If you want to see Jesus clearly gaze on 2 Corinthians 4:3-5. First, Paul states emphatically man’s responsibility to receive the Gospel (v. 3). The gospel is concealed only “to those who are perishing.” The verb concealed means “those who are being ruined” or “those who are perishing themselves”--placing the blame squarely where it should be, man’s shoulders (2 Cor. 2:14-17). Paul could make this no clearer. In verse 4, he states that the cause of this ruining--unbelief (Heb. 3:19). Satan does not act on something that is not already present. He “blinds” the thoughts of those already saturated in unbelief (cf. Rom. 1:18-ff).
Next, the light of the gospel. What a bright and glorious light, yet the unbelievers have scales covering their spiritual eyes. For what other cause besides their own rebellion against God (Heb 3:19) would cause them to reject this beautiful gospel? What is the power of the gospel? The source of the power resides in the glory of Christ! Christ is the image of God (the exact imprint). Listen to John Owens speak on this very thing:
Nevertheless we do know this, that God in his immense essence is invisible to our physical eyes and will be in eternity just as he will always be incomprehensible to our minds. So the sight which we shall have of God will always be ‘in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6). In Christ’s face we shall see the glory of God in his infinite perfections (The Glory of Christ 9).
Furthermore, Paul proclaims it’s not the power of his words which persuade men to be saved, but the sight of the glory of Christ--which is the light of the gospel (v. 5). Proclaim means giving a public announcement. Paul is affirming here the truth that the gospel must be preached indiscriminately to every tongue, tribe, and nation. Freely it was preached to us and freely we must preach to others. With Paul we must cry, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Rom. 1:14).
Now we catch a glimpse of our salvation from the beginning of our faith until the end of our faith (cf. Rom. 1:17). Here is the crux of the passage. God is the source of spiritual sight. Paul uses God’s creation ex nihilo to exemplify the emptiness of our spiritual desires until God commands light to transform darkness. We all had darkness covering our eyes, but God with a Word broke through our unbelief and opened our eyes to the glory of Christ.
Our hearts are the place of spiritual sight. In their natural state “[our] heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Therefore, it’s always been the job of God to remake men’s hearts. The fact that God must restore the heart didn’t remove responsibility from Israel to obey God’s law completely. Israel was accusing God of injustice and so Ezekiel echoes Moses’s command in Deuteronomy 10:16 (“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart”) commands Israel: “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” (Ezekiel 18:31). The testimony of Scripture is clear that God gives us regeneration. Speaking for God, Ezekiel says, “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (11:19, 36:26) and the author of Hebrews says, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (10:14). Those who are saved will be perfected one day!
Third, let’s see the purpose of spiritual light—“to give the light of the knowledge.” What is the test of a true conversion? Not that one has seen the light at all (like Israel in the wilderness), but that the light has brought forth a knowledge and desire to see more of God’s glory in Jesus’s face. We must long to see Him. For now we see in a glass darkly but then face to face. What a glorious time that will be. This ultimate seeing will be our final salvation!
But consider the phrase “the glory of God.” In the OT, the glory of the LORD was symbolized the Lord’s presence. The pillar of cloud led Israel by day and the fire by night (Ex. 13:21-22). God’s glory filled the tabernacle under Moses (Ex. 33:8-13, 40:34-38) and filled the temple under Solomon (1 King 8:10-11). Also, the Lord’s glory appeared many times. For instance, Moses saw the Lord’s glory at the burning bush (Ex. 3:2-4), Isaiah saw the Lord (Is. 6) and the Apostle John said it was Jesus he saw (John 12:41). However, Jesus was a perfect representation of God’s glory. Listen to the Apostle John: “We have seen the glory, glory as of the only begotten Son from the Father” (John 1:14). One of my favorite scenes in the whole Bible is in John’s gospel.
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?’ (John 14:6-9).
Last, we must seek this glory “in the face of Christ.” John Piper in God is the Gospel says,
The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the foods you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you b e satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there.
Paul states earlier in 3:18 “and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
As Christians than what should we do? Are you being saved and never changing? Have you really then seen the glory of Christ? Those who have seen the glory of Christ are being transformed. Spurgeon says, “We desire to have a flame burning on the heart of our souls which is fed with the fuel of eternal truth and will therefore burn forevermore.” May we have a burning flame for the glory of Christ.
Some practical suggestions:
- Pray with Jesus that you would see His glory in Scripture.
- Confess your sins before God and cry out with Isaiah—“I’m unclean! And not worthy!”
- Pray with David for satisfaction in Christ alone (John Piper Interview):
- “Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18).
- “Create in me a clean heart” (Ps. 51:10).
- “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Ps. 50:12).
- “Incline my heart to Your testimonies” (Ps. 119:36).
- “Satisfy us early with Your mercy” (Ps. 90:14)
Finally, remember David’s words: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).