The testimony of Apostle Paul always amazes many people because of his drastic conversion and the spiritual transformation he continued to go through during his life. From beginning as an individual who was very much feared, to where he becomes a bold advocate for the Gospel, it can only be seen that this was possible because of his confident faith in the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This certainly is elaborated through his missionary journeys, as his passion and conviction for the Message continued despite the upstage battle he faced against the hardships and sufferings of being an apostle. To list some of these hardships and sufferings, Paul specifically writes about some of these in his second epistle to the Corinthians. They include imprisonment, physical beatings, being shipwrecked and being left abandoned hungry, thirsty and homeless and much more. Again, it is amazing to see Paul’s perseverance and his ability to keep pressing forwards despite the situations that he was faced with. As we take a look at it further, we are able to see that it was his possession of a spirit of faith that allowed him to be strengthened while it was that the object of his faith being the hope upon his future that allowed him to keep pursuing and pushing through. The thesis of this essay will focus upon the writings listed in 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, as it will illustrate Paul’s strong affirmation of his beliefs that served as a foundation for his perseverance despite the difficulties and hardships that he had faced.
Background of Corinth
Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to the people who lived in the city of Corinth, a Roman colony that was the capital of Achaia. Corinth was recognized for its large trading ports and diverse population of people including Jews, Romans, and Greeks lived in Corinth. However, the diverse population brought not only various cultures to Corinth but also various beliefs and religions into the city that were corrupt in Paul’s eyes. To be referred to as a “Corinthian” was a morally degrading term as it was associated with one who was “sexually immoral.” Another cause of corruption was the direct worship of other gods, such as Aphrodite, who was claimed as the goddess of love and also Asclepius, the god of healing. From seeing this, it was no wonder that the Corinthian church was afflicted with vast problems that led to Paul having to come present the Gospel to their lives.
As we take a look at Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, another important piece of background information is that during the ministry to the Corinthians, Paul established a much needed and secure relationship with the Corinthians. Initially, this was essential because it was through their relationship, as well as through the numerous encounters Paul had with them, that he was able to express his passion and his heart to the people. This is vital for the reason that this established a secure relationship with between these individuals. As a result, as this letter begins with Paul expressing much concern for these people, it is evident to see how much these people meant to him.
Although many scholars debate about a basic timeline for Paul, I have come up with a general idea that I believe Paul had taken. The basic timeline of the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church can be seen as follows:
1. Paul visits Corinth for the first time and stays for about 18 months.
2. Paul leaves Corinth to go to Ephesus and stays 3 years.
3. Paul writes a “warning letter” in his first year from Ephesus
4. Paul writes 1 Corinthians and sends Titus and “a brother” to give it to them
5. Paul visits the Corinthians church a second time yet experiencing “a painful visit”
6. Paul writes the “letter of tears”
7. Paul writes 2 Corinthians and explains that he wishes to visit them a third time
8. Paul presumably makes the third visit after writing 2 Corinthians
All in all, as we go over the basic timeline of Paul and the Corinthians, it can be generally concluded that Paul had a genuine pastoral heart for the Corinthians. Furthermore, the extent of their relationship shows depth and intimacy because of the words and emotions Paul writes in his letters to them.
General Information about 2 Corinthians
Seeing the general outline of themes and writing style 2 Corinthians, there are some who state that 2 Corinthians may have been two different letters. From observation however, it would seem more likely that Paul wrote this as one letter for the very reason that Paul wanted the Corinthians to know about his personal plans and philosophy of ministry, (2 Corinthians 1-7) as well as his desire for the offering for the Jerusalem saints (2 Corinthians 8-9) ending with the topics about his apostolic ministry (2 Corinthians 10-13). Although the tone and subjects may be different, what we can see is that all three topics were essential needs for the Corinthians, and it was through these topics that Paul was able to unite it together in writing about the overall theme of the glory of the Christian ministry.
When we take a look at their relationship, it truly is amazing because, despite the hardships that Paul emphasized with this group, perseverance is a common theme that repeated from it. The next section will cover the following tones and specific subjects, more in depth to the 2 Corinthians 4:13-18 passage.
