2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
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(17) For our light affliction . . .—More accurately, the present lightness of our affliction. This is at once more literally in accord with the Greek, and better sustains the balanced antithesis of the clauses.

A far more exceeding . . .—The Greek phrase is adverbial rather than adjectival: worketh for us exceedingly, exceedingly. After the Hebrew idiom of expressing intensity by the repetition of the same word, (used of this very word “exceedingly” in Genesis 7:19; Genesis 17:2), he seeks to accumulate one phrase upon another (literally, according to excess unto excess) to express his sense of the immeasurable glory which he has in view.

4:13-18 The grace of faith is an effectual remedy against fainting in times of trouble. They knew that Christ was raised, and that his resurrection was an earnest and assurance of theirs. The hope of this resurrection will encourage in a suffering day, and set us above the fear of death. Also, their sufferings were for the advantage of the church, and to God's glory. The sufferings of Christ's ministers, as well as their preaching and conversation, are for the good of the church and the glory of God. The prospect of eternal life and happiness was their support and comfort. What sense was ready to pronounce heavy and long, grievous and tedious, faith perceived to be light and short, and but for a moment. The weight of all temporal afflictions was lightness itself, while the glory to come was a substance, weighty, and lasting beyond description. If the apostle could call his heavy and long-continued trials light, and but for a moment, what must our trifling difficulties be! Faith enables to make this right judgment of things. There are unseen things, as well as things that are seen. And there is this vast difference between them; unseen things are eternal, seen things but temporal, or temporary only. Let us then look off from the things which are seen; let us cease to seek for worldly advantages, or to fear present distresses. Let us give diligence to make our future happiness sure.For our light affliction - This verse, with the following, is designed to show further the sources of consolation and support which Paul and his fellow-laborers had in their many trials. Bloomfield remarks on this passage, that "in energy and beauty of expression, it is little inferior to any in Demosthenes himself, to whom, indeed, and to Thucydides in his orations, the style of the apostle, when it rises to the oratorical, bears no slight resemblance." The passage abounds with intensive and emphatic expressions, and manifests that the mind of the writer was laboring to convey ideas which language, even after all the energy of expression which he could command, would very imperfectly communicate. The trials which Paul endured, to many persons would have seemed to be anything else but light. They consisted of want, and danger, and contempt, and stoning, and toil, and weariness, and the scorn of the world, and constant exposure to death by land or by sea; see 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, compare 2 Corinthians 11:23-27. Yet these trials, though continued through many years, and constituting, as it were, his very life, he speaks of as the lightest conceivable thing when compared with that eternal glory which awaited him. He strives to get an expression as emphatic as possible, to show that in his estimation they were not worthy to be named in comparison with the eternal weight of glory. It is not sufficient to say that the affliction was "light" or was a mere trifle; but he says that it was to endure but for a moment. Though trials had followed him ever since he began to make known the Redeemer, and though he had the firmest expectation that they would follow him to the end of life and everywhere Acts 20:23, yet all this was a momentary trifle compared with the eternal glory before him. The word rendered "light" (ἐλαφρὸν elaphron) means that which is easy to bear, and is usually applied to a burden; see Matthew 11:30, compare 2 Corinthians 1:17.

Which is but for a moment - The Greek word used here (παραυτίκα parautika) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is an adverb, from αὐτίκα autika, αὐτός autos, and means properly, "at this very instant; immediately." Here it seems to qualify the word "light," and to be used in the sense of momentary, transient. Bloomfield renders it, "for the at present lightness of our affliction." Doddridge, "for this momentary lightness of our affliction, which passes off so fast, and leaves so little impression that it may be called levity itself." The apostle evidently wished to express two ideas in as emphatic a manner as possible; first, that the affliction was light, and, secondly, that it was transient, momentary, and soon passing away. His object is to contrast this with the glory that awaited him, as being heavy, and as being also eternal.

