2 Corinthians 4:1-6
1. Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
1. Quamobrem habentes ministerium hoc, sicuti misericordiam sumus consequuti, non deficimus,
2. But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
2. Sed reiicimus latebras dedecoris, non ambulantes in astutia, neque dolo tractantes sermonem Dei: sed manifestatione veritatis commendantes nos apud omnem conscientiam hominum coram Deo.
3. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
3. Si autem velatum est Evangelium nostrum: in iis qui pereunt velatum est.
4. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
4. Quibus deus saeculi hujus excoecavit sensus: nempe infidelibus, ut ne illis resplendeat claritas Evangelii glori(Christi, qui est imago Dei invisibilis.
5. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
5. Non enim nosmetipsos praedicamus, sed Iesum Christum Dominum; nos veto servos vestros propter Iesum.
6. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
6. Quoniam Deus qui iussit e tenebris lumen splendescere, idem illuxit in cordibus nostris ad illuminationem cognitionis glori(Dei in facie Iesu Christi.
1. Having this ministry. He now returns to a commendation of himself personally, from which he had digressed into a general discussion, in reference to the dignity of the gospel. As, therefore, he has been treating of the nature of the gospel, so he now shows how faithful and upright a minister of it he is. He has previously shown, what is the true gospel of Christ. He now shows what he preaches to be such. "Having," says he, ìthis ministry" -- that ministry, the excellence of which he had extolled in terms so magnificent, and the power and usefulness of which he had so abundantly shown forth. Hence, in order that he may not seem to extol himself too much, he premises that it was not by his own efforts, or by his own merits, that he had reached such a pinnacle of honor, but had been led forward by the mercy of God exclusively. Now there was more implied in making the mercy of God the reason of his Apostleship, than if he had attributed it to the grace of God. We faint not 1 that is, we are not deficient in our duty, 2 so as not to discharge it with fidelity.
2. But renounce the hidden things. While he commends his own sincerity, 3 he, on the other hand, indirectly reproves the false Apostles, who, while they corrupted by their ambition the genuine excellence of the gospel, were, nevertheless, desirous of exclusive distinction. Hence the faults, from which he declares himself to be exempt, he indirectly imputes to them. By the
As to himself, he says that he rejects or disdains disguises, because Christ's face, the more that it is seen opened up to view in his preaching, shines forth so much the more gloriously. I do not, however, deny, that he alludes at the same time to the veil of Moses, (Exodus 34:33,) of which he had made mention, but he ascribes a quite different veil to the false Apostles. For Moses covered his face, because the excessive brightness of the glory of the law could not be endured by tender and blear eyes. They, 6 on the other hand, put on a veil by way of ornament. Besides, as they would be despicable, nay, infamous, if the simplicity of the gospel shone forth, they, on this account, hide their shame under ever so many cloaks and masks.
Not walking in craftiness. There can be no doubt, that the false Apostles delighted themselves greatly in the craftiness that Paul reproves, as though it had been a distinguished excellence, as we see even at this day some, even of those who profess the gospel, who would rather be esteemed subtile than sincere, and sublime rather than solid, while in the mean time all their refinement is mere childishness. But what would you do? It delights them to have a name for acuteness, and they have, under that pretext, applause among the ignorant. 7 We learn, however, in what estimation Paul holds this appearance of excellence. Craftiness he declares to be unworthy of Christ's servants.
As to what follows -- nor handling deceitfully -- I am not sure that this sufficiently brings out Paul's meaning; for the verb
But by manifestation of the truth. He claims to himself this praise -- that he had proclaimed the pure doctrine of the gospel in simplicity and without disguise, and has the consciences of all as witnesses of this in the sight of God. As he has placed the manifestation of the truth in contrast with the disguised 10 doctrine of the sophists, so he appeals the decision to their consciences, and to the judgment-seat of God, whereas they abused the mistaken judgment of men, or their corrupt affection, and were not so desirous to be in reality worthy of praise as they were eager to appear so. Hence we infer, that there is a contrast here between the consciences of men and their ears. Let the servants of Christ, therefore, reckon it enough to have approved their integrity to the consciences of men in the sight of God, and pay no regard to the corrupt inclinations of men, or to popular applause.
