2 Corinthians 4
2 Corinthians 4
2 Corinthians 4
Good morning church! Great to be with you all this morning. I want to get started right away this morning with reading a passage from chapter 4 in second Corinthians in a different translation, the ESV or English Standard Version because I think it may make it a little easier for us to understand. I know many of you use this translation and I think it is a good one, for the most part, any of the major translations that you will actually read are good ones. There are translations that are better than others depending upon what you are using them for.
The New King James, that I teach out of is what is considered a literal translation or a formal equivalent as it the New American Standard Bible, which may be a little closer to the literal, both excellent translations. They are translations from a differing original set of writings. And then you have versions like the NLT which is a though for thought translation, I need to make this chunk of text say in thought what this chunk of text does, there’s a bit more room for error there in what does it actually say, but it is certainly good to read devotionally. I think the ESV is another excellent translation and that is considered an "essentially literal" (formal equivalent) translation.
Lets look at it together. 2 Cor 4:1-3
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would 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 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.
Both translations begin with the word therefore, old James Vernon McGee used to say when there’s a therefore, wherefore therefore, or what’s it there for? In this case Paul writes 2 Cor 4:1
2 Corinthians 4:1 (NKJV)
1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
What ministry? The one that he spent much of the last chapter talking about. Ministers of the New Covenant he said in vs. 6 of chapter 3, ministers of the Spirit in vs. 8, of righteousness vs 9, and the ministry of Beholding the glory of the Lord in verse 18. And since the ministry of the Old Covenant had glory, and the one of the new more-so, Paul preached the good news of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, a sinless life, crucified to pay the penalty of sin, risen again and alive today boldly, at great cost and without compromise, because it was a ministry that he had received, just as he had received mercy from God, he received this ministry of God, from God.
So when things got tough, when people rejected the message, when he was falsely accused, when times of suffering and persecution came, Paul did not lose heart. Probably, if there was a ministry conference today with the title “How to not lose Heart,” it would sell out and be standing room only,... and Paul says, there’s a reason for that... and here’s the solution. Recognize the ministry you have is not of you, if it is, it’s not a ministry of the Lord.
But, if you are a child of God, He has given you a ministry, and you can walk in the confidence of your great calling and 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.
Paul says we are not messing around with the Word of God. We’re not throwing out there new revelations, or hidden or clever interpretations that the Lord has only revealed to us. Peter tells us that there is no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. Where Paul says here not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully - that word that is interpreted here deceitfully, this is the only place in all of the new testament that it is used. Strong’s dictionary tells us that it is translated from the Greek word Da-La-Oh
δολόω dolóō, dol-o'-o; from G1388; to ensnare, i.e. (figuratively) adulterate:—handle deceitfully.
Paul says we have nothing to do with that, we preach an honest gospel, we allow the Word of God to do the work of God.
In Verse 3, Paul continues 2 Cor 4:3
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
What does veiled mean? Hidden or covered up right, but it’s not hidden to everybody, he says it is veiled to those who are perishing. Do you guys remember all the way back to the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, in the first chapter it says, 1 Cor 1:18
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
When Paul talks about the perishing here who is he talking about? The lost, the unbeliever. They are the ones to whom the Gospel is veiled, in chapter 3 we read 2 Cor 3:16
16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
And so last week we talked about our most effective strategy in trying to evangelize or share the Gospel with our friends is prayer. Pray for them constantly, ask Jesus to open their hearts and take away their blindness. And then share the Gospel with them, and continue to pray. But what if you’re one of the perishing, one that is blinded to the Gospel?..., then believe. Place your faith in Jesus and believe, the verse says, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away, so turn to the Lord!
Paul goes on talking more about those that are blinded…2 Cor 4:4
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.
Here’s another one timer for the new testament, no where else is Satan called the god of this age. He is called the ruler of this world, the prince of the power of the air, but here Paul calls him the god of this age. That in no way means that he is more powerful than God, we know how the book ends. In fact the Bible tells us that all of creation belongs to the Lord.
14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
1 The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.
But see when we go all the way back to the book of Genesis, and I know we are bouncing around today, please bear with me. We know that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, then God created us in His image. Genesis 1:26
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
And God did and He blessed us…Genesis 1:28-29
28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.
Every beast of the earth, every bird of the air, every creeping thing, all things I have given to you. And man chose sin and rebelled against God. Not just in the Old Testament, but in the New as well, Jesus said when He came... that light came into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Paul says that Satan is the god of this age, because man has chosen him,... by popular election. And if we have learned anything in the last several years it is that elections have consequences, I don’t care which side of the isle you are on. In this case, they chose to not believe and therefore are blind to the light of the gospel.
It amazes me how intelligent some people are about some things. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you realize that either they are way smarter than you are, or they at least are in a totally different league when it comes to the topic at hand and you can feel yourself starting to glaze over, I assume that’s what happens to some of you here.
No, but you’re talking to them and you realize their brilliant, you’re not, maybe it only happens to me, but I think you probably know what I’m talking about when you just feel intellectually out of your league. But then,... and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this, personally it’s my goto in those situations, you turn the conversation to the things of the Lord, and suddenly the teeter totter is tilting in the other direction. Blind when it comes to the things of the Lord!
