By Joe McKeever
"Your words have stood men on their feet." Job 4:4
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. II Corinthians 4:3-4
It's not just that outsiders to the faith have not been shown the way to eternal life, as though they were sitting by the roadside waiting. It's not simply that the unsaved need to be instructed and helped, as though they were gathered in a celestial waiting room somewhere, eager for us to appear. Neither are the lost blank slates on which we may write Heaven's love-letters to their souls, as though nothing had corrupted their minds or skewed their values.
The unsaved are in serious trouble.
A great many of those without Christ have been blinded by the enemy. Not all, thankfully, but far too many.
Satan has done a number on those left in his care.
Millions of those without Christ look at good and see evil, they hear Truth and call it lies, they get a taste of Heaven and call it hell. If they see Jesus at all, He's the enemy. If they see the gospel, it's propaganda. If they receive a kind act from the Lord's disciples, they grow suspicious and look for ulterior motives.
Some enemy has been messing with millions who are without Christ, and has left them far removed from the childlike way they entered this world. They have been mistaught by those they trusted most, misguided by those sent to instruct them, and miscast as possessors and protectors of truth while they attack the very ones sent to bring them truth.
In the Greek city of Corinth, the Apostle Paul encountered such enemies of the faith. Perhaps they were not normally mean-spirited people, certainly not murderers or thieves or abusers. Their hostility against the people of God and against the Gospel of Jesus could be explained by one thing: Satan had blinded the eyes of their understanding. They were blind to the greatest reality of all, God.
As a result, Paul said in our text, they do not see: a) the Gospel, b) Christ who is the image of God, c) the glory of Christ, d) the gospel of the glory of Christ, and e) the light of that gospel.
None of this is clear to them.
Now, you and I could add to that list. Such people who rant and rave against Christians do not value the church, do not believe in Holy Scriptures, deny that they are sinners in need of a Savior, and even dispute the existence of Satan himself.
But, for the moment, let's focus on Paul's statement here in II Corinthians 4 and analyze it.
In their blindness, they miss the gospel.
The euangelion is "God's good news" for mankind, a wonderful message of Christ's death, burial, and resurrecton, which brings salvation (Romans 1:16).
But to the outsider whose understanding is darkened, whose soul has been fouled up, whose guidance system is malfunctioning, Christ's message is anything but good news.
a) At best, they see it as nice moral teachings. They love to cite the Sermon on the Mount, as though tossing a crumb to Christians.
b) Some will see the gospel as irrelevant. Since we are not sinners, we need no savior, so what's the point?
c) And some will see the gospel as an evil intrusion into their own religion to proselyte their people.
In their blindness, they miss Jesus Christ, the very image of God.
Jesus told His disciples, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). John Bisagno used to say, "Jesus Christ is everything God has to say about Himself."
The Apostle Paul said, "He is the visible image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). Nothing could be clearer.
Reading the New Testament--particularly some of the teachings of Jesus and the latter chapters of Revelation--you become aware of a blurring of distinction of the Father and the Son. This occurs at various other places in Scripture, too. Paul told the Ephesian elders they were to "shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood." Whose blood? God's.
Outsiders with their own agenda against the Christian faith will see Jesus in one of several ways:
--He was a good man and nothing more.
--He was a great prophet, but nothing more.
--He was a fiction, never having existed, a creation of some group somewhere.
In their blindness, they do not see the glory of Christ.
Just before He raised Lazarus from the grave, Jesus promised onlookers that "if you will believe, you will see the glory of God" (John 11:40). They did indeed. And, according to John the Evangelist, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
You may remember that Moses once asked God if he could see God's glory. Knowing a puny man could not take in such a sight without a massive transformer to gentle the effect, God said, "I'll show you my goodness," and did. (Exodus 33:18)
But in Jesus, we see God's glory. And what a glory it is.
Not like what Jesus called "the glory which I had with you before the world was" (John 17:5). Nothing like that kind of radiance and brilliance. The glory of Jesus seen on Earth was more of a purity and divinity, a solid godliness and all-encompassing love, the kind of holiness that draws in the faithful and repulses the rebellious.
That's why no one was ever neutral about Jesus when he walked on earth. His holiness drove His enemies mad at the very time it was pulling in the righteous and hungry in order to bless them with joy and forgiveness.
The glory of Jesus? I can hear a Pharisee saying, "I just couldn't see that."
In their blindness, they miss the gospel of the glory of Christ.
The thing is, this message of good news which is all about Jesus and is ours to share brings glory into the lives of all who hear and believe and receive this Savior.
Look at the blind beggar of Jericho, Bartimaeus, at the end of Luke 18. Before he met Jesus, the man was an eyesore to all who passed him just outside the gates of the city. But, once Jesus touched him and restored his sight, he became another person. He became a productive member of society, a happy citizen, a helpful one (because he could not quit telling people about the Savior), and there was a glory in his life.
Question: Think of some believer you know who walks closely to Christ, whose prayer life is alive, who loves the Word of God and whose days are filled blessing people. Have you noticed there is a glory about them? Maybe not an actual radiance, although sometimes you wonder. But there is such a presence of God that when you leave their presence, you are the one glowing.
I've known several. They are the world's truly beautiful people.
Outsiders? They "just can't see it.
In their blindness, they miss the light of that gospel.
The gospel comes into a home, and it brings light. Even before the family comes to the point of trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord, they know light has come.
The gospel enters a village, and brings light. Here and there, light breaks forth when individuals look toward Heaven and receive Jesus as Savior.
But the hostile outsiders, those who have been indoctrinated against the faith, those blinded by the enemy so that they look at black and call it white, just cannot see it.
There is one prayer we pray for our friends and loved ones who live in their blindness and think they are in the light: "Lord, open their eyes."
That was the prayer of the Prophet Elisha for his servant. The alien army had surrounded the city during the night. When the servant went outside early that morning, he panicked at the sight. "Alas, my master," he said to the prophet. "What shall we do?"
"Do not fear," said the prophet to the frightened man. "For those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
Then, Elisha looked heavenward and said, "Lord, open his eyes. Let him see."
Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (II Kings 6)
We who follow Jesus and encounter the enemies of the gospel must not take their vehemence and attacks personally. They think they're right. But their problem is a little matter of vision. They don't have any. They're blind. So, deal gently with them, and speak truth, and tell God.
After all, we recall an enemy of the faith who was on his way to Syria to arrest Christians and bring to Jerusalem for trial, when God in Heaven decided to open his eyes and save him. The account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the Scripture's great stories, told in three places: Acts 9, 22, and 26.
However, we must not miss one thing God did in the process of opening the eyes of Saul: first, He blinded him. (See Acts 9:8-9) Then, a few days later, God opened his eyes.
Some of the Lord's enemies were angry. They listened as Jesus said He had come into the world "that those who do not see may see and those who see may be made blind," and said harshly, "So, how about us? Are we blind also?"
Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now you say, 'We see.' Therefore, your sin remains." (John 9:39-41
As they walked away scratching their heads, clueless to the enigma the Lord had just laid on them, one could be heard to say, "I just don't see it."