The glory of the gospel ministry (2 Corinthians 4:1-6), which sustains the hearts of Christ's ministers among all weaknesses and trials (2 Corinthians 4:7-15), especially by the faith in things unseen (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
2 Corinthians 4:1
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, Acts 20:24). 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 2 Corinthians 4:16, and in Luke 18:1; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13.
2 Corinthians 4:2
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."
"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, 2 Corinthians 5:11; 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.
2 Corinthians 4:3
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. Be hid; rather, has been veiled. To them that are lost; rather, to the perishing (see note on 2 Corinthians 2:15).
2 Corinthians 4:4
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.
2 Corinthians 4:5
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).
2 Corinthians 4:6
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 2 Corinthians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 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).
2 Corinthians 4:7-15
Glory of the ministry in the midst of its weakness and suffering.
2 Corinthians 4:7
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.,' Jeremiah 2:10. The excellency; literally, the excess or abundance. Of God, and not of us; rather, of God, and not from us.
2 Corinthians 4:8
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, 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.
2 Corinthians 4:9
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, Hebrews 13:6). 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" (Psalms 37:24).
2 Corinthians 4:10
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."
2 Corinthians 4:11
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).
2 Corinthians 4:12
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).
2 Corinthians 4:13
We; rather, But we. The same spirit of faith. The spirit manifested by the psalmist in the quotation which follows. It is from Psalms 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.
2 Corinthians 4:14
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. 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 (Jud Jude 1:24, Jude 1:25).
2 Corinthians 4:15
All things are for your sakes. St. Paul has already implied that his life is not his own, 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.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
The Christian minister is upheld by hope.
2 Corinthians 4:16
Therefore. Knowing that our daily death is the pathway to eternal life (2 Corinthians 4:14). We faint not (see 2 Corinthians 4:1). 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.
2 Corinthians 4:17
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.
2 Corinthians 4:18
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.
2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:2 - The character and work of a true minister of Christ.
"Therefore seeing we have this ministry," etc. These words present to us a true minister of Christ as he is in himself and in his labours, that is, his character and work.
I. HIS CHARACTER. It is here suggested that his character is marked by three things.
1. Its strength. "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not." Having in mercy such a gospel as this to preach, we are not disheartened. "We faint not;" on the contrary, we are courageous. The character of every minister of Christ should be marked by strength—strength of conviction, strength of principle.
2. Its purity. "But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty," or rather, of "shame." Every element and form of sin is a thing of "shame," a thing which makes the conscience blush. Falsehood, inchastity, meanness, selfishness, dishonesty, are all things for shame and disgust. A true minister has renounced all these things, he is thoroughly cleansed of them.
3. Its straightforwardness. "Not walking in craftiness." No attribute of character is more common, at the same time more morally ignoble and anti-Christian, than artfulness or stratagem. Ministers of religion are frequently charged with this "craftiness," and the charge is, alas! too often true. The craft of priests is notorious. Now, a true minister is free from this; he is a man of frankness, candour, transparent honesty.
II. HIS WORK. How does he fulfil his mission? The answer is given here:
1. Negatively. "Not handling the Word of God deceitfully." It is thus handled when it is used to support a system, to advance a sect, to exhibit self, to gain a living and to win popularity. He is not a true minister who does this.
2. Positively. "By manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
(b) affectation, and from
2 Corinthians 4:3, 2 Corinthians 4:4
The condition of unregenerated men.
"But if our gospel be hid," etc. These words give an appalling view of ungodly men.
I. They are BLIND TO THE GOSPEL. "If our gospel be hid [or, 'veiled']." Men have different organs of vision. There is the bodily eye: the gospel is not "hid" from that—they can see the volume that contains it, they can see the print, and perhaps read its chapters. There is the intellectual eye to discover its sense and discern its meaning. There is the spiritual eye, the conscience which discerns the moral significance of things; this is the eye which alone can see the gospel, its real essence. And this is the veiled eye, the eye of conscience is closed, so that the gospel is no more discerned than the bright heavens are observed by the man who is horn blind.
II. They are PERISHING IN SIN. "It is hid to them that are lost," or veiled from them that are perishing. Soul ruin is a gradual process. Souls are neither ruined nor saved at once. The wicked are "going into everlasting punishment;" they are not hurled there at once; step by step they proceed. With every sin their sensibility of conscience is perishing, their power of will is perishing, all the better tendencies of their nature are perishing. It matters not how strong in body, how prosperous in wealth, how elevated in society, they are perishing. Startlingly solemn this!
