2 Corinthians 4:1-6

I am really so glad to have so many friends in Bellingen, and in this church, of course. But how hard would it be to spoil any of those friendships? The usual rules apply, I think.  There are some topics that are best avoided.

It would be a wrong move to be asking questions which are too personal, like… No best not go there.

The usual taboo subjects include things like mental health, emotions, finances, sex, politics and religion so we avoid such topics when talking with friends. What is it that makes those subjects taboo? Friends can get along while disagreeing strongly on subjects like football, cricket, tennis but it frightens us to think of disagreeing with our friends about religion or politics so we avoid such subjects.

Ironically, though, here I am talking about religion with you now and I think you’re OK with that.  So why is it OK to talk about religion with you now but not at other times? It’s pretty confusing, isn’t it? 

The early church in Corinth had real problems, came up with wrong thinking and quite a bit of tension and disagreement so the apostle Paul wrote them 2 or 3 letters including…

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Now, see, Paul didn’t have any trouble talking about religion, did he?  No, he got stuck into it!  

As he said “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”

And it didn’t stress him at all.  Not only did he think it was an act of service, or ministry, on his part but this ministry was given to him as an act of mercy on God’s part.  That’s an interesting way to think about things!  God has given me a job to do.  Isn’t that merciful of God? It’s so good of God to give me this job whether I want it or not, whether I enjoy it or not. 

If I am in this situation because God is being merciful by putting me in it I’m not whinge and complain but on the contrary, no matter how hard or disappointing it gets “we do not lose heart”.  We do not give up.

Thinking like that could make a difference to you, couldn’t it?  I can remember those times I hated being a teacher and desperately wished I hadn’t got into this job.  Now I wish I had learned that it was an act of mercy on God’s part that he had directed my life onto this path. I would have had a much better attitude and certainly I would have done a much better job.

Paul was so convinced about this that he was enthusiastic about his job.  No secret or shameful ways with him! There was no deception in his message.  He was to present the word of God clearly and without distortion.

However, no matter how plainly he presented the truth, there were always some people who just didn’t get it.

What Paul was teaching, and what we can share, too, is the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  

This is not some comfortable vague good news.  This is the gospel, the good, good news that God became flesh, a man who lived life perfectly but who was crucified.  He died on a cross to take the blame and penalty of the sin of those who believe this was done for them. God displayed the glory of Christ by raising him from the dead, never to die again but to rule the universe as Lord, King, God!

There’s nothing more glorious than that.

But, try as you might, some people never seem to understand this.  Why?

The Bible tells us here. “4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

I think that we all appreciate the KISS principle.  You know, Keep It Simple Stupid principle. This verse seems simple enough, doesn’t it? 

“4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

But you won’t be surprised to learn that the average theologian can’t look at that without making the simple complicated. It’s natural to them to ask questions like, “who or what is the god of this age”.  And, while you are at it, what is meant by “this age”?

Let’s see what Jesus himself said about this.

On the day before he was crucified Jesus prayed for his disciples and at the same time he prayed for us.  He prayed, “John 17:6 ‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.  

14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

What he was saying was that there were some people who had accepted what he had taught them; indeed, the way he put is was it had been revealed to them.  They obeyed what they had been told.  They knew with certainty that Jesus was sent by God - they believed. Somehow they were different to the unbelievers.

In simple, clear words Jesus said, these people, these believers are not of the world - just like Jesus was not of the world.

On the other hand, people who belong to the world are the unbelievers.  They are a different group of people. Jesus says they are people of what he calls the world; they are not members of his kingdom, the kingdom of God.  They are of the world. 

He goes so far as to say that they hate the believers. 

In some parts of the world people who don’t believe the gospel of Jesus certainly do hate the believers.  It’s at great risk to their homes, businesses and their lives to be a Christian believer in Nigeria, Iran, Pakistan and India for example..  

By the grace of God we believers in Australia are not so much at physical risk but I think we all know that unbelievers do not exactly warm to us believers let alone welcome Christian testimony. Religion is not a welcome topic, is it?

Under the circumstances Jesus’ followers need protection.  Jesus knew this and so he prays for them - even now! He prays that they would be protected from the evil one.

Jesus told his disciples that in this world they would have trouble.  He warns his followers that there would be problems ahead.  That’s to be expected.  Jesus’ followers know something that is a mystery to everyone else. They are people who know with certainty who Jesus is and they live in a society with a lot of people who do not know Jesus, who have not accepted him, to whom Jesus has not been revealed.

In quite a few places in the New Testament the world is referred to in this way.

There are Jesus and his followers who are not of this world then there’s the people who don’t believe, those who don’t know who Jesus is and who are of this world

So, when we look at Jesus’ prayer and in other places we learn what is meant by the phrase the world.  Who or what, then, is the god of this world?

