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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
2 Corinthians 4

 

 

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Verse 1

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;

The human vessel is frail, that God may have the glory; yet, though frail, faith and the hope of future glory sustain him amidst the outward man's decay.

Therefore - `for this cause;' because we have the liberty-giving Spirit of the Lord, and with unveiled face behold His glory (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

Seeing we have this ministry - "the ministration of the spirit" - of such a spiritual, liberty-giving Gospel: resuming 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:8,

Received mercy - from God, without desert on our part, in having this ministry conferred on us (2 Corinthians 3:5). The sense of "mercy" received from God makes men active for God (1 Timothy 1:11-13).

We faint not - in boldness of speech and action, and patience in suffering, (2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 4:8-16, etc.)


Verse 2

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Renounced - literally, 'bid farewell to.'

Of dishonesty - rather, 'of shame' (Romans 1:16). Shame would lead to hiding (2 Corinthians 4:3); whereas "we use great plainness of speech" (2 Corinthians 3:12), "by manifestation of the truth." We have nothing that needs hiding (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:3). He refers to the disingenuous artifices of "many" teachers at Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Handling ... deceitfully - so 'corrupt' or adulterate the "word of God" (2 Corinthians 2:17; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Commending - recommending ourselves: recurring to 2 Corinthians 3:1.

To - to the verdict of.

Every man's conscience (2 Corinthians 5:11) - if only they be candid. Not to men's carnal judgment, as those alluded to, 2 Corinthians 3:1. In the sight of God (2 Corinthians 2:17; Galatians 1:10).


Verse 3

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

But if - however, even if (as I grant is the case).

Hid - rather (in reference to 2 Corinthians 3:13-18) [ kekalummenon (Greek #2572)], 'veiled.' "Hid" [ kekruptai (Greek #2928)] (Colossians 3:3) is said of that withdrawn from view altogether: 'veiled,' of a thing within reach of the eye, but covered over so as not to be seen. So Moses' face.

To them - in the case only of them, for in itself the Gospel is plain.

That are lost - rather, 'that are perishing' (1 Corinthians 1:18). So the same cloud that was "light" to the people of God was "darkness" to the Egyptian foes of God (Exodus 14:20 : cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Instead of removing the veil that hides Christ's light from their hearts (2 Corinthians 3:15), they draw it closer.


Verse 4

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

In whom. Translate, 'in whose case.'

God of this world - only here so called: he is a defaced image of God. The worldly make him their god (Philippians 3:19). He is, in fact, 'the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that ruleth in the children of disobedience' (Ephesians 2:2). Christ, the God of the world to come, is the perfect image of the Father.

Minds - `understandings;' 'mental perceptions' [ noeemata (Greek #3540), as in 2 Corinthians 3:14].

Them which believe not - the same as 'them that are lost' (or 'are perishing') (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). South, 'When the malefactor's eyes are covered, he is not far from his execution' (Esther 7:8). Those perishing unbelievers are not merely veiled, but blinded (2 Corinthians 3:14; Greek, 'hardened').

Light of the glorious gospel of Christ. Translate, 'the illumination [enlightening; footismon (Greek #5462); the propagation from those already enlightened to others of the light] of the Gospel of the glory of Christ.' 'The glory of Christ' is not a mere quality (as "glorious") of the Gospel: it is its very essence and subject-matter. Image of God , [ eikoon (Greek #1504)] - implying identity of nature and essence (John 1:18; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). He who desires to see "the glory of God" may see it "in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Timothy 6:14-16). Paul recurs to 2 Corinthians 3:18 : Christ is "the image of God," into which "same image" we, looking on it in the Gospel mirror, are changed by the Spirit; but this image is not visible to those blinded by Satan (Alford).


Verse 5

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

For. Their blindness is not our fault, as if we sought self in our preaching.

Preach ... Christ Jesus the Lord - rather, 'Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants,' etc. "Lord," or Master, is the correlative term to "servants."


Verse 6

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

For. Proof that we are true servants of Jesus unto you; for God imparted to me the heavenly light that I might impart it to others. The light that He shed on his path as he went to Damascus suggests the image.

Commanded the light - Greek, 'who by speaking caused light to shine.' So C G f g, Vulgate, "light" (Genesis 1:3). But 'Aleph (') A B Delta read 'who spake, Out of darkness the light shall (let the light) shine.'

Hath shined - rather, as Greek, 'is He who shined;' Himself our Light and Sun, as well as the Creator of light (Malachi 4:2; John 8:12). Regeneration answers to creation.

In our hearts - in themselves dark.

To give (that we might give) the light - to others, which is in us [ pros (Greek #4314) footismon (Greek #5462)] (cf. note, 2 Corinthians 4:4).

The glory of God - answering to 'the glory of Christ' (note, 2 Corinthians 4:4).

In the face of Jesus Christ. 'Aleph (') C Delta G f g, Vulgate, retain "Jesus." AB omit it. Christ is the manifestation of the glory of God, as His image (John 14:9): antitypical to the brightness on Moses' "face." The only true and full manifestation of God's brightness and glory is "in the face of Jesus" (Hebrews 1:3).


Verse 7

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

'Lest any should say, How is it that we enjoy such unspeakable glory in a mortal body? he replies, This is one of the most marvelous proofs of God's power, that an earthen vessel could bear such splendour and keep such a treasure ("the light of the knowledge of the glory of God")' (Chrysostom). The fragile "earthen vessel" is the body, the "outward man" (2 Corinthians 4:16 : cf. 2 Corinthians 4:10) liable to afflictions and death. So the light in Gideon's pitchers (Judges 7:16-20; Judges 7:22). The ancients often kept their treasures in vessels of earthenware. 'There are earthen vessels which yet are clean, and golden vessels which are filthy' (Bengel).

That the excellency of the power ... - that the power of the ministry (the Holy Spirit), in its surpassing "excellency," exhibited in winning souls (1 Corinthians 2:4) and in sustaining us ministers, might be ascribed solely to God. God often allows the vessel to be chipped and broken, that the excellency of the treasure within and of the power may be all His (2 Corinthians 4:10-11; John 3:30).

May be of God, and not of us - rather, as Greek, 'may be God's (may be seen and thankfully (2 Corinthians 4:15) acknowledged to belong to God), and not (to come) from [ ex (Greek #1537)] us.' The power not merely comes from, but belongs to God continually, and is to be ascribed to him.


Verse 8

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

[ Thlibomenoi (Greek #2346) all' (Greek #235) ou (Greek #3756) stenochooroumenoi (Greek #4729)] 'BEING hard pressed, yet not reduced, to inextricable straits' (nominative to "we have," 2 Corinthians 4:7).

On every side - Greek, 'in every respect' (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:10, "always"). This verse expresses inward distresses, next verse outward distresses (2 Corinthians 7:5). The first clause in each member of the series implies the earthiness of the vessels, the second clause the excellency of the power.

Perplexed, but not in despair , [ aporoumenoi (Greek #639) ouk (Greek #3756) exaporoumenoi (Greek #1820)] - 'not utterly perplexed.' As perplexity refers to the future, so "troubled" or 'hard pressed' refers to the present.


Verse 9

Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Not forsaken - by God and man. Jesus was forsaken by both: so much do His sufferings exceed those of His people (Matthew 27:46). Literally, left behind, as in a race, [ enkataleipomenoi (Greek #1459)].

Cast down - or 'struck down:' not only "persecuted" - i:e., chased as a deer or bird (1 Samuel 26:20) - but actually struck down as with a dart (Hebrews 11:35-38). The [ pantote (Greek #3842)] "always" in this verse means, 'throughout the whole time;' in 2 Corinthians 4:11 the Greek [ aei (Greek #104)] is different, and means, 'at every time, when the occasion occurs.'


Verse 10

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

Bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus - i:e., having Jesus' ('Aleph (') A B C Delta G, Vulgate, omit "the Lord") continual dying re-enacted in my body: having in it the marks of His sufferings (2 Corinthians 1:5), I bear about, wheresoever I go, an image of the Saviour, whose sojourn in the flesh was a continual dying, of which the consummation was His crucifixion (2 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 1:5 : cf. 1 Corinthians 15:31). Paul was exposed to more dangers than are recorded in Acts (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 11:26). [ Nekroosin (Greek #3500)] "The dying" is literally, 'the being made a corpse.' Such Paul regarded his body, yet a corpse which shares in the life-giving resurrection-power of Christ.

That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body - rather, 'may be.' "Jesus" is often repeated, as Paul, amidst sufferings, peculiarly felt its sweetness. In 2 Corinthians 4:11 the same words occur, with the variation, "in our mortal flesh." The fact of a corpse-like body being sustained amidst such trials manifests that "the (resurrection) life also," as well as the dying "of Jesus," exists in us (Philippians 3:10). I thus bear about in my own person an image of the risen and living, as well as of the suffering Saviour. The "our" is added here to "body," though not in the beginning of the verse. 'For the body is ours not so much in death as in life' (Bengel).


Verse 11

For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

We which live - in the power of Christ's "life" in us, in our whole man, body as well as spirit (Romans 8:10-11; note, 2 Corinthians 4:10 : cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15). Paul regards his preservation amidst so many exposures to "death," by which Stephen and James were cut off, as a standing miracle (2 Corinthians 11:23). Delivered unto - not by chance: by the ordering of Providence, who shows 'the excellency of His power' (2 Corinthians 4:7) in delivering unto DEATH His living saints, that He may manifest LIFE also in their dying flesh. "Flesh," the very element of decay (not merely their "body"), is by Him made to manifest life.


