What is the meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9? Growing up I used to have a hard time understanding verses like this. Because they sounded so deep I just didn’t know what to make of it. But as I got better reading Bible verses in context, I was able to understand the meaning of these verses. And it was a lot deeper than I imagined.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 states, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;“
At first glance, you would think a good commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 would seem to conclude these verses are an encouragement to Christians to overcome challenges. But you might be surprised to learn this verse is talking about something completely different. Because one mistake in that interpretation is it ignores everything else that was said in the chapter.
That’s part of how you find the meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.
The other key to understanding these verses is to focus on the pronouns. When you first read that verse, what did you think? Did you think it was talking about you and me as Christians?
That’s what I used to think too.
A common mistake when reading the Bible is always assuming every “you”, “we”, or “us” is talking about Christians as a whole. It’s important to carefully read the verses when you see some of these pronouns. Now some people cite this verse as a great encouragement about Christians enduring through their struggle.
But when you read further, the Apostle Paul is actually talking about himself and Timothy enduring for the sake of Christians. Now you might ask, how do I know that’s who the verses are talking about? And that’s a good question.
The answer to that is at the beginning of the letter to the Corinthians in chapter 1. 2 Corinthians 1:1 states,
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the a]saints who are throughout Achaia:”
As you can read in this verse, Paul acknowledges himself and Timothy, and then acknowledges his writing is to the church of God at Corinth. Now if you see a first person pronoun like, “I”, you know Paul is talking about himself. You see a third person pronoun like we or us, there’s 3 possibilities. He could either be talking about himself and Timothy, he could be talking about the church of Corinth, or he could be talking about Christians as a whole.
With that understanding, let’s go back to 2 Corinthians 4, and look at verse 8 through 12.
2 Corinthians 4:8-12
2 Corinthians 4:8-12 states, “8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.”
With seeing more of the verses around 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, I can tell you this. There’s one verse within these verses that’s a big giveaway as to who Paul is referring to when he says “we”.
Can you guess what that verse is? Read again and think about it. It’s important in helping you learn to understand the Bible and Christian teaching from your own studying.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 Meaning
So Verse 12 is what indicates that Apostle Paul is referring to himself and Timothy using the pronouns “we/us” in this passage. And it’s all because we see the word “you”. Verse 12 stated “So death works in us (Apostle Paul and Timothy), but life in you (Corinthian Christians being written to). With that understanding, it would be very confusing if only in this verse alone, Paul is meaning “we/us” as in himself and Timothy.
So to this reader’s eye, it would logically seem to be the case that the “we/us” is referring to themselves through this particular passage and perhaps throughout the letter as a whole. Therefore, Paul is saying him and Timothy have been crushed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. That it is them in that moment carrying the dying of Jesus and being constantly delivered over to death, so the life of Jesus is manifested through them. And death is working through them, so that life can work through the church of Corinth, and inevitably for future Christians as a whole.
That’s the meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.
As always, any questions or thoughts, feel free to share them in the comments. If this post was enlightening and thought provoking to you, please share this with others on your social media. It would be very much appreciated.
Peace to all those who are in Christ!