The Meaning of “Same Spirit of Faith”
In 2 Corinthians 4:13 Paul refers to an Old Testament passage, Psalm 116:10, in order to express his affirmation for continuing to speak on the basis of faith. One important factor to understand is when Paul writes “the same spirit of faith” (2 Cor. 4:13) there are two translations of “spirit” or πνεῦμα. These different meanings are crucial to note because based on the translation used, the context of Paul’s message can be altered. For instance, if πνεῦμα is translated as the Holy Spirit it would carry the definition of “the same spirit [the Holy Spirit] that generated the psalmist’s faith and imbued his speech,” while if πνεῦμα is a disposition, it would be translated as “the same spirit of robust, enduring faith that motivated the psalmist.” Although both translations seem to fit well into the context of 2 Corinthians 4:13, it is the second translation of πνεῦμα—the same spirit of robust, enduring faith that motivated the psalmist—that is contextually fit for this verse, so when Paul writing 2 Corinthians 4:13, it can be understood that he had the same spirit of a strong, persisting faith that drove the psalmist.
Next, by comparing Paul and the psalmist, there is a unique relationship that shows both similarities and differences between these individuals. Among the similarities, the most obvious is that the psalmist of Psalm 116:10 was praying because he was greatly afflicted and, therefore, desired to be delivered from his death. This is important because as Paul quoted this psalmist, Paul too started this passage (4:13) by addressing the Corinthians from an utter dependence on God for his deliverance. Furthermore, this citation is important because as the psalmist placed his faith in his heart, Paul also was able to explain this correlating faith to the Corinthians by saying, “I believed, and so I spoke.” Again, it was that because Paul was able to view himself as having the same spirit as the psalmist, he was able to share the same spirit of faith at the time of his difficulties.
On the contrary, even though the psalmist and Paul’s same spirit is evident, there underlies a major difference being in whom each confessed to. Moreover, although both prayed to God, the difference is where the psalmist’s trust was in God whom he believed will rescue him because of his sufferings while on the other hand, for Paul, his trust derived from the foundation of his deeply grounded knowledge of the Gospel Message. When seen grammatically, the second half of 2 Corinthians 4:13 also reiterates the importance of this message, as it says, “we also believe and so we also speak.” This is very important because of the word order of “we speak” being preceded by διὸ. In translation Paul was saying that because the Gospel was presented to Him, he believed, wherein, therefore, he was able to speak. This can be proven because Paul’s life was a drastic conversion in which, he was able to testify and witness about the Gospel passionately throughout his life. Because he experienced the Gospel firsthand nothing could come in the way of his declaration for the Truth. Consequently for Paul, the Gospel Message was the context of his faith in that he was referring back to his own salvation story “because he came to believe particular things about God based on the revelation to him that he speaks in the course of his ministry.”
Paul’s understanding of the Power of the Gospel
Coinciding with the root of Paul’s faith, Paul writes next about the power of the Gospel and how “the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ changes everything, from the hearts to the community and to the world.” To define this, in an earlier writing, Paul had written that the Gospel was “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” So, contextually, verse 13 and 14, relates back to his motif for perseverance for the reason that he could speak about the actions of believing and on the basis of the knowledge of both Jesus’ resurrection and the Christians’ future resurrection. It was that on the basis of Jesus’ resurrection Paul had assurance of his own resurrection and despite his struggles, how the Gospel strengthened him and gave him hope to the future.
For Paul, it is evident that his view of the Gospel was beyond something of the past, yet something continuous for his present and for his future. Because of his personal change, it can be concluded that his belief and hope for the future dictated how he lived in the present life. Faithfully, in times of trouble and despite the circumstance he faced, it was his trust in God that he obtained full assurance of his future. This was what gave him the will to keep going and overcome the obstacles he had faced presently.
In addition to a same spirit of faith and understanding the power of the Gospel, Paul now transitions to an eschatological reason using a participle “εἰδότες or “knowing that” (verse 14) to indicate his action of believing preceding his speaking. In context, the second half of verse 14 is written by Paul from the future perspective of the eschatological resurrection “in the midst of his great suffering that God would deliver the ministers of the gospel.” Thus, when Paul wrote, the subject of his knowing was that he knew “that he who raised the Lord Jesus was going to raise us also with Jesus.”
