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2 Corinthians 4


Treasure in Earthen Vessels The Light of Christ's Gospel True Treasure, Mortal Ministers Spiritual Treasure in Clay Pots From Troas to Macedonia-
The Apostolate: Its Importance
4:1-6 4:1-6 4:1-6 4:1-6 4:1-6
  Cast Down but Unconquered     The Hardships and Hopes of the Apostolate
4:7-15 4:7-15 4:7-12 4:7-12 4:7-12
Living By Faith Seeing the Invisible 4:13-15 4:13-15 4:13-15
      Living By Faith  
(4:16-5:5)     (4:16-5:5)  
  4:16-18 4:16-18 4:16-18 4:16-18

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Presentation of the message, v. 2


B. Opposition to the message, vv. 3-4a


C. The message veiled, vv. 4b-6


D. Paradox of the message, vv. 7-13


E. Results of the message, vv. 14-18



  1Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, 2but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. 6For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

4:1 "we" It is obvious that Paul is using the plural pronoun to refer to himself, as he does throughout this chapter.

▣ "we have this ministry" Paul is referring to "the ministry of the Spirit" (cf. 3:8), also called "the ministry of righteousness" (cf. 3:9). Paul uses this word for service, diakonia, so often in 2 Corinthians.

1. diakonēo, 3:3; 8:19,20

2. diakonia, 3:7,8,9; 4:1; 5:18; 6:3; 8:4; 9:1,12,13; 11:8

3. diakonos, 3:6; 6:4; 11:15,23

Christians are saved to serve (cf. Eph. 2:10). Christianity is not a "what's in it for me" focus as much as "what can I do for others because of what Christ has done for me" focus. Paul served and called to service (cf. Gal. 2:20). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SERVANT LEADERSHIP at I Cor. 4:1.

▣ "as we received mercy" God's mercy for Saul, who was such a staunch, militant, anti-Christian (cf. I Tim. 1:13,16), on the road to Damascus (aorist passive indicative) encouraged him to continue to preach the Good News in the face of adversity.

Paul wrote in Greek, but thought in Hebrew. The Greek term eleeō (i.e., mercy, pity, compassion) is used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew term hesed (see Special Topic at I Cor. 13:1), which relates to covenant fidelity. YHWH is faithful to His covenant promises, even when humanity is not! Paul's dramatic conversion clearly reveals the compassion of God. He acts in mercy to Jews (cf. Rom. 9:15,16,18,23-24; 11:30) and to Gentiles (cf. Rom. 11:32) for His own covenant purpose, which is the restoration of His image in mankind through the work of Christ and the ministry of the Spirit. God's loyalty to His covenant and His unchanging character of mercy is mankind's only hope.

▣ "we do not lose heart" This is present active indicative. This must be understood in the light of Paul's overall ministry and this particular context (cf. v. 16). Paul did feel like giving up several times. Jesus appeared to him in visions several times to encourage him (cf. Acts 18:9-10; 23:11; 27:24; II Tim. 4:17). In this particular context, in the face of physical trials and problems with the church at Corinth, Paul had confidence that the merciful, covenantal God was there and in control (cf. 3:12). The task was too important to lose heart (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).

4:2 "we have renounced" This is aorist middle indicative. There is a series of things which Paul personally refused to use in his own ministry.

1. no underhanded means

2. no disgraceful methods

3. no cunning

4. no tampering with or watering down God's message

Each of these methods reflect the false teachers' charges or their actions.

NASB"the things hidden because of shame"
NKJV"the hidden things of shame"
NRSV"the shameful things that one hides"
TEV"secret and shameful deeds"
NJB"shameful secrecy"

Paul uses similar phrases to describe slavery to sin in Rom. 6:21 and sins of humanity which will be revealed in I Cor. 4:5 (also see I Cor. 14:25). In this context the phrase seems to describe the methodology of the itinerant false teachers.

