2 Corinthians 4:1-6
1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The reference here to ‘veils’ and ‘glory’ shows that Paul has in mind a contrast he has made between the old and the new covenants in an earlier chapter. In chapter 3 he argued that the Jewish people really didn’t understand their Bible: there is a ‘veil’ over their hearts and minds, he said which was blinding them spiritually. Now in chapter 4 he includes all men and women. Anybody, he says, who hears the gospel, and does not make sense of it, is like a Jew reading the Old Testament law – they do not see the glory of God in the person of Jesus.
He tells us why: the god of this age is blinding their eyes. Many consider this a reference to the work of Satan. However, there is another way of reading the sentence. The phrase, ‘the god of this age’ is an appositional phrase, meaning ‘the god who consists of this age’. People make this age their god: it is the idolatrous preoccupation with the material things of this world that makes people blind to the spiritual realities of the next.
This line of interpretation is consistent with the overall teaching of the Bible – it is because men and women have chosen to worship what is less than God that God has given them over to a darkened mind; in turn, the devil finds it so easy to steal the word of God from their hearts.
How then does anyone come to believe? Surely we are all in the same spiritual boat of ‘blindness’ Paul would agree. However, he is certain that God himself is pleased to accompany the human work of proclaiming the gospel with his miracle of illumination.’ In verse 2 he says: We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake. In other words it is not the gifts of oratory, charisma and charm that win men and women to faith, it is an encounter with Jesus. Paul sees that his task is to introduce people to Jesus. And, says Paul, ‘As I do this, God by his Spirit takes the veil from their hearts and enables them to see the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ. It’s just like opening the blinds in the morning – darkness gives way to the dawn.’
Paul’s words go to the heart of gospel ministry: to proclaim God’s good news that Jesus Christ is ‘the Lord’. It is by God’s grace that we who are blind to this truth come to see Jesus as he truly is – the Son, the true image of God, who reveals God and who brings us to God.
You may want to consider:
- what Paul says about the ‘god of this age’ blinding human hearts to God’s good news;
- the implications of Paul’s analogy: just as God brought light physically into the world of darkness, so he is committed to bringing light spiritually; why prayer is so important;
- Paul’s own ministry style, focus and ethic.
Let me encourage you to pray
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.