3. But if our gospel is hid. It might have been an easy thing to pour calumny upon what he had said as to the clearness of his preaching, because he had many adversaries. That calumny he repels with stern authority, for he threatens all who do not acknowledge the power of his gospel, and warns them that this is a token of reprobation and ruin. "Should any one affirm that he does not perceive that manifestation of Christ of which I boast, he clearly shows himself, by this very token, to be a reprobate, 11 for my sincerity in the work of instructing 12 is clearly and distinctly perceived by all that have eyes. Those, therefore, from whom it is hid, must be blind, and destitute of all rational understanding." The sum is this -- that the blindness of unbelievers detracts nothing from the clearness of his gospel; for the sun is not less resplendent, that the blind do not perceive his light. 13
But some one will say that this applies equally to the law, for in itself it is a lamp 14 to guide our feet, (Psalm 119:105,) enlightens the eyes, (Psalm 19:8,) etc., and is hid only from those that perish. I answer that, when Christ is included in the law, the sun shines forth through the midst of the clouds, so that men have light enough for their use; but when Christ is disjoined from it, there is nothing left but darkness, or a false appearance of light, that dazzles men's eyes instead of assisting them. It is, however, a token of great confidence, that he ventures to regard as reprobates all that reject his doctrine. It is befitting, however, that all that would be looked upon as ministers of God's word should be endued with the like confidence, that with a fearless confidence they may unhesitatingly summon all the adversaries of their doctrine to the judgment-seat of God, that they may bring thence a sure condemnation.
We see what the heat of controversy does in carrying on disputes. Had all those men calmly read Paul's words, it would never have occurred to any one of them to twist them in this way into a forced meaning; but as they were harassed by their opponents, they were more concerned to refute them, than to investigate Paul's meaning. But what occasion was there for this? For the subterfuge of the Arians was childish -- that if the devil is called the god of this world, the name of God, as applied to Christ, does not express a true, eternal, and exclusive divinity. For Paul says elsewhere, many are called gods, (1 Corinthians 8:5;) but David, on the other hand, sings forth -- the gods of the nations are demons. 16 (Psalm 96:5.) When, therefore, the devil is called the god of the wicked, on the ground of his having dominion over them, and being worshipped by them in the place of God, what tendency has this to detract from the honor of Christ? And as to the Manicheans, this appellation gives no more countenance to the Manicheans, than when he is called the prince of this world. (John 14:30.) 17
There is, therefore, no reason for being afraid to interpret this passage as referring to the devil, there being no danger in doing so. For should the Arians come forward and contend, 18 that Christ's divine essence is no more proved from his having the appellation God applied to him, than Satan's is proved from its being applied to him, a cavil of this nature is easily refuted; for Christ is called God without any addition, 19 nay, he is called God blessed for ever. (Romans 9:5.) He is said to be that God who was
in the beginning, before the creation of the world.
The devil, on the other hand, is called the god of this world, in no other way than as Baal is called the god of those that worship him, or as the dog is called the god of Egypt. 20 The Manicheans, as I have said, for maintaining their delusion, have recourse to other declarations of Scripture, as well as this, but there is no difficulty in refuting those also. They contend not so much respecting the term, as respecting the power. As the power of blinding is ascribed to Satan, and dominion over unbelievers, they conclude from this that he is, from his own resources, the author of all evil, so as not to be subject to God's control -- as if Scripture did not in various instances declare, that devils, no less than the angels of heaven, are servants of God, each of them severally in his own manner. For, as the latter dispense to us God's benefits for our salvation, so the former execute his wrath. Hence good angels are called powers and principalities, (Ephesians 3:10,) but it is simply because they exercise the power given them by God. For the same reason Satan is the prince of this world, not as if he conferred dominion upon himself, or obtained it by his own right, or, in fine, exercised it at his own pleasure. On the contrary, he has only so much as the Lord allows him. Hence Scripture does not merely make mention of the good spirit of God, and good angels, but he also speaks of evil spirits of God. An evil spirit from God came upon Saul. (1 Samuel 16:14.) Again, chastisements through means of evil angels. (Psalm 78:49.)
