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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 4

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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2 Corinthians 4:1,2 Corinthians 4:2 Paul declareth his unwearied zeal and integrity in preaching the gospel,

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 so that if any see not the truth of it, it must be owing to their corrupt hearts, not to want of clear light.

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 The weakness and sufferings he was exposed to redounded to the praise of God’s power.

2 Corinthians 4:12-18 That which animated him in undergoing them for the church’s sake, was the assurance of a more exceeding and eternal reward.

Verse 1

It is the opinion of Beza, that the traducers of this great apostle took advantage from his great trials and afflictions, by reason of them, to conclude him no such man as he was by some represented; and that the apostle upon that takes advantage to magnify his office. God (saith he) having intrusted us with so glorious a ministration, as I have proved that of the gospel to be, according to the measure and proportion of gifts and graces which God hath bestowed upon us, or by reason of that infinite grace and mercy which God hath showed us, in calling us to so honourable a station and office, though we meet with many adversaries, many afflictions, many difficulties, yet we bear up and sink not under them, nor faint in our spirits because of them.

Verse 2

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty; though we be exposed to many sorrows and sufferings, it is not for any dishonest or unwarrantable behaviour amongst men; nay, we have not only declined openly dishonest actions, but any secret or hidden dishonest behaviour. Possibly he reflecteth upon those, whether teachers or others in this church, who, though they behaved themselves very speciously in their more external conversation, yet it was a shame to speak what things were done of them in secret. We (saith the apostle) have renounced all secret, dishonest, shameful actions.

Not walking in craftiness; it hath not been our design to carry ourselves craftily, to cheat people with a fair outside and external demeanour.

Nor handling the word of God deceitfully; nor in our ministry have we cheated and deceived people, instead of instructing them in the truth; crying: Peace, peace, when God hath said: There is no peace to the wicked, and tempering our discourses to all men’s humours, not speaking right things, but smooth things.

But by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God: our business, in the course of our ministry, hath been to commend ourselves to every man’s conscience, as in the sight of God, by manifesting to them the truth of God.

Verse 3

The apostle calls the gospel his gospel, because of his instrumentality in the promoting and publishing of it. His meaning is: If the doctrine of the gospel, which I am an instrument to preach, be hidden, so as there yet be any souls that do not understand, receive, and believe it, the fault is not in the word we preach, nor yet in our preaching of it, (which hath been in all simplicity and plainness, without craftiness or deceit), but in themselves, who favour and indulge their lusts to that degree, as that they deserve to be lost, or are at present in their sinful state; in which sense all men are in the parables compared to the lost sheep, or lost goats; and Christ is said to have come to seek and to save those that are lost. Men, mad upon their lusts, may not understand the doctrine of the gospel which we preach; but others understand and believe it. I had rather understand the term lost in this sense, than as expressing reprobates; for it seemeth something harsh to make this phrase to signify that God had no more in Corinth at this time that belonged to the election of grace, than those that were already converted; or that all those that were at this time hypocrites in this famous church, were such as perished eternally. Yet the words of the next verse seem rather to favour their notion, who by lost here understand reprobates.

Verse 4

Though some, by the god of this world, understand the true and living God, the Lord of heaven and earth; yet the notion of the most interpreters, that it is the devil who is here called the god of this world, because he ruleth over the greatest part of the world, and they are his servants and slaves, is most consonant to Scripture: for though we no where else find him called the god of this world, yet our Saviour twice calls him the prince of this world, John 12:31; John 14:30; and our apostle, Ephesians 2:2, calls him the prince of the power of the air. The effect also doth more properly belong to the devil, than unto God, who no otherwise blindeth the eyes of them than either permissively, by suffering them to shut their own eyes, or judicially. And the apostle declares, that those who are so blinded are such persons as

believe not. He further declareth the end of the devil’s agency in blinding men’s eyes with errors, malice, and prejudice,

lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, the express image of his person, (considered as to his Divine nature),

should shine unto them, that is, into their hearts.

Verse 5

For we preach not ourselves: for a man to preach himself, is to preach the devices and imaginations of his own heart, instead of the revealed will of God; to make his discourses the evomitions of his own lusts and passions; or to make himself the end of his preaching; preaching merely for filthy lucre sake, or to supply himself with bread, or for the ostentation of his own wit, and learning, and parts.

But we preach Christ Jesus the Lord; we preach what he hath commanded us to preach, and he is the subject of our discourses; we either preach what Christ is, or declare in our preaching what he hath done and suffered for sinners, or what he hath commanded us to do in order to our and your obtaining of life and salvation through him. And in our preaching, though in the first place we are Christ’s servants, who hath commanded us to go and preach, and who is the subject matter of our preaching, and whose honour and glory is the end of all our preaching; yet we are also

your servants: really so, not in that we serve your lusts and humours, and speak smooth things, Such as may be pleasing to your humours; but

for Jesus’ sake, because in revealing the will of God to you, and in publishing the grace of the gospel to you, we do you the highest service we can in your eternal concerns.

