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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 4

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Verses 1-6


Having then such a hope we use great openness of speech. And not as Moses used to put a veil upon his face, that the sons of Israel might not gaze at the end of that which was coming to nought. But their thoughts have been hardened. For until this day the same veil remains upon the reading of the Old Covenant: it not being revealed that in Christ it is coming to nought. But until today whenever Moses is read a veil lies upon their heart. But whenever it may turn to the Lord the veil is taken away. Moreover, the Lord is the Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, is freedom. But we all with unveiled face beholding reflected in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed to the same image, from glory to glory, as from the Lord of the Spirit.

Because of this, having this ministry as we have received mercy, we do not fail. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor using with guile the word of God, but by the manifestation of the Truth commending ourselves to every conscience of men before God. And our Gospel, if indeed it is veiled, among those that are perishing it is veiled; in whom the god of this world has blinded the thoughts of the unbelievers, that there may not shine forth the light-giving of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For not ourselves do we proclaim, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants because of Jesus. Because God, who said, Out of darkness light shall shine, it is who has shined in our hearts, to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

After proving in 5 the superiority of the New Covenant, Paul shows in 6, keeping before us and making use of the idea of glory introduced in 5, that his conduct corresponds with this superiority; and explains the rejection by the Jews and others of so great a blessing. In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 he speaks of the rejection of the Gospel by Jews; in 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, of its rejection by unbelievers generally.

2 Corinthians 3:12. Sums up 5, and shows its bearing on Paul’s conduct.

Such a hope: viz. that glory awaits the New Covenant and its ministers, a hope based on the glory of the Old Covenant and the superiority and permanence of the New. In 2 Corinthians 3:4 Paul expressed “confidence” that by God’s grace he was a minister of God. This confidence the argument of 5 has developed into a “hope of glory.” This hope prompts him to proclaim without reserve the Gospel on which it rests.

Openness-of-speech; 2 Corinthians 7:4, Ephesians 6:19; Philippians 1:20; Acts 2:29; Acts 4:13; Acts 4:29; Acts 4:31 : literally saying-everything, without fear, or, as here, without concealment.

2 Corinthians 3:13. Paul does not act as Moses did. See Exodus 34:29-35. This contrast, suggested by the contrast developed in 5, both puts Paul’s conduct in a very clear light and prepares the way for an exposition of the conduct of some who rejected his plainly spoken words.

Used-to-put a veil; agrees with Exodus 34:34, which seems to imply that Moses habitually wore a veil.

That which was coming-to-nought: probably the fading brightness (2 Corinthians 3:7) of Moses’ face, which was the immediate object hidden from the gaze of Israel. But this fading brightness reminds us that the covenant it certified was itself transitory. The radiance on Moses’ face as he came down from the mountain testified that he had been with God, and revealed the grandeur of the work given him to do. He spoke to Aaron, to the elders, to the people. And when he had finished speaking he put a veil over his face until he went again into the presence of God. [The word “till” in Exodus 34:33 (A.V.) should be “when.”] And this he seems to have done constantly. Moses’ purpose in putting on the veil is not stated in Exodus. But we are here taught that it was that the Israelites might not see the end of the splendor upon his face, that their peering eyes might not find out that the glory was passing away. And these words suggest that had they seen this they might have inferred that the Mosaic Covenant was itself only temporary. This explanation of Moses’ motive, though not even suggested by the story of Exodus, yet agrees with it remarkably well. For we cannot doubt that the glory was not permanent but passing. And it may be that a half consciousness of this moved Moses to hide his waning glory. Certainly, both the fading of the brightness and its concealment were in harmony with the temporary nature and the partial revelation of the Old Covenant. We need not discuss the source of Paul’s explanation of Moses’ motive. For it is given not as argument but only to illustrate by contrast his conduct in preaching the Gospel and to explain Israel’s rejection of the word so plainly preached. Since the New Covenant is abiding (2 Corinthians 3:11) Paul has no need to do as Moses did.

2 Corinthians 3:14. But etc.: i.e. in spite of Paul’s openness of speech, so different from the conduct of Moses.

Hardened: become insensible to divine influences. See Romans 11:7; Ephesians 4:18. This hardening is the work both (2 Corinthians 4:4) of Satan and (see under Romans 9:18; Romans 11:8) of God.

Their thoughts: 2 Corinthians 4:4 : nearly but not quite the same as “minds.” It denotes the mind active, i.e. producing thoughts, purposes, etc., but such as could not receive divine impressions. [The Greek aorist leaves quite indefinite whether Paul refers to the hardening of ancient Israel or of the Jews in Paul’s day. It combines the sense of have been hardened and “were hardened.” Since the story of Moses is introduced merely to illustrate the rejection of the Gospel it is best to refer these words to the Jews who rejected Christ. I have therefore chosen the former rendering. So R.V. in 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4. See The Expositor, First Series vol. xi. pp. 299, 380. This is one of the many passages in which the difference of the Greek and English tenses compels the translator to become also an expositor.]

This hardening of the Jews, 2 Corinthians 3:14 b accounts for in a way which links their state in Paul’s day with the story of Moses’ veil.

Until today the same veil remains; makes very conspicuous the continuity of their spiritual position. In “the Book of the Covenant,” Exodus 24:7, the Old Covenant itself was read. By a strong figure Paul says that, just as a veil covered Moses’ face, hiding from Israel the face that its glory was fading, so the open page of the Old Covenant, even while being read, was veiled.

Inasmuch as it is not revealed etc.; justifies the assertion that the same veil remains.

Revealed: made known, as only God can make it known, to the consciousness of those who hear the Old Covenant read. See under Romans 1:17. The Jews did not know that the Old Covenant was only preliminary, that in Christ it comes to nought, i.e. its validity passes away. As a guide of conduct, the Law was not annulled but established (Matthew 5:17) by Christ. For, in Christ, whatever the Law bids we do. But as a covenant between God and man, and as a basis of approach to and intercourse with God, the Old Covenant, “Do this and live,” has utterly passed away. So Galatians 3:19; Galatians 3:25; Romans 8:4; Romans 10:4. Now, just as the brightness of Moses’ face was actually waning, but Israel could not see this because though present among them his face was veiled, so the transitory nature of the Old Covenant was written plainly upon the pages of the Book of the Covenant (cp. Jeremiah 31:31 ff), but the Jews did not know it though the book lay open before them. In other words, the book was veiled.

2 Corinthians 3:15. But until today etc.: in contrast to “revealed that in Christ it comes to nought; expounding still further and from another point of view the hindrance which prevents Israel from knowing the true nature of the Old Covenant.

Until today: graphic repetition, fixing attention upon the still unchanged state of Israel.

