2 Corinthians 4


St. Paul shows the integrity with which he had preached the

Gospel of Christ, 1, 2.

And that, if it was unprofitable to any who had heard it, it

was because their unbelieving hearts were blinded, 3, 4.

How he preached, and how he was qualified for the work, 5-7.

The troubles and difficulties he met with in his labours, and

the hope and consolations by which he was supported, 8-15.

And the prospect he had of eternal blessedness, 16-18.


Verse 1. Seeing we have this ministry] The Gospel, of which

he gave that noble account which we read in the preceding chapter.

We faint not] We meet with many tribulations, but are

supported in and through all by the grace of the Gospel. Instead

of ουκεκκακουμεν, we faint not, ουκεγκακουμεν, we act not

wickedly, is the reading of ADFG, and some others. Wakefield

thinks it the genuine reading; it certainly makes a very good

sense with what goes before and what follows. If we follow this

reading the whole verse may be read thus: Wherefore, as we have

obtained mercy, or been graciously intrusted, ηλεηθημην, with

this ministry, we do not act wickedly, but have renounced the

hidden things of dishonesty, &c.

Verse 2. But have renounced] απειπαμεθα. We have disclaimed

the hidden things of dishonesty; τακρυπτατηςαισχυνης, the

hidden things of shame; those things which wicked men do; and

which they are ashamed to have known, and ashamed to own. Dr.

Whitby thinks that the apostle refers to carnal abominations, of

which the Jews and their rabbins were notoriously guilty. And it

does appear from the first epistle that there were persons in

Corinth who taught that fornication was no sin; and it appears

also that several had taken the part of the incestuous person.

Not walking in craftiness] πανουργια. In subtlety and

clever cunning, as the false teachers did, who were accomplished

fellows, and capable of any thing. The word is compounded of

παν, all, and εργον, work.

Nor handling the word of God deceitfully] Not using the

doctrines of the Gospel to serve any secular or carnal purpose;

not explaining away their force so as to palliate or excuse sin;

not generalizing its precepts so as to excuse many in particular

circumstances from obedience, especially in that which most

crossed their inclinations. There were deceitful handlers of this

kind in Corinth, and there are many of them still in the garb of

Christian ministers; persons who disguise that part of their creed

which, though they believe it is of God, would make them

unpopular, affecting moderation in order to procure a larger

audience and more extensive support; not attacking prevalent and

popular vices; calling dissipation of mind, relaxation; and

worldly and carnal pleasures, innocent amusements, &c. In a word,

turning with the tide, and shifting with the wind of popular

opinion, prejudice, fashion, &c.

But by manifestation of the truth] An open, explicit

acknowledgment of what we know to be the truth-what we are assured

is the Gospel of Jesus; concealing nothing; blunting the edge of

no truth; explaining spiritual things, not in the words of man's

wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit of God.

Commending ourselves to every man's conscience] Speaking so

that every man's conscience shall bear its testimony that we

proclaim the truth of God. This is one characteristic of Divine

truth: even every man's conscience will acknowledge it, though it

speak decidedly against his own practices.

In the sight of God.] Whose eye is ever on the heart and

conscience of man, and who always bears testimony to his own word.

Verse 3. But if our Gospel be hid] κεκαλυμμενον. Veiled; he

refers to the subject that he had treated so particularly in the

conclusion of the preceding chapter. If there be a veil on the

Gospel, it is only to the wilfully blind; and if any man's heart

be veiled that hears this Gospel, it is a proof that he is among

the lost, απολλυμενοι, those who are fully under the power of sin;

who have given up themselves to work wickedness; persons who are

mere heathens, or live like such, and yet such as Jesus Christ

came to seek and save; for the word does not necessarily imply

those that will perish eternally, but is a common epithet to point

out a man without the Gospel and without God in the world. Christ

commands his disciples in preaching the Gospel to go to προβατατα

απολωλοτα, the LOST sheep of the house of Israel; Mt 10:6;

for himself says, Mt 18:11, and Lu 19:10:

The Son of man is come ζητησαικαισωσαιτοαπολωλος, to seek and

to SAVE that which is LOST. And such persons he represents under

the parable of the lost sheep; for to find τοαπολωλος, that

which is LOST, the good shepherd leaves the ninety-and-nine in the

wilderness, and goes in search of it; Mt 18:12; Lu 15:4.

