Read 2 Corinthians 4
Present Weakness and Resurrection Life
1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”[b] Since we have that same spirit of[c] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Chapter 4 could be summarized this way: Paul defends his ministry and his legitimacy as an apostle of Jesus. He and his co-workers endure and experience great suffering. He is compelled to keep going for the sake of others, even though some are blind to the Truth and will never believe. The grace and power of God sustains him.
But lean in a little more. Paul isn’t playing a game. He’s not manipulating the Word of God to endorse comfort or entitlement. He’s not trying to win the approval of man. He’s unconcerned with adoration or affection. He is a messenger, an errand runner, a laborer for Jesus. A truth-teller and a light-bringer. Consumed with leveraging his whole life for the sake of the Kingdom. And, he boils it all down to one thing:
This life is not about us.
Verse 12 can be translated like this: “My death results in life for you.”
We hear a lot of talk in Christian circles about “dying to self,” but what does that actually mean? If Paul were sitting across from us, he would remind us that it’s putting to death our selfishness, our comfort, our personal gain, our entitlement, our rights, our love of money for someone else’s benefit and gain.
C.S. Lewis says it this way:
We must indeed be plowed up and resown; in Jesus’ words, we can bear no fruit unless we fall into the ground and die like a seed. We are to follow him, and to follow him is to walk his path, a path of suffering and persecution, a path to death. It does not end there, though. Mysteriously, it is death that gives birth to life in its fullest. From the ashes the phoenix rises; from the ground where the seed fell the fruit-bearing tree grows; made perfect by suffering, we know and see his glory more fully. Satan’s greatest weapon, death, is turned into a blessing – we die spiritually to ourselves, and are therefore, paradoxically, given a new life in Christ.
What if we endured hardship and died to our selfishness so that someone could experience the very best? What if our brokenness was the way the Light broke through for someone else to see? After all, Paul reminds us that through it all, in the midst of the pain and grief, we are not crushed. We are not in despair. We are not abandoned and alone. We are not destroyed. We are not defeated. We are created to bear much fruit; however, unless a seed dies…
A repeated theme in chapter 4 is endurance and not quitting. When you are discouraged and feel like giving up, what advice would Paul offer you?
What things in your life need to be put to death?
What is one thing you will do today to fix your eyes on what is unseen (vs. 18) so that your focus and perspective is on eternity?
Did You Know?
In the ancient world, people kept their treasures or coins in jars of clay. In times of war, the coins were buried in clay pots for safe keeping. These clay pots are called “coin hoards.” It was so common to bury coin hoards that Jesus told a parable about a man who found one and sold all he had to buy the field (Matthew 13:44). The same Greek word for “treasure” in that parable is the same word Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 4:7.