Worketh for us - see the note, 2 Corinthians 4:12. Will produce, will result in. The effect of these afflictions is to produce eternal glory. This they do:

(1) By their tendency to wean us from the world;

(2) To purify the heart, by enabling us to 'break off from the sins on account of which God afflicts us;

(3) By disposing us to look to God for consolation and support in our trials;

(4) By inducing us to contemplate the glories of the heavenly world, and thus winning us to seek heaven as our home; and,

(5) Because God has graciously promised to reward his people in heaven as the result of their bearing trials in this life.

It is by affliction that he purifies them Isaiah 48:10; and by trial that he takes their affections from the objects of time and sense, and gives them a relish for the enjoyments which result from the prospect of perfect and eternal glory.

A far more exceeding - καθ ̓ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολὴν kath' huperbolēn eis huperbolēn. There is not to be found any where a more energetic expression than this. The word (ὑπερβολή huperbolē), used here (whence our word "hyperbole") means properly a throwing, casting, or throwing beyond. In the New Testament it means excess, excellence, eminence; see 2 Corinthians 4:7. "The excellency of the power." The phrase καθ ̓ ὑπερβολὴν kath' huperbolēn means exceedingly, supereminently, Romans 7:13; 1 Corinthians 12:31; 2 Corinthians 1:8; Galatians 1:13. This expression would have been by itself intensive in a high degree. But this was not sufficient to express Paul's sense of the glory which was laid up for Christians. It was not enough for him to use the ordinary highest expression for the superlative to denote the value of the object in his eye. He therefore coins an expression, and adds εἰς ὑπερβολὴν eis huperbolēn. It is not merely eminent; but it is eminent unto eminence; excess unto excess; a hyperbole unto hyperbole - one hyperbole heaped upon another; and the expression means that it is "exceeding exceedingly" glorious; glorious in the highest possible degree - Robinson. Mr. Slade renders it, "infinitely exceeding." The expression is the Hebrew form of denoting the highest superlative; and it means that all hyperboles fail of expressing that eternal glory which remains for the just. It is infinite and boundless. You may pass from one degree to another; from one sublime height to another; but still an infinity remains beyond. Nothing can describe the uppermost height of that glory; nothing can express its infinitude.

Eternal - This stands in contrast with the affliction that is for a moment (παραυτίκα parautika). The one is momentary, transient; so short, even in the longest life, that it may be said to be an instant; the other has no limits to its duration. It is literally everlasting.

Weight - βάρος (baros). This stands opposed to the (ἐλαφρὸν elaphron) light affliction. That was so light that it was a trifle. It was easily borne. It was like the most light and airy objects, which constitute no burden. It is not even here called a burden, or said to be heavy in any degree. This is so heavy as to be a burden. Grotins thinks that the image is taken from gold or silver articles, that are solid and heavy, compared with those that are mixed or plated. But why may it not refer to the insignia of glory and honor; a robe heavy with gold, or a diadem or crown, heavy with gold or diamonds: glory so rich, so profuse as to be heavy? The affliction was light; but the crown, the robe, the adornings in the glorious world were not trifles, or baubles, but solid, substantial, weighty. We apply the word weighty now to that which is valuable and important, compared with that which is of no value, probably because the precious metals and jewels are heavy; and it is by them that we usually estimate the value of objects.

Of glory - (δόξης doxēs). The Hebrew word כבוד kabowd denotes weight as well as glory. And perhaps Paul had that use of the word in his eye in this strong expression. It refers here to the splendor, magnificence, honor, and happiness of the eternal world. In this exceedingly interesting passage, which is worthy of the deepest study of Christians, Paul has set in most beautiful and emphatic contrast the trials of this life and the glories of heaven. It may be profitable to contemplate at a single glance the view which he had of them, that they may be brought distinctly before the mind.

