The Minister and the Paschal Mystery
Until this point, Paul has been talking about his sincerity and boldness deriving from the new covenant. This sincerity and transparency — which exposes him to the gaze of the Corinthians — is due to the light of God shining on the face of Christ. This light is the “treasure” he refers to in 4:7, “a treasure hidden in earthen vessels”. What follows is a series of lines that summarize the kind of suffering a minister of the new covenant goes through
afflicted … but not constrained
perplexed … but not driven to despair
persecuted … but not abandoned
struck down … but not destroyed
always carrying about in the body the death of Christ … that the life of Jesus may be manifested in (our) body
This last contrast links the sufferings that the minister of the new covenant goes through with the Paschal Mystery, the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. We see Paul talking about this in terms of baptism.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:4-5)
And just as Christ’s death meant life for all, so even the death to which Paul is given up in his work, is life for the Corinthians. The quote from Psalm 116:10 highlights this conviction.
Psalm 116 is one of the psalms sung during the Passover meal. It is the prayer of a persecuted man who vows loyalty to God no matter what sufferings this would mean (Psalm 116:10). The theme of the psalm is the salvation God gives to his devotee (Psalm 116:2). In response to His help, the devotee raises the cup of salvation (v. 13), pays his vows the Lord (vv.14.18), offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the Lord’s Name (v.17). Remember that Paul is still referring to the sufferings of the minister of the new covenant when he quotes Psalm 116:10, “As I believed, so I spoke”. In quoting a psalm that is ritually connected to the Passover while he speaks about the connection of his sufferings with the Passover of Christ, Paul also indirectly speaks about the ministry as an expression to personal gratitude to Him who has given a new life, a new beginning. At the same time, he underscores the links between present suffering, life in Christ and future glory (14-17). It is for this reason — Paul writes — that he is never discouraged, because he knows that all this is passing, but the glory that shines on the face of Christ, a glory that has begun to shine now in the hearts of Christians, will never pass away.
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