Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians and Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

 

May 8, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

 


II. Apology for Paul’s Ministry. (1:12–7:16)

B.     The Calling of Paul. (3:1-6:10)                                                                                     

               Lesson II.B.3: The Ministry of the New Covenant. (4:1-6)

2nd Corinthians 4:1-6 (NKJV)

1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;

2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, 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 if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Introduction

 

Paul was under attack at Corinth. His authority and honesty were being challenged. Charges of dishonesty were circulating in the church. Paul was facing a church in revolt.

 

How did Paul handle opposition? At every step he deflected criticism of his abilities. He simply refused to defend himself. He even submitted to his opponents a list of weaknesses and trials he had endured. Why did Paul do this? He knew that this list would focus the Corinthians on what was important: GOD’S GLORIOUS PLAN OF SALVATION.

 

 

Commentary

 

1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;

 

This is a wonderful ministry. God has given to us a message which no man could have conceived. It would be impossible for anyone to work out a plan like the gospel presents. I don’t know why God has allowed me to have a ministry, but I suspect it was simply a matter of mercy. We have seen before that God is rich in mercy. God didn’t exhaust his mercy before he got to me, because He saw I would need a whole lot of it. He has been rich in mercy to me. His mercy has allowed me to publish sermons and Bible studies on the internet for thousands to read. Since it is by His mercy, we faint not. We rejoice in it!

 

Someone will surely ask, “What is so wonderful about this ministry?” There are many religions in the world and the thing that makes Christianity so wonderful is also that which makes it so very different from all other religions. It is very simply expressed by one word. All the religions of the world say, “Do, do, do.” The gospel says, “Done.” The Bible tells me that God has done something for me; I am to believe it; I am to trust Him. The only way I can come to Him is by faith. That is my approach to Him. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). But in contrast to this, the religions of this world all say, “Do.” It is almost amusing to see what the cults in this country say one must do to be right with God. One cult claims there are four things, one of them says there are seven things you must do, another has ten things you must do—the Ten Commandments.

 

Some of these cults say you must have faith. However, by “faith” they do not mean “trust in Jesus Christ,” but rather an acknowledgment as historical fact that Jesus lived and that He died over two thousand years ago. My friend, simply believing that Jesus died will not save you. Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again, according to the Scriptures. That is the important distinction. We must put our trust in His finished work. It is done!

 

At one time Paul had been under the Law. He knew what it was to be under a system of “Do, do, do.” He said of himself, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:3-6). He was really under the Law, and he hoped he would be able to work out his salvation. Then one day he met the Lord Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road. After he came to know Him as Lord and Savior, he wrote, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:8-9). You see, after Paul had stood in the presence of Jesus Christ, he saw that he could not make it on his own. Any righteousness he might have due to the Law would not be enough. He would need to have the righteousness of Christ. Paul says that was a new life for him.

 

It is a new day for each of us when we recognize this fact. Today we still need mercy. God has been merciful; God loved us. God in His mercy provided a Savior for us, and now He saves us by His grace. How wonderful He is!

 

At the very end of this verse Paul has added three words, “we faint not.” He says that he never loses heart in the great task that was given to him, and by implication he tells us why. Three things keep him going:

                               1.            There is the consciousness of a great task. A man who is conscious of a great task can do remarkable things. One of the great works of musical genius is Handel’s Messiah. It is on record that the whole work was composed and written down in twenty-two days, and during all that time Handel would scarcely stop to eat or sleep. A great task brings its own strength with it.

                              2.            There is the memory of mercy received. It was Paul’s aim to spend all his life seeking to do something for the love which had redeemed him.

                              3.            It imparts courage to “faint not” (to lose heart). The Greek for this phrase can mean anything from not becoming discouraged to not acting like a coward. In other words, the glorious plan of God gave Paul hope and courage to face his day with great confidence in God (5:6-8{5]).

 

Before his conversion, Paul had hunted down believers, vowing to imprison them and destroy the budding church. Christ Himself put a stop the Paul’s plans on the road to Damascus, rescuing him from the path that he was on, the path that leads to eternal death. Christ also commissioned him to preach the gospel (Acts 9:1-19). Paul did not deserve any of this and he knew it (1 Tim 1:12-16{6]). Only God’s kindness allowed him to serve.

 

 

2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, 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.

 

We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus. However, after we have been saved, that gospel must live in us. We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty. Coming to Christ and trusting Him is more than an intellectual assent that Christ died on a cross. It is placing our trust in Him and experiencing His regeneration. When Christ has saved us, we ought to be an example of the gospel. In other words, the man who preaches the gospel should be a holy man. Paul says that we have “renounced the hidden things of dishonesty.”

 

The false teachers who had visited Corinth were diluting God’s Word or twisting it to serve their own selfish purposes, which Paul describes as practicing “craftiness.” We are not to walk in hypocrisy (“craftiness”). We should not be unreal. Our behavior should not contradict that which we are preaching. Our conduct should meet with the approval of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not perfect, but we should walk in a way that is well pleasing to Him.

 

We are not to “handle the Word of God deceitfully.”  Someone has translated that “huckstering.” We are not to be huckstering the Word of God. This gets right down to where we live. Mr. Preacher, why do you preach? Are you preaching for money? You say that you preach for the love of souls, but is it really the love of souls? Or is it for money. Paul wrote, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Co. 9:16). [It appears from this that Paul may have thought something terrible would happen if he quit preaching the true gospel.]

 

A person can preach the gospel, but at the same time his life can be speaking another message. It is a glorious thing to preach the gospel, but it is an awful thing to preach it if down underneath there is a lack of sincerity, a lack of being committed to Him and having a conviction about Him.

 

Actually, I believe this verse is directed to the Christian layman. Do you want to be a witness for Christ? You are a witness for or against Him, whether you want to be, or not. When Paul speaks of the ministry here, he is not referring to the clergy or the man in the pulpit; he is speaking of the man in the pew. The man in the pulpit is to train people for the work of the ministry. If he is not doing this, he is overseeing a somewhat limited church outreach.

 

I read a tremendous analogy the other day: sheep produce sheep. The shepherd cannot produce sheep. He watches over the sheep. It is sheep today who are going to win sheep, because sheep produce sheep. The preacher’s business is to equip the laymen to witness.

 

By the way, are you doing something to get out the Word of God? That is witnessing. God may have given you the gift of making money. Do you use it to send out the Word of God? Perhaps you are a man or woman of prayer, interceding for those who preach and teach the Word of God. This is something anyone can do! You have contact with some person whom no one else can reach. Many people may read my commentaries, but most people are not interested in reading about God and His Word. Maybe you can reach a person who will not listen to anyone else. God has called you to be a witness, my friend. This is tremendous!

 

Earlier Paul had spoken of his opponents as “hucksters . . . who preach just to make money (2.17{7]). The implication is that some of the preachers who had visited Corinth had greedy motives. Paul could perceive their hidden motives because of the havoc and confusion these men were causing in Corinth.  In this verse, Paul has something to say about his opponents and his slanderers, by implication. Again there is the echo of unhappy things. Behind this we can see that his enemies leveled three charges against him. They had said that he uses underhanded methods, that he exercised unscrupulous cleverness to get his own way, and that he adulterated the message of the gospel. When our motives are misinterpreted, our actions misconstrued and our words twisted out of their real meaning, it’s a comfort to remember that this also happened to Paul.

 

Paul confidently asserted that the Corinthians knew his motives were pure: “but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” But because his preaching and motives had been called into question by the Corinthians, he pleaded with them to evaluate his behavior among them to see if he had been devious. Paul was confident that if they fairly judged him, he would be judged innocent of all the charges against him.

 

 

3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

 

“The god of this world” should be translated “the god of this age.” I don’t like to hear Satan called the god of this world. When you step outside your house and look around, it is God’s world that you are looking at. Although sin has marred it, it is still God’s world.

 

Satan is the god of this age. He is running it. He runs the United Nations; he runs all the amusements; he is running the whole show as far as I can tell. He is the god of this age. By the way, he is very successful in keeping many from coming to Christ by making them to stubbornly refuse to believe in Him and to place their trust in their own abilities and intellect instead, so that they will never understand the truth of the gospel.

 

He has “blinded the minds of them which believe not.” Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t understand the gospel? I have heard it all my life, but it doesn’t mean anything to me.” I have heard people say that again and again. What has happened? The devil has blinded them. The light is shining, but the devil has blinded their eyes so they cannot see. Satan has blinded many people. They say, “Why don’t you turn on the light? I don’t see the gospel at all.” That is the blindness that comes from Satan.

