The Glorious Gospel of Christ
- 2 Corinthians 4:1-7
Paul had sent Titus to Corinth to correct to encourage the local church and to complete their contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Paul, was troubled in spirit, and so departed from Ephesus come to Troas, looking for Titus. He grew more troubled when he did not find Titus there so, he departed hurriedly to Macedonia. There he found Titus, just back from Corinth with good news, the church had acted on Paul’s corrections from the first epistle. Other things were still problems though. Paul to act decisively and strongly. 2 Corinthians gives us the three things Paul had to fix. First, he had to present the Gospel more fully to the Christians; second, to put push them to finish the collecton for the Jerusalem church and third, to defend his apostolic calling and authority against those who would turn the church from the New Testament back to the Old and from the glory of the gospel to the bonds of being a Jewish sect instead of being a New Testament church.
The epistle was written during Paul's third missionary journey around 57 AD, months or even up to a year 1 Corinthians. Written from Macedonia, where Paul found Titus and most likely from Philippi.
Chapter 4 that we will be in today, flows from chapter 3 and is closely tied to it. Chapter 3 is the buildup to the glory of the Gospel and wonder of serving Jesus as a New Covenant assembly.
Chapters 3 and 4 Connection
In chapter 3 Paul says, the Commission and calling of the New was a greater than the Old because the letter of the law kills but the Spirit gives life 2 Corinthians 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
Preaching the Gospel is superior because it was a ministry of greater glory through the Spirit, a ministry of righteousness rather than condemnation 2 Corinthians 3:8-9 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
It was a ministry that allowed them through Christ and the Holy Spirit to experience the unveiled glories of God, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
And so we read in chapter 4 verse 1,
Our Ministry - 2 Corinthians 4:1-2
Therefore seeing we have this ministry (greater more glorious, superior ministry), as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
It was his and the Corinthian churches ministry, their service to God and for God because it was given them from God.
It was also theirs because they have received mercy and through that great gift of mercy that put them in the service of God, he also knew we could not and would not quit, “we faint not.”
God through his mercy enabled Paul to bear the unbearable and overcome the insurmountable.
Paul bore the beatings and the betrayals, the danger and the doldrums, the pain the passion. This he could do because of the empowering grace of God.
Scripture: 2 Cor 11:26-29 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
Paul said in verse 2 that because he would not faint, not quit, he also had “renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, craftiness and deceit, but would let the truth manifest itself, let the truth shine in its glory to every man’s conscience. His calling to the gospel was also a calling to the truth and power of the Gospel.
Of course, as Paul said last week, these things are written for our examples. Just as the saint and leaders in the Old Testament were examples to the early church, the leaders and apostles in early church are examples to us. Paul’s letter didn’t just arrive in Corinth and quit, it continues to encourage us to understand this amazing, incredible, overwhelming calling and ministry we all have as New Testament believers, especially as members of the Lord’s church.
Just listen to this apostle of the apostles, this preacher of preachers, this missionary of missionaries as he encourages the Corinthians and us not to faint but to hold our ministry as a precious gift from God.
Scripture: 2 Corinthans 4: 8-16 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
The Gospel is to be preached by the minister of God, but Paul didn’t limit that calling to just himself, he purposely used the plural including the entire church and even us in this day and time. It is ours for the same reasons it was Paul’s ministry.
The calling to the ministry of the Glorious Gospel is our calling. Ours because it is given to us by God.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Because the calling of the gospel is ours we will not faint. Paul did not and by the same mercy, grace and strength we as member of Calvary Baptist Church, will not faint. At the end of his time on earth Paul wrote to Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
And a vital part of not fainting is to share the Gospel in all of its truth and power. We cannot cheapen it or make it more amenable by not telling the world that sin will bring them to the wrath of God. We cannot ignore the negative side of the truth in order to amplify the positive. It is the Gospel and the Gospel must not be diluted, dampened or deemphasized. Instead if must be unleased, unfettered and unadulterated in order to bring a sinful world to salvation.
