2 Corinthians 4:6 ~ 20180819 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
08/19_2 Corinthians 4:6; The Creative Power of Authentic Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180819_2cor4_6.mp3
Paul is describing authentic Christian ministry; giving reason why he does not lose heart, get discouraged, give up, burn out. Ministry, the ability and opportunity to serve others, is a gift. It is God's mercy to sinners.
He describes his methods; he does not use shameful hidden methods; he refuses to water down, add to, or distort God's word. He speaks plainly, openly, with integrity.
He recognizes there is an adversary to the truth, a powerful enemy who seeks our eternal destruction, who would cast a veil over the hearts and minds of people to keep them from seeing the truth.
He lays out the simple message he does proclaim; the person of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord, and he explains his role as a minister of the gospel.
Verse 6, our subject today, he gives us the creative power of authentic ministry, the ultimate ground of his confidence in gospel ministry, why he is content to openly proclaim the truth, to not adjust the message to suit his audience, and why he does not lose heart even in the face of seeming ministry failure. We proclaim Jesus, and God speaks and shines light in hearts that are veiled and blinded. God is powerful to overcome the darkness. Authentic ministry is ministry God speaks through to accomplish his purposes.
The ministry Paul is talking about is primarily a speaking ministry; he simply and plainly heralds the Lord Jesus Christ. He proclaims. He uses words to communicate truth. He communicates simply, openly, plainly. His ministry is ministry of the word; he administers God's word to people. He communicates God's truth. He communicates the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ as Lord. Ministry is speaking, proclaiming, communicating truth, to reflect our God who is a communicating, speaking God. Verse 6 begins 'because God said.'
Don't ever let this cease to amaze you. Our God is a speaking God, a communicating God. He could have left us wondering, guessing, groping in the dark. But he spoke. He communicates who he is, what he is like, what he requires, how we can have a relationship with him. Our God is a speaking God. We speak because he has spoken.
The Power of The Word
And his speech has power. When God speaks, things leap into being. That which did not exist comes into existence. Psalm 33 says:
By his word, by the breath of his mouth, by his speaking, at his command, everything came into being. The heavens and all their starry hosts, universes, galaxies, all breathed out by him. Hebrews 11 says:
The universe created by the word of God. That which is visible came out of that which is invisible, the spoken word. God's word is creative! God's word has power! Romans 4 talks about
God calls, God speaks, and things that do not exist come into existence! This is absolute power! Everything God says happens.
This is what we are asking when in the Lord's prayer we ask that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May we respond to your word with unhesitating and absolute obedience, the way your word causes even things that do not exist to be for your pleasure.
Out of Darkness, Light Shine
God commanded 'out of darkness, light shine!' Any idea what passage Paul is referring to here?
The first thing that comes to mind is creation, where 'God said Let light be, and light came into existence' (Gen.1:3). Darkness was over the face of the deep, and God said “Let there be light.” and there was light. Genesis 1 is clearly in mind here, because God is creating light out of darkness. And he does it with his word. He speaks, and it comes into being. 2 Corinthians 4:6 starts out 'the God who said' and Genesis 1:3 starts out 'and God said'. But in Genesis 1, God says 'let light be or exist; in 2 Corinthians he says 'let light shine' – a different verb. And Genesis 1 takes place at the beginning of creation, before humankind exists; where 2 Corinthians is talking about God shining light into human hearts made flesh. So while Genesis 1 is definitely in mind, there may be other passages in mind as well.
There is another passage that includes darkness, light, and the same verb 'to shine' that we find in 2 Corinthians 4. It is Isaiah 9. You are probably familiar with the well-known Christmas passage Isaiah 9:6:
Isaiah 9 begins by pointing us to 'Galilee of the nations,' and verse 2 says:
Here the subject is people, people walking in darkness, upon whom the light shines. And in the context of Isaiah 9, the light shining is the child born, the son given, whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Matthew 4:13-16 quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 and says that it is fulfilled in Jesus. The light shining in the darkness of human hearts is Jesus!