Verse 6

The Holy Ghost in the New Testament often compareth the work of the new creation by Jesus Christ, to the work of God in the old creation; intimating to us, that the latter is as great a work of providence and Divine power, as the former: Ephesians 4:24, the new man, after God, is said to be created in righteousness and true holiness. For as that is a creation which is a making of something out of nothing, (as God created the heavens and the earth), so the production of one thing out of another, which hath no fitness or aptitude to receive such a form, is also a true creation, and requireth an Almighty power. God made light to shine out of darkness, Genesis 1:2,Genesis 1:3; so (saith the apostle) he hath made Christ (who is the Light of the world) to shine into our hearts, to give us the true knowledge of God, and of his glory, the glory of his grace.

In the face of Jesus Christ; that is, by which we attain the clear and certain knowledge of God: as a man is distinctly known by or from his face, God is clearly and distinctly known only in and by Christ.

Verse 7

By the treasure here mentioned, the apostle meaneth either his ministration, or apostolical office, which he before had proved glorious, more glorious than that of the law; or else, that light of the knowledge of the glory of God, which (as he had before said) God had made to shine into their hearts in the face of Jesus Christ. This treasure (saith he) we, even we that are the apostles of the Lord, have in our souls, which are clothed with bodies; and these not made of iron, or stone, or any other matter not capable of impressions of violence, but made of earth, like earthen pots or shells, that easily receive impressions of violence, and are presently broken in pieces.

That the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us; that the world may see, that whatsoever powerful effects are wrought by us, they are the work of the excellent power of God; not done by us, but by him; that he, not we, might have all the glory.

Verse 8

We are troubled on every side; we are many ways, indeed every way, afflicted, afflicted with all sorts of afflictions;

yet not distressed; but yet we are not like persons cooped up into a strait place, so as they are not able to turn them, nor know which way to move (so the word signifies).

We are perplexed; the word signifies doubting, uncertain what shall become of us, or how God will dispose of us; full of anxious, troublesome thoughts about what shall be our lot in the world;

but not in despair; but yet not despairing of the help, presence, support, and assistance of God.

Verse 9

Persecuted; violently pursued and prosecuted by such as are the adversaries of the gospel, and enemies to our Lord Jesus, because of our profession of him, and preaching his gospel;

but yet not forsaken of God, nor wholly of men; God, by the inward influences of his Holy Spirit, supporting, upholding, and comforting us; and also, by his providence, raising us up some friends that stick by us.

Cast down, either in our own thoughts, (as it is the nature of worldly troubles and afflictions to sink men’s thoughts), or cast down by the violence of men, thrown to the earth;

but not destroyed; but yet we live, and are by the mighty power of God preserved, that we are not utterly destroyed.

Verse 10

A Christian beareth about with him the dying of the Lord Jesus in his mind and soul, while he fetches strength from it to deaden his heart unto sin; being buried with Christ into death, and planted in the likeness of his death; having his old man crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth he may not serve sin, Romans 6:4-6. He also beareth about with him the dying of the Lord Jesus in his body; either in a representation, while in his sufferings he is made conformable to the death of Christ, Philippians 3:10; or in his own real sufferings, which he calleth the dying of the Lord Jesus, because they were for Christ’s sake, and because Christ sympathizeth with them therein, he being afflicted in all their afflictions; yea, and Christ (as the apostle expresseth it, Philippians 1:20), is magnified in their body, by death, as well as by life. This the apostle tells us he did, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his body: by the life of Christ must be here understood, either the resurrection of Christ, and that life which he now liveth in heaven with his Father; or that quickening power of the Spirit of Christ, which then mightily showeth itself in believers, when they are not overwhelmed by the waters of affliction, nor conquered by their sufferings; but in, and over all, are more than conquerors, through that mighty power of Christ which showeth forth itself in them: or (as some think) that lively virtue and power of Christ, which showeth itself in the efficacy of the apostles’ ministry; by which so many thousands of souls were brought in to Christ, which was not the effect of their own virtue, but of the life of Christ manifested in their body. But the apostle having before spoken of his sufferings, it seems best interpreted of that living power put forth by Christ, in upholding the earthly vessels of his apostles, notwithstanding all the knocks they met with, to carry about that heavenly treasure with which God had intrusted them.

Verse 11

We who are yet alive, as having breath still in our bodies; in another sense we do not live, viz. as life signifies prosperity and happiness; for we

are always delivered unto death, that is, under continual threats and dangers of death, so that we have always the sentence of death in ourselves;

for Jesus’ sake, for our owning, preaching, and professing Christ, and the doctrine of the gospel. We are not delivered to death for evil doing, nor merely as innocent persons, but for well doing; and that in the noblest sense, for obeying the commands and for publishing the gospel of Christ.

That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh; and the infinitely wise providence of God permitteth this, that he might make manifest in our mortal flesh, that Christ is risen from the dead, and liveth for ever, making intercession for us; and, as a living Head, giving necessary influences of strength, support, and comfort, as to all those who are his members, so more particularly to us, who are some of the principal members of that mystical body, of which he is the Head. So that our sufferings are so far from being an evidence against the truth of our doctrine and of our ministration, that they are rather an evidence of the truth of both; as testifying, that he whom we preach, having died for our sins, is also risen for our justification, and exalted at the right hand of God; from whence he dispenseth his spiritual influences, as to the souls of all his people, so to our souls in particular, by which we are enabled, without fainting, to suffer such things with boldness, courage, and patience.

