2 Corinthians 4:16-18
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.…
There is much in this world to make men faint! Health is seldom long unbroken. Success is gained, and its sweetness lost, by the death of those we sought to secure it for! In religion, too, there would seem to be tendencies toward the same disappointment. Paul speaks of trouble on every side, of being perplexed, etc. But two especial sources of strength are referred to. In the "spirit of faith" (ver. 13), and the sustaining hope which springs from Christ's resurrection (ver. 14). These were antidotes to all depressions, and remembering that his own bearing as a Christian soldier would naturally affect the ranks, Paul adds: "For all things are for your sakes" (ver. 15), and then explains the apostolic position in the text. Notice the position — thus:
I. THE MAN — VISIBLE. Paul does not speak contemptuously of the body, nor did he encourage maceration or court martyrdom. He says, "Though the outward man perish." It might happen, he well knew, and it did happen to him, but he was ready. "For which cause we faint not," etc. Our circumstances differ widely from his, but we too are tempted in ten thousand ways. Let me therefore remark —
1. That Christians fret, but do not faint. They are still human. They fret when disappointments come, when vexatious law-suits have to be fought out — when impoverishment of the home-life comes. But the difference between them and the children of this world lies here — they do not faint — they stand. This word faint means to turn out a coward. "For which cause we are not cowards, but though our outward man," etc.
2. That Christians fail, but do not faint. Our lives are stories of failure as well as of success. "Armies," says Alexander Smith, "are not always cheering on the heights they have won." No; there are retreats, and baggage-waggon captures and desperate frays with advanced pickets, and sudden and sharp conflicts. So it is with the Christian; he does not always come off victorious. No; he fails! And then he gathers together the scattered forces of his moral life — he takes unto him "the whole armour of God," probably having neglected some part of it before, and again he renews the war.
3. That Christians die, but do not faint. Physical weakness and decay will come! "The outward man" must perish. Time is as stern an executioner as the headsman of old. "It is appointed unto all men once to die." But the Christian looks for "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away." And that inheritance is in germ already within him. "Though the outward man perishes," the great life-work is going on within; there the work of grace is meetening for the life of glory. I will ask two questions.
(1) Who can wonder that worldly men so often faint? Artificial stimulants can only sustain for a time. Society, friendship, enlivening pursuits — these often hide for a time the stern realities of life. Then the dream-land of joy is broken in upon, and the man awakes to his delusions. Then comes the indescribable faintness of a soul that has no everlasting arm to rest on, no promises to console, no inheritance to anticipate. If we are worldly, we too shall faint.
(2) Who else can supply what Christ provides? We have not in all history such records of consolation amid the changes of life, and in the coming of death, as we have in the Word of God. Nowhere else but in the gospel have we the power which gives spirituality to life, and solace in the hour of death, "For which cause we faint not."
II. THE MAN — INVISIBLE.
1. There is an inner man. This, indeed, has been the great teaching of Revelation from the commencement. Man is separated from all other forms of created life by this — he has a soul. The inner man asserts itself. Argue against its existence as man will, there, in the depths of consciousness, is the irresistible argument — "I am." This inner man may become weakened, debased, depraved — it is a fact of history and experience that it has become so — day by day. It is in Christ that we have life; this, too, is a fact of history and experience. It is in this inner man we must find the seat of strength, and the spring of consolation. Let that be reached, and then we shall be able to triumph over the ills to which flesh is heir. We are strengthened with all might by Christ's Spirit, says the apostle, in "our inner man."
2. This inner man is renewed. Renewal is a series of acts. Just as life is one gift, but the daily renewal of it by food, by air, by exercise, is a series of acts. Thinkers must constantly study, meditate, read; or the old stores would actually, to a large extent, die out. So yesterday's religion is a thing of yesterday. We need fresh draughts of living water, fresh breakings of the heavenly bread, fresh communings of conscience and heart with the Divine Lord.
3. This renewal is a daily one. Not a mere Sabbath one. "Give us this day our daily bread!" Day by day.
(W. M. Statham.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.