2 Corinthians Chapter Four
I. Content of the Chapter
The Minister Who Fulfills the Ministry Faithfully
A. The attitudes of fulfilling the ministry ---- manifest the truth (v.1-6):
1. Not lose heart (v.1);
2. Not handle the word of God deceitfully
3. Not veil the gospel (v.3-4);
4. Not preach oneself, but Christ Jesus the Lord
B. The way of fulfilling the ministry ---- manifest the treasure in earthen vessels (v.7-12):
1. Manifest the excellence of the power that is of God (v.7-9);
2. Manifest the life of Jesus (v.10-11);
3. Life works through death (v.12);
C. The faith of fulfilling the ministry ---- the glory of the resurrection (v.13-18):
1. Speak by faith (v.13);
2. We will be raised up with Jesus (v.14-15);
3. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (v.16).
4. We do not look at the temporary affliction which is seen, but at the glory which is not seen (v.17-18).
II. Verse by Verse Commentary
2Cor. 4:1 “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.”
YLT: “Because of this, having this ministration, according as we did receive kindness, we do not faint,”
Meaning of Words: “ministry”: service, deacon, attendance; “lose heart”: faint, be weary, weak;
Literal Meaning: “therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy”, “mercy”, it means that the mercy of God comes upon someone even though he is unworthy of receiving such grace of God so that he shall obtain what he is not supposed to have. “This ministry”: the ministration that the ministers of the New Covenant shall take responsibility for, namely, the ministry of the New Covenant (see 3:5-9).
“We”: there are many ministers; “the ministry”: there is only one ministry. It shows that believers in the New Testament do works of the same principles and nature ---- provide “life” through “death” and build “the body of Christ” through the affliction and perishing of “one’s body”.
“We do not lose heart.” It means not despising oneself or abandoning oneself, but boldly taking the responsibility and speaking with plainness (see 3:12).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Since we can serve God on account of His mercy, not our qualification, He will take the responsibility for providing the power we need in service so that we can fulfill the ministry. His mercy will perfect us unto the end.
2) Those who have been entrusted with the holy ministry by the Lord will have boldness ---- “not lose heart” and bear witness with power. And the power is not of them, but of the mercy of God.
3) The truth that we have received from God is heavenly revelation, not knowledge of men. Therefore, we shall give heed more abundantly to the truth heard (Heb. 2:1), but not ignore it.
2Cor. 4:2 “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, 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.”
YLT: “but did renounce for ourselves the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor deceitfully using the word of God, but by the manifestation of the truth recommending ourselves unto every conscience of men, before God;”
Meaning of Words: “hidden things”: secret, concealment, inward things; “shame”: disgrace, dishonesty; “renounce”: say off for oneself, disown; “craftiness”: craftiness, trickery, sophistry, subtlety; “handle…deceitful”: ensnare, adulterate; “manifestation”: exhibition, expression, revelation; “commend”: exhibit, constitute, introduce;
Literal Meaning: “but we have renounced the hidden things of shame”, “the hidden things of shame”, the disgraceful things that cannot be done before men openly.
“Not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully”, “in craftiness, handling … deceitfully”, one deceives the hearts of the unsuspecting (Rom. 16:18) by good words and fair speeches so that men think them wrongly as the true words of God and thus fall into the trap.
“But by manifestation of the truth”, it means: 1) preach the truth faithfully without adding anything or taking away anything (see Rev. 22:18-19) and declare the right meaning; 2) manifest the indwelling Christ in life, for Christ is the truth (John 14:6). He is the reality of all spiritual things. Therefore, the manifestation of Christ is the manifestation of the spiritual reality, namely, the manifestation of the truth.
“Commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God”, “commending ourselves to every man's conscience”, let everyone judge according to his conscience (see Rom. 2:15) whether the words are of the truth and whether one’s deeds are of Christ who is the truth.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) We shall not do the Lord’s works through the political power ---- “not walking in craftiness”, nor preach wrong words ---- “nor handling the word of God deceitfully”. This is renouncing “the hidden things of shame”.
2) Only when we renounce “the hidden things of shame” and declare the truth of God rightly, can we commend ourselves to every man's conscience and make them sincerely convinced.
3) If the workers of the Lord preach the truth to cater to the interests of men, it is walking in craftiness before God.
4) Once a preacher has wrong incentive to proclaim the truth, he will handle the word of God deceitfully ---- preach what he should not preach, and dare not preach what he should preach. Thus, he has falsified the truth of God and made men go astray.
