4:1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy [cf. Acts 9:1-19; Eph. 2:4; Titus 3:5] we have this ministry [God uses us because He is good, not because we are good], we do not lose heart [to not become discouraged or behave with cowardice].
4:2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways [unlike some of Paul’s critics whose methods and motives were suspect]; we do not use deception, nor do we distort [word commonly used in the marketplace to describe tactics of unscrupulous merchants who, for example, adjusted their scales to take advantage of customers] the word of God [as did Paul’s opponents]. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled [obscure], it is veiled to those who are perishing [those who refuse to place their trust in Christ].
4:4 The god of this age [Satan, whose agenda is to steal, kill, and destroy (cf. Jn. 10:10)] has blinded [Satan uses the things of this world to blind people] the minds of unbelievers [cf. 2 Cor. 11:14-15], so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who [Jesus who lived and walked among us] is the image [cf. Col. 1:15] of God [who is invisible (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16)].
Paul marveled that God had chosen him to tell others about Jesus. Before his conversion, he had been a sworn enemy of Jesus Christ and His followers. However, Christ Himself had stopped Paul on his way to persecute believers in Damascus and commissioned him to preach the gospel. Paul knew that it was only by the mercy of God that he had been called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was always careful to preach with right motives and never resorted to methods that distorted the message or jeopardized his integrity.
In his previous letter to the Corinthians, Paul said that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). Those who use human wisdom to try to understand the gospel often minimize both the effect and impact of the cross. For many unbelievers the cross is an insurmountable stumbling block and for others it is just plain foolishness.
Although Paul’s presentation of the gospel was clear and straightforward, it was veiled or obscure to those who refuse to believe in Christ. Paul used the imagery of blindness to describe the spiritual condition of unbelievers who are unable or unwilling to comprehend spiritual truth. Ultimately, Satan himself is responsible for obscuring the message of the cross and blinding the minds of the unbelievers.
Those whose minds are blinded by Satan cannot think straight, resist God’s truth, and are vulnerable to false information about God. While on an international flight, I met a young man who was reading Bertrand Russell’s essay entitled “Why I Am Not a Christian.” When I engaged him in conversation, he remarked that he agreed with Russell. He also admitted to me that he had never talked with a Christian nor read any Christian literature that might challenge Russell’s conclusions. We then spent the remainder of the flight talking about Christianity and why Jesus had come to earth. Like Russell, this young man’s mind had been blinded by Satan to the light of the gospel.
The Psalmist said that the entrance of God’s Word gives light (see Ps. 119:130). That is why Satan seeks to blind the minds of unbelievers to the light of the gospel. As the god of this age, or the god of those who live according to the fallen world order, Satan will stop at nothing to influence the human mind. He is a schemer (2 Cor. 2:11) who employs any and all measures to prevent the entrance of light into darkened minds and hearts. Light enables people to see what they otherwise would be unable to see. Satan does not want for people to see and understand their desperate spiritual condition and need for salvation through Jesus Christ.
Satan, the prince of darkness (Eph. 6:12), cleverly disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants can disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Paul cautioned against these deceivers who convincingly preached another Jesus and a different gospel (2 Cor. 11:4).
Unlike the smooth-talking false teachers of his day, Paul always kept Jesus as the focal point of his preaching (2 Cor. 4:5). Jesus, after all, is the light of the world and the only antidote to spiritual darkness. We must share the message about Jesus in dependence on the Holy Spirit, who counteracts the work of Satan by revealing the truth of the gospel. He can enable the spiritually blind to see!
4:5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord [cf. 1 Cor. 2:1-2], and ourselves as your servants [cf. Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 11:23; Gal. 1:10] for Jesus’ sake.
4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness [cf. Gen. 1:2-5],” made his light [which can illumine dark hearts and minds] shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
4:8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
4:9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
4:10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
4:11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
4:12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
4:13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,
4:14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.
4:15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart [Paul endured because he had an eternal perspective and knew there was more than just this life]. Though outwardly we are wasting away [our physical bodies are in the process of wasting away], yet inwardly [the part of us (soul) that will survive physical death] we are being renewed day by day.
4:17 For our light and momentary troubles [cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-29 re: the hardships Paul endured] are achieving [sufferings produced something that would last for all eternity…] for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all [cf. Rom. 8:18].
4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen [the decay of the outer person], but on what is unseen [the eternal glory believers will enjoy]. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.