2 Cor. 4:1-2
1Therefore, having this
ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2We have renounced
disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper
with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend
ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
116. – Having shown the dignity
of the New Testament ministry, the Apostle now discusses the exercise of
this ministry. In regard to this he does two things. First, he shows that
the exercise of this ministry should consist in doing good; secondly it
should consist also in enduring evils patiently (v. 7). In regard to the
first he does two things. First, he lays down the use of this ministry;
secondly, he excludes an objection (v. 3).
117. – He says, therefore:
because this ministry is of such great dignity in itself and in its
ministers, therefore having this ministry, i.e., this dignity of
administering spiritual things: “This is how one should regard us, as
servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1);
“Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry”
(Rom. 11:13); having it, I say, not from ourselves or from our merits, but
by the mercy of God which we have obtained from God for this: “I received
mercy” (1 Tim. 1:13).
118. – Then when he says, we do not lose heart, he describes the exercise of
this ministry, which should be engaged in doing good; and this in regard to
two things: first, as to avoiding evil; secondly, as to doing good (v. 2b).
119. – He teaches us to avoid
evil both in conduct and in doctrine, when we exercise this ministry. As to
conduct in two ways, namely in our actions and in our intentions. But if a
person avoids doing evil and has a good intention, he avoids evil
completely. But evil is avoided in our activity by enduring evils patiently
in adversity. Hence, he says, we do not lose heart by impatience: “Let us
not grow weary in well-doing” (Gal. 6:9); “For when I am weak, then I am
strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). It is also avoided in prosperity by making moderate
use of the things that are going well for us. Hence he says, we have
renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways, i.e., we remove from ourselves
whatever makes a man base and dishonorable, namely, things unclean and foul
and not only open but even hidden: “Therefore put away all filthiness” (Jas.
1:21); “For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in
secret” (Eph. 5:12).
Evil conduct is avoided in our
intention, if it is a right intention. In regard to this he says, we refuse
to practice cunning, i.e., fraud and pretense and hypocrisy. That is what
the false apostles do, who pretend one thing outwardly, but do something
else inwardly in the heart: “Dissemblers and crafty men provoke the wrath of
God” (Job 36:13, Vulgate).
Evil is avoided in doctrine when
the Lord’s word is proposed in the proper way. In regard to this he says, or
to tamper with God’s word. This is explained in two ways. First, not mixing
false doctrine with the doctrine of Christ, as the false apostles do when
they teach that the ceremonies of the Law must be observed along with the
Gospel. Secondly, not preaching for gain and for one’s own glory. The first
of these is a wolf and the second a hireling, but one who preaches the truth
and for the glory of God is a shepherd. Hence Augustine says: “The shepherd
should be loved and the wolf avoided, but the hireling must be tolerated for
120. – But because perfect
justice requires more than avoiding evil, but doing good, he says something
about doing good in the exercise of this ministry. The first good is against
evil teachings; the second against evil conduct; the third against an evil
Against evil teaching, which must
be avoided, they perform the good of manifesting the truth. In regard to
this he says, by the open statement of the truth: as if to say, we do not
lose heart but, avoiding evil, we walk and act in the manifestation of the
truth, i.e., we manifest the pure truth: “For this I have come into the
world, to bear witness to the truth” (Jn. 18:37); “Those who show me forth
shall have everlasting life” (Sir. 24:31, Vulgate).
Against evil conduct they perform
good works. In regard to this he says, we would commend ourselves to every
man’s conscience. We do not do this by saying good things about ourselves,
because it is not easy to believe a person who recommends himself, but by
doing good, because we do such works, so that by the works themselves we
make ourselves commendable to every man’s conscience: “Maintain good conduct
among the Gentiles” (1 Pet. 2:12).
Against an evil intention we do
good by making ourselves commendable not only to every man’s conscience, but
even in the sight of God, who sees the heart.: “For it is not the man who
commends himself that is accepted, but the man whom the Lord commends” (2
Cor. 10:18); “Providing good things not only before God but before all men”
(Rom. 12:17, Vulgate).