III. They are VICTIMIZED BY SATAN. "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." Observe:
1. Satan is not a principle, but a personality.
2. Satan has immense dominions. "The god of this world." Satan is a personality that has access to human souls. He enters men, acts on their springs of thought and fountains of feeling.
3. Satan is a personality whose action on the soul is essentially pernicious. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." He closes the moral eye of the soul, "lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the Image of God, should shine unto them."
2 Corinthians 4:5 - Preaching.
"For we preach not ourselves," etc. Here is—
I. A SAD POSSIBILITY in preaching. What is that? To "preach ourselves." To preach ourselves is to propound our own notions, to exhibit our own talents, genius, and learning, to parade our own productions. It is to put self, not Christ, in the front. In these days the egotism of the pulpit has become all but intolerable.
II. A GLORIOUS THEME for preaching. "Christ Jesus the Lord."
1. Preach him as the Mediator between God and man. He whose grand mission it is to reconcile man to his Maker.
2. Preach him as the great Example for man's imitation. He who embodies the ideal of human perfection and blessedness.
III. The RIGHT SERVICE in preaching. "Ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." The true preacher is:
1. The servant of souls.
2. The servant of souls inspired by love for Christ. "Servants for Jesus' sake."
2 Corinthians 4:6 - True soul light.
"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." There are two lights in the soul. There is the light of nature. This light consists of those moral intuitions which Heaven implanted within us at first. These intuitions are good enough for angels, did for Adam before he fell; but now, through sin, they are so blunt and dim that the soul is in moral darkness: "The light that is in thee is darkness." The other light is that of the light of the gospel. This comes because the light of nature is all but gone out, and comes as essential to our spiritual well being. This is the light to which the passage refers, the new soul light. The words call attention to three facts concerning it.
I. IT EMANATES FROM THE HIGHEST SOURCE. "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts." The reference is here to the creation (Genesis 1:3). It reminds us:
1. Of antecedent darkness. The state of the soul before this light enters it is analogous to the state of the earth before God kindled the lights of the firmament. It was cold, chaotic, dead. In what a sad condition is the unregenerate soul!
2. Of almighty sovereignty. "Let there be light"—"Let light be, and light was." The luminaries of the firmament were kindled by the free, uncontrolled, almighty power of God. So it is with real spiritual light. It comes because God wills it. Everywhere he "worketh according to the counsel of his own will."
II. IT REVEALS THE GRANDEST SUBJECT. Light is a revealer. All the hues and forms, beauties and sublimities of the earth would be hid from us without the light. What does this soul light reveal? "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God." Gospel light entering the soul makes God visible as the eternal Reality, the Fountain of being, and the Source of all blessedness. Where this gospel light is not, the soul either ignores or denies him; or, at most, speculates about him, and at best has now and then flitting visions. But under the radiance of the gospel, God is the Reality of all realities, the Fountain of all existences, the Root of all the sciences. In this light they see God, and through him they see and interpret his universe.
III. IT STREAMS THROUGH THE SUBLIMEST MEDIUM. "In the face of Jesus Christ." There is undoubted allusion here to what is said of Moses (2 Corinthians 3:13) when the Divine glory was reflected on his face, and produced such a splendour and magnificence that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look upon it. The sense here is that, in the face or the person of Jesus Christ, the glory of God shone clearly, and the Divinity appeared without a veil. This light coming through Christ, "who is the image of the invisible God," is:
1. True light. He is the Truth.
2. Softened light. The soul could not stand the light coming directly from the infinite Source; it is too dazzling. Through the medium of Christ it comes so softened as to suit our weakness.
3. Quickening light. It falls on the soul like the sunbeam on the seed quickening into life.
2 Corinthians 4:7 - The true gospel ministry.
"But we have this treasure," etc. The words lead us to consider the true gospel ministry in various aspects.
I. AS CONTAINING AN INESTIMABLE TREASURE. The gospel is a system of incalculable worth. The most valuable things in nature are employed to represent it—water, light, life, etc. There are four criteria that determine the worth of a thing—rarity, utility, duration, the appreciation of the highest authorities. All these applied to the gospel demonstrate its surpassing value.
