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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 17
Verse 17. For our light affliction. This verse, with the following, is designed to show further the sources of consolation and support which Paul and his fellow-labourers had in their many trials. Bloomfield remarks on this passage, that, "in energy and beauty of expression, it is little inferior to any in Demosthenes himself, to whom, indeed, and to Thucydides in his orations, the style of the apostle, when it rises to the oratorical, bears no slight resemblance." The passage abounds with intensive and emphatic expressions, and manifests that the mind of the writer was labouring to convey ideas which language, even after all the energy of expression which he could command, would very imperfectly communicate. The trials which Paul endured, to many persons would have seemed to be anything else but light. They consisted of want, and danger, and contempt, and stoning, and toil, and weariness, and the scorn of the world, and constant exposure to death by land or by sea. See 2 Co 4:7-10; comp. 2 Co 11:23-27. Yet these trials, though continued through many years, and constituting, as it were, his very life, he speaks of as the lightest conceivable thing when compared with that eternal glory which awaited him. He strives to get an expression as emphatic as possible to show that, in his estimation, they were not worthy to be named in comparison with the eternal weight of glory. It is not sufficient to say that the affliction was "light," or was a mere trifle; but he says that it was to endure but for a moment. Though trials had followed him ever since he began to make known the Redeemer, and though he had the firmest expectation that they would follow him to the end of life and everywhere, (Ac 20:23,) yet all this was a momentary trifle compared with the eternal glory before him. The word rendered "light," (elafron) means that which is easy to bear, and is usually applied to a burden. See Mt 11:30; 2 Co 1:17.
Which is but for a moment. The Greek word here used (parautika) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is an adverb, from autika, autov, and means, properly, at this very instant, immediately. Here it seems to qualify the word "light," and to be used in the sense of momentary, transient. Bloomfield renders it, "for the at present lightness of our affliction." Doddridge, "for this momentary lightness of our affliction, which passes off so fast, and leaves so little impression, that it may be called levity itself". The apostle evidently wished to express two ideas in as emphatic a manner as possible; first, that the affliction was light, and, secondly, that it was transient, momentary, and soon passing away. His object is to contrast this with the glory that awaited him, as being heavy, and as being also eternal.
Will produce, will result in. The effect of these afflictions is to produce eternal glory. This they do
(1.) by their tendency to wean us from the. world;
(2.) to purify the heart, by enabling us to break off from the sins on account of which God afflicts us;
(3.) by disposing us to look to God for consolation and support in our trials;
(4.) by inducing us to contemplate the glories of the heavenly world, and thus winning us to seek heaven as our home; and
(5.) because God has graciously promised to reward his people in heaven as the result of their bearing trials in this life. It is by affliction that he purifies them, (Isa 48:10;) and by trial that he takes their affections from the objects of time and sense, and gives them a relish for the enjoyments which result from the prospect of perfect and eternal glory.
A far more exceeding. kay uperbolhn eiv uperbolhn. There is not to be found anywhere a more energetic expression than this. The word uperbolhn here used, (whence our word hyperbole,) means, properly, a throwing, casting, or throwing beyond. In the New Testament it means excess, excellence, eminence. See 2 Co 4:7, "The excellency of the power." The phrase kay uperbolhn means exceedingly, super-eminently, Ro 7:13; 1 Co 12:31; 2 Co 1:8; Ga 1:13.
This expression would have been by itself intensive in a high degree. But this was not sufficient to express Paul's sense of the glory which was laid up for Christians. It was not enough for him to use the ordinary highest expression for the superlative to denote the value of the object in his eye. He therefore coins an expression, and adds eiv uperbolhn. It is not merely eminent, but it is eminent unto eminence; excess unto excess; a hyperbole unto hyperbole—one hyperbole heaped on another; and the expression means that it is "exceeding exceedingly" glorious; glorious in the highest possible degree— Robinson. Mr. Slade renders it, "infinitely exceeding." The expression is the Hebrew form of denoting the highest superlative; and it means that all hyperboles fail of expressing that eternal glory which remains for the just. It is infinite and boundless. You may pass from one degree to another; from one sublime height to another; but still an infinity remains beyond. Nothing can describe the uppermost height of that glory; nothing can express its infinitude.
Eternal. This stands in contrast with the affliction that is for a moment, (parautika.) The one is momentary, transient—so short, even in the longest life, that it may be said to be an instant; the other has no limits to its duration. It is literally everlasting.
Weight. barov. This stands opposed to the (elafron) light affliction. That was so light that it was a trifle. It was easily borne. It was like the most light and airy objects, which constitute no burden. It is not even here called a burden, or said to be heavy in any degree. This is so heavy as to be a burden. Grotius thinks that the image is taken from gold or silver articles, that are solid and heavy, compared with those that are mixed or plated. But why may it not refer to the insignia of glory and honour—a robe heavy with gold, or a diadem or crown heavy with gold or diamonds— glory so rich, so profuse as to be heavy? The affliction was light; but the crown, the robe, the adornings in the glorious world were not trifles, or baubles, but solid, substantial, weighty. We apply the word weighty now to that which is valuable and important, compared with that which is of no value, probably because the precious metals and jewels are heavy; and it is by them that we usually estimate the value of objects.
Of glory. doxhv. The Hebrew word
denotes weight as well as glory. And perhaps Paul had that use of the word in his eye in this strong expression. It refers here to the splendour, magnificence, honour, and happiness of the eternal world. In this exceedingly interesting passage, which is worthy of the deepest study of Christians. Paul has set in most beautiful and emphatic contrast the trials of this life and the glories of heaven. It may be profitable to contemplate at a single glance the view which he had of them, that they may be brought distinctly before, the mind.
THE ONE IS,
3. For a moment,
THE OTHER IS, by contrast,
4. Eminent, or excellent,
5. Infinitely excellent, eminent in the highest degree,
So the account stands in the view of Paul; and with this balance in favour of the eternal glory, he regarded afflictions as mere trifles, and made it the grand purpose of his life to gain the glory of the heavens. What wise man, looking at the account, would not do likewise?
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