The word more properly signifies, in all those connections, and in

the parallel passages, not those who ARE LOST, but those who are

perishing; and will perish, if not sought and saved.

Verse 4. In whom the god of this world, &c.] We see here that

those whose minds are blinded, are they who believe not; and

because they believe not, their minds continue in darkness, and

are proper subjects for Satan to work on; and he deepens the

darkness, and increases the hardness. But who is meant by the

god of this world? It is generally answered, the same who is

called the prince of this world, Joh 16:11. But the question

recurs, who is the prince of this world? and the answer to both

is, SATAN. The reader will do well to consult the notes on

"Joh 12:31", and the concluding observations on "Joh 14:30". I must

own I feel considerable reluctance to assign the epithet οθεος,

THE God, to Satan; and were there not a rooted prejudice in favour

of the common opinion, the contrary might be well vindicated, viz.

that by the God of this world the supreme Being is meant, who in

his judgment gave over the minds of the unbelieving Jews to

spiritual darkness, so that destruction came upon them to the

uttermost. Satan, it is true, has said that the kingdoms of the

world and their glory are his, and that he gives them to whomsoever

he will; Mt 4:8, 9.

But has God ever said so? and are we to take this assertion of the

boasting devil and father of lies for truth? Certainly not. We

are not willing to attribute the blinding of men's minds to God,

because we sometimes forget that he is the God of justice, and may

in judgment remove mercies from those that abuse them; but this is

repeatedly attributed to him in the Bible, and the expression

before us is quite a parallel to the following, Isa 6:9:

Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and

see ye indeed, but perceive not. MAKE the HEART of this


LEST they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and

understand with their heart, &c. And see the parallel places,

Mt 13:14, 15; Mr 4:12; Joh 12:40; and particularly

Ro 11:8-10:


not SEE, and EARS that they SHOULD not HEAR; let their

EYES be DARKENED, &c. Now all this is spoken of the same people,

in the same circumstances of wilful rebellion and obstinate

unbelief; and the great God of heaven and earth is he who

judicially blinds their eyes; makes their hearts fat, i.e.

stupid; gives them the spirit of slumber: and bows down their

back, &c. On these very grounds it is exceedingly likely that the

apostle means the true God by the words the god of this world.

And as to the expression this world, αιωνοςτουτου, we are not

to imagine that it necessarily means wicked men, or a wicked age;

for it is frequently used to express the whole mundane system, and

all that is called time: Whosoever speaketh against the Holy

Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither εντουτωτωαιωνι, in

THIS WORLD, nor in the world to come; Mt 12:32. In Lu 20:34,

the children, υιοιτουαιωνοςτουτου, of THIS WORLD, mean simply

mankind at large in their state of probation in this lower world,

in opposition to their state in the world to come. The same

meaning the word has in several other places, to which l need not

refer; it simply implying the present state of things, governed by

the Divine providence, in contradistinction from the eternal

state: and it is very remarkable that, in 1Ti 1:17, God himself

is called βασιλευςτωναιωνων, the King of the WORLD; what we call

King eternal; but here it evidently means him who governs both

worlds, and rules in time and eternity. This character among the

Asiatics is considered essential to God; and therefore in the very

first surat of the Koran he is called [Arabic] Rubbi Alalameen,

"the Lord of both worlds," an expression perfectly similar to that

above. But it is needless to multiply examples; they exist in

abundance. Some, and particularly the ancient fathers, have

connected τουαιωνοςτουτου with τωναπιστων, and have read the

verse: But God hath blinded the minds of the unbelievers of this

world, &c. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Photius,

Theophylact, and Augustine, all plead for the above meaning; and

St. Augustine says that it was the opinion of almost all the


Lest the light of the glorious Gospel] They have resisted the

grace which God gave them, and have refused to yield to the

evidences which amply prove the Messiahship of Jesus; and

therefore their eyes were judicially darkened, as it is said in

the prophet: He hath closed their eyes, and hath given them the

spirit of slumber. That is, they have shut their eyes against the

light, and their blindness and stupor are the consequence.

