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2 Corinthians 4:5

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For we preach not ourselves - We neither proclaim our own wisdom nor power; we have nothing but what we have received; we do not wish to establish our own authority, nor to procure our own emolument.

But Christ Jesus the Lord - We proclaim the author of this glorious Gospel as Christ, ὁ Χριστος, the same as המשיח hammashiach, the Messiah, the Anointed One; him of whom the prophets wrote; and who is the expectation, as he is the glory, of Israel, We proclaim him as Jesus יהושע Yehoshua, the Savior and Deliverer, who saves men from their sins. See Matthew 1:21. And we proclaim Jesus of Nazareth to be the long-expected Messiah; and that there will be none other. And farther we proclaim this Jesus the Messiah to be the Lord, ὁ Κυριος, the great Ruler who has all power in heaven and earth; who made and governs the world; and who can save to the uttermost all that come to God through him. Such was the Redeemer preached by St. Paul.

And ourselves your servants - Labouring as fervently and as faithfully for your eternal interests as your most trusty slaves can do for your secular welfare. And we do this for Christ's sake; for although we by our labor show ourselves to be your servants, yea, your slaves, δουλους, yet it is a voluntary service; and we are neither employed by you nor receive our wages from you. We belong to Jesus; and are your servants on his account, and by his order.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For we preach not ourselves - The connection here is not very apparent, and the design of this verse has been variously understood. The connection seems to me to be this. Paul gives here a reason for what he had said in the previous parts of the Epistle respecting his conduct in the ministry. He had said that his course had been open, and pure, and free from all dishonest arts and tricks, and that he had not corrupted the Word of God, or resorted to any artifice to accomplish his designs; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:1-2. The “reason” of this he here says is, that he had not preached himself, or sought to advance his own interest. He regarded himself as sent to make known a Saviour; himself as bound by all means to promote his cause, and to imitate him. Other people - the false teachers, and the cunning priests of the pagan religion - sought to advance their own interest, and to perpetuate a system of delusion that would be profitable to themselves; and they therefore resorted to all arts, and stratagems, and cunning devices to perpetuate their authority, and extend their influence. But the fact that Paul and his associates went forth to make known the Lord Jesus, was a reason why they avoided all such dishonest arts and artifices. “We are merely the “ambassadors” of another. We are not “principals” in this business, and do not despatch it as a business of our own, but we transact it as the “agents” for another, that is, for the Lord Jesus, and we feel ourselves bound, therefore, to do it as he would have done it himself; and as he was free from all trick, and dishonest art, we feel bound to be also.” This seems to me to be the design of this passage. Ministers may be said to preach themselves in the following ways:

(1) When their preaching has a primary reference to their own interest; and when they engage in it to advance their reputation, or to secure in some way their own advantage. When they aim at exalting their authority, extending their influence, or in any way promoting their own welfare.

(2) when they proclaim their own opinions and not the gospel of Christ; when they derive their doctrines from their own reasonings, and not from the Bible.

(3) when they put themselves forward; speak much of themselves; refer often to themselves; are vain of their powers of reasoning, of their eloquence, and of their learning, and seek to make these known rather than the simple truths of the gospel. In one word, when self is primary, and the gospel is secondary; when they prostitute the ministry to gain popularity; to live a life of ease; to be respected; to obtain a livelihood: to gain influence; to rule over a people; and to make the preaching of the gospel merely an occasion of advancing themselves in the world. Such a plan, it is implied here, would lead to dishonest arts and devices, and to trick and stratagem to accomplish the end in view. And it is implied here, also, that to avoid all such tricks and arts the true way is not to preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ.

But Christ Jesus the Lord - This Paul states to be the only purpose of the ministry. It is so far the sole design of the ministry that had it not been to make known the Lord Jesus, it would never have been established; and whatever other objects are secured by its appointment, and whatever other truths are to be illustrated and enforced by the ministry, yet, if this is not the primary subject, and if every other object is not made subservient to this, the design of the ministry is not secured. The word “Christ” properly means the anointed that is, the Messiah, the anointed of God for this great office (see the note, Matthew 1:1); but it is used in the New Testament as a proper name, the name that was appropriate to “Jesus.” Still it may be used with a reference to the fact of the Messiahship, and not merely as a proper name, and in this place it may mean that they preached Jesus as the Messiah, or the Christ and defended his claims to that high appointment. The word “Lord” also is used to designate him Mark 11:3; John 20:25; and when it stands by itself in the New Testament, it denotes the Lord Jesus (note, Acts 1:24); but it properly denotes one who has rule or authority, or proprietorship; and it is used here not merely as a part of the appropriate title of the Saviour, but with reference to the fact that he had the supreme headship, or lordship over the church and the world. This important passage, therefore, means, that they made it their sole business to make known Jesus the Messiah, or the Christ, as the supreme head and Lord of people that is, to set forth the Messiahship and the lordship of Jesus of Nazareth appointed to these high offices by God. To do this, or to preach Jesus Christ the Lord, implies the following things:

(1) To prove that he is the Messiah so often predicted in the Old Testament, and so long expected by the Jewish people. To do this was a very vital part of the work of the ministry in the time of the apostles, and was essential to their success in all their attempts to convert the Jews; and to do this will be no less important in all attempts to bring the Jews now or in future times to the knowledge of the truth. No man can be successful among them who is not able to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. It is not indeed so vital and leading a point now in reference to those to whom the ministers of the gospel usually preach; and it is probable that the importance of this argument is by many overlooked, and that it is not urged as it should be by those who “preach Christ Jesus the Lord.” It involves the whole argument for the truth of Christianity. It leads to all the demonstrations that this religion is from God; and the establishment of the proposition that Jesus is the Messiah, is one of the most direct and certain ways of proving that his religion is from heaven. Because:

(a)It contains the argument from the fulfillment of the prophecies - one of the main evidences of the truth of revelation; and,

(b)It involves an examination of all the evidences that Jesus gave that he was the Messiah sent from God, and of course an examination of all the miracles that he performed in attestation of his divine mission.

The first object of a preacher, therefore, is to demonstrate that Jesus is sent from God in accordance with the predictions of the prophets.

(2) to proclaim the truths that he taught. To make known his sentiments, and his doctrines, and not our own. This includes, of course, all that he taught respecting God, and respecting man; all that he taught respecting his own nature, and the design of his coming; all that he taught respecting the character of the human heart, and about human obligation and duty; all that he taught respecting death, the judgment, and eternity - respecting an eternal heaven, and an eternal hell. To explain, enforce, and vindicate his doctrines, is one great design of the ministry; and were there nothing else, this would be a field sufficiently ample to employ the life; sufficiently glorious to employ the best talents of man. The minister of the gospel is to teach the sentiments and doctrines of Jesus Christ, in contradistinction from all his own sentiments, and from all the doctrines of mere philosophy. He is not to teach science, or mere morals, but he is to proclaim and defend the doctrines of the Redeemer.

(3) he is to make known the facts of the Saviour‘s life. He is to show how he lived - to hold up his example in all the trying circumstances in which he was placed. For he came to show by his life what the Law required; and to show how people should live. And it is the office of the Christian ministry, or a part of their work in preaching “Christ Jesus the Lord,” to show how he lived, and to set forth his self-denial, his meekness, his purity, his blameless life, his spirit of prayer, his submission to the divine will, his patience in suffering, his forgiveness of his enemies, his tenderness to the afflicted, the weak, and the tempted; and the manner of his death. Were “this” all, it would be enough to employ the whole of a minister‘s life, and to command the best talents of the world. For he was the only perfectly pure model; and his example is to be followed by all his people, and his example is designed to exert a deep and wide influence on the world. Piety flourishes just in proportion as the pure example of Jesus Christ is kept before a people; and the world is made happier and better just as that example is kept constantly in view. To the frivolous and the thoughtless, the ministers of the gospel are to show how serious and calm was the Redeemer; to the worldly-minded, to show trow he lived above the world; to the avaricious, how benevolent he was; to the profane and licentious, how pure he was; to the tempted, how he endured temptation; to the afflicted, how patient and resigned; to the dying, how he died: to all, to show how holy, and heavenly-minded, and prayerful, and pure he was; in order that they may be won to the same purity, and be prepared to dwell with him in his kingdom.

(4) to set forth the design of his death. To show why he came to die; and what was the great object to be effected by his sufferings and death. To exhibit, therefore, the sorrows of his life; to describe his many trials; to dwell upon his sufferings in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross. To show why he died, and what was to be the influence of his death on the destiny of man. To Show how it makes an atonement for sin; how it reconciles God to man; how it is made efficacious in the justification and the sanctification of the sinner. And were there nothing else, this would be sufficient to employ all the time, and the best talents in the ministry. For the salvation of the soul depends on the proper exhibition of the design of the death of the Redeemer. There is no salvation but through his blood; and hence, the nature and design of his atoning sacrifice is to be exhibited to every man, and the offers of mercy through that death to be pressed upon the attention of every sinner.