Moses is read: more forceful than “the reading of the Old Covenant.” Cp. Acts 15:21. In the Book the veiled Lawgiver was still present.

A veil: not “the same veil”: for the metaphor is changed, to show that the real hindrance is not in the book but in their heart. The book is veiled, inasmuch as only God can reveal its mysteries. The veil was upon their heart, inasmuch as in themselves was the reason why the mysteries were not revealed to them.

Heart: the seat of the intelligence and the source of action. See under Romans 1:21.

Such is Paul’s explanation of the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews. Just as their fathers could not see that the brightness of Moses’ face was fading and that the Covenant of which he was mediator was itself destined to pass away, because his face was hidden from sight by a veil, so even now, after the lapse of many centuries, the Book of Moses, which would tell them if they understood it that the Mosaic dispensation was destined to pass away, is not understood, although read to them every Sabbath. Like its author at Sinai, the book is veiled. Or, rather, on the readers’ hearts a veil lies. For the hindrance is in themselves.

2 Corinthians 3:16. Paul cannot leave his people in their darkness without expressing a hope that they will some day come to the light. The form of his words was suggested apparently by Exodus 34:34, LXX.: “whenever Moses went in before the Lord the veil was taken away.”

To the Lord: to Christ, from whom Israel now turns away.

It may turn: viz. the heart of Israel. The word it suggests a general conversion: cp. Romans 11:26. But 2 Corinthians 3:16 is true of each individual who turns to Christ.

Is taken away: a fixed unchangeable principle of the kingdom of God. So surely as one turns to Christ, the veil is removed. It also expresses confidence of Israel’s salvation. Cp. Matthew 3:10. That by God the veil is removed, Paul leaves his readers to infer.

2 Corinthians 3:17. Two truths, which taken together prove and explain 2 Corinthians 3:16.

Is: practical identity, as in 1 Corinthians 10:16; Romans 1:16. To “turn to the Lord,” i.e. to receive Jesus as Master, is to receive the Holy Spirit as the animating principle of our life. By receiving the one we receive the other. Hence the coming and the presence of the Spirit are spoken of as the coming and presence of Christ: John 14:18; Romans 8:9 f; Galatians 2:20. This intimate and essential relation between the Son and the Spirit, amounting to practical identity of these Two Divine Persons, Paul asserts by the strong words the Lord is the Spirit. (Similarly, in John 10:30 Christ says, “I and my Father are one” in proof that none can pluck His sheep from His hands because to do so would be to pluck them from the Father’s hand.) In virtue of this essential relation of the Son and the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, sent by Christ (John 15:26) and the bearer of Christ’s presence, is called the Spirit of the Lord, and Christ is, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “the Lord of the Spirit.”

Freedom: in the widest sense possible. The Holy Spirit is absolutely free, i.e. unrestrained by any will or force external to Himself. For the entire universe is under His control. And this freedom He gives to those in whom He dwells. Nothing can hinder them; not even the necessary limitations of life. For, taught by the Spirit, they look upon these limitations as affording opportunities of working out their most deeply cherished desires. They are in harmony with the all-controlling Spirit and are therefore free indeed. Cp. John 8:36; 1 Corinthians 7:22. Now the veil of 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 is a restraint hindering spiritual vision. By it Israel’s heart is bound. It will therefore be removed when Israel turns to the Lord. For, to receive the Lord is to receive the Spirit. And such a hindrance to spiritual vision the Spirit cannot tolerate: for where the Spirit is is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:18. But we: emphatic contrast. From the general principles of 2 Corinthians 3:17 Paul turns to himself and his readers as exemplifications of it; and places them in express contrast to those whose hearts are still veiled.

All; marks a blessing common to all believers: for (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6) all have the Spirit.

With unveiled face: from which a veil has been taken away: put forward in conspicuous contrast to the veiled heart (2 Corinthians 3:15) of Israel.

Face: not “heart” as in 2 Corinthians 3:15. For Paul pictures them not as comprehending but as looking.

The glory of the Lord; denotes in Exodus 16:10; Exodus 24:17; Numbers 14:10; Luke 2:9; John 12:41; Acts 7:55; Acts 22:11, a visible and supernatural brightness revealing the presence and grandeur of God: it is here the outshining, through His works and words, of the moral grandeur of Christ; an outshining far more wonderful than any visible brightness. Cp. John 1:14; John 2:11; John 11:40; Romans 6:4.

Beholding reflected in a mirror: i.e. in the Gospel, where the words and works of Christ are recorded. So 1 Corinthians 13:12, where the Gospel mirror is contrasted unfavorably with direct vision in the world to come. And in this glass we behold, not mere abstract moral grandeur, but moral grandeur combined into an image, into a picture of a living man, even Jesus. The early disciples saw Him face to face, and as they heard His words and watched His works they (John 1:14) beheld His glory. But we can do so only by pondering the Gospel. We thus see His image and behold His glory.

Behold: very appropriate for the continued contemplation of Christ as portrayed in the Gospel.

Are being transformed: gradually, day by day, as we continue gazing: wonderful result of our contemplation of Christ. Same word in Romans 12:2; Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2 : cognate word in Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:21. The image reflected in the Gospel mirror reproduces itself in those who gaze upon it. This agrees with Romans 6:10 f; 1 John 4:17, which teach that what Christ is we are to be. This effect of our vision is similar to, but infinitely more glorious than, that (2 Corinthians 3:7) of Moses. Notice here a gradual development of the Christian life and character; one practically the same as that in Romans 12:2. This change is inward and spiritual resulting from inward and spiritual vision of Christ. Soon we shall see Him face to face: and so wonderful will be the effect of that vision that even our bodies (Philippians 3:21 : cp. 1 John 3:2) will be changed and made glorious like His.

From glory to glory: the change proceeds from the moral splendor reflected in the Gospel, and results in splendor imparted to us. Cp. Romans 1:17.

The Lord of the Spirit: the divine Master at whose bidding (John 16:7) goes forth the Holy Spirit, who is therefore “the Spirit of the Lord,” and (Romans 8:9) “of Christ.”

As from the Lord of the Spirit: the result produced by the image of Christ in those who contemplate it corresponds with the dignity of Christ as the Master who sends forth the Spirit. Earthly beauty, however skilfully portrayed, cannot reproduce itself in the beholder. But from Christ, and therefore from the image of Christ reflected in the Gospel, go forth life-giving spiritual influences which stamp His moral image in and on those who behold it. Similarly, in photography the silent and mysterious power of the light stamps on the prepared plate an image of the object. Thus the glory received comes from the glory reflected in the mirror, from the Lord of the Spirit, and is such as we might expect from Him who sends forth the Spirit.

