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The Power in Ministry
2 Corinthians 4:1-7
Fight discouragement in ministry with the truth that the power to save resides gloriously in God alone and not in ministers.
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Published April 19th, 2021
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2 Corinthians 4:1-7
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4 1 Διὰ τοῦτο, ἔχοντες τὴν διακονίαν ταύτην καθὼς ἠλεήθημεν, οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν 2 ἀλλʼ ἀπειπάμεθα τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς αἰσχύνης, μὴ περιπατοῦντες ἐν πανουργίᾳ μηδὲ δολοῦντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τῇ φανερώσει τῆς ἀληθείας συνιστάνοντες ἑαυτοὺς πρὸς πᾶσαν συνείδησιν ἀνθρώπων ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 3 εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔστιν κεκαλυμμένον τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν, ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις ἐστὶν κεκαλυμμένον, 4 ἐν οἷς ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἐτύφλωσεν τὰ νοήματα τῶν ἀπίστων εἰς τὸ μὴ αὐγάσαι τὸν φωτισμὸν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς δόξης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ. 5 Οὐ γὰρ ἑαυτοὺς κηρύσσομεν ἀλλʼ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν κύριον, ἑαυτοὺς δὲ δούλους ὑμῶν διὰ Ἰησοῦν. 6 ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὁ εἰπών• ἐκ σκότους φῶς λάμψει, ὃς ἔλαμψεν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν πρὸς φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν προσώπῳ [Ἰησοῦ] Χριστοῦ. 7 Ἔχομεν δὲ τὸν θησαυρὸν τοῦτον ἐν ὀστρακίνοις σκεύεσιν, ἵνα ἡ ὑπερβολὴ τῆς δυνάμεως ᾖ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ μὴ ἐξ ἡμῶν•
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2 Corinthians 4:1-7
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2 Corinthians 4:1
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2 Corinthians 4:2
2 Corinthians 4:3
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2 Corinthians 4:4
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2 Corinthians 4:5
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2 Corinthians 4:7
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δὲ
ὅτι
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Main point summary
The power of the ministry of reconciliation resides not in the gifts or skill of its ministers, but in the God who mercifully creates light from darkness by the power of his word.
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2 Corinthians 4:1-7
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Διὰ τοῦτο, ἔχοντες τὴν διακονίαν ταύτην καθὼς ἠλεήθημεν,
For this reason, having this ministry as we have been shown mercy,
οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν
we do not become discouraged
ἀλλʼ ἀπειπάμεθα τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς αἰσχύνης,
but we renounced the secret things of shame,
μὴ περιπατοῦντες ἐν πανουργίᾳ
not walking in deceit
μηδὲ δολοῦντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ
or twisting the word of God,
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ἀλλὰ τῇ φανερώσει τῆς ἀληθείας
but by the manifestation of truth
συνιστάνοντες ἑαυτοὺς πρὸς πᾶσαν συνείδησιν ἀνθρώπων ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.
commending ourselves to all the consciences of men before God.
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εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔστιν κεκαλυμμένον τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν,
But even if our gospel is hidden,
ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις ἐστὶν κεκαλυμμένον,
it is hidden in the ones who are perishing,
ἐν οἷς ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἐτύφλωσεν τὰ νοήματα τῶν ἀπίστων
in whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving
εἰς τὸ μὴ αὐγάσαι τὸν φωτισμὸν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς δόξης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ.
so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
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Οὐ γὰρ ἑαυτοὺς κηρύσσομεν
For we are not preaching ourselves,
ἀλλʼ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν κύριον,
but Jesus Christ as Lord,
ἑαυτοὺς δὲ δούλους ὑμῶν διὰ Ἰησοῦν.
and ourselves as your servants on account of Jesus.