NASB, NKJV"not walking in craftiness"
NRSV"we refuse to practice cunning"
TEV"we do not act with deceit"
NJB"it is not our way to be devious"

This is a present active participle. Paul uses the term "crafty" (i.e., "all" plus "work") several times in his letters to Corinth (cf. I Cor. 3:19; II Cor. 4:2; 11:3; 12:16). We must be very careful about our methods as well as our goals. For in Christianity the means determine the end. This same word is used by Paul

1. in a quote from Job 5:13 referring to human wisdom (cf. I Cor. 3:19)

2. of Satan tempting Eve (cf. II Cor. 11:3)

3. of the trickery of Satan and the false teachers (cf. Eph. 4:14)

4. here of the methods of false teachers


NASB"or adulterating the word of God"
NKJV"nor handling the word of God deceitfully"
NRSV"to falsify God's word"
TEV"nor do we falsify the word of God"
NJB"or to falsify the word of God"

This term and its related forms mean

1. watered down (cf. 2:17)

2. entrapped with bait (cf. Matt. 26:4; Mark 14:1)

3. defrauded or deceived (cf. II Cor. 11:13; Rom. 3:13)

It refers to a changing message based on the hearer's sensibilities or trying to trick the hearers (cf. I Cor. 1:23).

NASB"by the manifestation of truth"
NKJV"by manifestation of truth"
NRSV"by the open statement of the truth"
TEV"in full light of truth"
NJB"by showing the truth openly"

For "manifestation" see full note at 2:14. The term "truth" has the article and refers to the gospel of Christ, the New Covenant. The false teachers acted in shameful ways, secret ways, but Paul preached the full truth publicly. See SPECIAL TOPIC: "TRUTH" IN PAUL'S WRITINGS at 13:8.

▣ "commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" Paul is referring to his self-limiting love for others (cf. I Cor. 9:19-23). This does not speak of compromise, but voluntary self-limiting of freedom because of the cultural hang-ups or personal preferences of others. His intentionality was evangelism, not personal freedom (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13; I Cor. 8; 10:23ff).

Paul uses these same terms in 5:11-21, which also emphasize the gospel and our part in its proclamation. See fuller note on "commend" at 3:1. See fuller note on "conscience" at I Cor. 8:7 and 10:25.

"in the sight of God" This seems to be an idiomatic phrase parallel to "God is my witness." Other Pauline texts also use this phrase in a similar way (cf. Gal. 1:20; I Tim. 5:21; 6:13; II Tim. 2:14; 4:1), also notice Paul's oath formula in 1:23; 11:31; and I Thess. 2:5,10).

4:3 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true. Some people just do not get it (cf. Matthew 13).

▣ "our gospel is veiled" This is a Periphrastic perfect passive participle of "veiled" (cf. 3:14,16). It is obvious to Paul that when he preached the gospel some men absolutely could not respond to it. As the Jews are "hardened" (cf. 3:14; and Isa. 6:9-10), hearers in every age are also "blinded" (cf. 4:4). This is the mystery of predestination versus free will, the paradox of the gospel (cf. John 1:12; 3:16 vs. 6:44,65).

"those who are perishing" Paul is continuing his analogy of the gospel as an aroma of life and of death (cf. 2:15; I Cor. 1:18-19; 8:11; 10:9-10; 15:18). The proclamation of the gospel is serious business, to some life, but to some death.

For the concept of "perishing" see Special Topic at I Cor. 8:11 and a discussion at I Cor. 1:18.

4:4 "the god of this world" This evil personality is called by several names by Paul.

1. Satan (cf. Rom. 16:20; I Cor. 5:5; 7:5; II Cor. 2:11; 11:14; 12:7; I Thess. 2:18; II Thess. 2:9; I Tim. 1:20; 5:15)

2. Devil (cf. Eph. 4:27; 6:11-12; I Tim. 3:6,7; II Tim. 2:26; the plural used of the demonic, I Cor. 10:20-21; I Tim. 4:1)

3. "the prince of the power of the air" (cf. Eph. 2:2)

4. "the god of this age/world" (John calls him "the ruler of this age/world," John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11)

5. "the tempter" (cf. I Thess. 3:5)

6. "the evil one" (cf. II Thess. 3:3, this title is common in Matthew's and John's writings)

7. "an angel of light" (cf. II Cor. 11:14)

This verse caused great concern to the early Church Fathers because it seemed to add fuel to the fire of the Gnostic and Arian false teachers. Therefore, unfortunately, they (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Theodoret, and Augustine) changed the Greek of this text to: "in who God has blinded the mind of the unbeliever of this world." Now Satan is obviously referred to as the prince and power of this world (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; Eph. 2:2). These early Church Fathers were not reacting to the concept of a personal force of evil, but to the theological concept of the Gnostic Demiurge and the Arians' view of a less-than-divine Christ. See SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSONAL EVIL at I Cor. 7:5.