With respect to the passage before us, the blinding is a work common to God and to Satan, for it is in many instances ascribed to God; but the power is not alike, nor is the manner the same. I shall not speak at present as to the manner. Scripture, however, teaches that Satan blinds men, 21 not merely with God's permission, but even by his command, that he may execute his vengeance. Thus Ahab was deceived by Satan, (1 Kings 22:21,) but could Satan have done this of himself? By no means; but having offered to God his services for inflicting injury, he was sent to be a
lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.
(1 Kings 22:22.)
Nay more, the reason why God is said to blind men is, that after having deprived us of the right exercise of the understanding, and the light of his Spirit, he delivers us over to the devil, to be hurried forward by him to a reprobate mind, (Romans 1:28,) gives him the power of deception, and by this means inflicts just vengeance upon us by the minister of his wrath. Paul's meaning, therefore, is, that all are possessed by the devil, who do not acknowledge his doctrine to be the sure truth of God. For it is more severe to call them slaves of the devil, 22 than to ascribe their blindness to the judgment of God. As, however, he had a little before adjudged such persons to destruction, (2 Corinthians 4:3,) he now adds that they perish, for no other reason than that they have drawn down ruin upon themselves, as the effect of their own unbelief.
Lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine upon them. This serves to confirm what he had said -- that if any one rejected his gospel, it was his own blindness that prevented him from receiving it. "For nothing," says he, "appears. in it but Christ, and that not obscurely, but so as to shine forth clearly." He adds, that Christ is the image of God, by which he intimates that they were utterly devoid of the knowledge of God, in accordance with that statement --
He that knoweth not me knoweth not my Father.
This then is the reason, why he pronounced so severe a sentence upon those that had doubts as to his Apostleship -- because they did not behold Christ, who might there be distinctly beheld. It is doubtful whether he employed the expression,
When, however, Christ is called the
5. For we preach not ourselves. Some make this to be an instance of Zeugma, 27 in this manner: We preach not ourselves to be lords, but God's only Son, whom the Father has set over all things, to be the one Lord. 28 I do not, indeed, find fault with that interpretation, but as the expression is more emphatic
And ourselves your servants. Lest any one should mutter out the objection--"But in the mean time you say many things respecting yourself," he answers, that he desires nothing farther, than that he should be their servant. "Whatever things I declare respecting myself (so loftily, and boastfully, in your opinion) have this object in view -- that I may in Christ serve you advantageously." It follows, that the Corinthians are excessively proud and ungrateful, if they reject this condition. Nay more, it follows, that they had been previously of a corrupt judgment, inasmuch as they had not perceived his holy affection.
Here, however, all pastors of the Church are admonished as to their state and condition, for by whatever title of honor they may be distinguished, they are nothing more than the servants of believers, and unquestionably, they cannot serve Christ, without. serving his Church at the same time. An honorable servitude, it is true, this is, and superior to any principality, 30 but still it is a servitude, so that Christ alone may be elevated to distinction -- not encumbered by the shadow of a single rival 31 Hence it is the part of a good pastor, not merely to keep aloof from all desire of domineering, but to regard it as the highest pitch of honor, at which he aspires -- that he may serve the people of God. It is the duty of the people, on the other hand, to esteem the servants of Christ first of all on the ground of the dignity of their Master, and then farther on account of the dignity and excellence of their office, that they may not despise those, whom the Lord has placed in so illustrious a station.
