2 Corinthians 4:1-6


The Epistle suggested for this day is 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. We have added verses 1 and 2.  It is suggested that chapters 3 and 4 be read in their entirety before this text is studied.  Twice in chapter four (verses 1 and 16) this sentence occurs:  "Therefore, we do not lost heart."

The Gospel for this day is found at Luke 9:28-36, the Transfiguration of Jesus.  That incident proved that Jesus is true God.  And on that occasion Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah concerning His coming suffering, death and resurrection.  Jesus has ascended into heaven but He has not left us without the Word and the Spirit.  He has not left us without the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ.  He is true God.  Therefore we do not lose heart.  And though we must suffer, though our outer man dies daily, we do not lose heart.  We have everlasting life to which we look forward.  Our afflictions appear light when we think of the wonderful glory of the life to come.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.

In this verse, Paul is speaking of himself and his fellow pastors.  Paul knows why he and his associates are in the ministry of the Gospel.  It is because of the mercy of the Lord.  And that is what keeps them going.

The verb  "to grow weary"  occurs six times in the New Testament, five of which are found in the Pauline Epistles.  Two are found in this chapter, verses 1 and 16.  The sole example outside the Pauline corpus is found at Luke 18:8.  Jesus spoke a parable concerning the constant necessity of prayer and that the Christians should not grow weary of prayer.  Why did the widow attain her objective?  Because she did not grow weary.  Why did she not grow weary?  Because she had deep convictions.  How can Paul say that they do not grow weary?  Because they have deep convictions.  They have deep convictions concerning their own calling.  It is of the mercy of the Lord.  They have deep convictions about their message.  Jesus Himself has shone into the hearts of their hearers.  They have deep convictions about their future.  They look forward to the glories of everlasting life, verses 17-18.

Bengel: God's mercy by which the ministry is received, makes men active and sincere.
Lenski: We were only poor creatures, Paul says, until God's mercy reached us.  He refers to their conversion.  Their whole sufficiency is from God.

2 Corinthians 4:2 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.

Paul is contrasting himself with others whose behavior has been inconsistent with their claims to be ministers of Christ.  Paul is implying that people who use underhanded methods soon grow weary.  They have no convictions.  We are not saying that occasional weariness indicates use of underhanded methods.  Paul is not speaking of a certain occasion.  Note that he says  "we." He includes his associates.

Plummer: Paul means that these practices are quite alien to the work of an Apostle.
Lenski: 'The hidden things of shame' are such as bring shame and disgrace when drawn out of hiding into public light.
Rienecker: 'Deception' is the readiness to do anything, in an unfavorable sense, it has the meaning of 'cunning, craftiness, trickery.'  The man who practices this is ready to anything, up to every trick.
Tasker: Not for him the subtleties of the unscrupulous politician or the subterfuges of the ingratiating salesman!
Plummer: He is not thinking of heathen vices but of the underhand methods of the false teachers.
Lenski: Craftiness has often been employed by the clergy; they have played politics in their conventions; they have gained -- or lost their ends, but always and always to their own great hurt and to that of the Church.
From what follows it appears that Paul is speaking about covering up the truth.  The Gospel can so easily be adulterated or diluted.  If one disturbs the doctrine of Christ's person or His work, the vicarious atonement, or the universality of the message, the Gospel is dilute.  Here  "truth" is the Gospel.  it is the only lasting, genuine Truth.

Then Paul says:  "Commending ourselves to every conscience of people before God,"  which is the Greek way of saying  "to the conscience of every person."

Hughes: It is to God that every minister of the Gospel is ultimately and eternally answerable.
Tasker: It is the plain unadulterated Gospel of the grace of God revealed supremely in the death and resurrection of Christ that alone strikes home to his conscience.  'Repent and believe the Gospel' must ever be the burden of one who is preaching 'in the sight of God.'
Lenski: Paul and his assistant dealt with every man as in the sight and presence of God.  Truth needs no aids. If truth itself cannot win a conscience, what can you add to truth to make it win?

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

Paul is admitting that the Gospel is veiled to some people.

Hughes: The fault, however, is not the Gospel, but in those who have failed to discern its glory.  The unveiled Gospel openly proclaimed, has been veiled to them because it is veiled in them; the veil is over their hearts and minds (3:14ff) not over the Gospel.
Tasker: But Paul well knew that many who hear the Gospel remain unbelievers.
Plummer: In spite of the preaching the good tidings were not recognized as such by all, they desire, not truth, but the confirmation of their own views.
Lenski: Paul and his assistants do not faint in discouragement, do not resort to questionable means despite the fact that many are not won by the publication of the truth.  The figure is taken from Moses in 3:7 as utilized for the unbelieving Jews in 3:14.  Only now it is carried still farther -- the very thing we expect in Paul: from veiling the heart (3:15) we come to seeing the Gospel itself veiled.

2 Corinthians 4:4 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 Satan.  We think of John 12:31 where he is called  "the prince of this world,"  or of Ephesians 2:2 where he is called  "the prince of the power of the air."

Hughes: Satan holds a certain sway over the world during this present age. But it is a sway that is usurped, temporary, and in no sense absolute.  Satan wishes, albeit vainly, to set himself up as God, and sinner, in rebelling against the true God, subject themselves to him who is the author of their rebellion.  The unregenerate serve Satan as though he were their God.
Trench: Paul refers to all that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations at any time current in the world.
Lenski: Calov calls Satan the 'ape of God from his aping God.  'The god of this world' is apt in this connection, not because the unbelievers worship him, but because he is the embodiment of all wickedness and ungodliness in this world, the author and propagator of hostility to God.
Of him it is said that  "he blinded the minds of the unbelievers."  The best commentary on this is the parable of the sower, Luke 8:12, where we are told that when people hear the Gospel the devil comes and takes the Word out of their hearts so that they cannot believe and be saved.  Paul is speaking of Satan's activity when the Gospel is preached.  It is at that point that he blinds the unbelievers.

The light is the Gospel.

Tasker: The Gospel reveals the glory of Christ; it enables men to see His essential splendor.

By the way, this text was likely chosen for this Sunday because of this expression  "the glory of Christ."  Plummer translates:  "The Gospel which contains and proclaims the glory of the Messiah."

Lenski: 'The illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ.'  Satan cannot hurt the Gospel itself or rob it either of its glory-substance or of its illuminating activity.  All he can do is to blind men by unbelief, so that this illuminating activity does not get to dawn in men's minds and hearts.

Now we come to the final clause of this verse.

Rienecker: 'Image,' the resemblance of something to a prototype from which it is derived and in whose essence it share. Christ shares in God's real being and is a perfect manifestation of that being.

Just as the disciples saw God on the mount, so we see God in the Gospel. Jesus said:  "He that hath seen me hath see the Father."  John 14:9.

Hughes: In Him the invisible God becomes visible: 'No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him, John 1:18.
Bengel: The Son exactly represents and reflects the Father.
Lenski: Here it refers to the exalted Christ: the God-man on the throne of glory is the essential image of the Father.

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

Verses 5 and 6 present to us the source of the glory.

Lenski: If we preached ourselves, we might well faint and give up in discouragement, verse 1.  But 'we are not engaged in preaching ourselves' at all, in seeking any worldly advantage from our whole work of preaching.

Ministers only proclaim a message not their own.

Lenski: The one who redeemed, purchased and won our salvation. Far more is meant than majesty and rulership.  Christ Jesus as Lord is not only the center, but the entire sphere; not only the central doctrine, but the sum of all doctrine.

Paul is referring to himself and his associates, and only here in Paul's epistles does he say they are  "your slaves" . He immediately explains why he says that;  "for Jesus' sake."  They consider themselves the slaves of the listeners because of Jesus.  Note that here Paul calls him  "Jesus"  not  "Jesus Christ."  It is the humble name by which He was known on earth. Paul is referring to the servanthood of Jesus.

Hughes: The servant of Jesus is also the servant of his fellowmen, but always for the sake of Him who is his sole Master.
Tasker: The business of a preacher is to draw attention not to himself, but to Christ.
Lenski: You hearers receive the whole benefit of our slaving, our preaching.  This is the sense, because at once the master of these preacher-slaves is name in the significant phrase: 'on account of Jesus.'

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said,  "Let light shine out of darkness,"  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.

Lenski: Paul states the subjective, personal reason why he and his helpers preach Christ Jesus as Lord, and themselves as slaves for the Corinthians because of Jesus.
The devil blinds the minds of unbelievers. But Paul and his hearers had experienced the light of the Gospel.  Paul quotes Genesis 1:3. In Genesis 1:3 we have the creation of physical light.  This is followed by a relative clause whose subject is God himself.  God Himself shone in our hearts.  God is the author and Creator of physical light.  But He Himself is spiritual light and enlightens dark minds.

God did not allow darkness to rule in the beginning.  When sin entered into the world He did not allow Satan and his darkness to rule men.  God's Son brought us the knowledge of the glory of God which enlightens us.  It is all  "in the face of Jesus Christ."  Christ is the Mediator and He alone brought it to pass.

Hughes: It is knowledge which is advancing from glory to glory until at last, in the heavenly perfection, he will know even as he is now know by God and his glory will be that of complete assimilation to the image of Christ Himself, 3:18; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2.
Plummer: Christ is the image of God, and in His face is revealed so much of the Divine glory as can be communicated to men, and it is this which the Apostles know and have to make known.
Lenski: The glory of God was only reflected in the face of Moses, the mediator of the Law; the glory of God is embodied in Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the Gospel.  The former glory was that of the divine law and its judgement on sin and sinners, and the face of Moses could only reflect it, since he had been with God only for a few days.  The other glory is that of the divine Gospel and grace for sinners, and the face of Jesus Christ radiates this glory because he is its very embodiment, he who came from God, the very Son of God, and returned to God as our Savior-Lord forever.

The word  "glory"  occurs with higher frequency in 2 Corinthians 3:7-4:17 than anywhere else in the New Testament, fourteen times. Paul compares the glory of the Mosaic covenant with the glory of the New Covenant, the Gospel.  The word is used twice in our text and in both instances the Gospel is meant.  In verse 4 we read  "the gospel of the glory of Christ"  and in verse 6  "the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."  And in verse 17 Paul speaks about the glory of everlasting life.  No wonder Paul can say twice (4:1 and 16):  "Therefore, we do not lost heart."  This is a wonderful text for the tired preacher.  Let it revive him and, through him, the congregation.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 60-63. Used with permission.

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