On the contrary, there are a couple important factors to consider. The first is by understanding that Paul here is not stating that Jesus will be raised once again because the
Aorist ἐγείρας indicates the completed action in Jesus’ resurrection. It is here where also, the aorist explains that because of the completed resurrection, the Gospel has continuous power, thus having any reason in thinking otherwise. As a result, despite Paul’s hardships, when Paul uses to raise, what he means is that since Jesus was already raised from the dead as the first fruit of all the believers, this guaranteed that Paul and all the believer’s would be presented before Him during their resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:20 confirms this meaning: “but, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In relation, it was that Paul saw the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the believers as a part of the “harvest,” the one eschatological event, so Paul said this as a guarantee that Jesus will secure the glorious state of all believers and be with them in God’s presence.” One important factor to note here, is for the word “present,” in Greek it is written as παραστήσει or in this case, Paul’s intent to present someone as they stood before a judge. The hope and assurance came from the joyous, shared guarantee of the personal eschatological resurrection that Paul and the believers would receive the day they would “appear before God with Jesus as their advocate, brother, and friend.” It was this resurrection that was seen as guaranteed as the resurrection of Jesus Himself, which fueled Paul’s confidence for the future resurrection for him and believers.
Upon taking a look at Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians, an undeniable claim was his passion for the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 4:5, we see how Paul admits to the Corinthians that he is their slave because he was able to know that Christ “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” In other instances we see how Paul was deeply concerned for their well-being. Understanding Paul’s deep emotion for the Corinthians, the latter half of 2 Corinthians 4:15 addresses another reason to why he was able to persevere in his ministry despite facing numerous difficulties and hardships. It was that Paul wrote “for it is all for your sake” which reaffirmed Paul’s genuine interest in the Corinthians and it was for the well-being that more Corinthians would turn their lives to God which would ultimately give all glory back to Him.
Now, seeing this, an important understanding comes around the latter half of 2 Corinthians 4:15 where it says “so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”–Closely, two notes must be underlined. First, the importance of the syntactical outline of this latter half of the verse must be stressed because the prepositional phrase διὰ τῶν πλειόνων (through the more) aligns with both πλεονάσασα (made more) and περισσεύσῃ (might abound). The phrase can end up being translated either transitively or intransitively and because a literal translation changes the verse to be grammatically incorrect, a specific interpretation must be taken in order to explain the context of this verse. Secondly, the context in which the word “the grace” is used must be noted. Generally, most contexts “grace” in Scripture is defined as God’s forgiveness of sin. In this verse, however, it must be understood that Paul is referring “grace” differently, as it is “the gracious divine power at work in the hearts and lives of the readers.” Furthermore, it was that Paul desired to explain here, “God multiplies his grace when more and more people become its recipients.” In this section, it became about when the Gospel enters the hearts of non-believers, more of God’s grace abounds. As a result, it was Paul’s goal to bring as many people as possible to faith while his suffering and persecution was incomparable to the fact that more people could draw closer to God. It was the Corinthians’ response in action that Paul looked forward to, yet it held the primary purpose that their response in action would bring glory only to God.
All in all, the confidence that Paul had for his suffering for the glory of God is honorable because Paul knew that the sufferings were only temporary and his faith was put into action because he knew the inner spiritual renewal he was receiving from his hardships. His suffering was therefore threefold because it can be summarized as follows: (1) for the purpose that the grace of God may spread and overflow to the Corinthians, (2) through the means that more people will give thanksgiving to God, and (3) for the goal that overflowing grace would focus back to the glory of God.
The next section is on the objective of Paul’s faith and how Paul was able to maintain the hope upon his future that allowed him to keep persevering, as he believed that God was preparing an eternal abundance of glory beyond all that is temporary.
