen, glorified Lord, and he could say, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.”
“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.” I know it is possible to preach the gospel and to say things that are perfectly true, and yet the life that is behind the speaking be contrary to the message delivered. In a case like that there is no real power. The power of the Word is found when a man is walking with God in communion with the Holy Spirit. I have prayed thousands of times, and I dare to pray again, knowing that God may take me at my word if I fail, “O God, keep me from ever being able to preach the gospel without a clear conscience and the power of the Holy Spirit.” To attempt to do it is but to mock God, and to mock men for whom Christ died. “By manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
The remarkable thing is that one can preach this gospel and yet not have men understand it; it does not seem to appeal to them. In the third chapter we read that when Moses is read there are certain ones who are blinded, and they cannot see that he speaks of Christ. But the same thing is true in the New Testament. You can preach it, men may sit down over the New Testament and read it carefully, and still it seems hazy, it seems that there is a veil over it. How do you account for that? Is the gospel then no clearer than the message of the Old Testament? How do you account for the apparent veil that hangs over the hearts of men as they read or hear the gospel? He explains it for us by saying, “If our gospel be hid [or veiled], it is [veiled] to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” The god of this world, or the god of this age, is Satan. That is a wonderful expression to use of him. The Lord Jesus called him the “prince of this world,” and now the apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit goes farther and calls him the “god of this age.” The Devil is the only god that Christless men know; they are led by the Devil captive to his will. There are men who even deny his existence, but the very fact that they refuse the gospel message shows that they are under his power. “If our gospel be [veiled], it is [veiled] to them that are lost.” Do you say, “I do not understand; I have heard this all my life, but it means nothing to me; I have heard those words over and over and over again, but they do not register with me, they do not mean anything to me”? Is that true of you? Then let me tell you seriously, tenderly, earnestly, the reason that you are lost, lost deliberately, willfully, is because of your own sin. That is why you cannot see nor apprehend the beauty, the preciousness of the gospel. “If our gospel be [veiled], it is [veiled] to them that are lost; 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.” It is Satan that holds you in his control. The reason you cannot believe is that you do not want to believe. If you would believe, it would mean the judging of those things in your life that are contrary to the Word of God. If any man says, “There are things in the Bible that I cannot believe,” I can tell him why. It is because there are things in his life that the Bible condemns, of which he does not wish to repent. There are sins that mean more to him than Christ. He would rather indulge in them than be delivered from them. The moment a man comes to the place where he desires God’s will above all else, and says, “I am ready to renounce my sin, to be freed from it,” that man will not have any trouble believing the gospel. Judge yourself in the presence of God, and you will be able to believe Him. Face your sins before God, and there will be no difficulty about believing.
Someone said to Sir Isaac Newton, “Sir Isaac, I do not understand; you seem to be able to believe the Bible like a little child. I have tried, but I cannot. So many of its statements mean nothing to me. I cannot believe; I cannot understand.”
Sir Isaac Newton replied, “Sometimes I come into my study and in my absent-mindedness I attempt to light my candle when the extinguisher is over it, and I fumble about trying to light it and cannot; but when I remove the extinguisher then I am able to light the candle. I am afraid the extinguisher in your case is the love of your sins; it is deliberate unbelief that is in you. Turn to God in repentance; be prepared to let the Spirit of God reveal His truth to you, and it will be His joy to show the glory of the grace of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Those who believe not do not desire this knowledge, “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” It says in our King James Version, “The glorious gospel.” That is precious, but it does not really give us the whole truth. It is not only that the gospel is in itself glorious, but the gospel that we preach is not a gospel of earth but it is the gospel of the glory of Christ. Christ is up there in glory at God’s right hand, and from the risen, glorified Christ comes this message of reconciliation to sinful men. That is why the apostle speaks of it in the way he does. Christ is the image of God, the manifestation of God. How Satan wants to keep men from coming into this place, and how God is yearning to have men know Him as revealed in His Son.
The gospel is not just a philosophy. What are men’s philosophies after all? Philosophy is the acting of mind upon mind, trying to explain things in a logical, reasonable, human way, and the stronger the mind of the speaker the more it impresses other people, and brings them to think as he thinks. Men depend upon logic, rhetoric, and eloquence in order to impress their fellows. But it was not so with the apostle Paul. He was afraid that mere human reason might overrule the power of the gospel, and so said, “Not with wisdom of words” (1 Corinthians 1:17). Men like to hear lovely figures of speech expressed in beautiful language, but the business of the gospel preacher is not simply to reach the mind of man but to reach his conscience and his will, and when man’s conscience is exercised and his will is turned toward God, then his soul is saved through faith in Christ. But this is not the result of human effort, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, and that is why the servant of Christ needs to put his dependence entirely upon the Spirit of God.
Notice how the apostle closes this section. “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” He could not say in plainer words, “We are not trying to attract attention to ourselves, we do not want the result of our ministry to be that men will go about and say, ‘What a wonderful preacher Paul is! What an eloquent man is Apollos! What a marvelous exhorter is Simon Peter! How wonderful these men are!’” I have often felt ashamed at the foolish things well-meaning men have said in introducing servants of Christ to an audience. They make so much of the man, they have so much to say about his ability and his accomplishments, when it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that he can do anything at all. We should never forget that it is the Savior who counts, and the Word that God uses in the power of the Holy Spirit. So Paul says, “We preach not ourselves,” we do not want to attract attention to ourselves. Like John the Baptist we say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). “We preach…Christ Jesus the Lord,” and it is only as He is exalted that men and women are blessed. It is only as He is exalted that sinners are saved. But what of the preacher? “Ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” That is all; just “your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
“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.” Away back there in the beginning God looked upon a world of chaos wrapped in night, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep, and God said, “Let there be light, and there was light,” and He 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.” This is our ministry, to bring all men to see the beauty of Christ, to see that, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), that He is indeed the light of life.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy days be bright”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk,
Till traveling days are done.
Have you seen “the glory of God in the face of Jesus”?
Present Trial And Future Glory
2 Corinthians 4:6-18
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. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 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. 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. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 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; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 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. (vv. 6-18)
The verse with which we began our reading links very clearly with the first chapter of the book of Genesis. You remember we read, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Some people imagine that we who are generally dubbed “fundamentalists” believe that that took place at about 10 o’clock in the morning in the year 4004 B.C. We do not believe anything of the kind. I have never yet met a fundamentalist who had any such crude conception of the time of creation.
What we do believe is that whenever creation took place, no matter how many millions or billions of years back, it was God who brought everything into existence-“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” We do not know the exact condition of the earth at that time, except that we are told in Isaiah 45:18 that “he created it not in vain [or void], he formed it to be inhabited.” The earth, as God originally created it, was absolutely perfect, but the second verse of Genesis tells us that “the earth [became] without form, and void.” Something happened to that first creation; there was a fall, some great catastrophe happened, and so we have the condition depicted in that second verse. Therefore God began to work again in order to fit up this earth that it might be the stage upon which would be played the wondrous drama of redemption.
We are told that, “The Spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” Notice two things: the Spirit of God brooded-God spoke. “The entrance of thy words giveth light” (Psalms 119:130). We think of man as in very much the same condition as at that fall. “God hath made man upright” (Ecclesiastes 7:29), but he fell and lost the robe of glory. We say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and the first invention was that of the fig-leaf apron. Realizing his nakedness Adam made for himself an apron of fig-leaves. Through sin man fell into this chaotic condition, but God was going to work in order to lift him out of it. Man is in darkness, he is lost and wretched, and in redeeming him two great things are involved: first, the brooding of the Holy Spirit over the soul of man, for no man has ever been saved apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. The second thing is the message of the gospel. “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” And here we read, “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.” And so we to whom that light has come, we who have believed the gospel message, have been brought out of nature’s darkness into this marvelous light of God, through the gospel.
