Today: [2 Corinthians 4:] Eternal Weight of Glory: In chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians Paul speaks from a depth of self-disclosure that would seldom be emulated in Christian culture today. He is troubled, perplexed, persecuted, and downcast yet still commending himself and his testimony to the Corinthians. Ministry today does not tend to speak with such brutal honesty because they might lose face before the people. Paul, however, isn’t preaching himself but rather his gospel conveys that of the glory of God in a magnitude that a self-promoting leader knows nothing of.
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[2Co 4:1-18 KJV] 1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 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. 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 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. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8 [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 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. 11 For we which live are alway 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. 13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present [us] with you. 15 For all things [are] for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory; 18 While 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.
In the previous chapter, Paul contrasts the character of a gospel minister with the practice of Moses wherein he hid his face from the people so they would not know when the glory faded. In doing this Moses was better able to manage the people because they feared to challenge him when God’s glory rested upon him in such a way that his face glowed like a lamp or a torch. He would cover his face not to protect the people but to manipulate the people. Paul declares in our chapter today that as a minister of the New Covenant the hidden things of dishonesty were to be renounced by the ministers of the New Covenant. In context what Paul is saying that in creating an appearance of a condition that did not exist Moses had turned the glory of God on his face into a hidden and deceitful thing.
Paul is saying in v. two that he as Moses should have was willing for people to see the truth of his own life and vulnerability and even in that vulnerability commend himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. Moses likewise commended himself to every man’s conscience, but he did it in dishonesty making himself to appear to be something that he actually wasn’t. Does any of this have any relevance in Christian culture today?
In the celebrity-driven culture of Christianity, as we know it, people will seldom follow a leader unless they are larger than life. We put our leaders on platforms and give them microphones so they might project themselves to be something from an elevated perspective that they are not. Now immediately some might object that such things are necessary in a large room to speak to the crowds, but no one could deny that there is a performance value and a larger-than-life persona and characterization conveyed by the demeanor and carriage of platform ministry today. The values and vanities of Hollywood celebrity are very much in vogue in Christian circles today because that is what seems necessary to capture and keep the attention and support of the people of God. The question for you to ask is, are you that shallow? Saul was a man head, and shoulders above the rest and the people were willing to follow him into battle whether God was with them or not. David was diminutive and unimpressive but nonetheless was a man after God’s own heart. Does any of this register as truth in the performance-driven seeker sensitive church today or no?
Paul realizes that his commitment to validity and transparency meant that his message would be lost on many. He states in v. three that if his gospel is hidden it is hidden to those who were ultimately lost in any case. These were those whom the god of this world had blinded. You are not blinded with darkness. You are blinded by false light. The love of money mentioned in the bible is better translated as “the desire to shine.” We must make a decision are we going to follow after every gospel luminary and celebrity that takes the stage or are we going to identify and connect to that person walking in vulnerability and transparency from whom the pure light of the glorious gospel is making itself known and how can you tell the difference?
What is Paul saying? He is making the point that he and his companions were not preaching or promoting themselves but were preaching Christ Jesus the Lord. That statement is clarified in Col. 1:27 when Paul says that his gospel, in summary, was “Christ in you the hope of glory…” The gospel message communicated properly is not only about how great God is in the life of the person speaking but how great God is in your own heart and life as Jesus said in Luke 17 “the kingdom of God is within you…” If someone conveys to you how powerful God is in their own life without leaving you convinced with how big God is in your own situation – they have disqualified themselves.
Does God shine out of your life? If God shines out of your life (v.6), it is only because His light is contrasting your own darkness that the knowledge of his unconditional love might be made manifest. Whatever treasure of heaven exists in us says nothing about us as a vessel (v. 7) but everything about Him as the Creator of the universes who condescends to tabernacle in us and make His home in our human hearts.
Paul then discloses himself in a way that Moses would never do. He troubled on every side v. 8 (but not distressed.) He is perplexed (he doesn’t have all the answers) but not in despair. Yes, he is persecuted but that doesn’t mean that God has forsaken him. He is downcast but not destroyed. How can he go through these things and still have his relationship with God intact? Because he bears within himself the dying of the Lord Jesus. What does this mean? It means that Paul is mindful that no matter what he is going through personally there was a higher price paid by Jesus Himself to bring him out of the perplexities and struggles he is facing at that moment into a place of deliverance. Could you follow such a leader? Are you mature enough and discerning enough to look at a troubled, downcast, persecuted, tormented man and see the glory of God working within him not only to lift him up but to impart to you something of the kingdom to deliver you in your situation as well? This is the man that God chose to write the preponderance of the New Testament.
In v. 11 Paul admits that he and others like him lived under constant threat of death from the Romans and the Jews that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in them. He is stating that what he goes through is not just for himself but because he has yielded to the call of God to see the life of God made a reality in the lives of those who heard his gospel. In our own measure (not to be compared with Paul’s) we can relate to these statements. If we chose another path or another vocation other than preaching the gospel life would be much simpler and the pressures we live under minimal compared to what we often go through. There is seldom a week goes by without death threats against us. We consistently are harassed, insulted, denounced and lied about not by unbelievers mind you but by people who consider themselves the epitome of spirituality and godliness.
There are so-called Christians whom we could name who work witcraft prayers against us that we feel the pressure of in our lives and pray every day for protection against the all-out assault of the demonic against us through so-called Christians. There have been times demons have physically attacked us in our own home – demonic entities that came into our home environment – empowered by men and women who were praying against what we do in the gospel and against us personally.
We have been insulted, misrepresented, betrayed, stolen from all by people who put “Reverend” in front of their names. These were people who in times past went to the table of the Lord with us and shared the communion elements. What shall we say about these things? Having suffered all of this and more we are nothing other than unprofitable servants, the chief of sinners humbled by the fact that we have the privilege, the absolute privilege to live our lives in the proclamation of the gospel of God.
Because we choose not to look at the darkness encroaching us, we as Paul declare (v. 13) that the spirit of faith within us daily believes and because we believe therefore we have spoken. As God raised Jesus from the dead so we shall be raised from our distresses and presented with you – with those who have received something – anything of value through what we do for all things from God’s perspective are FOR YOU. That means that God is willing for us to face what we face not because it is necessary for us but because it is beneficial for you that we preach the gospel for which we are under fire from by the enemy.
Many times people go through such things and conclude “it is good for me that I am going through this.” That isn’t what Paul thinks about his own situation. It isn’t good for him, but it is good however for those who benefit from his ministry. People seldom arrive at this understanding because they only focus on who these things relate to them without taking into account the personal cost in the lives of others that God is willing to see exacted that others might benefit.
Because God is willing to spend us in such a way (as Jesus said – “follow Me, and I will make you (or SPEND) you…”) we faint not. The outward man is diminished by the pressures of life, but the inward man is renewed. Make no mistake about it – there is renewal in God. Whatever affliction or difficulty we face it is light in magnitude by comparison to the exceeding and eternal weight of glory that we live in proximity to because of our call. For this reason we (as you should) don’t fixate on the things that are seen because they are temporal (or changeable) but our focus is on the unseen eternal realities that drive our life and our message that we choose to proclaim consistently to you.
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