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ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὁ εἰπών• ἐκ σκότους φῶς λάμψει, ὃς ἔλαμψεν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν
For the God who said "Let light shine from darkness," shone in our hearts
πρὸς φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν προσώπῳ [Ἰησοῦ] Χριστοῦ.
for the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
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Ἔχομεν δὲ τὸν θησαυρὸν τοῦτον ἐν ὀστρακίνοις σκεύεσιν,
But we have this treasure in vessels of earth,
ἵνα ἡ ὑπερβολὴ τῆς δυνάμεως ᾖ τοῦ θεοῦ
in order that the surpassing power might be of God
καὶ μὴ ἐξ ἡμῶν•
and not of us.
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Notes
Main Point The power of the ministry of reconciliation resides not in the gifts or skill of its ministers, but in the God who mercifully creates light from darkness by the power of his word. Devotional In this section of 2 Corinthians, Paul is expounding what it means to be a minister of the new covenant. He is contrasting sincere ministers like himself and Timothy with those who are false, peddling God's word for personal gain (2:17). So far, he has said that new covenant ministers are c ommissioned by God ("As commissioned by God" 2:17), superintended by God ("In the sight of God we speak in Christ" 2:17 ) , and made sufficient for the task by God ("Our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers" 3:6 ). This idea of being "made sufficient" for ministry is the main focus of our passage (4:1-7). However, before Paul takes this idea up again, he first turns his attention to more fully expound this new covenant ministry in 3:6-18. So, a few more brief observations about the nature of this ministry are yet in order. In a word, this ministry is a ministry of glory. In vv. 7-8, it is called "the ministry of the Spirit" and is contrasted with "the ministry of death." If the ministry of death had a glory that prevented the Israelites from looking into the face of Moses, how much greater is the glory of the ministry of the Spirit! Likewise, "if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory!" Indeed, the glory of this new ministry is so great that it is itself transformative to behold (3:18). It is even called the ministry of reconciliation in 5:18. After basking in the brilliance of this ministry, Paul returns to explain what it means that God has made his ministers sufficient for the task. Remember Paul's rhetorical question in 2:16, "Who is sufficient for these things?" The answer: No one, if God does not mercifully make him so. See v. 1; this ministry is had "by the mercy of God" (ESV) and the result is that "we do not lose heart" (ESV). What is there to lose heart about? So many things! Just in the surrounding context, Paul lists these two reasons: that unbelievers find the aroma of Christ to be the fragrance of death to death (2:15-16), and that the gospel is hidden to unbelievers whose eyes have been blinded by Satan (4:3-4). Now, to preach Jesus Christ as Lord (4:5) everywhere yet encounter nothing but resistance and even affliction because that message is the stench of death and its glory falls on blind eyes can be tremendously discouraging to the minister. How do we oppose that discouragement? By being reminded that we ourselves were once deaf and blind, content in our world of darkness (1 Peter 2:9) until the God who spoke light into being at creation also spoke the light of the beauty of Christ into our hearts by the gospel (4:6; cf. Gen. 1:3, Romans 4:17). So, brothers, in the same way that we were utterly dependent on our triune God to mercifully elect, predestine, atone for, redeem, regenerate, justify, adopt, sanctify, and glorify us, we are utterly dependent on him to do the same for anyone who might hear the word of Christ we proclaim (Romans 10:13-17). Why has God made us utterly powerless in the salvation of not only ourselves, but also of others? Verse seven answers: because it puts God's surpassing power to save on display. We ministers are certainly vessels of clay: finite, frail, and fallen. But it is that very reality that displays the power of our God, who is dependent on no one and nothing, to save to the uttermost. God has no lack that he needs our eloquence or wisdom or courage or charisma or winsomeness to make up for it. Therefore, "do not lose heart" (4:16) but rather be "always of good courage" (5:6) in the labors the Lord has called us to. The Lord has given us this treasure, this "ministry of reconciliation," in our weaknesses and frailties so that he gets all the glory when sinners are saved. Though we do not see the fruit we wish, let us persevere nonetheless as ambassadors of Christ, pleading with all to be reconciled to God.
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