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2 Corinthians chapter 4

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What does 2 Corinthians chapter 4 mean?

Against criticism and questioning, Paul continues to defend his legitimacy as an apostle of Jesus. The context here is the great suffering experienced by Paul and his co-workers, as they spread the gospel of Jesus. As he writes, Paul reveals his great confidence in God's ability to sustain him and his great hope in the life to come.

Paul knows that God is the one who has given him the ministry of bringing the truth about Jesus to the world. It's not a position he deserves; it is his by God's mercy. That's why he insists to the Corinthians that he has not and would not act with them in any way that is underhanded, disgraceful, or deceptive. Instead of manipulating God's Word, he and his partners state it openly and invite others to openly evaluate their lives before God to see that they are acting with integrity (2 Corinthians 4:1–2).

The fact that they tell the truth, though, does not mean that everyone will believe them. Paul acknowledges that the reality of their good news about salvation through faith in Jesus is veiled or hidden from the view of people who are on their way to eternal death and separation from God. The god of this world, Satan, blinds the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of Jesus' glory. That's the light that Paul and his co-workers carry in their hearts and deliver to those who will see it (2 Corinthians 4:3–5).

To summarize this mission, Paul incorporates all of his era's main cultural ideals into a single statement. Then, he connects that idea to the relationship God intends us to seek in the person of Christ. No matter what a person thinks they desire—Hebrew "light" and truth, Greek "knowledge" and wisdom, or Roman "glory" and accomplishment—all of it is ultimately found only in the person—in the face—of the One and only Savior (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The knowledge of Christ's glory as the image of God is a powerful treasure. It is worth more than all other knowledge in the universe. Paul writes that God has stored this priceless treasure in fragile, vulnerable clay jars, meaning himself and his friends. It's only by God's power in them that they have not already been shattered by their suffering. Paul writes that they have been afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down—but they have not been crushed, driven to despair, abandoned, or destroyed. They carry in themselves Christ's death in the sense that they suffer as He did and for His sake, but they also carry Christ's life as evidence that His power is at work in them (2 Corinthians 4:7–12).

Paul understands that the path he is on will eventually lead to his physical death. He won't stop, though, won't lose heart, because he also knows that the one who raised Christ from the dead will raise him up, as well. In the end, he will find himself with Christ sharing God's glory forever. For now, he will continue to contribute to expanding God's glory by leading all those who receive God's grace through faith in Jesus to give God more and more thanks (2 Corinthians 4:13–15).

Paul knows this path, this work of carrying the gospel, is killing him physically. He is wasting away on the outside. He refuses to quit, though, because inwardly he is being made new every day. No matter how hard the circumstances of this life are, the glory of eternity far outweighs and outlasts anything that can happen to us now. Paul's confidence is in unseen things that will never end, not in the visible things of this life that will quickly be gone (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).
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