Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In 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. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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. – 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV
Paul viewed himself as a minister of the new covenant. He had been commissioned by Jesus Christ to carry the message of the gospel, the good news that a right standing with God was available through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. It was not based on the old covenant of works or human effort. No longer did men have to vainly attempt to keep the Mosaic law, trusting that their efforts would somehow measure up to God’s righteous standard and earn them favor in His sight. That old way had been replaced with a new and better way. The author of Hebrews reminds us:
But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. – Hebrews 8:6-7 NLT
Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God. – Hebrews 7:22 NLT
Paul didn’t lose heart in sharing this new and better covenant with the world, because he knew it was effective. It was the key to victory over sin and the means by which men could be make right with God – once and for all. So in spite of opposition, rejection, persecution and seeming lack of success at times, he kept sharing. He felt no need to use deceitful tactics or underhanded means by which to trick people into believing the gospel. There was no need. It could stand on its own because it was the truth of God and had proven itself fully capable of transforming the lives of countless individuals without Paul having to resort to human wisdom or his own personal powers of persuasion. In fact, in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminded them, “I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan…Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1, 4-5 NLT).
There was no doubt that some who heard the gospel as preached by Paul, Silas, Titus and others, remained unchanged. The problem was not with the gospel or the presentation skills of the minister, but with the spiritual condition of the recipients. They were blind – “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 Corinthians 4:4 ESV). It is important to keep Paul’s use of the word “veiled” linked with his prior use of it in chapter 3. There he had been talking about the old covenant as revealed under Moses. It was the covenant of the law. And there were still Jews who were trying to gain favor with God through the keeping of the law.
But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. – 2 Corinthians 3:14-15 ESV
When the Jews in Paul’s day read the books of the law, they were blinded by their own belief and expectation that they could somehow be made right with God through that old covenant. So they refused to accept Jesus as the mediator of a new and better covenant. And in the case of non-Jews, Paul insists that the were blinded by the god of this world – Satan.
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT
Their eyes must be opened to the truth in order to receive it. Their spiritual blindness must first be healed so that they can see the glory of God in the face of Christ. Paul knew exactly what he was talking about, because it was what had happened to him in his own conversion. He recounting of that fateful day is found in Acts 9 where he tells of coming face-to-face with the resurrection Christ. On the road to Damascus where he intended to persecute and arrest Christians, Paul (then known as Saul) was suddenly blinded by a light and heard the voice of Jesus Himself.
Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. – Acts 9:8-9 ESV
Jesus commanded Saul to go to the city of Damascus and await further instruction. God sent a disciple named Ananias to minister to Saul.
And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. – Acts 9:17-19 ESV
Saul had been blind, but when the Holy Spirit came upon him, his physical sight was immediately restored along with his spiritual sight. He was able to see for the first time in his life the truth of the very gospel he had been trying to destroy. He was converted. And in chapter three of 2nd Corinthians, Paul insists that it is the Holy Spirit who removes the veil from the spiritual eyes of the lost so that they might see and reflect the glory of the Lord.
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. – 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 NLT
Like the blind man who had been healed by Jesus, those who have their spiritual eyes opened by the Spirit of God so that they can see and accept the truth of the gospel, are able to say, “I was blind, and now I can see!” (John 9:25 NLT). That bright, holy light that had blinded Paul on the road to Damascus is the same light of the glory of Christ that shines into the life of every unsaved person, eliminating the darkness of sin and illuminating their lives with the life-transforming hope of the gospel.
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. – 2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV
It is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for spiritually dead and sightless individuals to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He opens their eyes so they might see the truth of the gospel message of hope, healing and restoration. Salvation is the work of God as performed by the Spirit of God in the lives of the lost. It is not due to the persuasive power of men like Paul. Only God can restore sight to the blind. Only God can raise the spiritually dead back to life. Only God can remove the veil placed on the minds of unbelievers by Satan, allowing them to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV).