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4. Treasures in Jars of Clay
1Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we faint not: 2but 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. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: 4in whom the god of this world hath 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 upon them. 5For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; 8we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; 9pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; 10always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 13But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed, and therefore did I speak; we also believe, and therefore also we speak; 14knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God. 16Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. 17For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; 18while 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.
17. Momentary lightness. As our flesh always shrinks back from its own destruction, whatever reward may be presented to our view, and as we are influenced much more by present feeling than by the hope of heavenly blessings, Paul on that account admonishes us, that the afflictions and vexations of the pious have little or nothing of bitterness, if compared with the boundless blessings of everlasting glory. He had said, that the decay of the outward man ought to occasion us no grief, inasmuch as the renovation of the inward man springs out of it. As, however, the decay is visible, and the renovation is invisible, Paul, with the view of shaking us off from a carnal attachment to the present life, draws a comparison between present miseries and future felicity. Now this comparison is of itself abundantly sufficient for imbuing the minds of the pious with patience and moderation, that they may not give way, borne down by the burden of the cross. For whence comes it, that patience is so difficult a matter but from this, — that we are confounded on having experience of evils for a brief period, 495495 “En ce sentiment des maux qui passent tontesfois auec le temps;” — “In this feeling of evils, which nevertheless pass away with the occasion.” and do not raise our thoughts higher? Paul, therefore, prescribes the best antidote against your sinking down under the pressure of afflictions, when he places in opposition to them that future blessedness which is laid up for thee in heaven. (Colossians 1:5.) For this comparison makes that light which previously seemed heavy, and makes that brief and momentary which seemed of boundless duration.
There is some degree of obscurity in Paul’s words, for as he says, With hyperbole unto hyperbole, 496496 “A outrance par outrance;” — “From extreme to extreme.” “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. The expression is the Hebrew form of denoting the highest superlative, and it means, that all hyperboles fail of expressing that external 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.” — Barnes. Chrysostom explains the words καθ ᾿ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολὴν to be equivalent to μέγεθος ὑπερβολικῶς ὑπερβολικόν — a greatness exceedingly exceeding. “The repetition having an intensitive force, (like the Hebrew מאד מאד) it may be rendered infinitely exceeding.” — Bloomfield. — Ed. so the Old Interpreter, and Erasmus 497497 The words of the Vulgate are, “Supra modum in sublimitate;” — “Above measure in elevation.” The rendering of Erasmus is, “Mire supra modum;” — “Wonderfully above measure.” — Ed. have thought that in both terms the magnitude of the heavenly glory, that awaits believers is extolled; or, at least, they have connected them with the verb worketh out. To this I have no objection, but as the distinction that I have made is also not unsuitable, I leave it to my readers to make their choice.
Worketh out an eternal weight Paul does not mean, that this is the invariable effect of afflictions; for the great majority are most miserably weighed down here with evils of every kind, and yet that very circumstance is an occasion of their heavier destruction, rather than a help to their salvation. As, however, he is speaking of believers, we must restrict exclusively to them what is here stated; for this is a blessing from God that is peculiar to them — that they are prepared for a blessed resurrection by the common miseries of mankind.
As to the circumstance, however, that Papists abuse this passage, to prove that afflictions are the causes of our salvation, it is exceedingly silly; 498498 “C’est vn argument trop debile;” — “It is an exceedingly weak argument.” unless, perhaps, you choose to take causes in the sense of means, (as they commonly speak.) We, at least, cheerfully acknowledge, that
we must through many tribulations
“Per multas tribulationes;” — “Par beaucoup de tribulations;” — “By many tribulations.” This is the literal rendering of the original words made use of, διὰ πολλῶν θλίψεων. Wiclif (1380) renders as follows, “bi many tribulaciouns.” Rheims (1582) “by many tribulations.” — Ed.
enter into the kingdom of heaven, (Acts 14:22,)
and as to this there is no controversy. While, however, our doctrine is, that the momentary lightness of afflictions worketh out in us an eternal weight 500500 “St. Paul in this expression — βάρος δόξης— weight of glory, elegantly joins together the two senses of the Hebrews כבוד which denotes both weight and glory, i.e., shining or being irradiated with light.” — Parkhurst. — Ed. of life, for this reason, that all the sons of God are
predestinated to be conformed to Christ, (Romans 8:29,)
in the endurance of the cross, and in this manner are prepared for the enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance, which they have through means of God’s gracious adoption; Papists, on the other hand, imagine that they are meritorious works, 501501 “Que les afflictions sont oeuures meritoires;” — “That afflictions are meritorious works.” by which the heavenly kingdom is acquired.
I shall repeat it again in a few words. We do not deny that afflictions are the path by which the heavenly kingdom is arrived at, but we deny that by afflictions we merit the inheritance, 502502 “L’heritage eternel;” — “The everlasting inheritance.” which comes to us in no other way than through means of God’s gracious adoption. Papists, without consideration, seize hold of one little word, with the view of building upon it a tower of Babel, (Genesis 11:9,) — that the kingdom of God is not an inheritance procured for us by Christ, but a reward that is due to our works. For a fuller solution, however, of this question, consult my Institutes. 503503 See Institutes, volume 2. — Ed.