2Corinthians 4 — To a Church in Crisis, With Love

Text: 2Corinthians 4

With love, even God’s own divine love in our hearts, Paul and I speak to you from 2Corinthians 4 today. We want you to join us in being the Amen to God’s promises of reconciliation, of salvation, and of the infilling of the Holy Spirit! Yes! Truth! He has done it in me! You will say it, when you are filled!

If I were to give this a title, it would be, “This Treasure In Jars of Clay.” In us is a treasure — the fullness of the Holy Spirit! It is in jars of clay (our physical bodies), so it is obvious to everyone that the power and wisdom we have is not our own, but God’s!

We say these things to you so that you will understand what happens when you obey Jesus’ command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then, you will do as we do, and will not become weary or discouraged as you go about telling people what you have seen and heard (Acts 4:20). You will not be able to stop speaking about the Lord!

Verse 1 — 

Therefore! Paul continues to describe the ministry of the Spirit. By God’s great mercy, Paul and Timothy and all who are Spirit-filled have the ministry of the Spirit. So we are bold in our speech, to the world and to the church! We have in us the greater glory that does not fade, causing us to shine in the darkness of this world. We no longer willfully disobey God, but the Lord continues to form His character in us!

We have the ministry of the Spirit, to us and through us! We could not minister if we did not have the fullness of the Spirit! Because He has filled us, we do not lose heart (lose courage, become weary). 

Verse 2 

Because we have this ministry of the Spirit, we have renounced (formally announced our abandonment of) things hidden because of shame. Since the Lord cleansed our hearts and crucified our sin natures, we no longer have anything to hide, for we no longer do shameful things! 

We do not walk in craftiness (cunning, trickery). We do not adulterate (handle deceitfully) the Word of God. Why does Paul write such a thing?

Many false teachers in Corinth, and many false teachers in today’s church, twist the Word of God, using cunning and trickery to lead you away from the truth! They say what you want to hear, not what you need to hear. Why? So they can fulfill their own desires for money, power and fame! Beware of the wolves who have come among you, and the wolves who have arisen from within you, O church, for they wear sheep’s clothing but want to devour you (Acts 20:29-30)!

We do not adulterate the word, nor walk in craftiness. We are the visible evidence of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ which we proclaim. We do not deceive you or twist the Word of God! Why, because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth (John 14:17), is within us! Therefore, we are able to commend ourselves. We are the proof of the legitimacy of His ministry in and through us. And we commend ourselves in the sight of God, for we stand before Him!

Verses 3-4 —

But there are those who have chosen to perish by rejecting the truth that we announce, and the glory that shines from us! Their minds are blinded by Satan. They reject Christ, who is the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:3). And so, the gospel is veiled (covered up, hidden) to those who have chosen to reject it.

Who has blinded them? The god of this world (age), Satan, who has been given permission by the Lord to deceive, for a while. He is the ruler of this world, but will soon be cast out (John 12:31). Listen to Paul’s assignment from the Lord —

Acts 26:18 . . . “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified (purified, made holy) by faith in Me.’”

Beloved, I was in the dominion of Satan, I rejected Christ for 42 years. But thanks be to God, I heard the gospel from those who had the ministry of the Spirit and  lived the gospel, and I turned from the dominion of Satan to God. I was blind, but now I see! Hallelujah!

Jesus Christ’s light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome His light (John 1:5). But I know many who steadfastly reject His light, though it is visible to all mankind. I pray they hear the truth from those who are filled with the truth of God, for like me, their blindness will be healed! 

Verse 5 

We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as the Lord’s and your permanent bond-servants. False teachers will preach about their  successful ministry, and will tell you that God will do the same for you, if you do what they have done! 

But we are bond-servants who serve you permanently, because God’s divine love has filled our hearts. In the Book of Exodus, if a slave had served long enough to pay his debt, he was set free. But some wanted to remain and serve their masters because they loved their master —

Exodus 21:5 “But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.”

We do not serve ourselves, as do the false teachers among you. We serve you, out of the divine love of God which has filled our hearts! 

Why do we preach Christ Jesus as Lord, and us as His servants? For the sake of Christ, that all may know God’s great sacrifice on their behalf. Our only desire is that they would believe and become children of God (John 1:12), and then obey His command to stay and wait for the promise of the Father — the baptism of the Holy Spirit, to purify their hearts! 

Verse 6 —

Again we preach it! God said, Light shall shine out of darkness —

Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Just as God said, “Let light be,” in the creation (Genesis 1:3), He again says, “Let My light be in you!” God is the one who has shone in our hearts, to give us the Light of the intimate and complete knowledge of the glory of God, the glory which shone from the face of Christ! 

Now the light shines from our faces! It is the ministry of the Spirit in us! We are His witnesses here and the Spirit ministers through us, because we have obeyed Christ’s command to be filled with the Spirit (Acts 1:8)! 

Do you have His Light in you, beloved? Does your face shine with His glory?

Verse 7 —

God gave us the treasure of His Light, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, in earthen vessels — jars of clay. We are nothing to look at, but simply vessels. 

We do not want people to look at us and admire us, but we want them to see the Lord who is in us! I am so glad I am just a jar of clay! Why? 

Because God manifests the surpassing greatness (superabundance, excellency beyond measure) of His power (God’s miracle-working power) through such ones. Then, whoever we meet will see that it is God’s excellency beyond measure, and His power, not ours! I am just a jar of clay, nothing special, so when He does something through me, you will know it is Him! 

Many false prophets and teachers will do powerful things, to draw attention to themselves. But do not be deceived! Jesus will say to such ones, I never, ever knew you! Away from me, you who sin (see John 7:21-23)!

Verse 8 —

We are persecuted by those who reject our light and remain under Satan’s dominion. We are persecuted in every way possible, but we are not crushed (hemmed in so we cannot minister amidst the persecution). 

We are perplexed (we have no way out of it, but), but not despairing (not at a loss as to why we are persecuted). We know it is because of Christ in us!

Verse 9 —

We are persecuted, but not forsaken (for the Lord is always with us and in us!). We are struck down (thrown down, i.e., physically assaulted), but not destroyed (we do not perish), because even physical death has no victory or sting (1Corinthians 15:55)! We simply go to be with our King (2Corinthians 5:8)!

Verse 10 —

We always carry around in our body the dying of Jesus. What is the evidence of the dying of Jesus? The Holy Spirit, who was not given until after He died, rose, ascended, and was glorified (John 7:39), filling all who will ask it of their Father in heaven! 

Why do we carry the Holy Spirit around in our bodies? So the life of Jesus may be shown in our bodies! 

Verse 11 —

For we are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake. For the sake of His gospel, we are constantly in danger of death because of those who reject Christ. And in that persecution, the life of Jesus is also evident, in our mortal flesh.

But this passage has a double meaning. We no longer willfully disobey God because our sin nature has been crucified and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Now we have His divine nature (2Peter 1:4). But we are daily being taken from one degree of Christlikeness to the next and the next, just as Paul wrote in 2Corinthians 3:18!

We constantly look more like Jesus because we gladly, constantly submit to the perfect Potter’s hands, because we are filled with His divine love! And we know that He who began a good work in us will continue to perfect (complete the character of Christ in) us until the day of the Lord Jesus (Philippians 1:6)! 

So, death works in us, in that way. But life works in you who hear the message and believe into Christ!

Verses 13-14 

We have a spirit of faith because we are filled with the Holy Spirit, so though we are greatly afflicted, we believe

Psalm 116:9  I shall walk before the LORD 

In the land of the living.

10  I believed when I said, 

“I am greatly afflicted.”

We believe into Christ, we believe what He has done in our hearts, we believe we shine with His light, we believe, though we are greatly persecuted! And so, we speak! And we know He is faithful—

Psalm 118:5    From my distress I called upon the LORD; 

The LORD answered me and set me in a large place (wide space).

We may be murdered for our faith, but we know He who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us and present us (stand beside us), with all who have heard and believed our message. We will not perish, but we will be with Him in His wide space — even His kingdom in heaven!

Verse 15 —

For all things are for your sakes — all things are for you, to whom we minister by the Spirit. We have no self-interest. Our interest is that you may know Christ! Our self-centeredness and self-interest was removed from our hearts when our sin nature was crucified! 

We minister to you for your sakes! We minister to you so that the grace of God which is spreading (superabounding) to more and more people, may cause the giving of thanks to abound (superabound), thus glorifying God! 

The Spirit ministers through us, announcing God’s unmerited favor. And we announce His divine work in our hearts, which is reflected in our lives! It is not just for a chosen few, but this divine work in the human heart is for every believer!

Verse 16 

Therefore — because of all of these things — we do not lose heart. We are not discouraged, we do not become weary! Our outer man is certainly decaying as we age, but our inner man (our spirit) is being renewed day by day, because we are filled with the Holy Spirit! The Lord’s living water provides continual refreshment to our spirits, even while it flows from our bellies (John 7:38)!

Verses 17-18 — 

The persecution we now suffer is just momentary. Therefore, it is just a light burden. Why do we see it that way? Because as His bond-servants, we have an eternal weight (load, abundance) of glory, far beyond all comparison! 

We will receive a crown of righteousness, as Paul tells Timothy —

2Timothy 4:8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

We will hear these words from Jesus Christ, our Master —

Matthew 25:21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”

We do not consider, heed, or regard the things which are seen. They are only temporal. We do not consider what we endure for Christ’s sake.

But we consider, heed and regard the things which are not seen. These things are eternal. These things include the crown of righteousness we will receive, and the experience of continually worshiping the Lord, in His heavenly kingdom!

We serve you not out of selfish motives. We are nothing but jars of clay! But we surely serve you so that you may be saved from the wrath of God through belief into Jesus Christ, and then filled with the Holy Spirit, who will purify your heart and fill you with God’s divine love. Then, the Spirit will minister through you, just as He does through us! 

Lord Jesus, may your church hear what the Spirit is saying to the church, so they see their disobedience in not following your command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. May they cry out for you to change their hearts and fill them up, so they become Your witnesses here. Amen.