This verse reveals the infinite value of persevering Christian contemplation. As we continue looking into the gospel mirror there rises before us with increasing clearness an image in which are combined every element of moral grandeur in its highest degree, the image of the God-Man. As we contemplate it we feel its power: (for it is a living and life-giving image of the Lord of the Spirit:) and ourselves are changed, in a manner corresponding with Christ’s gift of the Spirit, into a likeness of Him at whom we gaze.

The word I have rendered beholding-reflected-in-a-mirror is derived from the common Greek word for mirror; and is found in the active voice in Plutarch, Morals p. 894d, meaning to “show reflected in a mirror.” The middle voice, in the sense of seeing oneself in a mirror is found in a few places. It is also found, in the sense of seeing an object in a mirror, in Philo, Allegories bk. iii. 33: “Let me not see Thy form mirrored in anything else except in Thyself, even in God.” This passage, like that before us, refers to Moses talking with God at Sinai. A cognate and equivalent verb is found in Clement’s epistle, ch. 36 (see Appendix A,) in the same sense. In all these cases the middle voice denotes, as frequently, the effect of the vision on him who beholds it. [This is confirmed by Philo, Migration of Abraham ch. 17, where to denote seeing oneself in a mirror the middle voice ενοπτριζωνται is followed by εαντονς. Cp. also Plutarch, Morals pp. 696a, 141a.]

Chrysostom, followed by Theodoret, and by the Revised Version (text,) expounds the word to “reflect like a mirror.” But this sense was probably suggested to Chrysostom only by this verse. It is not found in any Greek writer. The word is never predicated in the middle voice of the reflecting mirror, but always of him who sees reflected in a mirror either himself or some object beneficial to himself. Moreover, if the unveiled ones already reflect the glory of Christ, it is needless and meaningless to say that they are being transformed into the same image: for the change would be already effected, especially as an image is outward form, not inward essence. The exposition adopted above gives the cause of the change, viz. contemplation of the reflected glory; and thus supplies the connection between the unveiled face and the progressive change into the same image. It also keeps up the contrast, suggested by we all, of the unveiled Christians and the veiled Jews; while the word transformed reminds us of Moses returning unveiled into the presence of God and thus rekindling his fading brightness.

The last words of 2 Corinthians 3:18 refer certainly to 2 Corinthians 3:17. But Paul’s reference is, I think, sufficiently conveyed by the rendering the Lord of the Spirit; the genitive simply implying, as always, a relation between the governed and governing nouns leaving the nouns themselves and the context to determine exactly what the relation is. That Paul wished to put the Lord and the Spirit in apposition, (as the R.V. does,) is the less likely because the identity asserted in 2 Corinthians 3:17 is administrative, and not personal. In virtue of this identity both is Christ Lord of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord. See further in The Expositor, 2nd series vol. iii. p. 384.

2 Corinthians 4:1-2. Parallel to 2 Corinthians 3:12-13; as are 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 to 2 Corinthians 3:12-18.

Because of this: viz. the wonderful change in 2 Corinthians 3:18.

This ministry: that of 2 Corinthians 3:6 ff. As in 2 Corinthians 3:12, Paul now shows the bearing of his foregoing teaching upon his own conduct.

According as we have received mercy: stronger than 1 Corinthians 15:10. It is a humble acknowledgment of helplessness, unable to do any good to himself or others, and of the pity shown to him by God in making him a minister of the more glorious covenant. Whatever position we hold in the church is by the compassion of God. Cp. Exodus 33:19.

Fail: turn out badly in something, to lose heart and give up through weariness or fear.

Hidden things of shame: the many and various things which shame compels us to hide, especially all unworthy motives and means. To these we shall turn if we become weary or timid in our work. But Paul, brave and persevering, had renounced them. He did so because he remembered the wonderful effect of the image reflected in the gospel glass, which in his ministry he held before men. Paul’s actual conduct, in accord with we have renounced etc., is portrayed in the rest of 2 Corinthians 4:2.

Walk: as in 1 Corinthians 3:3; Romans 6:4.

Craftiness: 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 3:9 : literally, doing anything to gain our ends. So Plato, Menexenus p. 247a: “All knowledge apart from righteousness and other virtue is craftiness, not wisdom.”

Using with guile the word of God: cp. “huckstering the word of God,” 2 Corinthians 2:17 : using the Gospel as a means of working out our own secret and unworthy purposes. To do this, is to walk in craftiness.

Manifestation of the truth: exact opposite of the foregoing.

Manifestation: see under Romans 1:19; Colossians 4:4. The truth is made manifest to all, but not revealed to all.

The truth: including (Psalms 119:142; Psalms 119:151) the Law and (Colossians 1:5) the Gospel; as being words which correspond with reality. See note, Romans 1:18.

Conscience: see notes, 1 Corinthians 8:7; Romans 2:15.

Every conscience of men: more forceful than “every man’s conscience.” Cp. Romans 2:9. Each individual conscience is to Paul a definite object of thought. The truth appeals to every conscience, however wicked and ignorant. For it sets forth, and agrees with, the spiritual realities of every man’s own heart, and proclaims that which every man’s heart knows to be true. For the written Law accords with the law written in the heart; and the Gospel accords with man’s need of salvation. Otherwise there would be no hope for the unsaved. And, by its appeal to each man’s conscience, the truth claims respect for those who announce it. Indeed, the preacher’s words will come with authority in proportion as they agree with the facts of his hearers’ inner life. And this will be in proportion as he makes manifest the whole truth. He who does this has therein sufficient commendation, and has no need for craft and guile. While speaking to men Paul stood before God: cp. 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:11. And in His presence guile can find no place. This verse expounds, and accounts for, the “much openness of speech” in 2 Corinthians 3:12.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4. Parallel to 2 Corinthians 3:14-15. Paul cannot forget that, although by manifesting the truth he recommends himself to every conscience, yet many reject his words.

My gospel: as in 1 Corinthians 15:1; Romans 2:16.

In (or among) them that are perishing; recalls 2 Corinthians 2:15. They are pictured as standing round the Gospel, but unable, because it is veiled, to see the glory therein reflected. That the Gospel, like the Law, is veiled, Paul must admit. But it is so only among those in the way to destruction. The veiled Gospel is therefore a proof of their deadly peril.

In whom etc.; says that the hindrance is in themselves, in a form which proves the assertion of 2 Corinthians 4:3.

In whom: graphic picture of the locality of the blinding, viz. that inmost chamber whence come their thoughts.

This age: as in Romans 12:2.

God of this age: the most tremendous title of Satan, as a supreme controlling power using for his own ends the men and things belonging to the present life. Him the men of this age (1 Corinthians 2:6 ff) worship and serve. Cp. John 12:31; John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12; also Philippians 3:19.

