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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 4

People's New TestamentPeople's NT

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SUMMARY.--Paul's Sincerity and Earnestness in the Ministry. The Eyes of Some Blinded by the God of the World. Troubles and Persecution Redound to the Glory of God. Paul's Sufferings for the Gospel's Sake. Exposed to Death in Order to Carry Life. The Present Affliction Working Glory. The Unseen Things Eternal.

Verses 1-4

Seeing we have this ministry. The ministry of the Spirit and of Life; of the new covenant, described in the preceding chapter.

As we have received mercy. Christ, though he was a persecutor, had mercy on him and called him to the ministry. Hence, he was under obligations to "faint not," though meeting trouble and persecution.

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty. This glorious ministry was under no "veil" and was not hidden. Its ministers must turn away from all dishonest practices or teachings. Paul intends to rebuke, by his example, the false and deceitful teachers who sought to bring the Corinthians under the old Jewish covenant.

Nor handling the word of God deceitfully. His enemies not only resorted to calumny, but perverted the word of the Lord by adulterating it with the elements of the law, of tradition, and with false ideas of Christ. See Gal 6:12-13.

Commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. He presented the truth and made his appeal directly to the human conscience, that monitor which God has given to all men.

But if our gospel be hid. He has shown (2Co 3:16) that there is no veil in Christ, and declared (2Co 4:2) that he preached not things hidden by a veil. But the Judaizing opposers replied that his gospel was as much veiled to them as he said that the law was veiled to the Jews. He replies that it is only veiled to the lost, who are blinded by the god of this world. In order to understand the allusions the reader must keep in mind Paul's life-long contest with Judaism in the church. See notes on Act 15:1, and Gal 2:4.

The god of this world. See Joh 12:31, Joh 12:40; Phi 3:19. Satan is called the prince of this world, and the god of this world. By his devices he blinds the eyes of men so they should not see the light of gospel.

Image of God. He who would see God may see him in the face of Christ. Joh 14:9.

Verses 5-6

We preach not ourselves. We have no self-seeking sins in preaching, but only seek to preach Christ Jesus, the Lord. We know that Paul's preaching was perverted. He called on the disciples to follow him as he followed Christ (1Co 11:1; 1Co 4:16; 1Co 7:6), and they asserted that he preached himself. Instead he made himself "the servant of all" (1Co 9:19) for Christ's sake.

For God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness. Gen 1:3.

Hath shined in our hearts. By bringing to the light of the gospel.

The light of the knowledge, etc. Knowledge is light. The glory of God is revealed in his Son, who hath shown for the divine excellency, tenderness and love.

Verses 7-9

We have this treasure in earthen vessels. The treasure of the knowledge of Christ and of the ministry of the gospel of life. Perhaps his enemies pointed to his sorrows as a proof that he was not so favored as a minister of Christ. A splendid treasure was placed in a fragile, cheap earthen vessel. Then it was manifest that the great work wrought was the power of God, not of us, the apostles and evangelists.

We are troubled on every side. In 2Co 4:8-9 are four pairs of contrasts which should the frailty of the instruments and the greatness of the power: (1) "pressed on every side" (Revision), but not hemmed in by the pressure; (2) in apparently overwhelming difficulties, but never reduced to despair; (3) persecuted by their enemies, but not forsaken and delivered over to them; (4) overthrown and cast to the earth, but even then rescued from the enemy, standing over them prostrate, so that they are not destroyed.

Verses 10-12

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Always bearing sufferings and danger of death, as the Lord died, so that we may carry the life which the Lord gives to others. In constant suffering and peril of death the apostle was the messenger of life.

For we which live are always delivered unto death. This verse more fully explains the meaning of 2Co 4:10. The ministers of the gospel were always exposed to death, and at their cost bore the precious charge of life to men.

Death working in us. The ever present image of death, threatening the gospel ministers, was the means of life to the saved.

Verses 13-15

We having the same spirit of faith. Yet in spite of all the sufferings and peril described, we preach right on. Like the psalmist (Psa 116:10) we are moved by the power of faith; we also believe, therefore we speak.

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus. Assured that we shall all be raised and stand together before the Lord, we preach. This is our faith. If we die for Christ God will raise us.

For all things are for your sakes. Our suffering, our dying daily, and the glorious hope, and the result of these things is that the thanksgiving of multitudes of the saved should redound to the glory of God.

Verses 16-18

For which cause. Moved by faith, hope, the love of souls and desire for the glory of God, we faint not; do not for a moment give way and relax our efforts.

Though our outward man perish. Though our body waste away under the trials, or is threatened with death.

Yet the inward man. His spiritual strength is constantly renewed by Christ. The "inward man" is the immaterial nature in contrast with the material body. See Rom 7:22 and Eph 3:16.

For our light affliction. Great as his afflictions were, he calls them light in view of the glorious reward they will bring; continual as they were, he speaks of them as but for a moment in view of eternity. They were the more easily borne for they work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Bearing the cross weaves an eternal crown. Sorrows endured for Christ's sake prepare for eternal joys.

While we look not at things which are seen, but, etc. Our eyes are fixed on the unseen things beyond, the glory that the flesh cannot behold. Hence, we turn away from present afflictions as momentary, as belonging to the seen and the transient, and only regard them as adding to the weight of our unseen, eternal joys. Our goal is beyond.

For the things which are seen are temporal. All material things, and all that the world values, are perishing. All things of sense shall pass away; C├Žsar's greatness, the might of Roman power, the strength of man, the glory of the magnificence of Corinth; even the visible heavens and the earth.

But the unseen things are eternal. The things which the senses see not, but which faith reveals--God, heaven, the unseen spirit. Let the eye be turned upon the unseen, rather than the things of sense.

Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pnt/2-corinthians-4.html. 1891.
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