II. AS THE SERVICE OF FRAGILE MEN. "In earthen vessels." To whom have the inestimable truths of the gospel been entrusted for exposition, enforcement, and distribution? Not to angels, but to frail and dying men.
1. They have frail bodies. They are subject to infirmity, exhaustion, decay, etc.
2. They have frail minds. The most vigorous in intellect is weak, the most lofty in genius is feeble, the most enlightened is ignorant.
III. AS DEVELOPING A DIVINE PURPOSE. "That the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." The grand reason why frail men are employed to preach the gospel is that the glorious renovating and soul-saving effects may evidently appear as the work of God, and not of man. When sermons prove effective in converting souls, it is not because of the originality of their thought, the force of their logic, the splendour of their rhetoric, or the majesty of their eloquence, but because of the Divine power that accompanies them. "Not by might, nor by power," etc.
2 Corinthians 4:8-12 - Trials in the cause of Christ.
"We are troubled on every side," etc. Three remarks are suggested.
I. That THE TRIALS ENCOUNTERED IS THE CAUSE OF CHRIST ARE SOMETIMES VERY GREAT. Hear what Paul says about his trials: "We are troubled on every side." He speaks of himself as hemmed in by enemies, pursued by enemies, stricken down by enemies, and dragging about with him, as it were, a living corpse. It may be laid down as a principle, that the man who is earnestly engaged in any righteous cause in this world will have to encounter trials. The old prophets bad their trials, some of them were insulted, some incarcerated, some martyred. So with John the Baptist, and so with the apostles, so with the confessors, reformers, and genuine revivalists.
II. That, HOWEVER GREAT THE TRIALS ENCOUNTERED, THEY ARE NOT BEYOND BEARING. The apostle says that although "troubled on every side, yet not distressed," or straitened; though "perplexed," or bewildered, yet not benighted; though "persecuted," or pursued, yet not "forsaken," or abandoned; though "cast down," or stricken down with a blow, yet not perishing. The idea is that he had support under his trials; they did not entirely crush him. The true labourer in the cause of Christ, however great his trials, is always supported:
1. By the approbation of his own conscience.
2. By the encouraging results of his own labours.
3. By the sustaining strength of God. "As thy days, so thy strength shall be."
III. THAT THE RIGHT BEARING OF THESE TRIALS SUBSERVES THE GOOD OF SOULS.
1. In the right bearing of these sufferings the sufferer reveals the life of Christ to others. "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." Rightly endured sufferings bring the sufferer so near to the sufferings of Christ that he is in a sense a sharer of those sufferings, and hence in them the life of Jesus is made manifest. Who that has witnessed the true Christian languishing on the bed of suffering and death has not seen the spirit of the life of Christ revealed?
2. In the right hearing of these sufferings the sufferer promotes in himself and others the Christian life. "For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you." "God," says Dean Alford, "exhibits death in the living, that he may also exhibit life in the dying."
2 Corinthians 4:13 - The speech of true faith.
"We having the same spirit of faith," etc. The world is full of speech. Human words load the atmosphere. All the speeches may be divided into three classes.
1. Speech without faith. Vapid and volatile talk.
2. Speech with wrong faith. Wrong faith is of two descriptions.
3. Speech with true faith. Take the true faith as faith in Christ. In him, not in propositions concerning him, propositions either including doctrines or facts. I offer three remarks concerning the speech of this faith.
I. IT IS INEVITABLE. The man who truly believes in Christ feels that "necessity is laid upon him," that he "cannot but speak the things seen and heard." Such is the influence of faith on man's social sympathies that his emotions become irrepressible.
II. IT IS RATIONAL. How much speech there is in connection even with the religion of Christ that clashes with the dictates of human reason, and is an insult to common sense! But he who really has faith in Christ can give reasons for his convictions in language clear as the day. It is the lack of true faith that makes our sermons hazy.
III. IT IS STRONG. True faith in Christ is the strongest of all convictions, and a strong conviction will always have a strong utterance. The words will be free and full.
2 Corinthians 4:14, 2 Corinthians 4:15 - Soul-inspiring facts.
"Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus," etc. There are four glorious facts here.
I. THAT CHRIST WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD. "Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus." "No fact in history," says Dr. Arnold, "is more firmly established by argument than this."
II. THAT THE GENUINE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST WILL ALSO BE RAISED. "Shall raise up us also by [with] Jesus, and shall present us with you." Raised as he was raised, and all be presented together.
