Translations: Chinese GB Big5

2Corinthians 4 (web)

We Do Not Lose Heart

4:1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we don't faint.

We Minister with a Clear Conscience

4:2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame,
not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully;
but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves
to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

We Shine the Light in the Darkness

4:3 Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in those who perish;
4:4 in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving,
that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them.
4:5 For we don't preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord,
and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake;
4:6 seeing it is God who said, "Light will shine out of darkness,"(Gen 1:3)
who has shone in our hearts,
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Our Dying Reveals Jesus' Life

4:7 But we have this treasure in clay vessels,
that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves.
4:8 We are pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not to despair;
4:9 pursued, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed;
4:10 always carrying in the body the putting to death of the Lord Jesus,
that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
4:11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake,
that the life also of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh.
4:12 So then death works in us, but life in you.

Our Words Reveal Our Convictions

4:13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written,
"I believed, and therefore I spoke." (Ps 116:10)
We also believe, and therefore also we speak;
4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will present us with you.
4:15 For all things are for your sakes, that the grace,
being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

Our Hope is Set Upon Eternal Glory

4:16 Therefore we don't faint, but though our outward man is decaying,
yet our inward man is renewed day by day.
4:17 For our light affliction, which is for the moment,
works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory;
4:18 while we don't look 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.

Discussion Questions

vs 1 How would you complete the phrase for yourself: "Since through God's mercy we have this ministry, therefore ..."?
vs 2 What are examples of distortions of the Word of God?
Contrast the manner in which the world advertises it products with the way in which Paul does.
vs 3-6 To what extent is it our fault if people do not understand or receive the gospel message?
vs 7-12 In what ways do you feel limited in your circumstances and resources hindering you from your ministry. And what sources of hostility might you face? Now question the same of Jesus and his ministry. How might you indentify with Jesus in these? In what way is the manner in which you do ministry also part of its message?
vs 13-15 What kind of speaking resulted from you believing, or what kind of speaking would you expect? What kind of speaking was Paul talking about? (Just to other Christians, or also to unbelievers in evangelism?)
vs 16-18 What unseen thing in the future are you looking forward to that encourages you to endure in the application of your faith?


Present the Truth Frankly

2Cor 4:1,2 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

No need to lose heart in the ministry seeing as Christ will build his church whether we're involved in it or not. It's a priviledge to be in the ministry the foundation of which cannot be shaken and the fruits of which will live on for all eternity. There is nothing more significant, nothing more essential, nothing more edifying than the work of the ministry of the gospel of Christ and building up his body to maturity. "We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2Cor 4:16

Politicians, salemen and the like often use marketing techniques, deception and such to gain influence over their audience in order to manipulate them. Paul didn't do that. He didn't put on  a false face like the religious hypocrites down through history, like those who crucified Christ. Such people often will distort the Word of God. There are a variety of ways people distort the Bible. Much of denominationalism is a result of such distortions. Some will over-inflate something it says, making their group distinct by over-inflating doctrines which were not meant to be over-inflate. Others will interpret verses out of context in order to distinguish their denomination from others. And very common today in this post-modernistic subjective oriented culture is the phenomenon of reading into scripture whatever one wants it to say rather than seeking for the author's intended meaning. In fact even of Paul's writings Peter says, "His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." 2Peter 3:16b Let the Bible speak for itself or face the consequences.