5) The servants of God preach the word of God for the purpose of manifesting the truth, not profiting themselves or pleasing others. All the words that cannot declare the truth are hidden words of shame and have offended against God.
6) The preachers shall preach the truth by not only words, but also deeds in life. What hurts the testimony of God mostly is that the “words” of God’s workers are inconsistent with their “deeds”.
7) There is an abnormal phenomenon that is popular in the church now ---- the truth of God is preached by words, but not deeds in life so that the spiritual testimony of the church is lost.
8) Christians should speak and walk before God and let everyone judge according to their conscience, without being influenced by their emotion.
9) Human methods can purchase man’s affection, but only the truth can persuade one’s conscience.
10) Christians can declare the truth at best by manifesting the indwelling Christ in life so that men will see this Christ who is full of grace and truth (see John 1:14) on us, thus revealing the truth.
11) A worker of the Lord should live out the truth so that all will admire him from the bottom of their hearts, for everyone’s conscience has met God because of him.
2Cor. 4:3 “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,”
YLT: “and if also our good news is vailed, in those perishing it is vailed,”
Meaning of Words: “be veiled”: be hidden, be covered;
Literal Meaning: “but even if our gospel is veiled”, if we preach the truth of God’s gospel faithfully and yet those who have heard still refuse to receive the gospel, we need not to take the responsibility, for their minds are blinded so they cannot see or understand the truth of the gospel.
“It is veiled to those who are perishing”, the blindness of their minds makes them run to death and eventually become those who are perishing (see 1Cor. 1:18; 2Cor. 2:15).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Many old opinions, e.g. thoughts of philosophy, cultural traditions, religious doctrines and etc, will become the veil that makes men blinded (see 3:14-15) and prevent men from seeing the light of the gospel of Christ.
2) Those who do not believe have become those who perish, for their minds are blinded all their life and they do not repent till death. However, thank God! Though we believers are blinded, we have thoroughly repented.
2Cor. 4:4 “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
YLT: “in whom the god of this age did blind the minds of the unbelieving, that there doth not shine forth to them the enlightening of the good news of the glory of the Christ, who is the image of God;”
Meaning of Words: “the god of this image”: the god of this generation; “blind”: cannot see clearly in vagueness; “mind”: thought, perception; “shine”: beam forth; “image”: expression, likeness, resemblance;
Literal Meaning: “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe”, “who do not believe”, it refers to “those who are perishing” in the previous verse; “The god of this age”, it refers to the devil, the Satan. Satan uses the world created by God and forms it into a system, including many souls, things, materials and various thoughts, philosophy and religions, so as to draw men’s hearts to the devil and against God. And such system of the world that draws men’s hearts changes continually in different ages, so Satan the controller at the back is also called “the god of the age”. “Minds has blinded”, it means that they have fallen into folly in their thoughts and their heart without understanding is darkened in the original (Rom. 1:21) and they are ignorant of things of God.
“Lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ should shine on them”, man’s mind is the main battlefield in which God wars against the devil. To preach the gospel is leading captive every thought into the obedience of the Christ (see 10:5). However, the device of Satan is blinding those who do not believe, and thus the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ cannot shine on them and therefore they refuse to receive Christ.
“Who is the image of God”, it indicates that Christ is the expression of God’s substance (Heb. 1:3; see Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15) and in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) According to the manner of men, the gospel brings to men all profit but no loss at all. However, men do not believe the gospel, for the devil has blinded the minds of men. Therefore, we shall pray sufficiently before preaching the gospel ---- may the Lord remove the work of the devil in men’s hearts so that men will see the light of the gospel and believe the Lord very soon.
2) The god of the age ---- Satan ---- schemes to blind the minds of men by every possible means, “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” should shine on them. This is the fundamental reason why men refuse the gospel.
3) It is the focus of the war between God and the devil that whether we can see the glory of Christ. Once man has seen Christ, he will be saved. Otherwise, he is still in darkness all his life.
4) If we Christians are still attached to the pleasure of sin of the world or love something outside of God, we have fallen into the device of Satan and are blinded by the god of the world.
5) We should neither follow Christ and the world at the same time, nor seek what is of the heaven and that of the earth at one time. We should turn to Christ so that we can see the glory of the Lord (see 3:16-18) and are drawn by His glory, thus being transformed into the image of the Lord by the pursuit of the Lord.