By glorious Gospel we are to understand the luminous Gospel;

that which comes with so much light and evidence to every candid


Who is the image of God] Christ is called, Heb 1:3,

the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of his

person. See the note there.

Verse 5. For we preach not ourselves] We neither proclaim our

own wisdom nor power; we have nothing but what we have received;

we do not wish to establish our own authority, nor to procure our

own emolument.

But Christ Jesus the Lord] We proclaim the author of this

glorious Gospel as CHRIST, οχριστος, the same as

hammashiach, the MESSIAH, the Anointed One; him of whom the

prophets wrote; and who is the expectation, as he is the glory, of

Israel, We proclaim him as JESUS Yehoshua, the Saviour and

Deliverer, who saves men from their sins. See Mt 1:21. And we

proclaim Jesus of Nazareth to be the long-expected Messiah; and

that there will be none other. And farther we proclaim this Jesus

the Messiah to be the LORD, οκυριος, the great Ruler who has all

power in heaven and earth; who made and governs the world; and who

can save to the uttermost all that come to God through him. Such

was the Redeemer preached by St. Paul.

And ourselves your servants] Labouring as fervently and as

faithfully for your eternal interests as your most trusty slaves

can do for your secular welfare. And we do this for Christ's

sake; for although we by our labour show ourselves to be your

servants, yea, your slaves, δουλους, yet it is a voluntary

service; and we are neither employed by you nor receive our wages

from you. We belong to Jesus; and are your servants on his

account, and by his order.

Verse 6. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of

darkness] The apostle refers here to Ge 1:3. For when God

created the heavens and the earth DARKNESS was on the face of the

deep; and God said, Let THERE BE LIGHT; and there was light. Thus

he caused the light to shine out of darkness.

Hath shined in our hearts] He has given our hearts the

glorious light of the Gospel, as he has given the world the

glorious light of the sun. As sure, therefore, as God is the

author of the light and the creator of the universe, so sure is he

the author of the Gospel; it is no human invention; and is as far

beyond the power of man's wisdom and might, as the creation of the

world is beyond all created power, energy, and skill.

The light of the knowledge] To give us that light, that we

might enlighten others; this appears to me to be the design of the

apostle's προςφωτισμοντηςγνωσεωςτηςδοξηςτουθεου, or, as Dr.

Whitby paraphrases it, to give us, and enable us to give to

others, the light of the knowledge of God through Christ.

In the face of Jesus Christ.] It is in and through Jesus that

we can receive the Divine light, and it is in and by him that we

can be made partakers of the Divine glory. The light mercy,

holiness, and glory of God, are reflected upon and communicated to

us through Jesus the Christ; and it is ενπροσωπω, in the

appearance and person of Jesus Christ that these blessings are

communicated to us.

Verse 7. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels] The

original, οστρακινοιςσκευεσιν, signifies, more literally, vessels

made of shells, which are very brittle; and as the shell is the

outward part of a fish, it is very fit, as Dr. Hammond observes,

to resemble our bodies in which our souls dwell. The Platonists

make two bodies of a man: the one they call οξημαφυχης, the

chariot of the soul; the other, that which we see and touch; and

this they call οστρακινον which is the same to us as the shell is

to the fish. The word οστρακον not only signifies a shell, or

vessel made of shell, but also πηλοςωπτημενος, an earthen vessel

which has been burnt in the kiln, and earthen vessels or pottery

in general; the difference between σκευηοστρακινα, earthen ware,

and σκευηκεραμεως, the potter's vessel, is this: the latter

implies the vessel as it comes out of the hands of the potter

BEFORE it is burnt; and the other is the vessel AFTER it has

passed through the kiln. St. Chrysostom, speaking of this

difference, observes that the vessels once baked in the kiln, if

broken, are incapable of being restored, διατηνεκτουπυρος

εγγινομενηναυτοιςαπαξαντιτυπιαν, because of the hardness once

gotten by fire; whereas the others are of clay unbaken, if they be

spoiled ραδιωςπροςτοδευτερονεπανελθησχημα, they may easily, by

the skill of the potter, be restored to some second form. See

Hammond. This comports excellently with the idea of St. Paul: our

bodies are in a recoverable form: they are very frail, and easily

marred; but by the skill of the workman they may be easily built

up anew, and made like unto his glorious body. The light and

salvation of God in the soul of man is a heavenly treasure in a

very mean casket.