Blinded: John 12:40; 1 John 2:11.

Blinded the thoughts: cp. 2 Corinthians 3:14. Their thoughts have no intelligence, and cannot see the gospel light.

Of the unbelievers: not needful to complete the sense, but added to point out the cause of their surrender to the cruelty of Satan. Paul refers only to those who heard and refused the Gospel. For this blinding was a punishment for rejecting the light. And rejection of the light of nature (Romans 1:21) would not make them unbelievers. Because they turned away from the glory reflected in the gospel mirror, God permitted Satan to destroy, in whole or in part their capacity for spiritual vision.

That there may not shine etc.; cruel purpose (and inevitable result) of this blinding. It reveals the loss sustained by the blinded ones. It is as though, in the wilderness, that he might not look at the brazen serpent and live, one put out the eyes of a bitten man.

The glory of Christ: same as “glory of the Lord” in 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The Gospel of etc.: the gospel mirror in which the glory is reflected.

The light-giving: “lest the Gospel shine upon them and give them light.”

Image of God: 1 Corinthians 11:7; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3. Cp. Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 : “An outshining is (wisdom) of everlasting light, a spotless mirror of the energy of God, an image of His goodness.” And Philo (On Monarchy bk. ii. 5, On Dreams bk. i. 41, etc.) speaks often of “the Word” [ολογος] as an “image of God.” See Lightfoot’s valuable note on Colossians 1:15. These words set forth an important relation of the Son to the Father. Of the invisible Father the Son is a visible manifestation and outshining, visible once on earth, though veiled in human flesh, and visible now to those who surround His throne. We know, in part, what God is because we have seen Christ reflected in the gospel mirror. That Christ is the image of God, reveals the greatness of His glory and of the light which proceeds from the Gospel in which His glory is reflected, and the infinite loss of those whose blinded thoughts cannot see this glorious light.

Many of those to whom Paul preached had evidently never seen the image of Christ portrayed in the Gospel. For they were unmoved by it. To them, therefore, the Gospel was veiled. And, since the truth was set plainly before them, the hindrance to sight was not in the Word but in the hearts of those who did not believe it. By not seeing the image set before them they proved themselves incapable of seeing it. And their blindness was so unnatural that it must have been inflicted. And it could be a work only of the enemy of the race. Since the blinded ones were wholly occupied with things of the present life and were thus prevented from beholding the Gospel light, Paul says that they were blinded by the God of this age. And, since the inevitable result of their blindness was that they were unable to see the light which shines forth from Him who reveals to men the face of God, he properly speaks of this as the dire purpose of the blindness inflicted by their foe.

This blindness was wrought, not only by Satan, but by God: as is taught expressly in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 ff; Romans 11:8; John 12:40. In just punishment God surrenders to the cruelty of Satan those who reject the Gospel, that He may destroy their capacity for receiving it. This dual source of spiritual insensibility is illustrated in 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1. The blindness is also attributed to the word, and to those who preach it: Isaiah 6:10; Mark 4:11 f. For, by God’s ordinance, the Gospel hardens those whom it fails to soften.

This blindness, though terrible, is not necessarily final; any more than is the death described in Romans 7:9 ff. For Christ, who raises the dead, gives sight (Luke 4:18) to the blind. But the blindness and death are such as no earthly power can save from. Yet in our deepest darkness we know the direction of the light. And, as we turn towards it, the light of life by its creative power gives eyes to the blind.

Notice that, as in 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 11:3, the Father is called God even in distinction from the Son.

2 Corinthians 4:5-6. These verses justify by contrasted denial, the foregoing description of the Gospel preached by Paul. Its grandeur moves him to rebut a possible or actual insinuation against himself.

Proclaim: as heralds, Romans 2:21.

Ourselves: i.e. our own authority, skill, power, etc.

As Lord: as claiming the homage and obedience of all, and claiming to be the aim of their life and effort.

Servants: see under Romans 1:1.

Ourselves your servants, or slaves: strange proclamation. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:19; 2 Corinthians 1:24. As a servant or slave toils not for his own profit, except indirectly, but for his master’s, so Paul puts forth all his powers, forgetful of himself, to advance the highest interests of his readers.

Because of Jesus: constrained (2 Corinthians 4:14) by His love to men. This proclamation reveals “the glory of Christ” who has gained over Paul a victory so complete.

Because God etc.: a fact which moved Paul and his companions to become servants because of Jesus. Cp. “because of this” in 2 Corinthians 4:1.

Who said etc.: the first word of creation, Genesis 1:3. Out of the bosom of darkness, light sprang at the bidding of God: graphic picture.

Who has shined: has irradiated by His own light, i.e. by a display of Himself. The creative power which at the first changed darkness into light by a word is at work again in the word of the Gospel. Thus the grandeur of the Old Creation reveals that of the New.

To-bring-to-light etc.: great purpose of the shining forth of this divine light in the heart.

Bring to light: same word as light-giving in 2 Corinthians 4:4.

The knowledge of the glory of God: to make known the grandeur of God, as the shining forth of light makes an object known.

In the face of Christ: from which shines forth the light which reveals the glory of God. While we gaze upon that face as reflected in the gospel mirror, i.e. while we contemplate His character as portrayed in the Gospel, we behold in the face of Christ the greatness of God. That the light which filled Paul’s heart was an outshining of God in creative power, and that it had shone forth in him that men might know and wonder at the grandeur of God, moved him to devote himself to the service of men by proclaiming this glorious Gospel.

Notice the three steps of 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; viz. 1, 2: 3, 4: 5, 6; each culminating in a description of the Gospel. In the 1st and 3rd Paul explains his own conduct; in the 2nd, that of the unbelievers. Also the close connection of 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 with 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. Each begins with the practical effect on Paul with the grandeur of the Gospel; then passes on to treat of its rejection by some; and concludes with a still nobler description of its purpose and efficacy. And they are introduced by similar words. Prompted by the reference to Moses in (5, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 deals with the Jews: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, with unbelievers generally. A link binding the whole together is the conspicuous word veil.

Verses 7-18


We have, however, this treasure in earthenware vessels, in order that the excess of the power may be God’s and not from us: in everything being afflicted, but now helpless, perplexed, but not utterly perplexed, pursued, but not deserted, thrown down, but not perishing: always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus, that also the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our body. For always we who live are being given up to death because of Jesus, in order that also the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death is at work in us, but life in you.

