Lesson 114

2 Corinthians 4–5

“Lesson 114: 2 Corinthians 4–5,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

In his letter to the Saints in Corinth, Paul taught that the trials and afflictions of this life are temporary and small compared to the blessings of eternity. He also taught the Saints about the Judgment and testified that Jesus Christ made it possible for us to be reconciled to God.

Suggestions for Teaching

2 Corinthians 4

Paul testifies that even though he has afflictions, he is not fearful or troubled

Display image 1.

man pushing another man
  • What does this picture portray?

  • What might the person being pushed think about the person who is pushing him?

Display image 2.

man pushing another man from street with automobile coming
  • How does seeing the first picture in a larger context change your judgment about what it portrays?

Explain that Paul wrote to the Corinthian Saints to help them see the larger context of their tribulations. Invite students to look for truths as they study 2 Corinthians 4 that Paul taught the Saints about their tribulations.

Summarize 2 Corinthians 4:1–7 by explaining that Paul assured the Saints that he had truthfully preached the gospel to them. He taught that Satan, “the god of this world” (verse 4), works to keep people from accepting the gospel. Paul compared himself and his fellow ministers to clay pots that contain the “treasure” of “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (verses 6–7).

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 4:8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Paul described the challenges of his missionary labors.

  • How did Paul describe the challenges of his missionary work?

  • What phrases did Paul use to describe how he responded to these challenges?

  • Why do you think Paul could keep a positive attitude while he experienced these challenges?

Summarize 2 Corinthians 4:11–14 by explaining that Paul taught that even though some people would die for the gospel of Jesus Christ, their death would be temporary.

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 4:14–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul knew that helped him face trials and persecution.

  • What did Paul know that helped him face trials and persecution?

  • What does the phrase “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (verse 16) mean? (Even though Paul and his companions would die physically, their spirits were being strengthened daily.)

handout iconDivide students into pairs. Invite each partnership to read 2 Corinthians 4:17–18 aloud together, looking for truths Paul taught the Saints about trials and afflictions. Ask each pair to work together to answer the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. You may want to provide the questions on a handout or write them on the board:

handout

2 Corinthians 4:17–18

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual—Lesson 114

  1. What truths did Paul teach the Saints about trials and afflictions?

  2. Why is it important to see our afflictions in the larger context of Heavenly Father’s plan?

  3. When have you seen someone remain strong during trials because they saw their afflictions in the larger context of Heavenly Father’s plan?

After sufficient time, invite several students to write their answers to the first question on the board. Students may write several possible truths, including the following: Our trials and afflictions in this life are small compared to the everlasting blessings and growth that come as we faithfully endure them. Because temporary afflictions can bring about eternal growth and glory, we need not despair in times of trouble. There is eternal purpose in our afflictions, even when we cannot see it in mortality.

Invite several students to report their answers to the second question. After they report, consider asking follow-up questions such as the following:

  • In what ways can our trials and afflictions bring about growth?

  • How can remembering these truths help us faithfully endure trials and afflictions?

Invite several students to share their answers to the third question. Consider sharing one of your own experiences.

2 Corinthians 5

Paul teaches the Saints about the Judgment and Atonement of Jesus Christ

Give each student a piece of paper. Ask each one to fold the paper in half and to write his or her name on one half of the paper and Heavenly Father on the other half. Explain that when we came to earth, we left Heavenly Father’s presence. Invite students to tear their papers in half and to keep the two halves separated.

  • In what ways can the ripped paper represent what happened when we left Heavenly Father’s presence and came to earth to experience mortality?

Invite students to look for truths as they study 2 Corinthians 5 that will help them understand what we must do to return to Heavenly Father’s presence.

Summarize 2 Corinthians 5:1–6 by explaining that Paul acknowledged that though in mortality we are separated from God and will eventually die, we will be resurrected and live again.

Invite students to read 2 Corinthians 5:6–7 silently, looking for what Paul taught the Saints they should do knowing they were separated from God in mortality.

  • What truth did Paul teach about our separation from God in mortality? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Because we are separated from God in mortality, we are to walk by faith and not by sight. Invite each student to write this truth on the half of the paper that has his or her name on it.)

  • What does it mean to “walk by faith, [and] not by sight”? (verse 7).

  • What are some examples of situations or decisions you might face that would require you to walk by faith and not by sight? (Write students’ responses on the board. Their answers might include following the standards of the Church, deciding to serve a mission, or sharing their testimonies.)

