Study on the Book of 2nd Corinthians

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Division 3 — “The Ministry & It’s Description”

Lesson 5: "The Ministry- Its Sustaining & Enduring Spirit" - II Cor. 4:7-18

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

II Corinthians 4:7-18, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not 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.”


-Introduction: The diligent minister faces trial after trial. He experiences fatigue and weariness, strain and pressure, trouble and doubt, criticism and opposition, conflict and persecution—and the list could go on and on. The minister needs a strong spirit of endurance. He needs a very special power to sustain him. This passage deals with his enduring spirit, with the things that do sustain him. It is a desperately needed discussion. Eight things here,

          -1.  The presence of God sustains (v.7).

-2.  The power of God sustains (v.7-9).

-3.  The spirit of dying daily sustains (v.10-12).

-4.  The spirit of faith sustains (v.13).

-5.  The hope of being resurrected sustains (v.14).

-6.  The need of others and the glory of God sustain (v.15).

-7.  The inner man being renewed day by day sustains (v.16).

-8.  The hope of eternal glory sustains (v.17-18).


#1) The indwelling presence of God sustains the minister.

Look with me again at 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”


This is a precious, yet very striking verse. "This treasure" refers back to the former verse in verse six. It is the presence of God Himself shining in the believer's earthly vessel, in his heart, in his earthly body. Several things about this,

          -1.  God's presence is a treasure, a precious and priceless treasure.

-2.  God's presence is placed into (enters) earthen vessels. God enters our bodies, bodies that are like earthly vessels made of pottery or glass. They are ever so weak and worthless, corruptible and perishable. Yet imagine—God's presence is placed into such earthly bodies!

-3.  God's purpose for entering our bodies is to show His power by overcoming all weaknesses, even death itself!!!!


"The excellency of the power" mentioned here is a picture of the grandeur, glory, and preeminence of His power. It is the excellency, the great and overcoming power of God. The presence of God in our hearts and bodies is power. Several things here,

          a. It is the power to convert and transform us into new creatures.


"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).


b. It is the power to convert and transform us into new men.


"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephes. 4:24).


"And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:10).


c. It is the power to put His divine nature into us.


"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:4).


d. It is the power to give us life, both abundant and eternal.


"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).


"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).


The point is this: the treasure of God's presence is in this earthly vessel, this earthly body that is ever so weak and frail. God does so much for us, and it is all because of Him. Therefore, God and God alone gets all the glory, and He is thereby praised! As the verse says, the power is of God, not of us.

-Thought 1. No man can dispute his mortality, for no man can convert and transform himself into an eternal being. Only the presence of God, this glorious treasure, can enter our lives and change us into eternal beings. The presence of God alone can sustain us.


"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16).


"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor. 5:1).


"For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up in life" (2 Cor. 5:4).


-Thought 2. The glorious treasure of God's presence lives within the believer—in the power of God's Holy Spirit.


"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:16-17).


"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Romans 8:9).


"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16).


#2) The power of God sustains the minister.

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”


The minister (and all believers) of God face all kinds of trouble and difficult situations in life. However, they have one great resource: the presence and power of God within them. God never forsakes them; God saves and delivers them through every situation and trial, no matter how difficult. Five things here,


-1. The minister (or believer) may be troubled on every side, but God's power saves him from distress.

-"Troubled" means to be pressed, squeezed, oppressed, hedged in, and pressured.

-"Distressed" means to be kept in a narrow, cramped place; to be crushed.

-"On every side" means in every imaginable way and place and occasion.


The minister experiences all kinds of trouble and pressure. He sometimes feels as though he is pressured and troubled beyond what he can bear. It is as though a heavy weight is pressing in upon him and about to crush him. But then God steps in and saves him from being distressed and crushed. The presence and power of God sustains His dear minister.


-2.  The minister (or believer) may be perplexed, but God's power saves him from despair.

-"Perplexed" means to be at a loss, to be doubting, not knowing, questioning, wondering which way to go, what to do, what to say. It means being perplexed and unable to find an answer.

-"Despair" means to be hopeless, to have no confidence or assurance, to be without any sense of security.


The minister is often perplexed, not understanding why this or that happened, what should be done or said, how the situation should be handled, and on and on. Sometimes situations become so puzzling that he is almost stymied and the threat of despair faces him. There is the danger that his confidence and assurance will be shaken. But again, the presence and power of God steps in and saves the minister from despair. God gives him hope and stirs his confidence and shows him the way out. God never allows him to be overcome by despair.