Verse 12

So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

The "death" of Christ, manifested in the continual 'perishing of our outward man' (2 Corinthians 4:16), works in us, and is the means of working spiritual "life" in you. The life whereof we witness (note, 2 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 1:6-7) in our dying flesh extends beyond ourselves, by our very dying, to you.


Verse 13

We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

Greek, 'BUT having,' etc. - i:e., notwithstanding our trials, we having, etc.

The same spirit of faith, according as it ... Compare Romans 8:15. The same living faith worked by the Holy Spirit on our "spirit:" stronger than "faith." Though "death worketh in us, but life in you" (2 Corinthians 4:12), yet, as we have the same spirit of faith as you, we therefore (believingly) look for the same immortal life as you (Estius), and speak as we believe. Alford not so well: 'The same ... faith with that described in Psalms 116:10.' The balance of the sentence requires the parallelism, 'According to what is written I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak'-namely, without fear, amidst 'afflictions' and 'deaths' (2 Corinthians 4:17).


Verse 14

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

Knowing - by faith (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Shall raise up us also - at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 6:13-14). By [ dia (G1223): so C] Jesus. 'Aleph (') B Delta G f g, Vulgate, have 'with [ sun (Greek #4862)] Jesus.'

Present us - vividly picturing the judgment before the eyes (Jude 1:24).

With you (2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; 1 Thessalonians 3:13).


Verse 15

For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

For - confirming the "with you" (2 Corinthians 4:14), and "life ... worketh in you" (2 Corinthians 4:12).

All things - whether the afflictions and labours of us ministers (2 Corinthians 4:8-11). or your prosperity (2 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 3:21-22; 1 Corinthians 4:8-13).

For your sakes (2 Timothy 2:10).

Abundant grace ... - rather, 'that grace (the grace which preserves us in trials, and works life in you) being made more abundant by the greater number [ dia (Greek #1223) ton (Greek #3588) pleionoon (Greek #4119)] (of its recipients, or else of the intercessors for it), may cause the thanksgiving to abound to, etc. (Chrysostom) (2 Corinthians 1:11; 2 Corinthians 9:11-12). Or better, 'that grace, being made the greater on account of the thanksgiving [ dia (Greek #1223) eucharistian (Greek #2169)] of the greater number (for grace already received), may abound to,' etc. Thus, the Greek word [ perisseusee (Greek #4052)] for 'abound' has not to be taken active, but in its ordinary neuter sense. Thanksgiving invites more abundant grace (2 Chronicles 20:19-22; Psalms 18:3; Psalms 50:23).


Verse 16

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

We faint not - notwithstanding sufferings. Resuming 2 Corinthians 4:1.

Outward man - the flesh and all that ministers to the earthly life.

Perish - `is wasting away' by afflictions.

Inward man - our spiritual and true "life " which even in our mortal bodies (2 Corinthians 4:11) 'manifests the life Inward man - our spiritual and true "life," which, even in our mortal bodies (2 Corinthians 4:11), 'manifests the life of Jesus.'

Is renewed - `is being renewed;' namely, with fresh "grace" (2 Corinthians 4:15), and "faith" (2 Corinthians 4:13), and hope (2 Corinthians 4:17-18; Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10; Titus 3:5).


Verse 17

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

Which is but for a moment , [ to (Greek #3588) parautika (Greek #3910)] - 'which is but for the present passing moment.' Compare Matthew 11:30; also, "now for a season ... in heaviness" (1 Peter 1:6). The contrast is between this and the "ETERNAL ... glory." Also, 'the lightness of affliction' ('burden is not expressed after 'light': the Greek is 'the light of affliction') contrasts beautifully with the 'weight of the glory.' Hebrew idiom connects gravity with glory [ kabowd (Hebrew #3519)].

Worketh - rather, 'worketh out.'

A far more exceeding and - `more and more exceedingly' (Ellicott) [ kath' (Greek #2596) huperboleen (Greek #5236) eis (Greek #1519) huperboleen (Greek #5236) 'in excess and to excess'] The glory exceeds beyond all measure the affliction.


Verse 18

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Look not at - as our aim.

Things which are seen - `earthly things' (Philippians 3:19). We mind not the things seen, whether affliction or refreshment come, so as to be seduced by the latter, or deterred by the former (Chrysostom).

Things which are not seen (Hebrews 11:1) - the things which, though not seen now, shall be so hereafter.

Temporal - rather, 'temporary,' in contrast to "eternal." The Greek [proskaira] is rightly translated in Hebrews 11:25, "the pleasures of sin for a season."

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-corinthians-4.html. 1871-8.

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