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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.
2Co 4:1-18. His Preaching Is Open and Sincere, though to Many the Gospel Is Hidden.
For he preaches Christ, not himself: the human vessel is frail that God may have the glory; yet, though frail, faith and the hope of future glory sustain him amidst the decay of the outward man.
2. renounced—literally, "bid farewell to."
of dishonesty—rather, "of shame." "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" (Ro 1:16). Shame would lead to hiding (2Co 4:3); whereas "we use great plainness of speech" (2Co 3:12); "by manifestation of the truth." Compare 2Co 3:3, "manifestly declared." He refers to the disingenuous artifices of "many" teachers at Corinth (2Co 2:17; 3:1; 11:13-15).
commending—recommending ourselves: recurring to 2Co 3:1.
to—to the verdict of.
3. But if—Yea, even if (as I grant is the case).
hid—rather (in reference to 2Co 3:13-18), "veiled." "Hid" (Greek, Col 3:3) is said of that withdrawn from view altogether. "Veiled," of a thing within reach of the eye, but covered over so as not to be seen. So it was in the case of Moses' face.
to them—in the case only of them: for in itself the Gospel is quite plain.
4. In whom—Translate, "In whose case."
minds—"understandings": "mental perceptions," as in 2Co 3:14.
them which believe not—the same as "them that are lost" (or "are perishing"). Compare 2Th 2:10-12. South quaintly says, "when the malefactor's eyes are covered, he is not far from his execution" (Es 7:8). Those perishing unbelievers are not merely veiled, but blinded (2Co 3:14, 15): Greek, not "blinded," but "hardened."
light of the glorious gospel of Christ—Translate, "The illumination (enlightening: the propagation from those already enlightened, to others of the light) of the Gospel of the glory of Christ." "The glory of Christ" is not a mere quality (as "glorious" would express) of the Gospel; it is its very essence and subject matter.
image of God—implying identity of nature and essence (Joh 1:18; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3). He who desires to see "the glory of God," may see it "in the face of Jesus Christ" (2Co 4:6; 1Ti 6:14-16). Paul here recurs to 2Co 3:18. Christ is "the image of God," into which "same image" we, looking on it in the mirror of the Gospel, are changed by the Spirit; but this image is not visible to those blinded by Satan [Alford].
5. For—Their blindness is not our fault, as if we had self-seeking aims in our preaching.
preach … Christ … the Lord—rather, "Christ as Lord," and ourselves as your servants, &c. "Lord," or "Master," is the correlative term to "servants."
6. For—proof that we are true servants of Jesus unto you.
commanded the light—Greek, "By speaking the word, commanded light" (Ge 1:3).
hath shined—rather, as Greek, "is He who shined." (It is God) who commanded light, &c., that shined, &c., (Job 37:15): Himself our Light and Sun, as well as the Creator of light (Mal 4:2; Joh 8:12). The physical world answers to the spiritual.
in our hearts—in themselves dark.
to give the light—that is, to propagate to others the light, &c., which is in us (compare Note, see on 2Co 4:4).
the glory of God—answering to "the glory of Christ" (see on 2Co 4:4).
in the face of Jesus Christ—Some of the oldest manuscripts retain "Jesus." Others omit it. Christ is the manifestation of the glory of God, as His image (Joh 14:9). The allusion is still to the brightness on Moses' "face." The only true and full manifestation of God's brightness and glory is "in the face of Jesus" (Heb 1:3).
7. "Lest any should say, How then is it that we continue to enjoy such unspeakable glory in a mortal body? Paul replies, this very fact is one of the most marvellous proofs of God's power, that an earthen vessel could bear such splendor and keep such a treasure" [Chrysostom, Homilies, 8.496, A]. The treasure or "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." The fragile "earthen vessel" is the body, the "outward man" (2Co 4:16; compare 2Co 4:10), liable to afflictions and death. So the light in Gideon's pitchers, the type (Jud 7:16-20, 22). The ancients often kept their treasures in jars or vessels of earthenware. "There are earthen vessels which yet may be clean; whereas a golden vessel may be filthy" [Bengel].
that the excellency of the power, &c.—that the power of the ministry (the Holy Spirit), in respect to its surpassing "excellency," exhibited in winning souls (1Co 2:4) and in sustaining us ministers, might be ascribed solely to God, we being weak as earthen vessels. God often allows the vessel to be chipped and broken, that the excellency of the treasure contained, and of the power which that treasure has, may be all His (2Co 4:10, 11; Joh 3:30).
may be of God … not of us—rather, as Greek, "may be God's (may be seen and be thankfully [2Co 4:15] acknowledged to belong to God), and not (to come) from us." The power not merely comes from God, but belongs to Him continually, and is to be ascribed to him.
8. Greek, "BEING hard pressed, yet not inextricably straitened; reduced to inextricable straits" (nominative to "we have," 2Co 4:7).
on every side—Greek, "in every respect" (compare 2Co 4:10, "always"; 2Co 7:5). This verse expresses inward distresses; 2Co 4:9, outward distresses (2Co 7:5). "Without were fightings; within were fears." The first clause in each member of the series of contrasted participles, implies the earthiness of the vessels; the second clause, the excellency of the power.
perplexed, but not in despair—Greek, "not utterly perplexed." As perplexity refers to the future, so "troubled" or "hard pressed" refers to the present.