▣ "of this world" This is also the Greek term for "age" (i.e., aiōnos) This seems to refer to the Jewish view of two ages: the current evil age dominated by sin and the age to come, set up and dominated by the Messiah (cf. Matt. 28:20; Eph. 2:2). For the full discussion of the two ages see Special Topic at I Cor. 1:20. The terms "this world" (kosmos houtos) and "this age" (aiōn houtos) are used interchangeably (cf. George E. Ladd's A Theology of the New Testament, p. 223).

▣ "has blinded the minds of the unbelieving" This is an aorist active indicative. The term is used of spiritual blindness in Matt. 15:14; 23:16; I John 2:11 and the concept is in John 9. This same term is used in a quote from the Septuagint of Isa. 6:10 in John 12:40. It is a rather rare term in Paul's writings (cf. Rom. 2:19 and here), but common in the Gospels.

In the Isaiah passage (i.e., 6:9-10) it is God's judgment that blinded the Israelites' spiritual eyes because of their continual unbelief. This same truth is expressed in Rom. 1:21, where the passive voice implies God (cf. Rom. 11:8-10, quoting Isa. 29:10 and Ps. 69:22-23). It is difficult to balance

1. human unbelief

2. divine hardening

3. satanic blinding

Belief is a gift and a necessary response! The covenantal paradox is the mystery of predestination and free will. We must let God be God and demand human accountability. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ELECTION/PREDESTINATION AND THE NEED FOR A THEOLOGICAL BALANCE/Predestination and the Need for A Theological Balance at II Cor. 8:16-17.

Can you imagine the power that the evil one must have that he is able to blind the eyes of humans to the compelling beauty of the gospel (cf. Matt. 13:19) and the wooing of the Holy Spirit to respond to it (cf. John 6:44, 65)? Paul uses several metaphors to describe unbelief: (1) hardened hearts; (2) blinded minds; (3) seared consciences; and (4) blinded eyes. There is an ongoing spiritual conflict (cf. Eph. 6:10-19).

NASB"so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ"
NKJV"lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. . .should shine on them"
NRSV"to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ"
TEV"He keeps them from seeing the light shining on them, the light that comes from the Good News about the glory of Christ"
NJB"so that they cannot see shining the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ"

If you will notice in this context, there are several words that relate to light. This refers to

1. Jesus, often called "light" (cf. John 1:4,9; 3:19; 8:12)

2. possibly Paul's experience on the Damascus road (cf. Acts 9)

3. possibly an allusion to the Shekinah glory of God from the Exodus mentioned in v. 6; 3:7)

To not see Christ in the Scriptures is to miss salvation. The NT proclaims the glory of Christ, the gospel. The OT is fulfilled and completed in Him. He is the necessary foundation, cornerstone, cap stone, top stone. To miss Him is to shipwreck one's faith.

▣ "who is the image of God" To see Jesus is to see the Father (cf. John 1:18; 14:8,9; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). The NT asserts that Jesus was incarnated to serve three purposes.

1. to fully reveal the Father

2. to atone for sin

3. to give believers an example to follow


4:5 "we do not preach ourselves" Trying to interpret Paul's letter is like listening to only half of a phone conversation. We assume from Paul's statements the things that might have caused them. From 3:1, here, and chapters 10-13, it is obvious that Paul had those at Corinth who attacked him personally and his gospel. Paul is forcefully asserting Jesus' Lordship and his servanthood (cf. I Cor. 3:5-9). He only defends himself (i.e., "ourselves" is emphatic) or magnifies his credentials (cf. chapter 12) in order to protect the validity of his gospel. For an interesting discussion on the limits of apostolic authority see George Ladd's A Theology of the New Testament, p. 382.

▣ "Christ Jesus as Lord" This phrase was the early church's profession of faith at baptism (cf. Rom. 10:9-13; I Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:9-11). All three of the major terms used in the NT to designate the Promised One, the Suffering Servant, are used in this phrase.

1. Christ - This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term messiah, which meant "an anointed one." It implies "one called and equipped by God for a specific task." In the OT three groups of leaders: priests, kings, and prophets were anointed. Jesus fulfills all three of these anointed offices (cf. Heb. 1:2-3).

2. Jesus - This Hebrew name meant "YHWH saves" or "YHWH brings salvation." It was revealed to his parents by an angel (cf. Matt. 1:21). "Jesus" is derived from the Hebrew word for salvation, hosea, suffixed to the covenant name for God, "YHWH." It is the same as the Hebrew name for Joshua.

