Aug. 18. Eternal Reward Overshadows Temporary Persecutions

II Cor. 4:1-5:16

Paul briefly reflected upon his old life of persecuting the church and of his new ministry as an apostle through the mercy of God. He contrasted his open preaching of the true gospel with the deceitful means that his enemies were using to try to discredit his authority.

Satan had caused the unbelievers to continue to have the veil of blindness over their eyes. This prevented the light of the gospel of Christ from showing them the real condition of their souls. Paul had seen the light of the glory of Christ on the road to Damascus and it was that light that he was preaching.

The enemies of Paul had accused him of preaching himself. He stressed that the only self-preaching that he did was, “Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” The light of the gospel that he was preaching came from the same God that had spoken light into existence from darkness at the beginning of time. That gospel light now shines in the hearts of Christians.

Paul used another metaphor in addition to light to describe the gospel. He called it a treasure and this treasure is transported in earthen vessels—human bodies, which in turn preach it to those who are lost in sin.

These human bodies suffered many persecutions as they went about their ministry, but were only hindered and not stopped. They were dying as mortals—facing death as Christ did, but the message they preached was giving spiritual life to those who accepted it.

Paul quoted from one of the Psalms, “I believed and therefore I spoke.” He had such a strong faith in Christ, that the insults, beatings and threats of death only made him more determined to spread the gospel of Christ. Even if he died, he knew that the same God who had raised Christ from the dead would also raise him and all of those who followed his teachings.

As he wrote these things to the Corinthians, Paul stated that it was for their benefit that he had endured these persecutions. He reminded them that a person’s fleshly body is undergoing constant weakening and decay, but that the spiritual body is becoming stronger every day.

Paul said that even as unpleasant as persecutions are, they are only a light affliction compared to the eternal glory that is to be enjoyed by the faithful. These earthly trials and tribulations are only temporary, but the spiritual things that one does not even see are eternal.

Since spiritual things are so glorious, Paul turned his attention to his desire to leave this life for eternal life with Christ. He referred to our earthly body as a house or tent in which the soul dwells while we live the physical life. One endures persecutions and the deterioration of this earthly body and yearns as a pupa in a cocoon for the new immortal body that God has prepared for the faithful. As the pupa leaves the cocoon with the body of a butterfly, man’s soul leaves the physical body and puts on an immortal body.

Another reason Paul desired an immortal body was that in the physical body, man is separated from the presence of Christ. He walks by faith and not by sight. When the Christian’s soul leaves the mortal body, it goes into the presence of our Lord and faith then becomes sight.

Paul said that his goal was to be pleasing to God in whatever state he was in. He made a most sobering declaration, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” ALL is an inclusive word! It means you and me! No one will be exempt or overlooked! BE PREPARED!

In view of the many blessings that come through obedience to God, Paul refused to be hindered by his enemies. He also knew of the dire consequences of failing to obey. These motivated him to convince the Corinthians of his sincerity as he presented the gospel to them.

Some of Paul’s enemies had questioned his sanity. He answered this charge by stating that if he was beside himself, it was to promote God and if in his right mind it was for the church. Whatever his mental condition was, he was focused on preaching the gospel and not on promoting himself.

Christ died so that all could have life. The apostle said that he was compelled to preach in order that the Corinthians and others could live.