The rabbins have a mode of speech very similar to this. "The

daughter of the emperor thus addressed Rabbi Joshua, the son of

Chananiah: O! how great is thy skill in the law, and yet how

deformed thou art! what a great deal of wisdom is laid up in a

sordid vessel! The rabbi answered, Tell me, I pray thee, of what

are those vessels in which you keep your wines? She answered,

They are earthen vessels. He replied, How is it, seeing ye are

rich, that ye do not lay up your wine in silver vessels, for the

common people lay up their wine in earthen vessels? She returned

to her father, and persuaded him to have all the wine put into

silver vessels; but the wine turned acid; and when the emperor

heard it he inquired of his daughter who it was that had given her

that advice? She told him that it was Rabbi Joshua. The rabbi

told the whole story to the emperor, and added this sentence: The

wisdom and study of the law cannot dwell in a comely man. Caesar

objected, and said, There are comely persons who have made great

progress in the study of the law. The rabbi answered, Had they

not been so comely they would have made greater progress; for a

man who is comely has not an humble mind, and therefore he soon

forgets the whole law." See Schoettgen. There is a great deal of

good sense in this allegory; and the most superficial reader may

find it out.

That the excellency of the power may be of God; and not of us.]

God keeps us continually dependent upon himself; we have nothing

but what we have received, and we receive every necessary supply

just when it is necessary; and have nothing at our own command.

The good therefore that is done is so evidently from the power of

God, that none can pretend to share the glory with him.

Verse 8. We are troubled on every side] We have already seen,

in the notes on the ninth chapter of the preceding epistle, that

St. Paul has made several allusions to those public games which

were celebrated every fifth year at the Isthmus of Corinth; and

those games have been in that place particularly described. In

this and the three following verses the apostle makes allusion to

the contests at those games; and the terms which he employs in

these verses cannot be understood but in reference to those

agonistical exercises to which he alludes. Dr. Hammond has

explained the whole on this ground; and I shall here borrow his

help. There are four pairs of expressions taken from the customs

of the agones. 1. Troubled on every side, yet not distressed. 2.

Perplexed, but not in despair. 3. Persecuted, but not forsaken.

4. Cast down, but not destroyed. Three of these pairs belong to

the customs of wrestling; the fourth, to that of running in the


Troubled on every side, &c.] ενπαντιθλιβομενοι. The word

θλιβεσθαι, belongs clearly to παλη wrestling. So says

Aristotle, Rhet. lib. i. cap. 5, (and the Scholiast on that

place,) ογαρδυναμενοςθλιβεινκαικατεχεινπαλαιστικος. "He

that can gripe his adversary, and take him up, is a good

wrestler;" there being two dexterities in that exercise: 1. to

gripe, and 2. to throw down, which Hesychius calls ωθειν and

κρατειν; the first of these is here mentioned, and expressed by

θλιβεσθαι, to be pressed down; to which is here opposed, as in a

higher degree, στενοχωρεισθαι, to be brought to distress, as when

one cannot get out of his antagonist's hands, nor make any

resistance against him. So in Isaiah: στενοχωρουμενοιουδυναμεθα

μαχεσθαι, we are brought to such extremities that we can fight no


Perplexed, but not in despair] απορουμενοιαλλουκ

εξαπορουμενοι. The word απορεισθαι, to be in perplexity, is fit

for the wrestler, who being puzzled by his antagonist's skill

knows not what to do: so in Hesychius, απορουντεςαμηχανουντες,

they that are not able to do or attempt any thing, yet are not

εξαπορουμενοι, they miscarry not finally, ορθοιισταμενοι, stand

after all upright; ουκαπογινωσκοντεςκαιηττωμενοι, despair not,

nor are they overcome, but find a happy issue out of all, being at

last conquerors.

