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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
2 Corinthians 4

 

 

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Verses 1-6

The face of Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Because of much persecution, suffering and affliction, Paul had to battle against the accusations by false teachers that he was not a true apostle of Christ. These men tried to prejudice the minds of the people against Paul and his friends. In this chapter, he declares his uncompromising zeal and integrity in preaching the gospel, so that if any did not see the glory and truth of it, it was because they were blinded by Satan and the hardness of their own hearts, not from want of a true minister and a true message.

2 Corinthians 4:1. 'Therefore, seeing we have this ministry of the Spirit and life (written on the heart, not in letter but spirit) of justification and a perfect righteousness through Christ, this ministry of the redemptive glory of God in the person and work of Christ, we do not get discouraged nor faint in our spirit because of difficulties and trials (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12; Philippians 1:29).’ Our call to the ministry is by the mercy and grace of God, as is our strength and power to persevere through many hardships’ (2 Corinthians 12:9; Acts 18:9-10). The best man would faint under the work and perish under trial and burdens without the mercy and grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).

2 Corinthians 4:2. ‘We renounce the hidden things of dishonesty’ - that is, they were the same men in private as they were in public. In regard to conduct, conversation and doctrine, they were open and above board (Matthew 7:15). The false teachers have much to hide in motive, manners and methods; they speak one thing in secret and another in the congregation. ‘We do not walk in craftiness, practicing trickery and cunning, using people to further our gain and glory, disguising our true goals.’ There are many hucksters and merchandisers of souls who use religion and the gospel to promote themselves and not the glory of God (2 Peter 2:1-3). ‘We do not handle the word of God deceitfully,’ corrupting it with human work, tradition and philosophy. ‘We do not keep back a part of it, twist it to suit the flesh, and cry ‘peace’ when there is no peace (Galatians 2:21; Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27). We commend ourselves (in the presence and sight of God) to every man's conscience by preaching with plainness and boldness the truth of the gospel as it is revealed in the Lord Jesus’ (Hebrews 13:17). An upright way of life and a true message of Christ crucified are all the recommendations a minister needs before men and women who know God.

2 Corinthians 4:3. The apostle calls the gospel ‘our gospel’ because he was saved by it, he was an instrument of God called to preach it, he was in love with and obsessed by it and he was entrusted with it (1 Timothy 1:11-12). If that blessed gospel of the grace of God be hidden so that men do not understand, receive and believe it, the fault is not in the gospel nor in the preaching of it, but in the men themselves. For they are lost, blind, dead, natural men who have no spiritual perception nor taste for the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14-15). All mankind are in a lost condition by birth and because of sin. God has purposed to save the lost through Christ (Luke 19:10). He chose some, Christ redeemed them and the Spirit calls them by the gospel. However, many will be lost for ever, left in blindness and sin under the dominion of Satan. Some writers believe these who will be lost for ever are the people referred to in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.

2 Corinthians 4:4. ‘The god of this world’ (because of the context and the work of deception and blinding man's eyes to the gospel) can only refer to Satan. Nowhere else do we find him called by this name, but our Lord twice referred to him as ‘the prince of this world’ (John 12:31; John 14:30). What he blinds is ‘the mind’ - the understanding. Those who believe not are under the influence of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3), who penetrates hearts and minds with prejudice, pride, error and ignorance. By divine permission, he bears great power in the world and in the hearts of men. His design is to keep men in darkness and ignorance and, while he cannot keep the gospel out of this world, his business is to keep it out of men's hearts. The glorious gospel is the gospel of God's glory (Exodus 33:18-19) in Christ. Christ, who is the express image and revelation of God, is the sum and substance of the gospel (Romans 1:1-3) and salvation is having Christ revealed to and in us (Galatians 1:15).

2 Corinthians 4:5. We preach not ourselves, our opinions, our philosophies, nor do we preach to promote ourselves nor supply ourselves with life's necessities. We preach Christ Jesus, the Lord (1 Corinthians 2:2). We preach Christ, the Messiah, Prophet, Priest and King, fulfillment of every Old Testament type and promise; Jesus, Son of man, Man of sorrows, numbered with the transgressions, tempted in all points; the Lord, very God of very God, King of kings and Lord of lords. We are your servants for his sake' (Matthew 20:26-27).

2 Corinthians 4:6. In the creation of the world, God made something out of nothing. He commanded light to shine in darkness (Genesis 1:3). So in the new creation in Christ, God makes something out of nothing and commands the light (Christ is the light) to shine into our darkened hearts to give us the true knowledge of God and his glory (1 John 5:20). As light was the tint production in creation, so the light of Christ is the first thing in the new creation. Conviction of sin (John 16:8-10), the honoring of the law (Romans 5:19), the satisfaction of God's justice (Romans 3:25-26), and faith (Galatians 2:20) are all accomplished in the sinner in relation to Christ Jesus. Even our spiritual growth is in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). So from the new birth to perfect conformity to Christ, the whole of the work of redemption is relative to Christ.


