Preaching the Gospel of light into the darkness

Pby Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, 2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 (NASB) 

In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Paul speaks of a veil that lies over the hearts of those who reject the genuine Gospel. Paul used the Jews as his example of those who, with hearts hardened against the Gospel, believe they are serving God in their rejection of it. In the 21st Century Church, we have a parallel of this in much of the visible Church. Before I took my time off I received several emails from many of you about an escalation of attacks on what we refer to as Reformation Theology from those who are convinced that Christians are saved by exercising their will with absolutely no help from God. In fact, they view this as sacred and if God were to interfere, He would be in violation somehow and this would nullify the veracity of their salvation. This is part of the struggle for the truth with which we must deal, but we also have outright heretics preaching in some pulpits teaching Eastern Mysticism as if it is part of the Gospel. We also have those who are seemingly desperate to be seen as separate from anything “Orthodox” so they reject what the Bible clearly teaches about Homosexuality being a sin. It is as if these who are consistently attacking God’s truth and rejecting His Sovereignty are doing the very same thing the Jews of Paul’s day did. They insist that the focus of Christianity must be all about people, while we teach that it is all about God and His glory.

Carefully read 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, which I placed at the top of this post. In v1 the word “ministry” translates διακονίαν. This word describes a ministry that is a service. When used outside of this context it can refer to a table waiter for instance, but in this context it refers to the service of a Christian minister to the Body of Christ. Paul’s διακονίαν was what? It was to preach the Gospel and the Law to all who would hear depending totally on God to open hearts and draw people from darkness to light. That is the ministry which is the very same for God’s ordained preachers and teachers today. Even though it can appear at times that the most popular “preachers” are those who never come within shouting distance of the real truth of the Gospel and the Law of God, these whom God has called by His mercy must not lose heart.

The Word Paul used here, which is translated as “by the mercy,” is ἠλεήθημεν. Paul is telling us that he was saved and was ordained as a minister of the Gospel both by the mercy and compassion of God. This verb is in aorist tense, passive voice, and indicative mood. He did not choose to be minister. He obtained it along with God’s mercy and according to His compassion totally by God working in Him and commanding Him to “suffer much” for the Gospel. Because of this, he “does not lose heart.” The KJV renders this phrase, “we faint not.”  In other words, he is a Christian and in the ministry according to the mercy of God and no matter how tough things get with rejectors of the truth preaching heresy and denigrating those who shine God’s light of truth into their ministries, he stays the course in the power of God. This is a message those who contend for God’s truth day in and day out need to take to heart.

Because of this, Paul says in v2 that he refuses to use “the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God” in his ministry. He preaches and teaches by the power of God. He plants churches and shepherds many into the Kingdom, but he is not much to look at nor is he a great orator. He simply preaches the truth and nothing but the truth. He never waters it down. He never preaches topical sermons so he won’t run off the “seekers.” He never makes peace with false teachers and their false religions in order to build bigger churches. Instead, his conscience is clear in the sight of God because He has not practiced cunning nor has he tampered with God’s Word. Preacher, can you say the same about your ministry?

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NASB) 

Now we come to the reason so many today have edited the Gospel to make it more palatable to those who don’t want to repent. Not everyone who hears the Gospel is saved. Many reject it. Why? To them the gospel is veiled. It is veiled to all who are perishing. Satan has blinded their minds to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel. So, how can any believe if this is true? First, the veil must be removed and this is done when God draws those whom He saves to the Son.

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:37 (NASB)

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. John 6:44-48 (NASB) 

All those whom God gives to the Son are saved. These come to Him and will never be cast out. Only those who are drawn by God to the Son come to Him. These believe and have eternal life. What about those who are not drawn by God to the Son? In the following passage from John 3 we have the wonderful promise that all who believe in the Son will not perish, but have eternal life, but those who do not believe are condemned already.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:16-21 (NASB) 

We cannot simply preach John 3:16 and ignore the rest of scripture which clearly teaches that God is Sovereign in election and salvation. This is the Gospel taught in Sacred Scripture and if you look at the “gospel” preached by those who are quickly moving away from the truth into apostasy you will find that they all reject these truths. Why? Their focus is on pleasing men and building their ministries by using techniques and the ways of the world to appeal to man’s reason to become part of  churches and ministries. However, this is exactly what Paul was teaching against in 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. My brethren, we must examine how we are treating the Gospel and how diligent we are in relying on the mercies of God to minister rather than in our own wit and abilities.

Soli Deo Gloria!

One thought on “Preaching the Gospel of light into the darkness

  1. Mike…can I add some thoughts to your excellent post.

    How do you get a perfect Person to the cross of Calvary? Everything in the life-script of Jesus the Son of God is brilliantly designed to get Jesus to the cross and the shed blood that has life and power…His divine humility…His low social standing…His refusal to let the populace come and make Him king by force…His incredible self-discipline to not become involved in micromanaging the political and cultural issues that were outside of His mandate as Messiah…even though He answered every question and challenge presented to Him.

    God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit knew from the foundation of the world how important it was to get Jesus to the cross…they knew about the life and power in the blood of the Passover Lamb of God.

    This addresses your point about the blindness of unbelieving people. People who are committed to self-sovereign self-rulership cannot even see the alternate worldview of instead placing Jesus Christ on the thrones of our lives…would not only not consider it for a moment but are offended by the very thought of this.

    So I think part of the battle has its roots in the contrast between self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty.

    So think for a moment on the biblical narrative stories of faith as God-composed life-scripts that by their nature must displace our own ways with God’s higher ways…Abraham going from Haran to Canaan, Joseph in management training to become governor…all the way through to Paul in the New Testament.

    The blood that Jesus shed on the cross not only provides salvation…but also a new heart that can exercise faith in God as sovereign in our lives in leading us into our individual life-scripts written by God for us…according to God-sovereignty.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this.


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