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2 Corinthians 4:11–12

“We who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

Suffering is not in itself a good thing. Ultimately, pain occurs as a consequence of the fall into sin. Suffering was not a part of the original creation, and the Lord will remove it entirely from the new heaven and earth when Jesus returns (Rom. 8:18–25). Since suffering is not in itself positive, there is nothing noble about suffering for the sake of suffering and nothing cowardly about looking to alleviate suffering as long as we do not compromise the truth in doing so. At the same time, God can work in and through suffering for a greater good. Joseph, for example, endured slavery and imprisonment as part of the Lord’s putting him into a position to save many lives, especially the family of Jacob (Gen. 50:20).

Of course, we see how God can work in and through suffering to achieve a greater good preeminently in Christ, who was delivered over to suffering and death for our sins and raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). Our Father used the suffering of His only begotten Son to give us righteousness and life. Because of the perfection of Christ’s life and suffering, His work in our behalf is sufficient to save us, and nothing can add to the merit or efficacy of His saving mission. Nevertheless, the New Testament tells us that we can in a sense participate in the sufferings of Jesus such that through them God can bring life to His people. Paul makes this point in today’s passage.

Having noted in 2 Corinthians 4:10 that he and his ministry coworkers carry in their bodies the death of Jesus so that His life may also be manifested, the Apostle expands on this thought by saying that they are “always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake” (v. 11). “Being given over” translates the same Greek verb used in Romans 4:25 and other New Testament passages to describe the handing over of Jesus to death, so Paul the Apostle sees his suffering as a participation in the suffering of Jesus. The idea is not that Jesus’ work was incomplete and that Paul adds to it but that Paul is in a certain way a living picture of Jesus. The same is true of all other Christians who suffer for the gospel. As God used the suffering of Jesus to purchase our salvation, He uses the suffering of His people to reveal the glory of the Savior. Through our suffering, God puts life at work in others (2 Cor. 4:12). When people see that we would rather suffer than forsake Jesus, they begin to wonder why we think Jesus is worthy of such suffering, and the Holy Spirit can use this to draw people to Christ and build them up in faith.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Paul’s teaching in today’s passage helps us reframe the way we look at suffering for Jesus. Suffering for the Lord is not merely something to endure, but it becomes an occasion by which God can bring others to faith. Our patient willingness to suffer rather than deny Christ testifies to His immeasurable worth, and the Holy Spirit can use that testimony to awaken others to their need of Jesus.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 73
  • Mark 9:30–32
  • Ephesians 3:13
  • Colossians 1:24–29

Treasure in Jars of Clay

The Same Spirit of Faith

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From the September 2021 Issue
Sep 2021 Issue