Suffering 4

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

In his commentary on 2 Corinthians Garland says, “He understands that through his suffering he shared Christ’s death and received new life (Philippians 3:10-11). Savage* captures Paul’s thought:

It is precisely because his outer man is decaying that his inner man is being revewed day by day (v. 16). His outer afflictions serve to multiply the glory of his inner man (v. 17). His critics fail to see this increasing weight of glory because it is accumulating in his heart (v. 6), a place hidden to their externally minded outlook.

Most cannot see this transformation because they only look at the outer surface of humans. From this vantage point, it looks like Paul is falling apart instead of being gloriously renewed. Caird** explains this process well and why God designed it so:

But it is a secret process, invisible both to the outsider and to the believer himself, known only to faith. To protect that faith from the encroachments of pride, which would turn spiritual renewal into a human achievement instead of accepting it as a gift of grace, God has provided that the process be concealed within an ‘earthenware vessel,’ a perishable body subject to pain and decay (2 Corinthians 4:7; cp. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Those whose eyes are not on the seen and transient, but on the unseen and eternal, can detect beneath the decay of the outer nature an inner life which is being daily renewed.

*Savage, Power through Weakness, 183.
**G.B. Caird, Paul’s Letters from Prison, New Clarendon Bible (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976)

Two things strike me.

One is how similar the Church is in the U.S. compared to the Corinthians and how we look at the “outer man” to determine how well they are doing spiritually. This can refer to outward appearance or outward actions. We judge people by how healthy they appear. If someone is afflicted we ask why this is. Do they lack faith? Are they doing something wrong? Why isn’t God blessing them? And yet the Bible speaks out against this time and again. (John 9:2-3)

The other is how He uses uses earthen vessels who can be hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down so that we cannot rely on ourselves and be able to say that we are being renewed because of our own efforts.

Although our afflictions can seem unbearable, the “weight of glory” will be so great in heaven that it is incomparable to our earthly suffering. Since we cannot imagine this now, we must believe this by faith. (see also Romans 8:18)

2 Responses to “Suffering 4”


  1. 1 Lu

    Thank you for this post; it is such a message of hope … it is very superficial of me, but I’ve often wondered … when the Christ came back in glory and his disciples recognized Him — even to the point of being able to put their fingers in the holes of His traumas … did that mean that if we were ugly, or deformed, or physically unattractive, or of old flesh, that we would be so through eternity? Thank you for helping me take the looong view, the Lord’s view … truly, He has EVERYTHING under control.

  2. 2 ScriptureZealot

    Hi,
    You’re welcome.

    I know 1 Corinthians 15:36-50 talks about our resurrection bodies in addition to some other passages. I don’t know enough to comment beyond what Scripture says there. I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for your reply.

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