The Gospel of the Glory of Christ (Mike Riccardi)

2 Corinthians 4:3–6   |   Sunday, July 15, 2012   |   Code: 2012-07-15-MR


You may not know this, but at least one time each month, all of the Bible study shepherds and the leadership of GraceLife meet together to discuss our ministry, to pray for you, and to hold each other accountable for shepherding you all effectively. 

At one of these meetings—the last one Don Green attended before he left for Cincinnati—the men asked him what he was going to preach first when he got to Truth Community Fellowship. He said that he wasn’t going to do something new right out of the gate. Now, I just figured that was the smart way to go because it would buy him some time. When you’re moving across the country and starting to meet a bunch of new people, it can be helpful to have a bit of extra time. But that’s not the reason he gave. The reason he did give stuck with me. He said that there were certain messages that the Lord had used to just mold and shape him in life-changing ways, and that he wanted to bring this new group of people, whom he loved, along with him in the path of those blessings that he himself had experienced from God’s Word. 

Well this morning, I want to do the same. The Lord has used the truths of 2 Corinthians chapter 4 to really shape my thinking and my affections regarding the nature of the Gospel, and the nature of Christian ministry—especially over these last few years as I’ve been training at The Master’s Seminary. And I want to share some of that with you this morning. 

And as I think about these things, I realize that for some of you—perhaps many of you—these are things you already know. But I’m reminded of what the Apostle John said in 1 John 2:21. He says, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” Peter speaks similarly in 2 Peter 1:12. He says, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder…And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.” 

In the same way, then, I preach this message to stir you up by way of reminder in some of the most precious truths Scripture gives to us. Besides, sometimes it’s easy to forget the basics. And we never want to find ourselves in a position where we’re assuming the great truths of the Gospel. The reason Jesus left the Church on earth between His first and second advents is to make disciples of all nations by the preaching of the Gospel. And sadly, so many churches have forgotten the basics, and as a result—whether it’s intentional or not—they preach an adjusted gospel, an adulterated gospel, or a truncated gospel. And that only requires we be all the more diligent to be faithful to the Gospel we’ve received in the pages of Scripture. 

To do that, I want to look at 2 Corinthians 4:3–6. In the book of 2 Corinthians, Paul writes to the church in Corinth primarily to defend his own apostleship against the teachings of certain men whom he called false apostles (11:13). These men were teaching that Paul was not a true apostle, and were advancing many attacks against his character and his ministry, to the point that the Corinthians began to doubt Paul’s apostleship, and thus doubt the gospel he preached. And so in the Providence of God, these attacks forced Paul to write to the Corinthians to both define and defend his apostolic ministry. 

For example, these false apostles accused him of being under God’s judgment because of his constant sufferings. The thought was that if Paul was really sent from Christ he wouldn’t have such opposition and turmoil, but would be blessed by God. And so in 1:3–11 he defends himself by saying that his sufferings for the Gospel are actually a mark of God’s favor. Far from discrediting him as an apostle, his sufferings were a badge of his authenticity as a minister of Christ. 

They accused him of being a flip-flopper. Paul had to change his plans regarding one his visits to Corinth, and his opponents seized that as an opportunity to discredit him. They said he was being deceitful—saying one thing and doing another—of “purposing according to the flesh” (1:17). And so in 1:12–22 he defends himself by saying his conscience is clear, and that his word to the Corinthians is not yes and no, but yes, just as all God’s promises are yes in Christ. 

Another accusation was that he was uncredentialed. He lacked authority. After all, he was just this sort of Johnny-come-lately apostle who wasn’t part of the original twelve. And so at the beginning of chapter 3 he asks the Corinthians, “Do we need letters of commendation to you? You are our letter of commendation. The fact that you now know Christ because of the Gospel we preached to you is evidence of our authenticity.” 

And then in the rest of chapter 3 he just launches into an exposition of the glorious nature of New Covenant ministry. And then we come to chapter 4. And as Paul reflects on the glorious ministry that has been entrusted to him, and as he continues to respond to accusations against his character and his ministry in order to defend the Gospel, he makes some precious comments about the nature of the Gospel and the nature of Christian ministry. 

And even as I mentioned briefly last week, “Christian ministry” doesn’t necessarily mean being a vocational pastor or seminary professor. Every single Christian is a minister of the New Covenant. Peter tells the church that we are a royal priesthood, saved to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). Paul calls our ministry, “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18) as we appeal to unbelievers on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. All of us are called to Christian ministry. All of us are tasked with taking the Gospel to those around us, in whatever sphere of influence the Lord has placed us. 

And so as we look into 2 Corinthians 4 this morning, I want us to observe four principles that (a) inform our understanding of the Gospel and (b) shape our ministry, so that we can be faithful witnesses of Christ in whatever our sphere of influence. 

I. Know the Purpose (v. 3) 

And as we come to verse 3, we discover that another accusation leveled against Paul was that his message was obscure. Now, the accusation of an obscure message was a substantial one in Corinth because the Corinthian culture praised human wisdom and cleverness of speech and oratorical persuasion. They highly regarded those who were skilled in rhetoric and oratory, and looked down upon those who weren’t. And so these men were saying, “Hey, look, Paul, only a few people are believing your message. If it was true, and you were really sent from Christ, surely you’d be able to convince more people to believe!” 

And boy, that sounds just like today. One of the buzzwords in the evangelical world at the moment is “fruitful.” Now, of course, that’s a very biblical word: “You’ll know them by their fruits. No bad tree bears good fruit.” And so on. But certain so-called pastors who have bought into ministerial pragmatism have defined “fruitfulness” in terms of how many people are in your church, and how many others are watching you on a screen or buying your books or downloading your sermons. In fact, major theological error—and some cases even heresy, denial of the historic doctrines of the Christian faith—is being excused in the name of “fruitfulness.”  If a lot of people are coming, God must be blessing. And you know what that means? If a lot of people aren’t coming, God’s not blessing. Well that was exactly what the false apostles were accusing Paul of. 

And Paul’s response to this accusation is so instructive for us as we engage in the ministry of reconciliation in our various spheres of influence. He says, verse 3: “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” From this we derive our first principle for faithfulness in Gospel ministry. Number one: we must know the purpose, the aim. Put simply: we are calling Christ’s sheep, not the goats, into the fold. 

Do you see that connection there? Paul tells the false apostles, “You don’t understand the doctrine of election.” It may be that our gospel is veiled—that is, granted: there are many who do not believe our message—but our gospel is veiled only to those who are perishing

That phrase, “those who are perishing,” is not just a throw-away phrase. In fact, in Paul’s writings you could say that it’s a technical term—a term that represents a category of people. He uses it back in chapter 2 verse 15. Let’s take a look at that text. Paul says: “For we”—meaning those who preach the Gospel—“are a fragrance of Christ to God among (a) those who are being saved and (b) among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.” Paul likens the preaching of the Gospel to the emission of an odor that finds its way into the nostrils of all people. And among those who hear the Gospel there are two kinds of people: (a) those who are being saved and (b) those who are perishing; (a) those whom God chose in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him (Eph 1:4), and (b) those whom He did not so choose. When the elect of God smell the fragrance of the Gospel, it is to them an aroma of life. But when the non-elect hear it, it is an aroma of death. Because, as it says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” 

Note that Paul uses that phrase in his first letter to the Corinthians as well: there is a category of people called “those who are perishing.” To them, the word of the cross is foolishness. To them, the Gospel is veiled. “But,” Paul goes on to say: “to those who are being saved”—the ones he calls in 1 Corinthians 1:24, “those who are the called”—to those who are called and are being saved, the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (cf. Rom 1:16). 

Christ Himself said the same thing to the Jews in John 10:26–27. He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” Get that. Not: “You are not My sheep because you don’t believe,” but, “You do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” If we put this verse in the language of John 6:37, Jesus is saying: “You don’t come to Me, because you are not of those that My father has given to Me.” 

