2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1
Paul is dealing with his opposition in Corinth–in particular opposition by hyperlian apostolon–arrogant apostles–super-apostles (11:5; 12:11) who have challenged Paul’s credentials and authority. They say that Paul’s “letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is despised” (10:10). Paul calls these opponents pseudapostolos–false apostles (11:13).
In this reading, Paul:
• Defends his teaching and preaching (vv. 13-15).
• Draws a distinction between the outward and inward man. He might not be much to look at, but God is renewing his inward man. That’s what is important (vv. 16-17).
• Draws their attention to the distinction between the temporal and the eternal (v. 18) and the “earthly house of our tent” (our physical bodies) and the “building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (5:1). Again, Paul might not be much to look at, but the Corinthian Christians need to appreciate his inward man–the real man–the God-sent man.
2 CORINTHIANS 4:13-15. WE BELIEVE, AND THEREFORE WE SPEAK
13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, “I believed, and therefore I spoke.” We also believe, and therefore also we speak; 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
“But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, ‘I believed, and therefore I spoke.’ We also believe, and therefore also we speak” (4:13). Paul quotes from Psalm 116:10, which says, “I believed, therefore I said, ‘I was greatly afflicted.'”
Because of his opponents, Paul identifies with the Psalmist, who said that God heard his cries for mercy (116:1)–and spoke of being surrounded by “the cords of death” and the “pains of Sheol”–and finding “trouble and sorrow” (116:3). The Psalmist said that God had dealt bountifully with him (116:7), and had delivered his soul from death (116:8). While Paul’s allusion to Psalm 116 might seem obscure to us, it would have been clear to Jewish Christians who had been raised with the Hebrew Bible.
Paul changes the Psalmist’s “I believed, therefore I said, ‘I was greatly afflicted” to “I believed, and therefore I spoke.” Just as the Psalmist’s faith enabled him to speak, so also Paul’s faith enables him to speak–and to defend himself against his opponents.
“knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” (4:14a). Paul saw the risen Christ in his Damascus Road vision (Acts 9), so he knows that Christ’s resurrection is real. Having seen the risen Christ on the Damascus Road, Paul can believe that God will also raise Paul and the Corinthian Christians from the dead.
“and will present us (Greek: paristano) with you” (4:14b). The word paristano means “stand near” or “place near” or “be present”.
Paul is confident that God will stand near him and the Corinthians in the resurrection–that God will be present with them. He is confident that God will enable them to see each other again in the kingdom of God.
“For all things are for your sakes” (Greek: di humas–for you) (4:15a). What are the “all things” that have been given to benefit the Corinthian Christians.
• First, of course, is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
• Second is Paul’s ministry–his sufferings (vv. 8-9)–his perseverance in the face of opposition.
“that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (4:15b). The purpose for Paul’s ministry is that the Corinthians might experience grace–that the grace that Paul has experienced personally might be multiplied through the many believers in Corinth and elsewhere. The multiplication of grace will produce a multiplication of thanksgiving–which will “abound to the glory of God.” The glory of God is Paul’s ultimate purpose.
2 CORINTHIANS 4:16-18. THE THINGS NOT SEEN ARE ETERNAL
16 Therefore we don’t faint, but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; 18 while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
“Therefore we don’t faint” (Greek: ekkakeo) (4:16a). The word ekkakeo comes from ek (out of) and kakeo (bad). It means to become fainthearted or to become a coward or to lose courage. However tough the opposition, Paul’s faith makes it possible for him to continue moving forward. He won’t buckle under the opposition. In fact, we get the impression that opposition energizes him to uphold that which is right and true.
“but though our outward man is decaying (Greek: diaphtheiro), yet our inward man is renewed day by day” (4:16). Being old, I am highly sympathetic to Paul’s comment about his outward man decaying (diaphtheiro–to corrupt or destroy). We old folks understand that. We have experienced the ravages of time. Old age isn’t for sissies.
But I can also relate to what Paul says about his inner man being renewed day by day. There is often a sense of deepening spirituality for those who walk with the Lord day by day. Being able to see what has been rather than wondering what will be helps us to appreciate the paths along which the Lord has led us–and where those paths have taken us. We no longer have to wonder if the Lord will be faithful. The Lord has already proven himself–time and time again.
In the next chapter, Paul will say, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new” (5:17).
“For our light (Greek: elaphros) affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” (4:17). The word elaphros means light, not heavy, easy to bear.
Paul contrasts the temporary nature of his afflictions, which he characterizes as light, with the eternal nature of the exceeding glory that he has begun to experience–and which he expects to continue experiencing through this life and the life to come.
Don’t miss the play on words between “light” (afflictions) and “weight” (glory). Paul sees his current afflictions as weighing nothing compared with the weight of the glory that he anticipates enjoying in eternity.
“while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (4:18). Whereas in verse 17 Paul contrasted light and weighty, in this verse he establishes two contrasts–seen and not seen–and temporal and eternal.
Those two contrasts are related. That which is seen is temporal. That which is not seen is eternal.
That is a helpful distinction. In my comments on verse 16, I noted that, being old, I am privileged to see what God has done and where God has led me. I no longer have to wonder if God will be faithful, because he has already proven himself.
That is less true for young people. They have seen less, and they know that much of their lives have yet to unfold. For them, the ratio of seen (little) versus unseen (much) leaves them anxious. However, some young people are blessed to see the future through the eyes of faith–as was also true of Paul. Their faith removes anxiety, because it gives them the “assurance of things hoped for, (and the) proof of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
2 CORINTHIANS 5:1. WE HAVE A BUILDING FROM GOD
1 For we know that if the earthly house of our tent is dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.
“For we know that if the earthly house (Greek: oikia) of our tent (skenos) is dissolved, we have a building (oikodome) from God, a house (oikia) not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens” (5:1). Note the homophone (similar sounding words)––oikia (house) and oikodome (building). That is one of those little poetic touches that are clear in the original language that can’t usually be carried over into the English translation.
For the Jews, the word tent (skenos) would bring to mind the tabernacle––the tent that served as God’s dwelling place in Israel’s midst while they wandered in the wilderness.
That would be true in this verse. Paul contrasts the tent (skenos) with the building (oikodome)––an allusion to the temple, which served as God’s dwelling place in Jerusalem once the Israelites settled in the Promised Land.
If you have ever lived in a tent for an extended period of time, you know that tents are seldom as comfortable or as secure as a house. Tents can be an adventure for a weekend––or, perhaps, for a short vacation––but they eventually lose their charm.
So Paul contrasts our tent (our natural bodies) with the houses (our spiritual bodies––see 1 Corinthians 15:44) that await us in the heavenly kingdom. I say contrasts rather than compares, because there is no comparison. At some point, we will die and our loved ones will bury or cremate our natural bodies–but in the resurrection we will receive new bodies–related somehow to our old bodies, but different somehow as well. Don’t ask me to explain further. The scriptures answer many questions, but they also leave mysteries for us to discover in eternity.
How does Paul know that, when our earthly house is dissolved, God will give us a more substantial building? We can only guess. Later in this book, he will speak about a man who was caught up into the third heaven–Paradise–where he heard unspeakable words (12:2-4).
Most scholars believe that Paul was speaking of his own experience. Perhaps he got a glimpse of the glory yet to come while in that place. Or perhaps the Lord revealed these things to him in some other way. At any rate, there is no question that Paul is confident of the things of which he speaks. He has bet his life on them.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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Copyright 2017, Richard Niell Donovan