2 Corinthians 4:12
So then death works in us, but life in you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) So then death worketh in us, but life in you.—“Life” is here clearly used in its higher spiritual sense, as in the preceding verse. We trace in the words something of the same pathos as in 1Corinthians 4:8-13, without the irony which is there perceptible. “You,” he seems to say, “reap the fruit of my sufferings. The ‘dying’ is all my own; you know nothing of that conflict with pain and weakness; but the ‘life’ which is the result of that experience works in you as well as in me, and finds in you the chief sphere of its operation.”

4:8-12 The apostles were great sufferers, yet they met with wonderful support. Believers may be forsaken of their friends, as well as persecuted by enemies; but their God will never leave them nor forsake them. There may be fears within, as well as fightings without; yet we are not destroyed. The apostle speaks of their sufferings as a counterpart of the sufferings of Christ, that people might see the power of Christ's resurrection, and of grace in and from the living Jesus. In comparison with them, other Christians were, even at that time, in prosperous circumstances.So then death worketh in us - We are exposed to death. The preaching of the gospel exposes us to trials which may be regarded as death working in us. Death has an energy over us (ἐνεργεῖται energeitai, is at work, is active, or operates); it is constantly employed in inflicting pains on us, and subjecting us to privation and trials. This is a strong and emphatic mode of saying that they were always exposed to death. We are called to serve and glorify the Redeemer, as it were, by repeated deaths and by constantly dying.

But life in you - You live as the effect of our being constantly exposed to death. You reap the advantage of all our exposure to trials, and of all our sufferings. You are comparatively safe; are freed from this exposure to death; and will receive eternal life as the fruit of our toils, and exposures. Life here may refer either to exemption from danger and death; or it may refer to the life of religion; the hopes of piety; the prospect of eternal salvation. To me it seems most probable that Paul means to use it in the latter sense, and that he designs to say that while he was exposed to death and called to endure constant trial, the effect would be that they would obtain, in consequence of his sufferings, the blessedness of eternal life; compare 2 Corinthians 4:15. Thus understood, this passage means, that the sufferings and self-denials of the apostles were for the good of others, and would result in their benefit and salvation; and the design of Paul here is to remind them of his sufferings in their behalf, in order to conciliate their favor and bind them more closely to him by the remembrance of his sufferings on their account.

12. The "death" of Christ manifested in the continual "perishing of our outward man" (2Co 4:16), works peculiarly in us, and is the means of working spiritual "life" in you. The life whereof we witness in our bodily dying, extends beyond ourselves, and is brought by our very dying to you. You see the difference between us and you; either the real difference, or the fancied difference. We are killed all the day long, in deaths often, delivered to death always; you are rich, and full, and want nothing;

life, that is, security, happiness, and prosperity, attends you. Or the fancied difference: You bless yourselves, that you are not in so much jeopardy as we are, and some of you are ready to curse us, because vipers stick to our hands, and we are in continually renewed and repeated troubles. Very good interpreters think these words a smart ironical expression, by which the apostle reflecteth upon a party in this church, who from his sufferings concluded against the truth of his doctrine, or his favour with God; and for themselves, because of their immunity and freedom from such sufferings. Others think the sense this, our death is your life; our sufferings are your spiritual advantage. So then death worketh in us,.... This is the conclusion of the foregoing account, or the inference deduced from it; either the death, or dying of Christ, that is, the sufferings of his body, the church, for his sake, "is wrought in us"; fulfilled and perfected in us; see Colossians 1:24 or rather a corporeal death has seized upon us; the seeds of death are in us; our flesh, our bodies are mortal, dying off apace; death has already attacked us, is working on our constitutions gradually, and unpinning our tabernacles, which in a short time will be wholly took down and laid in the dust:

but life in you. Some understand these words as spoken ironically, like those in 1 Corinthians 4:8 but the apostle seems not to be speaking in such a strain, but in the most serious manner, and about things solemn and awful; and his meaning is, ours is the sorrow, the trouble, the affliction, and death itself, yours is the gain, the joy, the pleasure, and life; what we get by preaching the Gospel are reproach, persecution, and death; but this Gospel we preach at such expense is the savour of life unto life to you, and is the means of maintaining spiritual life in your souls, and of nourishing you up unto eternal life; and which is no small encouragement to us to go on in our work with boldness and cheerfulness: or these words regard the different state and condition of the apostle, and other ministers, and of the Corinthians; the one were in adversity, and the other in prosperity.