And so Paul’s defense against the accusation that not enough people are believing his message is simply: the Church’s purpose in evangelism—and in all facets of Gospel ministry—is to call Christ’s sheep, not the goats, into the fold. You shouldn’t expect the goats to believe the Gospel; only the sheep hear the Shepherd’s voice. 

Now, consider the implications this doctrine has for our ministry of the Gospel. If we continue to take the unadulterated, Biblical Gospel to the world and they continue to reject it, that is not a sign of the weakness of the message. It’s not even necessarily a sign of the weakness of the messenger. It’s the outworking of God’s purpose to redeem a particular people: those sheep whom the Father has given to the Son. 

Now, this is a careful reality, here. These truths in the hands of the wrong people can be twisted and distorted. Some people assume that everyone who rejects the Gospel on the first hearing is not elect. Uncompassionate people bluntly, or disinterestedly, parrot out a memorized script, and if people aren’t falling at their knees asking, “What must I do to be saved?” then they’re just not chosen. “Because the problem certainly can’t be me! I’ve got my perfectly packaged Gospel presentation!” But see that’s just it. You can be the problem. Listen, if we’re preaching what the Bible calls the greatest news in the universe, and nobody is listening, we’ve got to be humble enough to at least examine whether we are getting in the way of a pure Gospel presentation—whether it’s some bad theology that needs to be fine-tuned or whether it’s a weird personality thing that needs to be adjusted. 

But if we have taken the Biblical Gospel to our neighbors and our communities with the patience and the compassion of Jesus, and they’re just not interested, we shouldn’t conclude that we need to start playing rock music and having light shows and performing skits in church to attract them. Or even on an individual level. It can be frustrating to share the Gospel with friends and family over a long period of time with no response. And we can face the temptation to soften the message in some ways—to turn to some pragmatic methodology to try to manufacture interest. But friends, the church is not called to amuse the goats. Our task is to sound the Shepherd’s voice, as clearly as we can, in the Gospel message and call His sheep who know that voice into His fold. 

After all, it is the call of the Shepherd’s voice that is the means by which Christ’s flock is brought into His fold. Didn’t He tell us that in John chapter 10? “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:5). If that’s the case, why would we adopt a ministry methodology other than sounding forth the Shepherd’s voice in the preaching of His Word? Why would we implement something else—something that Scripture promises will not attract Christ’s sheep, but will attract the goats? 

Our gospel is indeed veiled to those who are perishing. And if we understand that our purpose in Gospel ministry is to call the sheep, we will learn not to measure success by numbers but by faithfulness to the message.


II. Know the Problem (v. 4) 

And so, first, we must know the purpose of Gospel ministry. The second principle that we must understand in order to be faithful ministers of the Gospel is: we must know the problem we’ve been commissioned to solve. And Paul states it in verse 4. He says, “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.” 

Now, what does it mean that their minds have been blinded? Well, a few verses earlier, Paul used this same language to describe the Israelites in Moses’ day, and even the Jews up to this present day. In 3:14 he speaks about a hardened mind. And in 3:15 he speaks about a veiled heart. Both of these are communicating the same reality as chapter 4 verse 4. What does it mean to be spiritually dead? I mean, think about your unbelieving friends. They walk around, have conversations, make plans, have families, go to work. What does it mean to say that they’re dead? 

Verse 4 tells us. The essence of spiritual death is spiritual blindness. What it means for someone to be dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:4), is that the eyes of their heart have been blinded so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. 

And Scripture frequently speaks of spiritual sight as a metaphor for spiritual life. Listen for the connection between spiritual light, or spiritual sight, and spiritual life. In Acts 26:18, Jesus says to Paul, “I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God.” John 6:40: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” In Hebrews 11:27, right in the middle of that wonderful chapter on faith, we’re told, “By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is unseen.”  You see, faith is the spiritual sight by which things that are unseen are exposed and brought to light. 