Verse 9. Persecuted, but not forsaken] διωκομενοιαλλουκ

εγκαταλειπομενοι. The διωκομενοι, pursued, is peculiar to the

δρομος, or race, when one being foremost others pursue, and get

up close after him, endeavouring to outstrip him, but cannot

succeed: this is the meaning of ουκεγκαταλειπομενοι, not

outstripped, or outgone, as the word implies. So in PLUTARCH:

τουςαπολειφθενταςουστεφανουσι, they do not crown them that

are distanced or left behind. So says the apostle, 1Co 9:24:

All run, but only ONE receiveth the PRIZE.

Cast down, but not destroyed.] καταβαλλομενοιαλλουκ

απολλυμενοι. This also belongs to wrestlers, where he that throws

the other first is conqueror. And so Hesychius: καταβαλει

ςικησειριψει, to cast down is to overcome, to throw. And then,

the being not destroyed signifies that, although they were thrown

down-cast into troubles and difficulties, yet they rose again, and

surmounted them all.

Verse 10. Always bearing about in the body, &c.] Being every

moment in danger of losing our lives in the cause of truth, as

Jesus Christ was. We, in a word, bear his cross, and are ready to

offer up our lives for him. There is probably an allusion here to

the marks, wounds, and bruises which the contenders in those games

got, and continued to carry throughout life.

That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest] That in

our preservation, the success of our ministry, and the miracles we

work, we might be able to give the fullest demonstration that

Jesus is risen again from the dead; and that we are strengthened

by him to do all these mighty works.

Verse 11. For we which live] And yet, although we are

preserved alive, we are in such continual dangers that we carry

our life in our hands, and are constantly in the spirit of

sacrifice. But the life-the preserving power, of Christ is

manifest in our continual support.

Verse 12. Death worketh in us, &c.] We apostles are in

continual danger, and live a dying life; while you who have

received this Gospel from us are in no danger.

Verse 13. We having the same spirit of faith] As David had

when he wrote Ps 116:10:

I believed, therefore have I spoken: we also believe that we shall

receive the fulfilment of all God's promises; and being fully

convinced of the truth of the Christian religion, we speak and

testify that our deliverance is from God; and that he does not

fail those who trust in him, and that he saves to the uttermost

them who come unto him through Christ Jesus.

Verse 14. Knowing that he which raised up the Lord, &c.] And

though we shall at last seal this truth with our blood, we fear

not, being persuaded that as the body of Christ was raised from

the dead by the power of the Father, so shall our bodies be

raised, and that we shall have an eternal life with him in glory.

Verse 15. For all things are for your sakes] We proclaim all

these truths and bear all these sufferings for your sakes,

thinking all our sufferings nothing if we can gain converts to

Christ, and build believers up on their most holy faith.

That the abundant grace] ηχαριςπλεονασασα. The abounding

benefit-the copious outpouring of the gifts and graces of the Holy

Spirit, by which you have been favoured and enriched, may, through

the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God: i.e. that

the gratitude of the multitudes which have been converted may keep

pace with the blessings which they have received, and περισσευση,

abound, as these blessings have abounded.

Verse 16. For which cause we faint not] ουκεκκακουμεν.

See Clarke on 2Co 4:1. Here we have the same various reading;

εγκακουμεν, we do no wickedness; and it is supported by BDEFG, and

some others: but it is remarkable that Mr. Wakefield follows the common

reading here, though the various-reading is at least as well

supported in this verse as in verse first. The common reading,

faint not, appears to agree best with the apostle's meaning.

But though our outward man] That is, our body-that part of us

that can be seen, heard, and felt, perish-be slowly consumed by

continual trials and afflictions, and be martyred at last;

Yet the inward man] Our soul-that which cannot be felt or seen

by others, is renewed-is revived, and receives a daily increase of

light and life from God, so that we grow more holy, more happy,

and more meet for glory every day.

It was an opinion among the Jews that even spirits stood in

need of continual renovation. They say that "God renews the

angels daily, by putting them into the fiery river from which they

proceeded, and then gives them the same name they had before."