Illustration: David Livingstone’s Last Birthday
Do you remember the story of David Livingstone’s last birthday? When Stanley found Livingstone, the great missionary who spent thirty years in darkest Africa, he wanted him to come back to England with him, but Livingstone refused to go. Two days later he wrote in his diary: “March 19, my birthday. My Jesus, my King, my Life, my all, I again dedicate my whole self to Thee. Accept me, and grant, O gracious Father, that ere the year is gone I may finish my work. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.” A year later his servants found him on his knees, where he had died in prayer. He did not quit, he did not faint, because like Paul and like us, He was called to the ministry of the Glorious Gospel of Christ.
Transition: Paul’s ministry seen in truth
The calling to this ministry for Paul and for us is
incredibly important because only the light of the Gospel can unblind the eyes
of this world.
Our Gospel - 2 Cor 4:3-6
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.6 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.
Satan blinds but The Gospel Shines
In verse 2 Paul says he would let the Gospel manifest in truth, he would let it shine and not hide it by using human ideas of how to make it better.
Then in verse 3, “but if our Gospel be hidden” Notice first that Paul says it is our gospel.
No longer just God’s or Christ’s alone but now it is our Gospel, our good news.
It has been entrusted to Paul and he has invested his life and future in this Gospel.
It is his by the gift of life from God and now by the gift of his life to God, he possesses the Gospel Christ. It is his!
Yet this precious gift may be hidden to others. The word hidden word means veiled like Moses before the people of Israel, that he spoke of in Chapter 3
The lost do not see this light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, because Satan has blinded the minds of those which believe not.
The words “are lost” here is the same word used in 1 Cor 2:15 “perish” It describes the condition of those in this world that Satan has blinded, has veiled the Gospel so that they cannot not truly see its glory.
They are lost they are perishing because they have not yet seen the Glorious Gospel.
Paul says there is only one hope and you know what it is, the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, the image of God must shine. In verse 5 He says, “we preach Christ Jesus the Lord,” in vers 6 God commanded the light to shine out of darkness.
That light shined in our hearts, it gave knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and it will do the same for the blind of this world if we will own the gospel as our own and by God’s mercy faint not and let it shine!
Let it Shine, Let it shine, Let it shine
Satan is not greater than God, Paul said, God commanded the light to shine out of the darkness.”
1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
When it seems that all the world had gone mad and turned to anarchy. When I can see the blinding of Satan literally displayed in the cities being burned, the hatred of Christianity, the closing of churches, the desire to kill and silence anything that resembles truth. When I see these things it might seem hopeless, but we faint not because our blindness was overpowered by the light of the glorious Gospel. The dark it grows the more we must shine.
Isaiah 60:1-2 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
We cannot stop, we cannot quit. As a the church of Jesus Christ, as servants of the most high God, we have this ministry, we must let the Gospel shine. It is not our job to worry about how dark it is, it is our job to turn on the light.
Illustration: The life saving crew.
In the old days lighthouses were often manned by a crew of lifeguards, who when a ship was stranded on the rocks would go out and with a rowboat ferry the passenger to safety. One night during a terrible windy storm a ship full of passengers struck the rocks and began to sink. The captain of the lifeboat called his crew into the little open rowboat to attempt a rescue of the shipping ship about a half mile offshore. One of the rowers seeing the wind and waves yelled at the captain over the noise of the storm. "Sir if we go out we'll never be able to row back!" The captain looked out at those on the ship turned to his men and said, "Son , it's not our job to worry about coming back. Its our job to go."
It is our gospel and we will preach on deserted corners, or
empty buildings or to the hard hearts of the unhearing. We will preach it
because God has commanded the light to shine and nothing else matter.
