2 Corinthians 4:5
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
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(5) For we preach not ourselves.—The words, like those about “commending ourselves,” imply a reference to something that had been said. He was charged with being egotistic in his preaching, perhaps with special reference to passages like 1Corinthians 2:1-4; 1Corinthians 3:1-10; 1Corinthians 4:11-13. He indignantly repudiates that charge. “Christ Jesus” had been all along the subject of his preaching. (Comp. 1Corinthians 2:2.) So far as he had spoken of himself at all, it had been as a minister and servant for their sake (1Corinthians 3:22-23; 1Corinthians 9:19).

2 Corinthians 4:5-6. For, &c. — As if he had said, The cause of their continuing in unbelief, and perishing, is not in us, nor in the doctrine they hear from us; for we preach not ourselves — As able either to enlighten, or pardon, or sanctify mankind; but Christ Jesus the Lord — Their only infallible Teacher, all-sufficient Saviour, and righteous Governor; their only wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and ourselves your servants — Ready to do the meanest offices, and advance the best interests of you, and all the other disciples of Christ, to whom we minister; for Jesus’s sake — Out of love to him, and with a view to his glory; and not for honour, interest, pleasure, or any worldly consideration. For — To produce in us this disposition, and to qualify us for this great and important work; God, who — In the first creation of this world; commanded the light to shine out of darkness — By his infinitely powerful word; hath shined in our hearts — And not only in the hearts of us apostles, and his other ministers, but in the hearts of all those whom the god of this world no longer blinds, and thereby shuts them up in unbelief: to give the light of the knowledge, &c. — Προς φωτισμον της γνωσεως, &c. In order to our illumination with, or to impart the lustre of; the knowledge of the glory of God — Of his glorious perfections, especially of his glorious love, and his glorious image, see on 2 Corinthians 3:18; in the face of Jesus Christ — Which reflects this glory in another manner than the face of Moses did. Or, as εν προσωπω Ιησου Χριστου, may be properly rendered, in the person of Jesus Christ; for undoubtedly the glory here spoken of was reflected not merely from his face, but from his whole person, through the union of Deity with humanity in him, and all the wonderful things he did and suffered in consequence of it.

4:1-7 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.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.


5. For—Their blindness is not our fault, as if we had self-seeking aims in our preaching.

preach … Christ … the Lord—rather, "Christ as Lord," and ourselves as your servants, &c. "Lord," or "Master," is the correlative term to "servants."

For we preach not ourselves: for a man to preach himself, is to preach the devices and imaginations of his own heart, instead of the revealed will of God; to make his discourses the evomitions of his own lusts and passions; or to make himself the end of his preaching; preaching merely for filthy lucre sake, or to supply himself with bread, or for the ostentation of his own wit, and learning, and parts.

But we preach Christ Jesus the Lord; we preach what he hath commanded us to preach, and he is the subject of our discourses; we either preach what Christ is, or declare in our preaching what he hath done and suffered for sinners, or what he hath commanded us to do in order to our and your obtaining of life and salvation through him. And in our preaching, though in the first place we are Christ’s servants, who hath commanded us to go and preach, and who is the subject matter of our preaching, and whose honour and glory is the end of all our preaching; yet we are also

your servants: really so, not in that we serve your lusts and humours, and speak smooth things, Such as may be pleasing to your humours; but

for Jesus’ sake, because in revealing the will of God to you, and in publishing the grace of the gospel to you, we do you the highest service we can in your eternal concerns.

For we preach not ourselves,.... These words contain a reason why the apostles behaved themselves in the manner described, 2 Corinthians 4:2 and serve to explain in what sense this inspired writer is to be understood, when he calls the Gospel our Gospel, 2 Corinthians 4:3 and most clearly proves the Gospel to be a glorious one, which he had asserted, 2 Corinthians 4:4 since Christ, and not themselves, is the subject of it, "for we preach not ourselves". They did not preach any doctrine of their own devising; they did not set up themselves as lords over the faith and consciences of men; nor was their view in preaching to set forth their learning, parts, and eloquence, or to amass wealth and riches to themselves; nor did they assert the purity of human nature, or the power of man to do anything of himself that is spiritually good; or that justification and salvation are by works of righteousness done by men. To do any, or each, or all of these, as did the false apostles, is to preach a man's self: but so did not these faithful dispensers of the word, but they

preached Christ Jesus the Lord; that is, the doctrines respecting the person, office, and grace of Christ; as that he is truly and properly God, the eternal and only begotten Son of God, God and man in one person, the only Mediator between God and man, and the Saviour and Redeemer of lost sinners; that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the true Messiah; and that this Christ is Jesus, a Saviour, the only able and willing one; and that this Jesus Christ is "Lord" of all, especially of the saints; not only as Creator, but as their head, husband, and Redeemer; that peace and reconciliation, pardon and righteousness, life and salvation, are only by him: and they also declared themselves the servants of the churches,

and ourselves your servants. The apostle does not say they were the servants of Christ, though they were, and esteemed it their greatest honour to be so; for he had no need to observe this, since this is included in their preaching him as "Lord": nor does he say they were the servants of men, or menpleasers, for then they would not be the servants of Christ; but he asserts them to be the servants of the churches: and which must be understood, not with respect to things temporal, with which they had no concern; but with regard to things spiritual, particularly to the ministration of the word, and administration of ordinances: and this they professed to be,

for Jesus' sake; either for the sake of preaching Christ unto them; or because they were chosen and called by him to this service, and in which they were willing to continue, for the sake of his honour and interest.