The Temporary State of Paul
Throughout Paul’s life and ministry, we can see there were many struggles that contributed to numerous physical and emotional struggles. Nevertheless, in 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul reiterates a common theme that puts perspective on his present state in the midst of his sufferings. Although his body was weakened, it is amazing to see how he overcame these obstacles by endurance and by maintaining a spirit that was resilient and bold for ministering and preaching the Gospel. It is in verse 16, Paul uses three sections which helps for the understanding of his encouragement to the Corinthians during his hardships. First is his usage of the adverb Διὸ or “therefore” which indicated his conclusion on the doctrine of resurrection. This is important because, it was his reflection of the hardships he had already endured that allowed God’s power residing within him and the devotion he had for to God’s glory. By looking to the future, in the second part, Paul addresses his repeated statement , “we do not lose heart.” Despite having gone through hardships, these words of Paul’s were beyond lightly words spoken, but these words allowed him to speak with a boldness – not referring to boldness in facing death, but to boldness in preaching the gospel despite all manner of afflictions and despite the way some falsely interpreted him.” The last part of verse 16, Paul illustrates the construction of ἀλλ’ εἰ or “(even) though” which expresses a strong contrast as Paul concedes by admitting that his outer self was deteriorating while his hope came from his inner self-being renewed daily.
The Outer Self and the Inner Self
While Paul is speaking here, there are many theologians who argue that the outer man refers to a physical living being because “the Jews always considered the body and soul to be an entity and used each term to refer to the totality of a human being.” In this case, however, the interpretation is invalid for that Paul is implying that the “the ‘outer’ referred to the status in Adam as part of this present age while the ‘inner’ referred to the status in the last Adam, Christ.” It would make sense then, that Paul used the present passive verb διαφθείρεται, to describe his outer appearance decay, because he felt that he was being deteriorated, spoiled and destroyed because of corrosion. In addition, it was that Paul understood the hardships he was facing for he was able to recognize the bigger blessing of “being renewed in knowledge after the image of the creator” Overall, for Paul, the process helped him to be deeply connected to Christ as he also knew that the final reconstruction would not end until “Christ’s appearing when the whole person would be redeemed and conformed to the likeness of the last Adam.” Despite the hardships, it came to be that Paul knew that his ultimate blessing of renewal outweighed the painful struggles of his outer deconstruction, which gave him a sense of confidence in the transformation he was facing. Jesus was already in the midst of rebuilding and reconstructing Paul and this became the foundation of his hope for his full restoration.
This verse does not end with Paul as the main figure. At the time Paul was writing this letter, Paul addressed his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in 2 Corinthians 4:16. Paul uses the Greek word ἡμῶν in verse 16, which is a genitive plural form translated to “our.” Despite his hardships, Paul was able to persevere and keep focusing because he knew he was not alone in this battle. Although Paul faced troubles, and through the second half of verse 14, Paul was fighting not to give up and quit, the motivation in verse 16 is that “in times of persecution, it was that his soul advanced. Every day it added something more to his experience of faith” and the thought of not being alone and understanding that he had fellow brothers and sisters to share this same experience gave Paul a burning passion that continued to flame for the Lord. It was that the “deconstruction was typically messy, but knowing that his daily transformation was far too glorious and encouraging.” Paul was struck down but he certainly wasn’t destroyed.
Final Reasons (1) Lightness
In verses 17 and 18, Paul explains the last reason to why he is able to persevere and not lose heart. However, by taking a look at Paul’s writings, in verse 17, there is a major contrast between the reality of Paul’s situation to what is initially written. That is because Paul describes his afflictions by using an adverb παραυτίκα which translates to “momentary” and also using an abstract substantive or an articular neuter singular adjective, ἐλαφρὸν, translated as “lightness” or an “insignificant character or amount.” Interestingly, when it comes to ἐλαφρὸν the only time that is referred is when Jesus declares that his yoke is easy and His load is “light.” Because of this, there are many scholars who automatically refer this to lightness, however it must be noted that in this case, an alternate definition would seem more likely, as Paul had it explaining that his situations were not “light” but rather “trifling” or “unimportant.” Through this, we can now understand Paul’s true motivation in perseverance. Although he went through very much physical, emotional, spiritual hardships and sufferings, it was that he understood the momentary, afflictions were preparing him for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Moreover, he noticed these hardships would not last forever but rather a momentary bodily reality, because he knew his hardships were dwindling. Hughes writes that “affliction for Jesus’ sake, however crushing it may seem, was, in fact, light, a weightless trifle, when weighed against the mass of that glory,” again it was that there was no comparison for Paul’s slight affliction and the upcoming eternal glory; he understood how much God was with him, thus Paul was able to see his duration on this earth as a short passing time and looked to his eternal future.
