(1) Therefore seeing we have this ministry.—The ministry referred to is that of which such great things have just been said: the ministry of the new covenant, of the Spirit, of righteousness, of glory (2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:8-9). Two thoughts rise up in the Apostle’s mind in immediate association with this: (1) His own utter unworthiness of it, which finds expression in “as we have received mercy” (comp. 1 Timothy 1:12); and (2) the manifold trials and difficulties in the midst of which it had to be accomplished. The very fact that he has been called to such a work is, however, a source of strength. He cannot faint or show cowardice in discharging it.
Nor handling the word of God deceitfully.—The word is nearly equivalent to the “corrupting” or “adulterating” of 2 Corinthians 2:17. In “commending ourselves” we trace a return to the topic of 2 Corinthians 3:1. Yes, he acknowledged that he did “commend himself,” but it was by the manifestation of truth as the only means that he adopted; and he appealed not to men’s tastes, or prejudices, or humours, but to that in them which was highest—their conscience, their sense of right and wrong; and in doing this he felt that he was speaking and acting in the presence of the great Judge, who is also the searcher of hearts.
Lest the light of the glorious gospel.—Better to the end that the radiance (or, light-giving power) of the gospel of the glory of God . . . The words describe not merely a purpose, but a result. The word for “light” here, and in 2 Corinthians 4:6, is not the simple noun commonly used, but a secondary form, derived from the verb “to give light” or “illumine.” The English version “glorious,” though a partial equivalent for the Greek idiom of the genitive of a characteristic attribute, lacks the vigour and emphasis of the original, which expresses the thought that the gospel is not only glorious itself, but shares in the glory of Christ, and has that for its theme and object. But even that gospel may fail of its purpose. The blind cannot see even the brightness of the noon-day sun. The eye of the soul has to receive sight first. So, in the mission to the Gentiles given to the Apostle on his conversion, his first work was “to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18).
Christ, who is the image of God.—The Greek word is used in the LXX. of Genesis 1:26 for the image of God, after which man was created. So in 1 Corinthians 11:7 man is spoken of as “the image and glory of God.” (Comp. Colossians 1:15; Colossians 3:10.) In Hebrews 10:1 it stands as intermediate between the object and the shadow, far plainer than the latter, yet not identical with the former, however adequately representing it.
Should shine unto them.—Literally, should irradiate, or, cast its beams upon them.
Hath shined.—The English tense is allowable, but the Greek is literally shone, as referring to a definite fact in the past life of the Apostle and other Christians at the very time of their conversion.
In the face of Jesus Christ.—Some MSS. give “Christ Jesus,” others “Christ.” The clause is added as emphasising the fact that the glory of God is for us manifested only in the face (or, possibly, in the person, with a somewhat wider sense; see Note on 2 Corinthians 1:11) of Christ, as it was seen by the Israelites in the face of Moses. The word for “give light” is the same as that rendered “radiance” in 2 Corinthians 4:4.
That the life also of Jesus . . .—The life of Jesus is the life of the new man, “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). It is not that the Apostle is merely looking forward to the resurrection life, when we shall bear the image of the heavenly; he feels that the purpose of his sufferings now is that the higher life may, even in this present state, be manifested in and through them; and accordingly, as if to guard against the possibility of any other interpretation, he changes the phrase in the next verse, and for “our body” substitutes “our mortal flesh.”
In our mortal flesh.—The reason for the change in the last two words has been given in the Note on the preceding verse. The very “flesh” which, left to itself, is the source of corruption, moral and physical, is by the “excellence of the power of God” made the vehicle of manifesting the divine life. As has been well said: “God exhibits DEATH in the living that He may also exhibit LIFE in the dying” (Alford).
That the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many . . .—More accurately, that grace, having abounded by means of the greater part of you, may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. The passage is nearly parallel to 2 Corinthians 1:11. He takes for granted that the grace which he has received has been given in answer to the prayers, if not of all the Corinthians, yet at least of the majority (comp. the same distinction drawn in 2 Corinthians 2:6), and he is sure that it will, in its turn, cause their thanksgiving to be as copious as their prayers. The passage is, however, obscure in its construction, and two other renderings of the Greek are grammatically possible, which is more than can be said of the English version: (1) “that grace having abounded, may, for the sake of the thanksgiving of the greater part of you, redound . . .”; and (2) “that grace having abounded, may, by means of the greater part of you, cause thanksgiving to redound . . .” What has been given above is, it is believed, the closest to St. Paul’s meaning.
A far more exceeding . . .—The Greek phrase is adverbial rather than adjectival: worketh for us exceedingly, exceedingly. After the Hebrew idiom of expressing intensity by the repetition of the same word, (used of this very word “exceedingly” in Genesis 7:19; Genesis 17:2), he seeks to accumulate one phrase upon another (literally, according to excess unto excess) to express his sense of the immeasurable glory which he has in view.