Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of the darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.So, there we have one way in which the gospel may be interfered with, or blocked, or obscured: through the activity of "the god of this world," who would be the devil. This active countermeasure by Satan is able to keep unbelievers from seeing the glory of God, manifested in the truth of His word. But there's more:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed, therefore I spoke," we also believe, therefore also we speak; knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God."Treasure in earthen vessels" can be hard to see. You can, however, always know that it's there, assuming you've been told by a trustworthy source. Perhaps you, as a believer in Corinth, see and hear that Paul and his associates are being jailed, beaten, and threatened with death, but they somehow keep staggering along their appointed path; now you've been told why this is, and how it's all working for your good. This is a sort of picture version of the gospel itself: victory coming through surrender, and life coming through the acceptance of death. Powerful stuff, this is.
Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though the outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.Mathematically, we can handle the meeting of the finite with the infinite, or of the discrete with the continuous, using the concepts of limits and infinitesimals (thank you, Sir Isaac Newton, among others). But once we turn from the calculus back to what we are pleased to call "real" life, we forget all that -- or, perhaps more accurately, we find that we have no experiential intuition for that which we've never directly experienced. Paul's trying to be our guide through this difficulty. What's really, really, really real, we have no direct experience of. We've never sat face to face with the living God and listened for a few eons while He explained why He made everything as He did. On the scale of eternity, my life so far is, in fact, instantaneous. It doesn't matter whether I live another fifty years or another fifty milliseconds. One of the few works of the Spirit in my own life that I can confidently point to, and know where it came from, is the fact that I really don't much care whether I live or die tomorrow. Not that I don't fear the process of dying -- I know that even the easiest death is pretty scary, and that some people die in ways, and over lengths of time, that are truly horrifying. But this life itself, which has been full of many joys, is so very temporary; and the possible union with God -- or, not to dodge the hideous alternative, the enforced separation from Him -- are completely permanent. The physical life within me is not mine at all. It's not mine to either throw away carelessly, nor to cling to inordinately, and I kind of think that one major task we all have here is to develop the awareness and discernment whereby we can avoid both of those traps, and to maintain our lives with due care, while also maintaining a willingness to instantly surrender them when doing the will of God calls for such a surrender. In both cases, I just hope I'm not "asleep at the switch" when the time comes.
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