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The Light of the Gospel of Christ

2 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

One of my favorite books, you’ll probably guess is a C.S. Lewis book. In the sixth book (not the first) of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew, one of my favorite moments in prose happens. Aslan the lion—who represents Christ—sings all of the world into being. It’s a stunning scene. Watching the whole scene is a man, Uncle Andrew, whose heart is not moved by what he hears and sees. The scene wraps up like this:
The scene wraps up like this:
“the longer and more beautifully the lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring.
Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan's song. Soon he couldn't have heard anything else even if he had wanted to. And when at last the lion spoke and said, "Narnia awake," he didn't hear any words: he heard only a snarl. And when the beasts spoke in answer, he heard only barkings, growlings, bayings, and howlings.”

Need

Need

Lewis reminds us that there are those that are completely blind to God’s glory. For us to see life as it really is, we need have our eyes opened to the truth.
But this morning, we need to see that being transformed by the grace of God changes our standing before God in such a miraculous way that now we are free to be bold truth speakers. Now we see that what people around us need is not just to be nicer. Now because of the gospel, light has come into our dark worlds and we are seeing things as they actually are. And so we proclaim Christ as Lord and we empty ourselves out for those around us.
This is a radical change that Paul is talking about. But just like some in this room, the church at Corinth still had its doubts.

Background

For these first seven chapters, we are walking with Paul as he makes it plain to the church at Corinth that he is a true apostle, called by God, and empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit. In this part of his defense (or what is sometimes called an “apology” - not as in “I’m sorry”, but as in a defense), he is moving on in his discussion from presenting the betterness of the gospel that he’s preaching to showing exactly how he has been faithful as a preacher or herald of that gospel.
In chapter four, he’s going to explain why—even though he’s suffered tremendously—he is comforted by the knowledge that he is preaching a beautiful gospel that is completely worth it, even in the face of suffering.
In chapters five and six, he’ll go on to make even clearer what this gospel is and what it means to be a part of ministering in this new covenant.
In our section today, Paul is arguing that the dawn of the New Covenant is the dawning of something much bigger. It’s the dawning of God’s new creation. In spite of the rejection of his gospel, Paul doesn’t lose heart in his ministry because through his ministry God is bringing the beginning of the new creation in our fallen world.
Why? Because the light of the gospel has dawned in the face of Christ.
So in the new and better glory of this new covenant of Christ, God’s glory is on full display without a veil. Jesus displays God perfectly. But many do not see and exult in the glory of God reflected in Jesus Christ. Does that mean that Paul’s message or credibility was undone by those rejections? This was a real question for Corinth.

Outline

Paul’s main point in this section is that: Even in rejection, Paul endured with integrity, specifically because the New Covenant of Christ means God is forming a new creation that could break any spiritual darkness. In our text, Paul gives us three different effects of the new and better covenant of Christ.
Paul’s main point in this section is that: even in the face of spiritual blindness, Paul could endure with integrity, because in the New Covenant of Christ is forming a new creation that could break any spiritual darkness.
We endure with integrity.
2.
The natural state is spiritual blindness.
3.
We preach the light of Christ and the love of others.
So, let’s look at the first few verses...