But having the same spirit of faith according as it is written, “I have believed: for which cause I have spoken,” (Psalms 116:10,) also we believe: for which cause we also speak. Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sake, that grace, having multiplied, may by the greater number cause the thanksgiving to abound for the glory of God. For which cause we do not fail. For if indeed our outward man is corrupting nevertheless the inward man is being renewed day by day. For the momentary lightness of our affliction is working out for us exceedingly to excess an eternal weight of glory; while we do not look at the things seen, but at the things not seen: for the things seen are temporary; but the things not seen, eternal.

For we know that, if our earthly house of the tent be taken down, a building from God we have, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. For indeed in this tent we groan, longing to put on as overclothing our dwelling-place which is from heaven. If, at any rate, also clothed, not naked, we shall be found. For indeed we who are in the tent groan, being burdened: because we do not wish to lay aside our clothing but to put on overclothing, that the mortal may be swallowed up by life. And He who has wrought in us for this very thing is God, who has given to us the earnest of the Spirit. Being then of good courage always, and knowing that while at home in the body we are away from home from the Lord- For by faith we walk, not by appearance. But we are of good courage, and are well-pleased rather to go away from home from the body, and to go home to the Lord.

For which cause we also make it a point of honour, whether at home or away from home, to be well-pleasing to Him. For all of us must needs be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may obtain the things done through the body, in view of the things he has practised, whether good or bad.

The grandeur of the Gospel, expounded in 5, 6, Paul now reconciles with the unfavorable circumstances of those who proclaim it, by giving in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 the purpose of their afflictions, viz. to reveal the power of God; and sets forth in 2 Corinthians 4:13 to 2 Corinthians 5:10 the motives which prompt and enable him to speak amid hardships and perils so great.

2 Corinthians 4:7. This treasure: the life-giving Gospel of the glory of God.

Earthenware vessels: human bodies, liable to be destroyed in the confusion of the world and the storm of persecution.

In order that etc.; implies that the earthenware vessels are part of a deliberate purpose of God.

The excess of the power: which preserves unbroken these fragile vessels, thus proving that it exceeds the force of the storm around.

May be God’s. God designed that the vessels should be preserved by His own power; and not by a power inherent in, and proceeding from the vessels, as would have been had they consisted of material strong enough to resist the storm. And for this end He committed the gospel treasure to men whose bodies were liable to be destroyed by the foes whose fury He foresaw the Gospel would arouse.

From us: as if we were the source of power.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9. Description of the weakness of the earthenware vessels, and of their preservation.

Helpless: confined in narrow space. Same word in 2 Corinthians 6:12; Romans 2:9. See notes. This verse proves that it denotes something worse than afflicted. At every point difficulties press upon them: but they are not without way of escape.

Perplexed: not knowing which way to go, seeing no way open to them.

Utterly-perplexed: same word as “without-way-of-escape” in 2 Corinthians 1:8. Although there seemed to be no way open to them, they were not absolutely without a way. This is not contradicted, but confirmed, by 2 Corinthians 1:8. From their own point of view there was then no way of escape: but God made one.

Pursued: as in Romans 12:14.

Not deserted, or not left behind in peril: not abandoned to their pursuers. Cp. Hebrews 13:5.

Thrown down: as if in their flight.

Not perishing: a last triumphant denial. Notice the climax. At every step they are heavily pressed: but their path is not hedged up. They do not know which way to go: but they are not altogether without a way of escape. Enemies pursue them: but they are not left alone in their flight. They fall: but even then they survive.

2 Corinthians 4:10. While apparently continuing the description of his hardships Paul now explains their relation to the sufferings of Christ, and then states their divine purpose. Thus 2 Corinthians 4:10 a is parallel to 2 Corinthians 4:7 a, which is developed in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9; and 2 Corinthians 4:10 b to 2 Corinthians 4:7 b.

Always: parallel to “in everything,” 2 Corinthians 4:8.

The putting to death: the whole process which ended in the death of Christ.

Carrying about etc.: explained in 2 Corinthians 4:11, “given up to death because of Jesus.” Paul’s hardships and deadly peril arose from the same cause as those which led Christ to the cross; and were therefore in some sense a repetition and reproduction of them. Cp. 2 Corinthians 1:5, “sufferings of Christ; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24. Thus in his own body Paul was carrying about wherever he went, so that many could see it, a picture of the putting to death of Jesus.

In order that etc.; lays stress on the divine purpose of these perils.

Also the life: the resurrection life, placed in conspicuous contrast to the death, of Christ.

Made manifest. Paul’s body, rescued by God’s power from deadly peril, was a conspicuous picture of Jesus alive after He had been put to death. For the miraculous power which raised Christ from the grave saved Paul from going down into it. Cp. 2 Corinthians 13:4. It was a picture of Christ’s death that it might be also a picture of His life; in order that thus the power (2 Corinthians 4:7) of God might be manifested.

2 Corinthians 4:11. Explains and justifies 2 Corinthians 4:10.

We who live: in contrast to Christ who died, and to the death into which day by day they are being given up. They were living victims of death.

Given-up: as in Romans 1:24.

Are given-up: each day death was there and then claiming them for its prey. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:31; Romans 8:36.

Because of Jesus: because they obeyed Him by proclaiming the Gospel. Since this moved the enemies to persecute, by them probably Paul looks upon himself as given-up. By taking steps to kill him, his enemies were practically handing him over to the king of terrors. But the purpose which follows reminds us that even the purposes of bad men were used by God to work out His own purposes. Cp. Acts 2:23.

That also the life etc.: emphatic repetition of 2 Corinthians 4:10 b, fixing our attention upon the divine purpose of these perils.

Mortal flesh: more vivid picture than “our body” in 2 Corinthians 4:10. That Paul’s body was flesh and blood, and thus by its very nature exposed to death, revealed the greatness of the power which preserved it safe even in the jaws of death. Notice the name Jesus four times in 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; as though Paul loved to repeat it.

2 Corinthians 4:12. Inference from 2 Corinthians 4:7-11.

Death: the abstract principle personified. In the plots and attacks of enemies Death was active, stretching out its hand to take them. And in their spared life, preserved by God’s power and spent in proclaiming the Gospel, the abstract principle of Life was at work among their hearers. The preachers daily felt themselves sinking into the grave: and their daily deliverance was daily working eternal life among their converts.

Review of 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. Although a bearer of treasure so great, Paul was in momentary peril of destruction. His wonderful preservation day by day was evidently wrought by divine power greater than the destructive forces around, even by the power which raised Jesus from the grave. He therefore cannot doubt that it was in order to manifest this power to men around, and thus make him wherever he went a visible picture of the resurrection of Christ, that he was permitted to be exposed to perils so tremendous. Thus even the perils of the apostles advanced, and were designed to advance, the great purpose of their lives. If in themselves death was at work, consuming their life, yet the very life they lived, unconsumed in fire, was working out eternal life for those around. How terrible a picture does this give of the greatness and constancy of their perils! Their spared life was an ever recurring miracle.

Just as the death of Christ, which at first seemed to disprove His Messiahship, gave occasion for the great proof of it, viz. His resurrection; so the apostles’ perils, which seemed to be inconsistent-with their claim to be ambassadors of God, really supported this claim by giving occasion for display of the preserving power of God.

2 Corinthians 4:13 to 2 Corinthians 5:10. Having explained the purpose and result of the perils around, Paul now gives the motives which enable him to continue his work in spite of them. He can do this because, led by the Spirit, he believes the promises of God. By faith he knows (2 Corinthians 4:14) that God will raise him from the dead in company with his converts; that (2 Corinthians 4:1-4) if his present body die a better one awaits him; that (2 Corinthians 4:6-8) death will but remove him to the presence of Christ; and that (2 Corinthians 4:10) from Him he will receive due reward for his work.

2 Corinthians 4:13. A new branch of the subject.

Spirit of faith: the Holy Spirit moving men to believe the promises of God, especially the promise of resurrection and of life with Christ. Cp. 1 Corinthians 4:21; Ephesians 1:17. Although faith is the condition (Galatians 3:14) on which we receive the Spirit, yet, when received, by revealing to us (Romans 5:5) the love of God, He works in us a firmer and broader confidence in God. The assurance which enabled Paul to pursue his apostolic path, he felt to be a work of the Spirit.

The same Holy Spirit: who moved the Psalmist to write.

I believed: for which cause I spoke: word for word from Psalms 116:10, LXX. The original Hebrew is very difficult. It may perhaps be rendered “I have believed when I say, I have been much afflicted:” i.e. “I tell the story of my affliction with faith in God.” But the words quoted, though not an exact rendering, sum up accurately the sense of the whole Psalm. Like Paul, the writer has been in deadly peril; and has been delivered by God, in answer to his prayer. His deliverance has given him strong confidence in God, a confidence which finds expression in this Psalm.

Also we believe: as did the Psalmist.

Speak: viz. the Gospel which Paul, rescued from peril, preaches. The Psalmist’s faith, strengthened by peril and deliverance, moved him to song: Paul’s faith moves him to proclaim the Gospel, undeterred by the prospect of future perils. But it was the same faith, wrought by the same Spirit. And in each case faith found suitable utterance. As usual, the real reference is not so much to the words quoted as to their entire context.

The rest of 7 is an exposition of the faith which moved Paul to speak even amid deadly peril.

2 Corinthians 4:14-15. Knowing that etc.: parallel with “we believe,” giving the assurance which moves him to speak. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:58; Romans 5:3. By faith he knows. So 2 Corinthians 5:1. For he believes, on sufficient grounds, that which will come true. Such belief is knowledge.

Raised the Lord Jesus: the divine act on which rests Paul’s assurance that he will himself be raised. Cp. 1 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 8:11.

With Jesus. Since our resurrection at the last day is a result of Christ’s resurrection, wrought by the same power, in consequence of our present spiritual union with Christ, and is a part of that heritage which we share with Christ, Paul overlooks the separation in time and thinks of his own resurrection and Christ’s as one divine act. Cp. Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2:5 f.

Will present: before the throne amid the splendors of that day. Cp. Colossians 1:22.

With you] Amid perils Paul is encouraged by knowing that in glory he will be accompanied by those whom he his now laboring to save. These words keep before us the thought of “at work with you” in 2 Corinthians 4:12. They are also a courteous recognition of his readers’ true piety. 2 Corinthians 4:15 develops with you in 2 Corinthians 4:14, thus leading the way to (8.

All things, or all these things: all Paul’s hardships and perils. Cp. 2 Corinthians 5:18.

That grace having etc.; expounds for your sake. All these perils Paul endures in order that the pardoning favor of God may multiply, i.e. may shine on a larger number of persons; that thereby the favor of God may increase abundantly the thanksgiving which from this larger number will go up to God, and may thus manifest the grandeur of God. Cp.2 Corinthians 1:11; Romans 3:7.

2 Corinthians 4:16. We do not fail: as in 2 Corinthians 4:1. Paul there said that because of the grandeur of the Gospel he does not turn out badly in the day of trial as he would do if through craft he concealed it. He now says that because he knows that God will raise him from the dead, and knows that in the resurrection he will be accompanied by his readers and that his hardships are increasing the praises which will for ever go up to God, for this cause he does not lose heart in face of peril and forbear to proclaim the Gospel. For which cause thus corresponds inversely to “knowing that etc.” in 2 Corinthians 4:14; and is practically parallel to “for which cause etc.” in 2 Corinthians 4:13.

But if indeed etc.: contrast to losing heart in the conflict; and the secret of not doing so.

The outward man: the body, which alone is visible.

Is corrupting: wearing out and being destroyed by hardships.

Nevertheless: conspicuous contrast.

Inward man: same words in same sense in Romans 7:22. It is the invisible and nobler part of the man.

Is renewed; denotes in Colossians 3:10 gradual restoration to the primeval image of God lost by sin. But here since we have no reference to sin or imperfection, it denotes probably the healing day by day of the wounds inflicted upon Paul’s own spirit by personal peril and by anxiety for the churches. Of such wounds we find abundant marks on the pages of this epistle. They were gradually wearing out his body. But the daily application of healing balm kept them from injuring his real inner life. Consequently, he does not grow weary in his work.

2 Corinthians 4:17-17. Explains 2 Corinthians 4:16, by stating a truth which daily restores Paul’s inner man; and which teaches him to “exult in afflictions,” thus saving him from the injuries these might otherwise inflict on his spirit.

Works out for us glory: viz. his reward for preaching the Gospel, (cp. Daniel 12:3,) which could not have been his had he not exposed himself to the hardship and peril involved in his work. In this sense the glory was a result of the affliction, which compared with it was momentary and light. Or, in more forceful words, the momentary lightness itself works out etc.

Exceedingly, to excess: the manner and the extent of the working out of glory.

Eternal weight: in strong contrast to the momentary lightness. In a manner and to an extent passing all comparison Paul’s present hardship and peril are producing for him a glory which by its greatness and endlessness make them appear both light and momentary. He thus heaps word on word to convey a truth passing all human language or thought.

While we look etc.: Paul’s state of mind while writing 2 Corinthians 4:17. It explains, and nothing else can, his foregoing words. Only to those whose eyes are fixed on the unseen can hardships like his appear momentary and light.

