2 Corinthians 4:3
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.—Better, in both cases, as keeping the sequence of thought, has been veiled, instead of “is hid,” and among them that are perishing. (See Note on 2Corinthians 2:15.) He cannot close his eyes to the fact that the glorious words of 2Corinthians 3:18 are only partially realised. There are some to whom even the gospel of Christ appears as shrouded by a veil. And these are not, as some have thought, Judaising teachers only or chiefly, but the whole class of those who are at present on the way to perish, not knowing God, counting themselves unworthy of eternal life. The force of the present participle, as not excluding the thought of future change, is again to be carefully noted.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4. But if our gospel also, (so it is in the original,) be hid Κεκαλυμμενον, veiled, as well as the law of Moses; it is veiled to them that are lost — Εν τοις απολλυμενοις, in those that are perishing, namely, in a state of ignorance and unbelief; of guilt, depravity, weakness, and wretchedness. “In 2 Corinthians 3:13-14, the apostle had observed that there were two veils, by which the Israelites were blinded, or prevented from understanding the meaning of the law, and from perceiving that it was to be abolished by the gospel. The first was a veil which lay on the law itself. This veil was formed by the obscurity of the types and figures of the law, and was signified by Moses putting a veil upon his face when he delivered the law. The other veil lay upon their hearts, and was woven by their own prejudices and corrupt affections, which hindered them from discerning the true design of the law, and the intimations given in it concerning its abrogation by the gospel. Now, in allusion to these causes of the blindness of the Israelites, the apostle told the Corinthians that the gospel had been so plainly preached, and so fully proved, that if its divine original and true meaning was veiled, it was veiled only to them who destroyed themselves. It was not veiled by any veil lying on the gospel itself, but by a veil lying on the hearts of men, who would destroy themselves, by hearkening to their own prejudices and lusts.” — Macknight. In, or among whom the god of this world — Grandis et horribilis descriptio Satanæ, a grand and terrible description of Satan, says Bengelius. Satan is repeatedly styled by our Lord, the prince of this world. See John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11; that is, the prince of those who are men of the world, (Psalm 17:14,) and who freely subject themselves to him. Thus, (Ephesians 6:12,) he and his associates in rebellion against God are termed the rulers of the darkness of this world. Satan is termed by the apostle here, the god of this world, because he makes use of the things of this world, especially of its riches, honours, pleasures, and various vanities, to obtain and establish his dominion over a great part of mankind, even over all that continue under the power of unbelief and sin. Hath blinded — Not only veiled; the minds of them that believe not — So that they have no true apprehension nor discernment of spiritual things: which indeed none can savingly know, nor duly appreciate, but by the teaching of the Spirit of God, (1 Corinthians 2:11,) even the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, by which alone the eyes of our understanding can be enlightened, Ephesians 1:17-18 : lest the light Τον φωτισμον, the illumination; of the glorious gospel of Christ, should shine — Or beam forth, as the apostles expression signifies; upon them — By our ministry. Illumination is properly the reflection, or propagation of light, from those who are already enlightened, to others; and the apostle appears to allude to the splendour of God’s majesty shining from Moses’s face on the people. Who is the image of God — This appellation is frequently given to Christ, who is so called, because, in his complete person, he was in such a sense God manifest in the flesh, and so exactly exhibited the Father to mankind, that they who saw him, saw the Father, as far as he could be seen on earth. See notes on John 14:7-11. Hence