2 Corinthians 4:7-12
7. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
7. Habemus autem thesaurum hunc in vasis testaceis: ut exsuperantia potentira sit Dei, et non ex nobis:
8. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
8. Quando in omnibus premimur, at non anxii reddimur: laboramus inopia, at non destituimur:
9. Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
9. Persequutionem patimur, at non deserimur: deiicimur, at non perlinus:
10. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
10. Semper mortificationem Iesu Christi circumferentes in corpore nostro, ut vita Iesu manifestetur in corpore nostro.
11. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
12. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
12. Itaque mors quidem in nobis operatur, vita autem in vobis. 3
7. But we have this treasure. Those that heard Paul glorying in such a magnificent strain as to the excellence of his ministry, and beheld, on the other hand, his person, contemptible and abject in the eyes of the world, might be apt to think that he was a silly and ridiculous person, and might look upon his boasting as childish, while forming their estimate of him from the meanness of his person. 4 The wicked, more particularly, caught hold of this pretext, when they wished to bring into contempt every thing that was in him. What, however, he saw to be most of all unfavorable to the honor of his Apostleship among the ignorant, he turns by an admirable contrivance into a means of advancing it. First of all, he employs the similitude of a treasure, which is not usually laid up in a splendid and elegantly adorned chest, but rather in some vessel that is mean and worthless; 5 and then farther, he subjoins, that the power of God is, by that means, the more illustrated, and is the better seen. "Those, who allege the contemptible appearance of my person, with the view of detracting from the dignity of my ministry, are unfair and unreasonable judges, for a treasure is not the less valuable, that the vessel, in which it is deposited, is not a precious one. Nay more, it is usual for great treasures to be laid up in earthen pots. Farther, they do not consider, that it is ordered by the special Providence of God, that there should be in ministers no appearance of excellence, lest any thing of distinction should throw the power of God into the shade. As, therefore, the abasement of ministers, and the outward contempt of their persons give occasion for glory accruing to God, that man acts a wicked part, who measures the dignity of the gospel by the person of the minister."
Paul, however, does not speak merely of the universal condition of mankind, but of his own condition in particular. It is true, indeed, that all mortal men are earthen vessels. Hence, let the most eminent of them all be selected, and let him be one that is adorned to admiration with all ornaments of birth, intellect, and fortune, 6 still, if he be a minister of the gospel, he will be a mean and merely earthen depository of an inestimable treasure. Paul, however, has in view himself, and others like himself, his associates, who were held in contempt, because they had nothing of show.
The word rendered mortification, 13 is taken here in a different sense from what it bears in many passages of Scripture. For it often means self-denial, when we renounce the lusts of the flesh, and are renewed unto obedience to God. Here, however, it means the afflictions by which we are stirred up to meditate on the termination of the present life. To make the matter more plain, let us call the former the inward mortification, and the latter the outward. Both make us conformed to Christ, the one directly, the other indirectly, so to speak. Paul speaks of the former in Colossians 3:5, and in Romans 6:6, where he teaches that
our old man is crucified, that we may walk in newness of life
He treats of the second in Romans 8:29, where he teaches, that we were predestinated by God to this end -- that we might be
That the life of Jesus. Here is the best antidote to adversity -- that as Christ's death is the gate of life, so we know that a blessed resurrection will be to us the termination of all miseries, 15 inasmuch as Christ has associated us with himself on this condition, that we shall be partakers of his life, if in this world we submit to die with him.
The sentence that immediately follows may be explained in two ways. If you understand the expression delivered unto death as meaning to be incessantly harassed with persecutions and exposed to dangers, this would be more particularly applicable to Paul, and those like him, who were openly assailed by the fury of the wicked. And thus the expression, for Jesus' sake, will be equivalent to for the testimony of Christ. (Revelation 1:9.) As, however, the expression to be daily delivered unto death, means otherwise -- to have death constantly before our eyes, and to live in such a manner, that our life is rather a shadow of death, 16 I have no objection, that this passage, also, should be expounded in such a way as to be applicable to all believers, and that, too, to every one in his order. Paul himself, in Romans 8:36, explains in this manner Psalm 44:22. In this way for Christ's sake would mean -- because this condition is imposed upon all his members. Erasmus, however, has rendered it, with not. so much propriety, we who live. The rendering that I have given is more suitable -- while we live. For Paul means that, so long as we are in the world, we resemble the dead rather than the living.
1 "Nous en viuant, or, nous qui viuons;" -- "We, while living, or, we, who live."
2 "Soit aussi manifestee;" -- "May also be manifested"
3 "La vie en vous, ou, vous en reuient;" -- "Life in you, or, comes from it to you."
4 "Ils le iugeoyent selon l'apparence de sa personne, qui estoit petite et contemptible;" -- "They judged of him according to the appearance of his person, which was small and contemptible."
5 "The term
6 "De tous ornamens, de race, d'esprit, de richesses, et toutes autres choses semblables;" -- "With all ornaments of birth, intellect, riches, and all other things of a like nature."
7 "We are troubled on every side. In respect of the nature of it, (the trouble,) it is plain it was external trouble. The very word there used,
8 "There is an allusion," says Dr. Bloomfield, "to an army so entirely surrounded and hemmed in
9 "Pour le rendre contemptible;" -- "To render him contemptible."
10 "Mortificationem." -- Such is Calvin's rendering of the original term
11 By the "sufferings of Christ," here, Calvin obviously means -- not the sufferings of our Redeemer personally, but sufferings endured for Christ in the persons of his members, as in Colossians 1:24. -- Ed.
12 "Matiere d'opprobre et deshonneur;" -- "Matter of reproach and dishonor."
13 Wiclif (1380) renders the expression as follows: "euermore we beren aboute the sleyng of Ihesus in oure bodi." -- Ed.
14 "Here we have a strong mode of expressing the mortal peril to which he was continually exposed; (as in 1 Corinthians 15:31,
15 "La fin et l'issue de toutes miseres et calamitez;" -- "The end and issue of all miseries and calamities."
16 Calvin manifestly alludes to the expression which occurs in Psalms 23:4, the valley of the shadow of death, which he explains in a metaphorical sense, as denoting deep afflication. -- See Calvin on the Psalms, vol. 1. pp. 394-396. -- Ed.
17 "Eust ... combatre contre tant de miseres et calamitez;" -- "Had to struggle against so many miseries and calamities."
18 "Comme eux;" -- "As they."
19 "Non est vivere, sed valere, vita." -- Martial. Ep. 6:70. -- Ed.