Series: 2 Corinthians
II Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as 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.
__Paul wants his readers to pursue a godly way of life, though it is hindered by trials and afflictions. The apostle himself had to live this way, but the Corinthians were too involved, too caught up with things that could be seen and touched. In our western culture, they would not have considered any spiritual leader or church successful unless that ministry was marked by growth and prosperity. A beautiful building, lots of people wearing stylish clothes and driving expensive cars, with an expanding budget—that would have been the place for them. But instead they must endure this physically scarred, gospel-focused apostle who kept insisting that they follow a crucified Savior. The Corinthians had shifted to an ungodly philosophy of living, and because Paul loves them, he calls them back to the true way of following Jesus Christ.
__We can put it this way. Paul doesn’t want them to quit or become discouraged because of the sufferings he and others were experiencing for the cause of Christ. If the gospel is so glorious, why is Paul hard pressed on every side? Why is he perplexed, persecuted, and struck down? Shouldn’t everyone following Jesus be reigning as kings and queens now? The closing verses of this chapter summarize Paul’s answer.
I. A confident acceptance of the reality of life (4:16)
A. True Christianity recognizes the constant decline of the physical body. Though we are freed from spiritual death and alive with Christ, our bodies remain in a process of decay.
1. Paul felt no need to prove the reality of the spiritual realm by performing or demanding healing miracles. Yes, he had performed the signs of an apostle among them (12:12), but he mentions that in passing, at the end of the letter. He was more interested in the glory of Christ than of signs of power that the Lord enabled him to perform. Even today, God can and does heal in answer to the prayer of faith. But faith is not an order that God must obey. Paul himself had to experience some of his close co-workers suffer physical affliction at times that he needed them (Ph 2:30; 2 Tm 4:20).
2. Every believer should realize that our outer persons are wasting away. From the moment of birth, we begin to die. It is unavoidable, unless the Lord Jesus returns first. Therefore, we should be freed from obsession with the body. Bodily exercise profits little (1 Tm 4:8). We ought to exercise and to eat properly to be healthy, but don’t expect too much!
B. However, this is far from a fatalistic resignation to suffering and approaching death. Every believer in Jesus Christ has their eyes open to something else—the ongoing renewal of the inner person.
1. As the body declines in physical strength, the Christian should be aware of increasing inner, spiritual strength. God does not abandon his children, but he gives us increasing supplies of grace. The Holy Spirit operates in us as an artesian well of life (Jn 7:37-39).
2. This is a continual process of renewal. The Lord does not wind us up at the time of new birth and then ignore us. No, he directly gives daily spiritual strength.
Point: Both the physical and the spiritual are part of your life every day.
II. An eternal perspective on today’s troubles (4:17)
A. We ought to recognize that true Christians have problems.
1. We should not be surprised at the afflictions that we presently experience (1 Pt 4:12). Your life in a fallen world will encounter struggles, even severe ones.
2. But we look at troubles with an eternal perspective, and so we see them as they actually are. For Christ’s people, they are light and momentary. So, all Christians should resign immediately from the “Moaners and Groaners Club”. Why all this complaining about the pressures you are called to have? Jesus said, that if we went to him, his yoke would be easy and his burden light. Has he told the truth?
B. We should be talking about what is heavy—the eternal glory that is awaiting us!
1. Now when Paul says that troubles are achieving this for us, he clearly does not mean that our sufferings merit salvation. The context of his words is one of grace, of unmerited favor (4:6).
2. But God will reward those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior for their sufferings for Jesus’ sake (2 Tm 4:6-8).
Point: You cannot really lose when you follow Christ by faith. Something better is promised (cf. Mk 10:28-31).
III. A better approach to life’s happenings (4:18)
A. It is too easy to be caught up in the immediate pains and sorrows of life.
1. The worldly-minded person loses their soul in running after the present. How many pleasures can they consume today? It is easy to see this in the lives of those ruined by substance abuse. But it is true of everyone apart from Jesus Christ. Sadly, the things of the moment consume their souls. Weep for the self-absorbed!
2. Paul is urging his dear friends not to imitate the ungodly. There is a far better way to life than paycheck to paycheck.
B. We must fix the eyes of our hearts on what is eternal.
1. This will not make sense to the unsaved person, because these things cannot be seen by the physical senses and they are spiritually blind. But we look at things that are not yet visible.
2. We know that the things of this world are only temporary. One day, all we presently see, touch, taste, hear, and smell will be destroyed by fire. We look for a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Pt 3:13). True Christianity has a forward look, a confident anticipation of sharing in eternal glory, joy, and peace.
Apply: Therefore, don’t quit; don’t be discouraged (4:16). Confidently look for eternal glory and live as heirs of glory.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author]