THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST
2 Corinthians 4: 6
Rev. H.A. Bergsma
Published by the
FREE REFORMED CHURCHES OF NORTH AMERICA
Law of God
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4
Text: 2 Corinthians 4: 6
Doxology: Psalter 314
Congregation of the Lord,
The Apostle Paul had a hard time in the ministry of the Gospel.
In this fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians particularly, he speaks of the struggles he has with it … not in a complaining way, but factual.
He compares himself to an earthen vessel - a clay pot - unfit for anything grand; certainly unfit for the Gospel ministry.
He speaks about being troubled on every side; about being perplexed; persecuted; cast down, having the mark of death, as it were, fixed upon him.
The ministry of the Gospel was no easy task for Paul; and it is no easy task for anyone who is earnestly engaged in Gospel preaching.
You will soon meet up with your own inadequacies and shortcomings and weakness and sins.
You want to do your best, but you realize that your best is not good enough, and you sometimes wonder why God has called you to Gospel ministry, a weak, frail, inadequate human being!
Of course, we know, it is for no other reason, than that the greatness of power may be of God and not of us.
But why did Paul keep on preaching, if the work brought him so much trouble and so much perplexity?
Why keep doing something that is physically and mentally and emotionally, so taxing?
Because it has to do with a Person, namely, the Person of Jesus Christ, and of preaching Him!
As Paul says in the verse just before our text … “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
The necessity and opportunity to preach Jesus Christ is therefore the all-consuming reason and passion why men are in the ministry of the Gospel, willing to face troubles.
It is for the love of Jesus Christ, dear people, that we do this, so that men and women, boys and girls, might come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
This is certainly the case with the Apostle Paul.
Wanting to preach Jesus Christ the Lord, Paul says in our text …
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Now, at the start, it has to be said: this is a very complex sentence, just packed full of Gospel truths … and we shall only be able to touch on a few truths, as it pleases the Holy Spirit.
And so, let me propose as theme for this message …
GOD’S WORK IN PREACHING SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST
The Commanding Power of God
The Compelling Light of God
The Convincing Glory of God
One thing we need to keep in mind … and which I have to keep in mind myself all the time … is that it is the power of God … not our abilities … but the power of God that makes men capable to preach the Gospel, and that makes men capable to receive the Gospel.
In our text-verse, Paul begins to describe for us the power of God that is involved in bringing people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
And in doing so, Paul takes us back to the time of creation for a moment and says that God has commanded the light to shine out of darkness.
Remarkable that he says, not that God caused the light to shine into the darkness, but rather out of the darkness.
You know the creation story.
At the time of creation, God showed His commanding power in a marvelous way.
He spoke the commanding word, and it was done!
When He called the universe into existence, and all things lay in black darkness, He, first off, commanded light into existence.
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3,4)
While everything was darkness - thick, black darkness - God commanded the light to shine out of darkness.
From within darkness itself a light began to glow, and shine brightly.
It wasn’t the sun, because the sun would not be created until the fourth day; nevertheless, there it was: light, on the first day of creation!
Perhaps you say: “How’s that possible, that without the existence of the sun, there was light already on the first day?”
Well, let me suggest that this light was God Himself!
After all, in 1 John 1 verse 5, we are told “that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
And elsewhere in the Bible we are told that all God’s people will be living upon a new earth some day, and then we are told specifically in Revelation 22:5 “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light.”
And by the way, this sort of thing was prophesied already in Isaiah 60:19,20.
God has the power to command light, because He Himself is the Light, the Possessor and Essence and Source of light, not dependent upon sun, moon, stars or electricity.
Therefore, where God is saving-ly present, there is Light!
I suppose this is also what the Psalmist meant, when he sings praise to God: “To Thee both night and day are bright, The darkness shineth as the light.” (Psalter 382)
Congregation, Paul says in our text that “God has commanded the light to shine out of darkness”, and with that line, he confirms the commanding power of God.
Out of the darkness and chaos of original creation, when the earth was still without form and void, when darkness was still upon the face of the deep, a commanding voice sounded aloud “let there be light and there was light!”
God Himself came forth … and there was light!
Now, why does Paul, in considering the preaching of the Gospel, draw our attention to the commanding power of God, even the commanding power of God, displayed at creation?
