“For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to 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 Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
A vital and important message that the Apostle Paul needed to communicate to the saints in Corinth was that his focus wasn’t on whether or not they accepted or rejected him, but how they saw and responded to Jesus Christ. Though Paul’s opponents preached themselves, shrouding the glory of Christ in their own pride, Paul didn’t preach Paul. Apollos didn’t preach Apollos. All of the faithful men who ministered to Corinth preached Christ, and Him crucified (1 Cor. 1:23). Further, what they did say about themselves was that they were but joyful, suffering servants of Christ, doing their Master’s bidding.
Why did Paul and his fellow ministers do so? Because God commanded light to shine out of darkness (general call). Soli Deo Gloria! God sovereignly enables His children to know, understand, and embrace the Gospel! Praise God for the abundant truth that to know God is to see Christ. To see God’s glory is to see the face of Jesus! (John 14:9) That light of the knowledge and glory of God shone in their hearts with irresistible life, and has in the hearts of all believers (effectual call).
In verse 7, Paul speaks of a glorious treasure that was deposited in him and his colleagues as they were weak, earthen vessels. For God sovereignly enabled His ministers to press on in Gospel ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, who is doing the work through the vessel is crystal clear. The power is seen and it is all of God! We find again here such a wonderful testimony of the Lord’s will and way to work through the weak and unexpected in the world’s eyes, that all the glory would be His. Therefore, Paul could testify of both great suffering, coupled with the power of divine sustaining grace. Paul could testify of God’s faithfulness, and he did so noting four ways:
- They were hard pressed in on all sides. Hard pressing comes with the attempt to slow down, contain, and stop those who are pressed, but see with comfort that they weren’t crushed or distressed.
- They had times where uncertainty and doubts entered their minds, but they never fell into the depths of despair, knowing God was able to support and deliver them.
- They were heavily persecuted and forsaken by men, but never abandoned by Christ. Friends or family may forsake us, and our enemies press against us desiring to destroy us, but Jesus will never leave us.
- They were struck down and beaten, but never destroyed.
As we go through the crucible of suffering, like Paul, pressing, confusion, persecution, and striking attacks, though arguably to a lesser degree, are common experiences for us as well, aren’t they? Yet, the same outcome is true for us. The power of divine sustaining and sanctifying grace shines in us! God both sustains us and grows us in the forge of suffering.
See that Paul endured all of his sufferings with patience, understanding them to be a pattern connected to and imitating Christ’s sufferings. He endured them in order to be an example to the world, that people might also see the power of Christ’s resurrection and His great work of divine grace in Paul. Though he and his colleagues were on death’s doorstep daily, it was a pleasure for them to be there in order that Christ would be on display in them and God’s people would be gathered, blessed, and nurtured in their life with Christ through Paul’s ministry and example to the flock.
Beloved, praise God for the minister and elders He has called to self-sacrificially serve you, pointing you to Jesus. Though suffering is difficult, praise Him that you have been effectually called and redeemed by Christ to be a faithful servant who doesn’t pray for suffering, but when it comes, knows its purpose, knows His covenant faithfulness, as well as what you need to do in persevering through it, that the life of Jesus would be manifest in you. We can all admit that one of the hardest things is suffering and enduring well in ways that honor and give glory to Christ. May God grant us all grace to do so.
Praise God for His Word!