Rushdoony the Philosopher and the Historian
The True Perspective (2 Cor. 4:8-18)
8. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9. Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
12. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
13. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;
14. Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
15. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
16. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18. 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.
When we began the study of 2 Corinthians, I pointed out that this is one of the grimmest books of the Bible. It is grim because it deals with the sad character of the church so often. Despite its many blessings and the miracles that the Corinthian church had witnessed, it was harshly critical of Paul, treated him like dirt, acted as though he were their inferior, and as if they had a duty to make demands of him.
In Romans 8:28, Paul says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” In these verses, 2 Corinthians 4:8–18, Paul says substantially the same thing. He is the target of great hatred and opposition, both from the world and the church. Churchmen commonly, over the centuries, have been willing to believe in the articles of faith provided that they remain in control of their lives. They want Christ to serve them rather than they Christ. Having “accepted Christ,” they now want Him to serve and bless them. It does not occur to them that they are nowservants of the King of kings, and that their life is to be in essence service rather than self-designated privilege.
Paul knew also that he was under sentence of death. Chapter 5:1 speaks of knowing: “If our earthly house of this tabernacle,” i.e., if our body were dissolved, were slain, “we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Paul knew that by being a Christian, and especially a leader in the faith, he was liable to execution, to death. After all, to pray to Jesus, to treat Jesus as God incarnate, was a terrible offense in the eyes of Rome, because Caesar was god. You prayed through Caesar to the gods in heaven.
Now, there were some Romans who were hesitant about persecuting the church, because they were a Jewish sect. The Romans gave them immunity because they thought that the peculiarities of the Jewish beliefs might also apply to Christians. But the Jewish leaders were fast disabusing Rome of that idea. And so, persecution, although still sporadic, was soon to become total.
So, Paul is telling the truth when he says: “We are troubled on every side” (v. 8). He has problems with the Corinthians and other churches as well. He has problems with the Romans, with the leaders of Judaism whose coworker he once was. So he is troubled on every side, “yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair” (v. 8). He is perplexed, he is bewildered that people are unwilling to recognize the truth of the gospel and surrender to it.
“Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (vv. 9–10). Paul says, “I persevere, I know that what I believe is the truth, and that the power of Christ and His life, His death and its meaning, is to be made manifest in my life, in my flesh.”
In vv. 8–9, Paul contrasts the fact that he is “troubled on every side,” perplexed by the intense hostilities, persecuted, and “cast down,” but not in despair, nor forsaken, and certainly not destroyed. Paul is always conscious of the atonement and Christ’s death; His life is the divine and eternal power and life. Our redemption by Christ’s death is the ever-present fact of our lives, and His death is our strength and our life “in our body” (v. 10). Our salvation is not merely spiritual: it is also physical, culminating in the resurrection of the body. But, here and now, our body in some sense partakes of that victory.
“For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (v. 11). Those of us who live for Christ and for His sake are delivered to death, either actually, or in that we are cut off, we are treated as outsiders, as unfit for fellowship, because we take our Lord and Savior seriously. But we are always delivered. No matter how great the problem, we are always delivered. What a magnificent thought. Delivered unto death, though for Jesus’ sake. We are sentenced to death in the eyes of the world, but we are delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal body. The more power we have in Christ, the more clearly it means that we are totally surrendered to Him. Ready to face death for His sake. Ready to take whatever indignities the world imposes on us and our hopes.
Death is indeed working in us. We daily move closer to death. At the same time that death works in the true believers in Corinth, so, too, does life. “So then death worketh in us, but life in you” (v. 12). We have from this world the sentence of death. From our surrender of this world, we die in Christ to the things of this world. But life works in you. That is an ironic statement. You are trying to live in terms of this world, and claim the benefits of Christ! You want life in a double way, you want it in the sense that: “Well, I am born, I am living, I am doing this and that, if all goes well, life is working in me.” And on top of that: “I know Jesus is my savior, so I have a double assurance.” Paul ridicules that.
This is because, “having the same spirit of faith” (v. 13) as Corinth’s true believers, Paul speaks as he does because he believes in Jesus Christ. The Lord governs his speech, not men. He speaks in faithfulness to their common Savior. Then he turns from his ridicule to a more serious note. “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak” (v. 13).
“Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” (v.14). Those of you who are faithful to Christ, those of you who believe with all of your heart, mind, and being, that you must believe and obey, are raised up with us already. We already have the resurrection of the dead, we have eternal life, and the resurrection of the body shall come. Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, as very man of very man, shall resurrect all of His members, His new humanity, and shall present us together to God the Father. Paul, having called attention to their sin, now calls attention to their common salvation. They shall be presented to the Father in glory together. Paul the apostle here presents himself as one with the Corinthians. Paul’s preeminence as an apostle and teacher is with regard to men; in the presence with them before God, Paul is another believer.