Because, where any effects of Gospel preaching are hoped for, such effects are to come by the commanding power of God.
The saving effects of Gospel preaching, you see, are the work of God.
The salvation and conversion of a sinner is first and foremost the work of God.
It is not by man’s oratorical powers, or by man’s persuasive powers,
much less by any church’s liturgical niceties, that anyone comes to salvation in Jesus Christ.
It is only by the commanding powers of God.
There is the story of C.H.Spurgeon walking down one of the city streets towards church, when a drunk, lying in the gutter yelled out at him “Hey, I’m one of your converts!” “You must be” Spurgeon answered, “Because if you were one of God’s converts, you wouldn’t be lying there drunk in the gutter!”
You see, a true change … salvation, conversion, cannot be accomplished by a preacher … it is a work of God.
It is true that preachers of the Gospel aim for spiritual change in their listeners; but they cannot accomplish such change, as God must do that.
And sometimes Gospel preachers do have the wonderful sense that people are spiritually changed under their preaching; but even then it is only because God was pleased to work, not because their preaching was so clever or powerful.
There is no reason for any preacher, ever, to become proud of his accomplishments.
Therefore, if the preaching of the Gospel is to have an affect upon us, the listeners, we are to pray, dear people, that God would come over with power, and work with power, and command with power.
For when He commands that there be light … there will be light.
This leads us back to our text, and takes me in the second place to speak about the Compelling Light of God
Paul says in our text … “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts.”
Congregation, much of what God did during creation week has spiritual meaning for what He does in the heart of a sinner to bring him or her to spiritual life and salvation.
God is not only the Creator, but the Re-Creator, particularly, the Re-Creator of man.
Indeed, you can draw lines from the creation week to a person who is being saved.
Let me draw you a few such lines …
As with creation, it is God who is the Author, the Source and the Beginner of spiritual life.
As with creation, when all things were still without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, so God sends forth His Holy Spirit to move mysteriously, and move preparing-ly and brooding-ly upon the heart of a dead sinner about to be called to spiritual life
As with creation, God uses the Word to bring a person to spiritual life … He commands, and it is done.
As with creation, God begins with light.
Now then, this is what Paul means, when he says in our text that God has shined in our hearts.
This is what Paul himself experienced once, when he was on the road to Damascus, and when God came into his heart and life with His compelling light.
This is what God does, you see, when He begins a work of grace in the heart of man, ... He then comes with His light.
He begins to light up man’s heart with His light.
For Paul this was a very dramatic experience, because it was a blinding light to him, that is, it put his physical eyes in darkness, so that the full concentration of God’s light could be upon his heart!
And so Paul writes … God … “has shined in our hearts.”
This is what God does with His light, congregation.
He concentrates it upon the heart, the innermost being of man, and His light will act as a spotlight, showing up things which man has never seen before and things, which are necessary for salvation.
At such a time, man will become aware of things that he has never thought about much before.
At such a time, a light goes on, as it were, in his mind and in his thoughts, and he begins to look at things differently.
He begins to look differently at sin for instance, and at guilt, and at the Word of God, and at the requirements of God, and he begins to internalize and personalize all these matters; by the work of the Holy Spirit, these matters become compelling internal and personal concerns.
This is why, when the light of God began to shine in Paul’s heart, Paul in turn called out: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”
Why? Because God has begun to shine in his heart
This is why the Psalmist of Psalm 36 says “In thy light shall we see light” and at such a time a person becomes sensible of the work of God in his life, and he feels compelled to respond to God.
It is a desirable thing therefore to have the light of God shine in your heart … and again, it is something to pray for regularly, as the Psalmist of Psalm 43 prays … “O send out thy light …”
Dear people! Is salvation and conversion a priority on your list for yourself or for your loved ones?
Do you want to see your wife, your husband, your children, other family members, your neighbor … become born again and saved?
Then pray for God’s light to shine forth brightly in your life or in the lives of the others.
Because, without God’s light you’ll grope in darkness.
Without God’s light you will never get a real sense of your spiritual needs.
In fact, you’ll assume that you really have no need of anything … as those who were in the church of Laodicea assumed, who boasted “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing!”
But by God’s light, you will have light upon your spiritual needs.