III. THAT ALL THINGS ARE FOR GOOD TO THE GOOD. "All things are for your sakes." "We know that all things shall work together for good," etc. "All things are yours."
IV. THAT ALL THINGS IN LIFE SHOULD RESULT IN THE TRUE WORSHIP OF GOD. "That the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God." It is only in Worship that the soul can find the free and harmonious development of all its spiritual powers. Worship is heaven. It is not the means to an end; it is the sublimest end of being.
2 Corinthians 4:16 - Soul-growth.
"For which cause we faint not," etc. Observe at the outset:
1. Man has a duality of nature—the outward and the inward; the latter the man of the man.
2. The decayableness of one of the natures. "Our outward man perisheth." This is constantly going on.
3. The constant growth of the tuner nature. "The reward man is renewed day by day. "Soul growth implies three things.
I. SOUL LIFE. Dead plants and dead animals can no more grow than stones. The inner man uurenewed is morally dead; its life consists in supreme sympathy with the supremely good.
II. SOUL NOURISHMENT. No life can live upon itself. The appropriation of outward elements is essential to sustentation and growth. Moral and spiritual truths are the nutriment of souls.
III. SOUL EXERCISE. All life seems to require exercise. Even the productions of the vegetable world cannot grow without it; though they cannot move themselves, they are moved by the breezes of heaven. Animal life requires it, and the soul must have it in order to grow. It must "exercise itself unto godliness." "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength."
2 Corinthians 4:17, 2 Corinthians 4:18 - The afflictions of Christly men.
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 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." These words suggest a few thoughts concerning the afflictions of Christly men.
I. They are COMPARATIVELEY "light" and "momentary." They are "light:"
1. Compared with what they deserve.
2. Compared with what others have endured.
3. Compared, with the blessedness that is to follow. They are momentary, "but for a moment. Momentary compared
II. That, though light and momentary, they WORK OUT GLORIOUS RESULTS. They issue in what? "A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." What is the affliction to the glory?
1. The one is "light;" the other is weighty. Put all the afflictions of the whole Church against the everlasting glory of one Christly soul, and how light!
2. The one is momentary; the other is eternal. "Eternal weight of glory." But the result is not only an eternal weight of glory, but "far more exceeding." No expression could be stronger than this. The apostle here seems to struggle after the strongest language to express his idea of the transcendent blessedness that awaits the Christly man.
III. That they work out these glorious results BY THE REALIZATION OF SPIRITUAL AND ETERNAL REALITIES. "While we look not at the things which are seen… for the things which are seen are temporal." Observe:
1. That there are things invisible to the bodily eye that can be seen by the soul. There are two classes of invisible things:
2. That the things that can be seen only by the soul are not temporal, but eternal. We talk about the everlasting mountains, eternal sun, etc.; but there is nothing that is seen is lasting—all is passing away. Moral truths are imperishable; spiritual existences are immortal; God is eternal; these are things belonging to a kingdom that cannot be moved.
3. That the things that are seen only by the soul are the things that, if realized, will make this mortal life issue in transcendent good.
