Learning from 2 Corinthians 4
The common feature in all of these comments, drawn from notes on various passages of Scripture, is that I quote from 2 Corinthians 4, a most important chapter for all who seek to live as the Lord's faithful servants. At the end of my own notes, I've included a link to a message in which James Philip emphasizes the importance of 2 Corinthians for those who seek to honour the Lord in their ministry of His Word.
2 Corinthians 4:1-2
We are always ‘unworthy servants’. We never outgrow our need of ‘God’s mercy’ (Luke 17:10; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 4:1). We need ‘the attitude of gratitude’ (Luke 17:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Jesus is coming again (Luke 17:24). Be ready for Him!
2 Corinthians 4:3
The ‘veil’ has been removed (2 Corinthians 4:3-4,6). Our sin had separated us from God, hiding His face from us (Isaiah 59:2). When Christ died, ‘the curtain of the temple was torn in two...’ (Mark 15:37-38). He has changed everything (Hebrews 9:7-8,11-12). Once, we were ‘separated... alienated... strangers... far off’. Now, we are ‘in Christ Jesus’ - ‘brought near in the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13; Hebrews 10:19-22).
2 Corinthians 4:4
Hezekiah is facing a very powerful enemy - ‘Sennacherib, king of Assyria’ (Isaiah 36:1). Hezekiah prays for deliverance - ‘O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand’. He prays for salvation - ‘O Lord our God, save us...’ (Isaiah 37:20). We face an even more powerful enemy - Satan, ‘the ruler of this world’, ‘the god of this world’. We must pray for deliverance. We must look to the Lord for salvation. We must pray with faith in Jesus Christ. Satan ‘has no power over’ Jesus. When Jesus was ‘lifted up from the earth’ (crucified), He won a mighty victory over Satan. Jesus died for us so that Satan, ‘the ruler of this world’ might be ‘cast out’. Satan’s power is broken when ‘the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ’ shines ‘in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (John 14:30;12:31-33; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
‘The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God... The Word of the Lord came to Ezekiel’(Ezekiel 1:1-2). The Lord opens our eyes to ‘see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Lord speaks to us and we must listen to Him: ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). ‘The Spirit came into me... Do not be afraid of them or their words’ (Ezekiel 2:2,6). Through the Spirit, we receive wisdom - ‘We have received the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand what God has freely given us’ - and strength - ‘God strengthens us with power through His Spirit in our inner being’ (1 Corinthians 2::12; Ephesians 3:16). ‘Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart... Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word... Be Thou my Battleshield, sword for the fight’ (Church Hymnary, 87).
The human situation is hopeless (Ephesians 4:18-19; 2 Corinthians 4:4) - without Christ! With Him, everything changes (2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 4:22-24). ‘'The gates of hell prevail against’ us. They do not prevail against Christ (Matthew 16:18). Tell others what the ‘Lord has done for you’ - God will use your words to bring blessing (Mark 4:19-20).
Empowered by God, Jesus gives sight to the blind man (John 9:3,6-7). ‘The Pharisees’ hear the man’s testimony (John 9:15). ‘Some of’ them reject the Lord (John 9:16,24). There will always be those who refuse to believe in the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will pour scorn on those who have come to know the Lord. The man gives his testimony: ‘One thing I know... I was blind, now I see’ (John 9:25). The Pharisees continue to fire questions at him (John 9:26). He puts the most challenging question to them: ‘Do you too want to become His disciples?’ (John 9:27). They hurl insults at him (John 9:28). Fools attack what they don’t understand. The more they rage, the more they show their folly. We say, ‘Lord, I believe’, and our spiritual ‘eyes’ are opened (John 9:38; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Don’t be ‘blind’, despising the believer and the Saviour (John 9:39-40; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
2 Corinthians 4:5
As servants of Christ - He ‘came not to be served but to serve’ (Mark 10:45) - , we are to serve others for ‘Jesus’ sake’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). To those whom we serve, we say, ‘We are your servants but you are not our lords’. Jesus is Lord: It is ‘as the Lord commands’ (Numbers 8:22).
We are not to be super-spiritual. We are to be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual. Let there be no conflict between loving God and loving our neighbour. Christ is our Lord. We serve others for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
We are to be faithful to God (Matthew 25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (Matthew 25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’ is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy. We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’. We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’. The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’ actions (Matthew 25:37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves. Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’ (Psalm 100:2). Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God. On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’ (Matthew 25:21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’ and ‘pleasure for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11).
The important thing is the ‘message’ (Colossians 4:3). The messengers are just ‘jars of clay’. The message is the ‘treasure’ (2 Corinthians 4:7). The messengers must not draw attention to themselves. They must direct attention away from themselves to Jesus Christ - ‘We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). We are to pray that the message will be ‘clear’ (Colossians 4:4). Pray for good preaching - preaching which does you good, giving you good cause to say in your heart, ‘For me it is good to be near God’ (Psalm 73:28). Pray for preaching which glorifies God.
