2 Corinthians 4:10
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.…
It has been said that "affliction" is the one predominant word in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. And perhaps no other Epistle is so charged with wounded personal feeling and reminiscences of varied suffering. This may be explained by the circumstances under which this letter was written. Perhaps we do not sufficiently realize how much personal suffering, from disease and bodily infirmity, the apostle had to endure; and yet this is evidently the key to many of his intense expressions. Either from constitutional weakness, or in consequence of his many exposures, he had upon him some painful and humiliating form of disease, which was incurable; and this his enemies made the occasion of scorn and insult, until they wounded him to the very quick, and drove him to the throne of grace, seeking, with threefold importunity, to have the "thorn in the flesh" removed. When we apprehend this, we begin to feel the meaning of our text; he was "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus:" pain, disease, suffering - like a daily dying - brought on him in the fulfilment of his ministry for the Lord Jesus. But St. Paul never dwelt long on the merely sad side of things, and so he goes on to say - Even if our life on earth be like the dying of the Lord Jesus, this also is true, through our very suffering and dying, the life of Jesus is made manifest in our mortal flesh and earthly spheres. "St. Paul felt that every true human soul must repeat Christ's existence. He could bear to look on his decay; it was but the passing of the human; and, meantime, there was ever going on within him the strengthening of the Divine. Pain was sacred, since Christ also had suffered. And life became grand when viewed as a repetition of the life of Christ."
I. ST. PAUL'S CONCEPTION OF OUR LORD'S LIFE. It had been a daily dying which nevertheless showed up himself, in the glory of his character and spirit. The dying manifested to men the life that was in him. St. Paul had, probably, never seen Christ in the flesh, but it was given to him, by his fellowship of suffering, to understand better than all the rest what a suffering Saviour Jesus was. It is St. Paul who writes so much about the cross of the Lord Jesus. He dwells oftener than any other early teacher upon our Lord's death, but when you apprehend his meaning, you find that he looked upon Christ's whole life as a dying. He saw that Jesus was every day dying to self, dying with shame, pain, exhaustion, conflict, and agony. And you do not read Christ's life aright unless you can see in it what St. Paul saw., even humiliation, limitation, suffering, burdening it every day, But that was not all St, Paul's conception of Christ. In that, standing alone, he could have found no rest, no inspiration. He saw also this, that our Lord's sufferings were just the dark background that threw out so perfectly, with such well-defined lines and graceful forms, his noble spirit, his Divine character, his sublime sonship, his blessed life. And so he could speak calmly, even triumphantly, of the suffering Saviour, and glory in the dying of the Lord Jesus, through which the life of Jesus found its highest and best manifestations. How much a picture depends upon its background! Fill the front with the most exquisite figures or landscape, still all the tone and character and impression of the figure will depend upon its background. You may so paint as to leave the forms and figures indistinct and uncertain. You may throw out into prominence the special thought or truth which you seek to embody in form; your picture may be calm morning, hot noonday, flushed evening, tender twilight, or gathering night, according to your background. St. Paul felt what shadows of suffering and woe lay all behind that life of his Lord; but they helped him to see the glory of Christ himself; they seemed to bring out so clearly the Divine and blessed life that was in him. Illustrate by the language of Isaiah 53. and Philippians 2:5-11. Also from the scenes of Gethsemane and Calvary. The Captain of our salvation was made perfect, to our view, through suffering.
II. ST. PAUL'S CONCEPTION OF HIS OWN LIFE. He could wish nothing better for himself than that what was true of Christ might be true of him, and that his sufferings, too, might show up his character and help to make him a blessing and a power for good. St. Paul never could glory in mere suffering. Suffering is grievance and loss. But if they could be like Christ's sufferings, not merely borne for him, and in the doing of his work, but actually like his, and ordained by God to be the same to him, and to others through him, as Jesus' sufferings did! The apostle felt he could glory in that. And this is the view of suffering that we also need to gain. Our troubles and sorrows are as the dying of the Lord Jesus. Once laying hold of this, we find that we have one thing to be supremely anxious about - it is that our dying shall show up Christ's life in us, shall make the Christly virtues and graces manifest in our mortal flesh. We have our sorrows. Does our character shine out clearly on the darkness of them? Do men see and feel our "whiteness" by the contrast of them? Are we beautiful with a Divine patience, and fragrant with a Divine sweetness, in the very darkness? On the background of our pain do men see our submission? In the hour of our disappointment do we show up to men our trust in God? When heart and flesh fail does the sanctifying Spirit of Christ make our very faces glow with the heavenly light? Is it true of us that the "life of Jesus is manifested in our mortal flesh"? - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.