In Isaiah 60 we see this same theme again of light coming into darkness, and it is the glory of the Lord on people.
The light that overcomes the thick darkness is the glory of YHWH rising. What we proclaim is Jesus Christ as Lord; YWHW.
John's gospel begins this way.
Jesus is the true light that shines in the darkness, that gives light, that was coming into the world. Notice in John's gospel that he names this one 'the Word.' The Word gives life and light. It is the speaking one, the communicating one, the one we proclaim; Jesus Christ the Lord.
Paul takes a thread from Genesis 1 where God brings light into existence that did not exist by his powerful word, and ties it together with Isaiah 9, where the promised Son of God shines light into the deep darkness of humankind, and Isaiah 60 where the light is the glory of YHWH.
The Means of Conversion
Paul is talking about confidence in gospel ministry, and he points to his own conversion, and he invites us to think of our own conversion. The God who said 'out of darkness, light shine!' has shone in our hearts.
Do you remember? Do you remember when the lights came on for you? I grew up in a Christian family, in a Christian church, attending camp and Sunday School. I knew all about Jesus, and Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath and Adam and Eve and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Paul and Timothy. I knew all about creation and Babel and the ark and the tabernacle and the disciples and the miracles and the cross and the resurrection. I knew that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I knew it. I saw it all in living color on Mrs. Dean's flannel graph. I even believed it. But I remember when I got it. When it came home to me. When the lights turned on. When God shone in my heart to give the light of the knowledge of Jesus. I felt the weight of my sin, and I was a grievous sinner at the ripe age of seven. I had been feeling the weight of my sin, but now I saw that Jesus took that sin – my sin. He died in my place. For me! He loved me and gave himself up for me. He was pursuing me. He wanted a relationship with me! I finally got it, and I wanted it. I wanted him! I embraced his forgiveness. I embraced him. How did it happen for you? When did the lights come on?
Paul invites us to look at our own conversion, our own transformation, our own new birth, as something God did. God the Creator spoke light into existence in our hearts and our blind eyes began to see! People talked 'till they were blue in the face, explained, clarified, answered questions... nothing. But when God said 'let light be,' then the lights came on.
The Creator God has shone in our hearts and we saw. We can take confidence in gospel ministry because we experienced God's illuminating power. And we know he can turn the lights on for anyone!
Paul is confident in proclaiming plainly the simple message of Jesus Christ as Lord; he does not lose heart, because he is confident that God is at work shining in dark and veiled hearts to illuminate Jesus to them.
Romans 10 is helpful here. Romans 10:13 says:
And then he goes on to explain:
Salvation comes through calling on Jesus in faith. Faith comes through hearing the word proclaimed. But not all who hear believe. God must turn the lights on. Proclamation is necessary, but it is not the decisive thing. God must be speaking in our speaking to create light in the hearts of those who are blind. Paul said in 1 Corinthians:
How is it that the folly of what we preach becomes the saving power of God and the wisdom of God? Through the God who said 'Let light shine out of darkness' shining in our hearts to give light. We can confidently proclaim the simple message of Christ crucified, Jesus Christ as Lord, confident that God will open blind eyes and conquer hard hearts. We cannot 'claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God' (2Cor.3:5)
The Glory of God is the Glory of Christ
Let's look again at what we see when God shines in our hearts.
What is it that we see? It is the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Let's pair this with what our enemy wants to keep us from seeing in verse 4. What the enemy wants to blind us to is what God overcomes by his creative word to give us the light of knowledge. Paul states the same thing in different words, and the pairing of these two verses sheds even more light on Jesus.
What our adversary wants to keep us from seeing is 'the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.'
'The light of the gospel' is 'the light of the knowledge.' what is the content of this knowledge, this good news? 'The glory of Christ' is 'the glory of God'. Paul as plainly as ever identifies Christ with God. The knowledge of the glory of God is the good news of the glory of Christ. The glory of Christ is that he is very image of God. The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
O Lord, open our eyes to behold the good news of the glory of Christ the image of God; let us see the glory of God in the face of our Lord
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org