3. Lord - The term "lord" (kurios) can be used in a general sense or in a specific theological sense. It can mean "mister," "sir," "master," "owner," "husband," or "the full God-man." The OT usage of this term (adon) came from the Jews' reluctance to pronounce the covenant name for God, YHWH (see Special Topic at 1:1), which was from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14). They were afraid of breaking the commandment which said, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (cf. Exod. 20:7; Deut. 5:11). They thought if they did not pronounce it, they could not take it in vain. So, they substituted the Hebrew word, Adonai, which had a similar meaning to the Greek word, Kurios (Lord). The NT Authors used this term to describe the full deity of Christ.

There are several confessional phrases used of Jesus.

1. Jesus is the Messiah/Christ - Acts 5:42; 9:22; 17:3; 18:5,28; I Cor. 1:23

2. Jesus is the Son of God - Acts 9:20; Rom. 1:3-4; Heb. 4:14

3. Jesus is Lord - Acts 2:36; 10:36; 11:20; Rom. 10:9; II Cor. 4:5; Phil. 2:11; Col. 2:6

In a sense these summarize the early church's understanding of Jesus of Nazareth.

4:6 "For God who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness'" This is an allusion to Gen. 1:3 and a personal allusion to Paul's Damascus road experience (cf. Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16; 26:9-18). For Peter the same kind of revelatory experience involving Jesus and light (i.e., glory) occurred on the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. II Pet. 1:19).

▣ "hearts" See Special Topic at I Cor. 14:25.

▣ "glory of God" This seems to relate to the Shekinah cloud of glory that symbolized the presence of YHWH in the book of Exodus (cf. 3:17). This symbol of God's presence was transferred to the Ark of the Covenant after the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land. YHWH is fully known, not as a visible, physical object, but in Jesus, the incarnation of deity. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at I Cor. 2:7.

▣ "in the face of Christ" This is the continuing comparison between the veil of Moses (cf. 3:13) and the perfect reflection of Jesus Christ (cf. Heb. 1:3). Believers have seen the glory of Christ in the gospel (cf. 3:18).

  7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So death works in us, but life in you.

4:7 "But we have this treasure" This refers to God's indwelling Spirit that magnifies, reveals, and forms the person of Christ in our lives (cf. John 16:8-14; Rom. 8:9; Col. 1:27; II Pet. 1:3-4).

▣ "in earthen vessels" This is an emphasis on the human body (cf. v. 10,16; 5:1ff; Gen. 2:7; 3:19; 18:27). This entire context is a dialectic between Paul's physical earthly condition and the tremendous spiritual power of the gospel and the indwelling Holy Spirit in his life.

▣ "the surpassing greatness" Huperbolē, see Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at I Cor. 2:1.

4:8-11 "we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed" Verses 8-10 contain a series of nine present (mostly passive) participles which are word plays on Koine Greek words describing Paul's difficult ministry. The first eight participles are in contrasting pairs. The first describes Paul's ministry experience and the second limits the consequences. Examples of this word play are: (1) "at loss but not utter loss" and (2) "knocked down but not knocked out." This section can be compared to II Cor. 1:6; 6:4-10; 11:23-28.

4:9 "destroyed" For the concept of "destroyed" see Special Topic at I Cor. 8:11 and the discussion at I Cor. 1:18.

4:10 "always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus" This refers to the paradox of our being rightly related to God, but exposed to physical problems because of a fallen world. We have eternal life, but we are physically dying (cf. 1:8). As Jesus was rejected and persecuted (cf. John 15:20), so too, are believers (cf. I Cor. 15:31; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:10; Col. 1:24; I Pet. 4:12-19).

▣ "so that the life of Jesus" This refers to (1) the resurrected Christ, which was Paul's hope or (2) the faithfulness of Jesus under persecution. Paul wanted to exhibit Jesus' faithfulness (cf. v. 11) and participate in the resurrection of His followers (cf. v. 14; I Cor. 15).

▣ "may be manifested in our body" This is an aorist passive subjunctive. Read Gal. 6:17, which obviously refers to Paul's physical scars in Jesus' service. As our earthly vessel is broken, the treasure inside is more visible (cf. 12:9-10).

Paul uses the Greek term sarx (i.e., flesh) in several senses.

