2 Corinthians 4 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

2 Corinthians 4
Pulpit Commentary
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
Verse 1. - Therefore. Because of the freedom and open vision of the gospel. As we have received mercy. Gratitude for a mercy so undeserved (1 Timothy 1:13) makes us fearless and vigorous in a ministry so glorious (Acts 20:23, 24). We faint not. The word implies the maintenance of a holy courage (1 Corinthians 16:13) and perseverance (2 Thessalonians 3:13). It occurs again in ver. 16, and in Luke 18:1; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13.
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.
Verse 2. - But have renounced; rather, but we renounced. We renounced them once and forever at our baptism. The hidden things of dishonesty; literally, of shame; meaning, of course, of all that causes shame. Disgraceful as may be calunmies of my Jewish opponents, I have said farewell forever to everything for which a good man would blush. "Honest" was originally like the Greek word καλὸς, a general expression for moral excellence, as in Pope's line -

"An honest man's the noblest work of God." Fletcher's -

"Man is his own star, and the soul that can
Be honest is the only perfect man."
In craftiness. The word implies all subtle, cunning, underhand dealing (2 Corinthians 11:3), and it is clear from 2 Corinthians 12:16 that St. Paul had been charged with such conduct. The word is both used and illustrated in Luke 20:23. Handling the word of God deceitfully. He has already repudiated this charge by implication in 2 Corinthians 2:17, and he was always anxious to maintain an attitude of transparent sincerity (2 Corinthians 1:12) by uttering the truth and the whole truth (2 Corinthians 2:17; Acts 20:27), and not adulterating it. He had to meet such insinuations even in his first extant letter (1 Thessalonians 2:3). By manifestation of the truth. The constant recurrence to this thought shows the apostle's anxiety to remove the suspicion, created by the attacks of his opponents, that he had an esoteric teaching for some (2 Corinthians 1:13), kept some of his doctrines "The truth" cannot be preached by the aid of lies. The prominence of the word "manifest" in this Epistle is remarkable. St. Paul seems to be haunted by it (2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11; 2 Corinthians 7:12; 2 Corinthians 11:6). Commending ourselves. This is the only form of self-commendation or of "commendatory letter" for which I care. There is evidently a reference to the same verb used in 2 Corinthians 3:1. Before God (see 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 7:12; Galatians 1:20). These solemn appeals are meant to show that it would be morally impossible for him to act as he was charged with acting. If he can assert his own integrity he will do so only as consciously in the presence of God.
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
Verse 3. - But if our gospel be hid. This is added to avoid the semblance of a contradiction. He has spoken of "manifestation of the truth," and yet has spoken of all Jews as unable to see it because they will not remove from their hearts the veil which hides it from them. How can "a veiled gospel" be a "manifested truth"? The answer is that the gospel is bright, but the eyes that should gaze on it are wilfully closed. Similarly in 2 Corinthians 2:16, he has compared the gospel to a fragrance of life, yet to the doomed captives - "to the perishing" - it comes "like a waft from the charnel house." A better rendering would be, But even if our gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1; Romans 2:16) is a veiled one. it is veiled only among the perishing (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:18). Be hid; rather, has been veiled. To them that are lost; rather, to the perishing (see note on 2 Corinthians 2:15).
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.
Verse 4. - The god of this world; rather, the god of this age. It is, as Bengel says, "a great and horrible description of the devil." He is not, however, here called a god of the kosmos, but only of the olam hazzeh, the present dispensation of things as it exists among those who refuse to enter that kingdom in which the power of Satan is brought to nought. The melancholy attempt to get rid of Manichean arguments by rendering the verse "in whom God blinded the thoughts of the unbelievers of this world" is set aside by the fact that the terrible description of Satan as "another god" (El acheer) was common among the rabbis. They knew that his power was indeed a derivative power, trot still that it was permitted to be great (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12). In John 12:31 (John 14:30) our Lord speaks of him as "the ruler of the kosmos." Hath blinded; rather, blinded. The verb here has no other meaning than "to blind," and is quite different from the verb "to harden," rendered by "to blind" in 2 Corinthians 3:14 with the same substantive. They are blind from lack of faith, and so being "unbelieving" they are" perishing" (Ephesians 5:6), seeing that they "walk in darkness" (John 8:12) and are in Satan's power (Acts 26:18). Blindness of heart," says St. Augustine, "is both a sin and a punishment of sin and a cause of sin." The light of the glorious gospel of Christ; rather, the illumination of the gospel of the glory of the Christ. The word photismos in later ecclesiastical Greek was used for "baptism." Who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). Should shine unto them; or, as in the Revised Version, should dawn upon them. The other rendering, "that they should not see the illumination," gives to the verb augazo, a rarer sense, only found in poetry, and not known to the LXX.