Looking: more fully looking with a purpose, especially with a view to avoid, imitate, or obtain. Same word in Romans 16:17; Philippians 3:17; Philippians 2:4. We fix our eyes on things beyond mortal vision and make them the objects of our pursuits. For this, 2 Corinthians 4:18 b gives a good reason. 2 Corinthians 4:17 accounts for the daily inward renewing by pointing to the coming glory: 2 Corinthians 4:18 notes the subjective condition (which Paul proves to be reasonable) of the present effect of this coming glory.

2 Corinthians 5:1. Supports the reason just given and its practical influence on Paul, by declaring that in “the things not seen” he has a share and that he knows this. He thus supports the argument of 2 Corinthians 4:13-18 by proving that future glory is not dependent on rescue from bodily death.

For we know: words of confidence, calling attention to the effect of this knowledge on Paul.

Tent or booth: not else in the New Testament; but akin to the word used in Matthew 17:4; Luke 16:9; Acts 7:43-44; Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:2-3; Hebrews 9:6; Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 9:21; and to another in Acts 7:46; 2 Peter 1:13 f: used in classic Greek only as a metaphor for the body of men or animals. Same word in Wisdom of Solomon 9:15 : “A corruptible body weighs down the soul; and the earthen tent burdens the much-thinking mind.”

Our earthly house of the tent: the body belonging to the present world, looked upon as fragile and easily taken down, by death. This suggests, but hardly proves, that Paul was in doubt whether he would survive the coming of Christ.

Building: a permanent abode, in contrast to the tent.

Building from God: the resurrection body. It is from God, as being an immediate outworking of His miraculous power.

Not made with hands: in contrast to other buildings. It is parallel to from God, keeping before us the supernatural origin of the resurrection body.

Eternal: in contrast to be taken down.

In the heavens: secure place in which the saved dead have, though they do not yet wear, the resurrection body. Cp. Philippians 4:20; 1 Peter 1:4. It is practically in heaven: for the power which will raise it is there. When Christ appears from heaven we shall receive our permanent bodily abode. Hence it is also “our dwelling place from heaven,” 2 Corinthians 5:2. Consequently, this building is completely beyond reach of the uncertainties of earth.

2 Corinthians 5:2-4. Appeal to present yearnings in proof that there is a resurrection body.

Even in this tent: before it is taken down.

Groan: as in Romans 8:22 f; where we have the same argument. The burdens of the present life force from us a cry.

Longing to clothe ourselves: the cause and meaning of the cry.

Our dwelling-place etc.: the risen body which we shall receive when Christ returns from heaven to earth.

To clothe: new figure, viz. the risen body looked upon now as a garment.

Put-on-as-overclothing, or overclothe-ourselves: i.e. without taking off our present mortal garment, without passing through death. In other words, Paul longed to survive, in his present body, the coming of Christ. In that case there would be (1 Corinthians 15:51) change, but no disrobing. 2 Corinthians 5:3 gives a supposition necessarily implied in this yearning for a heavenly body.

We shall be found: by Christ at His coming, when we shall stand before Him.

Clothed: in bodies, not naked disembodied spirits. This conditional clause uncovers the argumentative point of 2 Corinthians 5:2 in proof of 2 Corinthians 5:1. See below. Perhaps it is also a reference to some of those who denied the resurrection, suggesting how inconsistent is such denial with the Christian’s aspirations. 2 Corinthians 5:4 supports 2 Corinthians 5:3, which is really a restatement of 2 Corinthians 5:1, by restating more fully the argument of 2 Corinthians 5:2.

For even we who are in the tent: parallel with for even in this tent.

Even we who are: in contrast to we shall be found. The perils and hardships of life were a burden forcing from them a cry for deliverance.

Inasmuch as we do not wish etc.; explains this cry by pointing back (2 Corinthians 5:2) to the longing, intensified by present adversity, which prompted it.

Swallowed up: caused to vanish completely out of sight, as in 1 Corinthians 15:54. Paul did not wish to lay aside his mortal raiment, i.e.

to die, but without dying to receive his immortal body. In that case the mortal body would be swallowed up by the endless resurrection life.

Argument of 2 Corinthians 5:2-4. By Christians now death is looked upon without terrible recoil, as being the only entrance into Life. We bow to the inevitable. But in the early Christians the possibility of surviving the coming of Christ woke up with new intensity man’s natural love of life, and made death seem very dark. They therefore longed eagerly for Christ’s return, hoping thus to clothe themselves with immortal raiment without laying aside their mortal bodies. This yearning for an immortal body, Paul felt to be divinely implanted; (for it was strong just so far as he was full of the Holy Spirit,) and therefore not doomed to disappointment. But the possibility of death was to Paul too real to be ignored. Therefore, in view of it, his yearning for an immortal body assured him that if his present body be removed by death a heavenly body awaits him. For, otherwise, he will stand before Christ as a naked spirit, in utter contradiction to yearnings which he felt to be divine, and of whose realization he had a divine pledge. In other words, his instinctive clinging to his present body was to him a divine intimation that when Christ comes we shall not be naked spirits, but spirits clothed in bodies; and was, therefore, a proof that if our present body be removed by death a heavenly and eternal body awaits us. Thus a purely human instinct, not weakened but intensified by Christianity, and sanctified by the felt presence of the Holy Spirit, is seen to be a prophecy of God’s purpose concerning us. Similar argument in Romans 8:23.

2 Corinthians 5:5. A statement of what is the real force of the foregoing argument.

Wrought in us, or, wrought us out: same word in 2 Corinthians 4:17. They were material in which God had worked out results.

For this very thing: the aim of this divine working, viz. either the heavenly clothing or Paul’s yearning for it. Probably the latter: for the yearning itself is the basis of the argument. If so, this very thing, viz. this yearning for an immortal body, is both a result, and the aim, of God’s working in Paul.

Wrought in us denotes a result; for this very thing, the aim. Who has given etc.: a fact which proves the foregoing statement. Earnest of the Spirit: as in 2 Corinthians 1:22. Practically the same as “the firstfruit of the Spirit” in the similar argument of Romans 8:23.

The Holy Spirit in Paul’s heart was a pledge that the promise he had believed would be fulfilled; and was thus an earnest of the coming inheritance. Cp. Ephesians 1:14. Since Paul’s clinging to his present body while yearning for a better is introduced merely in proof that if he die there awaits him a body from heaven, the words this very thing refer probably only to the yearning for the heavenly body, without reference to his reluctance to die. For he could not say that this reluctance was God’s work, nor that the Spirit was a pledge that he should not die. These verses warn us to distinguish carefully between a divinely breathed yearning and the purely human longing which often accompanies it. The latter is frequently disappointed, as Paul’s was; the former never.

2 Corinthians 5:6-8. Practical effect upon Paul of the assurance of 2 Corinthians 4:14, which was developed and justified in 2 Corinthians 4:16 to 2 Corinthians 5:5; and therefore parallel with “for which cause we do not fail” in 2 Corinthians 4:16.

