The Gospel: Glory

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The 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. (2 Corinthians 4:4 | TNIV)

So far, we’ve look at two aspects of the gospel, a word that simply means “good news.” They were:

Grace. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24 | TNIV)
Power. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1:16 | TNIV)

God’s “grace” and “power” are good news to man. In fact, they are better than just “good news,” they are GREAT NEWS! The fact that because of the good news of God’s power contained in His wisdom, revealed in both the Living Word of His Son and within the pages of the Word of God, sinful man’s life is transformed – changed to the point where his sins and sinful past are separated from his person so that God can treat that new man better than he deserves to be treated, which is the good news of God’s grace.

This time, we’ll look at the third and final aspect of the gospel: The good news of the glory of Christ. What did Paul mean when he wrote that? Getting inside the head of the human authors of the Scriptures is the goal of Bible students. To that end, we need to look at the context in which Paul used that phrase.

A troubled church causes trouble

Paul genuinely loved the church located in the Roman province of Achaia, in a hustling, bustling commercial metropolis known as Corinth. It was the center of worship for the goddess Aphrodite, whose temple women – prostitutes, really – were also busy entertainers in the city’s night life. Generally speaking, the people of Corinth were highly educated and prosperous, yet simmering beneath this veneer of sophistication, was a city full of sin. All kinds of sin.

But Corinth was also a place where all kinds of people lived, worked, travelled to, and travelled from. It’s strategic location made it the logical location to start a church, and so on his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul went there to do just that.

In Corinth, Paul stayed with Priscilla and Aquilla and he began to make tents because, of course, he had to support himself until the church got up and running. We don’t know a whole lot about these two except that they were exiles from Rome. No matter where Paul went and no matter what he did, something always reminded him about going to Rome!  A year-and-a-half later, Paul left Corinth, the church established. But that wasn’t the end of it.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. (1 Corinthians 5:9, 10 | TNIV)

So before he wrote 1 Corinthians, he actually wrote another letter to correct moral laziness within that church. It was, by all accounts, a very painful letter, which we don’t have. Verse 11 gives us an idea what the Christian culture was like in Corinth:

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with any who claim to be fellow believers but are sexually immoral or greedy, idolaters or slanderers, drunkards or swindlers. With such persons do not even eat. (1 Corinthians 5:11 | TNIV)

That’s some Christian culture, right there! Imagine the sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters and slanderers, drunkards and swindlers calling themselves Christians! And the only church in town not doing anything to straighten them out! That’s what was getting all over Paul’s last nerve. And that’s why he wrote this letter, that we call 1 Corinthians, but was really the second letter he wrote to that church.

Not long after that, the Corinthians were behind a sort of campaign against Paul. The integrity of his motives, of his behavior, and even of his apostolic ministry were all brought into question. Even his courage (10:1,10) and abilities were attacked (10:11; 11:6).

For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” (2 Corinthians 10:10 | TNIV)

So you can see that the large church in Corinth was a troubled church that got into trouble, but it was also a church caused trouble.

Paul identified the problem

To his credit, Paul identified the real problem in the Corinthian church. It wasn’t necessarily the shifty characters that made up the “roll of rogues.” Here’s who Paul thought was behind all the problems in the Corinthian church and beyond: The god of this age.

We modern believers, living in the sophisticated 21st century would do well to understand those five words. Satan is God’s great and eternal adversary; he stands opposed to God’s plan at every turn. He has, however, been given temporary and limited lordship over this world. Because of this, the world today is not a good place:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father… (Galatians 1:3, 4 | TNIV)

Satan’s dominion covers anybody who aligns himself with any cause that stifles or compromises God’s eternal purpose. That’s why even the Law, which was given by God to His people, was eventually twisted, abused, and misused by the Jews so that it became a demonic force. And why Saul actually thought persecuting and murdering Christians was a good idea for his religion! He was blinded by “the god of this age,” as so many are today.

If you’ve ever heard anybody say something like this: “I don’t understand the Gospel. I’ve heard it all my life and I still don’t get it,” then you understand what it’s like for a person to be blinded by Satan. If you’ve ever tried to share your faith with the lost and all you get a blank, empty stare back for all your trouble, then you understand with it’s like for a person to be blinded by Satan. The light of God’s glory is shining brightly, but Satan has blinded their eyes so they cannot see it.

You and I as Bible believing, church-going Christians may bemoan the sorry state of the church these days, but the fact is “the god of this age” has made it very difficult for the non-believer to see and hear the Gospel of God’s grace. The problem isn’t all with the church; it’s not with the Bible. The problem is a combination of “the god of this age” and the non-believer buying into his worldview.

The good news of the glory of Christ

So if you, like Paul, are serious about serving the Lord, it’s easy to get discouraged. We’re plagued with our own human weaknesses and imperfections that chip away at our self-confidence. And on top of that, we have to constantly deal with the disinterest and indifference of people to the Gospel, and that makes us wonder if the so-called good news is really all that good! Here’s what Paul wrote about that:

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1 | TNIV)

Paul refused to “lose heart” because it was God who gave him “this ministry” in the first place. When Jesus Christ captured Paul’s heart on the dusty road to Damascus, He gave the man a new heart full of mission and purpose. But Paul’s not exception; he’s the pattern! We all have been given a new heart and a mission and a purpose – a ministry to perform for the Kingdom of God. Before Christ, we all lived aimless, self-seeking, purposeless lives. But Christ came in and He gave us something to do, and as we do, we find encouragement and hope.

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. (2 Corinthians 4:2 | TNIV)

And that’s how we should fulfill God’s calling on our lives. There’s always the temptation to take the simple Word of God and dress it up; to embellish it; make it more interesting or acceptable to the lost. Thing is, we aren’t supposed to be “clever” in the worldly sense of the word. We aren’t supposed to use worldly means to reach the lost. We are to do what Paul did:

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5 | TNIV)

Those two words, Jesus Christ, are what the Gospel, the good news, is all about. Paul and the early church didn’t preach about having a happy marriage or how to succeed in life! They preached Jesus Christ because He alone is the solution to anybody’s problems, and that’s good news. Paul was encouraged by the fact that the Gospel did not have to be accepted by everybody who heard it to be valid. Satan has blinded the lost; veiled their understanding, but he has not harmed the Gospel in any way.

And that gets us to the verse that began this message:

The 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. (2 Corinthians 4:4 | TNIV)

What is “the gospel that displays the glory of Christ?” What is “the good news that displays the glory of Christ?” Sadly, “the glory of Christ” is what sinful man doesn’t want to see. The glory of Christ is that He is “the image of God.”

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Colossians 1:15 | TNIV)

The word for “image” is eikon, which is more than just a painting or statue, but rather, “the illumination of its inner core or essence.” What that means is stunning: Jesus Christ, the Man from Heaven, is the very image – the representation – the fulfillment – of the image of God in man. And it is through Jesus Christ that the Christian is being transformed into the exact same image!

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 | TNIV)

Therefore, in Christ, the Christian is restored to the image of God. No wonder Satan has blinded the eyes of the lost! Who wouldn’t want to remade into the image of God?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17 | TNIV)

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