1. the human body ("body" of v. 10 parallel to "flesh" of v. 11; also II Cor. 7:5; 10:3; 12:7)

2. human person (cf. II Cor. 5:16; 11:18)

3. human descent (i.e., father - son, cf. Rom. 1:3; 4:1)

4. humanity as a whole (cf. I Cor. 1:26,29)

5. human sinfulness (cf. Rom. 7:5,18; 8:3,4,5,8,9,12,13; II Cor. 7:1; 10:2)


4:11 "we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake" Theological insight into this verse can be seen in I Cor. 4:9, where the Apostles are on exhibition both to angels and men. Believers also are on exhibition to a lost world and the angelic world (cf. Eph. 2:7; 3:10).

The term "constantly" (cf. 6:10) is parallel to "always" of v. 10. The call to ministry is a call to intentional daily death to self (cf. 5:14-15; Rom. 6:7; I Cor. 15:31; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:8,10; I John 3:16). This attitude is the reversal of the fall of mankind in Genesis 3. It is evidence of Christlikeness, which is the restoration of the image of God in humanity.

The term "been delivered over" (paranididōmi) was used of Judas handing over Jesus to the authorities (cf. Matt. 20:18-19; Mark. 10:33). It is used by Jesus in a prophetic sense describing His followers in Matt. 10:17; 24:9; Mark 13:11-12.

The phrase "for Jesus' sake" is to be understood as causality. Our ministry burdens do not benefit Christ, but they are ours because we follow Him. As they persecuted Him, they will persecute us. However, it is also true that the things we suffer as Christ's followers are the very things that can help us grow more and more like Him.

Paul's identification with Jesus' death functions theologically on several levels.

1. sacramental theology (cf. Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12; 3:1,3-5)

2. church doctrine (cf. I Thess. 4:14-15)

3. personal experience (cf. II Cor. 4:10-11; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:10)


▣ "mortal flesh" See Special Topic at I Cor. 1:26.

4:12 "So death works in us, but life in you" This is a present middle (deponent) indicative which personifies death. This refers to physical persecution for Paul and his mission team (cf. v. 16) and spiritual life in them to whom he preaches the gospel.

In The Anchor Bible series on 2 Corinthians Victor Furnish believes it is passive voice (p. 257) because that voice dominates vv. 10-11, where the understood subject is the power of God (cf. v. 7). This would imply that God uses trials and persecutions as a means of producing Christlikeness in His followers. Leaders' lives give power to their messages (cf. 1:3-11; II Tim. 2:9-10).

  13But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed, therefore I spoke," we also believe, therefore we also speak, 14knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. 15For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

4:13 "having the same spirit of faith" The significant thing here is that the same faith that made a person right with God in the OT (i.e., the writer of Psalm 116) is the faith that makes a person right with God in the NT (i.e., Abraham in Gen. 15:6, quoted by Paul in Rom. 4:3,9,22).

Paul is using the term "spirit" in the sense of a person's self. He often uses "spirit" as a way of referring to the inner qualities of a human person (see note at 4:21). This is not related to the similar phrase found in I Cor. 12:9, which refers to the Spirit gifting believers with faith. This refers to saving faith such as Abraham's (cf. Gen. 15:6). Interestingly, in Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2, M. R. Vincent says, "not distinctly the Holy Spirit, nor, on the other hand, a human faculty or disposition, but blending both; faith as a gift of the Spirit of God" (p. 82).

In Synonyms of the Old Testament, Robert Girdlestone has in interesting discussion of the uses of the term "spirit" in the NT (pp. 61-63).

"1. evil spirits

2. the human spirit

3. the Holy Spirit

4. things that the Spirit produces in and through human spirits

a. 'not a spirit of slavery vs. a spirit of adoption' - Rom. 8:15

b. 'a spirit of gentleness' - I Cor. 4:21

c. 'a spirit of faith' - II Cor. 4:13

d. 'a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him' - Eph. 1:17

e. 'not a spirit of timidity vs. power, love and discipline' - II Tim. 1:7

f. 'spirit of error" vs. "spirit of truth' - I John 4:6"


▣ "according to what is written" This is a PERFECT PASSIVE PARTICIPLE, which is used by OT authors to refer to the givenness and relevance of Scripture (cf. Matt. 5:17-19).

"I believed, therefore I spoke" This is a quote from the Septuagint of Psalm 116:10, which speaks of God's rescue of a saint.

