In our last post on “Coolness, Culture, and Christ” we saw Paul embracing a honorable ministry despite being ridiculed. He preached the truth about Jesus, and he did so without trickery or deceit. Yet, not everyone believed. Some in Corinth looked at this and thought that meant something must have been wrong with him or his message. Even today, many are only concerned with the numbers. One recent video has become infamous for showing two prominent ministers apparently dismissing any discussion of biblical norms and instructions in favor of an “anything goes to reach more people” approach. It seemed to just be about the numbers. Some may argue that numbers equals souls and they are really concerned with souls.
Certainly, we should be concerned to reach as many people with the gospel as we can. But what if a ministry seems to be trying to reach people, but no one seems to be getting saved. Can we judge a ministry by the numbers alone? As we navigate not just worldly culture, but evangelical culture as well, we want to see Paul explaining that we can have a confident ministry despite seeing some reject our message. Listen to what Paul says:
“Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:3-6).
Notice what Paul says. He assumes the gospel itself will be presented clearly by both the messenger and the method. And assuming that happens, if some reject the gospel, it’s not because something is wrong with the gospel itself, nor is there something wrong with you as the one presenting it. No, the reason why people do not believe is that their eyes have been blinded by the god of this world, that is, the devil himself.
Think about that for a minute—it’s mind-blowing. Several years ago, a movie called the Matrix came out. (If you’ve not seen it, and are interested, you need to know there’s some language in it, and the sequels aren’t worth your time.) That movie—in its own science-fiction-based way—provided a great illustration of the spiritual reality we live in. The story was about a young computer-programmer, Tom Anderson, who encounters a man named Morpheus. He tells Anderson the truth about his existence: Anderson, along with the vast majority of humanity, isn’t living in the real world. They are, in fact, jacked into a massive computer system, called the Matrix, being fed images directly into their mind, living in a virtual reality world. Morpheus’ advice, then, to Anderson is “free your mind.” Be free of the deception and live in the real world.
All of that is fiction, but it’s closer to reality than you might think. Today, 4.6 billion people—about two-thirds of the world’s population—are walking around today living their lives, physically alive, but spiritually dead because they’re minds are not freed. Their souls are held captive, because they are blinded to the glory of Christ, and the beauty of grace. They are unable to free their minds, neither do they want to. They love their sin, even when it hurts them. Like a dog returning to its vomit, back they go to their sin again and again and again.
But what is the solution to this problem? Paul says that though Satan blinds, God gives light. Verse 6: “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. Just as God created light in the darkness at the very beginning of creation, so God also speaks light into the hearts of those who are in spiritual darkness. The solution to the blindness brought by Satan is the shining of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. How does this light shine? Verse 5: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
When we proclaim the gospel of Christ, God causes the human heart to see the truth and beauty and worth of Christ—the glory of Christ. And when we see him for who he really is, we receive him for who he is. “And to as many as received him he gave power to become the children of God” (John 1:12).
Why do we go on and on about how important it is to share Christ with someone with words? Why do we say, simply loving them with actions isn’t enough? Because it is through the use of your mouth, through the proclamation of Christ, that God shines the light of his glory in the hearts of sinful people.
Furthermore, this is why Paul was so upset at the false apostles in Corinth. Sam Storms explains that it wasn’t about one-upmanship, and competition, and who-was-the-better-speaker. It wasn’t an exercise in public-speaking, presenting mere words on interesting topics. It wasn’t about building a power-base, or entertaining people to keep them happy and keep yourself well-paid. Proclaiming the truth of the gospel was, and still is, about the power of God for salvation. Whether it’s a preacher in a pulpit, or the average Christian quoting Scripture, or reading verses from a tract—God is shining “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6).
Now we come back to the issue of coolness and the culture around us. If you’re faithfully proclaiming the gospel and your church is still small, there is no need to think of yourself as a failure. Even when lost people reject you—when they mock you and think less of you—have confidence that sharing Christ, proclaiming the gospel, is effective in bring saving faith to lost souls. Then open your mouth and faithfully continue to proclaim Christ—his death and resurrection for sinners.