2 Corinthians 4:13-15

2 Corinthians 4:13-15

The Psalm 116 of the New Testament

Did you know that Psalm 116 is in the New Testament? It appears in brief form in 2 Corinthians 4:13 with the short phrase, “I believed, and so I spoke,” but all of Psalm 116 is in view in all of 2 Corinthians 4. In fact, the psalm might be in the back of Paul’s mind even as he begins his letter to the Corinthians. Thematic and terminological parallels abound between Psalm 116 and 2 Corinthians 4. Read Psalm 116, then 2 Corinthians 4, and note these parallels:

Psalm 116 2 Corinthians 4
3: Deadly affliction 4:8-12; cf. also 1:8-9
4: Call on name of God 4:7; cf. also 1:9-10
5-8: Gracious dealings from God 4:6
8: Deliverance 4:14
9: Walking in land of living 4:11-12
10: Believe and speak 4:13
11, 13: Alarmed but encouraged 4:1, 16
14: Presence of all his people 4:14
15: Precious is the death of saints 4:11 precious life and death of Christ in the saints
16: Servant 4:5
16c: Bonds loosed 4:4 (its converse), 6
17: Thanksgiving 4:15
18: Praise the Lord 4:15c “to the glory of God” is a praise

 

Now that you’ve read those passages and examined the parallels, you can see clearly that even though Paul cites just a tad of Psalm 116, the entire psalm is in the background of chapter 4 in his letter. When we notice that Psalm 116 is full of sufferings, and that Paul lists his own experience of suffering before quoting Psalm 116:10, the connection is clear. There’s no need to marvel at why Paul would quote from Psalm 116. He shares the sufferings of his fellow saint the psalmist, and he shares his psalmic counterpart’s confidence and faith in the Lord. Let’s see how both the suffering and faith are played out in each Testament.

The psalmist centers his soul with the firm confession that he is loved by Yahweh, which love is demonstrated by his being able to bend the divine ear (vv. 1-2). Such knowledge emboldens the psalmist with crying out to the Lord when he faces various and sundry afflictions. These are weighty and moribund trials at that (v. 3). With confidence he draws nigh to the heavenly throne room and cries, “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” (v. 4). Even though Sheol seeks to lay claim to the psalmist’s soul, he can rest himself (and plead for that divine rest) in the grace of the Lord who deals bountifully with him (v. 7). Now because he has been the mercied object of divine deliverance, he is alive, walking in the land of the living. He was taken from death to life (v. 9). Living in the life of the One who is, the psalmist, even when he is greatly afflicted, even when he is alarmed, still believes (vv. 10-11). Trials don’t escape him, to be sure. But neither does life from his preserving and gracious God. The psalmist has rightly considered himself, his death and life (his whole existence) precious in the sight of his Lord (v. 15). He is a forever servant whose bonds have been broken by the all-powerful arms of the Lord (vv. 15-16). As a servant to Yahweh, he will always render obedience, vows, thanksgiving, and praise to the God of all glory (vv. 12-19).

You can see the same train of thought with Paul, I trust. Of course, Paul begins his letter with reference to his death sentence of an affliction, but he revisits his suffering in the fourth chapter. Paul is afflicted in every way: perplexed, persecuted, and struck down (v. 9). This affliction may alarm or perplex him, but he is encouraged by his God. He has no reason to lose heart (vv. 1, 16). It’s true that with the gospel proclamation comes its transportation in jars of clay that contain death: the death of Christ (vv. 10, 12). Even though death is at work in and through Paul, so is life and light (vv. 6, 11-12)! Like the psalmist, he’s walking in the land of the living, because wherever he goes, he’s carrying the life of Christ and the life-giving message of Christ in his very body. Paul does this from the perspective of a servant. Like the psalmist, Paul’s been set free; the veil of the Old Covenant has been lifted. The light of the gospel has shone in his heart, dispelling the darkness from within. He is now a servant to the Lord Jesus (vv. 4-6). As a servant to the Lord, Paul is aware that all that he’s received has been from the hands of his gracious God (v. 6), for which the former gives God great thanks, to the praise of his glory (v. 15).

Of course, there’s also the direct quote of Psalm 116:10 in 2 Corinthians 4:13, and then the strong allusion to Psalm 116:14, 18 in 2 Corinthians 4:14. In Psalm 116:18, the psalmist says that he will make his thanksgiving vow to God “in the presence of all his people.” He clarifies the people’s presence in v. 19 as “the courts of the house of the LORD,” that is, “Jerusalem,” the very presence of the Lord. Interestingly, back in 2 Corinthians, something a little different is going on. As Paul the servant of Christ is carrying the death and life of Christ through his dying body to his hearers, it is God himself (not Paul) who will “bring us with you into his presence” (v. 14). The God who raised Jesus from the dead is going to bring his people into the very presence of the Lord. As the psalmist ends his psalm with, “Praise the LORD!” (v. 19), it is equally appropriate for Paul to break out in doxology with his phrase, “to the glory of God” (v. 15).

And finally to the direct quote, “I believed, and so I spoke.” Recall that the psalmist says that in faith. He’s confident that the Lord has heard his cry, and that the latter will deliver him from his Sheolish suffering. Paul likewise begins vv. 13-15 with his own faith commitment: “Since we have the same spirit of faith….” Even though we are afflicted, Paul says—even though we are alarmed, and that all mankind are liars (Ps. 116:10-11); even though Satan the deceiver has blinded the eyes of many (2 Cor. 4:4)—none of that will stop us from praising the God of the resurrection and sharing the open statement of the truth! Certainly, since the Father has raised the Son, he will likewise raise us and place us into his presence forevermore. Paul can say this because of something he said in his first letter to the Corinthians. Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection: the evidence of the resurrection, and the very ground on which confident expectation of our resurrection is based (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). And so it is for Paul, and for us as well, that all our hope, our very raison d’être, is the resurrection.  

 

 

     
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