6) Christ is the image of God. When we have seen Christ, we have seen God. The Lord Jesus is the way, and the truth and the life (John 14:6). We can see God and know God through Him.
7) If man desires to know God, he shall start from knowing Christ. Once one has known Christ, he will know God (see 1John 2:23).
2Cor. 4:5 “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake.”
YLT: “for not ourselves do we preach, but Christ Jesus -- Lord, and ourselves your servants because of Jesus;”
Meaning of Words: “Lord”: master, supreme in authority; “bondservant”: slave, servant;
Literal Meaning: “for we do not preach ourselves”, “preach ourselves”: one declares himself so as to let him occupy a position in men’s hearts, thus worshipping himself.
“But Christ Jesus the Lord”, “Lord”: the ruler who governs all. All exists by Him and for Him. Therefore, to preach Christ Jesus the Lord so that men will obey Him and live for Him thereafter.
“And ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake”, “your bondservants”, it is not the Lord’s bondservants, but your bondservants, namely, the bondservants of all (see 1Cor. 9:19). In the heart of Paul, preachers are not men who are upheld or honored by men in a prominent position, but humble and low bondservants who serve all (see 1Cor. 3:22; Matt. 20:26-28).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The central aim of Paul’s ministry is not “preaching himself, but Christ Jesus the Lord”. What do we preach actually?
2) What may blind man mostly is his “self”. He who preaches himself will cover the light of the gospel of Christ. Therefore, we should perfectly uphold Christ and preach Christ when preaching the gospel.
3) Throughout the past generations, there were many so-called servants of Christ who apparently preached Christ Jesus the Lord. However, they craftily preached themselves secretly so that men would unconsciously regard them as the agents of Christ ---- men cannot know or experience Christ without them.
4) He who preaches Christ as well as himself cares much for men’s evaluation of his works and hopes that men know more about Christ as well as himself. He who preaches Christ only will hide himself everywhere lest he should occupy men’s attention that is supposed to be wholly on Christ (see 11:3).
5) Though Paul speaks in defense of him, he is not for the purpose of preaching himself, but preaching Christ Jesus the Lord. Therefore, when he talks about himself, we do not think he is preaching himself. Therefore, the motive of speaking decides the nature of the words. We can see the motive of one’s speaking from his words.
6) Satan resists the work of God by upholding the workers of God and replacing the position of Christ with that of the workers of God so that believers in the church will pay attention to the workers more than Christ, and focus on the mind of the workers rather than the will of God.
7) Christ Jesus is the “Lord”, and yet the apostle himself is the “bondservant” of all believers, namely, the bondservant of all bondservants. What an unbalanced position! How can a worker of the Lord rob the position of the Lord in believers’ hearts by making use of the name of the Lord?
8) May all the servants of the Lord acknowledge that they are “the bondservants of all” in their hearts and not say they are the “servants” humbly in mouth but think they are above others in heart.
9) If one has really seen the glorious Lord and the glorious salvation, he will be willingly to be bondservant of all.
2Cor. 4:6 “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
YLT: “because God who said, Out of darkness light to shine, who did shine in our hearts, for the enlightening of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Meaning of Words: “command”: say, tell; “knowledge”: science; “the light of the glory”: the shining of glory, the effulgence of glory;
Literal Meaning: “for it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness”, all the work of God starts from light (see Gen.1:3-4). We can say that there is no God’s work without light, because He is light. Where He is, there is light (Ps. 36:9).
“Who has shone in our hearts”, it shows that not only Paul has seen the true light but also we who have believed the Lord have turned from darkness to light by reason of the opened eyes (Acts 26:18). Light that “has been shone in our hearts” is different from the light shone on the face of Moses (see 3:7), which shows us that the glory of the ministry of the gospel is distinct from the glory of the ministry of the law. The former shines in the heart of man, which is in relation to the inner life. And the latter shines on the face of man, which relates to one’s everyday life. The glory of the New Testament is deep and can change men’s life. And the glory of the Old Testament is shallow and makes men constrained in walking.
“To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, it shows that the light of God in the New Testament firstly shines upon men in order to let them see and know Jesus Christ. He is the effulgence of his glory (Heb.1:3) ---- He is the manifestation of God’s glory.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) When God’s light shines upon the universe, every creature comes into being. When the light of God shines in the hearts of men, the new creation comes into being. When the light of God shines more deeply, there will be more excellent workmanship. Therefore, we shall desire the light of God and seek the true light of life (see John 1:4, 9).
2) God is light and Christ is the image (v.4), and we men are like camera. God commands light to shine out of darkness in the face of Jesus Christ as well as in our hearts.
3) No one can see the glory of Christ without the light of God (v.4). And the positive meaning of the light of God is making the glory of Christ shone in our hearts so that we can see the image of His glory.
4) The glorious gospel is none other than Christ Himself, who shines out of the spirits of believers. And the light in us also makes us become the light-bearer, appearing as lights in dark generation (Phil. 2:15).
5) The light of God lies in none other place than the face of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we shall draw near the Lord more and live before the Lord and behold His beauty so as to let the light on His face shine in us more.
2Cor. 4:7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
YLT: “And we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us;”
Meaning of Words: “treasure”: deposit, wealth; “earthen vessels”: earthen-ware, clayey vessels; “excellence”: supereminence, abundance, preeminence, beyond measure;
The Background: in the ancient times, the clayey vessels were often applied in gold metallurgy. When the gold was completed, men would break the earthen vessels in order to take the gold. In past days, by reason of the unhealthy public security, the rich men in the Middle East often buried the earthen vessels in which their treasure was hid under the ground. Here, it, in a figurative sense, indicates that Christ dwells in the spirits of believers just like the treasure in the earthen vessels.
Literal Meaning: “but we have this treasure in earthen vessels”, “we” refers to believers. “This treasure” refers to the indwelling Christ. “Vessels” refer to men, who are dusts on the earth (Gen. 2:7). As for the nature of men, we are merely as humble and frail as earthen vessels (see Rom. 9:21; 2Tim. 2:20).
“That the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us”, “the excellence of the power” is the exceedingly preeminent power. The indwelling Christ has superabundant power that enables believers to deal with all difficulties. “May be of God and not of us”, it is not of our physical life, but the works of God.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) We are the earthen vessels, and the treasure in us is the Lord Jesus. The earthen vessels are humble and frail, and yet the treasure is precious and eternal. Therefore, the value of Christians completely lies in Christ in us.
2) God puts the treasure in the earthen vessels in order to show the wonderful power of the treasure rather than the honor of the earthen vessels. Therefore, each of us shall desire to be an “earthen vessel” that is able to manifest Christ, not ourselves.
3) Our thoughts, affection and will often tightly encircle Christ the treasure so that men can only see the earthen vessels without seeing the treasure.
4) The proud men tend to boast of their preeminence. And the humble men may easily abandon themselves and complain they are merely dust. Both of them focus on the earthen vessels instead of the treasure. The earthen vessels should be ignored, but the treasure should be paid attention to.
5) The treasure in the earthen vessels ---- the indwelling Christ ---- shall manifest the excellence of His power from us, so we shall not be earthen vessels that hide the treasure, but earthen vessels that let the power of treasure fully manifested.
6) At all times, we can appropriate the excellence of the power of the treasure as the source of the power of our life and works so as to satisfy all the need of us.
7) We need not to repair or improve the earthen vessels so as to manifest the treasure. And all the artificial works of men have covered the treasure in them.
8) The alabaster flask should be broken so that ointment inside will be poured out (see Mark. 14:3). If the earthen vessels of us have not been broken, the treasure therein cannot be manifested. If the risen power of Christ shall be manifested on someone, he has to experience the death of the cross first.
9) If man’s work has not been rejected or broken, God’s work cannot be manifested on men. If a man asks God for help when his old man has not been put to death, God will not answer him. God never helps the old man. Whenever the old man work, God will not work.
2Cor. 4:8 “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;”
YLT: “on every side being in tribulation, but not straitened; perplexed, but not in despair;”
Meaning of Words: “hard-pressed”: be troubled, be afflicted; “crushed”: hem in closely, straiten; “despair”: be utterly at a loss, despond;
Literal Meaning: “we are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed”, though it is hemmed, there is still ample space for circling around. It means that the troubles that we suffer will not be above what we are able (see 1Cor. 10:13).
“We are perplexed, but not in despair”, it seems to be of no way, but. The things that are impossible with men are possible with God (Luke 18:27).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) If the persecutions and difficulties that we suffer are compared with that Paul suffers, they are nothing. Since Paul is not crushed nor in despair, we shall not give us up as hopeless.
2) When we find no way on any side, God can open us a way from the heaven (see 1Cor. 10:13). When we have no way in us, the Lord Himself is our way (see John 14:6).
3) Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. Therefore, when man still has his way, God will not open his way to us.
2Cor. 4:9 “persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed--”
YLT: “persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;”
Meaning of Words: “be persecuted”: be pressed forward, be followed; “forsaken”: be deserted, be left; “struck down”: be thrown down, be cast down;
Literal Meaning: “persecuted, but not forsaken”, one is pressed forward by the enemy, but he is not forsaken by God. If God for us, who against us (Rom. 8:31)?
“Struck down, but not destroyed--”, though one seems to have been lost, he will not fail completely. That is to say, the grace of Christ ---- the power of the risen life ---- is perfected in man’s weakness (see 12:9).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The words “yet” and “but” in verse eight and nine speak out the mystery of the inner life of Christians. Since we have the risen life of Christ in us, we can still stand for the Lord in difficulties.
2) Though Christians have pressure outside, they have the power of confronting the persecutions. The outer pressure is often for the purpose of manifesting the inner power. All the persecutions are for the purpose of training us so that we may receive the power of the risen life.
3) The workers of the Lord need not search difficulties for them on purpose, and yet should not escape when troubles come upon them. We should acknowledge that troubles are the hand of God for edification that makes us purer and more serviceable to the Lord.
2Cor. 4:10 “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
YLT: “at all times the dying of the Lord Jesus bearing about in the body, that the life also of Jesus in our body may be manifested,”
Literal Meaning: “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus”, “the dying of Jesus” refers to the dying situation of Jesus on the cross. “Carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus”, it indicates that we believers take up the cross to follow the Lord (Matt. 16:24) and put ourselves to the death of the cross for the sake of the Lord.
All the troubles we suffer for the sake of the Lord can also be regarded that we always carry about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Just as the next verse
“That the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body”, “the life of Jesus” refers to the risen life of Jesus. The risen life cannot be manifested in our body, unless the principle of resurrection is worked (see Rom. 6:4-5).
Controversial Clarification: someone think wrongly that “the dying of Jesus” is equal to any disease, or disaster, or loss or troubles that Christians suffer. However, the sufferings of Christians have two sorts: one is the suffering resulted from his own faults, mistakes, sins or natural elements. Such affliction is similar to that of the common people in the world and cannot be counted as the suffering of the cross. And the other kind is for the sake of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 5:11) and the body of Christ (Col. 1:24) and the kingdom of God (Rev. 1:9). Such suffering can be regarded as carrying about in the body “the dying of the Lord Jesus”.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The Lord Jesus Himself is the grain of wheat falling into the ground dying, and bears us, the much fruit (see John 12:24). As the Lord’s way is ---- live through death, so is ours, for it is not quickened unless it die (1Cor. 15:36).
2) The works of death is proportional to the manifestation of the resurrection. The more the Lord’s workers experience the dying of Jesus, the more they will manifest the life of Jesus.
3) We will drink the cup that the Lord Jesus drinks, and we will be baptized with the baptism that the Lord Jesus is baptized with (Mark 10:38). The will of God on Christians is that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
4) The image of the new creation can be manifested only when we bear in our bodies the brands of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:15, 17). The inward man can be renewed (see v.16) only when the outward man carries about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.
5) He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30 the original). The increase of the risen life of Christ is perfected by the decrease of our natural life. This is an immutable spiritual law. Therefore, if any one desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matt. 16:24). One can receive more spiritual life through putting his soul to death by the cross (Matt. 16:25).
6) Only if man has suffered the tribulations and has the experience of the cross can he manifest the life of Christ. Therefore, the foundation of the ministry of life is that ministers themselves shall have the experience of the cross. Today, the widespread shortage of the ministry of life in the church is due to the ministers’ insufficiency of the experience of the cross. When God gives the experience of the cross, they often try to weasel out.
7) It is not the spiritual gifts or words of those who have spiritual gifts, but the life manifested from those who know the cross and take up the cross everyday and have been dealt with the cross can help believers and build the church most.
8) The instrument that God will use is the man that God has made His words constituted into him through the work of the cross in spirit until the word has become his life. And then such men will fulfill the ministry of life, and such life will be vividly manifested from them on account of the dying work in them.
2Cor. 4:11 “For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
YLT: “for always are we who are living delivered up to death because of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our dying flesh,”
Literal Meaning: “for we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake”, “we who live” refer to believers who still live in the world. “Be always delivered to death”, the difficulty one is faced with is not positively caused by him, but is due to the provocation of Satan, the persecution of men, the allowance and sovereignty of God ---- but the real reason is “for Jesus’ sake”. Here, note that the word “always” indicates that the tribulations such tribulation is not unusual, but frequent.