 

There are other people who say, “There are things in the Bible that I cannot believe. I don’t know why, but I just can’t believe them.” But do you know what the problem really is. It’s really not that there are things in the Bible he couldn’t believe. The problem was that there was sin in his life, sin that the Bible condemns. He didn’t want to believe. That is the condition of a lot of people today. The problem is not with the Bible; the problem is with their lives. If you choose to go on indulging your sins, then you can go on doing that. It is your loss. But you can turn to Christ. Don’t tell me you cannot. You can turn to Christ if you want to. The moment a man comes to the place where he sees himself as a sinner and says, “I am ready to renounce my sin; I’m ready to receive Christ as my Savior,” he will be saved. The Word of God is light. Instead of saying you cannot see the light and instead of trying to blame the Bible, why don’t you face your sins before God? Then there will be no difficulty about your believing.

 

Turn to God in repentance; be prepared to let the Spirit of God reveal His truth to you, and It will be His joy to show the glory of the grace of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ. Why don’t people believe? Because Satan has blinded their eyes, “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” It is a glorious gospel, but it is glorious because it reveals the glory of Jesus Christ. Apparently, that is what men do not want to see.

 

It is clear that Paul is speaking of those who have refused to accept the gospel. He insists that he has presented the gospel in such a way that any man with any kind of conscience at all is bound to admit its claim and its appeal. Even in spite of that some are deaf to its appeal and blind to its glory. What about them?

 

Paul says something very difficult about them. He says that “the god of this world” has blinded their minds so that they cannot believe. All through the Bible the writers are conscious that in the world there is a power of evil. Sometimes that power is called Satan, sometimes the Devil. Three times John records that Jesus spoke of the prince of this world and of his defeat (John 12:31{1]; 14:30{2]; 16:11{3]). Paul in Ephesians 2:2 speaks of the prince of the power of the air, and here he speaks of “the god of this world.” Even in the Lord’s Prayer there is a reference to this malign power, for it is most probable that the correct translation of Matthew 6:13{4] is “Deliver us from the Evil One.” At the back of this idea as it emerges in the New Testament there are certain influences.

                               1.            The Persian faith called Zoroastrianism sees the whole universe as a battle-ground between the god of the light and the god of the dark, between Ormuzd and Ahriman. That which settles a man’s destiny is the side he chooses in this cosmic conflict. When the Jews were subject to the Persians they came into contact with that idea and it undoubtedly colored their thinking.

                              2.            Basic to the Jewish faith is the thought of the two ages, the present age and the age to come. By the time of the Christian era, the Jews had come to think of the present age as incurably bad and destined for total destruction when the age to come dawned. It could fitly be said that the present age was under the power of “the god of this world” and at enmity with the true God.

                              3.            It has to be remembered that this idea of an evil and hostile power is not so much a theological idea, as a fact of experience. If we regard it in a theological way we are up against serious difficulties. Where did that evil power come from in a universe created by God? What is its ultimate end? But if we regard it as a matter of experience, we all know how real the evil of the world is. Robert Louis Stevenson somewhere says, “You know the Caledonian Railway Station in Edinburgh? One cold east windy morning I met Satan there.”

 

Everyone knows the kind of experience of which Stevenson speaks. However difficult the idea of a power of evil may be theologically or philosophically, it is one which experience understands only too well. Those who cannot accept the good news of Christ are those who have so given themselves over to the evil of the world that they can no longer hear God’s invitation. It is not that God has abandoned them; they by their own conduct have shut themselves off from Him.

 

Although Paul could see perfectly well, as a young Pharisee he had been blinded to spiritual truth. Naively and zealously, he had persecuted the Christians, vowing to destroy them in any way possible. Unknowingly, Paul had been an instrument of Satan. In one magnificent moment, however, Christ had broken through Satan’s deception and had revealed the truth to Paul. A glorious encounter with Christ had opened Paul’s eyes to the truth.

 

The church—the community of believers—is awaiting Jesus’ victorious return when Satan will finally be imprisoned and Jesus will reign forever (2 Thess. 1:7-10{8]). Meanwhile, believers can be certain of Jesus’ protection by reading God’s Word and praying for His protection—“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:17-18). Then they will be able to feel safe from the attacks and deception of their spiritual enemies.

 

Instead of being blinded by Satan like unbelievers are, believers recognize that Jesus is the exact visible representation of God, “the image of God”—“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15). God the Father as spirit is invisible—“who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen” (1 Tim. 6:15). God’s Son, however, is God’s visible expression. Jesus not only reflects the Father, but as God, He reveals God to us—“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2). Christ’s glory reflects divine glory. Jesus is not a copy but the very embodiment of God’s nature.  He is “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). To know Jesus is to know God: “I and My Father are one" (John 10:30).

 

 

5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

 

“We preach . . . Christ Jesus the Lord.” Believe me, dear reader, you and I are helpless when we give out the Word of God. There is an enemy opposed to us, and he binds the minds of people.

 

Paul had stuck to the essential truths of the gospel. He didn’t try to impress with great oratory, something very popular at that time, but he kept his preaching very simple and put the gospel on the lower shelves so everyone could understand it. What is the essential truth of the gospel: “Christ’s death on the cross provided salvation for all those who believe in Him” (1 Co. 2:1-2{9]). This verse underscores another central aspect of Paul’s message: Jesus is Master, or Lord, of all believers.

 

Since his own authority was under attack, Paul could have written that he was their God-appointed leader and teacher (as he did in 1 Tim. 2:7{10]). Instead, Paul emphasized that he and his fellow evangelists were the Corinthian’s servants. Several times in his New Testament letters, Paul wrote of himself as a servant or even a slave of Christ—“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). Here, Paul underscored that he was also a servant of the people he ministered to—in this case the Corinthians. Throughout 2nd Corinthians, Paul reiterated that he was not trying to exercise arbitrary authority over their faith (1:24{11]). On the contrary, Paul was merely serving them as Christ’s appointed messenger, faithfully delivering the truths of the gospel to them.

 

 

6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

Paul goes back to the time of creation when God created light. I don’t know when Creation took place. All I can say with reasonable assurance is that way back yonder in the beginning God created it. He did not give us a date. Our God is a god of eternity. He wasn’t just sitting around twiddling his thumbs waiting for man to appear on the scene. Man is a Johnny-come-lately, of course, but God has been here a long, long, long time. I hold the position that this universe has been here for a long time and that something happened to it. It bears evidence that some titanic convulsion took place. Something must have happened to a perfect creation. We are told in Genesis 1 that God moved in. The Spirit of God moved, or the actual word is brooded, upon the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Just as God had brought order out of the chaos of darkness by ordering, “Let there be light in the darkness,” so God was piercing the chaos of evil with the light of His truth. The light of Christ exposes falsehood and evil for what it is: a perversion of the good (Eph. 5:13-14{12]). Those who believe in Jesus become children of light. They live in the light, allowing it to judge all of their actions—“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).

 

This passage emphasizes that the light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. The light of Christ illuminates a believer’s understanding. Only those who allow their minds to be clouded by Satan’s dark deceptions think the message is obscure. God illuminates the minds of believers so that they know with certainty that in Jesus’ face they see the glory of God. The implication is that those who look for God’s glory only in the old covenant, in the face of Moses, are being deceived by Satan (2 Co. 3:15-17{13]).

 

Now Paul tells us that God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness [in Genesis 1], hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Just as the Spirit of God brooded over the waters so the Spirit of God broods over a soul. He moves in to bring conviction to our hearts. Then He regenerates us. And the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, shines in. Here we are back looking at Him. As someone has said, “The look saves, but the gaze sanctifies.” We need to spend a lot of time looking at Him. But even doing this we are weak vessels.

 

The great thought that Paul drives home in this verse it that in Jesus Christ we see what God is like. “He who has seen Me,” said Jesus, “has seen the Father” (John 14:9). When Paul preached he did not say, “Look at me!” He said, “Look at Jesus Christ! And there you will see the glory of God come to earth in a form that a man can understand.”

 

If and when doubts plague you, ask the Holy Spirit to illumine your heart. Then spend time reading God’s Word and submitting your questions to God.

 

 

 

Scripture reference and special notes

 

{1] (John 12:31) Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.

 

{2] (John 14:30) I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

 

{3] (John 16:11) of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

 

{4] (Matthew 6:13) And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

 

{5] (2 Co. 5:6-8) So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

 

{6] (1 Tim 1:12-16) And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

 

{7] (2 Co. 2:17) For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

 

{8] (2 Thess. 1:7-10) and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

 

{9] (1 Co. 2:1-2) And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

 

{10] (1 Tim. 2:7) for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

 

{11] (2 Co. 1:24) Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.

 

{12] (Eph. 5:13-14) But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light."

 

{13] (2 Co. 3:15-17) But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

  

Make a free website with Yola