2 Corinthians 4:13-18


Note: Similar to last Sunday's text, this is another good text for the tired preacher. We noted under 2 Corinthians 4:5-12 that the sentence "we do not grow weary" occurs twice in this chapter, verses 1 and 16. The Epistle for Transfiguration Sunday in Series B is 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2. At that point we used the theme: "We Do Not Grow Weary Because Our Ministry Bestows Glory." Note how similar today's theme and material are.

2 Corinthians 4:13 It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,

Here Paul is referring to the pastor's possession of good things. Also in 3:4 and 12; 4:1,7,13; 5:1; 6:10 and 7:1.

This verse is in contrast to verse 12.

Plummer: But the fact that we have the death while you have the life is no reason why we should be silent.

If "spirit" means "Holy Spirit" then "The Spirit who gives faith." If "spirit" does not mean that, then it is similar to Galatians 6:1 where it means "attitude." In that case we could translate "the same attitude of faith." Ancient commentators preferred the former, modern commentators and versions prefer the latter. RSV: "The same spirit of faith as he had who wrote."

The quotation is from LXX of Psalm 116:10.

"We" denotes Paul and his helpers. Note that the verbs in the Greek in the first person plural are in the present tense. We believe and speak constantly.

Kretzmann: The apostle quotes Psalm 116:10 where the Easter joy of the Old Testament believers is expressed, declaring that the same spirit of joyful and confident faith lived in him also. . . Just as the Psalmist was surrounded by enemies, so Paul was in the midst of dangers.
Tasker: All true servants of God . . . are compelled by their faith . . . to give spontaneous expression to their belief.
Lenski: Read the entire Psalm, and see how it breathes the same spirit that is voiced here by Paul.

He cites Acts 4:20 and 5:32 as examples of this "speaking" faith.

Hughes: Paul, as Chrysostom says 'has reminded us of a psalm which abounds in heavenly wisdom and which is especially fitted to encourage in dangers; for that just man uttered this saying when he was in great dangers, from which there was no possibility of recovery except by the aid of God.

2 Corinthians 4:14 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.

"Because we know" denotes intuitive knowledge, it had become a part of them.

Jesus' resurrection is the cause. Our resurrection is the effect of that cause. In verse 13 faith was prominent. That becomes hope in verse 14, the sure hope of the resurrection which causes the love of Paul to say that God will present both pastor and flock together before God's throne.

Tasker: All who are 'in Christ' remain 'in Christ,' whether they be alive or dead . . . Because He lives, they will live also. The communion of saints cannot be destroyed by death.
Hughes: It is with the beloved Son alone, and with no one else, that the Father is well pleased, Matthew 3:17; 17:5. It is, therefore, only as we are one with Christ and in Christ that we can be pleasing and acceptable to God . . . This picture of a bride being presented to the bridegroom is found again in Ephesians 5:27 where Christ is spoken of as presenting the Church to Himself as His bride.
The Christian's greatest hope, a firm and sure thing, is his resurrection from the dead. It is as sure as is the resurrection of Jesus. My future depends on His past.

2 Corinthians 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.

"All the things just mentioned," in verses 7 through 14. Paul and his helpers endured all that they did for the sake of those to whom they preached.

We reject the translation of the KJV. The NKJV is an improvement: "that grace, having spread through the many may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God." RSV is clearer: "so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God."

Lenski: Grace cannot be multiplied in itself; it is multiplied by being put into more and more hearts by faith.

Saving grace grows by its use. Likewise our love for our neighbor grows by its use. That is remarkable.

Tasker: The more people come to know the grace of God through the gospel Paul preaches, the more numerous will be the thanksgiving that will be evoked, and the greater the praise that will be offered to God.

Paul's thinking always has eternal dimensions. That's the way it must be with us.

The final phrase "to the glory of God" tells us why everything from 4:1 to this point is possible, especially verses 7-12. We are constantly reminded in the writings of Paul that entrance into the Kingdom of God requires much suffering, especially on the part of pastors.

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

"For this reason" may refer to verse 14. "We faint not" denotes "we do not weary of speaking, acting and suffering."

Lenski: Once more Paul writes 'we faint not', see verse 1, but now in view of the resurrection and the glory it will bring.