“That the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh”, “the life of Jesus”, please see the commentary of verse ten. “Our mortal flesh”, it refers to the corruptible flesh (see 1Cor. 15:42, 50, 53), indicating that our corporeal body shall die.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The word “always” is interesting, for it shows us that the experience of the cross is not once in our life, but “always” ---- “always” carry about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus” (see v.10); be “always delivered to death for Jesus' sake. However, it is not that we “always” generate the work of the cross, but we are “always” delivered unto the work of the cross. As long as are willing to devote ourselves to the Lord to serve Him, God will train us in our circumstance.
2) The treasure in us (v.7) is the risen Christ. It is totally on account of the treasure that we have not been destroyed when entering into death but can provide life.
3) The way of the Lord’s workers is providing life through death and manifesting life by going through death (v.10).
4) The principle of the risen life is living after going through the death. The bondage of death has no power in such man, for there is a power stronger than death in him. That is, after going through death, he keeps alive without being touched by death at all.
5) All that is of the nature can not keep alive after death. And all that is of God can live though going through the death.
2Cor. 4:12 “So then death is working in us, but life in you.”
YLT: “so that, the death indeed in us doth work, and the life in you.”
Meaning of Words: “work”: show forth, be active, efficient, be effectual;
Literal Meaning: “so then”, it shows that this verse is a conclusion of the paragraph from verse seven to eleven.
“Death is working in us”, the effect of the working of death in one’s body makes him feel the power and suffering of death, which is the work of the cross that puts us to death. “We”, here it refers to believers who are responsible for providing the life of Christ.
“But life in you”, “you” refers to believers who receive the service and provision of the apostles (“us”, in the last half verse). When the servant is experiencing the annihilation of the cross, those whom he serves can yet feel the constant transmission of the work and power of Christ’s risen life. Such situation is providing life through death.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) If we want to provide life to others, we have to receive the work of death. If our natural life has not been put to death, the risen life cannot be manifested through us.
2) If we can transmit the divine life to others, it must be the outcome of the annihilating work of the cross. If we are willing to experience more the dying of Jesus for the sake of the church, we will be the river of living water that fills the church with full life.
3) Anyone who seeks life in himself cannot receive life. Only when death works in us will life work in others.
4) In like manner, we shall not seek power in ourselves, but shall ask us whether we have the anointment. If the anointment is in us, the power will be in others.
2Cor. 4:13 “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed and therefore I spoke," we also believe and therefore speak,”
YLT: “And having the same spirit of the faith, according to that which hath been written, `I believed, therefore I did speak;' we also do believe, therefore also do we speak;”
Literal Meaning: “and since we have the same spirit of faith”, our faith is not of us, but is gifted by God (Eph. 2:8).
“The same spirit of faith”, it means that the apostles have the same spirit of faith with the speaker of the scripture quoted in this verse. And the “spirit” does not refer to the Holy Spirit only, but also indicates the situation that the spirit of man is jointed with the indwelling Holy Spirit (see Rom. 8:16 the original) ---- when the spirits of believers response to the indwelling Holy Spirit, they will manifest the testimony of faith.
“According to what is written”, the following scriptures are quoted from the Book of Psalm (116:10).
“"I believed and therefore I spoke"”, it means that though the speaker had been in distress, he believed that he was bound to be saved on account of the faith in God. Therefore, he declared that he would walk before God in the land of the living.
“We also believe and therefore speak”, it indicates that Paul, as the poet of the psalm, has proclaimed the previous paragraph by faith (see v.7-12) as well as the following paragraph by faith (see v.14-18).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) All those who know the Lord speak in faith. However, if man wants to speak in faith, he should above all receive revelation in faith.
2) The principle of spiritual service is: faith generates testimony. This is the secret of the perfection and success of Christians’ services. We believe and therefore we proclaim. If we do not believe, we’d better close our mouths.
2Cor. 4:14 “knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.”
YLT: “knowing that He who did raise up the Lord Jesus, us also through Jesus shall raise up, and shall present with you,”
Meaning of Words: “know”: be aware, behold, know;
Literal Meaning: “knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus”, “He who raised up the Lord Jesus” refers to God the Father (Rom. 8:11).
