“We Are Being Renewed Day by Day in Christ”
(2 Corinthians 4:13-18 – Pentecost 3 – June 10, 2018)
2 Corinthians 4:13-18 – And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ:
There is much in this life that can get us down. We look around at the world and often are distressed by all the evil, injustice, and suffering that goes on. We look within and often are distressed by afflictions of body and mind, grief and disappointments. How often do we focus on all that is not right in our daily lives?
Yet the apostle Paul encourages us: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” As believers in Christ, we live in a paradox. On the one hand, outwardly we feel all the common afflictions of mankind in a fallen and dying world. In addition, we feel the tribulations that come because of our connection to Jesus; we bear our cross as we follow Him. Yet at the same time, inwardly God is renewing us day by day in faith and focus; as His new creation in Christ, He is giving us lasting hope and joy in spite of present sufferings. Paul says: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Let us see how “We Are Being Renewed Day by Day in Christ”: 1) Living by faith in the resurrection in Christ, 2) Looking beyond temporal afflictions to eternal glory.
1) Living by faith in the resurrection in Christ
When the apostle Paul wrote “our outward man is perishing,” he felt it personally. As he traveled about preaching salvation in Jesus’ name, how often he came face-to-face with his own weakness and mortality. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 he wrote of how he had suffered beatings, imprisonment, and death often at the hands of enemies. He recounted many hardships for the sake of the Gospel, including difficult and dangerous journeys, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness. And he concluded by saying: “Who is weak, and I am not weak?”
How often, Paul had felt his outward man weak and perishing. But it was not only at the hands of human enemies. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 he wrote: “a thorn in the flesh was given me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me.” In some way, Paul was afflicted in body and soul, as the evil one tried to discourage and stop him from preaching the Gospel for the salvation of sinners.
“Our outward man is perishing.” Not only did Paul feel it from the outside; he also felt it from within, from his own sinful nature. In Romans 7, he spoke of his desire to live according to God’s Law, which is good. Yet he lamented how his sinful nature kept getting in the way. He said: “The commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me” (vs. 10-11). Finally he asked: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (vs. 24).
In many ways, we also experience that “our outward man is perishing.” We struggle with our own weakness, pain, sickness, loss, sorrow, and death. We constantly feel the effects of sin and evil around us. How often we face the hostility of a world that is opposed to Christ and His followers. We are distressed by the apparent triumph of enemies of the truth, who seem to have their way against those who speak the truth and live their faith in Christ. Who knows how often a messenger of Satan afflicts us in body and soul, through trials and temptation. And how often we feel our own wretched condition as sinners. For while we delight in God’s law according to the new man, the spiritual nature, and we want to do right, again and again we find ourselves falling into sin. Like Paul, how often we feel our failing and perishing nature, and we say: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Yet Paul had an answer. In the face of many afflictions, in the face of death, he was renewed day by day through faith in the resurrection of Christ. He says in our text: “Since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.”
Paul quotes Psalm 116, which anticipates Christ and expresses the spirit of faith in His resurrection. The psalmist had come face to face with his own weakness and mortality, saying: “The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow” (vs. 3). Yet he wrote: “I believed and therefore I spoke” (vs. 10). In the face of affliction and death, he believed God’s promise of the resurrection and eternal life in Christ. By this he was renewed in faith and spoke: “You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (vs. 8-9).
Like the psalmist, like Paul, like believers through the ages, “we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” We are renewed in the same spirit of faith, according to what is written in God’s Word. We are renewed by the Holy Spirit, who points us to our victory in Christ and gives us new hope. For His resurrection declares that on the cross, He has taken away our sin and condemnation. His resurrection powerfully that He has conquered Satan and released us from his power. And since Jesus is risen, He has conquered the last enemy, which is death. We are renewed day by day in the promise that, since we are joined to Jesus by Baptism and faith, we shall also rise with Him. As Paul says in Romans 8:11 “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
Therefore, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” No! Nothing in the present or future, nor all the powers of this world or hell, not even death itself, can separate us from our living Savior (Romans 8:35-39).
2) Looking beyond temporal afflictions to eternal glory
As we live by faith in the resurrection in Christ, it puts everything in this life into perspective. It renews us day by day as we look beyond temporal afflictions to eternal glory.
Paul says: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
How can we even begin to compare that which is temporal to that which is eternal? What are a hundred years of finite life here compared to timeless infinity in the afterlife? The things which are seen are temporary. Even the best this world has to offer can bring no lasting satisfaction. But the things which are not seen, promised by God in Christ, are eternal. They bring our soul true hope and lasting satisfaction.
The world sees only that which is outward, and it puts put its hope in what is perishing. It judges the meaning of life by worldly success, riches, pleasures, and all that man boasts in having worked to gain in this life. The world judges the Christian’s dying to the lusts of the flesh in repentance, dying to the world in faithfulness to the truth, and bearing a cross of suffering after Christ as meaningless. Yet in the end, the vast difference will be seen. In this world, the unbeliever may feel he has accumulated for himself a great weight of glory. Yet when God calls him from this world, all he has considered meaningful will end with a breath. Then the impenitent will feel the weight of suffering in hell. All that he has gloried in will become his shame. The sins of this life will have a cumulative effect, bringing suffering upon suffering and sorrow upon sorrow without end.
But for a believer, Paul calls our afflictions light and momentary. Often our grief and pain feels very heavy and lengthy. Yet with each passing day, Paul reminds us in Romans 13:11: “Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” The moment Jesus takes us home to heaven, all our present afflictions will end. They have no cumulative effect on us; we will think of them no more. All our present afflictions will be replaced by eternal pleasures at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11). These will accumulate in “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Who can fully express the joy that shall be ours as we live in the presence of God, who loves us with an eternal love so that He gave His Son to be our Savior? We shall praise Him in perfect joy and bliss. So Paul says in Romans 8:18: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
For a believer, afflictions in this life cannot truly harm us as we live by faith in Christ. They rather serve our good. They are like a sharp knife cutting the cords that attach us to this world’s false hopes of glory. When worldly friends and loves fail us, we find our true Love in Christ, who laid down His life for us and will always be faithful. When worldly treasures and pleasures fade away and no longer hold luster and charm, we find our true satisfaction in Christ, who earned for us “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4). How often, when a believer who has faced much tribulation in this world nears the end of life, he or she says: “I’m ready to go home; I want to be with Jesus.”
When Paul says our affliction “is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” it does not mean that by suffering we are working out our salvation or becoming worthy of heaven. This side of heaven, we will never be done with the sinful desires of the outward man which is perishing. But day by day, God’s Word renews our inward man by refocusing us on the Savior who alone makes us worthy. As God’s new creation in Christ, we turn again and again to the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross. We plead only His perfect life and precious blood to present us cleansed of all sin and righteous before God and therefore worthy of heaven.
Affliction has a way of refocusing us on what is truly meaningful – particularly when our faith is informed by God’s Word. It leads us to say with Paul in Philippians 3:8-11: “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.”
“Therefore we do not lose heart. No matter what evil, suffering, or loss we may face in this world, yet we are being renewed day by day in all that Christ has gained for us. He renews us by His Word of promise, in faith and focus. He renews us as we live each day in view of our final resurrection with Him. He renews us as we look forward to the eternal glory of our heavenly home.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.