6. God who commanded light to shine out of darkness. I see that this passage may be explained in four different ways. In the first place thus: "God has commanded light to shine forth out of darkness: that is, by the ministry of men, who are in their own nature darkness, He has brought forward the light of His gospel into the world." Secondly, thus: "God has made the light of the gospel to take the place of the law, which was wrapt up in dark shadows, and thus, He has brought light out of darkness." Those that are fond of subtleties, would be prepared readily to receive expositions of that sort, but any one, who will examine the matter more closely, will perceive, that they do not correspond with the Apostle's intention. The third exposition is that of Ambrose: "When all things were involved in darkness, God kindled up the light of His gospel. For mankind were sunk in the darkness of ignorance, when God on a sudden shone forth upon them by his gospel." The fourth is that of Chrysostom, who is of opinion, that Paul alluded to the creation of the world, in this way: "God, who by his word created light, drawing it, as it were, out of the darkness 32 -- that same Being has now enlightened us in a spiritual manner, when we were buried in darkness." This transition, 33 from light that is visible and corporeal to what is spiritual, has more of elegance, and there is nothing forced in it. The preceding one, 34 however, is not unsuitable. Let every one follow his own judgment.
Hath shined in our hearts. He speaks of a twofold illumination, which must be carefully observed -- the one is that of the gospel, the other is secret, taking place in our hearts. 35 For as God, the Creator of the world, pours forth upon us the brightness of the sun, and gives us eyes to receive it, so, as the Redeemer, in the person of his Son, He shines forth, indeed, upon us by His gospel, but, as we are blind, that would be in vain, if He did not at the same time enlighten our understandings by His Spirit. His meaning, therefore, is, that God has, by His Spirit, opened the eyes of our understandings, so as to make them capable of receiving the light of the gospel.
In the face of Jesus Christ. In the same sense in which he had previously said that Christ is the image of the Father, (2 Corinthians 4:4) he now says, that the glory of God is manifested to us in his face. Here we have a remarkable passage, from which we learn that God is not to be sought out (Job 9:7) in His unsearchable height,
(for He dwells in light that is inaccessible, 1 Timothy 6:16,)
but is to be known by us, in so far as He manifests himself in Christ. Hence, whatever men desire to know respecting God, apart from Christ, is evanescent, for they wander out of the way. True, indeed, God in Christ appears in the first instance to be mean, but he appears at length to be glorious in the view of those, who hold on, so as to come from the cross to the resurrection. 36 Again we see, that in the word person 37 there is a reference made to us, 38 because it is more advantageous for us to behold God, as He appears in His only-begotten Son, than to search out His secret essence.
1 Instead of
2 "Nous n'omettons rien de ce qui est de nostre office;" -- "We do not omit any thing of what belongs to our office."
3 "Sa droiture et syncerite;" -- "His own uprightness and sincerity."
4 Ne pouuoyent pas estre excellens et en estime;" -- "Could not be eminent, and be held in estimation."
5 "Ces couleurs fausses, et ces desguisemens;" -- "Those false colors, and those disguises."
6 "Les faux apostres;" -- " The false apostles."
7 "Enuers les gens simples, et qui ne scauent pas iuger des choses;" -- "Among simple people, and those that do not know how to judge of things."
8 The verb
9 "Et frippiers;" -- "And brokers."
10 "Fardee et desguisee ;" -- "Painted and disguised"
11 "Il ne pourra mieux monstrer signe de sa reprobation, que par la;" -- "He could not give a clearer evidence of his reprobation than this."
12 "La syncerite et droiture que ie tien a enseigner;" -- "The sincerity and uprightness that I maintain in teaching."
14 "Vne lanterne ardente;" -- "A lantern burning."
15 The Manicheans, so called from Manes their founder, held the doctrine of two first principles, a good and an evil, thinking to account in this way for the origin of evil. See Calvin's Institutes, volume 1 -- Ed.
16 "Les dieux des Gentils sont diables;" -- "The gods of the Gentiles are devils. Calvin here, as in many other instances, quotes according to the sense, not according to the words. The passage referred to is rendered by Calvin -- "All the gods of the nations are vanities," ("ou, idoles," "or idols,") the Hebrew word being, as he notices,
17 Calvin, when commenting on the passage referred to, remarks, that "the devil is called the prince of this world, not because he has a kingdom separated from God, (as the Manicheans imagined,) but because, by God's permission, he exercises his tyranny over the world." -- Calvin on John, volume 2. -- Ed.
