St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Let Light Shine Out Of Darkness

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Text: And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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 God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Today we observe the transfiguration of Jesus. What a wondrous sight it must have been for the three disciples on that day. Normally, Jesus kept his divinity veiled. To the naked eye, Jesus looked and acted like any other human being. Occasionally, he did allow some of his glory as the Son of God show forth, when he performed his miracles. Yet, for the most part, this was the exception and not the rule. However, on the day, Jesus allowed his glory to shine forth. The Gospels make reference to Jesus’ physical appearance being changed. His face is described as being as bright as a flash of lightning. In addition to this, we have two Old Testament heroes of faith appearing with Jesus. To top it all off, we have God the Father himself lending his voice to the majesty of the sight. Jesus moved the veil for a short time, so that his disciples might see his glory. This morning, the apostle Paul talks about another veil that has been lifted so that we might see the glory of God. Paraphrasing God’s words on the first day of creation, Paul says “LET LIGHT SHINE OUT OF DARKNESS.” Paul shows us that 1. The God Of This Age Causes Spiritual Blindness. However, 2. The True God Reveals The Light Of Salvation.

One of the reasons that Paul wrote this second epistle to the Corinthians was that his apostleship was under attack. There were some who had come into the congregation claiming to have greater authority and better teachings than Paul had. As a result, Paul showed that what he was teaching was in accord with all of God’s teachings. Perhaps, he had not come to them with all sorts of fancy words, nor did he claim to present a deeper teaching that only these “super-apostles” could fathom. Rather, he came proclaiming the pure Word of God. If that was the case, some must have wondered, why weren’t all people who heard Paul’s message immediately brought to faith? There must be something wrong or ineffective with what Paul was teaching.

That is what Paul is addressing in verse 3, “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” In other words, Paul says that, if some do not believe, even if the gospel is veiled, it is because of no fault of the message, the gospel that Paul was proclaiming. So, if it is not the inefficacy of the message that Paul was proclaiming, why was the message veiled? Why were there still those who were perishing?

Paul gives us the answer in verse 4, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Who is the “god of this age” that Paul is talking about? Dr. Luther gives us a good definition of this in the Large Catechism. In defining God, he notes, “That upon which you set your heart and trust is properly your god.” What is it that people put their trust in? Where do they show their devotion?

There are many things that could be mentioned as being people’s “gods.” For some, their god is wealth. They put all of their trust in a strong bank account and sound investment strategies. They look at the world as one big opportunity to increase their wealth. They are never satisfied with what they have and are always on the look out for how they can get more. They are willing to put everything else aside to get more. How easily this god comes to each of us and tells us to worship him.

Another thing that ends up being a person’s god is the enjoyment and entertainment of this life. They live by the motto, “Eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die.” If there’s a good time to be had, they are right there. How easy it is to listen to this god. Living for the moment and getting everything you can out of this life sounds like a wonderful thing to us. At times, these pursuits may cause us harm afterward, but, for the moment, they are so much fun.

Another god can be a person’s family. We pour ourselves into our family. We run here and there trying to make sure that all of our family’s wants and desires are met. We may even overlook a family member’s sin, because we think that, by doing so, we will have a more peaceful life. I trust that my family will always be there for me.

I can make my good life my god. There is a part of us that likes to compare ourselves to others and the way that they live their lives. While we are willing to admit that we are not perfect (but no one is anyway), we look at the ways that other people are acting and we say to ourselves, “Well, at least, I’m not doing that!” We are tricked into thinking that by the way that we live, God has to take that into account. We are blinded by this god to think that we earn our salvation, at least in part.

Ultimately, the god of this age is the devil. He is the one behind all of these temptations. This shouldn’t surprise us. After all, look at the many temptations that he brought to Jesus. The devil tempted Jesus not to trust in his Father to provide, when he tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread. He tempted Jesus with all of the kingdoms and wealth of this world, though it was not his to give, if Jesus would only bow down and worship him. Through his close friend Peter’s mouth came the temptation not to follow God’s will that Jesus suffer and die for the sins of the world. Though Jesus never yielded to any of the devil’s temptations, we know that he has not changed his tactics when it comes to today. The god of this age, the devil, blinds people to think that what he has to offer is far better than anything that God has to offer. As a result, people are blinded. Instead of seeing all of the blessings that God wants to give them, they run after shiny little baubles that will do them absolutely no good.

