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Barnes' New Testament Notes
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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 1

 

Introduction to 2nd Corinthians Chapter 4

THIS chapter is intimately connected with the preceding; and is, indeed, merely a statement of the consequences or results of the doctrine advanced there. In that chapter, Paul had stated the clearness and plainness of the gospel as contrasted with the institutions of Moses, and particularly that the Christian ministry Was a ministration more glorious than that of Moses. It was more clear, It was a ministration of justification, (2 Co 3:9,) and of the Spirit, (2 Co 3:8,) and was a ministration where they were permitted to look upon the unvailed and unclouded glories of God, 2 Co 3:18. In this chapter he states some of the consequences, or results, of their being called to this ministry: and the design is, to magnify the office of the ministry; to show the sustaining power of the truths which they preached; the interest which the Corinthian Christians and all other Christians had in the ministry, and thus to conciliate their favour; and to show what there was to comfort them in the various trials to which as ministers they were exposed, Paul states therefore in this chapter-

(1.) That these clear and elevated views of the gospel sustained him; kept him from fainting; preserved, him from deceit and all improper acts.; made him open and honest; since he had no necessity for craft and guilt, but proclaimed a system of religion which could be commended to every man's conscience, and be seen to be true, 2 Co 4:1,2.

(2.) That if any persons were lost, it was not the fault of the gospel, 2 Co 4:3,4. That was clear, open, plain, glorious, and might be understood; and if they were lost, it was to be traced to the malign influence of the god of this world, and not to the gospel.

(3.) That the great purpose of Paul and his associates was to make known this clear and glorious truth of the gospel; and that, therefore, the apostles did not preach themselves, but Christ Jesus, the revealer and source of all this glory, 2 Co 4:5,6. Their sole object was to show forth this pure and glorious light of the gospel.

(4.) That it was so arranged by God's appointment and providence that all the glory of the results of the ministry should be his, 2 Co 4:7-11. He had taken especial care that they should have no cause of self-exultation or glorying in preaching the gospel; and had taken effectual means that they should be humbled, and not lifted up with pride from the fact that they were commissioned to make known such glorious truths, and had a ministry more honourable than that of Moses. He had, therefore, committed the treasure to earthen vessels; to frail, weak, dying men, and to men in humble life, (2 Co 4:7,) and he had called them to submit to constant trials of persecution, poverty, peril, and want, in order that they might be humbled, and that God might manifestly have all the glory, 2 Co 4:8-11.

(5.) All this was for the sake of the church—a fact which was adapted to conciliate the favour of Christians, and excite their sympathy in the sufferings of the apostles, and to lead them to honour the ministry in a proper manner, 2 Co 4:12-15. It was not for their own welfare, happiness, honour, or emolument, that they endured these trials in the ministry; it was that the church might be benefited, and thus abundant praise redound to God.

(6.) These considerations sustained them in their trials, 2 Co 4:16-18. They had comfort in all their afflictions. They felt that they were doing and suffering these things for the salvation of souls and the glory of God, (2 Co 5:16); they had inward strength given them every day, though the outward man perished, (2 Co 4:16;) they knew that the result of this would be an eternal weight of glory, (2 Co 4:17;) and they were enabled to look to another and a better world; to keep the eye on heaven, and to contemplate by faith the things which were unseen and eternal, 2 Co 4:18. These things supported them; and thus upheld, they went cheerfully to their great work, and met with calmness and joy all the trials which it involved.

Verse 1. Therefore, dia touto. On account of this. That is, because the light of the gospel is so clear; because it reveals so glorious truths, and all obscurity is taken away, and we are permitted to behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, 2 Co 3:18. Since the glories of the gospel dispensation are so great, and its effects on the heart are so transforming and purifying, the object is to show the effect of being intrusted with such a ministry on the character of his preaching.

Seeing we have this ministry. The gospel ministry, so much more glorious than that of Moses, (2 Co 3:6;) which is the ministry by which the Holy Spirit acts on the hearts of men, 2 Co 3:8 which is the ministry of that system by which men are justified, (2 Co 3:9;) and which is the ministry of a system so pure and unclouded, 2 Co 3:9-11,18.

As we have received mercy. Tindal renders, this, "even as mercy is sure in us." The idea is, that it was by the mere mercy and favour of God that he had been intrusted with the ministry; and the object of Paul is doubtless to prevent the appearance of arrogance and self-confidence, by stating that it was to be traced entirely to God that he was put into the ministry. He doubtless had his eye on the fact that he had been a persecutor and blasphemer; and that it was by the mere favour of God that he had been converted and intrusted with the ministry, 1 Ti 1:13. Nothing will more effectually humble a minister, and prevent his assuming any arrogant and self-confident airs, than to look over his past life; especially if his life was one of blasphemy, vice, or infidelity; and to remember that it is by the mere mercy of God that he is intrusted with the high office of an ambassador of Jesus Christ. Paul never forgot to trace his hope, his appointment to the ministerial office, and his success, to the mere grace of God.

We faint not. This is one of the effects of being intrusted with such a ministry. The word here used (ekkakoumen) means, properly, to turn out a coward; to lose one's courage; then to be faint-hearted, to faint, to despond, in view of trial, difficulty, etc.—Robinson. Here it means, that by the mercy of God he was not disheartened by the difficulties which he met; his faith and zeal did not flag; he was enabled to be faithful, and laborious, and his courage always kept up, and his mind was filled with cheerfulness. See Barnes "2 Co 2:14".

He was deterred by no difficulties; embarrassed by no opposition; driven from his purpose by no persecution; and his strength did not fail under any trims. The consciousness of being intrusted with such a ministry animated him; and the mercy and grace of God sustained him.

{a} "received mercy" 1 Co 7:25

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