Knocked Down but Not Knocked Out2 Corinthians 4:1-18Theme: Treasures in jars of clay.This week’s lessons teach us the importance of having an eternal outlook on life.
In our last study we focused on the glory of the Christian Gospel. I called that message, “The Greatest Thing Happening Today.” That is because of what God is doing in the lives of people through the Gospel. The fact that people turn from sin, find forgiveness, and are renewed and transformed by God’s power is literally the most important thing that is happening in our time.
The world does not think that way. But in spiritual terms – the terms that really matter – we are not creatures just of this age. In spiritual terms the most important things that are happening are those things that happen spiritually in the lives of individual people who meet God through Jesus Christ and are transformed.
That is why Paul can write as he does here in this letter – a man who, from the world’s point of view, experienced little attention. On the contrary, he was hounded, and persecuted, and pressed almost to death as he says in the passage we come to here. But he did not lose heart because a lot was happening through his ministry in the lives of other Christians. In speaking of his ministry, Paul wrote about the forgiveness of sins, and the bringing of new life to those who are spiritually dead, and the transformation that takes place in Christians, as, with unveiled faces, they reflect the Lord’s glory and are transformed into his likeness.
So if that is true – if the Gospel really is as glorious as all that – and what happens through the sharing of the Gospel really is the greatest thing in all the world, then how is it that so many Christians speak so little about it and have so little concern as to whether unbelieving men and women come to a knowledge of the Christian faith? Is it perhaps because we do not really believe the Gospel is that glorious? That may be. We say we do, but maybe we do not really believe. Or is it perhaps that we are put off by the difficulties and discouraged by the hardships we face? In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul deals with the second of those possibilities in terms of his own experience.
This letter, as I said before, is a very personal letter. Paul wrote about his own circumstances early on, at the very beginning in the first chapter. He does so again here, and later in the letter as well. He mentions the many hardships he has undergone in trying to carry out this ministry. His example is a great example because although he experienced these difficulties, he did not lose heart, as he says in chapter 4, verse 1. On the contrary, he carried on and bore a great witness to the very end. And when he came to the end of his life, he was able to say when he wrote to his young follower, Timothy, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
I have outlined 2 Corinthians 4 in two parts. First of all, there is a description of the ministry itself, found in verses 1 through 6. Second, there is a description of the ministers and their experiences, found in verses 7 through 17. And there is a verse at the end that serves somewhat as a conclusion.
It is interesting to look at the way Paul conducted his ministry, and how he suffered as he carried out his calling. We are inclined to say, “Well, it is no wonder that Paul suffered, considering the way he went about things.” We know there are people who are persecuted because of the way they go about things. They are so obnoxious that it is no wonder people treat them badly and turn in another direction when they see them coming. We will resume tomorrow by looking at Paul’s response.
Name some of the places where people today look for power and influence.
How was Paul able to withstand his difficulties?
ReflectionAre you deeply concerned as to whether unbelievers come to a saving knowledge of the Christian faith? Your answer reflects your view of the Gospel.