The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

R.D. Byles’ Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:1-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 28, 2012

In this chapter St. Paul continues his praise of the ministry of the gospel; and  having shown how excellent it is in itself, he proceeds to speak of his employment of it, both in his preaching (4:1-6), and in his patient endurance of suffering, which he accepts anil offers for their sakes (4:7-15).

2Co 4:1  Therefore seeing we have this ministration, according as we have obtained mercy, we faint not.

this ministry—i.e., a ministry of such dignity as he has described it to be.

according as . . . This belongs to what precedes. He has this ministration, not as from himself, but according to the mercy he has received from God. The apostle explains this more fully in 1 Tim 1:12-16, where he says that God’s mercy was shown both in his conversion and in his being called to the apostolate for the sake of the increase of the Church by his means.

we faint not. St. Paul is here resuming what he said in chapter 3:12: We speak plainly and boldly, and do not shrink back through weakness or cowardice from any difficulties, such as are mentioned in vv. 8, &c.

2Co 4:2  But we renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness nor adulterating the word of God: but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience, in the sight of God.

This verse contains a threefold antithesis: (1) We renounce the hidden things of dishonesty . . . commending ourselves to every man’s conscience; (2.) not walking in craftiness . . . (but) in the sight of God; (3) not adulterating the Word of God, but manifesting the truth.

the hidden things of dishonesty. Dishonesty here means what is dishonourable; such sins as men hide, and do not wish to have known even to their fellowmen, much less to God (cf. John 3:19-21). St. Paul teaches us here that all sin is a hindrance both to those who are seeking the light of truth, and to those who would declare it to others.

not walking in craftiness—that is hypocrisy, or dissimulation. St. Paul implies that he has rejected not only evil works, but also evil intention.

adulterating. This means, as in chapter 2:17, either mixing false doctrine with the true, or preaching to obtain glory or gain.

commending ourselves, i.e., not by speaking good about himself, which might very well not be believed, but by doing good.

to every man’s conscience. St. Paul said in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, “I became all things to all men that I might save all” (cf. 1 Cor 9:19-22). He implies here that when the gospel is clearly preached it is commended to every man’s conscience, so that those who do not receive it are resisting their consciences.

A Summary of verses 3-6~ In these verses St. Paul shows that if any do not receive this gospel, it is not because of any fault of the gospel, but of a blindness on the part of the unbelievers, which is, (ordinarily at least) the result of sin: since his gospel is no other than the gospel of Christ, which derives its power of illuminating from God Himself, the Author of all light.

2Co 4:3  And if our gospel be also hid, it is hid to them that are lost,

hid. The word means “veiled,”  and is an allusion to the similitude of the previous chapter. (i.e., the veil covering Moses’ face in chapter 3).

that are lost. This should be translated, “who arc perishing'” (Gr. εν τοις απολλυμενοις, Vulg. “in his qui pereunt”).

2Co 4:4  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them.

the god 0f this world. Many ancient commentators suppose that by this is meant God Himself, who created and sustains this world; and who may be said to blind the minds of unbelievers, inasmuch as He withdraws His grace from those who are obstinate in refusing to believe. In support of this is the fact that God alone, in the strictest sense, is God of this world; but nevertheless it appears better to understand it as meaning the devil, who may be called the god of this world—(1) because he is permitted to exercise a certain power in this world by tempting men (cf Rev 12:12); (2) because there are so many in this world who follow him as if he were their god, that is, as though he had a claim to their service, and over whom he exercises dominion; (3) he is god of this world in the sense in which the ”world” is often used by our Lord and His apostles to denote the whole body of men who act without any regard to God as their last end, and who are opposed to the Church. It is in this sense that the devil himself in tempting our Lord claimed power over all the kingdoms of the world; with great presumption indeed, yet at least acknowledging that he did not have ihis power of himself, but only as it was delivered to him (Luke 4:6). Our Lord also three times called the devil the “prince of this world,” and declared that by the power of His crucifixion the usurped power of the devil should be overthrown (John 12:31; also John 14:30; John 16:11).

hath blinded, i.e., by suggesting and inclining them to sin, which, renders them less able to see the truth.

light (Gr. τον φωτισμον, Vulg. illuminatio). It would be better translated ”illumination” or “enlightenment.” God the Father is the original source of all light (1 John 1:5), and from this original light is derived its image, God the Son; who in the Nicene Creed is called “light from light” (lumen de lumine); and in the Epistle to the Hebrews is called the “brightness of the Father’s glory and the figure of His substance” (Heb 1:3). The Son having become incarnate, manifested to men the brightness of God (John 1:9, 14; John 8:12) by His Divine working. The gospel declares the glory of Christ, which is the glory of God, since Christ is the perfect image of God, being (unlike other imperfect images) in all things equal to Him Whose image He is. This declaration has a power of enlightening, by the help of grace, those who are not hindered by sin from receiving it.

2Co 4:5  For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord: and ourselves your servants through Jesus.

ourselves your servants through Jesus. That is to say, he did not commend himself, but made himself the servant of the Church, existing only for their spiritual welfare (cf 1 Cor 9:19).

2Co 4:6  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 Christ Jesus.

God, who commanded. … St. Paul, having spoken of his own ministry at the end of the last verse, now sums up this section of his Epistle. He says that God who, by His mere fiat, brought light out of darkness, has shone in his heart (namely, at his conversion, Acts 9:3), and not only shines upon and in him, but also shines forth from him to the enlightening of others, by giving them a knowledge of the glory of God, a glory which shines on the face of Christ Jesus.

hath shined in our hearts. As the created manifestation of God’s glory enlightened the face of Moses, and being reflected therefrom, illuminated also the children of Israel; in the same manner, but in a far higher degree, the perfect and uncreated glory of God, made manifest in our Lord’s sacred humanity, shines upon the apostles and priests of the New Testament, and being reflected from them enlightens both those who believe through their ministry, and also the whole Church of God. The antithesis is between the glory illuminating the face of Moses, and that illuminating the apostles. It is not directly between Moses and our Lord. But as the latter glory has its most perfect manifestation in our Blessed Lord, and as moreover the apostles, only as members of Christ, either have light themselves, or give it to others, therefore St. Paul speaks of the enlightenment which shines from himself, as existing in the Divine Face of our Lord.

Brief Summary of 2 Cor 4:7-15: In this passage St. Paul begins to declare the greatness of his ministry in another way. He has shown how great a dignity it is to have the glory of the apostleship; he now proceeds to rejoice that he is made a partner with our Lord, not only in His glory, but also in His suffering; without which suffering that glory would be imperfect, because it would not be sure to be attributed solely to God.

2Co 4:7  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us.

treasure; that is, the light with which he enlightens others. In earthen vessels has been explained in two ways: either (1) our bodies, which are formed of the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7; 3:19); or (2) our whole persons, as being weak and unworthy of such dignity ; as Isaiah 64:8 says, “Thou art our Father, and we are clay.”

2Co 4:8  In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed. We are straitened: but are not destitute.
2Co 4:9  We suffer persecution: but are not forsaken. We are cast down: but we perish not.

God wishes His apostle to be despised and persecuted, in order that it may be quite evident that the power of the ministry is derived only from God, and not from St. Paul himself.

The four clauses in these two verses probably correspond to no exact distinction of different modes of suffering.

Verse 8. not distressed. The word expresses the situation of a man who is in a difficulty which offers no way of escape. It implies that while those who trust only in the world have no remedy if they are in tribulation from the world, those who trust in God are never left without resource. For if the world afflicts them, they still have a means of escape by God’s help.

straitened, but not destitute. This would be better translated “in want, but not in absolute want”.

Verse 9. cast down, or rather “struck down,” i.e., to the danger of death.

2Co 4:10  Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.
2Co 4:11  For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
2Co 4:12  So then death worketh in us: but life in you.

St. Paul accepts all his sufferings not only with patience, but with eagerness; because he recognizes in them an opportunity of meriting, and a pledge of receiving, future glory with our Lord; and because he wishes to offer them for the salvation of his converts.

Verse 10. mortifcation. That is “putting to death.”’ It includes both the actual renunciation of all sin, as he said in writing to the Romans, “Reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God” (Rom 6:11); and more especially the patient endurance of the sufferings which he continually had to undergo, and through which he hoped to obtain a share in our Lord’s resurrection (cf. Phil 3:8-12).
See note on 2 Cor 1:5.

Made manifest. This is chiefly the case in the resurrection of our bodies, which are made to live with the life of our Lord, even as He said, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

Verse 11. we who live, i.e., as long as our life on earth lasts. Are always delivered unto death; that is, ”are always being delivered.” St Paul’s life was perpetual martyrdom; as the Psalmist says, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long” (Ps 44:23); or as St. Paul said himself, “I die daily” (1 Cor 15:31). This martyrdom is quite apart from the actual danger of death, in which St. Paul has often found himself (cf. 2 Cor 1:8-9; Acts 14:18, &c.).

Death worketh in us, but life in you; that is, suffeiings of mind and body, equivalent to death, continually have dominion over me. Though you do not indeed share these sufferings, yet by virtue of them (which I offer for your welfare) you are made partakers of the spiritual life to which they lead.

2Co 4:13  But having the same spirit of faith, as it is written: I believed, for which cause I have spoken; we also believe. For which cause we speak also:
2Co 4:14  Knowing that he who raised up Jesus will raise us up also with Jesus and place us with you.

St. Paul shows that the power to endure his sufferings rests only upon the certainty of faith, infused into his heart by the Holy Ghost, and assuring him of eternal life in our Lord.

Verse 13. The same, that is, the same as that of the Psalmist; for though the object of faith has become more fully manifested, yet the Spirit and the faith are the same.

Spirit. It is not clear whether by this word we are to understand the Holy Ghost, who imparts the faith, or the quality or virtue of faith itself, which is imparted.

I believed. (Ps 116:10.) The saints of the Old Testament had divine faith, and confessed their faith (cf. Heb 11 ).

Verse 14. knowing, that is, with the certainty of faith, for divine faith is the most certain form of knowledge.

With Jesus, that is, to receive the same glory as our Lord. The living members cannot be separated from their Head, who has said, “Where I am, there also shall my minister be” (John 12:26).

2Co 4:15  For all things are for your sakes: that the grace, abounding through many, may abound in thanksgiving unto the glory of God.

All things are for your sakes. These words explain the last clause of the preceding verse. He can well couple them with himself, because he does and suffers all things for their good.

That the grace abounding through many. . . . This clause probably means, ”that the grace having abounded by means of many may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.”

Through many. St. Paul, having said that all his sufferings were endured for their sakes, does not wish to seem to assume to himself all the merit for the grace they had received, and therefore he adds these words, implying that the prayers of all the members of the Corinthian Church had had a share in obtaining grace for them. Some commentators, however, take these words with “the thanksgiving” thus: “that the abundant grace may cause thanksgiving to abound througli many;” that is to say, that all who receive the grace may join in giving thanks for it.

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One Response to “R.D. Byles’ Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:1-15”

  1. […] R.D. Byles’ Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:5-14. Post is on verses 1-15. […]

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