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
Verse 5. - For we preach not ourselves. There is no glory or illumination on our faces, and we have no personal ends to gain, nor are we "lords" over your faith. This is, perhaps, meant as an answer to some charge of egotism. The Lord; rather, as Lord (Philippians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 12:3). Your servants; literally, your slaves (1 Corinthians 9:19). For Jesus' sake. So Christ had himself desired (Matthew 20:27).
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.
Verse 6. - Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness. The argument of the verse is that God, who created the material light (Genesis 1:3) and who is the Father of lights (James 1:1) and sent his Son to be the Light of the world (John 8:12), did not shine in our hearts for our sakes only, or that we might hide the light under a bushel for ourselves, but that we might transmit and reflect it. There is an implied comparison between the creation of light and the dawn of the gospel light, and each of these was meant for the good of all the world. The verse should be rendered, if we follow the best manuscripts, "Because it is God, who said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shone in our hearts for the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God." In the face of Jesus Christ (see ch. 2:10; 3:7). Probably, however, there is a reference to the glory of God, not as reflected from the face of Christ, but as concentrated in and beaming from it (Hebrews 1:2).
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
Verses 7-15. - Glory of the ministry in the midst of its weakness and suffering. Verse 7. - In earthen vessels. The glorious light which we have to show to the world is, like Gideon's torches, carried in earthen pitchers. The word skenos, vessel, is used in Mark 11:16, and "vessels of earthenware" in Revelation 2:27. St. Paul, in Acts 9:15, is called "a vessel of election," whence Dante calls him lo vas d elezione. Man can never be more than an earthen vessel, being frail and humble, and the metaphor specially suits an apostle of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:20). But when he takes the Word of life from the earthen pitcher and waves it in the air, it illuminates all on whom the light shines. No commentator seems to have seen the probable allusion to Gideon's pitchers. It is the "light," of which he has been speaking exclusively in the last verses, which constitutes the "treasure." Those who suppose that the "treasure" is gold or silver or something else of value, refer to Jeremiah 32:14, and Herod., 3:103; Pers., 'Sat.,' 2:10. The excellency; literally, the excess or abundance. Of God, and not of us; rather, of God, and not from us.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Verse 8. - Troubled; afflicted, as in 2 Corinthians 1:4. On every side; in everything. Distressed; rather, driven to straits. Perplexed, but not in despair. In the original is a beautiful paronomasia, which might, perhaps, be represented in English by "pressed, but not oppressed." Literally the words mean, being at a loss, but not utterly at a loss. In the special anguish of trial of which he spoke in 2 Corinthians 1:8 (comp. 2 Corinthians 7:5), he was indeed for a time "utterly at a loss," reduced to utter despair; but in the normal conditions which he here describes he always, as it were, saw some outlet out of his worst perplexities.
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
Verse 9. - Not forsaken. St. Paul, like the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, knew by blessed experience the truth of the promise, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5, 6). Cast down. Flung to the ground, as in some lost battle; yet not doomed, not "perishing." "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand" (Psalm 37:24).
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.
Verse 10. - The dying of the Lord Jesus; literally, the putting to death (Vulgate, mortificatio). This is even stronger than 2 Corinthians 1:5. It is not only "the sufferings," but even "the dying," of Christ of which his true followers partake (Romans 8:36, "For thy sake are we killed all the day long"). St. Paul, who was "in deaths oft" (2 Corinthians 11:23), was thus being made conformable unto Christ's death (Philippians 3:10). Philo, too, compares life to "the daily carrying about of a corpse," and the Cure d'Ars used to speak of his body as "ce cadavre." That the life also of Jesus, etc. The thought is exactly the same as in 2 Timothy 2:11, "If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him."
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.
Verse 11. - For Jesus' sake. St. Paul, as Bengel says, constantly thus repeats the name of Jesus, as one who felt its sweetness. The verse contains a reassertion and amplification of what he has just said. In our mortal flesh. This is added almost by way of climax. The life of Jesus is manifested, not only "in our body," but even by way of triumph in its lowest and poorest element. God manifests life in our dying, and death in our living (Alford).