The apostle now shows that we are entrusted with this message, to carry it to poor, lost men and women. We ourselves are just feeble, sinful creatures, not perfect by any means, but having a perfect Savior to proclaim and perfect salvation to preach. And so he says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels [he means our bodies], that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” I think you can see that the reference here is to the battle in the days of Gideon when his little army of three hundred surrounded the great camp of the Midianites. To every one of those soldiers had been entrusted an earthen vessel, and in that vessel was a light, a lamp of some kind. Gideon told the soldiers to surround the camp and to do whatever he did, and so at a given time he cried, “The sword of Jehovah and of Gideon,” and he broke the earthen vessel and the light shone out. The moment he did that, all the others did the same thing, and the Midianites sprang to their feet and thought there must be a tremendous army surrounding them. They felt there was no hope, and in their distress in the darkness they began to kill each other, and so Gideon’s army was victorious. It was a great victory won in a peculiar way. That is what every Christian is, an earthen vessel with a light in it. To you and to me there has been committed the glorious light of the gospel. We were once in darkness but are now in the light of the Lord. In order for a light to shine out of a vessel it has to be broken. Do you know why some people who know the gospel intellectually never win a soul to Christ? It is because the earthen vessel has never been broken, they have never been humbled and cast down in the presence of God. One may know all about the way of life and yet never communicate light to others, because that one has never been broken in the presence of God. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” The vessel has nothing to boast of; it is the light that accomplishes everything.
The apostle is thinking particularly of himself and his fellow workmen when he says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.” We to whom has been committed the glorious ministry of the gospel, realize that we are to expect trouble. “We are perplexed,” often we hardly know which way to turn. But we are not in despair because we are assured that our blessed Master understands, and we are waiting word from Him. “Persecuted, but not forsaken.”
Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Saviour too,
Human hearts and looks deceive me,
Thou art not like them untrue.
“In the world,” says the Lord Jesus, “ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Our risen, glorified, triumphant Savior backs up every one of His persecuted, suffering people. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” That simply means that we who are Christians are daily delivered over to death; that is, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being made manifest in our daily lives. The Lord Jesus says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). If you had been living in the days when the Lord uttered those words, and you had seen a company of soldiers coming down the road, and a man in the midst bearing a cross on his shoulders, you would have said, “That man is going out to death.” Very well, “That is the place I want you to take for Me,” our Lord is saying. “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). Take that place for Me, take the cross and follow Me. No matter what comes you are simply to be yielded, even to death, in order to glorify Me. That is what we glory in. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” Elsewhere the apostle says, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). I wonder if any servant of Christ has ever suffered and endured more than the apostle Paul. But he gloried in it all because as he suffered for Jesus’ sake, the life of Jesus was being made manifest in his mortal body. Men could look at him and say, That is the way Christ would have us live. And so you and I are called upon to manifest the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“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. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” He is speaking, you see, as a servant of Christ who had been broken in order that the light might shine, in order to illuminate the darkened hearts of those Corinthians. We have been given up to tribulation, trial, and persecution that the light may shine through us to a lost world. That was so with the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24), and the same principle applies in regard to His servants. If you want to be of use to the Lord Jesus Christ, you must be prepared to take the place of death.
It was Arthur T. Pierson, I believe, who when visiting George Müller asked him, “Mr. Müller, would you be willing to tell me the secret of your great work and the wonderful things that God has done through you?”
Mr. Müller looked up for a moment, and then bowed his head lower and lower until it was down between his knees, and he was silent a moment or two, and then said, “Many years ago there came a day in my life when George Müller died. As a young man I had a great many ambitions, but there came a day when I died to all these things, and I said, ‘Henceforth, Lord Jesus, not my will but thine,’ and from that day God began to work in and through me.”
General Booth expressed it in a different way. J. Wilbur Chapman said to him, “Will you tell me the secret of the great work that you have accomplished?”
He said, in his straightforward way, as he looked right into the face of Doctor Chapman with that eagle eye of his, “Dr. Chapman, when I was a lad of seventeen, I determined that God should have all there was of William Booth.”
That is it! When I come to the place where I am through with my own ambitions, when I can say, “None of self, but all of Thee,” I understand what Paul means when he talks about “Bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.”