{7} So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

(7) A very wise conclusion: as if he would say, Therefore, to be short, we die that you may live by our death, because they ventured into all those dangers for the building of the Church's sake, and they ceased not to strengthen and encourage all the faithful with the examples of their patience.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 4:12. An inference from 2 Corinthians 4:11; hence the meaning can be no other than: Accordingly, since we are continually exposed to death, it is death whose working clings to us; but since the revelation of the life of Jesus in us goes to benefit you through our work in our vocation, the power opposed to death, life, is that which exercises its working on you. ὁ θάνατος and ἡ ζωή can, according to 2 Corinthians 4:10-11, be nothing else than the bodily death and the bodily life, both conceived of as personal powers, and consequently the life not as existent in Jesus (Hofmann). It was death to which Paul and those like him were ever given up, and it was life which, in spite of all deadly perils, retained the victory and remained preserved. And this victorious power of life, presenting in His servants the life of the risen Lord, was active (comp. Php 1:22; Php 1:24) through the continuance thereby rendered possible of the apostolic working among the Christians, and especially among the Corinthians (ἐν ὑμῖν), although they were not affected in like manner by that working of death. Estius (following Lombard) and Grotius (comp. Olshausen) take ἐνεργ. passively: “in nobis … mors agitur et exercetur … ut vicissim … per nostra pericula nostramque quotidianam mortem vobis gignitur, augetur, perficitur vita spiritualis” (Estius). But in the N. T. ἐνεργ. never occurs in a passive sense (see on 2 Corinthians 1:6), and according to 2 Corinthians 4:10-11, ἡ ζωή cannot be vita spiritualis, as even Osiander (comp. Ewald) here again interprets it. Calvin, Menochius, and Michaelis find in it something ironical: we are in continual deadly peril, while you are in comfort. Comp. Chrysostom, who, however, does not expressly signalize the ironical character of the passage. On ζῆν, vita frui, see Jacobs, ad Anthol. X. p. 70; comp. ζῆν καὶ εἶναι, Dissen, ad Dem. de Cor. p. 239. But the context gives no suggestion whatever of irony or of any such reference of ἡ ζωή (ὑμεῖς δὲ ἐν ἀνέσει, τὴν ἐκ τούτων τῶν κινδύνων καρπούμενοι ζωήν, Chrysostom). As foreign to it is Rückert’s view, which refers the first half of the verse to Paul’s alleged sickness, and the second half to the state of health of the Corinthians, which, as Paul had recently learned through Titus, had considerably improved after a sickness that had been prevalent (1 Corinthians 11:30).

We may add that the first clause is set down without μέν, because Paul purposely avoids paving the way for the contrast, in order thereupon to bring it forward by way of surprise. “Infert particula δέ novam rem cum aliqua oppositione,” Klotz, ad Devar. p. 356.2 Corinthians 4:12. The manifestation of Christ’s Life in the Apostle’s daily νέκρωσις is thus visible to the world and especially to his converts.—ὥστε ὁ μὲν θάνατος κ.τ.λ.: so then Death worketh in us (see on 2 Corinthians 1:6), but Life in you, i.e., the Risen Life of Christ, the source of present grace as of future glory. It is this latter aspect of ζωή, viz., as the life after death, to which his thoughts now turn.12. So then death worketh in us, but life in you] See 1 Corinthians 4:9. The Apostle here enunciates a principle common to the material and the spiritual world. From death comes life, from decay regeneration. The death of Christ was the life of the world; the daily dying (1 Corinthians 15:31) of His disciples, by virtue of the same Spirit that lives in Him, is the means whereby that life spreads among mankind. Death may be said to be working in Christ’s ministers, because of their visible sorrows, anxieties, persecutions (but see 2 Corinthians 4:16); life in their converts, because of the visible change in their character and acts. Cf. Plato, Phaedo, ch. 16: “ ‘What is that which is produced from life?’ ‘Death,’ he said. ‘What then,’ replied he, ‘from death?’ ‘It must be confessed that life is.’ ”2 Corinthians 4:12. Θάνατος, death) of the body [by the corruption (decay) of the outward man.—V. g.]—ζωὴ, life) viz., that of the Spirit.Verse 12. - So then. In accordance with what he has just said. Death worketh in us, but life in you. The life of us apostles is a constant death (Romans 8:36); but of this daily dying you reap the benefits; our dying is your living; our afflictions become to you a source of consolation and joy (2 Corinthians 1:6; Philippians 2:17).
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