2 Corinthians 4:6

Sermon preached on September 19, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Because of that I love Sydney. In a lot of ways it's a great little place and it has some charm that is associated with small cities. But it does have its problems. When I was growing up Sydney was an industrial town. Its main industry was a steel mill. And wow—it was some polluter. It was built in 1901 and at the time they didn't care much about the environment. From 1901 until 1988 it operated with no pollution controls at all. The large stacks used to spew out great clouds of orange smoke. When I was a teenager I remember hearing studies about the pollution and they would say that tons of dust were being rained down on Whitney Pier, the area of the city where both sets of my grandparents lived. I read one study yesterday that estimated that over the life of the steel plant it sent over 100 million tons of dust over the city. The Pier area was really filthy place because the stacks were nearby. You couldn't hang out your clothes to dry without them getting dirty hanging on the line. I remember driving past part of the Steel plant on my way to my grandparents and there was one section of the plant that really stank. It smelled awful, sort of like a sulfur smell. The steel plant is gone now and all that's left of any significance is what they call the Tar Ponds. It's one of the worst, if not the very worst polluted sites in Canada. They've been trying to clean it up for years and have spent millions on it. I think the total cleanup is going to exceed 500 million dollars. Sydney has had some tough times.

But what's really funny (and sad) is that every few years, a couple or a family will land at the Sydney Airport, get off the plane—and find that they aren't in Sydney, Australia, where they thought they were going—but in Sydney, Nova Scotia. It's true. It happens every once in awhile. People will book a trip to what they think is Sydney, Australia and end up in Sydney, Nova Scotia, some 11,000 miles from where they wanted to go. It happened to a British couple in 2002 and it happened this past July to a young couple from Italy. The couple from Italy had never been abroad before and they were very excited about going to Australia. They booked their trip with a travel agent in Rome and when they arrived in the airport in Sydney, Nova Scotia, they thought it was just a layover to change planes. Then they thought it was a joke. But then it dawned on them that they were in fact at the destination the travel agent arranged for them. Can you imagine how much of a shock that would be? No opera house, no kangaroos, no Great Barrier Reef, no outback. Instead all they found was a tired old steel town.

The wrong destination. Today, there are a lot of people trying to get to God yet, they're not finding Him. They're ending up in the wrong place. And unless they change their approach, they're going to perish forever. So it's important that we all examine our beliefs to make sure that we're approaching God the right way. Our text is very helpful in this regard. It says, (2 Corinthians 4:6)

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,'
made his light shine in our hearts
to give us the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

The first thing we see from our text is that

we see the glory of God in Christ.

Seeing God's glory is one of the greatest things that we can ever experience. Even the Old Testament saints knew about the pleasures of seeing God's glory. In Psalm 27:4 David wrote,

"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house
of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple."

And in Psalm 84:1–4 the sons of Korah wrote,

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you."

But even the Old Testament saints had an idea that this glory would be see in the Messiah. Psalm 45:1–7 says,

"My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword upon your side,
O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness;
let your right hand display awesome deeds.
Let your sharp arrows pierce
the hearts of the king's enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God,
has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy."

The New Testament expands on this idea. It tells us more clearly that we see this glory in Jesus Christ. We see that in our text. Hebrews 1:3 also says,

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory
and the exact representation of his being,"

And Colossians 1:15 says,

"He is the image of the invisible God,"

In John 1:18 the apostle John wrote,

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,
who is at the Father's side, has made him known."

And in verse 14 of that same chapter, he wrote,

"The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Seeing Jesus Christ is the way to see the glory of God. Seeing Christ transforms us. It transforms us now. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:16–18

"But whenever anyone turns to the Lord,
the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Seeing Christ transforms us and make us glorious. It will even be more so in the future. When Jesus comes the process will be completed. 1 John 3:2–3 says,

"Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be
has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

John Owen writes, (The Glory of Christ, Works, Vol. 1, p. 286)

"one of the greatest privileges and advancements of believers in this world and unto eternity, consists in their beholding the glory of Christ."

