Monday, January 2, 2012

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Have you ever considered the contrasts in these two verses?  For example, look at this list:

1. "Affliction" versus "Glory"
2. "Light affliction" versus "Weight of glory"
3. "Momentary" versus "Eternal"
4. "But" (merely) versus "Far more exceeding"
5. "The things which are seen" versus "The things which are not seen"
6. "We look not" versus "We look"

Looking at the first one — affliction versus glory — no one but our Lord fully understands verse 17 because only He left the glories of heaven to experience the rebellion of this sin-cursed world.  But in the ages to come we, as redeemed sinners, will share His glory as He shared our shame.  That's why Paul could say, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom 8:18).

On to number 2 — lightness versus weight.  In Galatians 6:2 and 5 we are instructed to "bear one another’s burdens" while we "each one will bear his own load."  The two Greek words for "burden," here, are slightly different in their meanings.  In verse 2 the word is baros, which means "heavy pressure," while in verse 5 the word is phortion, which means "an allotted load, whether heavy or light."  That's why our Lord said: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  But 2 Corinthians 4:17 has to do with a "weight" (baros) of glory" which weighs heavily against the "light affliction" we presently bear.

Regarding the third contrast — momentariness versus eternity — a "moment" is the briefest period of time.  It's not a minute, or even a second, but an instant.  In the Greek, parautika is an adjective, not a noun, but the phrase, "but for a moment," expresses the sense beautifully.  Our afflictions, which now seem so endless, are only momentary when compared to eternity.  But where our present experience is concerned, this is also true, because God has graciously provided that our afflictions come to us only one moment at a time; one moment after another.  We are not asked to bear this moment's suffering for more than this one moment.  The passing of time is a wonderful provision if we look to Him moment by moment.  Remember the words to that old hymn?  I've always liked it.

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear,
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I’m under His care.

Never a heartache, and never a groan,
Never a teardrop and never a moan;
Never a danger but there on the throne,
Moment by moment He thinks of His own.

Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
Jesus my Savior, abides with me still.

When we have attained the glory to come, we will see our former afflictions in the proper perspective — as only "for a moment," or an instant.  And yet these momentary afflictions produce for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison!

Now number 4 — insignificance versus that which is far beyond all comparison.  The word "but" here is not a conjunction (as in, "not this but that").  Rather it means "merely," like in, "but a child," or "but one step."  By using this word, Paul presents afflictions as hardly worth considering.  They are "but for a moment," or "merely momentary."  Yet, in an amazing contrast he says that these afflictions, which last "but for a moment," produce for us "an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison."

This brings us to number 5 — the visible versus the invisible.  It seems weird to say we are not to look at the things that are seen, but rather at the things which are not seen, doesn't it?  In fact, the word "seen" indicates that we do look at them, right?  What Paul is saying here is that "the things which are seen are temporal."  All we see and feel and touch will eventually pass away.  "But the things which are not seen are eternal!"  Love, sincerity, honesty, faithfulness, are all qualities which are unseen (except indirectly) that are eternal.  Long after material things have passed away, they will endure.  (Evil qualities are not included in Paul's discussion.)  Of course other "things" (including persons) we can't yet see are our Lord, first and foremost, but also all those who have gone before us, myriads of angels, the glories of heaven — and a thousand blessings which await us in Christ.  When we are finally with Him, we will be gloriously repaid for simply having been left here on earth when our Lord, Who loved us, so wanted us to be with Him.  In that day we will rejoice that we were left in this sad scene for a while to witness to others about our wonderful Savior Who loved and died for them!

Lastly number 6 — not looking versus looking.  Paul does not say, "We see the things which are not seen"; he says, "We look at the things which are not seen."  This is important.  The Greek root skopeo means "to consider or keep in view."  Paul did not fix his attention upon "the things which are seen" because he knew they would soon pass away.  He "looked," rather, "at the things which are not seen," and rightly so.  Concerning "the things above" Paul says in Colossians 3:1-3: "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

So on what are we to "set our minds?"  This is what makes all the difference in the Christian life.  Occupation with "the things which are seen," with "things that are on earth," is bound to result in spiritual defeat, while occupation with "the things which are not seen," with "the things above" will result in spiritual victory.

Our light affliction, which is but for a moment (but an instant when compared with eternity!) "is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond comparison."  Oh that we could see that this is what the Apostle Paul — who suffered more than any of us — teaches here, for the encouragement and joy of all of us who are suffering.  In sickness or trouble, we can confidently say: "It is all a valuable investment in the glory to come!"

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