(5) to set forth the truth and the design of his resurrection. To prove that he rose from the dead, and that he ascended to heaven; and to show the influence of his resurrection on our hopes and destiny. The whole structure of Christianity is dependent on making out the fact that he rose; and if he rose, all the difficulties in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead are removed at once, and his people will also rise. The influence of that fact, therefore, on our hopes and on our prospects for eternity, is to be shown by the ministry of the gospel; and were there nothing else, this would be ample to command all the time, and the best talents of the ministry.

(6) to proclaim him as “Lord.” This is expressly specified in the passage before us. “For we preach Christ Jesus the Lord;” we proclaim him as the Lord. That is, he is to be preached as having dominion over the conscience; as the Supreme Ruler in his Church; as above all councils, and synods, and conferences, and all human authority; as having a right to legislate for his people; a right to prescribe their mode of worship; a right to define and determine the doctrines which they shall believe. He is to be proclaimed also as ruling over all, and as exalted in his mediatorial character over all worlds, and as having all things put beneath his feet; Psalm 2:6; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 28:18; John 17:2; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 2:8.

And ourselves your servants … - So far as we make any mention of ourselves, it is to declare that we are your servants, and that we are bound to promote your welfare in the cause and for the sake of the Redeemer. That is, they were their servants in all things in which they could advance the interests of the Redeemer‘s kingdom among them. The doctrine is, that they regarded themselves as under obligation not to seek their own interest, or to build up their own reputation and cause, but to seek the welfare of the church; and promote its interests, as a servant does that of his master. They should not seek to lord it over God‘s heritage, and to claim supreme and independent authority. They were not masters but servants. The church at large was the master, and they were its servants. This implies the following things:

(1) That the “time” of ministers belongs to the church, and should be employed in its welfare. It is not their own; and it is not to be employed in farming, or in speculating, or in doing business, or in idleness, or in lounging, or in unprofitable visiting, or in mere science, or in reading or making books that will not advance the interests of the church. The time of the ministry is not for ease, or ambition, or self-indulgence, but is to promote the interests of the body of Christ. So Paul felt, and so he lived.

(2) their “talents” belong to the church. All their original talents, and all that they can acquire, should be honestly devoted to the welfare of the church of the Redeemer.

(3) their best efforts and plans, the avails of their best thoughts and purposes, belong to the church, and should be honestly devoted to it. Their strength and vigor, and influence should be devoted to it, as the vigor, and strength, and talent, and skill of a servant belong to the master; see Psalm 137:5-6. The language of the ministry, as of every Christian, should be:

I love thy church, O God,

Her walls before thee stand,

Dear as the apple of thine eye,

And graven on thy hand,

If e‘er to bless thy sons.

My voice or hands deny,

These hands let useful skill forsake,

This voice in silence die.

If e‘er my heart forget.

Her welfare or her wo,

Let every joy this heart forsake,

And every grief o‘erflow.

For her my tears shall fall,

For her my prayers ascend,

To her my cares and toils be given,

Until toils and cares shall end.

And it implies:

(4) That they are the servants of the church in time of trial, temptation, and affliction. They are to devote themselves to the comfort of the afflicted. They are to be the guide to the perplexed. They are to aid the tempted. They are to comfort those that mourn, and they are to sustain and console the dying. They are to regard themselves as the servants of the church to accomplish these great objects; and are to be willing to deny themselves, and to take up their cross, and to consecrate their time to the advancement of these great interests. And they are, in all respects, to devote their time, and talents, and influence to the welfare of the church, with as much single-mindedness as the servant is to seek the interest of his master. It was in this way eminently that Paul was favored with the success with which God blessed him in the ministry; and so every minister will be successful, just in proportion to the single-mindedness with which he devotes himself to the work of preaching Jesus Christ the Lord.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The best of men would faint, if they did not receive mercy from God. And that mercy which has helped us out, and helped us on, hitherto, we may rely upon to help us even to the end. The apostles had no base and wicked designs, covered with fair and specious pretences. They did not try to make their ministry serve a turn. Sincerity or uprightness will keep the favourable opinion of wise and good men. Christ by his gospel makes a glorious discovery to the minds of men. But the design of the devil is, to keep men in ignorance; and when he cannot keep the light of the gospel of Christ out of the world, he spares no pains to keep men from the gospel, or to set them against it. The rejection of the gospel is here traced to the wilful blindness and wickedness of the human heart. Self was not the matter or the end of the apostles' preaching; they preached Christ as Jesus, the Saviour and Deliverer, who saves to the uttermost all that come to God through him. Ministers are servants to the souls of men; they must avoid becoming servants to the humours or the lusts of men. It is pleasant to behold the sun in the firmament; but it is more pleasant and profitable for the gospel to shine in the heart. As light was the beginning of the first creation; so, in the new creation, the light of the Spirit is his first work upon the soul. The treasure of gospel light and grace is put into earthen vessels. The ministers of the gospel are subject to the same passions and weaknesses as other men. God could have sent angels to make known the glorious doctrine of the gospel, or could have sent the most admired sons of men to teach the nations, but he chose humbler, weaker vessels, that his power might be more glorified in upholding them, and in the blessed change wrought by their ministry.
Ellen G. White
The Voice in Speech and Song, 325.2