Joy of joys, pleasure of pleasures, blessing of blessings—beholding the glory of God in Christ is one of the greatest experiences for human beings. It will be our delight in eternity. As John says in Revelation 22:3–5

"The throne of God and of the Lamb
will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
They will see his face,
and his name will be on their foreheads.
There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever."

This is also something that Jesus wants us to have. In His great high priestly prayer in John 17:24 Jesus said,

"Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am, and to see my glory,
the glory you have given me because you loved me
before the creation of the world."

Now what this means is that

you should be seeking to see God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus you see God. He shows us the Father. In John 14:8–9, Philip said,

"Lord, show us the Father
and that will be enough for us."

Jesus answered:

"Don't you know me, Philip,
even after I have been among you such a long time?
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?"

John Owen writes, (Works, Vol. 1, p. 294)

"The first thing wherein we may behold the glory of the person of Christ, God and man… consists in the representation of the nature of God, and of the divine person of the Father, unto the church in him; for we behold 'the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ',"

There are so many vain, useless things to chase after in this life. People chase after money, power, prestige, sex or other forms of pleasure. But not one of them bring lasting pleasure. Not of them satisfy. They're all a chasing after the wind.

There is but one thing truly, ultimate and thoroughly satisfies—and that is seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This is what you should be seeking. You should be reading the Bible, studying all it says so that you can see God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ. You should be praying that God would open your eyes more and more to His glory. Jesus is the focal point of all the Scriptures. He is the One that shows us God's glory.

Do you want to know about God? Then look to Jesus. John Calvin says of our text,

"This is an important passage from which we may learn that God is not to be sought after in His inscrutable majesty (for He dwells in light inaccessible) but is to be known in so far as He reveals Himself in Christ."

If you want to know about the love, righteousness and justice of God, look to Jesus. 1 John 4:8 tells us,

"God is love."

In the life, death and resurrection we see the love of God. There we find out what the love of God is like. Remember what Jesus told His disciples, (John 13:34–35)

"A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you must love one another.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another."

John Owen writes about Jesus, (Works, Vol. 1, p. 301)

"Herein we may see how excellent, how beautiful, how glorious and desirable he is, seeing in him alone we have a due representation of God as he is love; which is the most joyful sight of God that any creature can obtain."

If you want to know about the wisdom of God, look to Jesus. So many people today question God's ways, they question His wisdom, they're like the ancient Israelites in the wilderness. But what does the Bible tell us to do? It tells us to look to Jesus. In Ephesians 3:8–11

"this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles
the unsearchable riches of Christ,
and to make plain to everyone
the administration of this mystery, which for ages past
was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
His intent was that now, through the church,
the manifold wisdom of God should be made known
to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished
in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Colossians 2:2–3 adds,

"My purpose is that they may be
encouraged in heart and united in love,
so that they may have
the full riches of complete understanding,
in order that they may know
the mystery of God,
namely, Christ, in whom are hidden
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

We see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The second thing we should understand from our text, even though it is not explicitly stated, is that

Jesus is the only way to see God's glory.

Our text merely says that God made His light shine in our hears to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But the immediate context and many passages in the rest of the Bible make it clear that the only way we see the glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ.

Consider first the immediate context. In chapter 1 of 2 Corinthians Paul says that all the promises of God are focused on Jesus Christ. He wrote, (2 Corinthians 1:19–20

"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ,
who was preached among you
by me and Silas and Timothy,
was not 'Yes' and 'No,'
but in him it has always been 'Yes.'
For no matter how many promises
God has made,
they are 'Yes' in Christ.
And so through him the Amen
is spoken by us to the glory of God."

All of God's promises in focused in Jesus Christ. In chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians Paul spoke about how Moses had to put a veil over his face when it was shining with God's glory, fading though it was. Then Paul writes, (2 Corinthians 3:14)

"But their minds were made dull,
for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read.
It has not been removed,
because only in Christ is it taken away."

It's only in Christ that it is taken away. This is confirmed in the verses just before our text. 2 Corinthians 4:3–4 says,

"And even if our gospel is veiled,
it is veiled to those who are perishing.
The god of this age
has blinded the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see
the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God."

And in chapter 5 it tells how everyone will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10) So the immediate context makes it clear that Jesus is the only way to see God's glory. Those who do not see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ are those who 'are perishing'. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are lost. As Jesus said in John 14:6,

"I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."

