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2Corinthians 4

Thursday Evening Bible Study

December 11, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 3300 words

Paul had spent nearly three years in Ephesus, during which he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians.

Paul’s stay in Ephesus ended abruptly when a riot broke out in the city because of how the Christian revival was affecting the business of those who made idols.

After the riot, Paul headed up north to Macedonia.

The year is AD 56, almost a year after Paul had written his first letter to the Corinthians.

One of the issues that Paul has been dealing with in this letter is the issue of his authority.

Some people were accusing Paul of being “wishy-washy” because he kept changing his plans of how and when he would visit Corinth.

Last week Paul talked about how he could even be “qualified” for ministry in the first place:

(2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God

4:1-6 Gospel Light

:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

:1 ministrydiakonia – service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others 

:1 we have received mercyeleeo – to have mercy on; to help the afflicted, to bring help to the wretched

:1 lose heartekkakeo – to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted

:1 as we have received mercy


Cultivating Mercy

Paul has had people in Corinth challenging his authority.
Whenever you step up to serve the Lord in some capacity, you are going to face challenges.

Some people will say, “You don’t have the education”.

Some will say, “You are not experienced enough”.

Others will say, “With your background???”

For Paul, the reason he continued to serve the Lord and serve others was the “mercy” he was receiving from the Lord.
He certainly wasn’t receiving mercy from the Corinthians.
When you wander from the closeness and intimacy of your relationship with Jesus, you are going to be easy prey for the enemy.  You will “lose heart”.
When you cultivate a closeness with Jesus, receiving mercy from Him daily, you can keep going.
We are serving Jesus, not the people who are critical of us.

:2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, 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 we have renounced …

renouncedapeipomen to speak out, set forth, declare; to forbid; to give up, renounce

shameaischune – sense of shame; disgrace, dishonor

craftinesspanourgia – craftiness, cunning; a specious or false wisdom

handling … deceitfullydoloo – to ensnare; to corrupt

commendingsunistao – to place togethe; to show, prove, establish, exhibit

Paul tells us the things He has renounced:

Growing up in Christ is learning to have less and less skeletons in the closet.

Growing up involves opening up those closets filled with shameful things and letting Christ clean them out with you.

We all have things that we do that we are ashamed of.

Paul strove for a sense of transparency – he didn’t have anything to hide.

Paul didn’t think he needed to trick people into following Jesus or joining the church.
He didn’t twist the meaning of God’s Word.

:3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,

:4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

:3 if our gospel is veiled

If anything was “hidden” about Paul’s ministry, it’s the truth of the gospel being “hid” from the eyes of those who don’t yet believe.

:4 the god of this age

This is another name for Satan.

He is also called a “prince”.  Paul also writes,

(Ephesians 2:2 NKJV) in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,

:4 whose minds … blinded

Those you know who are not believers are in a sense “blinded” by Satan from seeing the truth about Jesus.


Healing Blind Eyes

We need to pray for God to open blind eyes.
Video:  Describing Color to a Blind Person
People who don’t know Jesus are spiritually “blind”.
When Jesus began His ministry, He read the Scriptures in the synagogue, from the book of Isaiah (62), and described His ministry:
(Luke 4:17–18 NKJV) —17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed

Jesus announced that He came to fulfill that prophecy.

Jesus healed physical blindness, but He also can heal inner spiritual blindness.

:4 the light of the gospel

Paul is going to use the imagery of “light” throughout the passage, referring to the gospel of Christ.

God shines “light” in our lives when we open our hearts to Jesus.

He takes us from darkness to light.

(Colossians 1:13 NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

:5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.

:5 we do not preach ourselves


All about Jesus

When issues about authority in leadership in the church become focused on the pastor, we have a problem.
Even though Paul clearly had authority to speak and challenge the church in Corinth, Paul has never made himself the focus of the ministry.

Jesus is supposed to be the focus of ministry.

All that Paul ever has been was a “bondservant”.

This week I was reading an article about what is happening to the Mars Hill mega church that was once pastored by Mark Driscoll.
The Mars Hill church consisted of something like 17 church plants that all streamed Mark Driscoll’s Sunday sermon.

I believe Mark was considered the pastor of all these churches, while each local group had their own “campus pastor”.

Earlier in the year Mark Driscoll resigned due to allegations of “bullying”, “abusive behavior”, “plagiarism” in his books, and mismanagement of church funds.

As of January 1, the entire network of church plants is being dissolved.

I don’t have any idea of what has actually happened behind the scenes, but one of the points of the article was to warn churches against cultivating “celebrity” pastors.
Sometimes a “celebrity” pastor can start to act as if they are more important to the church than Jesus.

There is nobody more important than Jesus.

Our whole goal in life ought to be about getting people plugged in to Jesus – not our church, not our pastor, or not some program.

