2 Corinthians 4

In this chapter, Paul explains what motivates him to endure all things to accomplish the enormous task set before him.

1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,

The job of a true servant of God is a difficult job. As a result, it is easy to lose heart if you do not understand the true nature of the gospel. But if God has granted you mercy to truly understand the gospel then you will not lose heart.

2 but 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.

A true servant of God is interested in declaring the truth about God. He is not interested in telling people what they want to hear so that he can benefit financially or in some other way.

If you call yourself a servant of God, but you adulterate the word of God (i.e. you take from it only that which people want to hear, and then mix it with what you want people to hear), shame on you! Paul renounced those hidden motives. He desired to preach to people in such a way that his conscience was clear in the sight of God. And we too must do the same.

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,

4 in 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.

The true gospel is veiled. That is, it is hidden. It is possible to be a very smart person and still not understand or believe the gospel. That is amazing! Paul said that spiritual things are spiritually discerned (as opposed to being intellectually discerned) (1 Cor 2:14). Jesus rejoiced that God hides things from the wise and intelligent (Mt 11:25-28).

If you put forth the question, “What is the gospel?” to believers, most of them will say something like this: “The gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins.” The focus of the statement is that the gospel is about ‘our’ salvation, as opposed to being about Christ.

Now there is truth in that. But if you asked Paul what was the gospel, you would get an entirely different answer! Paul would say that the gospel is the glory of Christ, and that glory is displayed as Him being the image of God. It is like John saying, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” (Jn 1:4). Paul doesn’t mention our salvation as the primary message of the gospel.

If you consider yourself to be a believer, ask yourself this: do you understand the gospel to be concerning the glory of Christ? If not, then – like the perishing unbelievers – your mind is blinded too!

5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.

6 For 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.

The glory of God is the best thing about God.

When Moses asked God to show him His glory, God said that He would let His goodness pass before Moses. From that we see that the glory of God is His goodness, and more generally, His character.

Discuss Rev 4 and Is 6 on God’s glory.

The glory of God in the face of Christ refers to the fact that Jesus, while on earth as man, demonstrated the character of God. That is why Jesus was able to say to Phillip that seeing Jesus was like seeing the Father.

When you study the life of Jesus carefully and gain knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ and work on becoming like that then you have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Jesus, while He was on earth, was the light of the world. This light could not be comprehended by the darkness. That is, people couldn’t understand His goodness.

Before leaving, He told us that we must be the light of the world. Our light must shine out in the darkness. That is, people must not be able to understand our goodness.

God must open our eyes (or shine in our hearts, as Paul says) to give us that light. When that happens, we can begin to preach Christ Jesus as Lord (our Lord first, and then Lord of our hearers), and we ourselves as bond-servants of people, for the sake of getting them to make Jesus their Lord. This is the ministry that Paul mentions in verse 1 – a ministry of motivating others to be transformed to Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

God gives us this treasure – the nature and character of God – while we are still temptable. He does that so that we realize that this nature is from Him, and we do not have it in ourselves.

8 {we are} afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;

9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

11 For 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.

12 So death works in us, but life in you.

For Paul to accomplish this task, he had to endure a lot of suffering. All of us who want to achieve this must pay that price too. Our goals, our ambitions, our desire for greatness in this world, for riches, for honor, for power, must all be crushed. We endure failure, disappointment and loss of many types and in many ways. But the end result is a bond-servant of God, who has glimpsed the true riches and their true value.

13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE,” we also believe, therefore we also speak,

14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.

Over here, Paul is explaining to the Corinthians what motivates him to work with them, and what he is trying to achieve with them…

Having recognized the great value of what God has promised, and having realized that God was not joking, but meant what He said, we actually begin to believe that is it something that we can receive, and begin to lay hold of it, and we begin to let others know about it too.

15 For 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.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,

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.

With that in mind, Paul is ready to endure whatever it takes to achieve his goal – the resurrection in a body reflecting the nature of God, that is, a body that cannot be tempted. He want this, not merely for himself, but also for the Corinthians, and everyone else too. It is this perspective that causes him to write passages like the latter part of Romans 8, and Philippians 3.

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