1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.
2 We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.
5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke," we too believe, and so we speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Version: New Revised Standard Version.
Verse 1 was included in our study of chapter 3.
Whereas Paul's opponents distort the truth, he and his colleagues refuse to engage in such practices (v.2).
Returning to the theme of veiling (v.3-4), he insists that he does not preach an esoteric message. Those who fail to understand fail because they are under the control of Satan, not because the message has been manipulated.
Paul and the apostles preach not themselves, but Christ (v.5). They are only the medium, the means -- not the end (v.7).
The acid test of leadership is suffering (vv.8-12).
In regard to the pressures and sufferings of the Christian life (and leadership in particular), Paul takes the long view:
Though we may suffer now, one day the Lord will raise us from the dead (v.14). Therefore he will continue to "speak" to the Lord (v.13) -- that is, to pray. (Read Psalm 116 for the context of the OT passage cited.)
The net result of his ministry will be spiritual health for the Corinthians and salvation for the maximum number of people (v.15).
In the light of eternity, the apostolic sufferings (e.g. 1:8) are minor (v.17).
What is unseen (the eternal world) is permanent, in contrast to what is seen (the things of this world). He views reality not in a world manner, but through inspired eyes (v.18). See also 5:7.
Putting together at least 14 pieces of evidence in the epistle, we learn about Paul's opponents that:
- They charged the Corinthians a fee for their services (2:17); they were mercenary. In contrast, Paul received support for his ministry in Corinth (Acts 18) from other (established) churches (11:8). See also 12:14. The issue is not whether a preacher ought to be supported (1 Corinthians 9:14), but how and when and from whom he receives this support.
- They relied upon letters of commendation -- human documents (3:1). Credentials were more important than the competence that comes from real success in ministry.
- As we read further (5:12), they took pride in what is seen (impressive) rather than what in what is unseen (the heart).
- They manipulated others for their own ends (4:2).
- They talked a lot about themselves (4:5). See also 10:12.
- They did not carry the cross -- whereas, in contrast, the apostles proved their genuineness by their suffering (6:4). See also Galatians 6:12.
- They misrepresented Paul as a weak and ineffectual leader (10:1,10).
- They took credit for the work of others (10:15).
- The impact of their work was to dilute Christian faithfulness to Christ (11:3).
- They were professional speakers (11:6), not genuine apostles (11:13).
- They pretended to be righteous (11:15), but their motives were dubious.
- They were Jewish (11:22), but not deeply Christian.
- They apparently tried to impress others with their spiritual experiences (12:1ff) -- whereas Paul, who outdid them all, refused to sink to this level. See also Colossians 2:18ff.
- They did not perform miracles "with great perseverance," as Paul did (12:12).
- They tried to persuade the Corinthians that Christ was not speaking through Paul at all (13:3).
The reference in verse 13 is Psalm 116:10, where the psalmist, though facing severe suffering, is fully determined to serve the Lord. This is not a passage on evangelism, though the way Paul has shaped the text this is one valid application. The original "speaking" was the charge that his opponents were liars. The allusion to the "superapostles" (11:5,13) is subtle.
If I am a leader, do I talk a lot about myself and my achievements? Or do I talk more about Jesus Christ?
Which of the following would I and those in my circle consider to be the true mark of spirituality: credentials (diplomas, certificates), connections (intimacy with and approval from spiritual leaders of repute), achievement (success in increasing the numbers of the faithful), suffering (willingness to embrace the cross and live through its power)?
Do I view all -- or any -- of my troubles as "light and momentary"? Or do I magnify them, emphasizing their duration and intensity? Am I able to comfort those who are suffering by influencing them to take the long view of things?