And so when Paul says that Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, he is saying that the nature of unbelief—the nature of spiritual death—is spiritual blindness. It’s refusing what is most precious because you are blind to its value. This is the world’s problem: they are blind to glory

Picture with me this most miserable tragedy. Everybody in the world—whether they know it or not—stands guilty before a holy God. All have sinned and thus fall short of the perfection of His glorious standard of righteousness. And so they are incapable of doing the very thing they were created to do: namely, to enjoy a relationship with and communion with their glorious Creator. They are doomed to waste their lives, and to go into eternal punishment. 

But in magnificent love, God sends Jesus to live the perfect life that they should have lived, but could never live; and to die the horrifying, death under the heavy hand of the wrath of God that they should have died, so that the penalty they owed would be paid by a substitute; such that if they simply abandon any claim of self-righteousness and trust entirely in Christ alone for their righteousness before God, they can have the restored relationship with their glorious Creator that He designed them to have. And so you go and you tell these people this most awesome news in the world—the greatest news that anyone could ever conceive of—and their response is, “Ehh. That’s great for you, but it’s just not for me.” 

That is the miserable nature of spiritual death. People can look directly at the glory of Christ—whether those people are rulers of the Jews in the Ancient Near East witnessing healings and exorcisms and resurrections, or 21st century Americans coldly and mechanically reading their Bibles—and they can be entirely unaffected. Jesus looks foolish. Or He looks like a mythical, psychological crutch made up for weak people. Or He’s just boring. Because unless we’re born again—unless God shines in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (as we’ll see in verse 6)—our minds remain blind, and we can’t see Christ for who He is. 

Friends, this is the world’s problem! This is what the Church has been left on earth to solve! At the root, the world’s problem is not that they have bad marriages or broken relationships. It’s not that they don’t feel comfortable and relaxed in church. It’s not that Christians don’t like the same music they listen to, don’t dress the same way, or don’t use the same language. It’s not even that they don’t have enough evidence of the truthfulness of the Bible or the Deity of Jesus Christ. And it’s certainly not that they’re not living their best life now in a 15,000 square-foot mansion! The world’s problem is that they are blind to glory! They can’t see what is supremely beautiful and glorious! 


III. Know the Proclamation (v. 5) 

And if that is the world’s problem, the Church’s mission is to preach a message which by the power of God overcomes that blindness. And that’s the third principle for faithfulness in Gospel ministry. First: we must know the purpose. Second: we must know the problem. Third: we must know the proclamation. Paul says in verse 5, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” 

What does it mean to “not preach ourselves?” It means that we don’t put ourselves forward as the appeal to unbelievers. We don’t make our methodology or our style the draw. We don’t appeal to what is fleshly or worldly in the unbeliever in order to attract and compel their participation. Instead, we do everything we can to get ourselves out of the way, so as to be merely incidental—merely the finger that points to what counts: to, the content of the message: that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 2, because I think this text really sheds light on what it means for Paul that he not be preaching himself. Starting in verse 1: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” 

Superiority of speech, human wisdom, persuasive words—these were exactly what you needed if you were going to get your message heard in first-century Corinth. Remember, eloquence and oratory were the prerequisites of cultural engagement and credibility in that society. And Paul says, “I determined—I resolved—to be just the opposite. They were seeking wisdom, and all I knew was Christ and Him crucified. They were looking for rhetorical skills and eloquence and I was with you in weakness and fear and much trembling. They wanted someone skilled in the art of persuasion, and my message and preaching had no persuasive words. Why?! Because if I did that, I’d be preaching myself, and then your faith wouldn’t rest on power of God, but on the wisdom of men.” 

And friends, as messengers of that same Gospel, we don’t preach ourselves. In fact, Paul goes on to say just a chapter later in 1 Corinthians 3 verse 5, “We’re just slaves! Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything. It’s God who causes the growth.” And back in 2 Corinthians 4, verse 7, Paul says, “Listen, we’re just earthen vessels, just clay pots. We don’t do anything to make much of ourselves because we want “the surpassing greatness of the power [to] be of God and not from ourselves.” 

