2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ESV 2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
There is nothing as devastating as division. It was a great burden of the apostle Paul who wrote these words to the church in Corinth. He saw the Church at Corinth, of which he was truly the “father,” divided. Some were of Cephas, some of Apollos. Some said they followed Paul. Another group said they were of a new spirit, a free spirit. Suddenly, everything became “open questions.” Can’t a man marry his father’s wife? Can’t we divorce? Can’t brothers eat food sacrificed to pagan idols? Can’t women and men pray in any covering they deem acceptable? Can’t we believe whatever we want about the Lord’s Supper? Issues like these can divide and destroy churches. They can break hearts, and they can also cause shepherd and sheep to lose heart. And so today when we see divisions in the church, false teachers, discord, unwillingness to follow proper authority structures. We see rampant and open sin in society of which people are even proud, we endure hatred and vicious verbal attacks for serving Christ and proclaiming his word, and even today we see our brothers and sisters in the faith being decapitated, shot, burned, and drowned, we are reminded that what began in the Garden of Eden is still prevalent today. We are tempted to lose heart and cry out in despair, “The world is getting worse. What’s the use? Evil wins all the battles.”
Not quite. Yes, the devil does win battles, and afflictions do weigh heavy on us, and our own sinful nature seems not to improve. However, do not lose heart. These things are temporary. They will pass away. They are not eternal. Jesus rose from the dead and you too shall rise. Adam and Eve suffered when kicked out of the Garden of Eden, but they came to repentance. Jesus’ family was divided from him early in his ministry but was of one accord (Acts 1:14) after the ascension.
“Don’t lose heart. Keep looking ahead. Suffering is short. Glory is eternal.” So that
Rather Than Losing Heart,
in Faith We Speak, in Faith We Suffer, and in Faith We Anticipate.
In faith, we speak (4:13–15). St. Paul says we have the same spirit of faith according to what is written. Yes, we have the same Holy Spirit as the saints who have gone before us. Paul had the same spirit of faith as Noah, Abraham, David, Isaiah, and we have the same spirit of faith as Paul and … as our Lord himself.
Yes, we have the same Spirit that descended from heaven and came and lived in Jesus from the time of his baptism. The same Spirit he gave back to his Father on the cross and which he and His Father poured out on his disciples on Pentecost when they began preaching the gospel in many languages to people of all nations.
Therefore, we have the same faith, as the saints who’ve gone before. They—even Jesus—looked for things they didn’t yet see with their eyes. Abraham had faith and obeyed when God call him to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance and he went out not knowing where he was going. By faith Sarah received the power to conceive even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. All these died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
And so we having the same faith acknowledge that we are strangers and exiles on the earth. We trust in God’s promises in Scripture to go on living in this world. We have faith that our sins are forgiven, even though we see only sin in ourselves. We have faith that we shall live eternally, but we only see disease, aging and death. We have faith that the Church of Christ will be victorious over sin and evil, yet we see only weakness, division, poverty, and declining numbers.
We do not see the promises of God, but we do have the promise. We have God’s Word of promise and we have faith and trust in that word. But we do have that! We know God raised Jesus from the dead, and we also have his promise that he will raise us (4:14). And that faith is what drives us. It is that faith that impels us to love one another. It is that faith which moves us to serve others, to suffer, and to sacrifice for them. It is that faith which compels us to speak. Paul says, “I believed, and so I spoke.”
Faith that God had raised Jesus and that he will raise all believers moves the saints to speak. Paul and the other apostles just couldn’t keep silent! They traveled the world and even went to their deaths spouting the resurrection. How can we not tell a dead and dying world about the life we believe Jesus won for all people? How can we be silent when people live in fear and uncertainty. How can we just stand by and watch as people lose their jobs, their homes, their incomes. When families are breaking apart, when kids are being turned into gang members, when children suffer hunger and babies are being murdered in the womb?
We have the only message of hope, of peace, of salvation—how can we keep silent? We cannot! We speak for their sakes (4:15). We believed, and so we speak. We speak the love of God. We speak forgiveness and salvation. We speak about resurrection and hope. We speak Jesus Christ into every ear and every heart.
In faith, we suffer (4:16). Like St. Paul, we do not lose heart, not even when we are suffer in this world. We suffer and sacrifice ourselves for others. In humility we take up the cross, we are poor in spirit, we are merciful and pure in heart, we are the peacemakers, and we are the persecuted. In this way they see our love and know that we are of Christ. In this way we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world and they see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. We speak the word. We live by love. We serve in humility. We suffer in faith, and we die with hope.
The greatest evidence of the faith of the early Christians was that they were willing to suffer for it. Paul and countless others were killed for their believing in Jesus. They could have saved their necks by renouncing him. But instead they went to crosses, flames, the arena, the sword (4:8–11; 6:4–5; 11:23–27). And why? Because they were that certain Jesus had risen and would raise them (1 Cor 15:32).
Today, we face plenty of sufferings that could cause us to lose heart. In baptism we become soldiers in Christ’s army. We are on the front lines of the battle. The enemy will attack. We will be shot, wounded, and some will fall on the battle field. But all will be raised, for the victory has already been won. In our Baptism, we were united with Christ, died with him, so that we will suffer with him. If we do not suffer lions and crosses, then we will suffer rejection, isolation, mocking.
Can your faith also endure such sufferings? It can if—and because—we anticipate (4:17–5:1). Jesus went to the cross believing that God would raise him. His afflictions were anything but light; they were the full punishments of hell for the sins of the entire world. An eternity of sufferings were compressed into hours of time. But he anticipated the resurrection. He trusted that God would not abandon him. He had faith that his Father loved him and would not leave him to rot forever in a grave. He trusted that his sufferings were not forever, and that God did raise him.
We also look beyond the transient, the earthly, the things seen, to a greater weight of glory. Remember the resurrection! Death is not the end. There is life after the grave.
Anticipate! Heaven will be beyond all comparison, and it will be forever. It is the house made not with human hands, but by the hand of God. It is the house that Jesus is preparing for us right at this moment. And it will be forever; we will see that today’s afflictions were but momentary! The sufferings of this present world are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us. Do not lose heart! You have been united to Jesus. In his death. In his resurrection. By Baptism. Amen.