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2 Corinthians 4:1

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”

Today we return to 2 Corinthians. Paul wrote this letter after his painful visit to Corinth during which he called the church there to repentance, and so far we have seen the Apostle defend his change of travel plans in light of attacks on his integrity (1:1–2:4). This led him to begin a defense of his Apostolic ministry, for false teachers in Corinth were casting doubt on Paul’s vocation because of his suffering and failure to produce the customary letters of recommendation from others for his work. Apparently, these false teachers were saying that Paul could not have been a legitimate Apostle because they believed the Lord would not allow true Apostles to suffer. It also seems they criticized him because they did not find his ministry as glorious as the old covenant. So, Paul set his work in the context of the more glorious new covenant, defending its superiority to the old covenant, and looked to the Corinthians themselves as his letter of recommendation that demonstrated the effectiveness of his work (2:5–3:18; see 10:1–12:10).
With the superior glory of the new covenant ministry established, Paul in today’s passage states that having such a ministry explains why he does not “lose heart” (4:1). As commentators note, losing heart does not refer simply to emotional exhaustion or despair; rather, to lose heart in this context means experiencing a weariness of soul that causes one to become slack or derelict in one’s duties. The Apostle is noting that the conviction that he labors under as a new covenant minister gives him strength to continue on in the face of much adversity. Thus, we have a demonstration of the importance of getting our theology right in order to enjoy an effective ministry. Being thoroughly convinced that the glory of the new covenant is better than the glory of the old (see ch. 3), Paul could press on in service to Christ even when he went through periods of great trial and it seemed as if his labors were bearing little fruit. Likewise, we will persevere in serving our Savior when we trust that we are in an era of great glory inaugurated by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
This new covenant ministry of the Apostle Paul was his only “by the mercy of God” (4:1). He did not deserve the high calling given to him by the Lord, and indeed, none of us deserves the honor we have as servants of Christ in the new covenant. We have nothing that has not been given to us freely (1 Cor. 4:7). May we not forget that lest we be destroyed by spiritual pride.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

John Calvin comments that not losing heart means that “we are not deficient in our duty, so as not to discharge it with fidelity.” This is possible only as we remain convinced of the superiority of Christ and the new covenant, and we remember that we have been chosen by grace alone to take part in the ministry of the new covenant.


For Further Study
  • Isaiah 30:18
  • Jeremiah 31:31–34
  • Hebrews 8
  • 2 John 3

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From the September 2021 Issue
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