Verse 12

You see the difference between us and you; either the real difference, or the fancied difference. We are killed all the day long, in deaths often, delivered to death always; you are rich, and full, and want nothing;

life, that is, security, happiness, and prosperity, attends you. Or the fancied difference: You bless yourselves, that you are not in so much jeopardy as we are, and some of you are ready to curse us, because vipers stick to our hands, and we are in continually renewed and repeated troubles. Very good interpreters think these words a smart ironical expression, by which the apostle reflecteth upon a party in this church, who from his sufferings concluded against the truth of his doctrine, or his favour with God; and for themselves, because of their immunity and freedom from such sufferings. Others think the sense this, our death is your life; our sufferings are your spiritual advantage.

Verse 13

The same spirit of faith signifieth the same faith, or faith proceeding from the same spirit; thus, Isaiah 11:2, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, signifieth wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, &c. It is a question whom the apostle meaneth when he saith:

We having the same faith. Some think he meaneth the saints under the Old Testament, whose faith was the same with the faith of believers under the New Testament; and that which guideth them to that interpretation, is the apostle’s following quotation out of Psalms 116:10. But the scope of the quotation seemeth to be, to prove that all good men will speak as they believe; they therefore seem better to interpret the text, that make this the sense of it: Though God, in the wisdom of his providence, hath assigned us in this world a different lot from you, that you are full, we empty; you in prosperity, we in adversity; yet we are partakers of the same faith with you, and are acted from the same spirit that you are: and as David’s spirit guided him to a profession of his faith, and a speaking what he believed; so we also speak, and must speak, according to what we believe. And this is manifestly the sense of the words, if we consider what followeth in the next verse.

Verse 14

Knowing that God the Father, who raised up the Lord Jesus from the dead, as the first-fruits of them that sleep, shall likewise, by the virtue of his resurrection, and by a power flowing from him, as now alive, and sitting at the right hand of God, quicken our mortal bodies; that both our souls and bodies may be presented with you, to be both eternally glorified: this maketh us that we do not fear death, but are unconcerned, although by wicked men we every day be delivered to it, and brought within the danger and sight of it; still the resurrection of Christ is made the foundation of our resurrection, and a firm ground for our faith of it. And we are from this text confirmed in the truth of this, that although the lot of God’s people in this life be very different, (some are poor, some rich, some in prosperity, some in adversity, and encompassed with sorrows and afflictions), yet if they have all the same faith, they shall all meet in the resurrection, and shall, by Christ, be all presented unto God as persons redeemed by him, and washed with his blood, and who shall be glorified together.

Verse 15

All things that Christ hath done and suffered, his death, and his resurrection from the dead, and all things that I have done or suffered, all

are for your sakes; that the greater benefit it be which you receive from God, the greater praise, honour, and glory might redound to him by

the thanksgiving of many; for God can be no otherwise glorified by us, than by the predicating of his mercy and goodness, and the praising of hint for the mercies which we receive from him. The more God doth good unto, the more honour, praise, and glory redoundeth to his name.

Verse 16

Because of this double advantage which accrueth from our sufferings, viz. the furthering of the good of your souls, and the promoting the glory of God from the thanksgivings of many, though we suffer many harsh and bitter things, yet we do not faint nor sink under the burden of our trials; but though, as to our outward, nan, we are every day dying persons, daily decaying as to the strength, and vigour, and prosperity of our outward man, yet the strength and comfort of our souls and spirits reneweth day by day; we are every day stronger and stronger as to the managing of our spiritual fight, and every day more cheered and comforted in our holy course.

Verse 17

The apostle in these words wonderfully lesseneth his own, and the rest of the apostles’, and all other Christians’ sufferings for the gospel: he calleth them

light, not that they were so in themselves, but with respect to that

weight of glory which he mentioneth in the latter part of the verse: he calleth them momentary,

but for a moment, with reference to that eternity which is mentioned. The afflictions are light, the glory will be a weight; the afflictions are but for a moment, the glory shall be eternal. And (saith the apostle) our affliction worketh for us this glory: the glory will not only be a consequent of these afflictions, but these afflictions will be a cause of it; not a meritorious cause, (for what proportion is there between momentary afflictions and eternal glory? Between light afflictions and a weight of glory, an exceeding weight of glory?) But a cause in respect of the infinite goodness and mercy of God, and in respect of the truth and faithfulness of God.

Verse 18

Two things support the spirits of Christians under trials;

1. The eyeing of him who is invisible; this supported Moses, Hebrews 11:27; He endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

2. The seeing by the eye of faith the things which are invisible; the things which God hath prepared in another world for those that love him; the things which eye hath not seen, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.

For (saith the apostle)

the things which are seen, which fall under the senses of men, they

are but temporal, and of a temporary duration; but the invisible things, the

exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which are before mentioned, they are of an eternal duration, and therefore much to be preferred before those things which endure but for a moment.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/2-corinthians-4.html. 1685.
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