2 Corinthians 4:1-6 — Don’t Give Up!

The ministry of the new covenant—the ministry of reconciliation—is worth the struggle, heartache, and conflict as long as we have renounced deceitful and manipulative practices and focused on the proclamation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Therefore, “we do not lose heart” but rest in the work of God who spoke light into the darkness at creation and in the ministry of Jesus, and even now shines light into our hearts today.

The ministry of the new covenant—the ministry that mediates the glory of God in Christ—is something Paul received by the mercy of God. That ministry is both grounded in and expresses the mercy of God. We have received this mercy and through it have become God’s instruments in a reconciling ministry.

The mercy of God, then, is the reason we don’t give up, lose heart, or grow weary. The glory of the new covenant surpasses all suffering, trouble, and wounds. Participation in this ministry is more significant and meaningful than its cost, though it may seem like it is not at times. Suffering, as Paul will note in next section of the letter, is part of the process by which this ministry accomplishes its ends. When we follow Jesus, we follow him into this sort of suffering, struggle, and conflict.

This ministry, it seems to me, is not simply an apostolic one or a staff position at an institution. Rather, it is part of the vocation into which all disciples of Jesus are called. Paul may be focusing on his apostolic ministry, particularly in his relationship to the Corinthians, but the ministry of reconciliation belongs to all disciples. What Paul says of himself here is also true for all minister—all believers.

This ministry, however, demands integrity, openness, and faithfulness to the message, though it is lamentably lacking among many believers (even especially leaders).

This ministry renounces:

  • Shameful things
  • Deception
  • Distortions of the word of God
  • Self-Focused Proclamation

This ministry embraces:

  • Open statement of the truth of the gospel
  • Commendation of a clear conscience
  • Proclamation of Jesus the Messiah as Lord

This is a strong contrast. Perhaps Paul is drawing a distinction between himself and others. It may be that his doubters or even the “super-apostles” of 2 Corinthians 10-12 engaged in the ministry tactics that Paul renounced. Or, perhaps Paul himself was accused of such practices. Or, perhaps the contrast only accentuates Paul’s sincerity and integrity for the sake of reminding the Corinthians of his ministry practices.  

Whatever the case, the gospel must be proclaimed in ways shaped by the gospel itself. Ministerial practices must conform to the gospel proclaimed. This entails integrity, openness, and a focus on Jesus the Messiah as the good news itself. It cannot include deceit, selfish ambition, distortion, and dishonorable motives. Unfortunately, some who proclaim Jesus as Lord function more like they are the centers of attention as they use their fame and status to promote themselves rather than the Lordship of Jesus the Messiah.

In this light, it is important to focus the message on Jesus, who is the good news of God in the world.

Thus, Paul does not veil the gospel. He proclaims it openly and truthfully with a good conscience. Yet, not everyone believes what he preaches. Their hearts are still veiled, which means they are have not yet experienced the glory of God in their hearts and lives. In this sense, they are still perishing.

Their veiled hearts are a form of blindness. The “god of this age,” who is the leader of the forces of darkness and exercises imperial-like power within “this age,” has blinded them. As long as this “god” reigns and moves in the hearts of people, they cannot see the light of the gospel. The light of that gospel is itself the glory of the Messiah, who is the image of God.

The glory of God, which Moses experienced on Mount Sinai and in the Tent of Meeting, is, in fact, the glory of Christ because Christ is the image of God. What Moses experienced on the Mount is the same glory believers experience through faith. It is the glory of God revealed in Christ. This glory is a light in the darkness. Though their hearts are veiled, this glory can open the eyes of the blind through the gospel.

The proclamation of Jesus the Messiah as Lord—which is the gospel—can open the eyes of the blind because God is at work through in the gospel.  Just as God spoke light into the darkness of Genesis 1:2-3 and just as Isaiah anticipated the light that would appear in the darkness of this age (Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:12-17), so Paul believes that through the proclamation of the gospel, God can pour light into the hearts of people blinded by the “god of this age.”

This light is the knowledge of the glory of God—it is an encounter with God in the face of Jesus the Messiah. Just as Israel encountered the glory of God through the face of Moses, so now believers, through the ministry of the new covenant, encounter the glory of God in the face of Jesus.

Moreover, Paul does not approach his ministry as one of selfish ambition or self-promotion. On the contrary, he regards himself as the Corinthian’s slave for the sake of the gospel. Rather than “lord” over them (2 Corinthians 1:24), Paul walks among them as their slave. Paul seeks to serve the Corinthians. Typically, Paul thinks of himself as a slave to Jesus who is Lord, and here he thinks of himself as the Corinthian’s slave because Jesus is Lord. He is a slave so that the ministry of the new covenant might glorify God through writing on the hearts of the Corinthians.

This prospect encourages us to participate and persevere in the ministry of the new covenant. We don’t give up because too much is at stake. The ministry is too important.

Let us not grow weary, fellow ministers (by which I mean all believers serving through whatever gifts God has given), in the work of this ministry. It is the declaration of the Lordship of Jesus the Messiah. And let us do so in ways that demonstrate integrity, honesty, and faithfulness such that the gospel we proclaim is the gospel by which we live.

If we proclaim Lord Jesus as the image of God, then we must also seek to be transformed from glory to glory into that image in both the way we live out that gospel and in the way we proclaim that gospel.

2 Responses to “2 Corinthians 4:1-6 — Don’t Give Up!”

  1.   Randall Albert Weyandt Says:

    “Their veiled hearts are a form of blindness” Sounds liket they are still un-regenerant.

  2.   Jim Woodell Says:

    Thank you for sharing. Jesus is our message and our life.

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