Our Vessel - 2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
Paul says we have the treasure, this calling, this ministry to share the gospel in earthen vessels. This is the next contrast that Paul uses through out this chapter. The hidden and the open in vs. 1-2, The blinded and the seeing vss. 3-4. The servant and the master in vss. 5. Darkness and light in vs 6 and now in vs 7 Priceless and Common
The priceless treasure of the gospel is in earthen vessels. What a contrast. Our bodies, our lives, frail and worthless but now holding an eternal treasure.
Why would God entrust such riches in such worthless vessels? Paul says, “That the excellency of the power may be of God and not us.”
Scripture: Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
How can we as weak, and sin stained as we are be worthy of such a calling? Yet, if you are saved, then you have experienced the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and you now have, inside your mortal body, the immortal riches of the glory of the Gospel.
This is not by accident. God did not just let this happen, He has a purpose. He could have turned as all into powerful angels and flown through the heavens shouting “Repent!” but he did not Why would God choose such a shameful, sinful, sorry chests to contain such a wonderful treasure? Paul says it is that very frailty, that very weakness that lets the world see the excellency of the power of God.
When the world sees us they don’t see anything special, but when they see the Gospel through us and in us then they see that only God could do something that special.
I think this works most plainly in us as it did for Gideon.
Illustration: Gideon’s broken pitchers
Do you remember the story of Gideon, this man who was called to fight the Midianite? Do you remember how under God’s instruction he took 300 men against thousands armed with only a clay pitchers and a lamps? How could such a small weak force overcome the power arrayed against them?
As they stood on the hills Gideon called out, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” The clay vessels were broken and the light inside blazed like the torches of a million warriors. God used those broken vessels to show his power and glory in the midst of a dark Judean night and the enemies of God fled.
Our lives are the vessels that contain the treasure of the glorious gospel of Christ. It is the light that must be seen in this Satan blinded, sin darkened world. When we in our weakness and frailty are broken, then the light inside us, the Glorious Gospel of Christ, shines out and the world can’t help but see. When this earthen vessel at that point that the treasure is spilled out. It is at that point that the lost look and truly see the power is not in us for we are broken but there in the shattered pieces of what we used to be they see the treasure, they seen the excellency of the power of God.
The Master was searching for a vessel to use;
On the shelf there were many - which one would He choose?
“Take me”, cried the gold one, “I’m shiny and bright,
I'm of great value and I do things just right.
My beauty and lustre will outshine the rest
And for someone like You, Master, gold would be the best!”
The Master passed on with no word at all;
He looked at a silver urn, narrow and tall;
“I’ll serve You, dear Master, I'll pour out Your wine
And I'll be at Your table whenever You dine,
My lines are so graceful, my carvings so true,
And my silver will always compliment You.”
Unheeding the Master passed on to the brass,
It was wide mouthed and shallow, and polished like glass.
“Here! Here!” cried the vessel, “I know I will do,
Place me on Your table for all men to view.”
“Look at me”, called the goblet of crystal so clear,
“My transparency shows my contents so dear,
Though fragile am I, I will serve You with pride,
And I'm sure I'll be happy in Your house to abide.”
The Master came next to a vessel of wood,
Polished and carved, it solidly stood.
“You may use me, dear Master”, the wooden bowl said,
“But I'd rather You used me for fruit, not for bread!”
Then the Master looked down and saw a vessel of clay.
Empty and broken it helplessly lay.
No hope had the vessel that the Master might choose,
To cleanse and make whole, to fill and to use.
“Ah! This is the vessel I've been hoping to find,
I will mend and use it and make it all Mine.”
“I need not the vessel with pride of its self;
Nor the one who is narrow to sit on the shelf;
Nor the one who is big mouthed and shallow and loud;
Nor one who displays his contents so proud;
Not the one who thinks he can do all things just right;
But this plain earthy vessel filled with My power and might.”
Then gently He lifted the vessel of clay.
Mended and cleansed it and filled it that day.
Spoke to it kindly. “There’s work you must do,
Just pour out to others as I pour into you.”
-Beulah V. Cornwall