2 Corinthians Sermon Series--Sermon #4

Clues in the Treasure Hunt
Scripture Reading: 2 Cor. 4:1-18
by Robert J. Young

The interconnectedness of life may escape us. The identity of God, reflected in Christ, through the gospel, into the lives of Christians, influences non-Christians. This plan of God is opposed by Satan's blinding power, requiring that Christians be diligent in proclaiming the light of God and the glory of God in the presnce of Jesus.

Reading: 2 Cor. 4:1-18

Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture--"I believed, and so I spoke"--we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Have you noticed the interconnectedness of life? Some days it seems everything we do either is affected or affects everything else. In study of chapter 2, we noticed the connection between identity and choices. In today's text, Paul continues to focus on his identity, perhaps as a response to those questioning the authenticity of his apostleship. He continues to describe his ministry with its varying shapes, choices, decisions, and changes.
This ministry he introduced in chapter 3--a ministry of the new covenant, a ministry of life, newness, challenge, refreshment. He will continue that description in chapter 5 as he describes the ministry of reconciliation.
Paul describes here the character and work of a true minister of Christ. By extension this is a description of true Christian, of true church of Christ, of members of the body, of those who share in Christ, who participate in Christ.

How aware are we that what we have is from God? That our work is from God? That God is the one designing our place in this world. How often are we tempted to run ahead of God? Do we attempt to define our role by human wisdom and human power? If so, this text is for us. The origin of our life in Christ is from God. God reaches into every aspect of our life. Consciousness of him must permeate our lives--at every level at all times.
And what is the nature of this work, our ministry, our service, our activity? Is it not the transformation of lives? God is desiring that his human creation become like him. We must not settle for less. Transforming lives is done by God's power on God's timetable. Our transformation so gloriously described in 3:18 comes from the Lord. We seek not mere justification or righteousness, but sanctification, holiness.
We will never be certain of the success of our lives until we know the source of our lives. Our courage comes from Christ-consciousness. We must not miss that all this is from God, this is the reason we do not become discouraged. He is our confidence, our competence, our courage.


A. The Identity of Christians
Look around you. Look at us. Look at the church, here, in other places. Who are we?
Christians are positive in their methods, motives, message, and manner of life. Notice Paul's detail as these ideas are interwoven.

Summary: The message of the crucified yet living Messiah is communicated best through a crucified yet living messenger. Gal. 2:20. Our great need is not to gain nor to share more information, nor to speak more loudly or with more authority. Our great need is to enhance our service by increasing our service. Mt. 20:28. Often churches and Christians become ineffective because they grow out of the felt need to serve others. Arguments about preferences or greatness or self-centered analyses of what will best serve us are inconsistent with the servant identity Paul describes. Such is an ongoing challenge. Mt. 20:28; Lk. 22:24-27; 22:28ff.
The result of the message applied in our own lives is service. The heart of the message is Jesus Christ. 4:5-6. Accepting Christ as savior will bring justification, accepting him as Lord will bring sanctification and changed lives.

Do we know who we are? Do we know our identity?

B. The Identity of those without Christ
Look at the world. Look at your neighbors, friends, coworkers. Look at the busy masses. Who are they?

Do we really see others when we look at them? Do we see them through God's eyes? Do we see them as they are? Without Christ, God, hope. Do we understand their lack of identity outside of Christ.

C. The identity of Christ
Look at the Christ. Look closely. Look beyond the traditions, beyond Christmas and Easter. Look personally, see clearly.

Do you know this Jesus? Do you see clearly? Do you see God as you see his Son?

Here are three essentials, from which grows Paul's major point in this text.

D. From these truths: consider the gospel of Christ

Because this is true, our actions/works are controlled by our identity

Contrast of our world--affliction vs. comfort--is continued in the contrast of the Christian dichotomy, tension between two poles.

  • 1. Our outer life may look distressed, we live vicariously in Christ
  • 2. But the inner life is believing and victorious.

    When we come face to face with Christ, when we believe, when we see the treasure for what it is, and the plan God intends for that treasure to be a blessing to our world, we will speak, we will not lose heart.

    This matter of looking at things unseen is the Hebrew writer's definition of faith. The unseen is the eternally real, the source of stability. Affliction is momentary. Overwhelming futility may overpower us if we look only on the outward, if we trust only physical, visible things. As the outer person is lost, so is heart. Paul learned a valuable lesson, reflected in Phil. 4:11-13.

    I genuinely hope that lesson is yours. That you know who you are, in contrast to those everywhere about us, that you know who Christ is, that you see the gospel for the treasure it is, and that as a result your identity and your actions match. Logic-living, code-conduct, preaching-practice, belief-behavior. What we see is not what we get--if we are God's. We can see what others cannot see. We can anticipate, hope. We can see the glory that outweighs all else.
    Our focus is on another world, and another place. Because: 4:7.

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    Last updated October 28, 2000.