"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).


-3.  The minister (or believer) may be "persecuted", but he is not "forsaken". Ministers are sometimes opposed, and sometimes the opposition is hot and severe. The persecution may be behind his back or to his face. It may take such forms as...

•  ridicule

•  isolation

•  martyrdom

•  jokes

•  criticism

•  slander

•  neglect

•  imprisonment

•  withdrawal

•  mockery

•  threats

•  confrontation

•  abuse

•  being ignored

•  being censored

The truth is, God never forsakes, abandons, or deserts his dear servant. God never leaves him alone. The companionship of God, His presence and power is always with His dear servant.


-4.  The minister (or believer) may be cast down, but he is never destroyed.

-"Cast down" means to be smitten down, struck down, or knocked down.

-"Destroyed" means to perish, to die, to strike out.

The minister may be struck down, but he is never allowed to strike out; he may be knocked down, but he is never knocked out.

 

As William Barclay says:

"The supreme characteristic of the Christian is not that he does not fall, but that every time he falls he rises again. It is not that he is never beaten, but he is never ultimately defeated. He may lose a battle, but he knows that in the end he can never lose the campaign."


"...lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20).


"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:16-18).


"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).


"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16).


"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7).


"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).


"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).


"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (Isaiah 41:10).


#3) The spirit of dying daily sustains the minister.

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 4:10-12, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”


Note three points here,

          -1.  The minister is to bear in his own body the dying of the Lord Jesus, and he is to do it all the time—continually—as he walks about day by day. Simply put, Paul...

•  carried about the dying of the Lord Jesus.

•  took up the cross of Christ.

•  died to self, that is, to his own desires and wishes.

•  denied himself in order to live for Christ.


Paul died to self. "Dying" means the sense in which Jesus was dying every day. When Jesus came to earth, He came to secure a perfect righteousness for man. To do this, He had to live a sinless life; He had to struggle against sin every day. He had to die to self, to deny His own desires and live for God. He had to struggle against the daily temptations which men face, and He had to conquer them all.


Spiritually, the Lord Jesus was always dying to self, that is...

•  always subjecting His body: its passions and urges.

•  always denying His will in order to do God's will.

•  always struggling to conquer the pressures of temptation.

•  always wrestling against the forces of evil and never giving in to them.


Physically, the Lord Jesus was always dying to self. He was always expending enormous energy to share the truth. One commentator says, he experienced continuous hunger and thirst, and subjected his body to exhausting days and sleepless nights for the sake of others. He faced continuous opposition from political and religious leaders in order to share and preach the truth.


A true minister of the gospel is to die daily; he is to die to the point that the actual passing from this life into eternity is but the final stage of suffering and death for him.


2.  The minister is to die to self so that Christ might be seen in his body. Paul denied himself so that the presence of Christ could be seen conquering the flesh, temptations, and trials of life. When Paul disciplined his body and kept it under control—when he put his urges and desires to death—when he denied his will and did God's will—he demonstrated that Jesus Christ lived within his body. The life of Jesus was manifested and shown to be in his body.

3.  The minister is to die to self so that others might receive life. When a minister dies to self, really denies himself so that Christ can live in his body and conquer the flesh and trials of life, others see the power of Christ. They too long for such power. They are led to turn to Christ in order to receive the same conquering life and power. They are led to seek life in Christ, life that is abundant in this world and eternal in the next world.


"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).


"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it" (Luke 9:24).


"God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:2).


"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).


"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13).


"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).


"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24).


"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (Phil. 3:8).


#4) The spirit of faith sustains the minister.

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 4:13, “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.”


When nothing else sustains the minister, his faith will sustain him. The minister may be tempted to give up: the trouble and pressure against him may be so great that he is tempted to leave the ministry, to never share the gospel again. However as stated, when nothing else sustains the minister, his faith will sustain him. His faith will not allow him to become discouraged to such a point that he would leave the ministry and fall into the depths of despair.


By faith the minister believes the promises of God: he stays in the ministry and continues to speak just as David and Paul did. The minister believes with all his heart...

•  that the presence of God will sustain him.

•  that the power of God will sustain him.

•  that the spirit of dying daily will sustain him.


"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).


"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (Ephes. 6:16).


"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).


"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).


"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering: for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed" (James 1:5-6).


"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4).


#5) The hope of being resurrected sustains the minister.

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 4:14, “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.”