121. – According to Augustine in
a Gloss, the Apostle fulfills God’s commandment in this: “Let your light so
shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your
Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16); “Beware of practicing your piety
before men” (Matt. 6:1): the first by saying, we would commend ourselves to
every man’s conscience; but the second by saying, in the sight of God: “For
he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly” (Rom. 2:28).
Or this whole passage can be read
in the following manner without interrupting the text: Therefore, having
this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart, namely in doing
good. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. Furthermore by
the open statement of the truth, keeping the same method of explanation as
2 Cor. 4:3-6
3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are
perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the
unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory
of Christ, who is the likeness of God. 5For what we preach is not ourselves,
but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has
shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Christ.
122. – Here the Apostle answers a
tacit objection. For someone could say to him: you say that you do not grow
faint in manifesting the truth of Christ. But this does not seem true,
because many people contradict you. To this question, therefore, he
responds. And in regard to it he does two things: first, he responds to this
question; secondly, he removes a doubt which seems to follow from his answer
(v. 5). In regard to the first he does three things. First, he shows from
whom Christ’s truth is hidden; secondly, the reason for this hiding (v. 4);
thirdly, he shows that it is not due to a deficiency in the truth of the
Gospel that it is hidden (v. 4b).
123. – He says therefore: I have said that we do not faint in manifesting
the truth; but even if our gospel, which we preach, is veiled, it is not
veiled from all, but it is veiled only to those who are perishing, namely,
who offer an obstacle to its manifestation to them: “For the word of the
cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it
is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
124. – The cause of this
concealment is not on the part of the Gospel, but on account of their own
guilt and malice; and this is what he adds: in their case the god of this
world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers. This can be explained in
three ways: in one way so that the god of this world, i.e. God, who is the
Lord of this world and of all things by creation and nature: “The earth is
the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein”
(Ps. 24:1), has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, not by producing
malice, but by the merit, or rather demerit of preceding sins, by
withdrawing his grace: “Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears
heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with
their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Is.
6:10). Therefore he hints at their preceding sins when he says, of
unbelievers, as though their unbelief is the cause of this blindness.
In a second way, so that the god
of this world, i.e., the devil, who is called the god of this world, i.e.,
of those who live in a worldly manner, not by reason of creation but by
imitation, because worldly persons imitate him: “They follow him that are on
his side” (Wis. 2:25, Vulgate). Here he blinds them by suggesting, by
attracting and by inclining to sins. And so, when they are already in sin,
they work in the darkness of sin, lest they see: “Darkened in their
understanding, alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18).
In the third way thus: God has
the nature of the ultimate end and fulfillment of the desires of every
creature. Hence, whatever a person assigns to himself as an ultimate end in
which his desire rests, can be called his god. Hence, when you have pleasure
as end, pleasure is called your god, and the same for pleasures of the flesh
and for honors. Then it is explained so that the god of this world, i.e.,
that which men living in a worldly way set up as their end, say pleasure or
riches and the like. And God blinds their minds, inasmuch as he prevents
them from seeing the light of grace here, and the light of glory in the
future: “Fire”, namely of concupiscence, “has fallen on them, and they shall
not see the sun” (Ps. 57:9, Vulgate). Thus, therefore, the blindness of
unbelievers is not on the part of the Gospel, but from the sin of
125. – Therefore, he adds, to
keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Here
it should be noted that God the Father is the source of all light: “God is
light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5). From this fountain of
light is derived the image of this light, namely the Son, the Word of God:
“He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature” (Heb.
1:3). Therefore, this brightness of glory and image of the fountain of light
took our flesh and accomplished many glorious and divine works in this
The disclosing of this light is
the Gospel. Hence, the Gospel is also called the knowledge of the glory of
Christ, which knowledge has the power to enlighten: “Wisdom is radiant and
unfading” (Wis. 6:12). As far as it is concerned, it shines upon all and
enlightens all. But those who place an obstacle are not enlightened. And
this is what he says: the god of this world has blinded the minds of the
unbelievers, to keep them from seeing, namely, with their unbelieving minds,
the light of the gospel, which enlightens because it is the glory of Christ,
i.e. his brightness: “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son
from the Father” (Jn. 1:14). This glory is Christ’s, inasmuch as he is the
likeness [image] of God: “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).