The one is:


17. which is but for a moment—"Our PRESENT light (burden of) affliction" (so the Greek; compare Mt 11:30), [Alford]. Compare "now for a season … in heaviness" (1Pe 1:6). The contrast, however, between this and the "ETERNAL weight of glory" requires, I think, the translation, "Which is but for the present passing moment." So Wahl. "The lightness of affliction" (he does not express "burden" after "light"; the Greek is "the light of affliction") contrasts beautifully with the "weight of the glory."

worketh—rather, "worketh out."

a far more exceeding and—rather, "in a surpassing and still more surpassing manner" [Alford]; "more and more exceedingly" [Ellicott, Trench, and others]. Greek, "in excess and to excess." The glory exceeds beyond all measure the affliction.

The apostle in these words wonderfully lesseneth his own, and the rest of the apostles’, and all other Christians’ sufferings for the gospel: he calleth them

light, not that they were so in themselves, but with respect to that

weight of glory which he mentioneth in the latter part of the verse: he calleth them momentary,

but for a moment, with reference to that eternity which is mentioned. The afflictions are light, the glory will be a weight; the afflictions are but for a moment, the glory shall be eternal. And (saith the apostle) our affliction worketh for us this glory: the glory will not only be a consequent of these afflictions, but these afflictions will be a cause of it; not a meritorious cause, (for what proportion is there between momentary afflictions and eternal glory? Between light afflictions and a weight of glory, an exceeding weight of glory?) But a cause in respect of the infinite goodness and mercy of God, and in respect of the truth and faithfulness of God.

For our light affliction,.... The difference between the present and future state of the saints is here expressed, the disparity between them shown, and the influence the one has upon the other. The present state is a state of "affliction". Affliction is the common lot of the children of men, but more especially of the children of God, and is here designed by "our" affliction; for these, besides their soul trouble, meet with such in the world, and from the men of it, others do not. Afflictions are appointed for them by their heavenly Father; provision is made for them, and support under them, in the covenant of grace; they are Christ's legacy to them, and by which they are conformed to him; they are always for their good, spiritual and eternal; and lie in their way to heaven, through which they must pass into the kingdom: now these their outward afflictions which are here meant, lie chiefly in the meanness of their outward circumstances; in poverty and distress, in disgrace, reproaches, and persecutions for their profession of Christ, and his truths: and in opposition to this their mean and despicable condition in the eyes of the world, their future state is signified by "glory", as it often is in the word of God; and is of such a nature, that all the glories of this world, such as kingdoms, crowns, inheritances, possessions, riches, honour, and substance of every kind and degree, by all which the heavenly state is expressed, are but faint resemblances of it: it is the same glory Christ has entered into, is possessed of for, and will give to all his people; it will chiefly lie in communion with Father, Son, and Spirit, with angels, and one another; there will be a visible glory upon the bodies of the saints, which will be fashioned like to the glorious body of Christ; and their souls will be blessed with perfect knowledge and holiness. Their affliction is represented as "light" which though it is not in itself, but often very grievous and heavy to be borne, especially when any soul trouble is added to it; yet is light, when the saint is supported by the arm of the Lord, indulged with his presence, and favoured with the discoveries of his love. The afflictions of God's people are light, when compared with their deserts, with the sufferings of Christ, the torments of the damned in hell, and the joys of heaven, which are here, by way of opposition thereunto, styled a "weight of glory". The apostle has respect to the Hebrew word which signifies both "weight" and "glory", and is often used for riches, honour, and whatsoever is excellent, solid, and substantial: and here the phrase designs the weighty riches of glory, that massy crown of glory which fadeth not away, that bulky and more enduring substance, which Christ will cause them that love him to inherit. Again, the afflictions of the children of God are said to be

for a moment; they are but for a while, and that a little while; at most they are but for the present time of life, and that is but as a vapour which appears for a little while, and then vanishes away; it is but as a moment, a point of time, in comparison of eternity: but the glory the saints are chosen and called unto, that weight of it which shall be put upon them is "eternal", it will last for ever; it will know no end: hence it is called an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, an everlasting kingdom, everlasting habitations, an incorruptible inheritance, and a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Now the present affliction of the people of God has a considerable influence upon this; it is said here, that it

worketh for us this glory. The Jews (y) introduce God speaking words much like these.

"Saith the holy blessed God, I have sent them chastisements in this world, , "to strengthen their arms for", or that their arms may lay hold upon the world to come.''

Now afflictions may be said to work eternal glory for the saints, not by way of merit, for they are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed; there is no proportion between them; besides, the heavenly kingdom and glory was prepared from the foundation of the world, and is a free grace gift of their heavenly Father; but they work as means of enjoying it, as the word and ordinances do; the Spirit of God makes use of them, as of the other, to work up the saints for that selfsame thing, glory: these are means of trying, exercising, and improving their graces, of weaning their hearts from this world, and drawing out their desires, hope, and expectation of another; they are the way in which believers walk to glory, and which it last issue and terminate in it; glory follows upon them, though it is not for them.

(y) R. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Torah, praecept. affirm. 17.

For our {p} light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of {q} glory;

(p) Afflictions are not called light, as though they were light in themselves, but because they pass away quickly, as indeed our whole life is not of very long continuance.

(q) Which remains forever firm and stable, and can never be shaken.

2 Corinthians 4:17. Ground for the furtherance of this ὁ ἔσωθεν ἀνακαινοῦται ἡμέρᾳ κ. ἡμ. from the glorious eternal result of temporal sufferin.

τὸ γὰρ παραυτίκα κ.τ.λ.] for the present lightness of our affliction, i.e. our momentary affliction weighing light, not heavy to be borne, τὸ νῦν ἐλαφρ. τῆς θλίψ. and τὸ παρὸν ἐγαφρ. τῆς θλίψ. would each give a different meaning; see Hermann, ad Viger. p. 783. For examples of the very frequent adjectival use of παραυτίκα, see Wetstein, Heindorf, ad Plat. Protag. § 106 p. 620; Stallbaum, ad Plat. Rep. p. 558 A; from Xenophon in Raphel. Bengel aptly remarks: “notatur praesens breve.” The near Parousia is conceived as terminus ad quern; comp. 1 Peter 1:6.

τὸ ἐγαφρὸν τῆς θλίψ.] like τὸ δεινὸν τοῦ πολέμου, the horrors of war (Plato, Menex. p. 243 B), χαλεπὸν τοῦ βίου (Rep. p. 328 E). Regarding the substantival use of the neuter adjective, whereby the idea of the adjective is brought into prominence as the chief idea, see Matthiae, p. 994; Kühner, II. p. 122.

καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολήν] is definition of manner and degree to κατεργάζεται; it works in an abundant way even to abundance an eternal weight (growth) of glory. In this—and how exuberant is the deeply emotional form of expression itself!—lies the measureless force, and the measureless success of the κατεργάζεται. If, with Rückert, we sought to find in this an adverbial definition to αἰώνιον βάρος (Romans 7:13), it could only refer to αἰώνιον, and the notion of αἰώνιος would make this appear as unsuitable. Rückert is further wrong in thinking that the expression does not seem to admit of a precise verbal explanation. But on καθʼ ὑπερβ. see 2 Corinthians 1:8; Romans 7:13; 1 Corinthians 12:31; Galatians 1:13; 4Ma 3:18; Bernhardy, p. 241; and on εἰς ὑπερβ. comp. passages like 2 Corinthians 10:15; Luke 13:11; Eur. Hipp. 939; Lucian, D. M. 27. 9; Gymnas. 28; Tox. 12; on both expressions Valckenaer, ad Eur. Hipp. l.c.

αἰώνιον ingeniously corresponds to the previous παραυτίκα, and βάρος to the ἐλαφρόν (comp. Plato, Timaeus, p. 63 C). There is contained, however, in βάρος[201] the quantitative greatness of the δόξα; comp. βάρος πολούτου, Plut. Alex. 48; Eur. Iph. 419; Soph. Ajax. 130, and Lobeck thereon. It is similar to the German phrase “eine schwere Menge.”

κατεργάζεται ἡμῖν] brings about for us. The δόξα is conceived as requital for the θλίψις (Matthew 5:12; Luke 16:25; Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12-13), and in so far as its effect, the production of which is developed in the present suffering. It is not merely a spiritual and moral δόξα that is meant (Rückert, who irrelevantly appeals to Romans 3:23), but the whole glory, the aggregate glorious condition in the Messiah’s kingdom, Romans 8:17-18 ff.; Matthew 13:43.

μὴ σκοπούντ. ἡμ. κ.τ.λ.] since we do not direct our aim to that which is seen, i.e. since we have not in view, as the goal of our striving (Php 2:4), the visible goods, enjoyments, etc., which belong to the pre-Messianic period (τὰ ἐπίγεια, Php 3:19); comp. Romans 8:25. Billroth wrongly understands the resurrection-bodies to be meant, which must have been derived from what precedes, and may not be inferred from 2 Corinthians 5:1. The participle is taken as conditioning by Calvin, Rückert, Ewald, Hofmann: it being presupposed that we, etc.; comp. Chrysostom: ἂν τῶν ὁρωμένων ἀπαγάγωμεν ἑαυτούς. The μή would accord with this interpretation, but does not require it; see Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 301 f. [E. T. 351]. The former sense, specifying the reason, is not only more appropriate in general to the ideal apostolic way of regarding the Christian life (Romans 5:3-5; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:9; Romans 8:25; 2 Corinthians 4:18), but it is also recommended by the fact that Paul himself is meant first of all in ἡμῶν. On the more strongly emphatic genitive absolute (instead of μὴ σκοποῦσι τὰ βλεπ), even after the governing clause, comp. Xenophon, Anab. v. 8. 13, i. 4. 12, and Kühner thereon; see also Krüger, § xlvii. 4. 2; Stallbaum, ad Plat. Symp, p. 183 B; Winer, p. 195 [E. T. 260]. With the Greeks, however, the repetition of the subject (ἡμῶν) is rare; comp. Thuc. iii. 22. 1.

τὰ μὴ βλεπόμενα] Paul did not write τὰ οὐ βλεπόμενα, because the goods and enjoyments of the Messianic kingdom are to appear from the subjective standpoint of the ἡμεῖς as something not seen.[202] See Hermann, ad Viger, p. 807; Kühner, II. § 715. 3. Comp. Hebrews 11:7.

τὰ γὰρ βλεπόμενα κ.τ.λ.] Reason, why we do not aim, et.

ΠΡΌΣΚΑΙΡΑ] temporary (Matthew 13:21; Mark 4:17; Hebrews 11:25), namely, lasting only to the near Parousia, 1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17.

On the whole expression, comp. Seneca, Ep. 59.

[201] βάρος is not distinguished from ὄγκος by the latter having always the idea of burden (Tittmann, Synon. p. 158). The notion of weight is always contained in βάρος, and in ὄγκος that of bulk. The idea of burdensomeness is in both words given solely by the context. Comp. on ὄγκος, used of abundant fulness; Jacobs, ad Anthol. IX. p. 126.

[202] Bengel aptly observes: “Alind significat ἀόρατα; nam multa, quae non cernuntur, erunt visibilia, confecto itinere fidei?”