Invite students to think of a time when they (or someone they know) walked by faith and not by sight. Ask a few of them to share their experiences.

Invite students to consider a situation or decision they are currently facing in which they struggle to walk by faith. Encourage them to walk by faith in that situation and in all situations.

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 5:8–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul said we should do while we are separated from God in mortality.

  • According to verse 9, what did Paul say we should do while we are separated from God in mortality?

  • Based on Paul’s teachings recorded in verse 10, what truth can we learn about why we should labor to do good works in this life? (Students may use different words but should identify a truth similar to the following: Each of us will be judged by Jesus Christ according to what we have done in mortality. Invite students to consider marking the phrases in verse 10 that teach this truth.)

Invite students to consider changes they may need to make to prepare for the time when they will be judged by Jesus Christ. Encourage them to follow any promptings they may receive.

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 5:15–16 aloud. Ask this student to also read aloud the Joseph Smith Translation of 2 Corinthians 5:16 (in 2 Corinthians 5:16, footnote a). Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Jesus Christ did for us so that we can return to Heavenly Father’s presence.

  • According to verse 15, what did Jesus Christ do to help us return to Heavenly Father?

  • According to verses 15–16, what do believers do because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ? (Believers live Christ-centered lives and do not follow the ways of the world or give in to the flesh. Invite each student to write this statement on the half of the paper that has his or her name on it.)

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 5:17–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Atonement of Jesus Christ can help the Saints return to Heavenly Father’s presence.

  • How can the Atonement of Jesus Christ help us return to Heavenly Father’s presence? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become new creatures and be reconciled to God. Invite students to write this truth on the half of the paper that has “Heavenly Father” written on it.)

  • What do you think it means to become “a new creature”? (verse 17).

Invite students to read Mosiah 27:23–26 silently, looking for any additional details about what it means to become a new creature. After sufficient time, invite a few students to share what they found.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for his explanation about how we can become new creatures.

Elder David A. Bednar

“The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement. True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19; 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.

“… As we honor the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation (see D&C 20:25), ‘press forward with a steadfastness in Christ’ (2 Nephi 31:20), and endure in faith to the end (see D&C 14:7), we become new creatures in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17)” (“Converted unto the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 107).

Invite each student to put the two halves of the paper together. Explain that to reconcile is to bring together two parties who were previously separated. Because of the Fall of Adam as well as our own sins, we become separated spiritually from our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ offers, through His Atonement, to reconcile us to the Father and restore our relationship with Him.

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 5:20–21 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Paul admonished the Saints to do.

  • What did Paul admonish the Saints in Corinth to do?

  • What did Paul teach about Jesus Christ as recorded in verse 21? (Even though Jesus Christ was without sin, He suffered for our sins so we could be made righteous.)

Testify of the truths students identified in this lesson. Ask students to review the list of truths they wrote down and to consider what they must do to become or remain reconciled to God. Encourage them to follow any promptings they may receive.

Commentary and Background Information

2 Corinthians 4:5–10. “Troubled on every side, yet not distressed”

During a difficult time, George A. Smith, First Counselor to Brigham Young, received counsel from his cousin the Prophet Joseph Smith that was similar to Paul’s teachings to the Corinthian Saints:

“He told me I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I was sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage and I should come out on the top of the heap at last” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 235).

2 Corinthians 4:17. Keeping our mortal afflictions in perspective

Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy used Paul’s words to help us put our mortal afflictions into an eternal perspective:

“The Apostle Paul taught, ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’ [2 Corinthians 4:17]. It is interesting that Paul uses the term ‘light affliction.’ This comes from a person who was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and who experienced many other trials [see 2 Corinthians 11:23–28]. I doubt many of us would label our afflictions light. Yet in comparison to the blessings and growth we ultimately receive, both in this life and in eternity, our afflictions truly are light” (“More Than Conquerors through Him That Loved Us,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 79).

2 Corinthians 5:19. “Reconciling the world unto himself”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained Paul’s teaching about reconciliation:

“Reconciliation is the process of ransoming man from his state of sin and spiritual darkness and of restoring him to a state of harmony and unity with Deity. Through it God and man are no longer enemies. Man, who was once carnal and evil, who lived after the manner of the flesh, becomes a new creature of the Holy Ghost; he is born again; and, even as a little child, he is alive in Christ” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:422–23).