An eternal weight of glory
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 Paul’s reminder for us to look to the unseen, eternal things when we’re suffering
The apostle Paul writing an epistle to the Corinthians. Painting made in a the style of Van Gogh on December 3, 2023 by Dall-E 3
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 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.”
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB1995
A little over a week ago, we looked at 2 Corinthians 4:16 (Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day). In that verse, Paul is encouraging the church of Corinth with his own testimony. Despite the suffering he had gone through bringing the Gospel to people all around the Mediterranean, he knew that the Lord had seen him through many troubles and would continue to do so in the future.
Prior to that verse, Paul had enumerated a long and detailed list of all he had been through — from the earlier devotional, it was “floggings, beatings, stonings, being shipwrecked and robbed, having to put up with perils from his own countrymen, from Gentiles and from false believers; being hungry, cold, and naked at times, and more.”
Yet in today’s verses, Paul simply shrugs off this rough life of his as a “momentary, light affliction”! Paul’s retelling of his suffering only details the physical suffering, without even touching on what he had endured in bearing spiritual burdens and facing spiritual attacks. What Paul went through in his ministry would have defeated most other men, but he refers to his troubles as “momentary and light”.
He wants the Corinthians (and all Christians) to realize that if he considers his suffering as a mere trifle, then their suffering is almost nonexistent! Paul knows that even a lifetime of the worst possible misery is nothing compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits the believer.
Enduring Word’s David Guzik explains exactly why our affliction is light:
Yes, our affliction is light!
Our affliction is light compared to what others suffer.
Our affliction is light compared to what we deserve.
Our affliction is light compared to what Jesus suffered for us.
Our affliction is light compared to the blessings we enjoy.
Our affliction is light as we experience the sustaining power of God’s grace.
Our affliction is light when we see the glory that it leads to.
Understanding this we really can say with Paul, “our light affliction.”
The next section of the verse is beautiful! Paul is writing from his own experiences — some people of the time would have seen him to be a failure. He had been an outstanding scriptural scholar, a Pharisee and zealot, working his way up the ladder of success in the Jewish hierarchy. He gave it all up for suffering, persecution, and eventual martyrdom. Looking at the “things which are seen”, Paul looked like a failure. Looking to “the things which are not seen” — that eternal weight of glory — Paul’s legacy was quite successful.
Quoting once again from Enduring Word:
Paul isn’t saying that all afflictions automatically produce glory. It is possible to allow suffering to destroy us and to let affliction make us bitter, miserable, and self-focused. However, if we will look to the things which are not seen then our affliction will work in us an eternal weight of glory.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Thank You, Lord, for the eternal glory awaiting those who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. I know I will face difficulties and suffering in this world; help me to face those afflictions with Paul’s eternal perspective, his patient endurance, and overwhelming joy. I joyfully anticipate the endless glories You have prepared for those that love You, despite the difficulties I may face in this world. AMEN.