We are called to great glory, but we are called to great glory out of a great mess. God is in the process of restoring a remarkable ruin—say of a cathedral—and the greatness of this undertaking is seen when we consider how great the ruin is. Man was created as the image bearer of God, and the fall shattered his ability to reflect that image accurately. It still does so—you can still make it out—but the image of God in man must be restored. This image is the face of Jesus Christ, and this face is manifested in the preaching of the gospel.
“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. 4:3–6).
You should remember from our treatment of 1 Corinthians that this letter was probably written in the autumn of 56 A.D. A severe letter had been sent to the Corinthians in between 1 Corinthians and this one, and it is apparent from all the issues being addressed that no Christian in his right mind should want to belong to “a New Testament church.” Paul is still addressing the problem of factions that plagued the church at Corinth.
Summary of the Text
If the gospel is hidden, it is hidden from those who are lost. In other words, the gospel is not lost, but rather the people who are lost cannot find it (v. 3). The gospel is home, and you cannot be lost at home. The reason these people are lost is that the god of that age (aeon, not cosmos) had blinded their minds. Otherwise the light of the glorious gospel would shine on them (v. 4). Paul confesses that he does not preach “himself,” but rather Christ Jesus the Lord, and himself and others with him as simple servants (v. 5). For God was the one who commanded light to shine out of darkness in the creation (v. 6), and He has done the same thing again in the conversion of sinners. He gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (v. 6).
Trajectory of Glory
A distinction has to be made between where Paul is in the writing of this letter, and where Paul isgoing. The church continues to have practical troubles. Paul is still seeking to reconcile people in the church (2 Cor. 2:2-11), make arrangements for the collection for the poor (2 Cor. 8:1-9:15), and defend his apostolic authority (2 Cor. 11:1-29). His schedule is full of daily challenges. But the theme of where Paul is going is glory—and he fully intends to take the Corinthians with him. The subject of glory comes up in this letter again and again. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Cor. 1:20).
Win or Lose
The point is glory, win or lose. When things are going well, when things are prospering, when all the breaks are going your way, what are you instructed to do? “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17).
But we do not serve a God who operates like a vending machine. He is a personal God, and He dispenses every kind of providence, whether hard or soft. What are we to do when it is hard? The answer is the same—we are to lean into the glory.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).
And How is This Done?
So we are to lean into glory? How are we to lean into glory? We do this when we worship the Lord. Remember the ultimate law that is operative here—we become like what we worship. In Psalm 115, idolaters make deaf, dumb, and blind statues, and “those that make them are like unto them.” When we finally see the Lord Jesus full on, we will become like Him, because we will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
And that is what we find here in 2 Corinthians as well:
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
We are to worship the Lord with an “open face.” When we worship the Lord truly, we are doing so under the preached Word, which means that we are having the visage of the Lord sketched for us. Remember our text—preaching Christ offers to you the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Do you see this? When you come to a service where Christ is preached, and you do so with “open face,” you are privileged to look upon the open face of Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel. And when you look upon Him, face to face like this, what happens? The same thing happens as happened to Moses earlier in chapter 3—and is what could not happen to the Israelites under the older covenant. Moses saw the Lord face to face in one sense (Ex. 33:11), but not in another (Ex. 33:20-23). And the people saw the face of Moses radiant, and Moses would put on the veil so that they would not see that the glory would fade. But we have a glory that does not fade.