Inward Renewal and Outward Decay
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.…

The contrast here is not that which the apostle draws elsewhere between the flesh and the spirit, or the old man and the new. That is a moral distinction. But this is between the physical and the spiritual in man, the outward and palpable on the one hand, the inward and impalpable on the other. These are intimately connected. They have a constant sympathy. An aching body jades the mind; an aching mind jades the body. A healthy body invigorates the mind; a cheerful mind sustains the body. Each affects and is affected by the other. Yet there is sometimes witnessed a glorious mastery over outward disadvantages by the force of the inward man. The heroic mind is firm, even when the physical frame is shattered. And nothing is so productive of this heroism as faith. They who have "the same spirit of faith" as was in Paul "faint not."

I. OF INWARD RENEWAL. The case in view is that of a regenerate man. It is assumed that spiritual life has been received. And now it is shown that "the washing of regeneration" is followed by "the renewing of the Holy Ghost." Good men are liable to fits of inward fainting, languor, and emotional deadness, when they are in great danger of being overcome by temptation. Therefore they need to pray often for a stronger life. "Renew a right spirit within me."

1. Wherein is the inner man renewed? In righteousness and holiness of truth" (Ephesians 4:24). And so in all spiritual strength - the power of resistance to sin, of self-denial, of patience, and of generous charitable action.

2. Whereby is the inner man renewed? By the power of God; by the energy of the Holy Ghost. It is he who, with the Word of truth, makes vivid demonstration of righteousness to the conscience, strengthens holy purpose in the will, and gives fervour to devout affections in the breast,

3. How often is the inner man renewed? "Day by day." Not that all days are alike. As a nation has its special dates in history, days by which its future has been moulded, on which its decisive battles were fought or its independence was won, so may a Christian man have his dates more or less clearly marked, outstanding and precious days by which his spiritual history has been determined, on which his fight of faith was well fought, and his liberty in Christ became established and sure. But while we recognize special days or eras of spiritual progress, we are disposed to say that in grace, as in nature, the ordinary is, after all, more expressive of Divine goodness than the extraordinary, and more essential to our welfare. The daily revival and maintenance of spiritual life is a better and greater thing than any occasional and exceptional blessing. "He holdeth our souls in life." The strength, moral as well as physical, which is daily expended is also daily restored. John Bunyan makes the Christian pilgrim see a man secretly feeding with oil a fire on which another cast water, and the fire burned "hotter and hotter." The Interpreter explained it of Christ's secret and constant renewal of the sacred fire in "the souls of his people."

II. OF THE RELATION WHICH INWARD RENEWAL MAY BEAR TO OUTWARD DECAY. St. Paul was conscious of two changes - an outward descent to feebleness and earth, and an inward ascent to firmer strength and higher vitality.

1. The inward defies the outward. "Though our outward," etc. The constancy of the believing heart is all the more triumphant because of the feeble or decaying frame. What might of spirit has shown itself in tender women under acute suffering! What force of character and splendour of patience in men who scarcely had a day without bodily pain!

2. The inward renewal is often helped forward by the outward decay. It pleases God to further the spiritual life of his children in ways that are hard to flesh and blood. Indeed, we seldom see a keen relish for the things of the Spirit of God, a weaned spirit, a holy fervour - while the outward man is quite at ease and commands every gratification. There is need of trouble in the outer sphere to exercise and quicken the inner life. Bengel, near the end of his course, said to a friend, "Illnesses serve to quicken and enlarge us in spirit after we have been dwindling. When our spiritual lamp burns dimly, it is often because its wick needs retrenching; and retrenchments are made from time to time upon the outward man by sickness and affliction." Thus it is not merely "though," but also sometimes "because," our outward man perishes that our inward man is renewed. What a sad case is theirs whose outward man decays while there is no spiritual life in them! Time passes, health fails, life ebbs away, and there is nothing to put against it. The outward man perishes and the inward man perishes too. But why will ye die? The Lord wishes not that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. - F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

WEB: Therefore we don't faint, but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.

Heavy Affliction Made Light
Top of Page
Top of Page