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Authentic Ministry 8
A faithful proclamation of the gospel of Christ does bring in disputes and challenges. There are unbelievers, many of them very clever, who say that what we are claiming is ridiculous. And so if you want to settle ultimate religious truth by democratic means—taking a vote—you are going to be sorry. But the Christian assumption is that these debates are not occurring on level ground. We are charged to go into a country filled with people who have been blind from birth, and we are told that our message is to be “bright blue.” How is it possible for this to work?
“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:1–6).
Summary of the Text
There is no reason to faint or to be discouraged in ministry because we have already received mercy (v. 1). In the words that follow, remember that Paul is still picking up the pieces after a revolt against his authority in Corinth. Some rally serious allegations had been made against him, which Paul here flatly denies. He had not been dishonest, he had not been sneaky, and he had not handled the Scriptures deceitfully (v. 2). He was able to commend himself to every man’s conscience. And if someone doesn’t see gospel in what Paul was saying, it was only hidden from the lost (v. 3), and was out of their sight because of blindness (v. 4). That blindness was the result of the god of this world, the devil, blinding the minds of unbelievers, lest gospel light shine on them (v. 4). That gospel was glorious because it was the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God (v. 4). The message that is proclaimed must be from outside ourselves. Paul did not preach himself, but rather Christ the Lord (v. 5), and as a corollary, themselves as servants to the Corinthians for the sake of Christ (v. 5). This salvation is the creative work of God, who regenerates sinners in the same way He created light on the first day (v. 6). He says “let it happen,” and it happens. So what does He command for our hearts? The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (v. 6).
Defending Things Right Side Up
We have already seen that Paul did not have an ego-heavy ministry. If people preached out of envy, in order to get Paul in trouble, Paul didn’t mind—so long as the message was unadulterated (Phil. 1:15). But when false brothers, false teachers, or false apostles were wanting to corrupt the message, and Paul was in their way, they would need to attack him. And, that being the case, Paul would defend himself because he was defending something much greater than himself. That is what he is doing here in v. 2.
Light and Blindness
Our message is light. Christ is the light of the world (John 1:9; 8:12). He came into the world in order to shine on every man. We come to the slumbering unbelievers, and summon them to wake up (Eph. 5:14). But there is a necessary process here. Christ appeared to Paul on the Damascus road, and commissioned him . . .
“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
Acts 26:18 (KJV)
There are three steps here. The first is to open eyes. The second is to turn them toward the light. The third is to be a midwife to the actual transfer.
Much gospel preaching is shedding light on the blind. Much moral teaching opens people’s eyes to their need, but then gives no light. When the first two things happen, and in this order, the third thing happens—people are converted. As we preach law and light, a marvelous thing happens. As we minister in obedience by His grace, God gives out eyes.
Remember that we saw last week that we become like what we worship. The plain statement of that is here, in v. 6. As we look at Christ, as He is, we are in the process of becoming like Christ, as He is.
Remember that Paul said that he did not preach himself. He was not the message. Our lives are where the message lands, not where the message originates. Now the message that is set before us is this: “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). This is what we see when we look at Christ straight on, as He is preached in a gospel that is preached, straight on. But we are also told in v. 4 that Christ is the image of God (v. 4).
This means that as we worship God through the face of Jesus Christ, the image of God is being restored in us. We were initially created in the image of God, of course (Gen. 1:27). But when we fell, that image was marred, thoroughly wrecked. The remains of that image are still about us, because after the fall, we are told why murder is still to be punished (Gen. 9:6). So the restoration of the image of God in man is why Jesus came (Eph. 4:23-24). His mission was to make us complete human beings again, instead of what we are in our unconverted state—which is wreckage of human being. Our first parents fell, or more properly, they crashed, and we are the debris field.
Christ came to put it all back together again (Col. 1:15-20). How does this happen? It happens as we look to Him. Look to Christ on the cross, to Christ in the bread and wine, to Christ in your brothers and sisters, and to Christ in the gospel. Always look to Christ. This is what church services are for. This is why you come here. Look to Him.