Notes on 2 Corinthians 4:5-6

2 Corinthians 4:5‑6  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
There is no defect, then, in “our gospel.” There is not only the firmest foundation of righteousness, but the brightest heavenly glory in the display of that righteousness. In Christ exalted love with us is made perfect. How could it, indeed, go farther? because as He is, so are we in this world. It is the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is God's image. We are not yet ourselves in possession of the glory as an actual fact, but we have it in Him in whom it shines most fully, and through whom it shines into our hearts. No greater proof, then, of the blinding power of Satan, than that men should be insensible to such glory. But an evil conscience cannot endure the light of God, whatever the love from which the light of that glory springs. For they cannot endure the discovery and judgment of their sins, even though the rejection of His testimony exposes them to everlasting ruin. They believe themselves, or really Satan, the god of this age, rather than the only true God; they are lost. This is what the gospel supposes, though it fully provides for it. But the blessing is inseparable from faith; for God is not saving only, but making the saved vessels on earth to reflect the glory of Christ in heaven.
Such pre-eminently was the apostle. He himself, the stoutest of combatants against the name of Jesus, was struck down in mid-career by the glory of Jesus shining from heaven. He therefore knew, if any soul ever did, the gospel of the glory of Christ. Lost, spite of all that law could give or boast of; saved by sovereign grace, spite of all that the strongest enmity could breathe against the Lord and His own, he became the milted witness of a Savior and Lord on high. Where was self now in his eyes? and what the worth of religions authority in Israel, any more than of that philosophy which leaves men groping in the dark, whatever the vauntings of its several schools? The worthlessness of all here below he had proved; for him henceforward Christ was all, as indeed He is all, and in all.
“For not ourselves do we preach, but Christ Jesus as Lord,1 and ourselves your bondmen, for Jesus'2 sake, because it is the3 God that bid light shine4 out of darkness, who shone in our hearts for the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God5 in the face of Jesus Christ.” (Vers. 6, 6.) Others might preach themselves; the apostle, Christ Jesus as Lord. He was content to be servant of Christ, and, for that very reason, of the saints, for the sake of Jesus. This alone is true service; anything else a snare, both to him who serves, and to those who are served, who, in such circumstances, alike serve themselves to His dishonor.
But as Christ Jesus is Lord, and the believer owns and proclaims it according to his measure, so is He the one true and safe motive for the ready service of His saints. Personal interest, or honor, vanishes before His name. And such a servant was the apostle to the Corinthians. What a change, from the prejudiced, law-bound, yet impassioned Jew of Tarsus! How came so complete and sudden a revolution to be brought about in the heart of one naturally most averse to change? It was, it is always, the effect of God's power in grace. The Creator-God is the Savior-God, through His Son.
It was as truly light spiritual from God, as that which shone at God's bidding where darkness had reigned before the earth was prepared for man. “Because God, that bid light to shine out of darkness, [is he] who shone in our hearts for [the] illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Thus, for faith does the first man give instant place to the second; and we, who were once darkness, become light in the Lord. The apostle, no doubt, had vividly before him the never to be forgotten circumstances of his own conversion, suggestive of the light at mid-day, above the brightness of the sun shining from heaven. With this he brings in the allusion to Gen. 1:33And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:3), so as the better to contrast the light with the previous darkness, and connect all with the power, as well as the word, of God. But he gives both references the precision requisite to the case in hand.
It was a question here, not of an external miracle, but of God's shining “in our hearts” —a thing, after all, far more blessed than even the light of old which answered the bidding of God to dispel the world's deep gloom. If the enemy blinds the thoughts of the unbelieving, grace shines in the believer's heart for the shining forth of the knowledge of His glory in the face, or person, of Christ. So had God operated in the apostle's heart, not merely for his own enjoyment of that heavenly light (though this primarily), but also that it might shine on others, as a testimony to them and for Christ. Grace thus identifies the two things, as Christ gave Himself up “for us,” an offering and sacrifice “to God,” for an odor of sweet savor. The energy of the Holy Spirit alone can effect so mighty a work in any heart, as it did most abundantly in him for a pattern of those about to believe on Him to life everlasting. So, when taken out from among the people and the Gentiles, he could say that the Lord sent him to the last, with a view to open their eyes, that they might turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.
There is, therefore, in the gospel, as it reached the apostle, a wondrous double action: not only an in-shining of God in his own heart, but this also with a view to giving forth the light of the knowledge of God's glory in Christ's face. If the law was addressed to a people already formed, and in a definite relationship with God, the gospel, especially as Paul knew and preached it, went out to any, to all, to the lost. It was not requirement of man's duty, it was the communication of the knowledge of God's glory, a glory which shone in Christ's face, consequent on the infinite work of redemption, whereby God could justify man in free grace, instead of judging him for his iniquities. If men are inexcusable who reject the gospel, no wonder that the apostle should say, We preach such a Savior, blending as he does the glory of God with the salvation of sinners. But that glory of God which is thus bound up with salvation is seen not in the heavens, whatever they may declare, but in the face of Jesus Christ. The expanse shows His handy work; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared God Himself, the God whom no one has seen at any time; and so blessedly does He reveal the Father, that, as He said Himself, be that had seen Him had seen the Father.