In these three verses, the concept of faith continues. For us, most important is "even though the outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." What is Paul describing here? It is the process of dying and renewing. The outer man—the shell, the body—is decaying. What causes it to decay? In the context, it is the trials of life—the perplexities, the afflictions, the persecutions, the solitude.
The outer man is decaying through the trials of life, while the inner man is being strengthened through the same trials. The energy of the body is spent in doing God's will, and it is being transformed into the energy of the spirit. Moses was so energized that Deuteronomy 34:7 says that at the age of 120, his natural forces, his vigor, were not abated.
We are aware of this principle because transformations of energy take place all around us every day. Energy from the sun strikes the earth, and plants transform that energy into leaves, flowers, and fruit. The energy of a river can be transformed into electricity, which in turn is transformed into light and heat—one form of energy turned into another.
Paul is saying that, if we yield to God, though it expends our physical energy, it will be transformed into Christ's likeness. We will become like Christ. The key is to expend our energy in doing the will of God, otherwise the right fruit will not be produced. Even though we have to sacrifice ourselves in doing it—we give up our time, our energy, our resources—what will be produced is spiritual energy. Our physical energy will be transformed into the beauty and power of the spirit until death, and then the resurrection will release the full power of the spirit. All along the way, the fruit of that process will be true conviction because we will know God.
We Christians have this treasure in earthen vessels. If we submit to God's discipline—expending ourselves and yielding to God in the little things day by day—we will see our conviction grow. Then, if people call us into account, we will not be worried because we know absolutely—because we have lived it. This is the kind of faith God wants us to have.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction, Moses and Us
Once fellowship with God is established through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that is not enough. This fellowship must be built upon. For it to continue, it has to be renewed day by day. In other words, sacrificing has to continue. Our relationship with God, then, is not constant because we are not unchanging as God is. Our attitudes fluctuate, our faith increases or decreases, and our love, joy, and peace ebb and flow in their intensity.
Sacrifice, whether it be the sacrifice of Christ or our own personal sacrifice, plays a major role in all of this because these things are not constants within us, so they have to be renewed daily. We can conclude that a sacrifice is then either a means of reconciling or a means of strengthening what already exists—a necessary means of becoming or continuing at-one-ment with God.
We need to add another factor to this. In the Old Testament, the gifts given to God are arranged in the order of their value: An animal is of greater value than a vegetable. Consider Cain and Abel's offering. Abel gave an acceptable one, while Cain gave one that was unacceptable for that circumstance. It might have been acceptable in a different circumstance. Nonetheless, the Bible arranges them in order of priority, as in Leviticus 1-3: A bullock is of greater value than a ram, which is of greater value than a kid or a dove. There is a principle here.
Let us step this up even higher. The offering of a son is of greater value than the offering of any animal. When Abraham offered Isaac, it was far greater in value than the offering of a lamb, ram, or even a bullock. In this case, God would not accept anything less than the very best. It had to be the offering of what was nearest and dearest to Abraham's heart. From this we learn that it is not just the intrinsic value of the gift, but also the relative cost to the giver to which God attaches the greatest importance of all. A widow's two mites can be a greater offering than all of the silver and gold a wealthy man can give.
From this, then, we can extract another principle: The greatest gift of all is self-sacrifice.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 2 Corinthians 4:16: