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"Confidence in the Gospel"
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Wednesday AM Bible Study
July 2, 2008
This letter is one in which the Apostle Paul shares much of his heart with respect to his ministry. And in this morning's portion of the letter, he shows us why it is that he had such great confidence in the proclamation of the gospel. With respect to those to whom he proclaimed it, he was confident enough in it to speak it with the greatest possible plainness (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). And with respect to himself, he was confident enough in it to know that the plain preaching of it will always prove—in the sovereignty of God—to be successful in transforming the lives of those God has called to Himself.
This confidence led him to . . .
I. MANIFEST THE MESSAGE OPENLY (vv. 1-2).
A. Paul and his co-laborers in the gospel did not "lose heart" in their work. The word translated "lose heart" in the original language means "to be faint-hearted" or "to be despondent". The idea seems to be that Paul did not become fearful or hesitant in proclaiming the gospel to others—even though they, at times, viciously rejected it. He kept at it for three expressed reasons:
1. It was "for this reason", that is, for the reason that he and his co-laborers preached a "new covenant" message that was more glorious than the old (3:7-18)—a message that they are made sufficient for by the power of God (3:4-6). How exciting to proclaim such good news!
2. It is a ministry that he and his co-laborers "have" from God and therefore had the authority of God Himself behind it (Gal. 1:11-12). What an honor he felt in being given such a "grace" as to proclaim the gospel (Eph. 3:1-13)!
3. He himself had "received" the mercy it proclaims. Paul's ministry often involved the rebuking sin (as it had in the case of the Corinthians). But it was always tempered by the recollection that he himself had received mercy as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
B. And so, in not losing heart, he and his co-workers preached the gospel out in the open.
1. They renounced the hidden things of "shame". The King James Version translated this word "dishonesty"; but a better translation would be "shame" or "that which causes disgrace". This has to do with the idea of those things which are a disgrace or a reason of shame (Ephesians 5:11-13).
2. They didn't try to tailor God's word to fit the comfort of their audience. They didn't "walk in craftiness" or "handle the word of God deceitfully". They plainly manifested the truth.
3. Their own openness of life matched the openness with which they preached the message. They "commended" themselves (see 3:1-3) to every man's conscience in the sight of God. They didn't try to be something they weren't in order to "sell" the gospel "better". They were the real thing—and could afford to be because they were confident in the power of the gospel they preached.
II. RECOGNIZE THAT IT'S THE DEVIL THAT VEILS HEARTS (vv. 3-4).
A. The fact that they didn't try to "veil" the message of the gospel in any way didn't mean that it was always received as plainly as it was given. Nor did it mean that the gospel itself wasn't actually "veiled". Paul often had the experience that we, too, have in sharing the good news of Jesus with those around us. It seemed that, no matter how plainly and manifestly it is proclaimed to those who most needed to hear and believe— i.e., those who are "perishing" (John 3:36), it still is not understood in a saving way. The hearts of some are "veiled" by the "god of this age" (that is, the devil).
B. The devil actively "veils" the gospel to unbelieving people so that their minds are blinded to its manifestation. Jesus spoke of this in His parable of the sower: "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart . . ." (Matthew 13:19). The devil seeks to keep people from hearing; and if he can't keep them from hearing, he seeks to keep them from understanding and believing the truths that it reveals. He, as it were, blinds their eyes so that they can't see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ "who is the image of God" (Heb. 1:1-3; John 12:45; 14:9); and that it should shine on them and transform them. When we feel frustrated at the seeming "blindness" of some, we should realize that there are diabolical spiritual forces involved that aggressively seek to keep them from seeing the truth.
III. KNOW THAT GOD SOVEREIGNLY ILLUMENATES HEARTS (vv. 5-6).
A. Praise God, though, that the devil is not ultimately victorious in his campaign of blindness. Ultimately, it is the sovereign God who opens the eyes of the blind so that they may see (John 9:39). Paul stressed that he and his co-workers didn't hesitate to preach Christ. He didn't preach himself, but Christ as Lord—and when he spoke of himself and his co-workers, it was only as the servants of the people for Christ's sake. He did this because he was confident that God works mightily through the proclamation of Christ, and opens the hearts of those who hear.
B. The success of the gospel is not our doing. It isn't a matter of cleaver preaching or speaking; nor is it a matter of tailoring and crafting the gospel to make it more acceptable to people. It is God Himself—the very God who first commanded that the light shine in creation (Gen. 1:3)—who shines the truth upon the human heart to "give the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (Eph. 2:8-9).
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Let's never be discouraged in proclaiming the good news to others. Let's not lose heart—even though it may seem that many are blind to the truth. Trust God; because the success of the gospel is His doing. If we are faithful to proclaim the message to some lost soul, He is faithful to proclaim upon that lost soul, "Let there be light!"
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