Christian ministry is not about trying to gain a following. It’s about trying to win over other people to the same ideology that you have. It’s not about moral reform, or political activism. The problem we’re trying to solve by our preaching is the world’s blindness to the glory of Christ. And so we don’t preach ourselves, because no matter how slick or clever our presentation is, that’s not what saves people. That’s not what opens their eyes to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. 

And dear friends, if there is anything that plagues the modern Church today it is an epidemic of preaching ourselves. One of the greatest marks of the unhealthiness of the Church is that rather than manifesting the glory of Jesus and the offensiveness and foolishness of His cross, the culture-exegetes of today attempt to show the world how much alike we are. In so doing, the Church presents themselves to the world and implicitly asks the world to receive them, long before calling them to receive Christ. 

Here’s an actual example from a church’s “About Us” page on their website: “If you’re looking for a place to have some real fun, make some real friends, and explore and experience a relationship with the real God, [this church] is the place for you! We believe that church ought to be the most exciting and meaningful experience of a person’s week! That’s why we—” 

Now, I agree that church ought to be the most exciting and meaningful experience of a person’s week. But how you finish that sentence speaks volumes about what you believe about Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Right there I want to insert: “That’s why we faithfully exposit the Scriptures week by week, in order to present an exalted view of God, so that our members see and savor His glory that is revealed in Christ, and as a result become so satisfied with the beauty of Christ that they willingly lay down their lives during the week to love their neighbor as themselves.” 

But no, they believe church ought to be the most exciting and meaningful experience of a person’s week. “That’s why we use theatrical lighting, sound, and video. That’s why we have cutting-edge music along with creative and relevant messages that speak to real-life challenges. That’s why we designed and built a kid’s theater and village complete with a real fire truck in the wall, and more!” And it goes on. 

Do you see how this is preaching themselves? They offer their church, and its various programs and multimedia presentations as the selling point, rather than the gospel of Christ crucified, risen, and reigning as Lord, which can alone open blind minds to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Paul calls this kind of thing peddling the word of God in chapter 2 verse 17. Think about what a peddler is. What images are conjured up in your mind when you hear that word? A peddler knows the product he’s trying to move isn’t all that great in itself, so he’s willing to haggle back and forth about its worth. May God keep us from esteeming the glory of Christ so lightly that we’re willing to haggle with unbelievers about His worth, by seeking to entice them by something other than Him.  

And do you know what is the most common, and most blatant, form of “preaching ourselves” that I hear from Christians today? It’s that annoying little quote, falsely attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” Now, I understand the sentiment of that statement: Your life should back up what you preach. No question about that. But think about what that quote implies. “Preach the Gospel, use words if necessary.” The idea is that you can live your life in such a way that people could just look at you and get saved. You’re the Gospel. 

No! You are not the Gospel! I am not the Gospel! You and I, in ourselves, have nothing to offer people that overcomes spiritual blindness. No, we do not preach ourselves. We preach Christ Jesus as Lord. We proclaim the Good News that Jesus saves, not us. 

Theatrical lighting, cutting-edge music, even our good works and politeness, will never open blind eyes. Only the Good News of forgiveness of sins freely offered by faith in a sin-bearing, wrath-propitiating Substitute can solve the problem that the Church is called to solve. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ, by the message about Christ (Rom 10:17).


IV. Know the Prescription (vv. 4, 6) 

And that brings us to our fourth principle for faithfulness in Gospel ministry. We must know the purpose, we must know the problem, we must know the proclamation, and, fourthly, we must know the prescription

Now, remember humanity’s predicament. All are dead in trespasses and sins, in need of forgiveness. Without it, they cannot know the God they were created to love and worship. But God has acted in the person of Jesus Christ to provide that forgiveness. He has even sent His messengers to declare that forgiveness. But because the essence of spiritual death is spiritual blindness, when they hear that wonderful news, they don’t see it for what it is. They see no glory in it. It’s simply foolishness. And so they continue to disbelieve and resist it. 

