Confidence in Ministry: A Sustaining Hope (2 Corinthians 4:7-5:8)

Lesson series 2001
Tags: 2 Corinthians; Ministry; Paul; Confidence; Hope
Excerpted from Paul on Ministry: Lessons from 2 Corinthians
Related Resources: The Fragrance of Faithful Service: How to Smell Good for the Lord (2 Cor. 2:14-5:10)


Objectives

  1. To convey to participants the biblical concept of hope.
  2. To show how hope is a source of confidence in ministry.
  3. To inspire participants to experience a deeper sense of hope.


Text (NKJV)

Chapter 4

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
8 We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed--
10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.
13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak,
14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.
15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Chapter 5

1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,
3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.


Introduction

In the previous lesson we began to discover what qualifies us for ministry. The most important source of competence in ministry is the gospel message. However, Paul highlights two other sources of competence in the chapters that follow last week’s text. Today we will uncover a second factor that gives us confidence as we seek to minister to others. That factor is hope. Paul does not actually use this term in the text, but the idea is pervasive.


Value of Defeat (4:7-18)

Defeat may seem to some to be incompatible with the idea of hope. But Paul tells us otherwise. Very graphically he refers to our weakness in ministry: “We are hard-pressed on every side [. . .]; we are perplexed [. . .]; persecuted [. . .]; struck down [. . .]--always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus” (4:8-10; cf. 12:10).

To put it plainly, as we experience defeat we identify with Jesus’s suffering on the cross (cf. Phil 3:10). Just as His suffering was redemptive (that is, it brought about positive outcomes), so it is with ours. God uses us to administer spiritual benefit to others even as we are experiencing pain. Death works in us, but life is granted around us in such a way that God gets the glory (2 Cor 4:12, 15; cf. 1:4-7). Christ wants us to participate in his afflictions for the advancement of His church (cf. Col 1:24ff).

Our hope, then, is that God will use circumstances that appear unreasonable--even out of control--for His purposes. The New Testament idea of hope is the “expectation of good” (Unger 585). It is not something questionable; God has made promises, and we can depend on Him to honor them even when it appears hope is lost.

Paul transitions to another idea toward the end of chapter four. He says, in essence, that despite the presence of outward defeat, our inward being is constantly being renewed (v 16). As we focus on eternal things, we realize that the present affliction is not worthy of comparison with the glory that awaits us (vv 17-18; cf. Rom 8:18).


Victory over Death (5:1-8)

One of the most important elements of future glory is that of bodily redemption, which Paul addresses in chapter 5. Our present mortal bodies--tents of sorts--stand in contrast to our future, heavenly bodies (vv 1-3). Knowing the glory that awaits us, we groan in anticipation of physical deliverance (vv 2, 4; cf. Rom 8:22-25).

The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives assures us that God will indeed free us from the physical effects of sin (v 5). Therefore, we are confident that death is a doorway to the presence of God (vv 6-8).


Conclusion

As Christians we truly do have a hope that the world does not have. Not only are we certain of God’s presence and power in our suffering, but we know that Christ has given us the victory over death. Our hope is the basis for confident ministry.

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