And not just not taught, but out in left field. Their denials of the truth don’t even make sense, and their arguments are just bizarre... and you wonder, how can this be the same person!?! They are blind! The truth is still the truth, even if they are blind to it. It’s pretty bright in this room. We have lights on in here to displace the darkness. If I were to blind myself to the light. And don’t anyone get up from your chairs or throw anything while this is over my eyes, I given strict instructions to our security to hurt you if you do.
If I blind myself to the light, does it mean that there is no light? If I can’t see the light, does it make the light any less real or any less true? Of course not. If you can’t see the truth, you’ve let the god of this world blind you,... so stop it. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved. Satan can’t blind those that see the light. Refusal to believe is what allows him to blind you. He can’t blind those that believe!
There’s another way, I think a more prevalent way that Satan blinds today, it’s more subtile than a refusal to believe. It’s not being an atheist, or an agnostic, it’s being apathetic, not caring enough to even think about it. Our minds are so overloaded with stimuli all the time, in our rare moments of quiet, we don’t want to think. We just want to veg, scroll social media and let someone else think. Stream a show that’s not hard, something to entertain, not provoke thought or challenge us, just chill and not think. Satan doesn’t have to blind us from the truth if he can just distract us from even considering it.
That is why the Word of God is so powerful, it provokes thought, it reveals truth that we have to deal with, it engages our minds that Satan is attempting to blind.
Let’s keep going! Verse 5 2 Cor 4:5-6
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.
Paul says it’s all about Jesus, not us. We do not preach ourselves. The church today would be far better off if preachers did not preach themselves. Didn’t make it about themselves, didn’t have themselves be the hero of every story, or the one that gets elevated week to week. And this can apply to more than just a man, it can apply to the church. So many think... oh if the people are attracted to a personality, or to the style of the man, or all that the church has to offer, Once their coming, once their hooked then they will hear about Jesus.
Gang if we are preaching ourselves, and that is what they are attracted to, then Jesus will always just be a distraction for them, and they will remain blind to the light of the Gospel. D.A. Carson said the “Gospel ministry demands unqualified integrity” and I think that means keeping the good news about the only one who was ever good.
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.
Paul compares us to earthen vessels. Today our coffee or tea mugs have become a bit fancier, with paint and glaze, but then earthen vessels were just made of clay... cups and bowls, they all looked like terracotta pots. And Paul says this glorious gospel, this ministry that we have been given by mercy... its in simple plain old us. Earthen vessels. And who puts such a magnificent thing in an ordinary vessel? God does. He puts this treasure in us so that it is blatantly obvious that the excellence of the power... is of God, and not of us. Anyone that would think otherwise is a crack pot, or a cracked pot.
Paul says we are hard-pressed, under pressure, but we’re not crushed, not in despair, not destroyed, because we are dependent on Jesus, not us. But there is a cost Paul warns. If we gathered in a room like this 150 years ago, we would not have had these bright overhead lights. The room would have been illuminated by candles, or lamps of oil, that give off light by consuming themselves. We can continue to give, continue to serve because there is this treasure within us, that God continues to replenish over and over and over again, as He is the well that never runs dry. Verse 13 2 Cor 4:13-14
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.
Paul believed what he preached. He knew that every threat, every trial, every bit of his suffering was for the glory of God. It was not for nothing. If we were to lose our life for the sake of the gospel, the same God that raised Jesus from the dead will raise us up as well. This life is but a vapor, and then eternity. There’s this treasure inside these earthen vessels, that are temporary, when death comes to us, we have life in Him, in Heaven.
Paul knows that the trials and suffering that he has endured wasn’t just to make him more like Jesus, but it was for others…2 Cor 4:15
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.
Far too often we look at our own goals, our own ideas, and we get proud, or we get discouraged, because we forget that it isn’t about us. We have been given this ministry that that gospel would spread, we have this treasure inside of us to share, causing thanksgiving and the glory of God. That’s what it is all about, that’s what we’re to be all about.
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.
Last week we talked about being transformed. We talked about being self sufficient or self reliant as opposed to be God reliant. And how not overnight,... but over time, we are being transformed more and more like Jesus. That people around us would be able to see the image of Christ in us.
In chapter four Paul is saying, I know it’s hard. But don’t lose heart. This is not a ministry or a mission of your own, that would be too little and far from worth it. This is a ministry that You Christian, have received from God and that is huge, that’s not a ministry of failure, but is often one of fatigue. But Paul says we don’t lose heart. Even though our outward man, or this earthen vessel is perishing, we are being renewed day by day. Even though we are perishing, or this is killing us, our light affliction is but for a moment and well worth it, as it is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Last week we talked about being transformed and today Paul is saying in that, we are being renewed. But his focus isn’t on him, it’s not on his trial, it’s not on the sufferings, it’s not on him at all. Look again at what Paul says in the last verse, because it tells us everything about HIS PERSPECTIVE!
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.
Paul has an eternal perspective. He’s going to Heaven, Christian, we are going to Heaven. Where is your focus, how is your perspective? Are you looking at the things that are seen, the temporary, or are you looking toward forever, the things that are yet to come? The answer to that question determines whether we are dying in our earthen vessels or being renewed for the future glory that awaits us, as our lives now are laid down for this ministry that we have been given, causing thanksgiving in those whose blindness is removed, and in the glory that is given to God. Jesus is coming again and This ministry belongs to us all. In Acts chapter 20 we read....
24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.