But now, Paul says, in magnificent love, God Himself—the same God who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness”—shines in the hearts of His elect to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. In this act, God overcomes our resistance to the Gospel by giving us the light needed to see things as they actually are. The prescription, or the remedy, for man’s spiritual blindness is God’s sovereign work of regeneration. God must sovereignly cause us to be born again. 

Now, there is a parallelism going on in verse 4 and here in verse 6, and comparing these two verses sheds light on some precious realities. In verse 4 we have, “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God,” and in verse 6 we have “the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In these verses, Paul outlines three levels of God’s redemptive work. And as we progress through each level we penetrate to further depth and ultimacy. And if we can understand the implications of this and can push through to all three levels, it will help us perceive the fullness of the Good News, and will keep us from preaching a truncated Gospel.


Level 1: Light 

The first level is the one that I just briefly mentioned: the level of “light.” This is the miracle of regeneration whereby God sovereignly imparts spiritual light to the blind mind. Paul compares this act of God to the creation of the world. He says, “the God who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’” is the One who has shone in our hearts. In the beginning, God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. Paul is saying that the new birth is just as much a sovereign act of God as was the original creation of the universe. 

Now, how active or cooperative was the creation in its creation? It wasn’t. It didn’t exist, and then it did. That’s why the metaphor of being born again is so apt: just as an infant contributes nothing to his first birth, so also those who are born again from above are “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). And so this first level of God’s redemptive work is regeneration. God shines Light where there was once darkness.


Level 2: Knowledge of the Gospel 

But notice the second level: God shines the light of the knowledge, or, as verse 4 says, the light of the gospel. Again, these are parallel. We can understand the second level as the knowledge of the Gospel. See, before this light shines, the story of the angelic announcements, the virgin birth, the perfect life, the miracles, the betrayal, the unjust trial, the horrific crucifixion and death, and the resurrection of Jesus—all of it is just a story, like a fairy tale. But now the light of regeneration has shined, and the eyes of their hearts are opened, and the nakedness of the sinner’s need has been exposed. And so now, they see this old, old Story for the treasure that it is—the greatest news that they could ever imagine. Level two is the knowledge of the Gospel.


Level 3: Glory 

And you know, for a lot of people, this is where their Gospel preaching stops. So many people preach the Gospel by telling people that Jesus died for them, and then they stop there. As if the Good News is that God just thought so much of us that He couldn’t live without us and so He died to be with us. But the Cross wasn’t designed to be a demonstration of our worth. It was designed to be a demonstration of God’s worth, and the worth of His glory and honor. 

God Himself testifies to this—that His great and most ultimate end in saving sinners is not to make much of them, but to make much of Himself. In Isaiah  43:25, God declares: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake.” In 1 John 2:12, John says, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.” And who could forget that refrain in the opening chapter of Ephesians, where Paul repeats that all of God’s saving acts are done, ultimately, “for the praise of the glory of His grace.” 

But Paul knows better than to suggest that God’s Gospel love terminates finally on man, and so he digs even deeper. God has shone in our hearts to give the Light (that’s level 1) of the knowledge, or of the gospel (that’s level 2), of the glory of God in the face of Christ. This is the deepest level of the redemptive work of God. This is what salvation is about. 

Can you see that in the text? Paul calls the Gospel “the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” And Scripture frequently speaks of salvation in these terms. Turn to 2 Thessalonians 2:14. We’ll read verses 13 and 14 for the flow of thought: “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel”—so we’re about to learn the purpose for salvation. What was God’s purpose or goal in saving us? “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Do you hear that? The Gospel is the means by which you will gain the glory of Christ. It is the gospel of the glory! Seeing and enjoying the glory of God in the face of Christ is what makes the Good News good news. 

