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The Conduct of Paul's Ministry.
1. Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
Paul and his companions had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel of Christ by God's grace. Paul never forgot he was once been a persecutor of the church, and how indebted he was to God for His mercy. Having received such amazing grace, they never once lost heart or became discouraged in spreading the Gospel of Christ (Acts 4:20). Although the difficulties and opposition faced by the apostles were enough to crush the strongest of men, they had the strength and power of Christ within which nothing can crush or overcome. God by His Spirit continually renewed, revitalized, and strengthened His servants to fight the good fight and continue to spread the Gospel.
2. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
God's power enabled them to walk in newness of life. By walking in the Spirit they put behind them all that belonged to their former lives. They had forsaken everything shameful (things that need to be kept secret) and did not walk in craftiness; they were not out to deceive people. They never used subtlety or guile to gain their ends; nor did they tamper with the Word of God by making additions or alterations. There was no watering down of the Gospel message; they lived the truth which they simply proclaimed, and this sincerity commended both them and their message to their hearers.
3,4. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
If both Paul's life and ministry clearly portrayed the gospel message, why did it have so little effect? In comparison to the vast numbers of people who heard Paul, there were relatively few converts. What was wrong with Paul's ministry? Nothing at all; the fault was with the hearers. If the truth of the gospel is hidden from the eyes of some it is because the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, dulling their perception so that they might not recognize truth. It is of note, as Kruse observes, that "in each place where Satan is mentioned in this epistle he is seen to be actively seeking to hinder the work of God" (2 Cor. 2:11 ; 2 Cor. 11:14 ; 2 Cor. 12:7).
Satan holds sway in the lives of all unbelievers (Eph. 2:1-3). His intention is to keep men under his influence and bring them to everlasting damnation ("those who perish"). He does all he can to stop them believing the Gospel of Christ; which would deliver them forever from his power, for by first revealing Christ to men, the Holy Spirit is then able to form Christ in men.
5. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake.
Paul and the others were not concerned about making their mark in the world. They never put themselves forward but preached Jesus Christ as Lord. Their message proclaimed the Lordship of Christ and called all men to give their allegiance to Him. Kruse notes that "the one to whom they are called to submit is also the one who died for them. These two basic elements of the gospel need to be held together if the gospel is not to be distorted" (Rom. 10:9).
Paul regards himself as the servant of those he preaches to. Not that he thinks of them as masters, for he consistently acknowledges only one Lord; but in obedience to His Lord, Paul serves humanity by preaching the Gospel, which is the greatest service we can render to mankind.
6. For it is the God who said, "Let light 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.
It is the greatness of Christ and His glory which causes Paul to preach Him and only Him. Paul recalls the time when God brought light into existence where there was nothing but darkness (Gen. 1:3); and uses this to illustrate the conversion of a soul. Men are kept in the darkness (ignorance of the truth) by Satan, but they are brought out of darkness by God, as in a new creative act He shines His light into their hearts. This light is His own nature revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the image of God. In receiving Christ we receive the nature of God into our hearts. We are born of His Spirit and know God in a personal, experiential way.
The Gospel Paul preached always exalted the Lord Jesus Christ. To Paul, Christ is the very outshining of God. He is the Word who was with God, and who was God, and has been manifested for us. He is the Creator and sustainer of the universe; only through Him can we know the Father.
Treasure in Earthen Vessels.
7. We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
Christ lives in me; but although His power is so great and His glory so wonderful I have not become a super man. I am still at present a man of clay (Gen. 3:19). Though we carry a glorious light within us, our weakness is still evident, for earthen vessels are fragile and easily broken. It is encouraging to learn that even the best messengers of the Gospel are frail; they are only men like us. They are our equals, and ought not to be set on pedestals (Acts 14:8-15).
When men see the blessed light and power of Christ at work in His messengers, they can be assured that that same light and power is available to them. Paul insists that the power to save a soul is God's own and is never delegated to His messengers. Paul's message was never "I am given authority to forgive your sins", but rather "God has forgiven me and he will do the same for you if you trust him."
8. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.
The power at work in us is the power by which God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his own right hand in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:19-20). It enables us to endure hardship for Christ's sake. Though we are thronged by troubles we are not without a means of escape, for the door to God is always open. Though we are at a loss to know what to do we are not in despair for we have a God who provided a way through the Red Sea!
9. Persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
We are allowed to be persecuted (literally, flee from pursuers) but our God never leaves us; we are "not forsaken". We are cast down, but we can never finally be destroyed. We can't lose for we are on the winning side.
10,11. Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.
By entering into Christ's sufferings and being exposed to death continually (by affliction and persecution), Paul was sharing in the death of Jesus. At the same time he finds that he shared in the resurrection life of Jesus was being revealed in his body (Phil. 3:10-11).
Kruse says "the one who proclaims the crucified and risen Lord finds his message exemplified in his life. On the one hand he is daily subject to forces which lead to death- on the other he is continually upheld, caused to triumph and made to be more than a conqueror by the experience of the risen life of Jesus in his mortal body" (Rom. 8:37).
12. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
The power Paul received from Christ in his daily exposure to death not only sustained him but worked through him to bring the risen life of Jesus to others.
The Spirit of Faith.
13. But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture--"I believed, and so I spoke"--we also believe, and so we speak.
In the midst of trials, Paul depends on faith not feeling. His faith persists despite sufferings and trouble. In faith he keeps on speaking of Jesus (Ps. 116:10).
14. Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.
Despite our trials, our certain hope is that God who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will raise us up with him. This hope of future glory encouraged the apostle in the midst of present trial. Paul's great joy was that not only he but his converts would rejoice in the presence of Jesus in that day.
15. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
Paul realized that all his labours, sufferings, and the faith given to sustain him was for the sake of Christ's church, to build them up and ensure that the message of salvation might continue to be proclaimed to the whosoever. As more and more people received the grace of God in Christ, so more and more would return thanks God for salvation, bringing honour and glory to God on earth just as in heaven (Rev. 5:9).
16. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
Though the human body is corruptible and affected by the trials we suffer, the inner man is imperishable and receives a daily renewal and strengthening from the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:14-19).
17,18. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
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