Series on II Corinthians, I Paul’s Dedication to Ministry, D. Steadfast Text: 4:1-6, Title: “The Face of Christ.”

Introduction:


Paul has said in defense of his ministry that it is sincere, successful and spiritual, and now he reveals his steadfastness and determination in Chapter 4. The Chapter begins with the words, Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. An old Bible teacher friend of mine once said, whenever you see a “therefore,” it is “there for” a reason. In this case the reason is that Paul has already told us that his ministry depends on God. For this cause we should not become weary in well-doing because in do season we shall reap a harvest if we do not give up, as Paul writes in Galatians 6. The word translated weary in Galatians 6 is the same Greek word Paul uses here which is translated we do not lose heart in the New International Version. How did Paul ever avoid losing heart? The answer is in verse 6, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. He saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This does not mean the literal face of Jesus. You will not find it in a picture of Jesus at the front of a sanctuary, or in a statue of Jesus on the cross. When my wife and I were married in an old Lutheran Church in Altamont, NY, there was a huge portrayal of the ascension of Jesus on the wall behind the pulpit. It was a copy of a great painting, but you could not find the face of Jesus that Paul is talking about in that painting. For Paul the glory of God in the face of Jesus was the humble birth, the hard life, the horrible cross. It was the resurrection and ascension of Jesus as seen in Scripture. The author of Hebrews says, Consider Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary or lose heart. Consider the consequences of looking to Jesus.

I The Face of Christ Brings Renunciation

Verse 2 says instead of losing heart, Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. False apostles in Paul’s day and Christian clergy in ours have something in common. Many set their agenda by the times in which they live. Liberalism always dances to the newest popular song.  Accommodation is their tune.  I could talk about our moral quandary that includes Churches approving of divorce, homosexuality, abortion, and evolution. This morning however, I wish to talk to you about our current dilemma. I have the greatest respect for our President, his cabinet and the congress. I believe they are patriotic and dedicated, and often believers. Nevertheless, the concept that Islam, as a religion, is essentially peace loving is false. Most assuredly most American Muslims have embraced religious freedom with open arms and I rejoice in that and commend it. If you think the Koran teaches that, you are blind, deaf, and dead. The Koran clearly teaches that the unbelievers should submit to Allah or be killed. What concerns me is the circumventing of the truth in order to create a false peace. I love Muslims as I am compelled to love all men by the love of Christ. I will not fall victim to the dishonesty that is peddled as a way to smooth over our differences. This is precisely what Paul is talking about. We must renounce the hidden things of dishonesty and state the plain truth. Of course we must always do it in love.

II The Face of Christ Brings Reaction

Verses 3 and 4  make clear that many are blind to the truth. Only God can change this. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  On Tuesday in the Tampa Tribune there was a picture of a female Pakistani protester holding up a sign that said “No to American AND RELIGIOUS TERRORISM.” I hate to say that she understands the situation better than we do, but she does.  This is not a political struggle though some view it as that. This is not a moral struggle, though some view it as that, it is a religious struggle. Paul understood. He was imprisoned in Philippi, created riots in Thessalonica and Ephesus, was sneered at in Athens and his death was plotted in Jerusalem.  The truth of God does not change, but Satan has blinded the minds of men so that they will not accept it.  He is called the god of this age, but, of course he is not God. The Bible often uses this kind of language. Psalm 86:8 says Among the gods there is none like thee. The other gods exist only in men's imaginations but the comparison is made. Psalm 138:1 says, Before the gods I will sing praise to you. Meaning I will humiliate the gods of men's imagination by praising only Jahweh, the true God. The word “see” in verse 4 means to gaze intently, to see distinctly. Either you see or you do not see. Either you call Jesus Lord, or you call him accursed. What does this mean?  It means that Jesus death on the cross would mean nothing. In that case you call Him accursed. Or, if you call Him Lord, you see it as the way of salvation because he died for your sins personally. This is incompatible with modern Judaism, Islam, and all other religions. It makes you choose. Either Jesus is the only way, as he said, or he is not. There is no middle road. Paul is content to leave this in the hands of God. America should be warned that the struggle is only beginning for the supremacy of the truth in Christ. Either Christ is Lord, or Muhammad is his prophet. There is no turning back.

III The Face of Christ Brings Responsibility


Look at verse 5, For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. Can we make a difference? Only as much as Paul did!! Is that awesome? But only by understanding what Paul perceived. People who preach themselves get big audiences. They are popular because that is what others want to hear. We love heroes, we love self-esteem, we love the rich, the comfortable, the successful. We are not happy with failure. I can see the major headlines in tomorrow’s paper. Paul goes to Philippi - imprisoned. Paul goes to Thessalonica and gets kicked out. Paul goes to Ephesus – big riot, Paul goes to Athens - mocked and derided. Paul goes to Jerusalem a prisoner in danger of assassination. If you read these would you think his ministry was a success?  We prefer people that tell us how to become rich and successful and deliriously happy. Paul says to the Corinthians in his first letter, I determined not to know anything among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified which is a stumbling block to the Jews and an offense to the Greeks. Paul does not faint in the face of deceit, or disbelief, or disdain. There is one gospel, one hope, one Savior. He sees the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion:

We should not faint in the face of the present situation. It is not the great things we accomplish that will change the world. It is the faithful perseverance in preaching Christ and not preaching ourselves.