The Third Angel's Message—The present truth, the special message given to our world, even the third angel's message, comprehends a vast field, containing heavenly treasures. No one can be excusable who says, “I will no longer have anything to do with these special messages; I will preach Christ.” No one can preach Christ, and present the truth as it is in Jesus, unless he presents the truths that are to come before the people at the present time, when such important developments are taking place.—Manuscript 33, 1897. VSS 325.2

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 476-7

What are we to do, then?—Let political questions alone. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” What can there be in common between these parties? There can be no fellowship, no communion. The word fellowship means participation, partnership. God employs the strongest figures to show that there should be no union between worldly parties and those who are seeking the righteousness of Christ. What communion can there be between light and darkness, truth and unrighteousness?—None whatever. Light represents righteousness; darkness, error, sin, unrighteousness. Christians have come out of darkness into the light. They have put on Christ, and they wear the badge of truth and obedience. They are governed by the elevated and holy principles which Christ expressed in His life. But the world is governed by principles of dishonesty and injustice. FE 476.1

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Two parties are here brought to view, and it is shown that there can be no union between them. FE 476.2

Those teachers in the church or in the school who distinguish themselves by their zeal in politics, should be relieved of their work and responsibilities without delay; for the Lord will not co-operate with them. The tithe should not be used to pay any one for speechifying on political questions. Every teacher, minister, or leader in our ranks who is stirred with a desire to ventilate his opinions on political questions, should be converted by a belief in the truth, or give up his work. His influence must tell as a laborer together with God in winning souls to Christ, or his credentials must be taken from him. If he does not change, he will do harm, and only harm. FE 477.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 550

You are very much like Meroz. You are quite diligent when that which you do will bring some advantage to yourself, but there is no motive for special diligence unless you are to be benefited. You are decidedly a lazy man. You can eat your rations regularly, but you have no special love for physical labor. No man can fill his position as a minister unless he is industrious, diligent in business, and faithful in the performance of all the social and public duties of life. God has chosen us, as His servants, to His work, which requires persevering energy. We are not to become pets and shun toil, hardship, and conflicts. 2T 550.1

I was referred to the following words of inspiration: “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 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.” The sufficiency of the apostle was not in himself, but in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, whose gracious influences filled his soul, bringing every thought into subjection and obedience to Christ. His ministry was fruitful. 2T 550.2

The first great commandment is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” On these two commandments the whole interest and duty of moral beings hang. Those who do their duty to others as they would that others should do to them are brought into a position where God can reveal Himself to them. They will be approved of Him. They are made perfect in love, and their labors and prayers will not be in vain. They are continually receiving grace and truth from the Fountainhead, and as freely transmitting to others the divine light and salvation they receive. In them is fulfilled the language of the Scripture: “Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” 2T 550.3

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Ellen G. White
The Story of Redemption, 317

The life of Paul, to its very latest hour, testified to the truth of his words in the second epistle to the Corinthians: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 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.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-10. His sufficiency was not in himself but in the presence and agency of the divine Spirit that filled his soul and brought every thought into subjection to the will of Christ. The fact that his own life exemplified the truth he proclaimed gave convincing power to both his preaching and his deportment. Says the prophet, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3. It was this heaven-born peace, expressed upon the countenance, that won many a soul to the gospel. SR 317.1

The apostle was looking into the great beyond, not with uncertainty or in dread, but with joyful hope and longing expectation. As he stood at the place of martyrdom he saw not the gleaming sword of the executioner or the green earth so soon to receive his blood; he looked up through the calm blue heaven of that summer's day to the throne of the Eternal. His language was, O Lord, Thou art my comfort and my portion. When shall I embrace Thee? When shall I behold Thee for myself, without a dimming veil between? SR 317.2

Paul carried with him through his life on earth the very atmosphere of heaven. All who associated with him felt the influence of his connection with Christ and companionship with angels. Here lies the power of the truth. The unstudied, unconscious influence of a holy life is the most convincing sermon that can be given in favor of Christianity. Argument, even when unanswerable, may provoke only opposition; but a godly example has a power which it is impossible to wholly resist. SR 318.1

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