he is termed, (Hebrews 1:3,) the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person. Though the devil is said here to blind the minds of unbelievers, no person understands the apostle to mean that he hath the power of blinding men’s minds directly; far less that he hath the power of blinding them forcibly; for in that case, who could remain unblinded? But he means, that Satan blinds unbelievers, by suggesting those thoughts and imaginations, and exciting those lusts and passions, by which such as believe not are easily persuaded to shut their eyes against the light of the gospel, because it condemns their vicious practices. Thus our Lord testifies that men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. The ignorance, therefore, of unbelievers does not proceed from the obscurity of the gospel, but from their own lusts and passions, which, by the grace of God, not withheld from them, (for it visits all, Titus 2:11-12,) they might resist and mortify, Romans 8:13; but to which they voluntarily, wickedly, and generally in opposition to their better judgment, yield themselves willing servants.4:1-7 The best of men would faint, if they did not receive mercy from God. And that mercy which has helped us out, and helped us on, hitherto, we may rely upon to help us even to the end. The apostles had no base and wicked designs, covered with fair and specious pretences. They did not try to make their ministry serve a turn. Sincerity or uprightness will keep the favourable opinion of wise and good men. Christ by his gospel makes a glorious discovery to the minds of men. But the design of the devil is, to keep men in ignorance; and when he cannot keep the light of the gospel of Christ out of the world, he spares no pains to keep men from the gospel, or to set them against it. The rejection of the gospel is here traced to the wilful blindness and wickedness of the human heart. Self was not the matter or the end of the apostles' preaching; they preached Christ as Jesus, the Saviour and Deliverer, who saves to the uttermost all that come to God through him. Ministers are servants to the souls of men; they must avoid becoming servants to the humours or the lusts of men. It is pleasant to behold the sun in the firmament; but it is more pleasant and profitable for the gospel to shine in the heart. As light was the beginning of the first creation; so, in the new creation, the light of the Spirit is his first work upon the soul. The treasure of gospel light and grace is put into earthen vessels. The ministers of the gospel are subject to the same passions and weaknesses as other men. God could have sent angels to make known the glorious doctrine of the gospel, or could have sent the most admired sons of men to teach the nations, but he chose humbler, weaker vessels, that his power might be more glorified in upholding them, and in the blessed change wrought by their ministry.But if our gospel be hid - Paul here calls it his gospel, because it was that which he preached, or the message which he bore; see note, Romans 16:25. The sense here is, "if the gospel which I preach is not understood; if its meaning is obscure or hidden; if its glory is not seen." It is "implied" here, that to many the beauty and glory of the gospel was not perceived. This was undeniable, notwithstanding the plainness and fullness with which its truths were made known. The "object" of Paul here is, to state that this fact was not to be traced to any lack of clearness in the gospel itself, but to other causes, and thus probably to meet an objection which might be made to his argument about the clearness and fullness of the revelation in the gospel. In the language which Paul uses here, there is undoubted allusion to what he had said respecting Moses, who put a veil upon his face, 2 Corinthians 3:13. He had hid, or concealed his face, as emblematic of the nature of his institutions (note, 2 Corinthians 3:14); and here Paul says that it was not to be denied that the gospel was "veiled" also to some. But it was not from the nature of the gospel. It was not because God had purposely concealed its meaning. It was not from any lack of clearness in itself. It was to be traced to other causes.