So, the fact that some did not believe or do not believe is through no fault of the gospel message. If a blind man cannot see the sun, it is not because the sun is not there or has stopped shining. He does not see it because he is blind. In the same way, if those who perishing in their unbelief do not believe the gospel message, it is not because the gospel message is untrue or that it lacks power. It is because the god of this age has blinded their minds. They do not see what God has placed right in front of them.

Many of you are familiar with the phrase, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to the fact that you and I have been brought to faith. Paul writes in verse 6, “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 God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Go back to that first day of creation. There was only darkness. There was no potential for light. However, God, with his words, created light. He spoke and it came to be.

That is a perfect description of what happened to you and me. You and I were also, by nature, wandering around in the darkness. Left to ourselves, in this state, we would have been left in the darkness for all of eternity. We would have been eternally separated from God. The spiritual darkness in our hearts was no less intense than was the cosmic darkness at creation.

However, with his Word, we were brought into the light. We were brought to believe in Jesus Christ as our only hope of salvation. This was not the result of untapped potential in us. This was not because of any achievement on our part or a decision that we made. Just as in creation, when God called light out of darkness by his word, so he makes his light shine in our hearts by his Word. He brought us out of the darkness of sin and unbelief into the light of salvation.

Paul understood this concept very well, for he had seen it firsthand. At one time, he thought that he was doing the right thing by persecuting Christians. He went out of his way to find Christians and arrest them. However, on the way to Damascus to find more Christians, Jesus, himself, appeared to Paul in a bright light. As a result of the conversion, Paul had brought into “the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (Verse 6) The word “knowledge” involves more than just acquiring some facts about a particular subject or person. It has the idea of experiencing something firsthand. When he saw the face of Christ in all its glory on the way to Damascus, he did not see an angry God, but one who loved him and wanted him to know that his sins were forgiven. He saw Jesus, his Savior. This affected his entire life. He went from persecuting Christians to telling others about Christ.

You and I have also been blessed to experience “the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Perhaps, it was not in the spectacular way that Paul did, but it is no less wondrous. Now, when we are plagued by consciences that bring up sins from our past, we have the peace of knowing that Jesus paid for those sins, as well. When troubles come into our lives, we have the confidence that God is not punishing us for our sins. He punished Jesus in our place on the cross. We walk in the sure hope that we will be with God for all eternity in the glories of heaven. What else can we do other than to thank God with our entire lives for the fact that he has called us out of the darkness into his wonderful light?

However, God did not just create this light in our hearts so that we might enjoy its blessings. He also calls on us, as children of light, to share this light with others who are walking in darkness. We run into people every day who are helplessly and hopelessly lost in this darkness. They may be family members or friends. They may be people that we work with or recreate with. Though they may seem to be happy and not have a care in the world, inwardly, they are hurting. They may not even realize how much they are hurting. That shouldn’t surprise us because, as our text reminds us, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.” (Verse 4) Yet, as God gives us opportunities, we have the wonderful privilege of sharing what Jesus has done for us and for them, as well. It is not our job to convert them, to bring them into the light. That is God’s job. Our job is to share the news of a God who loves them so much that he wants them to be in heaven with him, as well. May God open our eyes to see the hurting, blind souls around us! May he open our mouths to share the light of the gospel with them!

Being in physical darkness can be, to say the least, unnerving. I was touring the Cave of the Winds near Colorado Springs some years ago. As we were led through the caverns, we got to a spot and they shut off the lights. We were in complete and total darkness. We couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. If any of us had wandered off, they would have been lost. What a sense of relief we felt, when they turned the lights back on. Then, we could see clearly the beauty of those caves. We, also, could walk safely through those caves. This is what God has done for us. We were in complete and total darkness of our sins. We couldn’t see any way out. We would have been hopelessly and eternally lost. However, God shined the light of the gospel into our hearts. Now, we can see all of the wondrous blessings that he has for us. We see salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, to mention a few of them. We, also, can follow that light through the rest of our journey until we are in the endless light and glory of heaven. How thankful we are that God said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” for we have been brought out of eternal darkness into eternal light. We pray that this light would shine in the hearts of the many unbelievers around the world. We, also, pray that God would shine that light through us to those around us. Amen.