18 "Tant qu'ils voudront;" -- "As much as they please"
19 Calvin obviously means by this clause -- without anything being added having a tendency to qualify or limit the appellation. In accordance with this he says in the lnstitutes, (volume 1,) that the "title," God, "is not conferred on any man without some addition, as when it is said that Moses would be a god to Pharaoh." (Exodus 7:1.) -- Ed.
20 A variety of animals, besides the dog, were worshipped by the Egyptians, and even some vegetable substances, growing in their gardens, were adored by them as deities! Calvin, when commenting on 1 Corinthians 8:5, speaks of the Egyptians as having rendered divine homage to "the ox, the serpent, the cat, the onion, the garlic." -- Calvin on Corinthians, vol. 1. p. 277. -- Ed.
21 "Les reprouuez;" -- "The reprobate."
22 "The god of this world. O that we could consider this, according to what it doth import and carry in it of horror and detestableness! It is a thing that we do not yet believe, that a world inhabited by reasonable creatures, God's own offspring, is universally fallen into a confederacy and combination with another god, with an enemy -- god, an adversary -- god, against the living and true God! Men have changed their God. And what a fearful choice have they made! Fallen into a league with those wicked creatures that were weary of his government before, and that were, thereupon, thrown down into an abyss of darkness, and bound up in the chains thereof, unto the judgment of the great day. But doth the Scripture say this in vain? or hath it not a meaning when it calls the devil the god of this world? O with what amazement should it strike our hearts, to think that so it is, that the whole order of creatures is gone off from God, and fallen into a confederacy with the devil and his angels, against their rightful sovereign Lord." -- Howe's Works. (London, 1834.) p. 1206. -- Ed.
23 Calvin manifestly refers to an expression made use of by the Council of Nice, A.D. 325, to express unity of essence in the first and second persons of the Trinity, the Son having been declared to be
24 "Christ is the image of God, as a child is the image of his father; not in regard of the individual property which the Father hath distinct from the child, and the child from the father, but in respect of the same substance and nature, derived from the father by generation. Christ is here called the image of God, (2 Corinthians 4:4,) 'not so much,' saith Calvin, in relation to God, as the Father is the exemplar of his beauty and excellency, as in relation to us, as he represents the Father to us in the perfections of his nature, as they respect us and our welfare, and renders him visible to the eyes of our minds." -- Charnock's Works, (Lond. 1684,)volume 2:p. 476. -- Ed.
27 Zeugma is a figure of speech, in which two subjects are used jointly (the term being derived from
28 "Auquel le Pere a baill(superintendance sur toutes choses;" -- "To whom the Father has given superintendence over all things."
29 "Comme ainsi soit que la facon de parler est de plus grand poids, et s'estend plus loin;" -- "As it is a form of expression that has greater weight, and is more extensive."
30 "Plus heureuse que toutes les principautez du monde;" -- "Happier than all the principalities of the world."
31 "N'estant nullement empesch(par l'ombre de quelque autre qui luy seroit donne pour compagnon;" -- "In no degree hindered by the shadow of any other, that might be given him as a companion."
32 "Du profond des tenebres;" -- "Out of the depth of darkness."
33 Anagoge. The Reader will find in the Harmony (vol. 1. p. 436, n. 1,) a lucid view of the import of the word anagoge, or rather
34 "La troisieme exposition;" -- "The third exposition."
35 "Interieurement en nos coeurs;" -- "Inwardly in our hearts."
36 "Ceux, qui ont la patience de venir de la croix ... la resurrection;" -- "Those, who have the patience to come from the cross to the resurrection."
37 The original expression is
38 "Ce qui est dit de Dieu, c'est pour le regard de nous;" -- "What is said respecting God, is in relation to us."