Notes on 2 Corinthians 4:12-15

2 Corinthians 4:12‑15  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Verse 12 is the conclusion of this part of the subject, the service of Christ in divine love and self-abnegation which works death to the servant as surely as life to the saints he serves. This was true of the master in the fullest way; it is verified in those who follow Him in the labor of love, just so far as they are true to Him.
“So that1 death worketh in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed wherefore [also]2 I spake: we also believe, wherefore also we speak; knowing that he that raised up the Lord3 Jesus shall raise up us also with4 Jesus, and shall present [us] with you. For all things [are] for your sakes, that the grace having multiplied through the greater number might make the thanksgiving abound unto the glory of God.” (Vers. 12-15.)
It is a total misapprehension of the opening words to suppose that the least approach to a withering rebuke lies hid here, as in 1 Cor. 4:8-148Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. 9For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. 10We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. 11Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 14I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. (1 Corinthians 4:8‑14). Calvin and others have thought so, but there is no real ground to doubt that the apostle very simply states the present effect of serving Christ when His mind and grace govern in such a world and state as this. It is death to him who in the work shares the affections and thoughts of Christ. Continual exposure to trial, habitual experience of grief, ridicule, detraction, opposition, enmity on the one hand; on the other, hopes, fears and disappointments; a never ceasing succession of all that can draw out, and withal distress the spirit cannot fail to do their work in him who thus serves Christ and the saints for His sake. But in the face of all, in spite of evil, and in virtue of grace, the saints are helped, strengthened, cleared, comforted, and blessed. Death worketh in us, and life in you. The apostle habitually toiling and suffering was thoroughly content, and rejoiced in the gain of others: if he was wearing away bodily, those ministered to were being led on in what is imperishable. The service of Christ truly carried out costs all here below, but the blessing is commensurate even now; and what will be the result in glory? Not only was life in Christ given to those that believed, but it was fed, exercised, and developed by ministrations of truth, of which grace was the spring and character and power, in presence of the deepest shame and pain and all calculated to dishearten, yet ever rising above the obstacles and persevering, no matter what the weakness, not only in view of death, but death working already.
But in Christ is the power of resurrection, now to faith, by-and-by in fact, even as the Spirit of Christ gave the Psalmist of old to sing in days of sorrow, “But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed wherefore I spoke; we also believe, wherefore also we speak.” No trial or suffering, not death itself in view, can stop the believer's mouth: he confides in God, and can speak out and well of Him.
New Testament accomplishment also exceeds Old Testament promise, for we can read all in the light of Christ dead and risen. Such is our conscious knowledge, before we too are raised and glorified. And thus we are to be on a common principle with Jesus, in contrast with the wicked who refuse to believe on Him, and are only raised by divine power for judgment. It is not so with the righteous or saints, who live of His life, and have the Spirit of God dwelling in them since redemption. They look to be changed at His coming, to enjoy His glory and love in perfection of their state, as now they do in His person. The resurrection of those who fall asleep meanwhile is from among the dead as His was. His resurrection declares that there is no judgment for the believer, as surely as it proclaims its certainty for the world, as the apostle teaches in Rom. 4:2525Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25), and Acts 17:3131Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31). But it is a mistake to use Eph. 2:66And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 2:6), or Col. 2 iii. 1, to illustrate the critical reading, σὺν “with” against the more common διὰ “by” or “through.” For these epistles, pre-eminently treating of our association with Christ, insist that we are already dead and risen with Christ, which our text speaks solely of the future: Perhaps the nearest to it is! Thessalonians v. 10, where it is taught that our Lord Jesus Christ died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. It is in one living the life of glory, as in the other raising us in order to it.
And it is added that He “will present us with you.” All efforts of Meyer and others now, as of some in former times, to lower the meaning to extrication from dangers or difficulties, are vain. Here it is the presentation of all together in glory, whether the servants or those served in grace, all being raised on a common principle with their Master who is their life after dying for them. What are present trials in comparison of such a prospect! How blessed that as nothing shall be able to separate the saints from the love of God which is in Christ, so God will have together in glory those who on earth were exposed to all kinds of divisive and destructive influence.
“For all things [are] for your sakes, that the grace having multiplied through the greater number might make the thanksgiving abound unto the glory of God.” (Ver. 15.) What an answer in the apostle to the affections of Christ! And certainly it was not in word or feeling only, but in deeds and sufferings which proved its reality and depth. It was endurance with joyfulness in a love like its source for the saints of God. And he looked for fruit accordingly, that if it fell to such as himself to suffer in the service of the many, the grace which so wrought might be the more diffused and cause thanksgiving to go up from all that reaped the blessing to the glory of God.