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
2 Corinthians 4:1-6 - Glory of the apostolic ministry; how its duties were discharged.
It is still "this ministry." The question, "Who is sufficient for these things?" has been answered in part by a statement of his "sincerity" and "plainness of speech," and he now proceeds to Speak of his courage and steady zeal. "We faint not," allowing no difficulties or dangers to dishearten us. But what was the nature or spirit of this resolute energy? Energetic men, brave men, who are bent on their purpose, are not always choice or chary of the means employed to gain their ends. "Hidden things of dishonesty," plots, schemes concocted in secret, were renounced, nor did he in any way adulterate the gospel. Not only did he preach the Word, but he delivered it as received from the Lord Jesus. The mirror was kept clean and bright, so as to reflect the image. Of course, he contrasted himself with his opponents, who used intrigues to acquire influence. If certain men handled the Word of God deceitfully, he was not one of that number, for his single aim was; "by manifestation of the truth," to commend himself "to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Divine truth, such as the gospel contained, was a manifestation, a showing of its real and intrinsic character, to the only faculty competent to receive it as a self-evidencing system; and that faculty was the conscience. Reason lies back of all our reasoning, and is greater and truer than our formal logic. Instinct antedates experience, and is the condition precedent to experience. And these instincts with their intuitions constitute their own evidence and form the basis of all knowledge. St. Paul argued that the spiritual doctrines of the gospel, if faithfully presented to the conscience, would be recognized and accepted by conscience as the truth of God. History is history; testimony is testimony; judgment is judgment; conscience is conscience; and he will not disparage any one of these to exalt another, but will keep each in its place according to the constitution of our nature. Yet the human mind, made in God's image, must be master of its impressions, sovereign over its motives, lord of itself when most obedient to God; and, accordingly, it must have a conscience to witness "magisterially," as Bishop Butler puts it, for the authority of God. It was not to worldly taste and selfish intellect St. Paul appealed in preaching the gospel, nor to low and mercenary feelings of any kind, but to the conscience as the supreme sense of right in man. And was this all? Nay; they commended themselves, their persons, their private and public lives, their experience and conduct, to the consciences of others. Witness what we are, what we do, how we live, as well as what we preach, was St. Paul's argument. No man enjoyed true appreciation and love more than he; but, most of all, he sought the testimony of their conscience that he was their servant for Christ's sake, and was in no respect crafty and dishonest in his relations to the brethren. Private character and public character are, alas! too often disjoined, and not seldom are opposites; but St. Paul thought that gifts and graces should go together. What he professed as an apostle be would practise as a man, and in each respect he would commend himself to conscience. On no account would he have the confidence and regard of the Church except so far as he impressed this purest and safest kind of human judgment. And he did this most solemnly, "in the sight of God." Observe, then, it was not to their consciousness but conscience, to which his ministry, character, and life appealed. Nor was this limited to the Church. It was exhibited before all, believers and unbelievers, a savour of life, a savour of death. The manifestation of the truth would commend itself to every man's conscience; and yet the general verdict of conscience would be accepted and acted on by some, while it would be opposed and disobeyed by many. But who were the rejecters? "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" (who are now perishing), not finally lost, but at present unsaved, their day of grace not over, salvation yet possible. The state spoken of is one of mental blindness, which includes the want of spiritual perceptions and the darkness of the understanding. Conscience is instructed, but the intellect overpowers conscience. Conscience is on the side of truth; intellect on the side of the senses. Conscience entreats, warns, condemns, in the name of God; intellect is sophistical and imperious in behalf of the carnal man. And the intellect is thus alienated from its rational subordination to a ruling conscience by a usurper who is Satan, "the god of this world." Men have allowed him to assert sovereignty over them, have made him "a god," and have yielded to his wicked agency what belongs to the one God. They hays robbed God to give him power over their bodies and souls. Without this clear and vivid recognition of the personality, the activity, the prodigious energy of Satan, the theology of St. Paul would have no consistency, no logical coherence, no adaptiveness to the convicting and renewing work with which he associates it. With him, human depravity is not an abstract thing, an isolated thing, but part and parcel of a vast system of evil, an immense empire of untruth, deception, fraud, cruelty, of which Satan is head and front. Is unbelief powerful? Satan is behind it. Are the lusts and appetites of the flesh tyrannic? Satan is the tyrant. Are men blinded to their interest and well being? By him, "god of this world," are they blinded. One who estimates human depravity solely by what it is in itself will have a very different view of its actual character in experience and outworking from one who looks at it as an instrumentality in such hands as Satan's. In the former case it is the man indulging in depravity for his own gratification—he personally and individually and directly is its motive, impulse, and end; in the latter there is a kingdom and a despotic ruler, whose objects are furthered by widening his dominion and enhancing his sway. St. Paul is explicit. Satan is the blinder, and he is the blinder as "the god of this world." And he blinds the minds of men, "lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the Image of God, should shine unto them." Turn to the close of the previous chapter and read of the "open face," of the reflected "glory of the Lord," of the assimilating power of the "image," of its transforming wonder in changing "from glory to glory." And now take this awful contrast—a fallen angel, a dethroned principality and power the "god" among his hierarchies, the "god" of a world where men are on probation for an immortality of good or evil, and thin "god" of darkness busy everywhere to hide the only light that reveals Christ as the Image of God. Here is this light in the history of Christ's life, death, resurrection, exaltation. It is glorious. It is preached as a "glorious gospel;" it is preached by men. who have "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty," and who themselves, by their candour, integrity, purity, commend themselves to every man's conscience under the eye of God, But Satan exerts all his sk