“So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 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.” No man can live the life that Paul speaks of unless he has by faith seen the Lord Jesus Christ, the risen One up yonder. Who would want to identify himself with a dead Christ? But Christ has been raised again, and believing we speak of the mighty triumph of faith.
“Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Notice the many striking contrasts in these verses. First observe the contrast between perishing and being renewed. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” The outward man perishes. How well we know that! What is the outward man? It is the physical man, the body, and many of us realize that the outward man is perishing. There is not the elasticity in the step that there used to be, there is not the physical vigor that there once was. We tire a great deal more easily than we did some years ago. We do not remember things as well as we once did. And some of us have noticed a very strange thing about memory. We can recall very vividly things that happened away back in our early years; we remember the little incidents of childhood days, we remember the people who were kind to us in those days, and some of us have never gotten over the remembrance of those who were very unkind to us. We remember very vividly the experiences of our early school days and many of our early spiritual experiences, the time when God spoke to our young hearts, the exercises we went through, and then the moment of decision when we accepted Christ. These things we remember very well, but have a great deal of difficulty remembering what happened yesterday. We even go home from a meeting and someone says, “Was it a good sermon?”
And we say, “I think it was; yes, reasonably so.”
“Well, what was the text?”
“Well, I declare, I forget,” and we cannot call it back. Memory plays all kinds of queer tricks on us. Yes, the outward man is perishing, but “the inward man is renewed day by day.”
The inward man is the spirit, the soul, the real man, regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit. The body gets weaker and weaker, but the inward man gets stronger and stronger. The nearer we get to heaven, the more real the precious things of the Lord become to us. I think Bunyan’s picture is a very lovely one. He saw the aged saints lying on the shores of the river of life in the land of Beulah, and they could get glimpses every now and then of the glory of the celestial city. At times they could actually see the shining ones from the other side, and at others they thought they could even hear the voices of the saints and their songs of praise. I think the aged know much of that. God’s saints who have lived for Him through the years, and now have gotten very close to the end of this life, already seem to get the sounds and sights from the celestial city yonder to which they are going; and be assured that these things will become more and more real to you the closer you get to the end. “At eventide, it shall be light.”
“Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Here again we see a vivid contrast; first, the contrast between affliction and glory. You have known much of affliction as you have gone along the way. You have not lived your life without knowing a great many trials and afflictions; you have not failed to know suffering and bereavement and disappointment. There are times when the tears will flow. But now God puts in contrast to the affliction which you have known down here the glory that is coming by-and-by, and if the affliction has oppressed your heart, how the glory will overwhelm you when you are at home with Christ.
He speaks of the affliction as “light affliction,” but of the glory as a “weight” of glory. You have sometimes felt as though your affliction was very heavy, but it has no real weight at all in comparison with the glory that is coming. Therefore, if the affliction seems to have been very heavy when God calls it light, you can get some idea of the glory that awaits us. He says, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment.” It does not seem as though it has been just “for a moment.” I was talking to a dear saint who for over twenty years had been sitting in a wheelchair, and I said, “It is good to know that the Lord is coming, and then all this trouble will be over.”
“Oh, yes,” she said, “but it is so long, it has lasted so long. I wonder when it ever will come to an end.”
It seemed a long time, yet he says it is but for a moment. Suppose that one had spent his whole lifetime in this world in affliction and had lived to be seventy, eighty, or ninety years of age; after all, what is that compared with eternity? “We spend our years as a tale that is told” (Psalms 90:9). Our years pass as “a watch in the night” (Psalms 90:4). “Our light affliction…is but for a moment.”
But notice what awaits us on the other side. “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” How strongly he puts that! It gives some conception of what is coming, what it will be by-and-by, when earth’s trials are past and we are at last in the glory with the Lord Jesus.
In the meantime, “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 are not to be occupied with present things that we see, but we should seek to be occupied with the things that are not seen, for they are, after all, the real things, the eternal things. The things that no human eye has seen are the things that are lasting. When everything that the eye looks upon will have vanished, we shall have Christ, we shall have heaven, we shall have the Holy Spirit, we shall have the love of the Father, we shall have communion with the people of God for all eternity, when earth’s vain shadows have passed away.