Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 30
II CORINTHIANS 4:1-5:9
Now we’ll go right back to II Corinthians Chapter 4 where we left off. In my opening remarks a couple of lessons ago we said that the apostle Paul had left Ephesus where he had written the first letter to the Corinthians and I put a make-shift map on the board. We had the land of Israel and the Mediterranean Sea coast coming along what is present day Turkey or which in New Testament days was called Asia Minor. There on the west coast of present day Turkey is still the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus for which Paul, I think, almost had to flee for his life. You remember at one point he referred to the beast at Ephesus? Well he wasn’t talking about the beast in the coliseum, he was just talking about the population in general that had been so pagan in their fervor for Diana the goddess of the Ephesians.
Well up here at Troas the ancient city of Troy, he had hoped to meet Titus who had been down ministering at Corinth. And remember all these churches were founded on his first missionary journey, and here Paul is on his second. He missed meeting Titus at Troas so he goes on up to Philippi in northern Greece where he was evidently on his sick bed, nigh onto death. Then after he got well he made his way on down and finally visited Corinth a second time. Now that’s the back drop for these next few verses when he was almost despairing of his life because of his tremendous sickness. Now remember in verse 6 we have this treasure, this Light that lighted the whole world. It’s already there for us to draw upon. And we who know The Lord can have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. But even though this is such a magnificent knowledge and understanding, yet God didn’t see fit to put it in the hands of angels, but rather He left it in the hands of mortal men. Paul was just as human as the rest of us. But it didn’t stop with Paul. Other men came along and as we’ve come down through human history, and even today, every one us has the opportunity to share the Word with whoever might listen. And so verse 7 says it all in that regard.
II Corinthians 4:7
“But we have this treasure (the light of God) in earthen vessels, (Now Paul wasn’t talking about a clay pot, but rather this body of flesh.) that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
Man can never take the credit for anything. It all has to be of God or it will fall flat on it’s face. Let’s turn back to I Corinthians for a moment and look at verse 27, 28, and 29. I have to remind myself of these verses constantly because I’m the first one to say, “Who in the world am I. Why did God see fit to even use me what little ways He does?” Well, it’s not because I’m somebody, but rather because I’m a nobody. And according to Scripture that’s the way it has to be.
I Corinthians 1:27,28
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought (nothing) things that are;”
In other words what’s all this saying? God uses that which mankind would never dream of using. And He uses it for His honor and glory. Now what’s the purpose in verse 29? And it’s the same concept of II Corinthians 4:7. All of this is for the one purpose.
I Corinthians 1:29
“That no flesh should glory in his presence.”
No one! Not a Dwight L. Moody, or Charles Wesley, because no one can ever glory that they accomplished something. It is all of God or is none of God. Now back to II Corinthians Chapter 4, and here I think you can get the mindset of the apostle as he is now writing. He had just gotten up from the sick bed in Philippi. He was actually thinking that his ministry had come to an end. He thought God for some reason was taken off the scene. But we know God wasn’t. Paul goes on now and look what he writes.
II Corinthians 4:8
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair,”
Why was Paul perplexed? My he had been doing so much. He had been set apart way back there in Damascus to go to the Gentiles. Paul knew that he hadn’t finished the work, he knew that Christianity was still in it’s infancy. He knew it was being attacked from every direction imaginable. So Paul was perplexed, and I think it’s the same thing that we are today. Sometimes we’re prone to ask, “Well God, why?” Why? But remember God has His own purposes. Even though Paul was perplexed he never gave up. He didn’t say, “I’m throwing in the towel because it’s not worth it.” Now verse 9.
II Corinthians 4:9
“Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, (laid in a bed of sickness) but not destroyed;”
Absolutely Paul was persecuted. He was driven from city to city, but The Lord didn’t forsake him. The Lord promised him what? When he was in Corinth The Lord said, “Paul don’t you run from the enemies because I’ve much people in Corinth.” So Paul was cast down and disappointed especially not being able to meet with Titus who was part of his whole ministry. What a disappointment, but yet he says, “not destroyed.” Now verse 10.
II Corinthians 4:10
“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, (Now upon first reading this I think most people think that Paul is making a reference that when Christ died we died also. Well up to a point that’s correct, but I also think that if you know the setting here he had just gotten up from a sick bed that he thought was unto death, and so this is what he’s making reference to.) that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
In other words, as Paul was lying on that sick bed which we can assume was up there at Philippi. Even though he thought his ministry had ended, what was he confident of? That he had done as much as The Lord had intended him to do. I always have to think of how he wrote to Timothy at the end of his ministry. Let’s look at that for a moment in II Timothy Chapter 1. This was probably the very last of his epistles that was written before he was finally martyred.
II Timothy 1:9-12a
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things:…”
What is he talking about? Well, number one, who was his chief opposition? The believing Jews as well as those still steeped in Judaism. But it wasn’t the Jew alone, but rather a satanic power from every direction. So Paul suffered because Satan didn’t want the Gospel going to the Gentile world. Satan hated that it was going to Israel throughout the Old Testament. But now to go to the masses of Gentiles? That was the last thing that Satan wanted. Now continuing on with verse 12.
II Timothy 1:12
“For these which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed (isn’t that something? In spite of all his difficulties and all of his sickness, and sorrows, and sufferings, he never doubted the God in Whom he served. Paul says,) I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Now we’ll be studying Timothy some day if The Lord tarries. I don’t think it will be that long before He returns for us, but He may tarry. Now verse 13 and 14.
II Timothy 1:13,14
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”
Now those of you who are real Bible students and want to chase down an interesting word “that good thing” in the Greek is the deposit. In other words Paul tells Timothy, “What I have deposited with you keep it. Now when you deposit something you look for security as the number one thing. You don’t want to put something someplace and get back next week and it’s gone. Secondly, especially in our age of investments and so forth, if you’re going to make a good deposit what do you expect? Dividends, interest, a return on it. Well you see the word means all of those things. Timothy keep the deposit and let it earn dividends and interest. Don’t just sit on it. Now that goes back to when Jesus gave the talents back there in the Four Gospels. Did He want them to just go home and bury it? No. But rather go out and gain some increases with each talent. So I think the same admonition is good for all of us.
I made comment on the next verse in a previous program and I’m still getting calls about that verse. One person said, “I never knew that verse was in my Bible. What did the apostle Paul mean?” I said, it means exactly what it says.
II Timothy 1:15
“This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me;…”
Now you want to remember that Greece was Europe, and Asia Minor was the Asia of the New Testament. Here of course is where Paul had started so many churches. You remember Thyatira, and Pergamos, and Smyrna? All these little town here in Asia Minor had evidently already turned away from his Gospel (Ref. I Cor. 15:11-4) by the time he was martyred. What a heartache to think that he spent so much and poured out his life and yet those were the people that turned their back on him. And of course I think the results are very evident. None of those little cities are left anymore, not one of them. But on the other hand many of the cities in Greece are still valid. Philippi is still a valid sea port. Athens is still valid. Corinth is no longer the ancient city, but there’s another city right next to it, and much of Greece refers to the journeys and so forth of Paul, but back there in western Turkey not one of these cities are left. They have all faded off the scene, and I think that is the basic reason for their disappearance. Now returning to our text in II Corinthians, and we’ll just skim through these next few verses because they’re all just decrying the fact, “that Paul had suffered so much to get the message to these Gentiles.” Now verse 11 and 12 for example.
II Corinthians 4:11,12
“For we which live are always 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.”
What’s he saying? Well as a result of him spending his physical life, his physical energy, to get his Gospel to these pagans, they were coming out of their physical darkness, they were coming out of their spiritual darkness into the joy and the life of the Gospel, but his body was suffering the consequences. I’m sure that the old fellow must have been wracked with much pain as he sat in prison in Rome waiting for the executioners sword. Now verse 13.
II Corinthians 4:13
“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believe, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;.”
Speaking of believing, come back for a moment to Acts Chapter 9. I know a lot of our folks were with me when we studied this many months ago, but a lot of you weren’t. And also remember this where you had this tremendous change of direction in the Book of Acts. Up until this chapter it’s Peter and the eleven and the Nation of Israel. And now all of a sudden with just an exception in Chapter 10, and Peter comes back on the scene momentarily, all the rest of the Book of Acts covers this one man. Peter is completely forgotten so far as the Acts accounts are concerned. But here in Acts Chapter 9 we find Saul of Tarsus, that great persecutor of Jewish believer. Now remember Paul didn’t go after Gentiles because there were none of them believing yet. But Paul was after the believing Jews who had followed the supposed heresy that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah for their salvation. Remember at that time the Gospel of the Kingdom was the only Gospel that had been revealed. To this good Jew, Saul of Tarsus believed that this was the worst thing that could have happened to the Nation of Israel. Remember he thought Jesus was an impostor. So he’s trying to stamp it out by persecution, by imprisonment, by putting them to death.