And they add, that in like manner he renews the hearts of the

Israelites every year, when they turn to him by repentance. It is

a good antidote against the fear of death to find, as the body

grows old and decays, the soul grows young and is invigorated.

By the outward man and the inward man St. Paul shows that he was

no materialist: he believed that we have both a body and a soul;

and so far was he from supposing that when the body dies the whole

man is decomposed, and continues so to the resurrection, that he

asserts that the decays of the one lead to the invigorating of the

other; and that the very decomposition of the body itself leaves

the soul in the state of renewed youth. The vile doctrine of

materialism is not apostolic.

Verse 17. For our light affliction, &c.] Mr. Blackwall, in his

sacred classics, has well illustrated this passage. I shall here

produce his paraphrase as quoted by Dr. Dodd: "This is one of the

most emphatic passages in all St. Paul's writings, in which he

speaks as much like an orator as he does as an apostle. The

lightness of the trial is expressed by τοελαφροντηςθλιψεως, the

lightness of our affliction; as if he had said, it is even levity

itself in such a comparison. On the other hand, the καθ

υπερβαληνειςυπερβολην, which we render far more exceeding, is

infinitely emphatical, and cannot be fully expressed by any

translation. It signifies that all hyperboles fall short of

describing that weight-eternal glory, so solid and lasting, that

you may pass from hyperbole to hyperbole, and yet, when you have

gained the last, are infinitely below it. It is every where

visible what influence St. Paul's Hebrew had on his Greek:

cabad, signifies to be heavy, and to be glorious; the apostle in

his Greek unites these two significations, and says, WEIGHT of


St. Chrysostom's observations on these words are in his very

best manner, and are both judicious and beautiful: τιοησι

παραλληλαταπαροντατοιςμελλουσι. τοπαραυτικαπροςτοαιωνιον.

τοελαφρονπροςτοβαρυ. τηνθλιψινπροςτηνδοξαν. καιουδε




"The apostle opposes things present to things future; a moment

to eternity; lightness to weight; affliction to glory. Nor is he

satisfied with this, but he adds another word, and doubles it,

saying, καθυπερβοληνειςυπερβολην. This is a magnitude

excessively exceeding." See Parkhurst, sub voce υπερβολη.

Verse 18. While we look not at the things which are seen] μη

σκοπουντων. While we aim not at the things which are seen; do not

make them our object; are not striving to obtain them; for they

are not worthy the pursuit of an immortal spirit, because they are

seen; they are objects to which the natural eye can reach; and

they are προσκαιρα, temporary; they are to have a short duration,

and must have an end. But the things which we make our scope and

aim are not seen; they are spiritual, and therefore invisible

to the eye of the body; and besides, they are αιωνια,

eternal-things that are permanent; that can have no end; they are

things which belong to God; holiness, happiness, and the endless

communication and fruition of himself.

But we must remark that the light afflictions work out this far

more exceeding and eternal weight of glory only to those who do

not look at the things which are seen. A man may be grievously

afflicted, and yet have his eye bent on temporal good; from his

afflictions he can derive no benefit; though many think that their

glorification must be a necessary consequence of their

afflictions, and hence we do not unfrequently hear among the

afflicted poor, "Well, we shall not suffer both here and in the

other world too." Afflictions may be means of preparing us for

glory, if, during them, we receive grace to save the soul; but

afflictions of themselves have no spiritual nor saving tendency;

on the contrary, they sour the unregenerated mind, and cause

murmurings against the dispensations of Divine Providence. Let

us, therefore, look to God, that they may be sanctified; and when

they are, then we may say exultingly, These light afflictions,

which are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and

eternal weight of glory. O world to come, in exchange for the

present! O eternity, for a moment! O eternal communion in the

holy, blessed, and eternal life of God, for the sacrifice of a

poor, miserable, and corrupted life here on earth! Whoever sets

no value on this seed of a blessed eternity knows not what it

comprehends. That which the eyes of the flesh are capable of

perceiving is not worthy of a soul capable of possessing God.

Nothing which is of a perishable nature can be the chief good of a

being that was made for eternity!-Quesnel.

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