Final Reasons (2) Weight of Glory and Eternity
In comparison to the first part of verse 17, in the second section Paul transitions to explaining the results of his hardships dictating another reason for his perseverance. Here, the word he uses is kατεργάζεται which is a present, middle or passive deponent signifying a continued action in explaining that it is preparing the eternal weight of glory. (αἰώνιον βάρος δόξης). In Hebrew, the same word for βάρος, signifies a different meaning, however, as כָּבֹד means “to have an abundance in or a having a fullness.” In relation to Paul’s reason for his ability to persevere during hardships then, what could be concluded is that he had confidence that his temporal afflictions were light for the reason that the eternal fullness or abundance of glory were waiting for him. It was that there was an immeasurable, indescribable glory that would be shared between him and fellow Christians which was what he anticipated and looked forward to.
Upon this message, there are two important facts to consider. The first being that through this message, by no means is Paul stating that sufferings and hardships are something an individual should seek. Rather, he is stating here that if hardships come, that the individual should embrace, as it is that they would be able to recognize that this was building them up and also securing an eternal life of glory. The second message that Paul wants to address is that suffering does not overturn the eternal purposes of God. Through this message, it was that Paul wanted people to understand that it was that God uses both good and bad in order for the ultimate result of a “happily ever after” for all Christians.
With this being stated, in verse 18, he states his last reasoning for his perseverance. That being that Paul looked to eternity where this was his final destination upon his future resurrection. To express this, the flow of verse 17 continues as it puts emphasis on the first person plural pronoun by addressing believers to their future perspective. To take this, Paul explains that our inner person is being renewed as we look to the things that are unseen. As a parallel, he uses verses 18 to stand together what he claims in verse 16 by both writing a present tense verb, an eschatological object, and a present tense verb indicating the process. All in all, what is seen relates back to what is in the moment while yet to be revealed belongs to the future perspective of what is to come. For Paul, this included everything that he could not see at this moment. More specifically the fact that he would be united with God Himself in Heaven, the souls of his fellows brothers and sisters, and even looking to the promises that had not yet been fulfilled became the motivation for his endurance. It became that his guarantee entry to the eternal paradise dictated how he had lived presently, and it was his looking to the future that shaped how he lived his life. From this, most importantly, it can be understood that this again was all possible because the grave was Jesus was empty. By Paul’s assurance in knowing this Truth, it determined the way that he lived, and it paved the way of his ‘temporal’ life on Earth.
Conclusion and Application
In conclusion, the life of an apostle requires a full obedience to the calling of Christ as it contains both blessings and sufferings for the Lord. By taking a look at Paul’s life, it was from this section Paul explains his reasons of how he was able to persevere during his hardships. By seeing his life, we can see then how he lived with suffering and hardship, yet at the same time how Paul remained confident and bold for God.
All in all, as Christians an important application we must take is understanding the sovereignty of God for that we trust in His infinite power and preordained plan. As we grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Jesus Christ, it is then knowing that even for us, in whatever given circumstance, that we too will be able to focus not on our outward temporal circumstance, but on the inward as we become renewed which allows us to focus on the eternal glory that awaits us once we pass through this world. As we face suffering for the Gospel, it is that we gain confidence knowing that Christ’s work is occurring in us, and even in times of suffering, understanding that our suffering honors Christ and it ultimately builds up His Kingdom.
Finally, may it be that upon our lives, may the most important Truth be reminded that Jesus Christ has died and rose again from the dead! He defeated death therefore, we as Christians are no longer condemned of our sins and we are clearly effectively called, justified and required to live the life of sanctification where one day we will live in full glorification when we are with Him. Knowing this, as Paul wanted the Romans to know, likewise, he says to us “therefore there is now condemnation… For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”