Behold His Glory (2 Corinthians 4-5)
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) --- 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Do you remember when you first beheld the glory of God? I remember coming up out of the waters of baptism and being blown away at the knowledge of who God is and how forgiving he is. We have seen the love of God in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. After submitting to God, many of us were on fire for the Lord. We were ready to fight 10,000. We were prepared to share the gospel with as many people as we could. But then what happened?
Have you ever felt burned out from working for the Lord? Many of us were on fire when we came to Christ. We were sharing the gospel with anyone who would listen. If you are like me, you thought that we would be able to convert a lot of people to Christ. But being a Christian just seemed to make life more difficult in many ways. We tend to get our heartbroken more times than we can count as we try to help them. 2 Corinthians is a great place to go to find encouragement as we struggle with this. The key text in this book is 12:9.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV) --- 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
A lot of people think this book is about Paul defending his apostleship, but he says plainly near the end of the book that he is not (2 Cor 12:19). He is writing all of this to build the Corinthians up.
Today I want us to look at a section of this book and find some encouragement in our ministry of sharing the gospel with others. In Chapters 4-5, Paul says we do not lose heart over rejection or affliction, but we are of good courage as we consider the hope we have for eternity.
1. We Are Not Discouraged By Rejection (4:1-10)
2 Corinthians 4:1--2 (ESV) --- 1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.
First, we see that Paul is talking about his ministry in verse 1, and he says, "Having this ministry by God’sGod's grace, we do not lose heart.” Paul looks at his ministry as a gift from God. Spreading the gospel is not something that he does begrudgingly. He is happy to serve the Lord in his ministry. So he says he doesn't lose heart. To lose heart is to get discouraged or to feel defeated. Paul is saying that God has given him a ministry where he never feels defeated or discouraged. How can he say that?
In verse 2, he is alluding to the fact that people are rejecting what he is trying to say. He says, "We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word.” He is not resorting to methods that compromise the word of God. He says that he is trying to state the truth openly, and through that, commend himself to everyone’s conscience. Now, imagine Paul coming before the church saying, "Here is what we are going to do. We are going to hold a hotdog eating contest outside, and when everyone gets in here, we are going to do the old bait and switch." Or imagine him saying, "We don’t have to tell them that they need to repent of those sins. That would be too hard for them to accept." That's not what Paul is saying at all. Paul is saying that he is not going to let the rejection of God's word change the way that he does things. He is not going to stop preaching because people don't listen to him. He has also decided not to lose heart over this fact. Why doesn’tdoesn't Paul feel despair as he is rejected over and over again? Look at verses 3-4.
2 Corinthians 4:3--5 (ESV) --- 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
A. This Is Spiritual Warfare
Trying to fish for men is not like shooting fish in a barrel. This is not an easy task where everyone Paul meets will readily accept the truth. He has spiritual forces of evil working against him on every turn. They have their ears shut to the things that he is trying to show them. We must realize that as we are talking to people, there are forces at work more powerful than us.
B. They Are Rejecting The Message, Not The Messenger
2 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV) --- 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.
What does he mean when he says, “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord?” When Paul talks to people, he is just a messenger. This perspective shift relieves Paul of responsibility. If they reject this message, it is not Paul who is being rejected. He is just trying to serve people who don't want what he is offering. There is nothing wrong with the message. The problem is in the heart that rejects it.
Jesus himself did not convert the thousands who heard his words. Why not? Is it because Jesus didn't say the right things? Is it because Jesus did not care enough to tell them the truth? In John 6, there were 5,000 who were fed by Jesus’Jesus' miracle. They tracked him down to get another sign out of him, and he accused them of not truly believing in him. They just came because they ate and were filled. He refused to do any more signs for them. In verse 43-45, he told them that no one could go to him unless the Father draws him. The prophets said, "They will all be taught by God.” This is a picture of God trying to convince a man that he wants to be saved through Jesus. God is trying to draw people to himself through the gospel Paul preaches and teaches. If they don't listen, it is their own fault.
2. We Are Not Discouraged By Affliction
But it won’t be long before rejection goes to the next level of evil. Beginning in verse 8, he starts to describe what it is like to be a minister of this gospel in a world that lashes out against you.
2 Corinthians 4:8--12 (ESV) --- 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
This does not look like the kind of job description that will win people over. Afflicted in every way? Perplexed? Persecuted? Struck down? This is not the life any sane person would choose. Is this what we signed up for? Verse 11 says that we all are being given over to death for Jesus' sake. How are we all given over to death for Jesus' sake? Paul is saying that all of us are always supposed to die so that Jesus can be seen in us.