{3} For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for {f} Jesus' sake.

(3) He removes according to his accustomed manner, all suspicion of ambition, affirming that he teaches faithfully, but as a servant, and witnessing that all this light which he and his associates give to others, proceeds from the Lord.

(f) To preach this self same Jesus to you.

2 Corinthians 4:5. What his gospel (τὸ εὐαγγ. ἡμῶν) proclaimed, he has just described as that which is most glorious and sublime, namely, the δόξα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὅς ἐστιν κ.τ.λ. And that nothing else than this is the lofty contents of his preaching, he now establishes, and that under an antithetic point of view, which (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:1) takes into account hostile calumny. This antithetic aim so fully justifies the reference of the γάρ to what immediately precedes, and the emphasis laid on Χριστ. Ἰησ. as κύριον, as well as the contents of 2 Corinthians 4:6, so obviously confirms it, that we have no warrant for going back with γάρ to 2 Corinthians 3:1, even if we include 2 Corinthians 4:3-5 (Hofmann).

ἑαυτοὺς κηρύσσ.] In virtue of the contrast that follows (Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. iv. 8. 25), κυρίονς might be supplied (de Wette and others, also my own view hitherto), and with this 2 Corinthians 1:24 might be compared. But since it was self-evident that he did not preach himself as Lord, and this could not be attributed to him even by his opponents, however much they may have accused him of selfish conduct, it is better (comp. Hofmann) to let the expression retain its quite general character: not ourselves, not our own persons, their insight, standing, repute, and other interests, do we make the contents and aim of our preaching.

κύριον] as Lord. In this lies the whole great confessional contents of his preaching, which absolutely excludes all desire for self-assertion; comp. Php 2:11; 1 Corinthians 12:3. This κύριον also is to be left quite in its generality,[193] so that the following ὑμῶν has no joint reference to it (Hofmann).

διὰ Ἰησοῦν] This it is by which the relation of service to the readers (δούλους ὑμῶν) is conditioned. For on His account, not irrespectively of Him, we are your servants. Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:1. To do the will of Jesus, and to carry on His work—this it is which determines us to be your servants, i.e. to do our labour for your service; only in this respect, in this relation of service to you, do we preach ourselves, which, therefore, is something quite different from the ἑαυτ. κηρυσσ. before denied.

[193] The whole majesty of Christ (ver. 4) lies in this one predicate.

2 Corinthians 4:5. οὐ γὰρ ἑαυτοὺς κ.τ.λ.: for we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit”), and ourselves your slaves for Jesus’ sake (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19 and chap. 2 Corinthians 1:24 above; see also 2 Corinthians 11:20 καταδουλοῖ).

5. For we preach not ourselves] A reason is here given for the foregoing statement. If St Paul’s Gospel be hid, it is not because it is his own, and therefore destined to come to nought (see ch. 2 Corinthians 3:7). No, it is the Gospel of Christ which he preaches, and if any refuse to listen to it, it is because he has suffered himself to be blinded by the devil. See note on 2 Corinthians 4:3.

but Christ Jesus the Lord] i.e. Christ Jesus as Lord, not ourselves.

and ourselves your servants] The original is stronger, and ourselves your slaves. “He does not say ‘the slaves of Jesus,’ but what is by far more humble and lowly, ‘your slaves.’ Yet that he may not appear to speak or think in too abject a strain, he adds, ‘for Jesus’ sake.’ ” Estius.

2 Corinthians 4:5. Οὐ, not) We do not commend ourselves, 2 Corinthians 3:1; although they who perish think so.—γὰρ, for) The fault of their blindness does not lie at our door.—Κυρίον, δούλους, the Lord; servants) An antithesis: we do not preach ourselves as masters; comp. 2 Corinthians 1:24.—δούλους ὑμῶν, your servants) Hence Paul is accustomed to prefer the Corinthians to himself, 2 Corinthians 4:12-13.—διὰ Ἰησοῦν, for Jesussake) The majesty of Christians is derived from Him.

Verse 5. - For we preach not ourselves. There is no glory or illumination on our faces, and we have no personal ends to gain, nor are we "lords" over your faith. This is, perhaps, meant as an answer to some charge of egotism. The Lord; rather, as Lord (Philippians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 12:3). Your servants; literally, your slaves (1 Corinthians 9:19). For Jesus' sake. So Christ had himself desired (Matthew 20:27). 2 Corinthians 4:5
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