“For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (v. 15). Paul now turns to the faithful members of the Corinthian church. We know that there were a number of very superior people in the congregation. But he makes it general so it is inclusive of anyone else who turns to Jesus as Lord, and says “all things are for your sakes.” “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). What Paul said in those words in Romans 8:28, he amplifies in this text. What Paul and others have done has been for their sakes, for their redemption. Thus, while Paul has a clear preeminence as an apostle, he is also their servant, to prepare them for the fullness of their redeemed humanity. Their thanksgiving will “redound to the glory of God” (v. 15).
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (v. 16). Paul says, “The griefs which you have caused, and which others elsewhere have caused, the very sad and sorry things that lead to my grief as Christ’s servant, do make the outward man perish. I am sick at heart again and again. I am dying, out of grief at what I endure. My life is not an easy one. It is a painful one.”
Yet in the face of this, the inward man is renewed day by day. Paul suffers loss in the eyes of the world, and yet he knows Christ is through all these things preparing him and every Christian for His eternal service. We are taught here, we are trained here, for eternity. Because Paul is serving the Lord, he is not discouraged long by hostility and opposition. Not that it is easy. His “outward man” perishes daily. The hostility and criticism hurts, and it is like dying. At the same time, Christ the Lord renews Paul daily. Paul is thus given victory in the face of all hostilities and setbacks. Because he serves the omnipotent God and King, he cannot lose.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (v. 17). Look back on the past year or the past two years, or the past ten. Count up all the grief that you have suffered. It is as nothing, in terms of the future, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. All Paul’s afflictions, however great they are, humanly speaking, are light when contrasted to the Lord’s grace and blessing. These afflictions are for a moment only when contrasted to the marvelous blessings of eternity. They work for Paul and others “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (v. 17).
“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” (v. 18). If we look at the things which we can see and enumerate, and say, “This happened to me and that,” it is a grim picture. We may have a great deal of cause for grief, for suffering. Paul certainly did. But he says: “We look not at those things, but those things we know are eternal, which are in Christ.” We live, maybe ninety to a hundred years, maybe a few more than a hundred, and we suffer. At times we undergo great trials, disappointments, reversals. But these are nothing. They are God’s use of this world to train us for the things that are eternal. And our life is in terms of the things that are eternal.
Remember that the Corinthians had, on the whole, accepted Paul’s corrections of their sins as cited in 1 Corinthians. Their problem now was mainly the requirement of a total faith. To believe in Christ was not merely a belief added to their existing lives, but the total renewal of their lives and the shift of their command center from themselves to Jesus Christ. To confess Christ means that our whole being is now in His hands and under His control.
Paul’s problem with the Corinthians is a familiar one. They believed that the gospel story was true. It was a comfort to them. It meant that they had a good insurance policy for heaven. They were like a lot of church people today who are in the church because they want to believe that Jesus Christ is their Savior, that all things are going to work together for good, and that they are going to go to heaven—but not that He is their Lord, that He must command the whole of their lives, day after day, year in and year out, that they are not under their own control, but to be under Christ’s.
In other words, Christ is their Savior, but not their Lord. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We have a large segment in the church today, of people who claim to be Bible believing, but who deny the Lordship of Christ, and say, “He is our Savior.” Well, if He is just our Savior and not our Lord, what do we owe Him? Nothing. So their allegiance is marginal. They do not believe in His law, because He is not Lord. Only with the rapture and the Second Coming, supposedly, is He going to become Lord. So we can understand the problem in the Corinthian church by looking at the church around us. Not that the Corinthians believe the same things about the lordship of Christ as contemporary Christians, but, in practical terms, the Corinthians were denying His lordship.
Neither Paul nor anyone else in the Bible ever tells us that the things of this world are not important or that they don’t count, and that they cannot be often a source of great grief and trouble. Paul never denies that. But he does say, compared to time, eternity far outweighs it. And it is eternity in terms of which we are called. Eternity that must govern our nights and our days, eternity that is our true life. So, Jesus Christ is not only our Savior, He is our Lord.
Our perspective is now altered. Instead of short term and temporal motives and goals, we are now governed by our Lord and His eternal purpose and Kingdom. Eternity becomes as present to us as time (v. 18). We are then the new human race, born not of Adam, but of Jesus Christ.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916-2001) was the founder of Chalcedon and a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical Law to society.