Compare Galatians 6:9. We think also of Jesus' parable in Luke 18:1-8.

The remainder of verse 16 is quite paradoxical. Paul contrasts the outer man with the inner man in the Christian. The former is constantly decaying. The latter is constantly being renewed. Both processes go on daily.

Lenski: Paul's designations are quite plain; simple Christian readers have always understood them." That is true. But all the commentators, including Lenski, have a hard time defining "outer man" and "inner man." And yet the simple Christian reader can understand what commentators have difficulty explaining. That, too, is a paradox.

We make several observations:

Hughes: Outward decay is accompanied, day after day, by the experience of an inward renewal.

The outer man denotes the transient, earthly, fragile life. The inner man denotes the eternal, heavenly, secure life.

Lenski: This inner renewal is not hindered but is only helped by the tribulation that assails the outer man.

That is correct.

Tasker: The decay of the outward man in the godless is a melancholy spectacle, for it is the decay of everything; in the Christian it does not touch the life which is hid with Christ in God, and which is in the soul itself a well of water springing up to eternal life.

Very likely NIV and AAT have the best English translation of this thought. NIV: "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." AAT: "Even if we outwardly perish, inwardly we're renewed from day to day."

And if that does not satisfy, let verses 17 and 18, which follow, explain. They begin with an explanatory "for, because."

2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Plummer: The 'for' introduces the explanation of the apparent paradox that a process of destruction and a process of renewal is going on in the same persons, not alternately, but simultaneously, day by day: thus "for" becomes the equivalent to 'I mean that.'

Bengel calls this verse a "noble oxymoron," which means a combination of phrases or words of contrary meaning.

Note the opposites: momentary-eternal; lightness-weight; affliction-glory. Paul is not saying that affliction is not grievous. But he is saying that it is light in comparison with the glories of everlasting life.

Hughes: Paul is concerned here with suffering for Jesus' sake, verse 11 and compare Acts 9:16, which means suffering in which there cannot possibly be any self-interest. It is precisely as the 'I' decreases that Christ increases, John 3:30. This is the sense in which the Apostles learned that 'through many tribulations we must enter into the Kingdom of God,' Acts 14:22. The burning flames of affliction are also flames resplendent with glory.

In the Decrees of the Council of Trent Rome interpreted this verb as "earns." It does not mean that. It means "produces." Sufferings earn us nothing. The great crisis is already behind us. Christ suffered that. But a disciple is not above his Master.

The last part of this verse in Greek defies literal translation. AAT: "The light trouble of this moment is preparing for us an everlasting weight of glory, greater than anything we can imagine." RSV: "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

The word doxa (glory) occurs with higher frequency in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 than anywhere else in the New Testament. In this verse we have the final occurrence of this word. The thought is similar to that in Romans 8:18. And our thoughts turn to the promises in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:10-12.

2 Corinthians 4:18 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.

"So" is also translated "while," or better yet "because." "As we do not fix our eyes on the visible but on the things invisible." Note Hebrews 11:1, 3. The things which we can see are temporary, transient and often filled with grief. There is no lasting satisfaction in thing which can be seen.

Hughes: The things seen of which Paul is speaking are precisely his obvious frailty and suffering (the outward man that is decaying) . . . In the world's estimation the Apostle's life was an unenviable failure . . . It is only the outward man that the world sees.
Lenski: 'The things seen' are the ordinary, earthly ones, among them those of the outer man, verse 16 . . . 'The things not seen' are the spiritual and heavenly, among them those of the inner man.
Kretzmann: Exceedingly, abundantly, from one excess to another, will God give us the glory which He has prepared since the foundation of the world for them that love Him.
Plummer:There is much force in the apparent contradiction 'fixing our gaze on the things we cannot see.'

The final sentence urges us to set our hearts on things eternal, not those which are temporary.

Note: There is much in this text which we cannot fully comprehend. The text is full of contrasts and paradoxes. We shall not fully appreciate until we experience fully that of which Paul was allowed to get a glimpse. All that our Lord requires now is that we be faithful unto death.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes Epistle Texts, Series B, Sundays after Pentecost,
Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1987, pp. 14-16

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