Whatever, whoever the god of this world is he or it blinds the minds of unbelievers, we read.

One group of theologians think the god of this world is materialism, greed, selfishness and all those attributes, even attractions, that make up the behaviour of people who are of the world. Some go so far as to argue that it’s capitalism that veils people’s minds from the teachings of Jesus.

Some go further and it can become quite political.

There are a few commentators who suggest that Jesus is the god of this world. 

Jesus is God, that’s for sure. That makes him god of this world, too.  But he is more than that - he is God of everything and all of us. He is more than the god of this world,

Why would Jesus stop people believing in him?  Not many people think this is the answer.

But I look at Jesus’ own prayer in John 17 where we read “15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Jesus prayed that we would not be taken out of this world, even though there are problems, persecutions and pain while we continue to live in the world yet not really belonging in it.

Believers do not belong to the world but they have no alternative but to live in it. A common phrase is that Christian believers are in the world but don’t belong to it.

No, Jesus asked that we would be protected while we continue to live - protected from the evil one.

Jesus had had personal dealings with the evil one.  Remember when he was led into the wilderness just after he had been baptised?  There Satan tempted him and Jesus responded by keeping faithful to his father’s will and dismissing Satan as the father of lies.

By his crucifixion and resurrection Jesus demonstrated his authority and power and showed complete domination over Satan.  Jesus now reigns as king over all.  Satan continues to slither around, a wounded enemy whose total destruction is yet to come.

Who do you think the god of this age is? Jesus prayed for our protection from the evil one, Satan himself.  So when we read…

4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ,

The most common conclusion is that the god of this age is Satan himself.

The other explanations given are more satisfying to those who don’t believe Satan exists or has any power.  To me there is plenty of assumption in the Bible that Satan is real and active so, combining this with the KISS principle I think it is Satan who blinds the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ.

In the letter to the Ephesians it’s pretty clear: (Ephesians 2:)1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

Then it goes on to tell us why we need the protection God offers in Ephesians 6:10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

One thing comes out of this, though.  We have some very sad news and some wonderfully good news.

The sad news is that some people just cannot understand or believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and no matter how hard you try to explain it to them they never get it. 

But here is the wonderful news!

As Paul wrote in an earlier letter (1 Corinthians 2: 12) What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us, and as he says in this letter, 6For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Think about this question. “Are you a believer?” “Do you believe in the gospel that displays the glory of Christ?”

As far as I can tell, from what I know of you, your answer is, “Yes!”  

So, how come you  are a believer?

Clearly Jesus’ prayer for you had been answered and God has protected you from the evil one, the god of this world.  The evil one has been unable to blind your mind, has been unable to put up a veil to stop you seeing and understanding the Gospel of Christ.

Not only that but God’s Holy Spirit has given you understanding.  He has made the light of Jesus shine in your heart to give you the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

See how good God has been to you!? How he has intervened in your life? There has been a wonderful spiritual work going on in your life, in your thinking, in your relationship with God your Father and your Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.

Breathtaking to think about, isn’t it?

Then see how the Bible brings us back to earth, gets things in priority order.

Going further in this passage the next thing we read is (2 Corinthians 4:7) But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 

We have just learned a wonderful truth.  We have seen the light! But there’s nothing to be proud of, nothing to boast of, no reason to be gloating over others.  It has been God’s work all along.  He has done a wonderful thing in our lives, we have a real treasure! But we are limited, breakable, his workmanship.  This treasure, this enlightenment shows us that the all-surpassing power is from God, not from us.

We have nothing to boast about but God has.  He has done a wonderful thing in our lives, a thing that is very much worth talking about, sharing with others.  Give God the glory! Praise the God who has been so good to us.

He lifted the veil from your mind.  He stopped the god of this world from blinding you to the truth.  The Holy Spirit shone light into the darkness so you could see the light.

What we can do, however, is let the wonder and the love of it all sink in and to be an ongoing source of peace and praise.  As Jesus said of his followers, “they knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.”

We have a certainty given to us by the Holy Spirit of Jesus himself. That’s why today’s text goes on to say, (2 Corinthians 4:13) It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’

This makes us a special group - a group of people who are very special to Almighty God.

(1 Peter 2:9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

You and I can’t convince people of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ but God can. What we can do is share this good news, this gospel and give God a chance to use this message in the lives of our friends and relatives.

Of course, prayer is powerful.  Pray for your friends, family, neighbours that God will be gracious to them and overpower the god of this world so that the Holy Spirit of God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ make his light shine in their hearts to give them the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Clearly, talking about what Jesus has done for us must be taken off the taboo list.


1544 Modified: 11-02-2024
© Poweringon 2000-2024#508