9. not forsaken—by God and man. Jesus was forsaken by both; so much do His sufferings exceed those of His people (Mt 27:46).
cast down—or "struck down"; not only "persecuted," that is, chased as a deer or bird (1Sa 26:20), but actually struck down as with a dart in the chase (Heb 11:35-38). The Greek "always" in this verse means, "throughout the whole time"; in 2Co 4:11 the Greek is different, and means, "at every time," "in every case when the occasion occurs."
10. bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus—that is, having my body exposed to being put to death in the cause of Jesus (the oldest manuscripts omit "the Lord"), and having in it the marks of such sufferings, I thus bear about wheresoever I go, an image of the suffering Saviour in my own person (2Co 4:11; 2Co 1:5; compare 1Co 15:31). Doubtless, Paul was exposed to more dangers than are recorded in Acts (compare 2Co 7:5; 11:26). The Greek for "the dying" is literally, "the being made a corpse," such Paul regarded his body, yet a corpse which shares in the life-giving power of Christ's resurrection, as it has shared in His dying and death.
that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body—rather, "may be." The name "Jesus," by itself is often repeated here as Paul seems, amidst sufferings, peculiarly to have felt its sweetness. In 2Co 4:11 the same words occur with the variation, "in our mortal flesh. The fact of a dying, corpse-like body being sustained amidst such trials, manifests that "the (resurrection) life also," as well as the dying, "of Jesus," exerts its power in us. I thus bear about in my own person an image of the risen and living, as well as of the suffering, Saviour. The "our" is added here to "body," though not in the beginning of the verse. "For the body is ours not so much in death, as in life" [Bengel].
11. we which live—in the power of Christ's "life" manifested in us, in our whole man body as well as spirit (Ro 8:10, 11; see on 2Co 4:10; compare 2Co 5:15). Paul regards his preservation amidst so many exposures to "death," by which Stephen and James were cut off, as a standing miracle (2Co 11:23).
delivered unto—not by chance; by the ordering of Providence, who shows "the excellency of His power" (2Co 4:7), in delivering unto DEATH His living saints, that He may manifest LIFE also in their dying flesh. "Flesh," the very element of decay (not merely their "body"), is by Him made to manifest life.
12. The "death" of Christ manifested in the continual "perishing of our outward man" (2Co 4:16), works peculiarly in us, and is the means of working spiritual "life" in you. The life whereof we witness in our bodily dying, extends beyond ourselves, and is brought by our very dying to you.
13. Translate as Greek, "BUT having," &c., that is, not withstanding the trials just mentioned, we having, &c.
the same spirit of faith, according as it, &c.—Compare Ro 8:15, on the usage of "spirit of faith." The Holy Spirit acting on our spirit. Though "death worketh in us, and life in you" (2Co 4:12), yet as we have the same spirit of faith as you, we therefore [believingly] look for the same immortal life as you [Estius], and speak as we believe. Alford not so well translates, "The same … faith with that described in the Scriptures" (Ps 116:10). The balance of the sentence requires the parallelism to be this, "According to that which is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak," namely, without fear, amidst "afflictions" and "deaths" (2Co 4:17).
14. Knowing—by faith (2Co 5:1).
by Jesus—The oldest manuscripts have "with Jesus."
present us—vividly picturing the scene before the eyes (Jude 24).
for your sakes—(2Ti 2:10).
abundant grace, &c.—rather, "That grace (the grace which preserves us in trials and works life in you), being made the greater (multiplied), by means of the greater number (of its recipients), may cause the thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God." [Chrysostom] (2Co 1:11; 9:11, 12). The Greek is susceptible also of this translation, "That grace, being made the greater (multiplied) on account of the thanksgiving of the greater number (for grace already received), may abound (abundantly redound) to," &c. Thus the Greek for "abound" has not to be taken in an active sense, but in its ordinary neuter sense, and so the other Greek words. Thanksgiving invites more abundant grace (2Ch 20:19-22; Ps 18:3; 50:23).
16. we faint not—notwithstanding our sufferings. Resuming 2Co 4:1.
outward man—the body, the flesh.
perish—"is wearing away"; "is wasted away" by afflictions.
inward man—our spiritual and true being, the "life" which even in our mortal bodies (2Co 4:11) "manifests the life of Jesus."
17. which is but for a moment—"Our PRESENT light (burden of) affliction" (so the Greek; compare Mt 11:30), [Alford]. Compare "now for a season … in heaviness" (1Pe 1:6). The contrast, however, between this and the "ETERNAL weight of glory" requires, I think, the translation, "Which is but for the present passing moment." So Wahl. "The lightness of affliction" (he does not express "burden" after "light"; the Greek is "the light of affliction") contrasts beautifully with the "weight of the glory."
worketh—rather, "worketh out."
a far more exceeding and—rather, "in a surpassing and still more surpassing manner" [Alford]; "more and more exceedingly" [Ellicott, Trench, and others]. Greek, "in excess and to excess." The glory exceeds beyond all measure the affliction.
18. look not at—as our aim.
things … seen—"earthly things" (Php 3:19). We mind not the things seen, whether affliction or refreshment come, so as to be seduced by the latter, or deterred by the former [Chrysostom].
things … not seen—not "the invisible things" of Ro 1:20, but the things which, though not seen now, shall be so hereafter.
temporal—rather, "for a time"; in contrast to eternal. English Version uses "temporal" for temporary. The Greek is rightly translated in the similar passage, "the pleasures of sin for a season."