“Will also raise us up with Jesus”, there are two explanations of “resurrection” here: 1) it refers to the resurrection after the death of the physical body (see 1Cor. 15:52). Because of the hope of resurrection, Paul is willing to preaching Jesus though dying daily (see 1Cor. 15:30-32). 2) It refers to spiritual resurrection (see Eph. 2:5-6). It also suggests that Paul confesses he has really tasted the savor of the death in tribulations (see 1:9) and believes that God will raise him up with Jesus.
“And will present us with you”, “we” refer to Paul and his fellow workers. “You” refers to believers in Corinth as well as all believers. “With”, it means that there is no believer that is exceptional. “Present”, it means “stand”, which relates to resurrection. The dead cannot stand.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Spiritual knowledge generates spiritual works. One does not fear death because of the hope of resurrection, so he can speak in faith.
2) The resurrection of believers does not merely refer to the hope of resurrection in the future but also the experience of spiritual resurrection at present. If we are become identified with in the likeness of his death, so also we shall be of resurrection (Rom. 6:5).
2Cor. 4:15 “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”
YLT: “for the all things because of you, that the grace having been multiplied, because of the thanksgiving of the more, may abound to the glory of God;”
Literal Meaning: “for all things are for your sakes”, “all things” relate to all things that Paul suffered. Here, they especially refer to being delivered to death for the sake of the gospel (see v.11). “For your sakes”, for the sake of believers’ profit;
“That grace, having spread through the many”, “grace”: gracious gift; that is to say, the experience of believers’ life and power. “Having spread through the many”, the more the number of the believers is, the larger of the sum of grace will be.
“May cause thanksgiving abound to the glory”, the experience of grace brings about thanksgiving to God. The more one experiences the grace, the more thanksgiving shall he present. And thanksgiving to God glorifies God.
This verse shows the reason why Paul fulfills the ministry at the risk of death: 1) the suffering he is faced with is for the profit of believers; 2) there are more abundant men who shall enjoy the grace of God on account of his service; 3) the grace of God increased through the many; 4) more grace brings about more thanksgiving to God; 5) all glory shall be unto God;
Enlightenment in the Word: the purpose of service is glorifying God the Father. This is the highest and noblest belief of the workers of the Lord. Let more people enjoy more grace of God so that thanks and praise will be unceasingly unto the throne of God. The workers would rather enter into death than manifest His life.
2Cor. 4:16 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”
YLT: “wherefore, we faint not, but if also our outward man doth decay, yet the inward is renewed day by day;”
Meaning of Words: “perish”: rot thoroughly, ruin, corrupt, and destroy;
Literal Meaning: “therefore we do not lose heart”. “Not lose heart”, we do not lose heart toward the difficulty when fulfilling the ministry (see v.1).
“Even though our outward man is perishing”, “outward man” includes the body and soul. “Perish”, it refers to the physical and mental consummation and corruption.
“Yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” “The inward man” includes the quickened spirit and the renewed soul. “Day by day”, it means being transformed into the same image from glory to glory (see 3:18).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Though there are many trials and pressure in the environment, they can only destroy our outward men and increase more the constitution of God in us so that the inward men will be strengthened and renewed and transformed. Therefore, no matter what suffering that strikes us, we shall not lose heart.
2) The workers of the Lord should keep being renewed in spirit everyday. If we stay in the obsolete condition, lest it should be due to our outward men who seek after comfort and escape the work of the cross.
2Cor. 4:17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,”
YLT: “for the momentary light matter of our tribulation, more and more exceedingly an age-during weight of glory doth work out for us --”
Meaning of Words: “for a moment”: temporal, momentary, at the very instant; “light”: least, petty; “affliction”: pressure, persecution, tribulation; “work”: accomplish, do work fully, perform; “weight”: burden, load; “far more exceeding”: a throwing beyond others, supereminence, more excellent;
Literal Meaning: “for our light affliction, which is but for a moment”, this verse indicates that all the afflictions we suffer in this age are extremely transient as for its time extent and are very light as for its measure of weight.
“Is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”, “is working for us”, it means that the afflictions we suffer are not in vain, for they will bear some fruit. “A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”, though the cost we have paid is temporary and light, the glory we have obtained is more exceeding concerning its measure of weight and eternal concerning its time extent.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Our transient “afflictions” at present can render us receive the eternal “glory” forever. Therefore, the afflictions in this age just “make a deposit” on the eternal glory.
