Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God

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Before I make my return to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I figured I would by some time to do more research on the next topic of the Sacraments of Healing: Indulgences. Here is an exegesis, from John Piper’s book Think, of one of my favorite passages, 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. In fact, I love it so much that it is from this verse that I pull the title of my blog LOKOGOGODJC (Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God in Jesus Christ).

Here is the key biblical text where we can see this point:

“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 Cor. 4:4-6)

Six observations from this text will clarify how human thinking and divine revealing work together in awakening saving faith.

1.) The Glory of Christ is Seen in the Gospel

Verse 4 says that the gospel is the “gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is what must be seen so that saving faith will respond to the gospel and receive Christ for who he really is–infinitely glorious. Jonathan Edwards commented on this text to the same effect. He said, “Nothing can be more evident, than that a saving belief of the gospel is here spoken of… as arising from the mind’s being enlightened to behold the divine glory of the things it exhibits.”

In other words, the ground of saving faith is the glory of Christ seen in the gospel. Don’t separate “the divine glory” of Christ from the objective events and facts of the gospel. That is where the glory is revealed. The revelation of the glory of Christ is not a mystical experience cut loose from our thinking about Christ in the gospel. Just as the psalmist can say, “The heavens declare the glory of God,” so Paul is saying, “The gospel declares the glory of Christ.” If we stop thinking about the gospel, we will not see the glory of Christ. It is the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”

2) The Glory of Christ is Really There

This divine glory is really and objectively there in the gospel. Otherwise, Paul would not speak of the god of this world blinding the minds of unbelievers. If something is not really there, you don’t need to be blind to miss it. But if it is really there, you must be blind to miss it. Therefore, “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” is really there. It is a self-authenticating divine glory. Edwards calls it an “ineffable, distinguishing, evidential excellency in the gospel.”

Saving faith is reasonable” in the sense that there are real reasons to support it. It is not based on a figment of the imagination. Its basis is the glory of Christ in the gospel. It is a real gospel and a real glory.

 3) The Glory of Christ Is Seen through the Facts of the Gospel

Verse 5 clarifies and confirms what we have already seen in the first observation. The sight of this “distinguishing, evidential excellency”- the glory of Christ in the gospel- is not seen in a vision or a dream or a whispered word from the Holy Spirit. It is seen in the biblical story of Christ as the inspired apostle preaches the gospel of Christ. Verse 5: “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

Here is the place of thinking and reason. Paul uses his mind to proclaim and explain and defend and confirm the facts of the gospel. And we use our mind to hear it and construe its meaning and weigh its claims. Paul argues that Jesus is the Christ and that he rose from the dead and that he died for our sins. Paul reasons with facts and arguments and sets Christ forth. THerefore, we know that the sight of the self-authenticating glory of Christ is not separate from the rational presentation and reception- the work of the mind- is indispensable.

 4) The Decisive Ground of Saving Faith is God’s Gift of Sight to the Eyes of the Heart

At this point we can see how the nature of saving faith and the ground of saving faith fit together. The glory of Christ in the gospel is the decisive ground of saving faith because saving faith is the receiving of Christ as infinitely glorious and supremely valuable. Or to turn it around: since saving faith is a receiving of Christ as our highest treasure, therefore the ground of that faith is the spiritual sight of Christ as supremely beautiful and valuable. Verse 6 describes how this sight of Christ happens even though we are by nature blind and resistant.

Seeing this compelling spiritual light is a gift of God. This is the point of verse 6: “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.” Decisive in our seeing is God’s causing light to shine in our hearts.

According to verse 4, we could not see this “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” because we were blinded by the god of this world. No amount of reasoning or historical argument alone can produce spiritual sight in the blind. This is the limit of thinking. Nevertheless, the rational proclamation and comprehension of the gospel facts are indispensable. “We proclaim…Jesus Christ as Lord” (v. 5)

But now, in verse 6, the decisive change happens. God opens the eyes of our heart. The gospel of Christ crucified and risen (and rationally set forth in preaching and teaching) becomes radiant with “ineffable, distinguishing, evidential excellency” – with “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This means that our hearts are changed. Spiritual death is replaced with spiritual life (Eph. 2:5); spiritual blindness is replaced with spiritual sight (v. 4 contrasted with v. 6)

Because our hearts now see Christ as infinitely valuable, our resistance to the truth is overcome. Our thinking is no longer the slave of deceitful desires, because our desirers are changed. Christ is now the supreme treasure. So our thinking is made docile to the truth of the gospel. We don’t use our thinking to distort the gospel anymore. We don’t call it foolish. We call it wisdom and power and glory (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

What is being described here in 2 Corinthians 4:6 is the same as the new birth. The change is profound. It is the key to the question we raised earlier: How can such a darkened, sinful heart produce a way of thinking that gives rise to saving faith? The answer is that God’s illumination and regeneration produce a profound change in the way the heart perceives reality.

Thinking back to chapter 4, this means that we now see the glory of our bridegroom as more precious than anything else (Matt. 9:15; 25:1). Our adulterous desires (Matt. 16:4) for other satisfactions have been crucified with him (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3-5). And our hearts are transformed and brought into harmony with the truth of Christ;s worth. This is why our thinking can now stand in the service of the gospel and become the humble agent of saving faith.

 5) Saving Faith is Reasonable

This ground of faith is a reasonable ground, and the conviction that flows from it is a reasonable conviction. It goes beyond what mere thinking and reasoning upon the facts can produce, but it is itself reasonable. Jonathan Edwards explains, “By a reasonable conviction, I mean, a conviction found on real evidence, or upon that which is a good reason, or just ground of conviction.” Nothing is more readable than that saving faith, as the receiving of Christ as infinitely glorious, must be grounded on the spiritual sight of his divine glory.

Piper, John. Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. Wheaton, Crossway. 2010. Print

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