2 Corinthians 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 2 Corinthians 4)

Verse 1

[1] Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;

Therefore having this ministry — Spoken of, 2 Corinthians 3:6.

As we have received mercy — Have been mercifully supported in all our trials.

We faint not — We desist not in any degree from our glorious enterprise.

Verse 2

[2] But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

But have renounced — Set at open defiance.

The hidden things of shame — All things which men need to hide, or to be ashamed of.

Not walking in craftiness — Using no disguise, subtlety, guile. Nor privily corrupting the pure word of God - By any additions or alterations, or by attempting to accommodate it to the taste of the hearers.

Verse 3

[3] But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

But if our gospel also — As well as the law of Moses.

Verse 4

[4] In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

The God of this world — What a sublime and horrible description of Satan! He is indeed the god of all that believe not, and works in them with inconceivable energy.

Hath blinded — Not only veiled, the eye of their understanding.

Illumination — Is properly the reflection or propagation of light, from those who are already enlightened, to others.

Who is the image of God — Hence also we may understand how great is the glory of Christ. He that sees the Son, sees the Father in the face of Christ. The Son exactly exhibits the Father to us.

Verse 5

[5] For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

For — The fault is not in us, neither in the doctrine they hear from us.

We preach not ourselves — As able either to enlighten, or pardon, or sanctify you.

But Jesus Christ — As your only wisdom, righteousness, sanctification.

And ourselves your servants — Ready to do the meanest offices.

For Jesus' sake — Not for honour, interest, or pleasure.

Verse 6

[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 Jesus Christ.

For God hath shined in our hearts — The hearts of all those whom the god of this world no longer blinds. God who is himself our light; not only the author of light, but also the fountain of it.

To enlighten us with the knowledge of the glory of God — Of his glorious love, and of his glorious image.

In the face of Jesus Christ — Which reflects his glory in another manner than the face of Moses did.

Verse 7

[7] But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

But we — Not only the apostles, but all true believers.

Have this treasure — Of divine light, love, glory.

In earthen vessels — In frail, feeble, perishing bodies. He proceeds to show, that afflictions, yea, death itself, are so far from hindering the ministration of the Spirit, that they even further it, sharpen the ministers, and increase the fruit. That the excellence of the power, which works these in us, may undeniably appear to be of God.

Verse 8

[8] We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

We are troubled, etc.-The four articles in this verse respect inward, the four in the next outward, afflictions. In each clause the former part shows the "earthen vessels;" the latter, "the excellence of the power." Not crushed - Not swallowed up in care and anxiety.

Perplexed — What course to take, but never despairing of his power and love to carry us through.

Verse 10

[10] Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

Always — Wherever we go.

Bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus — Continually expecting to lay down our lives like him.

That the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our body — That we may also rise and be glorified like him.

Verse 11

[11] For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

For we who yet live - Who are not yet killed for the testimony of Jesus.

Are always delivered unto death — Are perpetually in the very jaws of destruction; which we willingly submit to, that we may "obtain a better resurrection."

Verse 12

[12] So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

So then death worketh in us, but life in you — You live in peace; we die daily.

Yet — Living or dying, so long as we believe, we cannot but speak.

Verse 13

[13] We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

Having the same spirit of faith — Which animated the saints of old; David, in particular, when he said, I believed, and therefore have I spoken - That is, I trusted in God, and therefore he hath put this song of praise in my mouth.

We also speak — We preach the gospel, even in the midst of affliction and death, because we believe that God will raise us up from the dead, and will present us, ministers, with you, all his members, "faultless before his presence with exceeding joy." Psalms 116:10.

Verse 15

[15] For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

For all things — Whether adverse or prosperous.

Are for your sakes — For the profit of all that believe, as well as all that preach.

That the overflowing grace — Which continues you alive both in soul and body. Might abound yet more through the thanksgiving of many - For thanksgiving invites more: abundant grace.

Verse 16

[16] For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Therefore — Because of this grace, we faint not.

The outward man — The body.

The inward man — The soul.

Verse 17

[17] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

Our light affliction — The beauty and sublimity of St. Paul's expressions here, as descriptive of heavenly glory, opposed to temporal afflictions, surpass all imagination, and cannot be preserved in any translation or paraphrase, which after all must sink infinitely below the astonishing original.

Verse 18

[18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The things that are seen — Men, money, things of earth.

The things that are not seen — God, grace, heaven.