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

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2013

This post opens with the Bishop’s brief analysis of chapter 4, followed by his notes on verses 7-15. Text in purple represent his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.


Having established, in the preceding chapter, the superior excellence of the Apostolit ministry, the Apostle employs this chapter in defending himself and his colleagues against the charges of the false teachers; his apology is contrived in such a way as, by implication, to insinuate against his accusers the very charges which they preferred against himself. He says, that in discharging his exalted ministry, he has avoided everything, even in private, that might damage its efficacy (verse 1, 2). If to any persons this Gospel publicly preached is unknown, it is through their own fault (3, 4). In preaching, he seeks only God’s glory and his neighbour’s utility, in order to correspond with the designs of God in imparting his ministry (5, 6). But the treasure of celestial knowledge communicated to others, is carried in frail vessels in order to consult for the glory of God alone, whose power appears clearly in preserving the Apostles in the midst of sufferings. (7, 8, 9). They suffer thus, in the hope that by representing Christ’s death, they may share hereafter in the glory of his resurrection (10, 11, 12). But, notwithstanding their constant exposure to death, the Apostles intrepidly preach the Gospel and profess their faith, as did David in the like circumstances (13). Being firmly convinced, that God will, one day, resuscitate them with Jesus, and give a share in the glory of his heavenly kingdom to them as well as to their faithful converts, for whose advantage all the Apostolic ministrations are intended (14, 15). Hence, in the midst of trials, their souls are become more and more vigorous, while constantly making the inexpressible and never ending glory of the life to come, the subject of their continual meditation (16, 17, 18).

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.

7. But this treasure of the heavenly knowledge of the truths of God for the enlightenment of others, we carry in ourselves who are frail and contemptible, like earthen vessels, that the excellence which is in us, and the fruit resulting from our ministry may redound to the glory of God, and not to our own.

The Lord wished to confide this treasure of the ministry of heavenly illumination to poor, ignorant, frail, and contemptible men, in order that all its glory and excellence should be attributed to himself. By the “earthen vessels,” some understand the mortal bodies of the Apostles formed from the earth. Others, more probably, understand them of the persons of the Apostles, who were weak, frail, and despicable in the eyes of men.

2Co 4:8  In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed. We are straitened: but are not destitute.

8. And in the preservation of such frail beings in the midst of the most imminent perils, the divine power is clearly displayed; for, although we are pressed on all sides by adversity; still we are not utterly ruined; and although we are destitute of corporal aid and human counsel in our perplexities, we are not altogether left without resource, God in his mercy suggesting a means of evading our perplexities and embarrassments.

In the following verses, is shown how the power of God was exerted in favour of his ministers, although placed in the most imminent perils. It may not be necessary to give a distinct meaning to each word of the two following verses, the whole passage being nothing more than a mere rhetorical amplification conveying the same idea in different words, which increase in intensity. “Distressed,” στενοχωρούμενοι, is interpreted by many, we are seized with excessive mental anxiety. The version of Erasmus gives the same meaning to the corresponding Greek word. The purpose of the Apostle, however, would appear to be, to show that, although as brittle as earthen vessels, they are still preserved from bodily destruction in the midst of the greatest dangers.

“Straitened but not destitute.” The Greek, απορουμενοι ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐξαπορουμενοι (aporoumenoi all’ ouk exaporoumenoi), literally translated, is, aporiati, sed non exaporiati; the former (“we are straitened” = aporoumenoi) means destitute of human counsel in perplexity, without knowing what to do; the latter (“not destitute” = exaporoumenoi), that they are not oppressed in this perplexity, from which they knew not how to extricate themselves, because God suggests to them a means of effecting an escape. The bishop is here trying to bring out the connection between the words aporoumenoi and
exaporoumenoi (Latin~aporiati and exaporiati). They are destitute or constrained (humanly speaking) without being destitute or constrained because of God’s power.

2Co 4:9  We suffer persecution: but are not forsaken. We are cast down: but we perish not.

9. We suffer persecution on account of the exercise of our ministry, but we are not forsaken by God who rescues us in our perils; we are cast down to the earth in our struggles with our opponents; but still, we are not despatched (because God interposes to save and raise us up).

“We are cast down,” &c., conveys the idea of most imminent danger of life, just as if a man in single combat were thrown to the earth by his adversary, and ready to be despatched, unless some one interpose to raise him up and enable him to avoid the fatal stab. God interposed to rescue the Apostles placed in the like danger. The words may also convey the idea, in allusion to earthen vessels, that although flung down upon the earth, God still interposed to save them from being utterly destroyed.

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.

10. By our daily exposure to dangers and death, we always carry about, and by certain resemblance express in our bodies, the death of our Lord Jesus, in order that the life of glory which he now enjoys, may at a future day be revealed in us, when this mortal shall put on immortality.

“The mortification.” The Greek word, νεκρωσιν (necrosin), denotes a dying state without actual death. “of Christ.” (In the common Greek, of the Lord Jesus). The word “Lord” is wanting in the chief MSS. which support the Vulgate. “That the life also of Jesus,” &c., are understood by some as referring, not to the future glory of the children of God (as in Paraphrase), but to the proof of Christ’s Resurrection, in consequence of rescuing so miraculously out of the very jaws of death, those who were thus exposed for his sake, so that the life of Jesus now risen may be clearly manifested and seen in our bodies rescued by him from death; for, had He not lived, He could not have rescued them. Others understand these words as referring to a typifying of His Resurrection; for, as our constant exposure to death was a type of His passion and death, so was our deliverance from these imminent perils of death a type of His Resurrection. “In our bodies.” In Greek, ἐν τῶ σηματι ἡμῶν (en to somati hemon), in our body.

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.

11. For, although living, we are constantly given over to death on account of the preaching of Jesus, in order that the glorious and immortal life of Jesus may, at a future day, be revealed in this mortal flesh.

This verse is illustrative of the preceding. “That the life of Jesus,” &c., may also mean, that the life of Jesus risen from the dead may be made manifest by His having saved those perishable bodies amidst such deadly perils; and hence, our preservation furnishes a confirmatory proof of the Resurrection of Jesus.

2Co 4:12  So then death worketh in us: but life in you.

12. Therefore, by the preaching of the gospel, death is caused in us; but, by this means, your spiritual life is advanced.

The conclusion drawn by the Apostle is, that by these sufferings, death is exercised in himself and his colleagues, by which means their spiritual life is advanced. Others, with St. Chrysostom, understand the words of this verse to convey a reproach to the Corinthians, who were living in ease and abundance, while the Apostles were exposed to danger and want of all sorts. The former interpretation is the more probable. In all this, the Apostle indirectly and obliquely reproaches the false teachers as having encountered no such dangers or privations for the faith, and as having no such testimony of divine deliverance and interposition in their favour.

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:

13. But having, in the midst of dangers and death, the same faith proceeding from the Holy Ghost, that David had of old, when, as it is written of him, he said in the midst of trials and dangers: I have believed, and still believe firmly in the divine promises, and therefore, in consequence of this unhesitating faith in God’s promises, I have proclaimed, and still proclaim it aloud; so we also Apostles firmly believe in the promises, and, therefore, openly proclaim and profess this our faith.

He assigns a reason why the Apostles, in the midst of dangers, preach intrepidly it is because they really and firmly believe, unlike the false teachers, who, in dangerous circumstances, are become like “dumb dogs not able to bark.”—(Isaias, 56:10), “Having the same spirit of faith,” which David had, proceeding from the Holy Ghost, when in Psalm 115 he says, in the midst of the dangers which menaced his life: “I believed” (the perfect tense is put, by a Hebrew idiom, for the present, “I believe:” or, it may mean, I have believed and still continue to believe, in the promises of God made to me by Samuel, that one day I should ascend the throne; for, it is to this he refers in the 115th Psalm), and, therefore, on account of the firmness of this faith, “I have spoken” I have proclaimed, and do proclaim it aloud, knowing that God will preserve me. Some interpreters understand the word thus: having the same faith, with you, emanating from the Holy Ghost, we too believe, and, therefore, as did he of whom it was written, “I believed,” &c. It is better, however, to understand it of the same faith, with David. Hence, the faith of the saints of old is the same with ours. The mode of believing may be different; for they believed implicitly, what we believe explicitly; but “the same spirit” was the author of their faith and ours (For the connection between the ancient faithful and ourselves see Heb 11:13 in conjunction with Heb 11:39-12:2 and Heb 12:22-25). Those, therefore, who believe firmly in their hearts, shall not be afraid or ashamed to profess this interior faith openly, when its external profession becomes a matter of duty.

2Co 4:14  Knowing that he who raised up Jesus will raise us up also with Jesus and place us with you.

14. Firmly impressed with the belief, that he who raised Jesus from the dead, will so raise us, and bestow on us a like glory with Jesus, and give us a place with you in his heavenly kingdom.

 “Raised up Jesus.” In the common Greek, raised up the Lord Jesus. (The Codex Vaticanus has not the word Lord). “With Jesus.” (In the common Greek, δια Ιησου = dia Iesou, through Jesus). The Codex Vaticanus has, συν ιησου (sun Iesou, with Jesus), the Vulgate reading retained by St. Jerome. This firm belief in their future resurrection animates the Apostles to proclaim it aloud and preach the gospel intrepidly amid the most appalling dangers. “And place us with you.” He uses this form rather than place you with us, to show the great value he attaches to them, so as to prefer them to himself in glory, since he is only to come in for a share of glory of which they will be in possession.

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.

15. I said, give us a place with you, for all our ministrations are ordained for your salvation, that the grace of the gospel, being diffused amongst many, whilst many are returning thanks for it, may redound to the glory of God.

 It is not without cause that he placed them first; for they, or rather their salvation, is the end for which all his labours are designed. From making them sharers in his own glory this good shall result, viz., that the benefits of the gospel being more widely diffused and more extensively communicated, may redound to the glory of God, whilst the many on whom they are conferred will join in returning God thanks for them. Acts of thanksgiving, therefore, contribute much to God’s glory. The Greek, την ευχαριστιαν περισευσση εἰς την δοξαν τοῦ θεοῦ, admits the construction of Erasmus, viz., that the grace abounding through many may abound with thanksgiving unto the glory of God, in which the verb “abound” has a transitive signification, as in chapter 11, verse 8.

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