Written by Scott Christensen
Any Bible teacher or expository preacher who is worth his salt will engage in something called “exegesis” when he studies a passage of the Bible to preach or teach. Exegesis simply means “the critical interpretation of a text.” Biblical exegesis seeks to break down the grammar (the study of words) and the syntax (the study of the arrangement of words) of a Bible passage so as to carefully understand what it is saying.
Here is an exercise in exegesis: how breaking down the grammar and syntax of a Bible verse highlights the wonder of what it is teaching us. Consider what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17:
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.
The main subject of this sentence in the word “affliction.” Affliction or suffering is something every believer must face in this life in a variety of forms.
The main verb of this sentence is “producing.” Affliction is producing something for the believer.
The object of the verb is “glory.” Paul is referring to our future glory in the eternal kingdom of God that will be ours when Christ returns. Thus, the main syntactical components of the verse can be stripped down to the following core:
Affliction is producing for us glory.
This communicates the essence of what Paul is saying. But Paul does not wish to stop there. In order to encourage us he adds a number of modifiers to the sentence in order to make his point pack a punch.
Our affliction is called “light affliction” not heavy affliction. In other words, in view of the heaviness of future glory, present affliction weighs like a feather.
But Paul continues. This is not just “light affliction” but “momentary light affliction.” Again, in view of the eternal nature of our future “glory” our present experience of affliction is like a blip on the screen of history that flashes so quickly you might miss it if you weren’t paying close attention.
So, notice Paul is contrasting the “momentary light affliction” in our present circumstances to the “eternal weight of glory” of our future circumstances. “Momentary” is contrasted with “eternal.” “Light” is contrasted with “weight.” And “affliction” is contrasted with “glory.” However, and this is the amazing part, it is the extremely short and feathery lightness of present affliction that God miraculously uses to produce something eternal and weighty. We have no reason to expect affliction to produce something as wonderful as this future glory!
However, in case you did not get Paul’s point, he piles on more superlatives to emphasize this truth. This “eternal weight of glory” produced by “momentary light affliction” is not just “beyond comparison”, nor is it “far beyond comparison”, rather it is “far beyond all comparison.”
All this careful work of exegesis and grammar and syntax and so forth is not an empty exercise. Understanding the way Paul puts all these words together with their meanings and unique relationships to one another is critical in order for us to understand the point of this verse.
The Holy Spirit, who inspired Paul to put these words together, wants you to stop and ask yourself some questions. How should you view your present miseries and sufferings? Do they seem too severe? Do they appear overwhelming in weight and duration? Do they seem to be producing nothing good for you? You may be at a loss to explain how your present afflictions are producing anything good for you in this life (even though they are if you are called into salvation by the Living God!). But if Christ has purchased your redemption then no matter how severe your present sufferings, at the very least, they are producing “an eternal weight of glory” in the life to come that is “far beyond all comparison.”
Now that is some exegesis we can bank on!
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