2) The way of the holy service is by no means “skies always blue”, nor “flowers strewn all our lives”. However, the end of serving the Lord is “the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”.
3) “The far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”, it is exceedingly heavy and permanent, and cannot float nor disappear. Only God possesses such far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. All the glory that is not weighty enough and unable to endure belongs to “vain glory” (Phil. 2:3). Even though men covet for the vain glory, they cannot definitely obtain it.
4) If there is no the cross, there will be no glorious crown. The fruit of suffering afflictions for the sake of the Lord is receiving the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Therefore, the willingness of suffering tribulations does not equal to the maltreatment of oneself, but is for the sake of entering glory.
2Cor. 4:18 “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
YLT: “we not looking to the things seen, but to the things not seen; for the things seen temporary, but the things not seen age-during.”
Meaning of Words: “look at”: take heed, take aim at;
Literal Meaning: “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen”. “The things which are seen” relate to all the earthly and material things that we can feel by the corporeal sense organs. Here, they especially refer to the corruption of the outward man and the afflictions we suffer (see v.16-17). “The things which are not seen” refer to all the heavenly and spiritual things that can be known by the spirit of faith and yet cannot be felt by the corporeal sense organs. Here, they particularly refer to the renewal of our mind and the glory we shall receive (see v.16-17).
“For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” All the earthly and material things and the physical and mental coziness or afflictions are merely transient. All heavenly and spiritual things shall abide forever.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Both the visible wealth on the earth and joy of this age are temporary. Even though men have obtained them, they will turn to vanity in a moment. Only the Lord Himself, though He is invisible, He is of the eternal value. We shall set the Lord as the goal of our pursuit of our life.
2) If we look at the “afflictions” that are seen (v.17), we will lose heart. If we look at the “glory” that are not seen, we shall be exultant and sing “I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it someday for a crown”.
3) The outlook of Christians on life is not looking at the material world.
III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons
The Demands for the Minister of the New Testament
A. One shall keep unto the end and not lose heart (v.1).
B. One shall not walk in craftiness nor handle the word of God deceitfully, walk and work according to the truth (v.2).
C. One shall not blind the light of the gospel (v.3-4).
D. One shall humble himself and preach Christ Jesus the Lord and be bondservants of all instead of preaching himself (v.5).
E. One shall live before God and let the light of God shine in him (v.6).
The Relation of Christ with the Minister of the New Testament
A. Christ is the light ---- preach the gospel to manifest the light (v.1-6);
B. Christ is the power ---- confess one’s powerlessness so as to manifest the power (v.7);
C. Christ is the life ---- receive the dealing with of the cross in order to manifest the life of Jesus (v.8-12);
D. Christ is the resurrection ---- speak by faith to manifest the grace of God (v.13-15);
From Glory to Glory
A. Christ is the glorious light of God that firstly shines in the hearts of the ministers of the gospel. And then the ministers of the gospel will reveal the light (v.1-6).
B. And there is an increasing number of men who receive the grace of life, thus causing thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God (v.14-15).
C. The ministers of the gospel suffer light affliction that is but for a moment for the purpose of receiving the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (v.16-18).
Knowing the Ministry of the New Testament
A. The attitude of fulfilling the ministry ---- commend … to every man's conscience (v.1-2);
B. The difficulty of fulfilling the minister ---- the god of this age has blinded the mind of men (v.3-4);
C. The center of the minister ---- Christ Jesus is the Lord (v.4-6);
D. The source of the minister’s provision ---- the treasure is in the earthen vessels (v.7-9);
E. The means of the minister’s provision ---- provide the risen life through death (v.10-12);
F. The faith of the minister’s provision ---- the glory of resurrection (v.13-18);
The Spirit that Keeps the Ministers of the New Testament
A. Keep them because of the presence of God (v.7a);
B. Keep them because of the power of God (v.7b-9);
C. Keep them everyday because of the spirit of being delivered to death (v.10-12);
D. Keep them because of the spirit of faith (v.13);
E. Keep them because of the hope of resurrection (v.14);
F. Keep them because of the need of all as well as the glory of God (v.15);
G. Keep them because of the inward man’s being renewed day by day (v.16);
H. Keep them because of the hope of the eternal glory (v.17-18);
The Ministry of the Apostle
A. The power of life is manifested in the apostle (v.10).
B. Life works in others (v.11-12).
C. The secret lies in faith (v.13-14).
D. The result will be grace, thanksgiving and glory (v.15).
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Mary Zhou