Always; corresponds with “in everything… always… every” in 2 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11.

And knowing: also a result of the foregoing argument. This knowledge prompts and justifies the courage.

Away from home; points to our other home, from which we are absent so long as our home is in the body. To justify this mention of another home, 2 Corinthians 5:7 breaks off the foregoing sentence. It is completed, in a slightly changed form, in 2 Corinthians 5:8. Cp. Romans 5:12. As we pursue our path the objects before our eyes are those seen only by faith: the keynote (cp. 2 Corinthians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 4:18) of 2 Corinthians 4:13 to 2 Corinthians 5:10.

Not by appearance] The objects which direct our steps do not yet appear. We walk amid eternal realities, now unseen, but known through the word we have believed. Chief among these is our home in the presence of Christ. Hence we speak of a home unseen by mortal eye. Same thought in same connection in Romans 8:24.

But we are of good courage: although our home is as yet seen only by faith.

Well-pleased: not only brave in presence of death, but content to die.

Rather: in preference to remaining in the body. Same thought in Philippians 1:23.

To go away from home from the body: to die before Christ’s coming, and thus to be for a time without a body. They who survive His coming will at once receive the body “from heaven” by undergoing instant change.

To go home; implies that dead believers go at once, even while disembodied, into the presence of Christ. Paul’s own clinging to his present body, even while looking for a better, assures him that even if he die this better body awaits him. This implies, since death rends the only veil which separates the believer from Christ, viz. his mortal life that even while waiting for the resurrection body his spirit will be with Christ. And, therefore, he is willing to die; and is brave in face of deadly peril. Notice that Paul’s sure confidence that death will take him at once to Christ rests upon his assurance that a glorified body awaits him at the coming of Christ. This agrees with 1 Corinthians 15, where future happiness is assumed to be conditional on resurrection of the body.

These verses shed light on a matter of which the Bible says little, the state of the unsaved between death and resurrection. For Paul evidently thinks of no alternative except to be at home in the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore departed believers are with Christ; and, if so, not unconscious: for the unconscious are practically nowhere. Their nearness to Christ is such that compared with it their present spiritual union with Him is absence. And, although they have not yet entered their “eternal house” and put on their heavenly clothing, yet in the presence of Christ they are at home. And their eternal intercourse with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:17) has begun. Same teaching in similar circumstances in Philippians 1:20 ff. Cp. Luke 23:43; Luke 16:23.

2 Corinthians 5:9. Further result of Paul’s joyful confidence that there is a life beyond death.

We make-it-a-point-of-honour: same word in Romans 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:11. This is the only ambition worthy of Christians.

Whether at home: in the body.

Away from home: from the body. That these words have the same reference, the alternative implies. That they refer to the body, is suggested by well-pleasing to Him: for our conduct on earth is our first matter of present solicitude.

Well-pleasing to Him: at the judgment day (2 Corinthians 5:10) and in reference to actions done on earth. Paul was emulous, whether the coming of Christ find him in the body or away from it, to be approved by Him. To him, life and death are, in agreement with the scope of the whole section, of secondary importance; the approval of Christ is all-important. That the former is of secondary importance, results (for which cause) from the confidence expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:8. That the latter is all-important, will be proved in 2 Corinthians 5:10.

2 Corinthians 5:10. All of us: even Christians.

Must needs: marks the inevitable.

Be-made-manifest: 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:11; see Romans 1:19 : our inmost nature and most secret actions will be set before the eyes of all.

Judgment-seat of Christ: practically the same as “of God” in Romans 14:10. For the Father “has given the whole judgment to the Son,” John 5:22.

That each one etc.: definite purpose for which our lives and characters will then be brought to light.

May obtain: to be his abiding possession. It is a graphic picture of exact retribution. Each man will receive back, by seeing their true nature and results, his own past actions to be themselves his eternal glory or shame. So Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:25. Cp. 1 Thessalonians 2:19 f.

Through the body: as the channel by which purposes pass into actions.

In view of etc.: action the measure of recompense. [Cp. Romans 8:18.]

Good or bad. To both kinds of actions this principle will be applied, in contrast to human tribunals which deal only with crime; as well as to all kinds of persons.

That both saved and lost will receive recompense proportionate to the good and bad actions of each, is quite consistent with forgiveness of sins by God’s undeserved favor. Entrance into eternal life is God’s free gift to all who believe and who abide in faith. But the degree of our glory will be measured by the faithfulness of our service; and the punishment of the lost, by their sins. Moreover, a man’s good actions are God’s work in him by the Holy Spirit. And unless we yield to the Spirit, and thus bear the fruit of the Spirit, we cannot retain our faith. Consequently, without good works we cannot enter heaven. The good actions of the lost, which we need not deny, will lessen their punishment: the sins of the saved, before or after conversion, will lessen their reward. Thus, although salvation is entirely the free gift of God, each man will receive an exact recompense for his entire conduct. Cp. Romans 2:5 f; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:13 f. A remembrance of this exact recompense will make us comparatively indifferent about life or death, and emulous so to act as to please our Judge.

SECTION 7 accounts for the perils amid which Paul proclaims the Gospel, 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; and explains the motives which raise him above them, 2 Corinthians 4:13 to 2 Corinthians 5:10. By the design of God the gospel treasure is entrusted to fragile vessels, that the preservation of the vessels may be a manifestation of the power of God. The apostles are thus a moving picture of Him who gave up Himself to death for the world’s salvation, and who was rescued from the hand of death by the power of God. He braves these perils simply because, like the Psalmist in similar circumstances, he believes the word of God. He knows that God will raise him from the dead, and that by exposing himself to these dangers he is increasing the song of praise which will go up to God for ever. And this assurance restores his wearied spirit. His very clinging to life, while yearning for immortality, assures him that if his body perish a nobler body awaits him. And, if so, separation from the body must be immediate entrance into the presence of Christ. His one thought is, not about life or death, but to stand the approval of that Judge before whom all must soon stand, and in the light of whose appearing the inmost secrets of the present life will be made visible to all.

This section confirms the teaching of 1 Corinthians 15:51 f and 1 Thessalonians 4:15 touching Paul’s expectation about the second coming of Christ. That he speaks of resurrection from the dead, does not imply an expectation that His coming will be long delayed. For every day death threatened him. But fear of it was removed by joyful confidence that it would but take him to the presence of Christ. Whereas the alternative mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:9, and perhaps the word “if” in 2 Corinthians 5:1, suggest that he was not sure that he would die.

Bibliographical Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jbc/2-corinthians-4.html. 1877-90.
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