And now, 1 Peter chapter 3. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust”—or perhaps better rendered, the righteous for the unrighteous—and then you have two words that tell you why He died. Christ died once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring us to God. That’s what salvation is about: getting us to God! Restoring us to the all-satisfying, unspeakably glorious, consummately delightful God that our sin cut us off from. Propitiation, redemption, justification, forgiveness of sins, freedom from punishment—all these things just get stuff out of the way so that we can get to Him

What makes the Good News good news is not simply that our sins are forgiven, or that we get out of hell, that we don’t feel guilty anymore, or that we get to see our friends and family in heaven. The bottom of why the Gospel is good news is because it reunites us with the glory we were created to enjoy (Isa 43:7; 1Pet 3:18). 

And so the Gospel is not merely that Jesus died for us! The Good News is that Jesus died for us in order to bring us to God (1Pet 3:18)! The Good News is not merely that God gave His Son for us. The Good News is that God gave His Son for us in order to bring us to an eternity of seeing and knowing and loving and worshiping Him. Preach that Gospel to the world. When you preach the gospel to your friends and family and neighbors, don’t just present Jesus to them as fire insurance. You don’t have to be born again to want to escape punishment! But you do have to be born again to love Jesus. 

When you preach the gospel to your friends and family and neighbors, don’t present Him merely as the ticket to bigger and better things. When you go to the movies, you need a ticket to get in. But once you’re in to see the feature presentation, what do you do with that ticket? You don’t treasure that ticket. You find it in your pants pocket three weeks later after it’s been washed in the laundry two or three times. 

Jesus is not just the ticket; He’s the movie! He is not just the way into Paradise; it’s seeing and knowing and enjoying Him that is Paradise! He is what makes Heaven Heaven. So preach the Gospel to your friends that way. The Good News is not that if you believe in Jesus you can go to a place where you can play endless rounds of golf, or to a place with a hall of mirrors where you can admire how valuable you are. The glory of Heaven isn’t even that you can be reunited with lost loved ones—as sweet as those reunions will be. No, the Good News is that God has made a way to free you from your suicidal love affair with sin, so that you can know true joy and eternal satisfaction in Him

The loving, atoning work of Christ in the Gospel is a means to a greater end: that the people God has created would finally glorify Him by enjoying and being satisfied by His glory—the glory for which we were created (Isa 43:7). As we proclaim this Gospel, dear friends, let us never forget that it is the gospel of Christ’s glory.



And so as we close, the question to you is: Do you see Him? Is He glorious? Is the bottom of your joy rooted, not in the exaltation yourself, but in the exaltation of another? Are you satisfied most, not by being made much of, but by making much of Christ? Do you gladly and eagerly say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, and I must decrease”? 

If not, I invite you to look again and see the glory of Christ revealed in the Gospel that we’ve meditated on for the past hour. See the beauty and the preciousness of the miraculous birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, and undeniable resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, sent to ransom a remnant of worshipers who would proclaim the glory of His grace forever. And pray that God would shine in your heart—pray that He would grant you the eyes to see this Jesus for who He is. The Bible promises that this faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. You have heard much. Now ask God for the heart to believe it. 

And for those of you who answer, “Yes,” to those questions—“He is glorious. I find all my joy in the exaltation of Christ and not myself.”—heed these principles from the Apostle Paul as you seek to faithfully minister the Gospel.

  • Remember your purpose is to call the sheep, not entertain the goats; and so you must measure your success by faithfulness to the message.
  • Remember that the problem you’ve been commissioned to solve is that the world is blind to glory.
  • And therefore remember that your proclamation must not be yourselves, but Christ as Lord.
  • And remember that the prescription is God’s sovereign grace, whereby He overcomes the problem of spiritual blindness with the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Christ. 

And so preach the Gospel in accordance with the reality that God’s own glory is the great and ultimate end in His love for sinners; and in accordance with the reality that what makes the Good News good news is that rebels’ blind eyes are finally opened to enjoy the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.