Reflections on 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 by Pastor Bennett
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul is unwavering in his commitment to proclaim Christ, and to not “lose heart” while doing it. He says, “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Not ourselves, but Christ. For Paul, and for all Christians, identifying with Christ means you understand that this was never about you. It’s all about him. He’s the hero. He’s the focus. Paul doesn’t want to talk about himself; he wants to talk about Christ.
Kent Hughes writes, “Truly, no man can fancy himself great and at the same time declare that God is great. The proclamation that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ is the province of the humble alone.” And a New Testament scholar puts it like this: The job of the Christian “is to make Jesus known, and then to keep out of the way, to make sure we don’t get in the light.”
It’s not about us. No self-promotion, no self-absorption. We’ve been bought with a price, we are not our own! We belong to Christ, and we now live in Christ, and so it is he that should shine through us. We’re no longer concerned with ourselves, with reputation, status, or whatever…just Christ.
Why? Because he’s the one who saved us, and because we’ve seen how incredibly beautiful and glorious he is. Verse 6 says: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Pay attention to that. John MacArthur says, “The God who created physical light in the universe is the same God who must create supernatural light in the soul and usher believers from the kingdom of darkness to his kingdom of light (Col 1.13).”
If you’re a Christian, God has lit up your heart―he has caused you to see what you could not see on your own. He caused you to see. This is the great difference between the gospel Paul is presenting and all other religions past and present. All other religions are chiefly about what you do, how you live…they’re about you and your quest for salvation.
But the gospel is about someone else―it’s about what Christ has done and how Christ has lived and died in your place and rose again, all to accomplish salvation for you so you could receive it as a gift. That’s why Paul is so direct over and over again, here and elsewhere, that this is about what God has done to you and in you to save you. God has shone in our hearts; God has given the light.
This is the great difference of do verses done. All other forms of religion are spelled
D-O, because they tell us we have to perform good works and obey moral and religious laws in order to find God, to achieve forgiveness, nirvana, peace, or whatever. But you’ll never be sure you’ve done enough!
Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E because God sent his Son to earth to live the life we should live and die on the cross to pay the debt we should pay for the wrongs we’ve done. Buddha said, “Strive without ceasing”; Jesus said, “It is finished.”
When you understand this, when God lights up your heart and shows you the radiance of Christ and you embrace him as your life, then you become like Paul when he says, “we don’t proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ.” There is a humility here.
Confidence in the person and work of Christ on your behalf leads to a kind of confident-humility. He’s all you need, so you’re not afraid anymore of anything or anyone. You’re not concerned with pushing your own agenda. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. You find joy in getting out of the way so that the light of the glory of Christ can be clearly seen, and you don’t want to detract from it in any way.
That is how Paul was able to minister with heart. It’s how he was able to endure personal attacks and not lose heart. Our focus must be the same if we desire endurance and effectiveness in ministry.