2 Corinthians 4:17. τὸ γὰρ παραυτίκα κ.τ.λ.: for our present light burden of affliction worketh out for us more and more exceedingly an eternal heavy burden of glory; cf., for the thought (ever full of consolation to the troubled heart), Psalm 30:5, Isaiah 54:7, Matthew 5:11, Hebrews 12:11, 1 Peter 1:6; 1 Peter 5:10, and especially Romans 8:18. παραυτίκα does not refer (as the A.V. and R.V. would suggest) to the brief duration of temporal affliction, but only to its being present with us now, as set over against the future glory (see reff.). τὸ ἐλαφρόν τῆς θλίψεως offers a good instance of “the most classical idiom in the language of the N.T.” (Blass)—especially frequent in St. Paul—according to which a neuter singular adjective is used as if it were an abstract noun; cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 8:8, Romans 8:3, 1 Corinthians 1:25, Php 3:8, etc., for a like construction. καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολήν is another Hebraism (see last verse), מאר מאר = “exceedingly”; it cannot qualify βάρος (as the A.V. takes it) or αἰώνιον, but must go with κατεργάζεται, as above (cf. Galatians 1:13). Stanley points out that the collocation βάρος δόξης may be suggested by the fact that the Hebrew כָּבַד means both “to be heavy” (Genesis 18:20, Job 6:3) and “to be glorious” (Job 14:21); cf. the ambiguity in the Latin gravitas.

17. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment] Literally, For the momentary lightness of our affliction. The argument is advanced another step. Not only have we this inner fount of strength and consolation, but we know that it is eternal, while our afflictions endure but for a moment. Cf. Romans 8:18.

worketh for us] Literally, worketh out, bringeth to perfection. The precise opposite of the word translated ‘brought to nought,’ ‘done away.’ See ch. 2 Corinthians 3:7.

a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory] Over measure an everlasting birthun into higness of glorie, Wiclif. Literally, a weight of glory in excess and unto excess: the whole passage denoting that the glory to come exceeds the power of words to tell. The Vulgate renders ‘supra modum in sublimitate.’ Alford, ‘in a surpassing and still more surpassing manner.’ The old English versions, including the A. V., follow Tyndale here. An expression very closely approaching to this is the usual one in Hebrew for anything immeasurably great, as for instance, in the original of Genesis 7:19. The word glory in Hebrew is derived from the original idea of weight. It is possible that this connection of ideas may have influenced St Paul in the choice of this expression.

2 Corinthians 4:17. Παραυτίκα, [but for a moment]) just now: a brief present season is denoted, 1 Peter 1:6 [ὄλιγον ἄρτι, a brief season now.] The antitheses are, just now, and eternal; light, and weight: affliction, and glory; which is in excessive measure, and in an exceeding degree.—καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν, in excessive measure) Even that affliction, which is καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν, in excessive measure, when compared with other less afflictions, 2 Corinthians 1:8, is yet light compared with the glory εἰς ὑπερβολὴν, in an exceeding degree. A noble Oxymoron.—κατεργάζεται) works, procures, accomplishes.

Verse 17. - For our light affliction, which is but for a moment; literally, for the immediate lightness of our affliction. Worketh for us. Is bringing about for us, with all the immeasurable force of a natural and progressive law. A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; literally, in excess unto excess. For the phrase, "to excess - characteristic, like other emotional expressions, of this group of Epistles - see 2 Corinthians 1:8; Galatians 1:13. The word "eternal" is in antithesis to the "for a moment." The "weight" is suggested by the "lightness," and possibly also by the fact that in Hebrew the word for "glory" also means "weight." The general contrast is found also in Matthew 5:12; 1 Peter 5:10; Hebrews 12:10; Romans 8:18. The frequent resemblances between this Epistle and that to the Romans are natural when we remember that they were written within a few months of each other. 2 Corinthians 4:17Our light affliction which is but for a moment (τὸ παραυτίκα ἐλαφρὸν τῆς θλίψεως ἡμῶν)

Lit., the present light (burden) of our affliction.

Worketh (κατεργάζεται)

Works out: achieves.

A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (καθ' ὑπερεβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολὴν αἰώνιον βάρος δόξης)

Rev., more and more exceedingly an eternal weight, etc. An expression after the form of Hebrew superlatives, in which the emphatic word is twice repeated. Lit., exceedingly unto excess. The use of such cumulative expressions is common with Paul. See, for example, Philippians 1:23, lit., much more better; Romans 8:37, abundantly the conquerors; Ephesians 3:20, exceeding abundantly, etc. Note how the words are offset: for a moment, eternal; light, weight; affliction, glory.

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