How many of us thought that living as a Christian would be easy? Many of the "Christians” in the world entered into Christianity when it was popular. It has been easy for many years, but that is not normal. It is quickly becoming less and less popular. We see people against Christianity on the news, and we know that in the heart of many major US cities, the persecution is amping up. Will it discourage us if we have to suffer from being a Christian? Think about it. Would we have become a Christian if we knew that becoming a Christian would ruin our relationships with friends and family? Would we remain a Christian if we knew it would hold us back from success in our jobs?
Notice the phrase in verse 16, "The outer self is wasting away.” The CSB says, "The outer self is being destroyed.” From the outside, becoming a Christian seems like social suicide. But Paul also said that he does not lose heart as this is happening because his inner self is renewed day by day. What is happening inside of Paul as he suffers on the outside? Why is he able to endure all of this rejection and suffering? What could be worth a life like that?
1. Eternal Hope Renews Us
2 Corinthians 4:16--5:2 (ESV) --- 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,
How many of us would consider the suffering that Paul goes through to be light and momentary? But Paul looks at all of that pain as a good thing. He says that it is, "Preparing for us an eternal weight of glory as we look not at the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen." Paul’sPaul's perspective of this life is not about preserving his body and living the best life now. He doesn't want to do everything he can to make sure that everyone treats him with respect. Paul is of good courage as his body is spat on, thrown around, and beaten up because he knows that one day, that body will be replaced with something beyond comparison.
Jesus promises each of us the same thing, pleading with us to "lay up treasures in heaven" instead of on earth, “Where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal.” We hear this, but it is so difficult for us to consider the afflictions in this earth to be light and momentary.
2. We Get To Be With The Lord
2 Corinthians 5:6--9 (ESV) --- 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Whenever Paul gets that new building from God, he believes that he will get to enjoy it with the Lord. Jesus is not too good to spend time with us. He wants to be with us forever, and he is God so he can do that.
So Paul is encouraged by this eternal hope. He has faith in what is not seen and God's ability to make it a reality. But why? How is Paul able to do all of this? Is this not a fantastic thing for us? How could anyone, not only be willing to serve in a ministry where they are rejected and afflicted but also say, "We are of good courage?” How could we say that as we try to share the good news with other people?
How Will We Do This?
As he endures tremendous suffering in this life, Paul is continuously reminded of the fact that pain is what this life is all about. The devil is whispering in our ears, saying, "This life doesn't have to be about suffering. I can make it easy.” But it is a lie. This life is full of light, momentary afflictions that prepare us for something opposite to suffering as east and west. But even knowing all of this, we still struggle to open our mouths and say what we should say. Some significant phrases follow what we have studied this morning which helps us think differently about reaching out and speaking to the lost.
We View People In Light of Judgment (5:10)
2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) --- 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Notice in verse 10 that he does not say, “I must appear before the judgment seat.” We all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. When we look around at people, do we see them this way? We must see them as Christ sees them.
We Let The Love of Christ Control Us (5:14-15)
2 Corinthians 5:14--15 (ESV) --- 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Christ loves them more than he loved his body. We must do the same. One of the biggest hindrances in our efforts to evangelize is our focus on self. We will tend to live for ourselves instead of letting the love of Christ control us.
We Implore Others As God Implores Them (5:20)
2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV) --- 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
God wants reconciliation with everyone, and he wants to use our bodies to bring that about. He has given men the ministry of bringing other men to him. We are appealing and imploring others to be saved. The emotions of God and Christ are pouring out of this text. Don't be blinded by Satan. Turn to God before it is too late.
We Remember That God Is Working With Us (6:1)
2 Corinthians 6:1 (ESV) --- 1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
Christ, our sacrifice is working with us to appeal to others. When we plead with them to be saved, Jesus is pleading alongside us, rooting for us, and helping us.
How could we get discouraged if we believe that? Don't get me wrong; it is heartbreaking to try to convince someone to believe in Christ and to see a veil over their face. But with all of the people around us, how could we let that one person (or even those 50 people) who rejected the gospel keep us from trying to find someone who will accept it? Our faith is not nearly as Paul describes it, but this text increases our faith. As our eyes have seen God's glory through the face of Jesus, we want every person to see it as well! Please see the unseen spiritual reality that is all around us. Be transformed.