Evening Bible Study
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
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
One of the issues that Paul has been dealing with in this letter is the
issue of his authority.
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
4:1-6 Gospel Light
:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we
have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
– diakonia – service, ministering, esp. of those
who execute the commands of others
– ekkakeo – to be utterly spiritless, to be
wearied out, exhausted
:1 as we have received 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
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 …
Paul tells us the things He has renounced:
Growing up in Christ is learning to have less and less skeletons in the
Growing up involves opening up those closets filled with shameful
things and letting Christ clean them out with you.
Paul didn’t think he needed to trick people into following Jesus or joining
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.
: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.
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.
: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
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
As of January 1, the entire network of church plants is being
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
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)
: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
treasure – thesauros – 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
Yet God has chosen to hide this priceless treasure in fragile, ordinary,
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
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
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
:12 So then death is working in us, but life in
: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.
Confident in the outcome
One of the things I get to do as a pastor is visit with people who are close
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
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’
: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.
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
:16 our outward man is perishing
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
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
That involves daily spiritual disciplines such as:
Waiting on 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
:17 light affliction … eternal weight
I think that many of us think that our “afflictions” are nothing like
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:
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.
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
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.
You watch the affliction in your life and think that it just doesn’t make
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.
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”.
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
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.