Notes on 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

2 Corinthians 4:16‑18  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
There are thus, along with the consciousness of utter weakness and exposure, spiritual forces of the most powerful kind, which sustain in the face of all trial and suffering the faith of what God has already wrought in Christ risen; the hope of what He will do for us who believe on Him; and the love which bears all for the blessing of those so precious to both the Father and the Son.
“Wherefore we fail not; but even if our outer man is consuming, yet the inner is being renewed day by day. For the momentary lightness of our affliction worketh out for us in surpassing measure an eternal weight of glory: while we have the eye not on the things that are seen, but on those not seen, for the things seen [are] temporary, but those not seen, eternal.” (Vers. 16-18.)
On each divine ground the apostle repudiates all thoughts of succumbing, and declares for moving on undauntedly. Enjoyment, ease, honor, are out of the question as a present thing; nay, pain, tribulation, detraction, contempt, opposition, all that can wear away the outer man as sure as the path of Christ is trodden. But in all these things is the life of the Spirit. Grace turns to our account by Christ, and this, even now, the things which seem most contrary to man's life in this world. Be it that it perishes, yet the inner man is renewed day by day. (Ver. 16.) It is not that the saint becomes more meet for partaking of the inheritance of the saints in light, for this rests on Christ and His redemption; but there is growth spiritually, a new nature and sure judgment of things around us, there is less value for what once attracted, and a more undivided deepening joy in the Lord and His objects here as well as in heavenly things. The babe becomes not a young man only, but a father. (1 John 2) Christ is more unwaveringly the attraction and the standard of thought, feeling, conduct, everything; while flesh and world not only sink, but are judged unsparingly, as one passes through all that would otherwise disappoint and torture, now regarded with calm and even thanksgiving.
This is so true that the apostle does not hesitate to designate so withering and pitiless a storm of trial, ever repeating itself in fresh blows and continual grief, as “the momentary lightness of our affliction.” Yet who ever beheld, yea conceived, such suffering, save in the One with whom none can compare? And His grace it is that so works, and strengthens so to reckon. Lightness of affliction! in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in death often, But why recite what no reader of feeling can have forgotten? Momentary! in him who scarce knew cessation of unexampled perils, inflictions, and labors. Yet was he full of good cheer. For the momentary lightness of our affliction worketh out for us in surpassing measure an eternal weight of glory. (Ver. 17.) To this he looked onward, reaping withal no small return of blessing even now, and thus binding together what was spiritual along the way with the end in the presence of the Lord by-and-by, in words which labor for adequate expression of the truth.
We must not lay unfounded stress on the “while” which introduces the last verse in our tongue. It is not here the expression of time emphatically, as if the blessing were only going on during the soul's regard of the things set before our faith, however important it may be that our regard should go on unbrokenly. The apostle says no more than that such is the due object for our contemplation, our heed paid not to the things that are seen, but to those that are not seen; with the explanation or reason assigned, for the things that are seen [are] temporary, but those that are not seen [are] eternal. (Ver. 18.) Who does not own, save the basest of skeptics, that deliverance from the present and fleeting is true power? Who feels as he ought the simplicity with which Christ, as now revealed to us, and revealing the unseen and eternal things, makes good this mighty work in those who believe? How ought not the Christian to appreciate the gospel of His glory!