STUDY II Corinthians
4:1-12 (click here for notes)
Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of the age had blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (NIV)
Responsibilities of a New Covenant Minister
Paul summarizes his discussion of the new covenant by saying, "Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." The ministry to which he refers is the ministry of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6).
1. Given the fact that Paul is being undermined by false teachers and apostles, how is he able to see this ministry as an act of God's mercy? (see 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Timothy 1:13, 16)
2. What does Paul mean when he talks about not losing heart, and why was this phenomenon a concern for him in his work? (see ver. 16; Psalms 18:45; 1 Samuel 17:24, 32; Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 12:3)
3. Rather than losing heart, Paul says he has "renounced secret and shameful ways." While he is referring to the situation with false teachers in Corinth, this passage may also apply to his conversion. What secret and shameful ways might Paul have renounced? (see 2 Corinthians 1:12, 18-24; Romans 6:19-22; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Timothy 1:13, 16)
4. He also says he does not distort the word of God but states the truth plainly. How might the word of God be distorted? (see 2 Corinthians 2:17; 1 Corinthians 5:8; comp. Galatians 1:7-9; 5:10-12; Hebrews 4:12-13)
Paul acknowledges that not everyone will perceive the gospel. "Even if our gospel is veiled," he says, "it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers."
5. What is "this age" to which Paul refers? (see Galatians 1:3-4; 1 Corinthians 1:20; Matthew 28:19-20; 24:3; 13:38-39)
6. What or who is the "god of this age"? (see John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 4:3-4; 5:19; 1 Peter 5:8)
7. What is the truth about Jesus that many deceptive religions refuse to acknowledge? (v.4; John 14:9-11; John 1:1, 14)
8. When did God say, "Let light shine out of darkness"? (see Genesis 1:3)
9. How is creation echoed in a person's new birth through the Holy Spirit? (see 2 Cor. 5:17; John 1:13; 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3)
10. What is the light that shines in our hearts? (see John 1:4-5)
11. What is the darkness into and out of which the light shines? (see John 1:5; 3:19-21; Psalm 18:28)
12. Combine the insights into light and darkness from the texts above with Paul's metaphor of veiled and unveiled hearts in chapter 3. What is Paul saying about those with veiled hearts and those with unveiled hearts?
13. How is Paul contrasting Jesus and us in v.6 with Moses in 3:13?
Jars of Clay
"We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (v.7)
14. What are "jars of clay"? (see Job 4:18-19; Isaiah 64:8; 2 Timothy 2:20)
15. What is the "treasure" we have in "jars of clay"? (see Matthew 13:44, 58; Colossians 2:2-3)
16. What is the "all-surpassing power" from God that is linked to the treasure we have in jars of clay? (see 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10; Ephesians 6:10-18)
17. What famous Old Testament story foreshadowed the mystery we experience of having treasures in jars of clay? Explain the metaphors. (see Judges 7:16-21)
18. What is the significance of God's power and treasure being in our fragile jars of clay? (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Philippians 4:5-7; 13,19)
Hard Pressed But Not Crushed
19. What does Paul mean when he says, "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body," (v.10); and "We who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body" (v.11)? (see 1:5; Romans 6:5-6; 10-11; 8:17; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24)
20. In what ways was Paul hard pressed, perplexed, and persecuted? (see 2 Cor. 7:5; Galatians 4:20; John 15:20; Romans 8:35)
21. How is death at work in Paul, and why does he welcome this phenomenon? (see 1:9; 12:9-10)
22. Whom do you know who appears to have a veil over his/her heart?
23. In what ways have you seen God's all-surpassing power at work in your jar of clay?
24. What secret and shameful ways is God asking you to admit and give to him?
25. In what areas of your life are you "being given over to death for Jesus' sake," and are you allowing yourself to experience this death?
26. How has the life of Jesus filled your places of "death"?
'27. Ask God to show you how he wants you to learn to trust him and to
relinquish your hold on the details of your life. Let yourself die to your
own plans and desires and allow the life of Jesus to fill your heart. Ask
God to fill you with his comfort and to teach you to carry his death in
your body so he can reveal his life in you.
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CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted March 2, 2002.