The minister bears in his body the "dying of the Lord Jesus" (which means he denies himself and dies daily) for one great reason: he knows that he is to die someday. Above all else, the one thing the minister wants is to be with Jesus; therefore, that glorious day of resurrection, the day of full redemption, is ever before his eyes. The minister suffers and bears all—he continues to preach and teach, to serve and meet the needs of people—all because he knows that the day of resurrection is coming. Just as God raised up the Lord Jesus, so God is going to raise him up to be with all those to whom he has ministered.


How does the minister know this? Because God raised up the Lord Jesus. When God raised up Christ, He demonstrated that it was His will to raise the dead, and that He had the power to raise the dead.


"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).


"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29).


"And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40).


"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).


"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:11).


"And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power" (1 Cor. 6:14).


"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:19-22).


#6) The need of others and the glory of God sustains the minister.

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 4:15, “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.”

Note the words "all things." The minister of God bears all things for two reasons: for the sake of the people and for the glory of God. The minister bears and suffers all...

•  So that people can experience the abundant grace of God. As he ministers to people, they learn more and more about God. They experience more and more of God's wonderful grace and blessings.

•  The result is a marvelous happening: the people joy and rejoice in God. They walk around offering up praise and thanksgiving to God, and God is thereby glorified.

The minister refuses to be defeated, because people need the grace of God and because God needs to be glorified. And the only way people will glorify God is for them to experience the grace and blessings of God for themselves.

-Thought 1. The purpose of the minister is twofold.


1) He is to meet the needs of people. Fulfilling his ministry will sustain him with a great sense of satisfaction.

          -2) He is to lead people to praise and glorify God.


#7) The inner man being renewed day by day sustains the minister. 

Look with met at 2 Corinthians 4:16, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”


Note three significant points.

-1.  The minister does not faint. He does not give up or quit; he does not lose heart or become discouraged; he does not allow anything to defeat him: not people, circumstances, events, fatigue, exhaustion, or even persecution and severe opposition. Nothing, absolutely nothing can drive him from the ministry nor keep him from preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep in mind the things that give him the strength to continue preaching, are,

-The presence and power of God.

-The spirit of his faith.

-The hope of the resurrection.

-The needs of people and the glory of God.


-2.  The minister's outward man perishes every day.

-The "outward man" is the earthen vessel or the human body or the mortal flesh, and the earthly house.

-The word "perish" means to age, wear out, waste away, deteriorate, decay, corrupt, and die. Paul says that his "outward man" or body was wearing out and wasting away every day. It was in the process of perishing and dying.


-3.  The minister's "inner man" is renewed day by day. The inner man is...

•  the spirit of man that has been "born again" or created anew by the Spirit of God.

•  the spirit of man that was dead in trespasses and sins until it was quickened and made alive by Christ.

•  the "new creature" and the "new man"

•  the highest and deepest part of a man's being where the Holy Spirit dwells.

•  the "hidden man of the heart”


The minister is renewed day by day when he draws near God for strength and growth, for relief and deliverance from trials, pressure, and trouble. But remember: it is the presence and power of God within his body that renews him, not anything within or of himself. 

#8) The hope of glory sustains the minister.

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not 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.”


Note two significant points here,

          -1.  The minister's afflictions are light when compared to the glory he shall receive in heaven. Note the phrase "weight of glory." This picture should always be kept in mind by every minister. The picture is that of a set of scales sitting before the minister. He balances his afflictions on one end and the eternal glory he is to receive on the other end. The afflictions may be heavy and severe, but when he places the eternal glory he is to receive on the scales, the afflictions become light. It is as though they weigh nothing.


-2.  The minister's eyes are not focused on the physical and temporal, but on the spiritual and eternal. The word "look" means to focus one's eyes and attention on a set goal or end. The goal, of course, is spending eternity with God in the new heavens and earth. The minister does not look at the things which are seen (the physical and corruptible), but at things which are not seen (the spiritual and incorruptible). The reason is strikingly clear: the things which are seen are temporal (brief, temporary, fading, passing, fleeting, transient); but the things which are not seen are eternal (lasting, endless, forever, permanent, immortal, glorious).


"His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matthew 25:23).


"Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matthew 13:43).


"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:17-18).


"Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil. 3:21).


"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us" (2 Tim. 2:12).


"When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4).

-*Next Study: “The Ministry: Its Hope and the Assurance of An Eternal Home” – II Cor 5:1-10



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