2 Corinthians 4:16
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.…
For the word "perish" in this verse, the Revised Version reads "is decaying." "Outward man" is the body, "inward man" is the soul, so far as the terms may be understood by anybody. "Outward man" is the whole sphere of the senses and the flesh; "inward man" is the whole sphere of the moral, the spiritual, the Divine, the eternal, so far as the terms may be apprehended by the quickened and regenerate of mankind. The "outward man" is man related to the "seen and temporal;" the "inward man" is man related to the "unseen and eternal." And what the apostle so plainly says in our text is this - the "outward man," the material framework of the body, and the whole circle of purely human and earthly relations, are yielding to a gradual process of decay, and soon they must all pass away. But the "inward man," the spiritual life, the very man himself, is day by day rising, through successive stages of renewal, to yet higher life. And the very decayings of the body and of the earthly surroundings bear directly upon the nourishment and growth of the soul's life, and so upon the soul's future. This is the thought which is set before us for our consideration, and we begin with that familiar truth on which the statement of the text rests.
I. BODY LIFE AND SOUL LIFE BOTH DEPEND ON NOURISHMENT, ON FOOD. This is the law of all created life. Angels live on angels' food. Souls live on appropriate souls' food. And bodies live by meat and drink and air. Science tells us that bodily life, health, fatness, and vigour directly depend on the character and quantity and appropriateness of the food supplied. Given vitality and freedom from active disease, and any bodily result that is desired can be obtained by giving flesh-forming, or bone-forming, or brain-making foods. And the health, the vigour, and the work of our soul's life just as directly depend upon the food with which it is nourished. Would you get more good work out of your souls? Then you must feed them better. Do you expose your souls to much peril? Then you must improve and increase their food. We may speak of the soul's life as being faith and love, and as having for its natural expression worship and work. Then the soul's food which we provide must bear, in the most direct and efficient way, on these four things. Here is a most practical problem for each one of us to solve in our daily life - What will nourish into the fullest health and strength my soul's faith and my soul's love? What will strengthen the soul's brain and heart for holy worship, for prayer and praise, and the soul's muscle and nerve for holy work? As life unfolds there come to us all times of special stress and strain. Business has its unusual anxieties. Home has its unusual cares. Decisions of grave importance have to be made, and we too easily forget at such times that we need better soul food; we must be oftener at the secret sources of spiritual nourishment; we must find out how strong they can become who eat of the tree of life, who partake of that Bread of life which satisfies, and that "flesh and blood" which are "meat indeed and drink indeed."
II. NOURISH THE BODY LIFE HOW WE MAY, IT IS WEARING DOWN TO DECAY AND DEATH. "The outward man perishes." "The fashion of this world passeth away." All the feeding, all the nourishing, all the fresh air, cannot keep the bodily powers working over long; for soon the sight grows dim, and the hearing fails, and the taste palls, and the hands tremble, and the breath goes hard, and the limbs totter, and then the golden bowl is broken at the fountain, and man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets. There is a fixed limit beyond which the body cannot go. None of us can with impunity exert ourselves beyond the limits of our physical strength, for gradually, as the years pass on, our vital force is lowered, our recuperative power fails, the body is really decaying and wasting down to helplessness and death. But why should we trouble because we cannot feed these bodies of ours into a strength that shall resist disease and old age, and make our years last through all the generations? They are not us. They are but the machinery, the agency, the sphere, of our sublime moral trial. They may last no longer than is needed for the perfecting of the trial. I shall not want this frail body, with its limited senses and relations, nor shall I want this "ower sin-burdened earth," when God sees that my moral trial is over; when he has found out, by this practical experiment, what I really am. I can see them both pass away, and enter God's spiritual and incorruptible body - the glorified counterpart of this body I now have - which is fashioned akin to the "new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
III. NOURISH THE SOUL LIFE, AND IT WILL GROW ON FOREVER. For there are no forces that can touch the regenerate soul to destroy it. "I give unto them eternal life," He said who brought life and immortality to light by His gospel, "and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Law, Satan, sin, temptation, worldly atmospheres, death, and hell cannot hurt the soul whose vitality is well nourished and maintained. Take food for the body, and its service is soon spent. Take food for the soul, and its service never can be spent; it becomes a permanent element of good; it has gone to the making of character, which death has no power to touch. There are, indeed, varieties of religious experience, ups and downs of religious feeling. We may encrust our lives with worldliness, we may feed our souls with nothing but the luxuries of human pleasure, and if we do so we must suffer, and bitterly suffer. Great diseases and calamities may come to us as cleansing and correcting processes. But God will not let the soul growth be permanently hindered. If we will not make the soul thrive by the food of truth, and duty, and worship, and prayer, and fellowship, then he will make it thrive by the medicine of pain, and distress, and humiliation, and bereavement, and loss; but thrive and grow it shall. "The inward man [shall be] renewed day by day."
IV. THE VERY WEARING DOWN, SUFFERING, DECAYING, AND DYING OF THE BODY LIFE ARE MADE AGENTS IN NOURISHING THE SOUL'S LIFE. St. Paul goes on from our text to say, "For our light affliction... worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." How bright and hopeful that bruised, worn, suffering apostle always was! He even found it in his heart to glory in his infirmities, because, the weaker he was, the more of Christ's power must rest on him and work through him. The outward man perishes, but he is not going to be sad or to faint about it, since the inward man is renewed day by day. And Paul says that there is such an intimate relation between these two that, by the dying of the one, the life of the other is actually furthered. Our light afflictions and our testing death are even made food for our soul's growth. We may thrive upon our very woes. Trial, toil, struggle, weariness, frailty, pain, bereavement, all the body can know of sorrow and care, are the soul's food. It lives by them. It thrives on them. It steps up toward heaven with the help of them. "Out of the eater it brings forth meat; out of the strong it brings forth sweetness." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.