:6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

:6 God who commanded light to shine

God simply spoke and light came into existence (Gen. 1:3)

(Genesis 1:3 NKJV) —3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

God Himself is described as “light” (1Jo. 1:5)

(1 John 1:5 NKJV) —5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

:6 shone in our hearts

This is what happens when you open your heart to Jesus.  God shines His “light” into your heart.

4:7-12 Clay pots

:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

:7 this treasure in earthen vessels

treasurethesauros the place in which good and precious things are collected; the things laid up in a treasury, collected treasures

The treasure Paul is speaking of is the light of the gospel.

Normally you put treasures in something that can’t be broken into like a safe.

Yet God has chosen to hide this priceless treasure in fragile, ordinary, clay pots.
We are those clay pots.

:8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

:9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—

:8 hard-pressedthlibo to press (as grapes), press hard upon; metaph. to trouble, afflict, distress

:8 crushedstenochoreo to be in a narrow place; to straiten, compress, cramp, reduce to straits; to be sorely straitened in spirit

:8 perplexedaporeo to be without resources, to be in straits, to be left wanting, to be embarrassed, to be in doubt, not to know which way to turn; not to know how to decide or what to do, to be perplexed

:8 despairexaporeomai to be utterly at loss, be utterly destitute of measures or resources, to renounce all hope, be in despair

:9 persecuteddioko to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; in any way whatever to harass, trouble, molest one; to persecute; to be mistreated, suffer persecution on account of something

:9 forsakenegkataleipo abandon, desert; leave in straits, leave helpless; totally abandoned, utterly forsaken

:9 struck downkataballo to cast down; to throw to the ground, prostate

:9 destroyedapollumi to destroy; to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; to declare that one must be put to death; metaph. to devote or give over to eternal misery in hell; to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed

(2 Corinthians 4:8–9 NLT) —8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

:10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

:10 that the life of Jesus also may be manifested


Cracked pots

If I am following Paul’s analogy correctly, he is saying that God has put this priceless treasure of the light of the gospel in clay pots, and then when we find these clay pots being cracked and beaten, people will see only Jesus, and not us.
It’s a little like the story of Gideon. (Jud. 6-8)
Gideon was faced with this invading army of Midianites that numbered 135,000 men.
Though Gideon started out with an army of 32,000, God had Gideon whittle the army down to only 300.

God wanted Israel to see that He was the one giving them victory over the Midianites.

The strategy that God gave Gideon was to have each man carry a torch, a trumpet, and a clay pot.

Each man was to put their burning torch inside the clay pot, essentially covering up the light.

The Israelites were to surround the Midianites, and at the signal each man was to blow his trumpet, break his clay pot (exposing the light), and shout, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”

When they did this, the Midianites figured each torch and trumpet represented a troop of soldiers, and they all turned and fought each other.

God did a great deliverance that day.

Clay pots were broken.

Light shined out.

The message was given.

There will be times when God will work in the same way in our lives.
We are the clay pots, and sometimes the clay pot needs to be broken for the light to shine out.
It’s when we are broken that we learn to depend the most on the Lord.
And as the light of the gospel is exposed, we need to be sure to “blow the trumpet” and give the message – that God is real and He is our help.

:11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

:12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.

:11 death … life

Sometimes we have the idea that people will be attracted to Jesus if we are rolling in dough, getting promotions, and life looks perfect.

The truth is, it’s when we experience difficulty, different degrees of “death” that the “life” of Jesus can be shown in our lives.

4:13-15 Believe and Speak

:13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak,

:14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.

:13 the same spirit of faith

Paul is talking about having an “attitude” of faith.

He has the same attitude of faith as the psalmist who wrote …

:13 I believed and therefore I spoke

Paul is quoting Psalm 116:10, a psalm about someone facing death.

The verses just before this are:

(Psalm 116:8–9 NKJV) —8 For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling. 9 I will walk before the Lord In the land of the living.
And then he writes, “I believed and therefore I spoke

Because Paul has this same “attitude” of trusting God, even though he too sometimes faced death, he will continue to “speak”.

:14 will also raise us up

Paul is confident that if God raised Jesus from the dead, that he too would be raised from the dead. 

He’s not worried if he dies from all the hardships he’s facing because he’ll be raised one day.

What can you do to a person like this?

Even the fear of death won’t slow him down.
This is just like Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego:
(Daniel 3:17–18 NKJV) —17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”


Confident in the outcome

One of the things I get to do as a pastor is visit with people who are close to death.
Facing death is not something that any of us want to deal with.
We would rather talk about anything else than the fact that one day we too will die.
Yet this is what our faith is all about.
You have no need to fear death.

Death simply means leaving our body and going into Jesus’ presence.

:15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

:15 for your sakes

Paul is sure that anything that he goes through is only a benefit for others as they see how God’s grace keeps Paul going.

All of it points to God.  It’s all for God’s glory.

4:16-18 Invisible Things

:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

:16 we do not lose heart

This is the same word that Paul used to start off the chapter.