4:14 "that He who raised the Lord Jesus" This phrase is an excellent opportunity to show that the NT often attributes the works of redemption to all three persons of the Godhead.

1. God the Father raised Jesus (cf. Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31; Rom. 6:4,9; 10:9; I Cor. 6:14; II Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; I Thess. 1:10)

2. God the Son raised Himself (cf. John 2:19-22; 10:17-18)

3. God the Spirit raised Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:11)

There are several variants related to the phrase, "the Lord Jesus."

1. "the Lord Jesus" - MSS א, C, D, F, G

2. "the Lord Jesus Christ" - MS 436

3. "the Lord Jesus from the dead" - MSS 104, 459

4. "Jesus" - MSS P46, B

The UBS4 gives option #1 a "B" rating (almost certain), but Bruce Metzger prefers option #4 (as does the NET Bible). As with so many of the variants, which one was original does not affect the overall thrust of the passage.

"will raise us. . .will present us" These are both future active indicatives. Believers will be raised from the dead (syn with Jesus) and presented to the Father (syn with all believers).

Paul's understanding as to the time of the Second Coming is ambiguous. In some texts it seems that he expected to be alive at the parousia (cf. I Thess. 4:15,17; I Cor. 15:51-52; and Phil. 3:20; 4:5), but in other texts he seems to identify himself with those believers who have died (cf. I Cor. 6:14; II Cor. 4:14; 5:1-10). Only the Father knows the time of the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). The Second Coming is the hope of every generation of believers, but the reality of only one generation. Believers are to live ready, ready by being active in Christ's service.

4:15 Paul's heart was to help sinful people come to faith in Christ and find true peace and joy and give God praise (cf. 1:11 and NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB). The NKJV is a bit more literal "to the majority." This may refer to Paul's supporters in the Corinthian church. It would be opposite of the "some" (cf. 3:1; 10:12; I Cor. 4:18; 6:11; 8:7; 10:7,8,9,10; 15:6,12,34,35). Verse 15 is obviously a doxological summary.

"the glory of God" See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at I Cor. 2:7.

  16Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18while 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.

4:16 "Therefore we do not lose heart" This is a recurrent theme in Paul's writings (cf. 4:1; Gal. 6:9; Eph. 3:13; II Thess. 3:13). Circumstances are, in reality, for strengthening our spiritual stamina and fruitfulness.

"but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" These are both present passive indicatives, which denote ongoing action. The passive voice is hard to translate and understand in this context. Most English translations translate them as Active voice, but they also may denote divine action in using physical problems and persecutions as a means to strengthen and mature Jesus' followers (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-21; 16:1-2; 17:14; Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3-4; 8:17; II Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:29; 3:11; I Thess. 3:3; II Tim. 3:12; Heb. 5:8; James 1:2-4; I Pet. 4:12-19). In Eph. 3:16 and 4:24 there is a comparison of the old man and the new man, but the contrast here is between our outer physical body and our inner spiritual nature.

▣ "is being renewed" See Special Topic following.


"day by day" Paul uses Hebrew idiomatic (cf. Gen. 39:10; Esther 3:4; Ps. 68:19) repetition in v. 16, "day by day," and a similar Hebraic repetition in v. 17, "excessively to excess" (i.e., huperbolēn eis hperbolēn). Remember, NT authors (except Luke) are Hebrew/Aramaic thinkers writing in Koine Greek. There are many Hebraic idioms and grammatical constructions, as well as numerous OT allusions and quotes in the NT.

4:17-18 Verse 17 is very similar to Rom. 8:18, while v. 18 is similar to Rom. 8:24. Paul wrote Romans from Corinth! He had been thinking about his call and the problems connected to it. There was, in reality, no comparison between the momentary light affliction and the eternal glory! This is the biblical world view that sustains God's people in this fallen world. He is with us, for us, and will bring us to His personal presence to remain forever!

4:17 "is producing" This same verb is used in Rom. 5:3-4 and James 1:2-4, which also speaks of the benefits of suffering and persecution.

"an eternal weight of glory" See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at I Cor. 2:7.

"far beyond all comparison" Huperbolē. See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at I Cor. 2:1.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How does v. 1 speak of the methods of the false teachers?

2. Were the early church fathers justified in changing the Greek text of v. 4 to meet the problem of their day?

3. What does it mean that Satan is the "god" of this world?

4. Why is Paul drawing such attention to his physical problems versus his spiritual strengths?


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