Summary: Need strength to face difficulty as a Christian? Paul supplies us with purpose and focus in this fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians.
Chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians finishes what he starts in chapter 3 and begins what he discusses in chapter 5.
The chapter and verse divisions of your Bible were not put in there by God. In fact, Stephen Langton first divided the Bible into chapters in 1228. The Old Testament was first divided by verses in 1448. Robert Stephanus put the verse divisions in the New Testament in 1551. Stephanus and Langton are both Frenchmen. So you can thank the French for the chapters and verse divisions in your Bibles.
Today we are studying another chapter of the letter of 2 Corinthians that describes why we should keep going when things seem hopelessly difficult.
I have some handouts for you that will help you in this study. (At the bottom of this lesson).
As we read this chapter let’s notice the first person plural pronouns, “we, ourselves, our, us.” These personal pronouns pepper the page. Twenty-seven times in 18 verses! This is a clear clue as to what concerns the writer of this chapter. Here’s the text:
4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
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.
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.
5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.
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.
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
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.
There are three headings woven through this chapter that might be labeled:
1. We have…
2. We are…/We are not…
3. We do not…
What does the writer claim in the “we have’s” that help us?
1. We have this ministry (1)
2. We have received mercy (1)
3. We have renounced hidden things of shame (2)
4. We have this treasure in jars of clay (7)
5. We have the spirit of confessing faith (13)
What is the situation that calls for help in the “we are/we are not” statements?
1. We are hard pressed/ we are not crushed
2. We are perplexed/ we are not despairing
3. We are persecuted/ we are not forsaken
4. We are struck down/ we are not destroyed
Listen to this prose about prayer:
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked God for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn to obey.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.