It is hid to them that are lost - On the meaning of the word rendered here as "lost;" see the note, 2 Corinthians 2:15, rendered there as "perish." It is hid among them who are about to perish; who are perishing (ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις en tois apollumenois); those who deserve to perish. It is concealed only among that class who may be designated as the perishing, or as the lost. Grotins explains this, "those who deserve to perish, who foster their vices, and will not see the truth which condemns those vices." And he adds, that this might very well be, for, "however conspicuous the gospel was in itself, yet like the sun it would not be visible to the blind." The cause was not in the gospel, but in themselves. This verse teaches, therefore:

(1) That the beauty of the gospel may be hidden from many of the human family. This is a matter of simple fact. There are thousands and million to whom it is preached who see no beauty in it, and who regard it as foolishness.

(2) that there is a class of people who may be called, even now, "the lost." They are lost to virtue, to piety, to happiness, to hope. They deserve to perish; and they are hastening to merited ruin. This class in the time of Paul was large; and it is large now. It is composed of those to whom the gospel is hidden, or to whom it appears to be veiled, and who see no beauty in it. It is made up indeed of all the profane, polluted, and vile; but their "characteristic" feature is, that the gospel is hidden from them, and that they see no beauty and glory in it.

(3) this is not the fault of the gospel. It is not the fault of the sun when people shut their eyes and will not see it. It is not the fault of a running stream, or a bubbling fountain, if people will not drink of it, but rather choose to die of thirst. The gospel does not obscure and conceal its own glory anymore than the sun does. It is in itself a clear and full revelation of God and his grace; and that glory is adapted to shed light upon the benighted minds of people.

3. But if—Yea, even if (as I grant is the case).

hid—rather (in reference to 2Co 3:13-18), "veiled." "Hid" (Greek, Col 3:3) is said of that withdrawn from view altogether. "Veiled," of a thing within reach of the eye, but covered over so as not to be seen. So it was in the case of Moses' face.

to them—in the case only of them: for in itself the Gospel is quite plain.

that are lost—rather, "that are perishing" (1Co 1:18). So the same cloud that was "light" to the people of God, was "darkness" to the Egyptian foes of God (Ex 14:20).

The apostle calls the gospel his gospel, because of his instrumentality in the promoting and publishing of it. His meaning is: If the doctrine of the gospel, which I am an instrument to preach, be hidden, so as there yet be any souls that do not understand, receive, and believe it, the fault is not in the word we preach, nor yet in our preaching of it, (which hath been in all simplicity and plainness, without craftiness or deceit), but in themselves, who favour and indulge their lusts to that degree, as that they deserve to be lost, or are at present in their sinful state; in which sense all men are in the parables compared to the lost sheep, or lost goats; and Christ is said to have come to seek and to save those that are lost. Men, mad upon their lusts, may not understand the doctrine of the gospel which we preach; but others understand and believe it. I had rather understand the term lost in this sense, than as expressing reprobates; for it seemeth something harsh to make this phrase to signify that God had no more in Corinth at this time that belonged to the election of grace, than those that were already converted; or that all those that were at this time hypocrites in this famous church, were such as perished eternally. Yet the words of the next verse seem rather to favour their notion, who by lost here understand reprobates. But if our Gospel be hid,.... When the Gospel is called ours, the meaning is, not that ministers are the authors or subject of it; but it is so styled, because they are intrusted with it; it is preached by them; and is in opposition to another Gospel, the Gospel of the false apostles. Here an objection is obviated, which the apostle saw would be made against the clearness and perspicuity of the Gospel, asserted by him in the foregoing chapter; taken from some persons, who though they sat under the ministry of the word, were not enlightened by it, saw no glory nor excellency in it, nor were their minds in the least affected with it: to which he replies, saying, "if our Gospel be hid",

it is hid to them that are lost. But why should the apostle put an if upon its being hid? is it not hid? is it not "the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom?" To which may be answered, that it was hid in God from the beginning of the world; and in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and in the ceremonial law, which contained types and shadows of many things in it; and was hid from whole nations, and for whole ages formerly: but now God has made known the mystery of his will; Christ is manifest in the flesh; the ceremonial law is done away, and the Gospel is preached to Jews and Gentiles; so that it is hid to none, as to the outward ministration of it: and if the internal, spiritual, and saving knowledge and experience of it is hid from any, eventually and finally, it is "to them that are lost": all mankind are in a lost and perishing condition through sin; though some will not be lost eternally, whom God has chosen, Christ has redeemed, and who by the Spirit are brought savingly to believe in Christ; but there are others, that will be lost for ever; and to these the Gospel is hid; and they are such, who are left to the native blindness of their minds, and are given up to a reprobate mind, to judicial darkness, and are suffered to be under the influence of the prince of darkness, as in the following verse; now such instances are no more an objection to the clearness and perspicuity of the Gospel, and the ministration of it, than men born blind, who never could, nor never will see light, are to the bright and clear shining of the sun noon day.

{2} But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

(2) An objection: many hear the Gospel, and yet are no more enlightened by it than by the preaching of the Law. He answers, The fault is in the men themselves, whose eyes Satan plucks out, who rules in this world. And yet nonetheless he and his associates set forth the most clear light of the Gospel to be seen and beheld, seeing that Christ only whom they preach, is he in whom God will be known, and as it were seen.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 4:3. Against the assertion just made, ἀλλὰ τῇ φανερώσει τῆς ἀληθείαςθεοῦ, it might be objected: “and yet your gospel is κεκαλυμμένον! is by so many not at all known as the ἀλήθεια!” Wherefore Paul continues, “even if that were the case, still it is so only with regard to the ἀπολλύμενοι whom the devil has blinded, and hence cannot be urged against the former assertion.”

εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔστι κεκαλ.] In this admission the placing of ἔστι before κεκαλ. conveys the meaning: but if even it is the case that, etc. The figurative κεκαλ. was suggested by the still fresh remembrance of 2 Corinthians 3:14.

τὸ εὐαγγ. ἡμῶν] the gospel preached by us, the Pauline gospel.

ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμ.] i.e. among those who (for certain) are liable to eternal ἀπώλεια. See on 2 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 1:18. ἐν is not nota dativi (Flatt), nor yet quod attinet ad (Bengel), but inter, in their circle. Rückert takes it: in their hearts, on account of 2 Corinthians 3:15. So also Osiander. But against the analogy of 2 Corinthians 2:15; besides, according to 2 Corinthians 3:15, it is the heart of the ἀπολλύμενοι, and not the gospel, which must be represented as the veiled subject. It has not at all reached the hearts of the persons concerned.2 Corinthians 4:3. εἰ δὲ καὶ κ.τ.λ.: but even if our gospel (sc., the good news we preach; see reff.) is veiled (returning again to the metaphor of 2 Corinthians 3:12-18), it is veiled in them, that are perishing; i.e., the fault lies with the hearers, not with the preacher (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:12, and see Romans 1:28). Blass (Gram. of N.T. Greek, § 41, 2) points out that ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις is almost equivalent to “for them that are perishing” (cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 8:1 and 1 Corinthians 14:11 for a like use of ἐν).3. But if our gospel be hid] Literally, But if our gospel, too, be hidden or veiled (see last chapter). The Apostle here refers to an objection: “You say that a vail lay upon the hearts of the Jews when Moses was read. But your Gospel is not clear and evident to all.” For his answer see next note.

it is hid to them that are lost] Literally, is hidden among the perishing. Our Gospel is hid, too, in some cases, I grant. But it is hid only to perishing souls, who will not lay hold on the only hope of deliverance. Cf. John 3:18; Acts 4:12. This is not the language of logic, but of deep and strong conviction.2 Corinthians 4:3. Εὶ δέ, but if) precisely the same as in the time of Moses.—καὶ ἕστι, even is) even strengthens the force of the present tense in is.—τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, the Gospel) which is quite plain in itself.—ἐν, in) so far as it concerns them, that perish; so, ἐν ἐμοὶ βάρβαρος, as far as I am concerned, a barbarian, 1 Corinthians 14:11.—ἐν τοῖς, in the case of them) not in itself.—ἀπολλυμένοις, that perish) 1 Corinthians 1:18.Verse 3. - But if our gospel be hid. This is added to avoid the semblance of a contradiction. He has spoken of "manifestation of the truth," and yet has spoken of all Jews as unable to see it because they will not remove from their hearts the veil which hides it from them. How can "a veiled gospel" be a "manifested truth"? The answer is that the gospel is bright, but the eyes that should gaze on it are wilfully closed. Similarly in 2 Corinthians 2:16, he has compared the gospel to a fragrance of life, yet to the doomed captives - "to the perishing" - it comes "like a waft from the charnel house." A better rendering would be, But even if our gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1; Romans 2:16) is a veiled one. it is veiled only among the perishing (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:18). Be hid; rather, has been veiled. To them that are lost; rather, to the perishing (see note on 2 Corinthians 2:15). Hid (κεκαλυμμένον)

Rev., veiled, in accordance with the imagery of ch. 3.

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