Verses 7-18

Cast down but not destroyed

2 Corinthians 4:7-18

2 Corinthians 4:7. The gospel of Christ is called a ‘treasure’ in that it contains rich truth; it has rich blessings, such as redemption, sanctification and justification; it consists of rich and precious promises; it shows forth the riches of God's grace and mercy in Christ. This treasure is ‘in earthen vessels,’ meaning the ministers to whom God entrusts the gospel and through whom he sends the gospel to sinners. They are weak and frail creatures, subject to like passions and infirmities as other men (James 5:17; 1 Corinthians 2:5-7). God makes the most unlikely his instruments of grace, that he might have all the glory (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). The weaker the vessel, the stronger his power appears to be. Whatever is accomplished in the proclamation of the gospel by frail men is the work of God and not men, that he, not they, might be praised and glorified.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9. ‘We are troubled’ and oppressed in every way. We are never free from one trial or another. We are in the world and expect tribulations (John 16:1-4; John 16:33; John 15:19-20), yet we are ‘not distressed.’ We have the peace of God, the manifestations of his love and care, a freedom to the throne and sufficient for every trial (2 Corinthians 12:9). ‘We are perplexed’; the word signifies doubting and uncertainty. We are often uncertain and in doubt about what will happen to us; and sometimes we know not what to do, which way to take, nor how our needs shall he supplied, but we are ‘not in despair.’ We do not despair of the leadership, help, presence and support of our Lord. We are ‘persecuted’ of men, cursed, threatened and despised because we profess Christ and preach Christ crucified, risen and exalted. But we are ‘not forsaken’ of our Lord, who owns us and causes us always to triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). Neither are we forsaken by those who love Christ, for they support us in prayer and provisions. We are ‘cast down’ like an earthen vessel is sometimes cast out or thrown to the earth, seemingly forgotten and deserted. But we are ‘not destroyed.’ We live by the mighty power of God and are immortal until his work in us, through us and by us is done. Whatever the condition of God's children in this world, they have a ‘but not’ to comfort them. Their case may be bad, but not hopeless; for he is their hope!

2 Corinthians 4:10-11. Paul speaks here of the sufferings and afflictions the disciples themselves endure in the flesh. We are liable to the same hatred, suffering and putting to death that our Lord suffered. We are one with him, and the world, which hates him, hates us. We don't expect any better treatment than was afforded our Lord. There is one great consolation: ‘Because he lives, we shall live.’ The power of our Lord's grace, strength, comfort and peace is in us daily, manifested to us, to the church and to the world. The apostles and ministers of the gospel seem to be a special target for Satan's hatred and the world's enmity, but even these trials God uses to call out his sheep (2 Timothy 2:9-10) through their word.

2 Corinthians 4:12. ‘Our death is your life; our sufferings are for your advantage. This gospel we preach at the expense of persecution, trial and even death is the means of bringing the gospel of life to you.’

2 Corinthians 4:13. Paul declares that he and his fellow laborer’s have the same spirit of faith as David, who wrote in Psalms 116:10, ‘I believed, and therefore have I spoken.’ We, too, believe God, his eternal purpose in Christ, man's utter ruin and inability, the person and work of our Lord Jesus, the resurrection to eternal life of believers and the resurrection to eternal condemnation of unbelievers. Therefore we speak these truths. The Old Testament saints are our examples (Romans 4:19-25).

2 Corinthians 4:14. We are assured that God, who raised our Lord Jesus from the grave as the first-fruits of them who sleep, shall by the same power flowing from him who sits at his right hand also raise our mortal bodies from the grave. We know that Christ was raised and his resurrection is an assurance of ours (1 Corinthians 15:20-27). We shall all meet in the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and shall, by Christ, be presented unto God, redeemed by his life and washed in his blood (Jude 1:24-25).

2 Corinthians 4:15. ‘All these things’ that the apostle has mentioned (from the eternal purpose of God in electing a people; the prophecies, promises and types of the Old Testament, the incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection and exaltation of our Lord, to the calling, preaching and sufferings of the apostles) ‘are for your sakes!’ The more the grace, favour and blessings of God are revealed to multitudes, the more honour, glory and praise are given to our God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

2 Corinthians 4:16. ‘Therefore, we ministers of the gospel do not become discouraged, nor do we have thoughts of quitting the conflict. Our outward flesh is progressively decaying and wasting away, but our inward man, created in Christ Jesus, everyday grows stronger and stronger in the grace and faith of Christ.’

2 Corinthians 4:17. Paul calls our sufferings in the flesh for the sake of Christ ‘light afflictions.’ That which the flesh calls heavy, burdensome and grievous, faith perceives to be light and but for the moment. When we are being used of God, supported by his grace, favored with his love, and know that these trials are for our good and his glory, we are able to call them ‘light afflictions.’ Then when we compare these afflictions and time on earth with the glory that shall be ours, they become even less important (Romans 8:18).

2 Corinthians 4:18. Someone once said that two things support the believer who is under trial: first, seeing the Lord's purpose and hand in it all (Hebrews 11:27; Romans 8:28) and second, looking by faith beyond this world to that glory which God had prepared for those who love him (Hebrews 11:9-10). The things of this world that we see, feel and taste by faith through the grace of God are eternal.

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/2-corinthians-4.html. 2013.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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