2 Corinthians 4
1Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,
2but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
We have a ministry under the new covenant to proclaim the reason for the glory we have which is transforming us to be like Christ and which has set us free from slavery to sin by the power of the Spirit of God. This is not because we were deserving, but it is because of the mercy of God given to us. Since Christ is continuing to work in our hearts to make us like Himself, we must not lose heart as if God is not going to finish the job (Romans 8:30, Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-2). He will, and He delights in using us to accomplish His purposes. It is our job to be faithful, firm, and persevering (1 Corinthians 15:58). We must continue to be disciplined by faith, walking not after evil but after that which is of righteousness (Galatians 5:16). That which is evil we must firmly renounce and reject, choosing the life that is in Christ so that we can walk in purity each day. We are not to be deceitful, cunning, or manipulative, nor are we to compromise the Word of God or change it to suit our agendas or rationalizations. If we compromise or yield to sin, then we will do a poor job of showing forth the glory of God. The glory of God can be seen by others as they see our lives changed and conformed to God’s righteous and good commands. Their consciences know right from wrong (Romans 1:32), and they can see when a person does right. The power and glory is God’s, and thus we who obey by faith can point others to God and His glory. It also establishes our testimony before men as being legitimate. God sees all, and we must walk in holiness before Him in order to be faithful, effective ministers of the gospel.
3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
4in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
If people don’t respond in faith, it ought not to be because our sin is veiling the gospel. It should be simply because a veil of blindness rests over the hearts of those who are children of the devil. They need the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, but they are unable to see it because of the work of the god of this world, the devil himself. Perhaps God might be gracious to open the eyes of the lost as they see our love (John 13:34-35), our unity (John 17:21), our good works (Matthew 5:16), our hope (1 Peter 3:15), and our holiness (Hebrews 12:14).
5For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.
6For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
In ministry, it is not about the one doing the ministry but the One for Whom the ministry is done. The power is in the Savior and in the gospel, not in the flesh of man. So we must not preach anything that draws attention to ourselves, but we must recognize that we are servants of Christ. We have a great treasure in that we have Christ in our hearts. He has removed the veil from our eyes so that we could see the truth. Darkness has been replaced with the Light of Christ in us to shine through us to a dark world. In Christ we are able to see the truth, for we have received Him for Who He is. He is the One Who represents fully and perfectly the glory of God, and it is His face we are to seek. His face is what we want the world to see when they look at us. Yet the treasure of Christ is not us or of us but in us. We are but earthen vessels, mere jars of clay. We are feeble, frail, fragile, and fallible, yet Christ is the glory of God residing in us. The obvious conclusion then is that Christ is the surpassing greatness which the world needs to see, and it is not us. The power is not of us, but it is His. When a person comes to Christ, it is not because we are powerful but because our Savior is powerful. When ministry is accomplished, it is because it was done by the grace of God as Christ worked in and through us. We have no sufficiency or power in our own strength to accomplish spiritual things, but Christ is our hope and our source of power. He is our glory, and He is what the world needs to see. If we rely upon Him and His Word and not ourselves, the world will indeed see Him and not us. And that is what is supposed to happen. The weaker we are, the stronger He can be shown to be (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
8we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;
9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
10always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
11For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
12So death works in us, but life in you.
The life of the apostles was one of great suffering as they had already alluded to. Affliction came to them in every way imaginable, but they were not crushed by it because God had delivered them in His strength and sufficiency. They had been perplexed, confused, and lacking resources in and of their own strength, but they did not despair because there was always hope with Christ. They were persecuted severely, but Christ was still there to comfort them (2 Corinthians 1:4-5), not forsaking or abandoning them. They had been brutally struck down, but the Lord had spared them from death. Their suffering for Christ’s sake was part of their existence, but so was His power and life. They were constantly being made weaker and weaker such that Christ could show Himself stronger and stronger. They were being harshly treated so that the mercy and forgiveness of God could shine all the brighter. God’s sustenance and grace while under fire is a great testimony to His existence, love, comfort, and provision. Death worked in the lives of the apostles such that they knew they could put no confidence in the flesh. It was weak, they were vulnerable, and they needed the grace of God just to live, let alone to do ministry. From this place of weakness, God could do mighty things, including working life in the Corinthians as they received the gospel and grew in their understanding of the Lord.
13But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE," we also believe, therefore we also speak,
14knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.
15For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.
Quoting from the Greek translation of Psalm 116:10, Paul makes the point that his belief is sure which leads him to continue to speak the truth. He is willing to continue to endure hardship for the sake of Christ because he knows Christ is Who He said He was. He can confidently look forward to the future when he is resurrected to meet the resurrected Christ along with the resurrected saints, including the Corinthian believers. Paul serves and preaches so that more and more can come to Christ and move them to give thanks to the Lord for His grace to the glory of God. Salvation honors God as does those who preach the gospel. The fruit of salvation is hope, joy, and thanksgiving.
16Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
18while 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.
In light of the hope of the future resurrection and inheritance with Christ, the apostles keep preaching the truth and persevering in righteousness. A strong belief in the Word of God leads to right practice. We are less likely to be deceived, to rebel, or to give up because we are certain of what we believe and what is to come. As life goes on, the body wears out and eventually dies. It can also get beat up from persecution as the apostles experienced. Yet the inner man continues to be renewed because Christ gives strength to do His will each day. It does not die, but it will live forever and be given a new immortal body. The affliction that takes place on earth is but momentary and light given the weight of the glory of eternity. The rewards and joy will be so great that the worst amount of suffering now is so slight in comparison with all of the rewards for being faithful even under persecution. We, like Paul, must keep our focus on the eternal which is not seen rather than on the pleasures of sin now, lest we lose heart or become unfaithful to Christ. What the eyes see is temporal, but what the heart must be devoted to is the eternal, which is not seen. Having an eternal perspective changes how we react to suffering, persecution, and sacrifice while on earth.