Sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Text: It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
What word do you think of, when I say the word “dark?” I would imagine that many of you thought of “light.” If I say, “fast,” you might think of “slow.” The word “black” might bring to mind the word “white.” Our mind tends to think in opposites and contrasts. Sometimes, in order to fully bring a concept to light, we may bring in the opposite to contrast it. Scriptures are also full of contrasts. This morning, we want to focus on two that are mentioned in our text. Paul reminds us, WE BELIEVE AND THEREFORE SPEAK that 1. Death Will Be Changed To Life and 2. Troubles Will Be Changed To Glory.
Paul begins by quoting Psalm 116:10, “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Paul, then, adds, “Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.” Just as the psalmist expressed his faith by telling it to others, Paul and the others spoke from the conviction of their faith. What he believed was so important that he felt compelled to share it with others. Again, we need to remind ourselves that there were those in the Corinthian congregation who doubted Paul’s motives for coming to them. Perhaps, he was only there to enrich himself! However, Paul assures them that what he had spoken to them was what he believed.
To further assure them of his motives, Paul tells the Corinthians the motivation he had for speaking to them. He wrote, “we . . . speak because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” He wanted to share the good news of victory over death. Death is devastating, especially to people with no faith. People wonder what happens to them beyond death’s door. There is the pain of loss. For the unbeliever, the best that they can hope for is that, at the end of life, there is nothing. The worst that they fear is that their consciences were correct all the time and they will have to answer to someone for all the things that they have done. Death, for the unbeliever, is filled with doubt and fear.
Paul said that he had come so that they could be assured of the fact that there is nothing to fear about death. This is true because God would raise them from the dead. As proof, Paul points to a specific resurrection. Paul said that they would be raised by “the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead.” There is a very important reason that Paul does so. For without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there would be no resurrection for anyone else. Paul had told them in his previous letter, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) Paul told them, since God raised Jesus from the dead, you can be assured that your sins have been forgiven. Jesus’ resurrection showed the world that the Father had accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for the sins of the world. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, all believers have a resurrection of their own that they can look forward to. Later, in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul breaks out in this song of praise, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
We, too, share in that glorious victory over death because of Jesus Christ. The reason that we can be assured of the victory over death is because we, also, share in that same spirit of faith of which Paul spoke to the Corinthians. Without that faith, we would have every reason to be afraid of death and all that lies beyond the grave. The reason that we would have to be afraid is the fact that we are sinners. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It only takes the smallest sin, at least in the eyes of the world, to condemn us to an eternity in hell. The greedy thought, the angry word that comes from our mouths, the little lie that slipped through our lips, any and all of these make us not perfect in God’s eyes. As a matter of fact, from the moment of our conception, we are sinners, condemned to hell. By nature, we have every reason to fear death.
However, thanks be to God, we do not need to fear death. The reason for this is the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to take our place. He lived, as we should have lived – perfectly. He suffered the torments of hell when he died on the cross – so that we would never have to. He rose from the dead and, by doing so, assures us that we will also rise. In addition, he sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to create faith in him. Through faith in what Jesus has done for us, we are saved. Because of that faith, we need not fear death, because we know that, on the Last Day, we will also rise from the dead and be with God forever. This is the first contrast of which Paul reminds the Corinthians, and us as well – Death Will Be Changed To Life.
On the basis of this truth, Paul brings out the second contrast – Troubles Will Be Changed To Glory. He writes in verse 16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” ‘Because Jesus has risen from the dead, because you know that eternal life is yours’, Paul says, ‘you do not need to lose heart in life’s struggles and troubles. Paul knew that life on this earth can be tough, especially if you are striving to live a God-pleasing life. He uses the words, “wasting away.” He said, ‘Although you might be shriveling up on the outside because of life’s troubles, do not lose heart.’ Why? Because, “inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” You have something inside of you that renews you, that refreshes you. That something is the Spirit-born faith. It’s like the old televison ad about the battery in the Energizer Bunny. It keeps going and going and going. Since our faith is so important, it only figures that we want to keep it charged up. There is only one way to do this and that is by keeping in contact with God’s Word. It comes through frequent use of God’s Word and the sacraments. In that way, our faith is kept at full charge and keeps us from losing hope, in light of the troubles that we face.
To help keep us from losing heart, Paul contrasts the troubles of this life with what awaits us. He wrote, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Note that Paul calls our troubles “light.” You might be thinking, Paul has no idea what he’s talking about. ‘He has no idea of what I’ve seen and been through.’ Let me assure you that Paul was well-acquainted with troubles and hardships. If you read chapter 11 of this epistle, you read of Paul being beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned and a host of other things like that. Paul understood what “trouble” meant. ‘However’, he says, ‘they are nothing compared to what waits for us in heaven.’ It is a momentary pain compared to the everlasting joys that await us in heaven.
Since this is true, Paul says, “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” ‘Since the things of this world are only temporary,’ Paul says, ‘fix your eyes on the things eternal, namely heaven.’ It is like a person running a race. If he wants to win the race, he cannot be looking over here and over there. He cannot let anything distract him. If he wants to win the race, he must keep his sight focused on the finish line. That is basically what Paul is talking about in this verse. He tells us that, if we want to win, we cannot be distracted by all of the things in this world. You will soon pass them by. You will be at the finish line, that is, heaven. There, we are told, “will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) All of our troubles will be exchanged for the glory of heaven. We will have peace and joy, rather than the turmoil and sadness we so often face.
These two contrasts are basic parts of our Christian faith. This is what we believe because this is what the Bible says. What did the psalmist say to begin our study of God’s Word this morning? “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” May the same be true of us. The news of Jesus Christ is too good to keep to ourselves. We can help people find the answers to life’s great questions. Perhaps someone expresses to you their fear or uneasiness of death. This gives you a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to the one who hold the power of life and death in his hands. Someone tells you about the troubles that they are going through. When we hear this, we might sympathize with them. However, what good does our sympathy do? It might make them feel better for awhile, but it really has done nothing to help them with their problem. You can use that opportunity to tell them of the one place where help can be sought and found, namely, the Creator of all things. When they know that they can place everything into his loving hands, that will give them a piece of mind that no amount of sympathy could ever do. Then, we can be a true friend.
The Bible is full of contrasts. Jesus died that I might live. Jesus endured all trouble so that I can look forward to eternal glory. This we know. This we believe. May it be said of us, “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Amen.
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