(2 Corinthians 4:1 NKJV) Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

:16 our outward man is perishing

is perishingdiaphtheiro to change for the worse, to corrupt; to destroy, ruin; to consume; of bodily vigor and strength; of the worm or moth that eats provisions, clothing, etc.

Most people get a better grasp of this the older they get.

I was looking at some old notes of the last time I taught this passage, and I had made a comment about my sons talking me into going on the “Gravitron” at the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival.  At the time I thought that was the worst that life could get.
Oh for the good ol’ days when this was the worst I might feel.
The old body doesn’t work like it used to.

:16 inward … renewed day by day

renewedanakainoo to cause to grow up, new, to make new; new strength and vigour is given to one; to be changed into a new kind of life as opposed to the former corrupt state

The outside may be decaying, but the inside is getting better.


Bitter or Better

This “renewal” that Paul talks about is not automatic.
This doesn’t happen for every person.  It doesn’t happen for every Christian.
Some people get increasingly bitter with each difficulty they go through.
Others almost seem to “thrive” when things are difficult.
In the last chapter Paul was talking about how Moses caught God’s “glory” each time he went in to God’s presence.  Then Paul applied this to our lives and wrote,
(2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV) But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Last week I mentioned that the word “being transformed” is a “present tense”, meaning it is a continual thing.

The phrase “beholding as in a mirror” is also a present tense, indicating continuous action.

We are transformed to be more and more like Jesus as we work at looking in the “mirror” of God’s Word and seeing Jesus.

Now Paul talks about being renewed “day by day”.
I’d like to suggest the concepts are similar to 2Cor. 3:18.
We are renewed in our inner man as we continue to pursue God’s presence in our lives.
That involves daily spiritual disciplines such as:

Waiting on God

Worshipping God


Reading/studying God’s Word

:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,

:17 light affliction … eternal weight

far more exceedinghuperbolea throwing beyond; superiority, excellence, pre-eminence; beyond measure, exceedingly, preeminently; beyond all measure.  Here (kay uperbolhn eiv uperbolhn), literally, “beyond measure unto beyond measure”

weightbaros heaviness, weight, burden, trouble


Light Affliction?

I think that many of us think that our “afflictions” are nothing like “light”.
I might even be offended that Paul would dare call MY afflictions “light”.
Yet look at some of the “afflictions” Paul has had in his life:

(2 Corinthians 11:24–27 NLT) —24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

The problem is that often our “light affliction” doesn’t seem too light.
And it doesn’t seem too “momentary”.
Some people have terrible afflictions their entire life.
I don’t want to seem unsympathetic, but the reality is that no matter what we go through, even if it lasts for 100 years, is nothing compared to eternity in heaven with Jesus.
Paul contrasts what’s “light” with what has “weight”.
It’s like he’s putting them side by side on a scale.
All our “light afflictions” are on one side, and the “eternal weight of glory” is on the other.
If your whole life is centered on making this short life of ours “comfortable”, you are going to regret it for a very long time.
What you do in this short life (maybe 100 years??) will affect your place in ETERNITY.
And keep in mind, I don’t think that afflictions automatically produce anything valuable in your life.
You have to choose to be renewed.
You have to choose to be transformed.
We can think that our afflictions are sent to destroy us.  Affliction doesn’t make sense to us.
Video:  Speed Painter on Anderson Cooper
You watch the affliction in your life and think that it just doesn’t make sense.
It’s when we get to heaven that God turns the painting upside down and we realize that God has been painting His image on us.
Spurgeon writes,
We cannot be established except by suffering. It is of no use our hoping that we shall be well-rooted if no March winds have passed over us. The young oak cannot be expected to strike its roots so deep as the old one. Those old gnarlings on the roots, and those strange twistings of the branches, all tell of many storms that have swept over the aged tree. But they are also indicators of the depths into which the roots have dived.

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon in "A New-Year's Benediction" (War Cry, Jan. 1, 1994).  Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 1.

:18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

:18 while we do not look at …


Where are your eyes?

We can choose to look at things that are “seen”.
Those are the things around us, our circumstances.
We can choose to look at things that are eternal, that are “unseen”.
That’s Jesus.  That’s heaven.
I remember in high school P.E. they taught us that to win a race you need to keep your eyes looking forward and now watching where your opponents are.

We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, our “goal”.

(Hebrews 12:2 NKJV) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Paul will tell us in the next chapter:
(2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV) For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Walking by “faith” means paying attention to things you “can’t see”.

In old age, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the great French painter, suffered from arthritis, which twisted and cramped his hand.  Henri Matise, his artist friend, watched sadly while Renoir, grasping a brush with only his fingertips, continued to paint, even though each movement caused stabbing pain.
One day, Matise asked Renoir why he persisted in painting at the expense of such torture.
Renoir replied, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”
He had his eyes on something other than his pain.  He saw the goal.