Body

1. We Endure with Integrity (1-2)

Explanation

Because we are transformed by the Christ, we endure with integrity.
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
Remember that we are in the middle of Paul’s discussion. He’s tying this text to what has come before it. He has said that:
(ESV) — 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
So we have been transformed. The Spirit’s work, in Christ, has removed the veil of the Old Covenant and brought us full-faced into the better New Covenant.
“Therefore”, because of that transformation, which Paul reminds them is entirely based on God’s abounding mercy, we endure. God called Paul into this ministry. The word he uses there for ministry is diakonos. He’s pointing out that he’s been called—through mercy—to serve the church. His ministry is service. So, with that anchor of truth, he can endure.
Endure what? He’s going to go into detail in the next two sections about the kinds of trials we can all endure. But, he has suffered a character assault of the highest order. And he can endure it, without shame, because the God of the Universe has mercifully removed the veil. Paul, who was once far off, has been brought near by the blood of Christ. Now, that is a source of courage to face trials.
Kent Hughes said: “the combination of this mercy and the astonishingly surpassing glory of his (New Covenant) ministry heartened him and kept him from losing heart.”
[On a side note: doing ministry can—at times—leave you open to deep seasons of discouragement. Laboring in love for the sake of others in their darkest moments can leave you terribly disheartened…but the key is to do it based on the alien power of God’s mercy in the gospel of grace]
Yet there’s a second effect as well: he is not only energized to face trials. Now he can be completely honest—full of integrity—about what is and is not the truth.
There is a hint here that the folks at Corinth who are opposing Paul are not acting with integrity. Paul alludes to the fact that they are the negative characters that he is now free to avoid.
Paul isn’t serving for money. He’s not serving for fame. Not for any human approval. So, he was not going to tamper or literally “adulterate” the message. Paul can stand unashamed before the Lord in Christ, so he has no reason to alter any part of the message.
Instead, Paul brought the open statement of the truth. And he can stand without shrinking before God on that.
It would be easy here to spend a long time listing all of the ways that modern so-called churches twist the message of the gospel to gain fame, gain resources, or gain members. But, instead let’s note: Paul labels that wrong. We don’t massage the message. All man-centered practices in the church are idolatrous and wrong.
Because Paul was transformed by the Christ, he endure with integrity. And so can we.

Illustration

Right now cheating in sports are getting a lot of press. College basketball, the World Cup, professional cycling, and the Olympics have all made major news because of competitors seeking an edge outside of the rules of competition. But it’s not just in sports. Our culture is filled with examples of politicians, of students, of businessmen, and of pastors who want to gain something outside of the bounds of the ethical bounds.
All of these cases should serve as a warning that one’s integrity is not nearly as valuable as it used to be. But listen: You have to live with you. Not only that, you have to stand before a judge who knows even our deepest heart motives.

Application

Application

If that is so, can we see how much better it would be to live—through even the deepest waters—with integrity? Can you imagine your life without trying to hide anything?

Are there ways that fear or your circumstances are leading you to believe that you have to hide the truth?
Young person—what truth are you hiding? Men in this room—what truth are you hiding? Ladies—how about you? Is there any truth that you’re hiding?
This is the application of Paul’s words: Because we are transformed by the Christ, we endure with integrity.
Be anchored in the security that comes from knowing that every one of your sins is forgiven and that all that you actually need is provided to you by this New Covenant in Christ. You don’t need to play near the edges to get ahead. You be faithful. You be truthful. You be a person who lives in a way that you have nothing to hide. That’s what the Spirit is moving us toward in Christ. No matter what circumstances come against us.
Because we are transformed by the Christ, we endure with integrity.
Paul goes on from there to explain why then, if he came with the true message, why some turned away from it.

2. The Natural State is Spiritual Blindness (3-4)

Explanation

While we have been redeemed the world remains fallen. And, the natural state is spiritual blindness.
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
In verse 3 Paul is anticipating their response to what he’s just said. “So Paul, if you preached so plainly, why did everyone not get it?” And that’s a good question to ask. If this is such good news, why doesn’t everyone just believe it? Why do so many turn away from it and scoff at it? If this “veil” Paul mentioned has been removed in Christ, why is it not convincing to everyone?
Paul’s answer is plain: the removing of the veil doesn’t mean everyone’s veil is removed now. Instead, there are those who are still now covered. The veil is still down. They can’t see it right now. In fact, these are people are perishing.
He is calling on the imagery that Ronnie walked us through last week. Moses veil symbolizes the Old Covenant that Christ far surpassed. In Christ, we see face to face. Israel does not see this glory of the gospel in Jesus when they look at the Law of Moses. The world does not behold this glory of the gospel in Jesus because Satan is blinding their minds. This is what Satan does. Satan blinds the eyes and darkens the hearts. He makes it so we will not look at this glory. He makes everything else look so much more glorious to blinded eyes.
This is a serious point that even good church people need to consider. Jesus said about some of the most religious people in that culture in ,
13 “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
So likewise, Paul is pointing to those who do not believe and giving a few warnings that we need to take seriously:
So likewise, Paul is pointing to those who do not believe and giving a few warnings that we need to take seriously:
There are those
Unbelievers are not just disagreeing intellectually, they are blind.
Blindness is the state of everyone before God gives sight.
The Enemy, Satan, is at work blinding as much as he is able.
While we have been redeemed the world remains fallen. And, the natural state is spiritual blindness. That’s the human state apart from Christ.

Illustration

The Evangelist Billy Graham once preached in a sermon:
“I try to explain to you the joy of following Christ: the thrill, the excitement, the exhilaration—knowing where I’ve come from, why I’m here, where I’m going! There’s a reason for existence. There’s a reason for getting up every morning of the year. I try to tell you what I’ve found in Jesus Christ, and in studying the Scriptures and walking with Him, and you say, “I can’t see that!” Of course, you can’t. You are blind. Try to explain television to a blind man. He can understand a little of it, but it doesn’t make sense to him. Try to explain a sunset to him. He’s blind to it. The scales must be removed from your eyes, and only Christ can do that. He can remove them right now and you can start living and seeing a whole new world that you never knew existed...”
He was absolutely right.

Application

So then, how do we work this truth into our own lives?
Unbelievers are blind. You might be tempted to write off those who don’t believe thinking “Don’t bother, they’re blind.” or “They’re just blind.” Instead, I think it should give us both a humility in our evangelism and it should give us a compassionate zeal to see them no longer blinded. Because that is us apart from grace.
Pray for the Lord to give sight of the glory of Christ, the image of God. One sign that someone really gets the gospel is that they pray for the lost. They are committed to ask God to open eyes everywhere. They want the glory of Jesus, who is the very image of God to be so fully and so broadly seen that they regularly plead with the Lord to remove blindness.
Proclaim the glory of Christ everywhere, trusting that alone can give true sight. Share the gospel. Seek to be a source of God’s light. But rest soundly in the truth that God Himself is the responsible party in salvation. God alone.

3. We Preach the Light of Christ and the Love of Others (5-6)

3. We Preach the Light of Christ and the Love of Others (5-6)

Explanation

Because God brings light in Christ, we preach the light of Christ and the love of others.
5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
So if the world is blinded, what do we do? What did Paul do? He proclaimed Christ. It’s that simple. We don’t preach us. We don’t preach our wisdom. We don’t rely on our own story. We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.
And then he goes to say that the Lordship of Christ impacts even the way we treat others. Not only do we proclaim Christ as Lord, we proclaim that we are slaves for Jesus sake. As one of my heroes says, “If you can’t say amen, you aught to say ouch.”
Christ is Lord and we are your slaves in Him. Jesus is our Lord, and so like Him, we would gladly be spent for His sake. That’s what the light of Christ does in us. Because he was free, Paul was able to serve others and to set aside his own rights for their sake.
Because he was free, Paul was able to serve others and to set aside his own rights for their sake.
How did this freedom come about? Because the same God who spoke into the darkness, “Let there be light” spoke into Paul’s dead heart and spiritual light came to be. And it was good.
And what light did God shine in Paul’s heart?
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Jesus is the light. God has to shine. And when God shines in the heart, we see God in that light. And that light warms and changes us. And we see others, and now we live as those who can see!
What a glorious gospel!

Illustration

One of our favorite hymns is John Wesley’s “And Can it Be”
"Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray - I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee"

Application

Who of us can make the blind see? Only God. He is like the Sun. He is there and He shines. And He alone can make the blind see.
So we preach Christ and love others as their servants. And we put all our trust in the God who makes light shine in darkness.
Because God brings light in Christ, we preach the light of Christ and love others.
And even if they will not respond—for years—we absolutely know that God gives light. So we go to Him and we trust Him.
To those who are blind today, hear the words of Billy Graham, “The scales must be removed from your eyes, and only Christ can do that. He can remove them right now and you can start living and seeing a whole new world that you never knew existed...”

Conclusion

So, believer: Will you anchor your whole confidence in the truth of the new and better covenant of Christ? Let that drive your proclaiming and your living. Let that lead you to a life of integrity and service to the glory of Christ who is the very light of God.
Blind one, will you hear the sweet song of the Savior, would you this day turn from your darkness and come through repentance and faith and live in His glorious light?
Oh that God would create new life in this room today.

Prayer

Would you stand with me for prayer...
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