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

Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 6, 2017

THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE SUBLIMITY OF THE APOSTLES’ MINISTRY
AND THE INFIRMITY OF THEIR LIVES

A Summary of 2 Corinthians 4:7-12~St. Paul has described very clearly the excellence of the Apostolic ministry. This is now understood. But how reconcile the discharge of such exalted functions as fall to the lot of Christian ministers with the weakness and abject misery of the lives of the Apostles? Looking at the lowly condition of St. Paul and his companions, their adversaries could easily make a case against them by telling their converts not to believe them and not to follow them, seeing that they were abandoned and rejected of God. The Apostle, therefore, anticipates this objection by showing that God chose weak instruments (a) to make it plain that the power of the Gospel was not from men, but from Himself; and (b) to render the Apostles more like to Christ whose death and Resurrection they exemplified and preached for the life and salvation of the faithful.

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

This treasure, i.e., the exalted office of the Christian ministry.

In earthen vessels, i.e., in fragile vessels made of clay. The allusion is not only to man’s body, but especially to his weak human nature, as is clear from verse 8. God chose weak instruments to spread His Gospel, in order to make it plain that the efficacy of their preaching and the excellence of their message were due to Him, and not to themselves.

2 Cor 4:8. In all things we suffer tribulation, but are not distressed; we are straitened, but are not destitute:

Five illustrations of the contrast between the “treasure” and the “earthen vessels” now follow (verses 8-1 1).

In all things we suffer, etc. More literally, “Pressed on every side, but not crushed”; “perplexed, but not unto despairing.” The participles in Greek look back to Εχομεν (=echomen)  we have, of verse 7.

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

We suffer persecution, etc. Better, “Pursued, but not deserted,” by God so as to be captured by enemies; “struck down (as in battle), but not destroyed.”

2 Cor 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.

The divine purpose of the Apostles’ suffering is now explained. By their continual tortures and exposure to death the
Apostles represented and, in a sense, repeated the sufferings of Christ, in order that their many deliverances might be a proof of the life of the risen Jesus whose rescuing power was thus manifested in them. Like Christ’s Resurrection, the Apostles were witnesses to the truth of the Gospel, for they showed that Jesus is still alive and able to save (Plum.).

The mortification of Jesus means the dying, or putting to death of Jesus, although νέκρωσιν (=nekrosis) is used elsewhere in the New Testament only once (Rom. 4:19), and then to describe the “deadness” of Sara’s womb.

2 Cor 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.

The thought of the preceding verse is brought out more clearly.

We who live, etc., i.e., we the living, are constantly exposed to death, although constantly rescued by the living Christ. God wishes the lives of the Apostles to be such in order that now, while on earth, they may manifest in their mortal bodies the life, i.e., the triumph of Jesus who died and is risen again for us.

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

The Apostles were continually exposed to death for their preaching, but they were sustained by the living Jesus to work for the spiritual life and salvation of the faithful. “The Corinthian Church enjoyed the fruit of supernatural life, gathered for it by the Apostles’ perils” (Rick.).

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