2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;…
It is still "this ministry." The question, "Who is sufficient for these things?" has been answered in part by a statement of his "sincerity" and "plainness of speech," and he now proceeds to Speak of his courage and steady zeal. "We faint not," allowing no difficulties or dangers to dishearten us. But what was the nature or spirit of this resolute energy? Energetic men, brave men, who are bent on their purpose, are not always choice or chary of the means employed to gain their ends. "Hidden things of dishonesty," plots, schemes concocted in secret, were renounced, nor did he in any way adulterate the gospel. Not only did he preach the Word, but he delivered it as received from the Lord Jesus. The mirror was kept clean and bright, so as to reflect the image. Of course, he contrasted himself with his opponents, who used intrigues to acquire influence. If certain men handled the Word of God deceitfully, he was not one of that number, for his single aim was; "by manifestation of the truth," to commend himself "to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Divine truth, such as the gospel contained, was a manifestation, a showing of its real and intrinsic character, to the only faculty competent to receive it as a self-evidencing system; and that faculty was the conscience. Reason lies back of all our reasoning, and is greater and truer than our formal logic. Instinct antedates experience, and is the condition precedent to experience. And these instincts with their intuitions constitute their own evidence and form the basis of all knowledge. St. Paul argued that the spiritual doctrines of the gospel, if faithfully presented to the conscience, would be recognized and accepted by conscience as the truth of God. History is history; testimony is testimony; judgment is judgment; conscience is conscience; and he will not disparage any one of these to exalt another, but will keep each in its place according to the constitution of our nature. Yet the human mind, made in God's image, must be master of its impressions, sovereign over its motives, lord of itself when most obedient to God; and, accordingly, it must have a conscience to witness "magisterially," as Bishop Butler puts it, for the authority of God. It was not to worldly taste and selfish intellect St. Paul appealed in preaching the gospel, nor to low and mercenary feelings of any kind, but to the conscience as the supreme sense of right in man. And was this all? Nay; they commended themselves, their persons, their private and public lives, their experience and conduct, to the consciences of others. Witness what we are, what we do, how we live, as well as what we preach, was St. Paul's argument. No man enjoyed true appreciation and love more than he; but, most of all, he sought the testimony of their conscience that he was their servant for Christ's sake, and was in no respect crafty and dishonest in his relations to the brethren. Private character and public character are, alas! too often disjoined, and not seldom are opposites; but St. Paul thought that gifts and graces should go together. What he professed as an apostle be would practise as a man, and in each respect he would commend himself to conscience. On no account would he have the confidence and regard of the Church except so far as he impressed this purest and safest kind of human judgment. And he did this most solemnly, "in the sight of God." Observe, then, it was not to their consciousness but conscience, to which his ministry, character, and life appealed. Nor was this limited to the Church. It was exhibited before all, believers and unbelievers, a savour of life, a savour of death. The manifestation of the truth would commend itself to every man's conscience; and yet the general verdict of conscience would be accepted and acted on by some, while it would be opposed and disobeyed by many. But who were the rejecters? "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" (who are now perishing), not finally lost, but at present unsaved, their day of grace not over, salvation yet possible. The state spoken of is one of mental blindness, which includes the want of spiritual perceptions and the darkness of the understanding. Conscience is instructed, but the intellect overpowers conscience. Conscience is on the side of truth; intellect on the side of the senses. Conscience entreats, warns, condemns, in the name of God; intellect is sophistical and imperious in behalf of the carnal man. And the intellect is thus alienated from its rational subordination to a ruling conscience by a usurper who is Satan, "the god of this world." Men have allowed him to assert sovereignty over them, have made him "a god," and have yielded to his wicked agency what belongs to the one God. They hays robbed God to give him power over their bodies and souls. Without this clear and vivid recognition of the personality, the activity, the prodigious energy of Satan, the theology of St. Paul would have no consistency, no logical coherence, no adaptiveness to the convicting and renewing work with which he associates it. With him, human depravity is not an abstract thing, an isolated thing, but part and parcel of a vast system of evil, an immense empire of untruth, deception, fraud, cruelty, of which Satan is head and front. Is unbelief powerful? Satan is behind it. Are the lusts and appetites of the flesh tyrannic? Satan is the tyrant. Are men blinded to their interest and well being? By him, "god of this world," are they blinded. One who estimates human depravity solely by what it is in itself will have a very different view of its actual character in experience and outworking from one who looks at it as an instrumentality in such hands as Satan's. In the former case it is the man indulging in depravity for his own gratification - he personally and individually and directly is its motive, impulse, and end; in the latter there is a kingdom and a despotic ruler, whose objects are furthered by widening his dominion and enhancing his sway. St. Paul is explicit. Satan is the blinder, and he is the blinder as "the god of this world." And he blinds the minds of men, "lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the Image of God, should shine unto them." Turn to the close of the previous chapter and read of the "open face," of the reflected "glory of the Lord," of the assimilating power of the "image," of its transforming wonder in changing "from glory to glory." And now take this awful contrast - a fallen angel, a dethroned principality and power the "god" among his hierarchies, the "god" of a world where men are on probation for an immortality of good or evil, and thin "god" of darkness busy everywhere to hide the only light that reveals Christ as the Image of God. Here is this light in the history of Christ's life, death, resurrection, exaltation. It is glorious. It is preached as a "glorious gospel;" it is preached by men. who have "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty," and who themselves, by their candour, integrity, purity, commend themselves to every man's conscience under the eye of God, But Satan exerts all his skill and influence, controls myriad agencies, works continually and works so successfully that the minds of many are blinded by unbelief. Destroy belief and you destroy the soul. And this is the Satanic might of evil, the climax of all his influence, that the blindness with which he shrouds the soul is the blindness of unbelief. Can he think of "the glorious gospel of Christ" and not be humbled? "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." And now the idea which has occupied so much of his attention - the veiled face of Moses, the open vision of Christ, the image of the Father in him, the glory that excelleth, the ministry as a manifestation of glory, Christian growth as an expansion from one degree of resplendency to another till it reaches "the perfect day," and the contrasted blindness of unbelievers who are under Satan's power, - this idea, so suggestive, attains its final expression in the sixth verse. God had once said, "Let there be light, and there was light." It was the opening grandeur of creation; but was this all? This was to be the permanent symbol of God, the source and centre of more associations and suggestions than any other object in the material universe, a creative force to the imagination of metaphor, image, and illustration that cannot be measured. And, as such, St. Paul uses it when he says that "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts." What fuller embodiment could the thought take than "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ"? "Light," "knowledge," "glory of God," "face of Jesus Christ," - what a collocation of sublime ideas! - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;