It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)
The subject that the apostle Paul is dealing with in this chapter is his own ministry and what it is like.
He begins the chapter by saying that he has his ministry not because of his own merit or his own initiative, but “by the mercy of God.” Then Paul says in verse 2 that his ministry is open and aboveboard; it does not tamper with the word of God, or in any way obscure God’s truth. The content of his ministry, verse 5 says, is Jesus Christ as Lord, and his role is to serve the churches for Jesus’ sake. There are people who are blind to the glory of God in the face of Christ (v. 4), but by God’s grace the light of the gospel can break through into the hearts of believers (v. 6).
In verse 7, Paul acknowledges that a tremendous power is necessary if the ministry of the gospel is to succeed and people are to be converted and transformed. This power is all God’s, and Paul is like a clay pot containing the glorious treasure of the gospel and of the life of Christ, so that God will get all the glory for Paul’s successes. Verses 8 and 9 describe the gospel ministry as fraught with troubles: “afflicted in every way . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . struck down,” but in all this sustained by God. The reason for all this trouble and suffering, according to verses 10 and 11, is so that the life of Christ might shine out more clearly as Paul’s own life hangs in the balance. When Paul endures so much for Jesus’ sake, his willingness to suffer and die is strong evidence for the resurrection life of Christ. Paul ministers life to the churches by suffering for them and revealing to them the life of Christ in which he hopes.
Verses 13 and 14 show what sustains Paul in his willingness to share the death of Christ. He speaks out of faith which knows that if God raised Jesus from the dead, he will raise Paul also, and not only Paul, but his converts as well. The prospect of standing before Christ surrounded by his spiritual children at Corinth so excites Paul that he says in verse 15, “It is all for your sake.” All my suffering, all my preaching, all my labor as an apostle is for your sake, “so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.”
Notice that Paul cannot let man, even converted, thankful man, be the end point of his ministry.
Yes, his ministry is for man’s sake, but beyond that, above that, and vastly more important than that, his ministry reaches its goal when God’s glory is exalted. When all eyes are off of man (the earthen vessel) and on God, mouths agape, and holy hands raised in praise, then the apostle’s work is done.
But thanksgiving plays a very crucial part in the purpose of Paul’s ministry and the purpose of your ministry too.