And what particularly will be seen then when God shines in your heart?
Let’s consider this in the last place under the heading of … The Convincing Glory of God.
Congregation, when God shines His light in your heart, He does so for several reasons, as we have learned already ... to show up your sin and your guilt and your natural inclinations towards evil … certainly.
This is what made Paul cry out at one time, as recorded for us in Romans 7 … “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
But the greatest reason for God shining His light in your heart is to reveal His glory to you.
And what constitutes the glory of God specifically?
His Son, Jesus Christ; and particularly the saving work of His Son Jesus Christ.
As God breaks in upon your darkness and turns His spotlight on, it is trained specifically upon Jesus Christ.
This is why Paul speaks in our text of “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” which you could also translate as “the glory of God in the Person of Jesus Christ.”
In the face, or in the Person of Jesus Christ we have the most convincing evidence of the glory of God.
And why is the Person of Jesus Christ the most convincing evidence of the glory of God?
Because in Jesus Christ, God shows His great and marvelous sinner-saving capabilities!
In Jesus Christ, God’s glorious mercy and saving grace is uncovered and exposed and put on display for us.
In Old Testament times, the Ark of the Covenant constituted the glory of God.
But in New Testament times, it is no longer a wooden box, which some priests had to carry around, but it is the Person of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Covenant of Redemption and Mediator of the Covenant of Grace.
Dear people, if you want to see the glory of God, you will have to look into the face of Jesus Christ – upon the Person of Jesus Christ.
And with God’s spotlight on Him, you will see the glory of God, marvelously displayed on a number of occasions in Jesus’ life.
While Jesus was still an Infant in the manger of Bethlehem, the glory of God was wrapped-up in this Infant.
Didn’t the angels sing of Him “Glory to God in the highest”?
Well, they sang of Jesus, you see.
And when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, it was the glory of God that sounded across the heavens, and came down from heaven, and rested upon Jesus.
And when Jesus traveled through Israel, it was the glory of God in Him that performed miracles; it was the glory of God in Him that caused people to be astonished and follow after Him; it was the glory of God in Him that went out to seek and to save that which was lost.
And when Jesus took some of His disciples on to the Mount of Transfiguration, they saw Him transposed into the very glory of God, so much that they thought they were in heaven already.
And when Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary as the sacrifice for the sins of His people, it might seem to us that the glory of God had eclipsed and had faded away, but it was in fact the glory of God that made the sacrifice acceptable in the sight of God; the glory of God sustained Jesus on the cross; the glory of God transported Jesus’ spirit into the hands of His Father; and the glory of God made Him triumph over the devil and hell and sin and death.
And presently, the glory of God sits enthroned in heaven, as Jesus is up there, ready to receive all His people up with Him in glory.
Dear people, the glory of God is to be seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
Moses once asked God “Show me thy glory” and he saw much brilliance on the pavement behind God.
But now, when we ask God “Show me thy glory” we may expect to see Jesus Christ.
And again, this is what you and I must pray for “God, show me thy glory – show me Jesus Christ.”
Have you seen it already, dear people, … the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?
Have you looked upon the face of Jesus Christ already, and seen the look of compassion on that face for sin-wearied strugglers?
Have you looked upon the face of Jesus Christ already, and seen the look of pity, the look of mercy?
Simon Peter once saw it while engaged in sin, and it broke his heart.
Have you looked upon the face of Jesus Christ already and seen the look of steadfast faithfulness?
If so, you have seen something of the glory of God.
Well now, this is what the Apostle Paul sees as the great reason and purpose for preaching the Gospel … it is “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Through Gospel preaching, God is pleased to give the light of saving knowledge to people like you and me.
For Paul it was worth it to endure hardship and troubles and persecution on account of being a preacher of the Gospel.
Because he knew, having the light of God in his own heart, that by preaching the Gospel, it would be possible to convey the light of saving knowledge to his listeners.
And so, dear people, with Paul, and with other preachers, I may say “… we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord”; and we preach so that to you may be given “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Pray God to shine His light in your heart; and as He does, pray Him to put the spotlight especially upon Jesus.
And then look at Jesus; look upon that dear face of Jesus Christ, and behold, in the face of Jesus Christ, the glory of God.