So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
Verse 12. - So then. In accordance with what he has just said. Death worketh in us, but life in you. The life of us apostles is a constant death (Romans 8:36); but of this daily dying you reap the benefits; our dying is your living; our afflictions become to you a source of consolation and joy (2 Corinthians 1:6; Philippians 2:17).
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;
Verse 13. - We; rather, But we. The same spirit of faith. The spirit manifested by the psalmist in the quotation which follows. It is from Psalm 116:10, a psalm which corresponded with St. Paul's mood because it was written in trouble sustained by faith. And this faith inspires him with the conviction that, after "the body of this death," and after this death in life, there should begin for him also the life in death. St. Paul says nothing as to the authorship of the psalm, which probably belongs to a period far later than that of David. The words are from the LXX., and seem fairly to represent the disputed sense of the original.
Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
Verse 14. - Which raised up the Lord Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 6:14). Shall raise up us also. The thought is again expressed in Romans 8:11. As he is here alluding mainly to the resurrection from the dead, it is clear that he contemplated the possibility of dying before Christ's second coming (comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:15). By Jesus. The reading supported by nearly all the best manuscripts is "with Jesus" (א, B, C, D, E, F, G), which perhaps appeared unsuitable to the copyists. But Christians are "risen with Christ" here (Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1); and in another sense also we rise with him, because the Church is "the body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:23). Shall present us with you. So St. Jude speaks of "God our Saviour" as able "to present us" before the presence of his glory (Jude 1:24, 25).
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
Verse 15. - All things are for your sakes. St. Paul has already implied that his life is not his own (2 Corinthians 1:6; setup. 1 Corinthians 3:22, 23), and he recurs to the same thought in Colossians 1:24, and repeats once again towards the close of his life: "I endure all things for the elect's sakes" (2 Timothy 2:10). Might ... redound. The verb perisseuo may mean either "I abound" or "I make to abound" as in 2 Corinthians 9:8 and Ephesians 1:8. Here there is a similar thought to that expressed in 2 Corinthians 1:11, and the best rendering is, In order that the Divine favour, being multiplied through the greater number (of those who share in it), may make the thanksgiving (which it excites) abound to the honour of God.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
Verses 16-18. - The Christian minister is upheld by hope. Verse 16. - Therefore. Knowing that our daily death is the pathway to eternal life (ver. 14). We faint not (see ver. 1). Though; rather, even if. Our outward man. Our life in its human and corporeal conditions. The inward man. Namely, our moral and spiritual being, that "new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:10). Is renewed; literally, is being renewed; i.e. by faith and hope. Day by day. The Greek phrase is not classical, but is a reminiscence of the Hebrew.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
Verse 17. - For our light affliction, which is but for a moment; literally, for the immediate lightness of our affliction. Worketh for us. Is bringing about for us, with all the immeasurable force of a natural and progressive law. A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; literally, in excess unto excess. For the phrase, "to excess - characteristic, like other emotional expressions, of this group of Epistles - see 2 Corinthians 1:8; Galatians 1:13. The word "eternal" is in antithesis to the "for a moment." The "weight" is suggested by the "lightness," and possibly also by the fact that in Hebrew the word for "glory" also means "weight." The general contrast is found also in Matthew 5:12; 1 Peter 5:10; Hebrews 12:10; Romans 8:18. The frequent resemblances between this Epistle and that to the Romans are natural when we remember that they were written within a few months of each other.
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.
Verse 18. - While we look not at the things which are seen. The Greek suggests more of a reason, "Since we are not gazing at things visible" (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Things which are not seen. The negative is the subjective negative. It expresses not only the fact that now these things are not seen, but that it is their nature to be unseen by the bodily eyes. Temporal. That is, temporary, transitory, phantasmal, a passing world; for which reason we do not fix our gaze or our aim upon it. But the things which are not seen are eternal The clause is important, as showing that eternity is not a mere extension of time, but a condition qualitatively different from time. The "things eternal" exist as much now as they will ever do. We are as much living in eternity now as we ever shall be. The only difference will be that we shall then see him who is now unseen, and realize the things which now are only visible to the eye of faith. This is one of the passages of St. Paul which finds a close parallel in Seneca ('Ep.,' 59). "Invisibilia non decipiunt" was, as Bishop Wordsworth tells us, the inscription put at the end of his garden arcade by Dr. Young, the poet.

Courtesy of Open Bible