2 Corinthians 4:6
At the place called Peniel, Jacob ‘saw God face to face’ (Genesis 32:30). We see ‘the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jacob wrestled with God and became an overcomer (Genesis 32:28). Christ wrestled with the powers of evil, and has won a mighty victory for us. When He cried out from the Cross, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30), this was not an admission of defeat. It was the declaration of victory - the victory has been won, the victory is complete. ‘Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
How are we brought out of unbelief and into faith, out of derision and into rejoicing? By the mighty working of God in our hearts, we are brought out of darkness and into light (2 Corinthians 4:6). Salvation comes from above, from God - ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (Matthew 27:51).
2 Corinthians 4:7-8
‘The pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him’ (Jeremiah 18:4). This is what the Lord is doing in our lives. He is ‘the Potter’. We are no more than ‘jars of clay’ (Jeremiah 18:6; Isaiah 64:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7). Our lives are ‘marred’ by sin. It would be very easy to give up on ourselves. God hasn’t given up on us. He looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become. He is preparing us for ‘eternal glory’. ‘We are being renewed day by day’. ‘We are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-17:3:18). ‘Jesus, You are changing me. By Your Spirit, You’re making me like You... You are the Potter and I am the clay. Help me to be willing to let You have Your way...’ (Mission Praise, 389).
2 Corinthians 4:9
Joseph was put into prison, ‘but the Lord was with him, and showed him steadfast love’ (Genesis 39:20-21) - ‘persecuted, but not forsaken’' (2 Corinthians 4:9).
2 Corinthians 4:10-12
Jesus was ‘greatly distressed... troubled... very sorrowful... ’ (Mark 14:33-34). ‘Nevertheless, in obedience to His Father’s will, He chose the way of the Cross (Luke 22:42; John 10:17-18). Satan - ‘the power of darkness’ - would have his ‘hour’, but Jesus was to be ‘seated at the right hand of the power of God’ (Luke 22:53,69). Jesus suffered much persecution (Luke 22:63-71). He endured it ‘for the joy that was set before Him’, the joy of ‘bringing many son to glory’ (Hebrews 12:2; 2:10). The way of the Cross is never easy. It involves death to self (2 Corinthians 4:10-12). Do not ‘sleep’. Pray (Luke 22:45-46). Don’t ‘follow at a distance’ and deny your Lord (Luke 22:54, 57-58, 60). Keep close to Jesus. Let the ‘rivers of living water flow’ (John 7:37-39; Acts 1:8). When you sin, let His ‘Word’ lead you to repentance (Luke 22:61-62; Psalm 119:11).
2 Corinthians 4:13-15
‘There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!’ (Proverbs 26:13). This is the voice of fear speaking. We need to speak with the voice of faith - ‘I believed, and so I spoke’ (2 Corinthians 4:13). We know that ‘the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’. The devil can fill us with fear. We must not let him do this. We must face him with faith - ‘Resist him, standing firm in the faith’ (1 Peter 5:8-9). When we ‘resist the devil’, standing firm in the faith, ‘he will flee from us’ (James 4:7). Let us face the ‘roaring lion’ with faith in an even more powerful ‘Lion’. Jesus Christ - ‘the Lion of Judah’ - ‘has conquered’ Satan. He ‘has triumphed’ over him (Revelation 5:5). May Christ’s ‘perfect love drive out our fear’ (1 John 4:18).
2 Corinthians 4:16
‘Through you I intend to display My holiness for all the nations to see’ (Ezekiel 20:41). This is God’s purpose for our lives. He wants other people to notice that we are different. He wants them to see that we have been changed by Him: ‘As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is to be our testimony: ‘What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!... I have ceased from my wandering and going astray since Jesus came into my heart! And my sins which were many are all washed away since Jesus came into my heart!’ (Mission Praise, 748). May God help us to live as ‘a new creation’, being ‘renewed every day’. Make it ‘your aim’ to ‘live for Him’ and ‘please Him’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:9,15,17).
When things seem to be getting out of control, we must fix our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ - He is ‘enthroned for ever’(Psalm 61:7). ‘Day after day’, He calls us to worship Him and to live as His servants. He calls us to receive ‘His mercy... new every morning’, to be ‘renewed day by day’(Psalm 61:8; Lamentations 3:22-23; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
2 Corinthians 4:17
Sometimes, we wonder what’s going on in our lives. We must remember that ‘God’s ways are higher than our ways’ (Isaiah 55:8). We must learn to look beyond our sufferings. They are ‘slight and short-lived’. We must look ahead to the ‘eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine’ (2 Corinthians 4:17).
2 Corinthians 4:18
‘Those who are left... will be called holy’ (Isaiah 4:3). The world speaks of God’s people with contempt - ‘the holy people who need to learn to live in the real world’. When God calls His people ‘holy’, He speaks in a very different way. He speaks with affection. He looks upon us with love. We are special to Him. We are precious in His eyes. God loves us and He calls us to be holy. We are to live as those who have been set apart for God. We are not to live for this world only. There is something else, something greater than this so-called ‘real world’. There is a world that is unseen and eternal, heavenly and glorious. This is our higher calling, our call to holiness. Let us ‘look to the things that are unseen and eternal’. Let us ‘press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 4:18; Philippians 3:14).