Remember back in chapter 1 Paul said, "Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace." 2Cor 1:12  In Hebrews 13:18 it says, "Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way." Walk in a good conscience. Interpret and apply the Bible with a good conscience. "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." 1Tim 1:5 

Gospel Veiled to the Perishing

2Cor 4:3,4 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The "god of this age" is of course Satan whom Jesus refers to the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30) Of course we were all at one time objects of wrath following the ruler of the kingdom of the air. "You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." Eph 2:1-3 Satan can also affect the minds of believers as Paul says to the Corinthians in this same letters, "I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." 2Cor 11:3

As for being blinded, he is not speaking of such people being innocent victims. For we read in Romans 1:21 that "although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." The obstinate refusal to glorify God as God leads to the corruption of the heart and of the mind. For "since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." Rom 1:28

As for Jesus, "The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." Heb 1:3

Preach Jesus as LORD

2Cor 4:5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Don't try to make a name for yourself. Make a name for Jesus. For many given the opportunity to preach end up preaching about themselves, though it may be under the guise of  "sharing their testimony." As for those in authority, "Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers— not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." 1Peter 5:2,3 Neither church leaders nor their constiuents should overinflate the role of leadership. Status is not a measure of greatness. For "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mt 20:25-28 We learned in 1Corinthians that the church was elevating leaders to celebrity status. In contrast Paul wrotes, "men ought to regard us as servants of Christ" 1Cor 4:1a "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe— as the Lord has assigned to each his task." 1Cor 3:5

Today we live in an entertainment - celebrity oriented culture. This should not be so in the church. Jesus Christ is Lord and everyone else his servant. "He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15

Be a Light Shining out of Darkness

2Cor 4:6,7 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," (Gen 1:3) made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

"The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Mt 4:16 (Is 9:2) Becoming a Christian one becomes enlightened in the knowledge of God in view of Jesus Christ who is the image of God. In particular concerning Paul's understanding of the gospel he writes, "at God's appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior" Titus 1:3

God chose the most unlikely of characters. Even Jesus was reckoned an unlikely candidate for the Messiah. He was despised among men. His apostles were ordinary unschooled, largely fishermen. But "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13   "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not— to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." 1Cor 1:26-29

Christ Revealed in Labors of Love

2Cor 4:8-12 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

In other words, don't take the problems and troubles in this life too seriously. Paul writes, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Rom 8:18 Concerning the seed that fell on rocky soil Jesus said is he "who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." Mt 13:20,21 Expect trouble with regards to living the Christian life. Paul said, "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2Tim 3:12

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rom 8:35-39

Furthermore we ourselves should be crucifying our sinful nature. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." Gal 5:24 "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." Gal 5:17 Therefore we are to scrutinize everything we do and every attitude of our heart, exercising self-control over our sinful nature in service to the LORD Jesus Christ.

I Speak because I Believe

2Cor 4:13,14  It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.

The quote is from the first part of Ps 116:10 but regardless where it's from, it's an obvious truism. If a person believes something, that will be reflected in what they say. "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Mt 12:34 In fact concerning faith in Christ it says, "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9 and goes on to say, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile— the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,  for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Rom 10:11-13 To trust in him, which is to believe in him, is reflect by calling upon him. But it is also reflected in what we say to other people. If you have come to believe, have you spoken? Have you told others of the faith so that they may be saved? Or do you really believer afterall? Or is this your experience: Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. Jer 20:8,9

Be Thankful for God's Grace

2Cor 4:15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

The labor and difficulties faced by those who minister is intended to benefit not simply themselves but for all those who are touched by their labor. And what is primarily desired in return is simply thanksgiving to God. The Lord says to the righteous, "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." Ps50:15 and in the same Psalm "He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God." Ps 50:23 God wants us to experience his grace and in return to thank God, acknowledging Him. Later Paul talks about this effect with regards to the practice of generosity, when he says, "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God‘s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God." 2Cor 9:11,12 Now "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God‘s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1Th 5:18 

It's Worth the Trouble

2Cor 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

That is, they were not losing heart because despite the difficulties, they were seeing fruitful results of their labor and anticipating more. And again as Paul said, "if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Rom 8:17,18 Suffering comes with the territory as does glory. Funny that the 5 other places the Gk. word for "weight" or "outweighs" (NIV) is used are all negative connotations of burden. Having an eternal burden of glory is a burden I don't think any of us would mind bearing. The angel told Daniel, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." Dan 12:3

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Aug 01,2010