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
To help us endure hardship, Paul gives us a valuable mindset when he says our suffering “is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” To see our afflictions as light (Matthew 11:30), we must recognize the value of our calling. We would do well to consider its benefits often. As Paul indicates, the understanding that there is “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” is a necessary component to seeing our trials in this life in comparison as a light affliction, a recognition that enables one to endure to the end.
Therefore, it is vital to know that the price we pay now is minuscule compared to the reward that awaits us. Note the power of that vision:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Having this vision in their lives as a daily reality enabled the heroes of faith to endure to the end. In modern jargon, they did a cost/benefit analysis and concluded that the benefits made the costs insignificant. Christ and Paul made the same analysis, concluding that their burdens and afflictions were light costs compared to what the benefits of eternity held for them.
In Romans 8:18, even with the weight of his trials, Paul again emphasizes that they are infinitesimal costs, so trivial that they are insignificant compared to the mindboggling benefits that await us: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
In the King James Version, the first part of Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” For “perish” a better translation is that they “cast off restraint.” Without a vision they lack restraint, leading to disobedience. This results in a people who will not endure to the end, whose fate, then, is to perish. Without a vision of the future that is as tangible to us as the present, we will walk by sight, only seeing the now, rather than by faith seeing as real a true vision of the future. Without that vision, we risk trading the future for the now (Galatians 6:9; II Thessalonians 2:15), a poor bargain indeed.
One source, God, produces the commonality that makes us a spiritual Family. He engineered and created it. He is the personality who guides, directs, and accomplishes this unity through His Holy Spirit. All of His teaching, His truth, is being funneled from the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ, and out to the church by means of the Holy Spirit.
We hold a critical position in all of this because we have the power to accept or reject His truth, and the acceptance or rejection of the truth of God determines if we will have greater and better fellowship. We will either become a more unified part of His Family or less. Our choice is the critical factor.
God is faithful. He has done what He has done. He has initiated the contact, making the bridging of the gap possible through Jesus Christ. He has given us the mechanism by which a relationship can be accomplished, and now the critical part is in our hands: yielding to the truth that He gives to us. If we yield, then God's creative efforts in us are not going to be frustrated.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 2 Corinthians 4:17: