The Meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:5 Explained

2 Corinthians 4:5

KJV: For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

YLT: for not ourselves do we preach, but Christ Jesus -- Lord, and ourselves your servants because of Jesus;

Darby: For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus Lord, and ourselves your bondmen for Jesus' sake.

ASV: For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus'sake.

What does 2 Corinthians 4:5 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Even though Paul occasionally needed to commend himself to every man"s conscience ( 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 6:4), he never promoted himself. Instead he proclaimed Jesus Christ as a faithful slave announces his master rather than himself. This is what he had done in Corinth. He did not conduct himself as the spiritual overlord of these Christians ( 2 Corinthians 1:24). A herald draws attention to himself only to promote the one he or she announces. This is also what Jesus did in the Incarnation. Both Paul and Jesus took the role of a servant and bound themselves to fulfill God"s mission for them, which involved serving others.
"What humbler view of himself could a messenger of the gospel take than to regard himself not only as a bondservant of Jesus Christ (as Paul delights to call himself; cf. Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 1:1) but even as the bondservant of those to whom he ministers?" [1]
"It would be hard to describe the Christian ministry more comprehensively in so few words." [2]
Paul in his preaching presented Jesus as the sovereign God to whom everyone must submit in faith. He did not make total submission to the lordship of Christ a condition for salvation, however. Voluntary submission to the lordship of Christ was a message that he reserved for believers ( Romans 6:13; Romans 12:1-2). When Paul preached Christ to the unsaved, he presented Him as God who by virtue of His deity is sovereign over all people (cf. Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Colossians 2:6).
"The implication here is that lordship equates with deity. "LORD" regularly translates "Yahweh" in the LXX, and there are numerous NT references to Jesus as "Lord" that echo OT (LXX) passages that refer to Yahweh." [3]
To become a believer an unsaved person must submit to Christ"s lordship to the extent that he or she acknowledges that Jesus is God and is therefore over him or her in authority. Trusting in the person and work of Christ is submission to His lordship to that extent. However when one becomes a believer and appreciates what God has done for him or her in salvation, yielding every area of one"s life to Christ"s control becomes a voluntary act of worship ( Romans 12:1). To make what is voluntary for the Christian necessary for the unsaved to obtain justification is adding to what God requires for justification.

Context Summary

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 - God's Glory Reflected In Christ
The servant of Christ must never forget that he once needed and obtained mercy. This will sustain him in many an hour when heart and flesh fail. His weapon is the truth, his appeal to conscience. Others may vie with him in brilliant imagination, fervid enthusiasm, and intellectual force, but he has unrivaled supremacy in the realm of conscience. As Richard I of England, immured in a castle-dungeon, recognized the voice and song of his troubadour, singing outside the castle gate a strain familiar to them both, and responded note for note, so does conscience awaken and respond to the truth, which it recognizes as the voice of God.
Why, then, does the gospel fail? Not through any defect in itself, nor because of some arbitrary decree on the part of God, but because the god of this world has blinded the eyes of the heart by the glamour of worldly prosperity and success, or perhaps by the covering film or scale of evil habit, so that the light of the dawn, stealing over the world, is unable to penetrate the darkened life. [source]

Chapter Summary: 2 Corinthians 4

1  Paul declares how he has used all sincerity and diligence in preaching the gospel,
7  and how his troubles and persecutions did redound to the praise of God's power,
12  to the benefit of the church,
16  and to the apostle's own eternal glory

Greek Commentary for 2 Corinthians 4:5

For we preach not ourselves [ου γαρ εαυτους κηρυσσομεν]
Surely as poor and disgusting a topic as a preacher can find. [source]
But Christ Jesus as Lord [αλλα Χριστον Ιησουν Κυριον]
Κυριον — Kurion is predicate accusative in apposition. As your servants for Jesus‘ sake (δουλους υμων δια Ιησουν — doulous humōn dia Iēsoun). Your bond-slave for the sake of Jesus. This is the sufficient reason for any preacher‘s sacrifice, “for Jesus‘ sake.” [source]
As your servants for Jesus‘ sake [δουλους υμων δια Ιησουν]
Your bond-slave for the sake of Jesus. This is the sufficient reason for any preacher‘s sacrifice, “for Jesus‘ sake.” [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for 2 Corinthians 4:5

1 Thessalonians 2:6 Nor seeking glory of men [ουτε ζητουντες εχ αντρωπων δοχαν]
“Upon the repudiation of covetousness follows naturally the repudiation of worldly ambition” (Milligan). See Acts 20:19; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Ephesians 4:2. This third disclaimer is as strong as the other two. Paul and his associates had not tried to extract praise or glory out of (εχ — ex) men. [source]
1 Timothy 2:7 A preacher [κῆρυξ]
Lit. a herald. See on 2 Peter 2:5. Paul does not use the noun, but the kindred verb κηρύσσειν toproclaim or preach is very common in his writings. See Romans 10:8; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Philemon 1:15, etc. [source]

What do the individual words in 2 Corinthians 4:5 mean?

Not for ourselves do we proclaim but Christ Jesus Lord now servants of you for the sake of
Οὐ γὰρ ἑαυτοὺς κηρύσσομεν ἀλλὰ Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν Κύριον δὲ δούλους ὑμῶν διὰ

ἑαυτοὺς  ourselves 
Parse: Reflexive Pronoun, Accusative Masculine 3rd Person Plural
Root: ἑαυτοῦ  
Sense: himself, herself, itself, themselves.
κηρύσσομεν  do  we  proclaim 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Plural
Root: κηρύσσω  
Sense: to be a herald, to officiate as a herald.
Χριστὸν  Christ 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: Χριστός  
Sense: Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God.
Ἰησοῦν  Jesus 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰησοῦς  
Sense: Joshua was the famous captain of the Israelites, Moses’ successor.
Κύριον  Lord 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: κύριος  
Sense: he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord.
δὲ  now 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: δέ  
Sense: but, moreover, and, etc.
δούλους  servants 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Plural
Root: δοῦλοσ1 
Sense: a slave, bondman, man of servile condition.
ὑμῶν  of  you 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Genitive 2nd Person Plural
Root: σύ  
Sense: you.
διὰ  for  the  sake  of 
Parse: Preposition
Root: διά  
Sense: through.