16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
18 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.
The “therefore” in v.16 refers back to Paul’s statement that his ministry of grace is spreading to his readers and bringing glory to God. Therefore, he does not lose heart even though he is persecuted.
lose heart (v.16) = lit. “to be negatively influenced with the outcome of experiencing inner weariness,” exhausted, weary, faint.
The Scriptures consistently teach that there is an inward man and an outward man, though we should know this from observation and experience. … The apostle declares that his persecutions have not caused him to faint, for while “the outward man” indeed “perishes,” “the inward man is renewed day by day.”
All men everywhere: rich as well as poor, educated as well as illiterate, the mighty ruler as well as the poor slave: all are perishing creatures. … People who believe the Bible have no trouble understanding this, for they recognize the truth of God’s Word as to the fall of man. Thus they can quote Hebrews 9:27-28 …: “And AS it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: SO Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without [apart from] sin unto salvation.”
Thank God, the believer in Christ does not need to “block out” the thought of a perishing body. He knows that our blessed Lord died our death for sin at Calvary. “… that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). …
Thank God, while the outward man is being steadily dissolved, “the inward man,” the real you, may be, and should be, “renewed day by day.” But how is this accomplished? The answer is simple, but there is no other way. We are spiritually renewed only as we take the time for Bible study and prayer. — Stam, pages 85-87.
Affliction vs Glory: No one but our Lord Himself can fully grasp v.17, for only He left the glories of heaven, where all was harmony and angels rushed to do His bidding, to experience the disharmony and rebellion of this sin-cursed world. But in the ages to come we, redeemed sinners, will share His glory as He shared our shame. Thus Paul could say: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Note carefully: this glory to come will not merely be revealed “to us” but “in us.” We shall be glorified. What an investment, then, is the present affliction!
Lightness vs. Weight:Galatians 6:2 and 5 declare in our English translation that we should “bear one another’s burdens,” yet also that “every man shall bear his own burden.” Is this a contradiction? Perhaps in the translation, but certainly not in the original language. True, if we obeyed both these injunctions even as they appear in the English, our happiness would be greatly increased. However, the two Greek words for “burden,” here, have a marked difference in significance. In v.2 the word is baros, denoting heaven pressure, while in v.5 is it phortion, and allotted load, whether heavy or light. Thus our Lord could say: “Take my yoke upon you … for My yoke is easy and My burden [phortion] is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). How different was Peter’s admonition at the great Jerusalem Council, concerning the Law, particularly as administered by the rulers then in high places. How he warned his hearers lest they place a yoke upon the neck of the disciples “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10).
Phortion was used of the contents of a soldier’s knapsack whether full or empty; also of a ship’s cargo, whether heavy or light. I.e., it had to do with an allotted load, entirely without regard to weight.
However, in 2 Corinthians 4:17 we have to do with a “weight” [baros] of glory“!—glory which must indeed weigh heavily against the “light affliction” we presently bear. What a prospect! An eternal weight of glory!
Momentariness vs Eternity: A “moment” is the briefest period of time. It is not a minute, or even a second, but an instant. Our afflictions, which now can see so endless are, in their true perspective, only momentary. When we have attained to the glory to come we shall see the former afflictions in their proper dimension: as only “for a moment,” or an instant.” Yet these momentary afflictions work for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! …
A whole long life of affliction and suffering, when viewed in the light of eternity will then be correctly seen as but momentary. But where are present experience is concerned this is even more so, for God has graciously provided that our afflictions come to us only one moment at a time; one moment after another. Thus the present moment of sadness we suffer now will have been gone for one week seven days from now. We are not asked to bear this moment’s suffering for more that this one moment. Thus we seek God’s help “moment by moment.” For this present life the passing of time is a blessed provision.
Insignificance vs That Which Exceeds Far More: Note the meaning of the word “but” here. It is not a conjunction (as in, “not this but that”). It rather carries the sense of “merely,” as in, “but one step.” By using this word the apostle discounts our present afflictions as hardly worth considering. They are “but for a moment,” or “merely momentary.”
Yet, in an amazing contrast he declares that these afflictions which last “but for a moment,” work for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”! What a contrast between the insignificant instant and its gracious “earnings,” which exceed far more!
The Visible vs. The Invisible: The apostle rightly declares that “the things which are seen are temporal.” All we can see and feel and touch will eventually pass away. … “But that which is not seen is eternal.” Love, sincerity, honesty, faithfulness, all those qualities which are unseen (except indirectly) are eternal.
Not Looking vs Looking: Mark well, the apostle 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 word skopeo means to consider or keep in view. Paul did not fix his spiritual eyes, or his attention, upon “the things which are seen,” for he knew they would soon pass away. He “looked,” rather, “at the things which are not seen,” and rightly so. Concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter wrote: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
And concerning “those things which are above,” Paul himself says: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3). …
Occupation with “the things that are seen,” with “things on the earth,” is bound to spell spiritual defeat, while occupation with “the things which are not seen,” with “those things which are above” will as surely spell spiritual victory, and — what an investment! —Stam, pages 88-94.