And as Peter said in Acts 4:12,

"Salvation is found in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved."

To know God we must see Christ. John Owen says of God's glory, that without Christ, (Owen, Works, Vol. 1. The Glory of Christ, p. 294)

"we know it not, we see it not, we see nothing of it;"

No one can come to see and enjoy God's glory without Christ.

So this means that

you should seek to see God's glory exclusively in the face of Jesus Christ.

Today our society doesn't want us to claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation. They think that's an arrogant and self-serving claim. They think no one religion should claim to have to be the exclusive way to God. This past week one of the churches in Canton here put up a sign celebrating the end of Ramadan. In a press release they said that they recognize,

"the value of religious diversity within our local communities."

And that's the politically correct thing today. Many of you know that I serve as a volunteer minister in one of the local institutions. The interesting thing is that all of the volunteer clergy staff there come from Christian churches. One day we were having a meeting and a couple of them were lamenting the fact that we didn't have clergy from other faiths as part of our group. They seemed to be embarrassed that we were all Christians and were bemoaning the situation. They said,

"Wouldn't it be good if we had other faiths as part of our group?"

I was thinking,

"Why would you wish that? If Christ is the only way to God, why would you wish and hope that clergy of other faiths would have more contact with the students? The fact that all of us are Christian is really good!"

But they didn't see it that way. To them, diversity is good. They don't see Christ as the only way.

The other thing we see in our society is the idea that people can be 'spiritual' and at the same time not be part of any religion. You hear it all the time. They say,

"There's a difference between being religious and being spiritual. I may not be religious, but I'm spiritual."

Really? Can you be spiritual without being a Christian? Can you be spiritual without being part of the church of Jesus Christ?

Of course the answer to that depends on how you define spirituality. But are we free to define it any way we want? Gordon Fee writes, (Listening to the Spirit in the Text)

"In the New Testament… spirituality is defined altogether in terms of the Spirit of God (or Christ). One is spiritual to the degree that ones lives in and walks by the Spirit; in Scripture the word has no other meaning…"

You can't know God apart from Christ. You can't be spiritual and not be in Christ.

The third thing we see from our text is

how extremely grateful we ought to be to God for the salvation we have in Jesus.

The world today curses Jesus and takes His name in vain. How little do they realize what they are doing.

How we should be blessing God and thanking Him for showing us His glory in Jesus. What an illustration of God's great love and mercy. Why are we Christians? Why do we believe? Why do you see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? See what our text says—
God is the One who opens our hearts to see the glory of God in Christ.

"For God, who said,
'Let light shine out of darkness,'
made his light shine in our hearts
to give us the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God
in the face of Christ."

It's all of God. How good God is to us. Paul's words here take us back to Genesis 1. There we read that at the dawn of creation, the darkness was dispelled by the word of God. We read, (Genesis 1:3)

"And God said, 'Let there be light,'
and there was light."

In our text Paul says that that principle is also true in the spiritual sphere—it is God who speaks and has the light shine in our hearts. He, (Philip E. Hughes, p. 133)

"drives back the darkness of sin and unbelief in the hearts of men."

God has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God did that for Paul on the road to Damascus. As Jonah declared, (Jonah 2:9)

"Salvation comes from the Lord."

For those of you who are not Christians,

you are doing something very bad, you are despising the glory of Christ.

John Owen writes, p. 286

"All unbelievers do in their heart call Christ 'Ichabod,' — 'Where is the glory?' They see neither 'form nor comeliness in him,' that he should be desired."

The god of this world has blinded your eyes to the glory of God in Christ. You see Jesus, and the words of Isaiah 53:2–3 are fulfilled in you. It said of the great Messiah to come,

"He had no beauty or majesty
to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance
that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,"

As Peter, James and John saw His glory revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration, so one day you will see His glory revealed as you stand in terror before the Great White throne and your foolishness is revealed.

Don't let that happen to you. You need to plead with God to open your eyes to the glory of Jesus Christ. Plead with Him. Go to Jesus. Find life, find joy, find satisfaction, find glory.