126. – Note, according to a
Gloss, that Christ is the most perfect image of God. For in order that
something be perfectly an image of something, three things are necessary,
and these three are perfectly in Christ. First, a likeness; second, origin;
third, perfect equality. For if there is unlikeness between the image and
that of which it is the image, and one does not arise from the other, or
even if there is not perfect equality according to the same nature, then the
notion of perfect image would not be there. For the likeness of a king on a
coin is not called a perfect image of the king, because equality according
to the same nature is lacking; but the likeness of a king in his son is
called a perfect image of the king, because it possesses the three marks
Therefore, since those three are
present in Christ, the Son of God, because namely he is similar to the
Father, arises from the Father and is equal to the Father, he is in the
highest degree and perfectly called the image of God.
127. – Then when he says, For
what we preach is not ourselves, the Apostle settles a doubt. For some could
say to the Apostle, contrary to what was said here: above you said that your
Gospel was hidden; now you say that the Gospel of Christ enlightens.
Therefore, if it is granted that the Gospel of Christ enlightens, it cannot
follow that your Gospel is hidden. To settle this he does two things.
First he shows that his own
Gospel and Christ’s are the same; secondly, he shows how it is that his own
Gospel enlightens (v. 6)
128. – He says, therefore: I say
that the manifestation of the brightness of Christ is the Gospel of Christ
and our Gospel. It is ours as preached by us; it is Christ’s truly as the
one preached in the Gospel. Hence it is that what we preach is not
ourselves, i.e., we do not commend ourselves nor for ourselves, i.e., we do
not use our preaching for our praise or gain, but we refer it all to Christ
and his praise: “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23); “That I may tell
of all your works,” not mine, “in the gates of the daughter of Zion” (Ps.
But Jesus Christ as Lord, with
ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. As if to say: we preach Jesus as
Lord, but ourselves as servants, the reason being that we principally seek
the praise of Christ and not our own. For a servant is one who exists for
the profit of the master. That is why a minister of the Church, who does not
seek the honor of God and the welfare of his subjects, is not a true ruler,
but a tyrant. For whoever rules well should be as a servant seeking the
honor and profit of his subjects: “The elder shall serve the younger” (Gen.
25:23); “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to
all” (1 Cor. 9:19).
129. – Then when he says, For it
is the God who said, he shows the source of his Gospel’s power to enlighten.
Here we should note the order of the Apostle’s procedure. It is this: at one
time, namely, before being converted to Christ, we were darkness, just as
you and the others, upon whom the brightness of Christ’s glory did not
shine. But now, after Christ has called us to himself by his grace, that
darkness has been taken away from us, and now the power of the glory of
Christ’s brightness shines in us, and it shines on us in such a way that not
only are we enlightened so that we can see, but we enlighten others.
Therefore, from the spiritual grace and abundant splendor of the brightness
of the glory of Christ in us, our Gospel has the power to enlighten.
130. – And this is what he says:
I say that our Gospel enlightens, for it is the God who said, i.e., who made
by a single command, let light shine out of darkness, by separating the
elements, when he enlightened the dark chaos by the light he made: “He said,
‘let there be light’” (Gen. 1:3): “I made an unfailing light to rise in the
heavens” (Sir 24:6). He, I say, has shone in our hearts, i.e., in our minds,
previously darkened by the absence of the light of grace and by the
obscurity of sin: “To enlighten those that sit in darkness and in the shadow
of death” (Lk. 1:79).
He has shone, I say, not only to
enlighten us, but to give the light, i.e., that we might enlighten others:
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given”
(Eph. 3:8); “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:4). To give the light,
I say, of the knowledge, i.e., that we make others know of the glory of God,
i.e., of the clear vision of God, in the face of Christ. A Gloss: i.e.,
“through Jesus Christ”, who is the face of the Father, because without him
the Father is not known. But it is said better thus: to illumine the holy
brightness of God, which indeed shines in the face of Jesus Christ, i.e., so
that by that glory and brightness Jesus Christ may be known. As if to say:
in summary, God has shone upon us to enlighten us, so that Jesus Christ may
be known and preached among the Gentiles.