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, (Saul was not satisfied any longer with just working the small towns of Israel) that if he found any of this way, (that is that Jesus was the Christ) whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, `Saul, Saul, why persecuted thou me?’ (Now this is what I want you to see in verse 5. We always make this point.) And he said, `Who art thou, Lord?…'”
Now you want to remember that all the way up through the Old Testament the word Lord was used by the writers of Scripture, by the Jews in general, in place of the name that they didn’t even dare to repeat, and what was it? Jehovah! It was of such awe and such high esteem that the average Jew didn’t even want to breath the name. So what did they substitute? Lord. Now all the way through the Old Testament when you see the word LORD all in capital letters, it’s Jehovah. When Saul of Tarsus addresses God, which he knows this Light and voice is, then in so many words he says, “Who art thou Jehovah?” Even though he didn’t come right out and say, yet he was thinking it. And how does Jehovah answer?
“I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:…”
And this answer blew his mind. He thought he was doing the work of Jehovah by stamping out the name of Jesus, and then to suddenly realize that what he thought was his enemy was in reality the God of Abraham. Oh what a transcending experience. And then Saul says:
“… Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?…”
It didn’t take Saul of Tarsus an hour to figure out Who The Lord was. It didn’t take him very long to understand Who Jesus was. I’ve shared on this program before about a gentlemen who came to my home several years ago and that was his first question. “Who in the world is Jesus Christ?” Oh I wish more people would ask that question. There are too many people who don’t know. People do not understand that Jesus Christ of the New Testament is the Jehovah God of the Old Testament. Jesus of the New Testament is the God of Genesis 1:1. They are One in the same. The only difference was that in the New Testament He manifested Himself in the flesh.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,…”
That’s who Jesus Christ is. He’s the God of glory. He’s the God of Creation. Well enough for that, now back to II Corinthians. So this is where the apostle is now after his years of taking the Gospel that was revealed to him to the Gentiles, and still having a heart for the Nation of Israel. Now verse 14.
II Corinthians 4:14,15
“Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by (that same) Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things (everything that has happened to this man) are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound (or resound) to the glory of God.”
It’s always God’s glory. We don’t elevate Paul to glory. He was just a common human being like the rest of us that God saw fit to use. But everything was to bring glory to the God of heaven. Now verse 16.
II Corinthians 4:16-18
“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; (they are earthly not heavenly) but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Oh listen, get the impact of that. The world today is only set on the temporal. What’s in it for me. How can I enjoy life to the fullest? How can I make the most? How can I do this, and how can I do that? But listen that’s not where it’s at. Remember what The Lord said back in His earthly ministry?
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Now there’s nothing wrong with things. The Bible doesn’t condemn things provided we have our priorities straight. But if the believer gets hung up on things, and more concerned about the temporal then he loses the sight of the eternal. Oh please don’t get caught in that trap. I feel we are in the closing seconds of this age, and I’m not a date setter, but I’ll tell you what; the way I see the world rushing into the scenario that is going to be on the earth for the appearance of the Anti-christ; I see it coming so fast. You see the Nation of Israel pushed tighter and tighter by the Arab world till finally she will get to the place where she may do something rash (which I do not think is going to happen because God’s going to do it in His time, and not according to the Arab world’s time). But if Israel would be pushed to the corner to do something rash, it would be to use nuclear energy, and don’t think they don’t have it, for they do, – but the world is literally rushing to the time when the man of sin will make his appearance, and will finally bring a semblance of peace to the Middle East.
Peace is what everybody is waiting for. And while they’re waiting for peace to come to the Middle East they’re forgetting all about the admonition, “That when you see all these things come to pass, then lift up your eyes for our moment of redemption is coming near.” And the more you see technology explode, the more you see world politics move into a global format, the more you see global economics, the more you see the religions and the major denominations of the world coming in under one headship (and they’re doing it), then that tells us that time is short. Now coming back to the last verse again. Don’t be concerned about the things that are seen, but rather look at the things that are not seen because they are eternal.